Who Is Wentworth Cheswill?

Is he the Black Paul Revere for his participation in organizing the Revolution?

Is he the first African American elected to public office (in 1783, 1785 and 1795) both before and after the adoption of the Constitution of the United States?

Is he an exemplar of the traditional New Hampshire public official who serves his community as “town father,” constable, assessor, defender and justice of the peace?

The man, Richard Alperin, who now lives on the land Cheswill farmed in Newmarket, New Hampshire introduces him as follows:

In 1995, a man named Erik Tuveson wrote a thesis for his Masters Degree in History while attending The University of New Hampshire. The title of the thesis is A People of Color “Race and Racial Identification in New Hampshire 1750-1825”.

The first part of the thesis is about Wentworth Cheswell (sometimes spelled Cheswill). Wentworth, the son of Hopestill Cheswell, built his home where my home now stands in 1768. My house is the 3rd house on the foundation. The 2nd house was built by his grandson John W. Smart in 1866. Edwin S. Carpenter purchased all 125 acres in 1899 from the executor of Mr. Smart’s estate. After a barn fire destroyed part of the grandson’s house in 1912, Mr. Carpenter built my house in 1913, and moved the grandson’s house over to a side street about 200 feet away.

Wentworth Cheswell‘s grandfather was a black slave (Richard Cheswell) who purchased 20 acres of land in 1716 (after he somehow gained his freedom). This deed is the earliest known deed in New Hampshire showing land ownership by a black man!

If you have the time to search on Google, search the name “Wentworth Cheswell” in quotation marks (or my name “Richard Alperin”) and you should find a plethora of websites with information about him, including local newspaper articles showing what I’ve done to raise awareness of this amazing African American who was formally educated at a 4 year private boarding school from 1763 to 1767.

Wentworth was all but forgotten about, and his family graveyard on South Main Street near my home was neglected and in horrible condition. I spent the next 4 years with help from the New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association restoring the graveyard. I applied to the State to have a historical marker erected (which was just erected in October of 2007), and I received an award from The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance for “Outstanding restoration and stewardship” of The Cheswell Graveyard in May of 2008.

If you click on the following link(or copy and paste it into your browsers address bar) you will see an article printed in The Washington Post dated June 7th, 2008. After you read that article which claims that John Mercer Langston, is the first black man to be elected to a public office in the United States, please click on (or copy and paste) the second link. This second article is from a website called “History News Network” a website run by George Mason University in northern Virginia near Washington,DC.

The Washington Post article was investigated by George Mason University. They have concluded that the Washington Post Article is incorrect.The first African American elected to public office was in fact Wentworth Cheswell of Newmarket, New Hampshire! Imagine that! In little Newmarket New Hampshire, national history was made!

Now we have the first African American president elect! The highest public office in the country! Not many people are aware that Wentworth Cheswell paved the way for Barack Obama to possibly become the President of The United States, when he became the first African American elected to a public office prior to The American Revolutionary War!

What Richard Alperin is referencing is that Chewell was elected town constable in 1768, at the age of 22, just a year after having left college, under the Acts and Laws of His Majesty’s Province of New Hampshire in New England.


ADDENDUM from ancestry.com Message Boards to give you a taste of the puzzles that have to be deciphered.

Transcript of Newmarket Scrapbook, presented to NHHS by Martha B. Walker 1907 published series in Boston paper

Pages 38, (no 39), 40 & 41


(Collections of the Historical Committee of the NEWMARKET Club of Boston.)

XIIIX FAMILY SKETCHES. (Continued from issue of May 29)


The earliest authentic record of this family within the bounds of the present town of NEWMARKET is a deed bearing date of January 9, 1716, which recites that Joseph Hilton of Exeter sold to Richard Cheswell of Exeter twenty acres of land “out of Hilton’s Grant– bounded by lands of Richard Hilton and Daniel Ames.” Witnesses to the document were Richard Mattoon and Edward Hall. Subsequently Richard Cheswell deeded a part or all of this tract to Charles Rundlett, when John Perkins, Rebecca Perkins and Ann Barber signed as witnesses. It would seem the location must have been in the south part of the town not far from the present Newfields line, since Daniel Ames’ homestead bounded just there for a considerable distance the south side of the “Mill grant,” so-called, of Edward Hilton. Richard Mattoon and Edward Hall both married Hiltons, while Charles Rundlett was son-in-law of Daniel Ames and lived near the Ames garrison, all suggesting by presumption the neighborhood in which Richard Cheswell located.

Since no other person bearing the name appears near the early part of the century, there is every probability that Hopestill (2) Cheswell, born as early as 1712, was son of the above Richard (1). The strongly marked characteristic of the family to acquire and hold landed property is noticeable in this only representative of the second generation of whom we can find record. We learn from Colonial deeds that he bought on December 21, 1733, “a tract” on “south side Piscassic river” from Samuel and Elizabeth Rawlins; in 1741, from John Taylor, twenty acres “out of Edward Hilton’s mill grant, being the land John Taylor had of Henry Wiggin in 1738”; and in 1743, from Ephraim Folsom, twenty acres “beginning at a path leading from Hopestill Cheswell’s gate to Piscassic bridge running along the river and touching on the southwest side of Moses Gilman’s grant.” The “path” above referred to is frequently mentioned in old deeds as “Hope’s path” or the “House path,” and can even now be traced, going through the pastures from a point on the “Four Corners road” north of the bridge over Piscassic river as the road now goes to the falls in the same river, in Robert G. Bennett’s pasture. A depression indicating where once was a cellar near the “path,” tradition claims to mark the spot where stood Hopestill Cheswell’s house and the birthplace of his distinguished son, Wentworth Cheswell. John Smart, in 1749, sold one-eighth of Wadley’s mill to Hopestill Cheswell, and the same year Samuel and Susannah Dudy twenty acres of land near the “path.” In 1756 Hopestill and Catherine Cheswell sold to their son Wentworth land bordering on Piscassic river lately in possession of John Smith, with buildings, mention being made of “Clark’s bridge near Hilton’s mill.” Hopestill Cheswell was a carpenter and often worked at his trade in Portsmouth. He married Catherine Keniston. No record has been found of the date of his death or that of his wife. So far as known there was but one child, Wentworth (3) Cheswell, who was born in NEWMARKET April 11, 1746.


(Collections of the Historical committee of the NEWMARKET Club of Boston.)

L. FAMILY SKETCHES. (Continued from issue of July 17.)

CHESWELL FAMILY. (continued)

Wentworth (3) Cheswell, son of Hopestill (2) and Catherine (Keniston), was a man of unusual ability, who lived his full three score years and then in his native town and died lamented in 1817. Seth Shackford in his journal wrote on March 8th “Esquire Wentworth Cheswell died about two o’clock to-day of a typhus fever,” and on the 10th, “I attended the funeral of Esquire Cheswell; Mr. Hooper preached the sermon, Mr. Osborne offered the first prayer and Mr. Broadhead the last one.”

In early life Mr. Cheswell had the unusual privilege for a country boy of that time of attending Dummer Academy in Byfield, Mass., then as now considered an excellent school for boys. His active service for his native town covered the troublous days of the Revolution, the not less perplexing time of readjustment when the war was over, and the trying period of the second war with England. The records left to us of those years are meagre but they tell plainly of the esteem and confidence with which his fellow citizens looked up to the man who wise counsel, clear outlook and untiring energy was ever at their service. He was elected again and again to the several offices in the gift of his townsmen — moderator, town clerk, selectman, representative, etc., and when any important committee was chosen in town or church affairs Wentworth Cheswell was sure to be a member of it. As a lawyer, judge and soldier his name stands out pre-eminently in the early history of NEWMARKET. Long before

(end of page 38;continue to page 40)

the settlement of any regular attorney he executed deeds, wills, and other legal documents, and acted as a justice in the trial of causes. At the important town meeting of October 20, 1775, when it was voted to raise and send thirty men to Portsmouth under the command of Lieut. James Hill, it was Wentworth Cheswell who was chosen to apply to the Provincial Committee at Exeter to report the proceedings of said meeting and receive their directions, and, as shown in Nos. VIII and XIV of these collections, his name is found in that select body of men raised for service at Saratoga, which left Sept. 29, 1777, under command of Col. John Langdon, known as Langdon’s Independent Company of Volunteers.

He was married Sept. 13, 1767, by the Rev. John Moody, to Mary Davis, who was born in Durham, Feb. 19, 1750, and died June 22, 1829. No record of her family is known, but she is supposed to have belonged to the “Packer’s Falls” branch who long resided on the west side of the road leading from NEWMARKET through Hallsville, so called, the house being about a mile and a half from the village.

He lived during his early manhood in the house near the Piscassic river bridge, afterwards the home of his son Thomas. Soon after the Revolution, probably, he built the handsome mansion shaded by splendid elm trees on the north side of Wadley’s road near the corner where the road to Hallsville turns from the highway, which stood until about 1870, when it was removed by John Smart, grandson of Wentworth Cheswell, who erected the house at present standing on the site.

Mr. Cheswell with his wife and several members of the family are buried in a neglected yard close to the road a few rods west of the homestead lot, where the headstones are fallen or so overgrown with brambles as to be with difficulty deciphered. At his death he owned all the land bordering on the north side of Wadley’s road from his house west to Piscassic river, with a considerable part of that on the south side of the road, and a large farm in Durham, which in the division of the estate was set off to his sons. At one time he jointly with Benjamin Mead owned the “Brick House” estate, once the home of Col. Joseph Smith.

Three of his sons left families, and at least two daughters married NEWMARKET men and have descendants now living.

His children, all born in NEWMARKET were: 1. Paul (4), born Aug. 4, 1768, married by Rev. John Osborne, April 7, 1803, Lydia (crossed out, replaced with Nancy) daughter of Josiah Durgin of Lee. 2. Thomas (4), born July 20, 1770, married, first, Jan. 1, 1787, Betsey Eastham of Exeter, who was born in 1769; and died in 1824; second, about 1826, Hannah (White), widow of George Bell of Newcastle; Thomas Cheswell died Feb. 28, 1841. 3. Samuel (4), born Feb. 28, 1772, married Jan. 6, 1802, Sarah, daughter of Joshua and Eunice (Parsons) Brackett of NEWMARKET Plains. 4. Sarah (4), born Apr. 28, 1774, married, after 1817, Moses Chase, and died without issue Nov. 9, 1829. 5. Mary (4), born Dec. 30, 1775, married Daniel Perkins of “Ash Swamp,” NEWMARKET, died Mar. 23, 1853. 6. Elizabeth (4), born Jan. 9, 1778, died unmarried July 7, 1800. 7. Nancy (4), born Mar. 7, 1780, married before 1717, (note error of year)Bradley Hanaford of NEWMARKET and Northwood. 8. Mehitable (4), born Mar. 1, 1782, married, in 1807, by Rev. John Osborne, John Smart of “Newmarket Plains,” died Jan. 2, 1856; he was born in 1783 and died June 1, 1866. 9. William (4), born Feb. 20, 1785, died unmarried, at Dover, Oct. 21, 1806. 10. A daughter (4), born and died Mar. 4, 1787. 11. Martha (4), born Apr. 27 1788, died unmarried July 20, 1867. 12. A daughter (4), born and died, Oct. 2, 1790. 13. Abigail (4), born Feb. 8, 1792, died unmarried Mar. 31, 1855. (TO BE CONTINUED.)


(Collections of the Historical Committee of the NEWMARKET club of Boston.)

L1. FAMILY SKETCHES. (Continued from issue of July 24.)

CHESWELL FAMILY. (continued)

Paul (4) and Lydia (crossed out and replaced with Nancy) (Durgin) Cheswell lived in Durham on the road to Durham Point on a farm set off to him from his father’s estate, containing seventy acres of land with buildings, “being the Crummitt farm so-called,” in addition to which he received outlying lots. He married second (crossed out), Nancy _____(?)_____ and died in 1832. Administration upon his estate was granted his brother-in-law, Benjamin Durgin, of Lee, Feb. 14, 1832. His children, all by wife Lydia* excepting possibly the last named were* (all crossed out and replaced with just “Nancy”) 1. Samuel (5), born _____, married about 1827Elizabeth, daughter of Dea. Timothy and Elizabeth (Chapman) Murray and widow of John Brackett (born Feb. 14, 1799, died June, 1849). He died late in 1841. David Murray was appointed administrator of his estate Jan. 4, 1842, when he was called “late of Lowell,” although what property he had was in NEWMARKET and Durham, as shown in inventory. 2. Hannah (5), born ______, died unmarried in 1855. 3. Mary (5), born _____, died unmarried in 1862, will proved in May of that year. 4. Nancy (5), born November, 1807, married as second wife, Joseph Y. Chapman of NEWMARKET, died Sept. 18, 1891. 5. Charlotte (5) born _____, married first _____(handwritten in “Greenleaf”)_____ Dame, second, ______Hewins. 6. Abigail (5), born 1820, married Charles Mathes of Durham, died Oct. 24, 1861. 7. Paul W. (5) born about 1828, married Ann Augusta Edgerly, died 1860. Administration upon his estate was granted his widow Feb. 14, 1860. (lightly handwritten: “Dame b. 1820 d. 1850”) referring to Greenleaf Dame mentioned above.

Page 41

Thomas (4) and Betsey (Eastham) Cheswell lived in NEWMARKET in a house which is still standing on the south side of Wadley’s road near the bridge over Piscassic river. The lot on which the house stands, with surrounding fields, was no doubt part of the estate of Hopestill (2) Cheswell and included in the messuage deeded to his son Wentworth in 1765. Possibly Wentworth (3) resided on this place previous to erecting his mansion on the opposite side of the road and half a mile nearer the village. When Thomas (4) married his second wife he built for himself a cottage precisely opposite the homestead above mentioned, which has been owned and occupied by his descendants until a very recent date. He was long a deacon of the church in NEWMARKET, zealous in religious affairs, and often conducted services in outlying districts. On his monument in Riverside cemetery he is called “Reverend,” but the writer has been unable to find any record of his ordination to the ministry. His children, all born in NEWMARKET, were: 1. Wentworth (5), born Nov. 15, 1787, died unmarried April 30, 1807. 2. Nancy Giddings (5), born Nov. 2, 1789, died unmarried in 1870. 3. Elizabeth (5) born Feb. 12, 1791, married Thomas Young of NEWMARKET and Durham, died Oct. 13, 1869. 4. Maria Jane (5), born 1793, married ______Dennett of North Andover, Mass. 5. Caroline (5), born Jan. 30, 1795, married April 14, 1826, John Ham Bennett of NEWMARKET, died Dec. 20, 1875. 6. William (5), born April 10, 1797, married 1821, Mary Jane Wheron (born Sept. 6, 1800, died Dec. 23, 1877), and died in 1822. 7. Thomas Jefferson (5), born Aug. 31, 1799, married, first Emily, daughter of James and Sarah (Bennett) Burley (born in 1802, died in 1828), second Mary Jones (born in 1802, died in 1834), and died in 1854. 8. John (5), born in 1802, married Mary Knight. 9. Joshua r. (5), born Oct. 25, 1804, married Mary Story (born Dec. 24, 2808), and died May 27, 1875. 10. Sally (5), born in 1807, died unmarried May 16, 1886. She had her name legally changed to Margaret Eastham. By second wife, Hannah (White) Bell, Thomas (4) Cheswell had: 11. Moses Chase (5), born Sept 10, 1827, married Sarah Rogers Sanborn, died Sept. 1853. 12. William (5) born in 1830, died in 1831:

(article overlaps and picks up midway of child #13 believed to be Charles A.)

:married Sarah Sanborn..born in 1833, widow of his brother Moses, and died in March 1879.

Samuel (4) Cheswell lived probably in NEWMARKET. In the division of his father’s estate he received “seventy-five acres of land with all the buildings where he now lives, with one acre of salt marsh against Mead’s filed in addition to what has been given him heretofore.” His children were:

(again–article overlaps and some light handwriting appears to be

1. Saml(?) b. 1803 d. unmarried 1826 2. Maria (5). 3. Elizabeth (5). 4. Sophia (5).

William (5) and Mary Ann Wheron had one son, William Oliver (6), born May 4, 1822, who married, about 1842 Mary Ann (Trask) Thompson an died Jan. 21, 1866. His wife was born July 15, 1822, died Feb. 10, 1873. Their children were: 1. William Thompson (7), born Jan. 7, 1843, married, first Apr. 4, 1864, Hannah Martin Hinkley (born May 12, 1843, died Oct. 4, 1882) second, Dec. 11, 1883, Nellie Banery (born Apr. 14, 1865). He was for many years Chief Fire Marshall of Boston, and died Feb. 15, 1906. 2. Mary Elizabeth (7), born July 30, 1845, married Mar. 20, 1865, George Wilkins, died Mar. 3, 1891. 3. Amasa (7), born Nov. 5, 1847, died Jan. 29, 1859. 4. Helen Maria (7), born Sept 1849, married Sept. 18, 1876 Isaac K. McClaren.

Thomas Jefferson (5) and Emily (Burley) Cheswell lived in NEWMARKET and had Elizabeth (6), who married _____Osgood and resided in North Andover, Mass; perhaps others.

Joshua R. (5) lived early in NEWMARKET and later settle in Amesbury, Mass., where he became prosperous in business and was highly respected by his fellow citizens. His children were: 1. Robert (6) born Sept 28, 1830. 2. Ann Elizabeth (6) born Nov. 25, 1832. 3. Mary Jane (6) born May 4, 1835. 4. Caroline Kelsey (6), born Nov. 4, 1837 5. Margaret Eastman (6) born Mar. 27, 1841. 6. Caroline Allison (6) born Dec. 26, 1845.

If any one can give information of the children of Paul (4) and Samuel (4) Cheswell, or of Bradley Hanaford, who married Nancy (4) Cheswell, it will be much appreciated. Address Mrs. Mary B. Morse, 24 Park Street, Haverhill, Mass.


(handwritten lightly) :

Rev. E.S. Shackford Hist. Of Durham m. Thomas Jefferson Cheswell & Olive dau. Lemuel & Lovery (Hull) Chesley abt. 1814–She must have been 3rd wife.