Site No. 7: 198 South Main Street. This is the oldest house in downtown Newmarket, and at some point it was a tavern. Its first owner Deacon Paul Chapman was active in both parish and town affairs. His first town position in 1795 was “Packer of the Beef.” In those days, beef, pork, lard, and butter were salted, inspected and packed in barrels before being shipped off to market. Deacon Chapman owned a store and a wharf, so this job fit nicely with his own interests.
Then there were his civic duties. In 1818, the town selectmen applied to Rockingham County for guardianship of one Moses Gill who “by intemperance and idle habits is in danger of wasting…his estate as to expose himself and family to need assistance from the town.” Deacon Chapman became one of his four guardians. From that point on, Mr. Gill’s expenses were listed and submitted to the county—part of the public record.
Maybe total temperance was impossible for Mr. Gill. He still bought lots of “cyder and rum”. In 1821 he started buying camphor as well—a traditional treatment for all sorts of ailments. In 1822, Mr. Gill died, leaving his 14-year-old daughter Matilda as the only heir. Deacon Chapman was an executor for his will. Poor Mr. Gill’s full story is online.
New England Protestantism at that time promoted institutional reform for such social issues as women’s suffrage, abolition of slavery, and temperance. While Deacon Chapman’s son Paul followed in his father’s footsteps, his grandson Ebenezer did not. A descendant tells the story: “His father being a deacon disapproved of intoxicating liquor. Ebben was my great uncle. In his youth he took at little too much to drink and had quite a misunderstanding with his father. He ran away, went to sea. Gone 20 years. Became a whaler. When he came into Boston Harbor…every man had part of his hand or fingers frozen.” Ebben did return to town—hopefully with most of his fingers—living here with his mother. He was known to head off to a local store with snakes in his boots—which he would release once he was inside. Maybe he missed the excitement of whaling.
Another character rented here in the 1890s. At age 57 Attorney Charles Smith was smitten with the beautiful Mary Lambert—a 17-year-old mill girl. She gave up her job and they spent many years in Europe together. In 1905, during a visit home he died. The estate—worth nearly a million dollars—went to Mr. Smith’s sister Alice. Miss Lambert launched a very public lawsuit that went on for years. Boston newspaper reports published a picture of this house, calling it the “Love Nest.”
During the 1920s, young Royce Carpenter lived here. At age 13, he milked the cows and churned the milk for his neighbor Annie Connor. While in the kitchen, Royce met the reclusive Emma Borden.
Continue toward town for the next stop. It’s the large house up on the left.
END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.
7 (198 So. Main St.). DEACON PAUL CHAPMAN’S HOUSE - 1764. The oldest house in the village. Many have lived here—from a town father to a scandalous couple.
In her research notes on this structure, Historian Sylvia Fitts Getchell wrote:
It sits on 65/100 of an acre. It lays N-S; front to East. Was a tavern – people have scratched their names on the walls of the attic. Ex. Newsletter of 1801.
42” square chimney with four flues and four fireplaces. Two on first floor into center flue; 2 in upper floor into outer flues. A big oak tree stood in the square in front of house. Floor lays all oak; cellar has oak timbers. Cellar under whole house but some was crawl space (Oak rounds with bark still on).
The ancient dwelling of Deacon Paul Chapman still stands in its original site at the junction of Packers Falls Road and South Main Street. The house was built three years before Paul Chapman was born—well before the American Revolution. For many years, there was a date engraved over the doorway: 1764.
Deacon Paul Chapman was the son of Benjamin Chapman. In this house, he and his first wife Sally Smart raised their children—Nancy, Mary, Sally, Lydia and Paul. In 1837, ten years after his wife Sally died, he married a distant cousin, Nancy Chapman.
Deacon Chapman was very active in parish affairs beginning in 1791. He soon became involved in local government, and his first elected position was in 1795 as town “Packer of Beef” (an early colonial position—the inspection prior to commercial export of beef and pork – salting the meat and packing it in barrels. The position also oversaw the commercial packing of lard & butter).
Undoubtedly that position benefited him, as he owned a store and a large wharf on the bank of the Lamprey which became known as Chapman’s Wharf or Chapman’s Landing. Here he traded commodities which sailed in and out of the river on gundalows. He sold a part of the wharf to businessman J. Creighton in 1816. In 1819 the packet ship “Monroe” which was built on the shores of the Lamprey, was launched from Chapman’s Wharf.
Deacon Chapman served on several other town committees including the School Committee. He was the tithingman, auditor (serving several years with Wentworth Cheswill), tax collector, and was elected selectman for 2 terms. He was the town moderator in 1817 and 1820 and served as town assessor 1826. There are also records of his involvement in a county guardianship process. These documents shed some light on how certain matters of social welfare were handled 200 years ago [ see Guardianship of Moses Gill linked to this site].
In Deacon Chapman’s own will, written in 1839 (the year before he died) his bequests to children and grandchildren varied. Some received a dollar, while others received property. He mentions several different dwellings—all of which were part of his bequest to his son Paul:
His store and the remaining wharf was to go to his grandson Ebenezer Chapman, once he was of age. There’s a more recent story about this grandson in a letter written in 1960 by Ebenezer’s great nephew, Carl Mathes. (He was writing to his longtime friend and former classmate Mary Richardson. Miss Richardson’s whose letters and notebook are filed at the Stone School Museum.) He mentions “Deacon Paul Chapman” as Ebben’s father. Perhaps both Paul Chapmans—father and son—were deacons. He also mentions the house:
Permit me to refresh your memory. You speak of the Martha Wiggin house. This was always regarded as the deacon Paul Chapman place. He was the father of Martha, Vienna D. and Ebben Chapman. Martha once lived in South Newmarket [now Newfields] where she was divorced, later marrying John Wiggin who came from Stratham. You regard Ebben as a funny old fellow indeed he was. When a young man he was a blacksmith. His father being a deacon disapproved of intoxicating liquor. Ebben was my great uncle. In his youth he took a little too much fire-water aboard and had quite a misunderstanding with his father. He ran away, went to sea. Gone 20 years. Became a whaler. His experiences were interesting indeed. Time will not permit going into detail. When he came into Boston harbor on his return every man had part of his hand or fingers frozen.
Ebenezer apparently settled down after that. The 1870 census shows him, at age 46, living with his mother Marcy. His occupation was listed as a blacksmith. But after the years whaling on the high seas Ebben may have needed some excitement now and then. Maybe that’s why he used to put snakes in his boots and wander downtown where he would release the reptiles inside a store.
Among others who have lived in this house were a Newmarket attorney and his young companion/paramour/secretary. In 1905-1906 photos of the house accompanied labels of “Love Nest” in the yellow journalism of the Boston papers due to the notorious affair of Attorney Charles E. Smith (age 57) and the 17-year-old mill girl Mary Lambert. “It is stated that Miss Mary Lambert, a former mill girl of Newmarket, with whom Mr. Smith was very friendly for a time here, and who afterwards accompanied him to Nice, France, where she lived until recently, claims to be his widow, and is to contest for a share in property left by him. This property, papers variously state, as amounting to $50,000 to $500,000”. Boston Sunday Post, Jan 7, 1906].
For a number of years, Charles Smith had been private secretary to US Congressman Frank Jones from New Hampshire. During that time Mr. Smith was accused of what today would be called insider trading. Consequently he left D.C. and passed the greater part of his time abroad.
During one of his short visits to his home town, he saw the very beautiful Mary Lambert, a young girl who was working in the cotton mill. He hired Miss Lambert to be his secretary and together they left Newmarket. For 13 years they traveled Europe, finally settling in a grand estate in France where they entertained with lavish parties. They only returned to this country for a short time every year, staying here on South Main Street.
On a return trip in 1905, Mr. Smith was attending to business in Boston when he fell ill and died. In his will, (drawn up prior to his meeting Miss Lambert) he had left everything to his sister Alice Smith, an accountant with NMCo. It was an estate estimated at $500,000 - $1,000,000. Miss Lambert contested the will, and the case bounced back and forth in appeal courts for years until the estate, much diminished, was awarded to Alice.
In the 1920s through the 1960s, generations of the Carpenter family lived here. At first they rented; later they bought the house.
Royce Carpenter (one of Edwin Carpenter’s grandsons) was a teenager when he befriended and ran errands for Emma Borden who lived up the street. Annie Connor had hired him to regularly milk her two Jersey cows. Frank Spiering in his book, Lizzie writes: “Royce would carry the warm milk from the barn into the kitchen. There his job was to churn the milk to get the butterfat out.” Royce often saw Emma, white-haired and elderly but still quite alert, sitting in a rocking chair.
Royce later reflected on his grandfather Edwin—who had built the mansion up the street with the barn that burned down in 1978 (Site No. 6):
“My grandfather had moved to Newmarket in the 1880s. He had three portable sawmills… big fire in 1910s… all animals buried on Pigeon Hill… Fire was “the end of the old man.” … Had owned the Paul Chapman House, the Gregory House, the Rodrigues House and the Miesowicz house – then all mortgaged!”