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George bought himself
the best tombstone in London

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By Charles W. Brewster

Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.

George Boyd's seat near the north mill--Grenadiers' Heads--Boyd's early history.

We shall endeavor in this Ramble to throw some light on an enquiry recently made respecting the "Grenadiers' Heads." Col. George Boyd, (he was the father of William Boyd and grandfather of Col. George W. Boyd now living in Portland, Me.) purchased the mill seat, now the Raynes mansion and ship-yard, of Peter Livius, somewhere between 1767 and 1770. He enlarged the house materially. His garden in front extended to the site of the present depot, (the land of ex-Mayor Walker and James Nowell being included in it), and water bounded his premises on the east. It was a magnificent seat, such as a nabob might envy, enclosed within a white open fence, and at regular intervals of some forty or fifty feet, those handsomely carved towering Grenadiers' heads were placed on posts, and presented a very unique appearance.

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The Spilled Molasses

Col. George Boyd was in indigent circumstances in early life, and served as a house-boy to Henry Sherburne, a merchant who resided near Pier wharf. His master was very strict in his discipline. One Sunday finding some fresh fish on the table, he learned on inquiry that George had caught them in sacred time. The next morning George received a horsewhipping for Sabbath desecration. Not long after, George was one day sent into the store-house to draw molasses. After taking out the tap, he stepped to the door to speak with an acquaintance. Forgetting his charge, he did not look back until the floor was pretty well covered with the sweet carpet! The terror of the whip forbade an effort for an explanation, so he took French leave of the town and soon after became an apprentice in Boston. He came to Portsmouth when of age, and was foreman of Myrick's ropewalk, which was built north of the line of the present jail premises, extending west from what is now the garden of Ira Haselton, on Rock street, to the site of the stable of Ichabod Goodwin. He was successful in business, or fortunate in discovering treasure in the "old cellar," and retired from the ropewalk in early life to commence trading. He was sharp at a bargain, generally paying his workmen in goods at a large advance on cost.

His wife was Jane, a daughter of Joseph Brewster, who in 1727 owned and occupied as a boarding-house the site of the late Isaac Waldron's residence on Congress street. The original house was of two stories. About sixty years after, the first house was removed back and made the ell of the present three-story house* (*burnt in 1870) then erected by William Seavey. Col. George Boyd's first residence after marriage was in the John Melcher house, fronting Vaughn street.

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Some Boyd Genealogy

They had five sons and five daughters. Mary married Joseph Champney, and died since 1850; Jane married Dr. John Goddard, and died in 1790, aged twenty-seven years; Phebe died young; Abigail, married Capt. Mackay, and afterwards Capt. Samuel Ham, who built the Woodbury mansion; Submit married Hon. John S. Sherburne, and died in 1803, aged twenty-eight years; Joseph died after arriving at years of manhood; George died unmarried; William married a daughter of Capt. Thomas Martin, and left one son, Capt. George W., now living, and the only descendant who bears the name of Boyd; Supply and Henry Lucas died young.

Submit, his youngest daughter, was born in October, 1774, just before Boyd's departure for England. It was said that the name given to her was intended as his expression of what he regarded the duty of the country. This intimation, however, has been denied, for he made no direct opposition to the Revolution. He preserved a neutrality, that he might retain his lucrative business--but none of his enemies could substantiate a charge of rebellion, disloyality, nor treason against him; neither could the most ardent "minute men" of those "times that tried men's souls," point out a solitary overt act of his, that betrayed hostility to the country of his birth and her noble cause.

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The Imported Tombstone

Col. Boyd did not long personally enjoy his beautiful seat, for it appears that he left for England in an early part of the Revolution, and spent but little of the last twelve years of his life with his family, which remained at the mansion by the mill, or rather at the White village, as from their color, the collection of dwellings, store houses and barns, was sometimes called.

In August, 1787, Col. George Boyd sailed from London for his home, from which he had been many years absent. He took with him a handsome coach, and an English coachman named Charles Harrington, who afterwards became the coachman of Woodbury Langdon. His gardner, John Cunningham, (who died a few years since, at the age of ninety-four,) he also sent over from England, at an earlier date. Without probably anticipating its use so soon, he also brought in the same ship with his coach an elegant monument [it may be seen in the North burying-ground], for his grave at some future time, with a place for a marble tablet on which to have recorded his final departure. The vessel had a long passage, and did not arrive at our port until the 8th of October, two days after his spirit had departed. Thus, at the age of fifty-four years, just reaching the scene of his magnificent mansion and spacious gardens in season to occupy a tenement six feet by two, on the opposite side of the way, and to be covered by the cold stones which had accompanied him on his voyage. How fleeting the riches and grandeur of earth. There can now be found scarcely a trace of the treasures of him who was our Croesus eighty years ago--excepting in that tomb stone!

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
Design Copyright © 2000

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