An Old Town By the Sea eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 77 pages of information about An Old Town By the Sea.

There is yet a third Wentworth house, also decorated with the shade of a colonial governor—­there were three Governors Wentworth—­but we shall pass it by, though out of no lack of respect for that high official personage whose commission was signed by Joseph Addison, Esq., Secretary of State under George I.


These old houses have perhaps detained us too long.  They are merely the crumbling shells of things dead and gone, of persons and manners and customs that have left no very distinct record of themselves, excepting here and there in some sallow manuscript which has luckily escaped the withering breath of fire, for the old town, as I have remarked, has managed, from the earliest moment of its existence, to burn itself up periodically.  It is only through the scattered memoranda of ancient town clerks, and in the files of worm-eaten and forgotten newspapers, that we are enabled to get glimpses of that life which was once so real and positive and has now become a shadow.  I am of course speaking of the early days of the settlement on Strawberry Bank.  They were stormy and eventful days.  The dense forest which surrounded the clearing was alive with hostile red-men.  The sturdy pilgrim went to sleep with his firelock at his bedside, not knowing at what moment he might be awakened by the glare of his burning hayricks and the piercing war-whoops of the Womponoags.  Year after year he saw his harvest reaped by a sickle of flames, as he peered through the loop-holes of the blockhouse, whither he had flown in hot haste with goodwife and little ones.  The blockhouse at Strawberry Bank appears to have been on an extensive scale, with stockades for the shelter of cattle.  It held large supplies of stores, and was amply furnished with arquebuses, sakers, and murtherers, a species of naval ordnance which probably did not belie its name.  It also boasted, we are told, of two drums for training-days, and no fewer than fifteen hautboys and soft-voiced recorders—­all which suggests a mediaeval castle, or a grim fortress in the time of Queen Elizabeth.  To the younger members of the community glass or crockery ware was an unknown substance; to the elders it was a memory.  An iron pot was the pot-of-all-work, and their table utensils were of beaten pewter.  The diet was also of the simplest—­pea-porridge and corn-cake, with a mug of ale or a flagon of Spanish wine, when they could get it.

John Mason, who never resided in this country, but delegated the management of his plantation at Ricataqua and Newichewannock to stewards, died before realizing any appreciable return from his enterprise.  He spared no endeavor meanwhile to further its prosperity.  In 1632, three years before his death, Mason sent over from Denmark a number of neat cattle, “of a large breed and yellow colour.”  The herd thrived, and it is said that some of the stock is still extant on farms in the vicinity of Portsmouth.  Those old first families had a kind of staying quality!

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An Old Town By the Sea from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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