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"Putting Brewster's Rambles Online"

Talented and Shy

Even his best friends said he was dull. Although he recorded more exciting local stories than anyone before or since, Charles Brewster was himself a shy methodical man who led a remarkably uneventful life. He lived most of it within walking distance of Market Square in downtown Portsmouth, NH. Remembered by a classmate as "more sedate" than other boys, Brewster began work for a weekly newspaper at 16 and stayed with it for 50 years.

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Writing Rambles

As writer, printer and eventually editor of the Portsmouth Journal through 43 volumes, Brewster produced hundreds of literary "Rambles" about the town and its inhabitants. He would track a new story, a friend said, with the patience and dedication of Audubon searching out a new species of bird. He wrote with such style, clarity and passion that his work survives today.

The Brewster family could proudly trace its ancestors directly from the Mayflower. Charles Brewster was born just two years into the 19th century, but remained drawn to earlier times. When not at work, at the North Congregational Church, or home with his wife Mary and their nine children, Brewster spent every available hour researching and authenticating his colorful tales. He would take a year, if needed, to track down precise details of a popular anecdote for his "Rambles.". Colonial and revolutionary manuscripts, letters, family and city records, old newspapers, deeds, wills, tombstones -- these were his treasures. An avid oral historian, Brewster frequently interviewed senior citizens born as early as 1752, verifying one story against another. With men like Franklin Pierce and Daniel Webster passing on the streets of Portsmouth, Brewster longed for the days when George Washington, Lafayette, John Paul Jones and others walked the same narrow harbor roads.

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Press Time

Each Friday until about midnight he and whichever friends wandered into his downtown office would "work off" the paper. After editing the metal words into place and inking each page, it took two strong pulls of the hand press for every impression. In all his years with the Portsmouth Journal, Brewster personally launched all but a dozen of two thousand consecutive editions. His honest decent reporting and strong family values were welcome in nearly every home, no matter what their politics. Brewster's literary skills were apparently well received. On one occasion he anonymously entered a poetry contest sponsored by a competing newspaper. The rival editor was reportedly stunned to learn that the sweet award-winning poem was not penned by a local woman as suspected, but by the publisher of the Portsmouth Journal.

Unlike most newspapermen, Brewster preferred people to politics and paperwork to people. A punctual church-goer and sometimes member of local government, he refused public calls to run for mayor. Unaffected by local fashion or modern thinking, a contemporary says Brewster was attached to "old habits, old principles, old friends, old books, and old ways of making money." Uninclined to travel, it is said he walked the 2,000 feet between his office and home enough times to circle the globe, and always with the eyes of a man exploring uncharted territory. Always more interested in truth than profit, Brewster turned the business over to his son soon after the Civil War.

Brewster died as serenely as he lived in a house just a block from where he was born on Islington Street.

"Good-bye," he told a lifelong friend, "I shall not be alive tomorrow." And, just as calmly, he slipped off into his own chapter of Portsmouth history.

By J. Dennis Robinson
Copyright 1997 All rights reserved.

Primary source: Essay by Bray Simes from the second edition of "Brewster's Rambles."

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Brewster's Rambles - Table of Contents

1. Pring's Visit to the Piscataqua-Smith's Discoveries on the Coast-Vision of the Future-Early Scenery

2. Visit of M. Champlain at Odiorne's Point-The Manor House erected-Gorges and Mason-Emigrants-The Great House-Stock of the Plantation-Relics-Garrison Houses-Early Water Courses

3. Adoption of the names of Portsmouth and Town Lines Hubbard's Sketch of the Early Settlements

4. Fines for Cutting Timber-The Distribution of Town Lands-Names of Inhabitants in 1657-Portion assigned to each

5. The Cutt family-John the first President of New Hampshire-The Estates of John and Richard-Their Wills-Murder of Ursula- Providential escape of the Waldron Family

6. The Glebe Land-Its Location and Occupancy

7. John Pickering-His sons, John and Thomas-Great Bay Farm- Descendants-The Old South Church-Point-of-Graves Cemetery-The Foot Path

8. The Pickering Family-Incidents of John's Life-Captain, Lawyer, Moderator, Carpenter-Prowness of Thomas-The first South-end Meeting House

9. Tythingmen of Portsmouth-Names of Inhabitants in 1678- Designation of Neighborhoods

10. The First Meeting House-Seating of the Occupants-Old Inhabitants-Moody and Cranfield-Rogers-Emerson-Scenes at the Old Meeting House

11. Settlement of Plains-Old Roads-Military Scenes-Indian Massacre of 1696-The Surprise-Scalping of Mary Brewster-List of Killed and Wounded-The Retreat-Pursuit-Breakfast Hill

12. Bridget Graffort-Gift of Daniel Street-Lot for the First Town School House-Ichabod Plaisted-Early School History-Samuel Keais-Style of the Early Town Records

13. Newcastle-The Jaffrey Residence-Atkinson-Church Yard-The Old Cemetery-John and Abigail Frost-Rev. John Blunt-Funeral Items- Captains John Blunt and Family-Cromwell Anecdote-Newcastle Pastors

14. Rev. John Emerson-Rev. William Shurtleff-Trials of a Pastor- Rev. Job Strong and his Successors at the South Church

15. Old House on the Corner-High School House Site-Daniel House- Mark Hunking and Hunking Wentworth

16. The Creeks-First Wentworth House-Samuel and John Wentworth

17. Gov. Benning Wentworth-His Seat at Little Harbor-Its Present State-Molly Pitman-Romantic Marriage of the Governor with Martha Hilton-Col. Michael Wentworth-Washington's Visit there- Cushing Family-Residence of Gov. John Wentworth, 2d

18. Atkinson House-Theodore Atkinson-His Style of Life-Descendants- Legacy to the Church

19. Theodore Atkinson, Jr.-His Marriage-Death-Funeral-Gov. Wentworth's Attentions-Mrs. Atkinson a Widow but Ten Days Style of the Times-Their Town and Country Residences-Lake Story-His Character-Illustrative Anecdote-Departure for England

20. Col. Joshua Wentworth-His Offices-Incidents of his History- His Descendants-George Jaffrey

21. Factory Site-Nathaniel Adams's Seat-Discovery of Lady Stanley's grave-her husband William Parker-Sketch of the Parker family: William, John, Samuel, Matthew Stanley, Noah John 2d

22. The earliest Pauper Work-House, 1716-Almhouse on Court Street- Clement March and his family-Superintendents

23. King street-John Tufton Mason-his Premises and Family-John Gains-Charles Treadwell

24. Charles Treadwell-his Marriage-Successful Store-Keeping-Building of three Large Houses-Death of Mrs.Treadwell-Her Character

25. The Warner House-Capt. Machpheadris-Jonathan Warner-Paintings Developed-First Lightning Rod

26. Pleasant street-Livermore-The Church-Vestry-Parsonage-Matthew Livermore-Samuel-Edward St.Loe-The Mansion

27. John Sullivan-The House Boy-His First Law Case-His Advancement- His Sail on the Piscataqua

28. Fire of 1802-N.H. Bank House-Jotham Odirone-His family-William Whipple-The Marriage put aside-His First Declaration of Independence-His Slaves-Prince's Freedom-Dinah-Cuffee-The Garrison House-

29. Description of the Whipple Garrison House-Construction and Use

30. Portsmouth in 1727-Inhabitants-Property-Location of Neighborhoods

31. Residences on Market and Bow streets-Judge Pickering-John Penhallow-Boyd-J. McDonough-Disappearance on Wedding Night Boyd's Riches

32. G. Boyd's Seat near the North Mill-Grenadier's Heads-Boyd's Early History

33. Ropewalks in Former Times on Islington Road, Elm and Middle Streets-Present Ropewalk on South Street-Improvements in Machinery-Longfellow's Hempen Lines

34. The Old Cellar-Rock Pasture-Myrick's Ropewalk-His Departure-The Buried Gold

35. Vaughan street-The Old Assembly House-Michael Whidden-Nathaniel Meserve-The Stamp Act-George Meserve-Revolutionary Scenes- Liberty Bridge-Occupants of the Meserve House-Old Trees

36. Doctor Moses-Single Tens-Small Glass-Congress at Albany-"Dr. Moses's Bottle"-Conjuration-His Widow

37. Samuel Moses-Samuel, Jr.-Fish Story-Shaving-Theodore Moses

38. Staver's Hotel-John and Bartholomew Stavers-First Stage to Boston-Progress of Travel

39. Earl of Halifax Hotel-Meetings of Royalists-Mob Assault-Mark Nobel Injured-Staver's Escape-John Langdon-French Fleet- Distinguished Visitors-lafayette-Louis Philippe-Washington

40. Scenes on Market Square-William Pottle the Tory-Whipping of a Woman at the Town Pump

41. Residences on Middle Street-Sketch of the eccentric Shepherd Ham-Middle Street- Church Site

42. Sagamore Creek-Origin of Name-Residences-The Bridge-Lear the Hermit

43. Slaves in Portsmouth-Their Standing-Cyrus-Prime Fowle-Cuffee Chase-Sambo Stevens-Peter Warner-Negro Elections-King Nero- Black Court-Continuance of Slavery

44. The Association Test of 1776

45. Capt. Thomas Pickering-Capture of Fort William and Mary- Langdon-Sullivan-Scarborough's Boat Conflict-The Hampden- Death of Pickering

46. Major Samuel Hale-Latin Grammar School in State street- Patriotism-First Province School

47. New Custom House and Post Office-Former Custom Houses-Eleazer Russell-His Peculiarities-Collector and State Postmaster- His Death

48. The Buckminster House-Occupants-Nathaniel Warner's Disappointment-Lettice Mitchel-Wyseman Clagett-The Marriage- Domestic Troubles-Sketch of his Life-Official Acts- Character

49. Eliphalet Ladd-Early Life-Family-The Hercules-The Archelaus- Buildings-Portsmouth Aqueduct-The Challenge-His Death and Character

50. Frenchman's Lane-The French Fleet Three Months at Portsmouth- The Murder-Their Laundry at the Creek

51. Richard Fitzgerald-His Residence-Interview with Com. Hull-His Garden-Old Rose Bush-Love of Flowers-Death of Husband and Wife same day

52. Washington's tour to New Hampshire in 1789-His own account

53. Washington's Visit to Portsmouth-Committees-Reception-Reply to Town Address-Attendance at Church-Dr. Buckminster's address- Fishing Little Harbor

54. Gardner and Hunking streets-The Old Linden-The Lear House- Tobias Lear, Washington's Private Secretary-Washington's Family-Wahington's visit to Mrs. Lear-Memorials of the President and his Lady-Tobias Lear's Political Life

55. Andrew and James Clarkson-The Pretender's Ensign-The Tan Yard Rev. John Murray

56. Pierse Long-Early History-Revolutionary Sketch-Family

57. Charles Chauncy-Family History-His Interest in the Revolution- Anecdotes-Character-Descendants-Charles W. Chauncy-Finale of the Old House

58. Market Square in 1789-First Store of Three Stories-Knight's House-the Robber Discovered-Inspection of Travellers and Goods

59. Auburn street Cemetery-First Training Field-Cotton's Burying Ground-Execution of Ruth Blay-Duel by Frenchmen-Leighton's Poem

60. William H. Rindge-Noble Act of an Unknown Sailor-Mrs. Sigourney's Sketch-Disclosure at Death

61. William Brewster-Display of Dauntless Bravery at New York-The Fatal Disaster on Ship-board-A Model of Self-devotion

62. Paved Street in 1780, by an Old Lady-Location of Buildings on the East and West Sides-Dearborn's School-Dedication of his Academy

63. Market Street-Dearborn's Residence-Its Builder-Romantic Incident

64. Jefferson Hall-Its School Scenes-First Public Female School, Montague's-Only Town Grammar School, Taft's-The first Sunday School

65. Gardner's Arch-Gardner Family-William Gardner's History- Sacrifice's in the Revolution-His Appointment and Removal- Thomas Manning-Gardner's Character

66. Daniel Webster-His Residence in Portsmouth-His last Visit to Portsmouth-Public Reception at Jefferson Hall-Meeting at the Cameneum

67. Stoodley's Hotel-Masonic Hall and Ball Room-Etiquette of Last Century

68. Decorations of Market Square-The Packer House-Deacon Penhallow- The Langdon and Thompson Houses-Great Elm-The Old Man's Sketch Sandemanian Church-Brimstone Hill

69. Rev. Dr. Haven Settlement and Residence-Manufactures- Revolutionary Anecdotes

70. Old North Church-Rev. Dr. Buckminster-Last Service-Pew Occupants in 1812-The Vane's Appeal

71. Revolutionary Meeting at North Church-Resistance against Tea Importation

72. Town Security against Foreign Paupers-Order's for Strangers to Leave-Promptness of Town Officers-Who Built the Forts

73. Newmarch and Billings House-Bell Tavern-Melcher House-Waldron's Jenny Stewart's-Mary Martins-John Francis-The Privateer Adventure

74. Market Street-Bow Street-Penhallow's garden-Penhallow's family- Theatre

75. Deer street-Why so named-Houses of Newmarch,Collings and Fitch- Christian Shore-Tradition of the Beehive

76. Three Generations of Trees-Lombardy Poplar-Sycamore-Elm and Maple

77. The Three Episcopal Churches, of 1638,1732 and 1808-Richard Gibson, Arthur Brown, John C. Ogden, Joseph Willard, Charles Burroughs, William A. Hitchcock, Rectors

78. Opening of Middle street-The Naming of Congress street-Thomas Manning-Houses on Congress street-Jail History-The Keeper's Story

79. Gov. Vaughan's Residence-North Burying Ground-Buildings on Market Square

80. Pierce Family-Sketches of Joshua, Daniel and John

81. Langdon Family-Tobias-Family Genealogy-Samuel-Woodbury-John- The Revolutionary Services of John Langdon

82. Badger's Island-The Seventy-Four America-John Paul Jones- Progress of Building-Description-Difficulties-The Final History

83. River Scenery-Navy Yard Island-Trefethren's-Pierce's Shapley's Salter's-John Salter-The Cautious Ferryman-The Close

"Brewster's Rambles" Volume II

Alphabetical Index of Names

Biographical Sketch of the Author.

84. Site and Associations of the New City Rooms-Brick Market and Jefferson Hall

85. Odiorne's Point-The First House and First Cemetery in New Hampshire

86. Marquis de Chastellux's Visit in 1782-French Fleet-Views of Portsmouth-&c

87. Sketch of Henry Sherburne and Descendants

88. Langdon and Sherburne Families

89. Lafayette Road-Langdon Farm-Family Monument-New Rank of American Nobility

90. Atkinson's Silver Waiter-The Record of Deaths in Portsmouth- Lady Wentworth's Picture, &c

92. Theodore Atkinson's Estate-Will of Susanna, widow of George Atkinson

93. Peter Livius the Loyalist-Building of the North Bridge and Mill -Chief Justice of Quebec-His efforts to win Gen. Sullivan to the British Cause

94. Legislation in Portsmouth in 1699-First Prison-Mark Noble

95. The Old Stavers Hotel-The Party-The Daniel Street Apparition- The Dance-A fragrant Interruption

96. Sketches from an ancient copy of the N.H. Gazette

97. Christian Shore-Freeman's Point-The Ham House-The Waterhouse Family

98. The Pickering Family

99. Pickering House in Vaughan Street-Edward Hart-Gen. Peabody's Perfidy-Capt. Cullam, &c

100. More of Pickering's History-Col. Atkinson-Woodbury Langdon- Revolutionary Incidents

101. Things of 1790 to 1800-Old School Gentlemen-Respect by Youth- Minor Offenses-Prompt Punishment of Criminals-Justice Penhallow's Impartiality-First Pavement-Buck Street Promenade North and Southenders-Smoking not Allowed-Edward Hart elected Police Officer-His Success, and what produced it

102. The Hart Family-Quint and the Wolf

103. The Sheafe Family

104. James Sheafe-Jay's Treaty-The Effigies-The Riot-The Arrest-The Triumphal Procession &c

105. Insurrection in New Hampshire, 1786

106. The Cutts Family

107. Residence of Richard Cutts-Capt. Thomas Leigh's Sea Adventure- William Bennett, the Hostage-Mis Fate

108. The Cutts and Penhallow Cemetery on Green Street

109. The Residence of Dea. Samuel Penhallow

110. The Old Clock-The Four George Jaffreys-The Jaffrey House

111. Rev. Samuel McClintock,

112. Sketch of Newcastle

113. Newcastle Reminiscences of Forty-Five Years Ago.

114. The Court Martial at Fort Constitution in 1814-The Providential Witness

115. Fort Constitution-The Explosion in 1809

116. The Sparhawk Family

117. Centennial Celebration, 1823-The Parchment Unrolled

118. The Yellow Fever of 1798

119. Old Land Proprietors-The March Farm-The Family

120. Incendiary Sketches-Pilgrim Day-The Great Fire of 1813-The Incendiary

121. Central Portsmouth previous to the Great Fire-Portsmouth Pier- New-Hampshire Hotel-Jacob Sheafe's-Daniel Webster's-North side of Buck Street-The Haunted House

122. Central Portsmouth before the Great Fire-Nicholas Rousselet- The Museum-Sailor Anecdote, &c

123. Central Portsmouth before the Great Fire-Nicholas Rousselet's Courtship-The eccentric Josiah Shackford-His Unparallelled Feat of crossing the Atlantic alone-The Founder of Portsmouth, Ohio

124. Central Portsmouth before the Fire of 1813-North Side of Buck Street

125. Central Portsmouth before the Fire of 1813-James Sheafe's Residence-Abraham Isaac, the Jew-Jonathan M. Sewell, the Poet

126. Central Portsmouth before the Fire of 1813.-Stories of Escapes, Rescues, &c

127. State Street in 1793-Drown Family-Dr. Lyman Spalding-Capt. Peter Coues-Samuel E. Coues

128. Seizure of Arms and Powder at Fort William and Mary-The finale of Provincial Government in New Hampshire

129. The Navy Yard

130. Capt. Daniel Fernald-Residence-Ownership of the Navy Yard- War Adventures-Diddling the Spencer 74-putting a British Frigate on the rocks

131. Shapley's Island-Small Pox Parties-Incidents and Pastimes

132. The Old Spring market-The Neptune and River Nymphs of the Piscataqua

133. A step over the River-The Celebrities of Kittery in former days-The Spinney Family

134. Our Wharves-Privateering-The Portsmouth Record

135. Our Wharves-West India Trade-Capt. Gilman-Admiral Nelson- Emperor of Russia &C

136. The old Welch House on Bridge Street-Johnny Cunningham

137. John Simes and his Descendants

138. Toppin Maxwell-"Commodore"Mifflin

139. My Brother Bob

140. The Brick School House in State Street-Teachers, former and recent-School Dramatic Exhibitions-Struck by Lightning

141. School House Hill-School Books-Amusements-Slides-Mrs. Maloon's Shop-The Catastrophe-parson Walton's Meeting House-Services- The Beloved Disciple

142. The Old South Church

143. The Old Bell Tavern

144. Witchcraft in Portsmouth and Newcastle-Death of Molly Bridget-Stone Throwing Devils of Newcastle

145. The Former Men of Portsmouth-Ancient Furniture

146. The Episcopal Church Yard

147. The Oldest House in our State

148. The Dead Elm on South Road

149. Fifty Years in a Printing Office-Our Own and the World's Progress

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