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Covering only 647 acres, Newburyport became the smallest town in the province of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Newbury was settled in 1635, and in 1764 the port area of Newbury incorporated and became Newburyport. Named for their geographical elongated shapes, Down Along and Up Along were inherited designations brought here by the settlers from their native Wiltshire and Berkshire in England. The boundary that separates Down Along (the South End) and Up Along (The North End) is State Street. The Ridge runs along the southern side of High Street in the South End, once known as the old Country Road, where sea captains and merchants built beautiful mansions on the high ground in the prosperous shipbuilding days. On top of the roofs “widow’s walks” allowed wives and family members to watch the coastline and harbor for incoming ships of loved ones. Some never returned.
Many young men from Newburyport served during the War of 1812, a military conflict between the United States and the British Empire that was fought on land and sea. Ship-owner Francis Todd and John Porter, a lawyer and an insurance broker, were part of military companies that were stationed at the observatory located on Lunt’s Hill, then in Newbury and now known as March’s Hill. They used telescopes and field glasses to watch for enemy ships along the Plum Island shores and those approaching the mouth of the Merrimack River. March’s Hill is named for the March family, first settlers of Newbury before 1650 who owned the land for several generations. At one time the Boston and Maine Railroad later owned the land.
View of High Street with March’s Hill on left and Bromfield Street on right. Note the trolley tracks. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Clara Savigart DeWindt (1893-1976), who lived at 40 High Street, purchased March’s Hill from James Hartnett and soon after deeded it to the city in May of 1954. Mr. Hartnett had been seeking a zoning variance for the property to open a grocery market for the South End. Mrs. DeWindt's intention in giving the land to the city, as she made clear at a public hearing, was to ensure that Newburyport and Newbury children, as generations before them had, could use March’s Hill as a recreation area and that residents could continue to enjoy the beautiful sunsets from its prospect, as she did each evening.
Mrs. DeWindt, born in Illinois, was a member of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the Historical Society of Old Newbury, and the Unitarian Church. She was a dedicated bird watcher and led many nature walks in the local area.
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Edmund R. Raynes House
Author Sarah Mulliken (1874-1955) read her story about Edmund R. Raynes (1811-1883), who lived at 42 High Street on the corner of Bromfield Street, before the Historical Society of Old Newbury, on July 28, 1943.
Captain Edmund R. Raynes house, 42 High Street. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
"In the next house but one below my father’s lived Captain Edmund Raynes. I remember when a child he took me by the hand and went up to the cupola to see the compass on its floor. He was shocked that at four I could not cap the compass. He wore in his waistcoat pocket a handsome gold watch presented to him by the English Government, in recognition of his bravery and skill in rescuing fifty persons from a sinking ship wrecked by an Indian Ocean typhoon."
Captain Raynes was from Presque Isle, Maine, and married his second wife, Abby Brooks Small, daughter of Joseph and Abby A. Small of Newburyport, in 1863. He owned several vessels built by Newburyport'’s foremost shipbuilder John Currier Jr., including co-ownership with Albert Currier, a businessman and former Newburyport mayor, of the Albert Currier, a 1,000-ton ship built in 1859.
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Captain Moses J. Mulliken (1816-1903), was a member of the Marine Society of Newburyport and as a young man made sixty-three trips across the Atlantic and at least four trips around Cape Horn. The Mulliken House, 46 High Street, was built by his father Samuel and mother Phebe. Moses's son Samuel P. recorded an account of some of his father’s travels around the world.
"Perhaps one of his most interesting voyages was around Cape Horn to California in 1849. He was captain of the brig Mary Wilder, hailing from Bath, (Maine) carrying passengers from Boston to San Francisco. They were a wild set of men, eager for adventure and not averse to a quarrel. The long voyage was trying, and the sight of another ship was welcomed as a great treat. If she were homeward bound, letters would be thrown to her, tied to a piece of hard coal. Sometimes these landed on board the vessel, but more often floated away on the waves." On the 17th of April 1849 there is this entry in my father’s log book:
Captain Moses J. Mulliken, Captain William Reed, and Captain Benjamin C. Emerton, three oldest members of the Newburyport Marine Society, 1903. Image from the History of the Marine Society, Newburyport, Massachusetts.
"Spoke the ship Sutton, of and from New York, 105 days out. Reported 25 days from Rio Janeiro, bound to California with passengers. We gave him three cheers, which were answered by three cheers from the Sutton in return. We parted company after playing the tune 'Yankee Doodle' by Mr. Goff on the fife."
Son Samuel noted: "In May, 1852, he sailed from New York in the bark Mary and Jane for a voyage around the world. He left San Francisco the 3rd of February, 1853, and on March 27th of the same year, my father wrote as follows in his log book:
"It is now 52 days since we left San Francisco, and we are now at the entrance of the China Sea. A kind Providence has watched us and protected us in safety thus far across the broad Pacific, we having sailed about eight thousand miles without seeing a vessel, until this morning, which proved to be a bark bound to the eastward through the Passage."
After leaving China, Samuel describes his father’s activities in Singapore, after leaving China. He notes, "They took about one hundred tons of tea, and then proceeded to Penang, (an area of Malaysia northwest of Singapore) where they finished loading with pepper on April 14th, 1853. That pepper made itself known in the Captain’s clothing long after the voyage was finished. They arrived home in October, 1853."
Moses’s brother Captain Samuel G. P. Mulliken commanded several vessels including the ship Anna M. Schmidt and the vessel General Nowell. He and his crew were all lost in the China Seas during a typhoon in 1867.
Dr. Robert S. Mulliken, 1929. Nobel Prize winner 1966. Wikipedia source.
Moses Mulliken’s son Samuel (1864-1934) was a professor of organic chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M. I. T.). He lived in Newburyport and commuted for many years to and from work on the Boston and Maine Railroad. His son Robert Sanderson Mulliken graduated from M. I. T. and went on to teach at the University of Chicago. In 1966, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Professor Robert S. Mulliken. One book was always kept close to Dr. Mulliken: a copy of Conversations on Chemistry. . . Illustrated by Experiments. A second edition published in 1830, it carried on the title page the signature of his grandfather, Moses J., and his father, Samuel P.
A silhouette portrait of Sarah Mulliken, 1931 by Freida Castlehun. Courtesy of Sue Follansbee.
Sarah E. Mulliken (1874-1955) was the daughter of Moses and Sarah (Gibbs) Mulliken. Miss Mulliken was an author of children’s books. Among them were The Voyage of the Anna Smith and Boys and Girls of Colonial Days. She was a member of the women’s group, the Pen and Ink Circle, and the Writers’ Group. In Captains, Clams, and Cobblestones, published by the Historical Society of Old Newbury in 1977, Miss Mulliken describes her memories of her father and some of the Down Along sea captains:
Sarah Mulliken reading to children at the Newburyport Public Library. Life Magazine 1943. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
"Our house stands on the site of Jonathan Parsons’ wife’s old home, and here Captain Parsons’ grandsons were born, my father and uncle, Moses and Samuel Mulliken. . . . Suffice it to say that he (Moses) saw Smyrna (western coast of Turkey) before he had visited Boston. That he was not one of those brutal sea-dogs so often described in a certain type of story I can prove by the comment of one of his sailors, an old Irishman with a far-away look in his blue eyes: 'Captain Mulligan’s daughter? He was sich a gintleman that he trated his crew like gintleman, - and before they knew it they was acting like gintleman!' My uncle, I’m sorry to admit, loved the land, and a book, better than he did the ocean! He was lost in the China Sea soon after he became master of a ship."
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Parsons Land - Allen and Parsons Street
Sarah E. Mulliken also wrote about Captain Jonathan Parsons, who owned much of the land that now forms Allen and Parsons Streets. Captain Parsons was one of the original members who organized the Newburyport Marine Society in 1772. His father was Reverend Jonathan Parsons who led the new Presbyterian Church on Federal Street, known as the Old South and established in 1745.
Swett-Ilsley House, 4 High Road, Newbury where the first meeting of the Newburyport Marine Society held its first meeting, November 5, 1772; only a few hundred yards east of Parsons Street. History of the Marine Society Newburyport, Bayley and Jones.
"Captain Jonathan Parsons owned the land through which Allen and Parsons Streets pass excepting the Allen Street corner lot, which came into his family through his wife. Captain Parsons was the son of the Old South minister, and lived in the days of the Revolution. He would not fight on a privateer as he considered it cowardly to prey on unarmed craft, but he commanded and owned, in part, letters of Marque, which, as you know, were merchantmen armed to protect themselves against the enemy. He had the bad luck to be captured any number of times - I don’t dare give the exact number for fear of being called a liar. Once he was a prisoner on an English man-of-war, and was taken to Halifax. It was the King’s birthday, and it was celebrated with spirit literally and figuratively. Apparently Captain Parsons was given liberty of the deck. Everyone was more or less drunk, and when Captain Parsons rolled overboard nobody cared. He swam ashore and escaped through the woods to Newburyport, walking most of the way. He was a man of such honesty that the West India merchants with whom he traded refused to examine his ships’ cargoes - they took his statement."
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Captain Isaac Bray House
The house at 48 High Street was owned by Captain Isaac Bray, who died April 16, 1870, at 60 years old. He was a native of Newburyport and commanded many vessels that sailed to foreign ports including Europe and Russia. He also made voyages in the early days of the Gold Rush to San Francisco. Captain Bray was in India during the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857, one of the most well-known uprisings during the British colonization of India. The uprising was a mutiny by the native troops, "sepoys", against the British. Captain Bray was joined in the fray by Newburyport shipmasters Captain George Lunt and Captain Edward Graves. At a hotel owned by Newburyport native James S. Toppan, the sea captains prepared with plenty of arms loaded and ready for use, but the trouble passed over and all were safe. Retirement soon followed, and the early 1860s found Captain Bray back in Newburyport serving on the school committee.
Sarah E. Mulliken shared her story of Captain Bray:
"Captain Isaac Bray lived on the other corner of Allen Street just before my day. My father had raced with him from Halifax to Liverpool, and from Liverpool to Calcutta. Quite a marathon! Captain Bray was a huge man, and his wife, who accompanied him on his voyages, was a tiny woman, bright and alert as a bird, but deaf as a post. She always carried with her a neat ear trumpet with a long rubber tube. They had one daughter, and our house still has odds and ends that she gave my elder sister, which had come from all sorts of interesting places. He was at Calcutta during the time of the Sepoy Rebellion. A Newburyport group of captains were making their headquarters on shore with another Newburyporter, James S. Toppan, and they took turns keeping watch, night and day, for no one knew when an outbreak might burst out. That was Captain Bray’s last voyage. To quote the Newburyport Herald again, this time dated April 18, 1870: 'Captain Bray maintained a standing of high respectability among all classes in the community, - genial in disposition, polite in manners, intelligent and well-read; all who knew him enjoyed his society and profited by his conversation'."
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William Graves Jr. House
The house at 56 High Street was built by Captain William Graves Jr. (1811-1877), who was the son of Captain William Graves (who died in 1851) and sailed as a young man until he was about thirty-five years old. Both father and son were very successful mariners. They commanded many ships and owned several vessels built by John Currier Jr., one of the most prominent shipbuilders in Newburyport. Captain Graves, Sr. hoisted the first Bethel flag in the foreign port of Canton, now Guangzhou. The Bethel flag represented a local seamen’s organization helping families and children of sailors. Canton was at one time the only port of China that allowed trade with foreigners.
Portrait of William Graves. Courtesy of Michael Bulger.
After retiring from the sea, Captain Graves, Jr. was an active member of the community. He was one of the enthusiastic local citizens who assisted in the purchase of the Tracy Mansion in 1863 to house the new public library. Under Mayors Moses Davenport, William Cushing, and Isaac Boardman, Mr. Graves served as Ward Two Alderman. He served on the school committee and as mayor in 1866. Mr. Graves was a director of the Merchant’s Bank, a trustee of the Institution for Savings, and treasurer of the Bartlett Steam Mills. Former Mayor Graves’ portrait hangs in Newburyport City Hall.
At the time of his death Mr. Graves was president of the Marine Society whose members also included his father, William Graves, and his two brothers, Captain Alexander Graves who died at home on Parsons Street in 1869 at age 46 and Captain Edward Graves who was lost at sea on the ship Tennyson in 1873, on the passage from Calcutta to Boston, at age 42.
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Knapp, Perry, Healey, Yalla House
Captain Benjamin Peirce built a home c. 1810, and lived there with his family until his death in 1831. The house passed to his daughter, Mrs. Joseph J. Knapp, and it remained in the family until 1898, when the stately mansion at 47 High Street was purchased by Mrs. Georgianna Graves Perry and her husband, Charles F. Perry. Mrs. Perry’s grandfather William, father William Jr., and uncles Edward and Alexander were well-known sea captains and members of the Marine Society founded in 1772. In 1959 James "Jack" Knapp Healy, the great grandson of Captain Pierce, purchased the house, where his family still lives today.
Unlike most of the beautiful gardens of High Street whose backyards sloped down the ridge, the landscape rises above this house. In the 1800s there were wonderful views of Plum Island, the Merrimack River, and downtown Newburyport. The families who lived in the house enjoyed cutting gardens, roses, arborvitae, tulips, peonies, herbs, a grape arbor, and cultivated trees and shrubs.
Portrait of William Graves Perry. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Charles and Georgianna’s son William Graves Perry (1883-1975) became a well-known architect and worked in Boston designing buildings for colleges, universities, and commercial enterprises in New England. In Newburyport, Mr. Perry designed the American Yacht Club in 1908, Helen Moseley’s home at the Moseley’s Estate, now Maudslay State Park, and the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1920. He summered in Newburyport at his family’s home and lived the remainder of the year in Boston. Mr. Perry directed the formative stages of the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. In the 1960s, with his vast knowledge of restoration, Mr. Perry was persuaded by Dr. Wilkins, Edmund and Ruth Burke, Josephine P. Driver, and local advocates of historic preservation to assist in opposition to the proposed "urban renewal" of downtown Newburyport and the eventual rescue of its historical buildings from threatened demolition. With William Graves's influence, the Historical Society of Old Newbury’s grassroots committee was successful in saving the historical integrity of the downtown area.
West Newbury retired architect Peter Ringenbach spoke about Mr. Perry in the Newburyport Daily News in 2007:
"He was in his eighties when I joined the firm in 1965. I was in my twenties and a young architect, and he was sort of a firm icon. He was not a large man at all, maybe five feet seven or eight inches. He was a person of extreme detail, and he knew what he wanted." Mr. Ringenbach recalled, "He was always beautifully dressed in a three-piece suit with a gold chain and a watch fob. He’d go into his office, take off his jacket, hang it up, and put on a long, gray smock. He came from the age when architects drew in ink. Smocks were used to keep the ink from staining architects’ clothing."
The Healey and Yalla families, descendants of Benjamin Pierce, have restored and preserved the historical integrity of the house. Recently the restoration of the pattern of the graceful fence and the roof balustrade has been completed. The family has received recognition from the Newburyport Preservation Trust for its restoration efforts.
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Cushing Bachman House
Richard Pike built a lovely mansion on the hillside known as the Ridge at 63 High Street in 1810. The Pike family lived here until 1833. The house passed to different owners until the Cushing family, William, Caleb, and their heirs, acquired it and lived there from 1848 to 1881.
Caleb Cushing (1800-1879), was the son of John Newmarch Cushing and Lydia Dow, and grew up at 98 High Street, which is now the Cushing Museum and home to the Historical Society of Old Newbury. In Ould Newbury, first published in 1896, historian John J. Currier wrote, "Among the distinguished citizens who have lived within the limits of these two towns since the first settlement at Parker River, none have occupied more important or more honorable positions in public life than Mr. Cushing."
Portrait of Caleb Cushing, first mayor of Newburyport. Newburyport City Hall.
Caleb Cushing married Caroline Wilde, daughter of Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Samuel S. Wilde, in 1824. Sadly, Mrs. Cushing died eight years later leaving no children. Mr. Cushing never remarried. Cushing's giographer John M. Belohlavek who devoted many years of research to his subject, observed in his book Broken Glass: "Cushing, who referred to Caroline as 'My dear C,' had lost a helpmate, a critic, and a loving friend. Possessing a warmth and humor that her husband lacked and an intelligence and spirit that challenged him, Caroline provided a balance for life, particularly in his hours of political discouragement. After his death in 1879 a leather-bound volume was found with poems in five languages that Cushing had copied expressing grief for a dead wife." Mr. Cushing designed a small cabinet that was dedicated to the memory of Caroline - inside could be found keepsakes such as articles of clothing, her favorite poems, drawings of Caroline, and a pressed rose given by Mr. Cushing to Caroline during their courtship. The cabinet always traveled with Mr. Cushing. When he was not traveling he lived primarily in Washington, D. C., and Virginia, occasionally visiting his hometown and finally settling in Newburyport several months prior to his death.
An attorney, Mr. Cushing represented Newburyport in the Legislature and Congress. He was the first envoy to China, negotiating an historic treaty opening trade with Western countries and served as a Minister to Spain. In 1851 he was elected the first mayor of Newburyport. He also served as a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. In 1853, Mr. Cushing accepted the position of Attorney General of the United States under President Franklin Pierce. He was well-skilled in international law and a noted advisor in all facets of the federal government to several Presidents. The Newburyport native was considered one of the most intelligent men of the times, although controversy followed his political career.
Biographer, Belohlavek observed,
"With an unharnessed mind and probing intellect, Cushing inspired and infuriated contemporaries with his strident views on such topics as race relations and gender roles, national expansion, and the legitimacy of secession. While his positions generated arguments and garnered enemies, his views often mirrored those of many Americans. . . . Relentlessly energetic, his wide-ranging talent thrust him into a variety of pursuits. In the antebellum period he emerged as one of the nation’s leading proponents of the sanctity of American union and the divinely ordained nature of territorial expansion. However, the versatile and argumentative Cushing never mastered - nor did he apparently try to do so - the subtleties of political combat or personal interaction. Instead, he took a perverse delight in smashing his opponents either in public address or on the editorial page." Mr. Belohlavek concludes: "In spite of barbs and criticisms Cushing continued undaunted in his pursuit of a higher calling for the United States."
The Cushing and Bachman home, 63 High Street. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
In 1881, Soloman Bachman (1827-1898) and his family purchased the Cushings' High Street mansion, acquired several more acres of land around it, and occupied it until 1923. The family hired full-time gardeners to manage the extensive beds and acreage filled with fruit and ornamental trees, flowering shrubs and perennial flowers, rock gardens, vegetable and herb beds, and urns filled with cascading annuals surrounded the mansion. Mr. Bachman himself was born in Germany. He pursued business endeavors all over the United States. He opened a dry goods business in Newburyport and became the owner of the Merrimac Mills, maker of woolen shawls, in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Over the years, the original house's footprint increased with additions. The latest homeowner received recognition from the Newburyport Preservation Trust for restoration efforts to preserve the historic front fence.
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John J. Currier House
For many years 73 High Street was home to John James Currier (1834-1912), who was born in Newbury, the son of John Currier, Jr. and Clarissa Carr Currier. John Currier, Jr. became the famous shipbuilder of Newburyport who built nearly one hundred ships near the foot of Butler and Merrimac Streets in the "Belleville" section of Newburyport. The son was known to family and friends as "John Jimmy" or "Johnny Jim." For thirty years, Mr. Currier worked at his father's shipyard in the counting room. He served on the city council, held office as mayor of Newburyport from 1879 to 1880, was treasurer of the Bayley Hat Company on Merrimac Street, and was a member of the Fortnightly Club, a group dedicated to the discussion of literary and current events. After retiring from his role in his father's shipyard, John J. Currier turned his interest to local history research. Mr. Currier's work is compiled into five volumes that continue to be an invaluable resource for local history researchers in the community. They are titled Sketches of Shipbuilding on the Merrimack River, Ould Newbury, History of Newburyport, Massachusetts Volumes I and II, and History of Newbury, Massachusetts.
William Wheelwright boyhood home, 73 High Street, built in 1800 by his father Ebenezer. Later the home of John and Susan Currier. S.C. Reed photograph. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Mr. Currier married Susan M. Page (1838-1910), daughter of David Perkins and Susan (Lunt) Page, in 1868. Mrs. Currier’s father, David, was a well known school teacher in Newburyport. Not unlike many who resided in the mansions on the ridge that were known for their beautiful landscaped gardens, Mrs. Currier cultivated a lifelong love of gardening. In her diaries Mrs. Currier often wrote about her travels in the United States and Europe. In 1896, she traveled with friends to Italy and Switzerland, describing the views along her journeys of the surrounding countryside on the outskirts of Rome and revealing her love of nature:
"I have seldom enjoyed a drive so much: everything looks brilliant and spring-like now; flowers are everywhere, roses, lilacs and wisteria hang over every wall and beautiful little Banksia roses, both white and yellow, are climbing everywhere. Their lovely graceful branches are covered with flowers and extend in every direction. I hope, sometime, I shall have a Banksia rose bush in my garden, it is such a sturdy climber and blossoms so freely. I have never seen these beautiful roses before, but I am told they can be grown almost anywhere in the United States..."
Historian John J. and his wife Susan Page Currier. Courtesy of Sue Follansbee.
Mrs. Currier goes on to describe her trip through beautiful mountains and the many wild flowers along the road to Geneva. "There were two kind of scabiosa, or mourning bride, of which I am so fond and take such pains to cultivate in my garden every summer, growing in profusion; also sweet Williams, white and yellow daisies, blue salvia and many other flowers that I had never seen before."
The Curriers entertained often, and Mrs. Currier taught Sunday school at the St. Paul's Church and managed fundraising for the Anna Jaques Hospital. She loved music and enjoyed the novels of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens as well as the biographies of famous men written by local author James Parton.
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Wheelwright Home for Aged Females
Captain Ebenezer Stocker, a merchant and ship owner, purchased land along the ridge in 1797 and built this 75 High Street house soon afterward. Captain Stocker was one of the owners of the ship Merrimack, built in Newburyport for the government of the United States. He was on the building committee of the new Pleasant Street meetinghouse of the Unitarian Church in 1801.
The Wheelwright home, 75 High Street. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
William Wheelwright, a Newburyport native, benefactor, and railroad, telegraph, and steamship pioneer who spent many years in South America, purchased the house for his parents and sisters in 1841. Young William grew up in the house next door, 73 High Street. The house, now a private residence, remained in the Wheelwright family until the 1880s. A friend of William Wheelwright, Henry V. Ward, designed the gardens, and an English gardener, Thomas Caper, tended the beautiful formal Federal-style grounds of terraces, circular beds, and paths filled with boxwood, roses, colorful annuals and perennials, fruit trees, and vegetables.
In 1835, residents of Newbury, West Newbury, and Newburyport gathered together to plan for the bicentennial celebration of the founding of Oldtown or Newbury. To the disappointment of women in the community, the committees were all composed of men, so a few of the younger ladies decided to organize a tea party to be held at the Town Hall on the evening of the celebration. The expenses for the tea were paid by the ladies, and all residents and out-of-town visitors were invited. The tea party was successful socially and financially. After expenses, the sum of thirteen dollars remained, and "the young ladies decided to use it as the basis of a fund to help the older women of the community who were living in poverty and neglect," according to the One Hundredth Fiftieth Anniversary pamphlet of The Society for the Relief of Aged Females. Each month a small group of women visited and brought packages of clothing, tea, and coffee to the women of the community in need.
Portrait of William Wheelwright. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
The society’s first substantial bequest was from the estate of William Gordon in 1839. Throughout the years the society had organized successful fundraisers for their purposes, and over time the increasing need for a residents’ home was apparent. With many community donations, the society purchased a house at 18 Olive Street and opened it to five residents in 1872. By the 1880s the Olive Street residence was occupied by ten women, and the Society’s volunteers were assisting ninety women in the community.
A painting of Martha Gerrish Bartlet completed at the time of her marriage in 1829 to William Wheelwright, now in the collection of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, Cushing Museum. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury.
A longtime supporter of the Society for the Relief of Aged Females (the name was later changed to the Society for the Relief of Aged Women), Mrs. William Wheelwright (Martha Gerrish Bartlett) donated her house to the society in 1888. The Wheelwright Home for Aged Women served local residents from 1886 to 2005. The trustees of the Wheelwright Home for Aged Women sold the house in 2005 and created a foundation to continue the mission of assisting women in the Newburyport area. John T. Brown, a trustee of Oak Hill Cemetery and a generous benefactor, purchased a gravesite at Oak Hill Cemetery in 1897 for the burial of residents of the Wheelwright Home.
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Cushing House and Museum
John Newmarch Cushing standing in doorway of his residence at 98 High Street, now the home of the Cushing Museum. Circa 1902. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury.
Three generations of Cushings lived at 98 High Street, a Federalist mansion built by William Hunt in 1808. Captain John N. Cushing purchased one half of the house in 1818 and the remainder in 1822. John Newmarch Cushing (1820-1904), a Newburyport native, was the son of Captain Cushing and Elizabeth Johnson. Another son of Captain Cushing, William (1823-1875), a native, attended the Newburyport Academy across the street on the ridge and graduated from Harvard College. William and John’s half-brother, Caleb, was the first mayor of Newburyport in 1851 and a central figure in the federal government for over forty years. Brothers John and William worked alongside their father Captain Cushing at Cushing’s Wharf at the foot of Fair Street. They owned thirty ships, rigged vessels and worked in the counting rooms of their busy mercantile business.
Portrait of William Cushing. Courtesy of the Newburyport Daily News.
For many years, John and William Cushing and their families shared the house at 98 High Street. John’s daughter, Margaret (1855-1955), lived in the home until her passing. Miss Cushing recalled her own childhood there in the volume Cushing and Allied Families.
"We had such a happy childhood; making a large family of thirteen, until the death of my Aunt Sarah. My father and his family lived in the westerly part of our house, and Uncle William and his family in the easterly part. We had a beautiful garden between us where all manner of fruits were raised. We kept 'open house' and of distinguished visitors and relations, we had a large share.
"It has seemed to me in looking back that our house was more like a southern Plantation. We had plenty of servants; everyone who came into the kitchen or on the place was fed. My father kept two horses, Kate and Ethan Allen, and every kind of a bird and animal possible. The ships brought beautiful fabrics to wear and delicious things to eat and drink. I remember now the profusion in every department of our house and place. The great bunches of bananas hanging in our large yard, at the back of the house; the wine for everybody in Newburyport who was sick or needy; the tables full of turkeys and chickens to be given away at Thanksgiving, and the pies of every description made at the time for the house and to give away. I remember waking up in the autumn and rejoicing to smell quince preserves and jellies making, and to know Mrs. Stickney was in the kitchen making also mincemeat for pies, full of raisins, currants and plenty of cider, made in Salisbury from our own apples – wine and brandy. Ours was a generous household. I remember a story told by a neighbor. A tramp meeting our neighbor outside our gate asked, “Where can I get a good breakfast?” To which the neighbor replied, “From all on Clam Ground, open this gate and go in."
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Jacob Perkins’s Printing and Engraving Plant
Portrait of Jacob Perkins. Boston Monthly Magazine, 1826 by Thomas Edwards. Wikipedia source.
Jacob Perkins (1766-1849) was the son of Matthew and Jane Dole and at the young age of twelve apprenticed with goldsmith Edward Davis. Mr. Davis passed away three years later and young Jacob continued the business of making gold beads and shoe buckles. As a twenty year-old he was employed by the Massachusetts mint to make dies (metal stamping tools) for striking copper coins. During the next four years Mr. Perkins designed and built a machine that produced pressed coins in a single operation. The cents were stamped with an eagle and an Indian; today a number of the rare coins are preserved in collections. Mr. Perkins also invented a device driven by water power that could cut and head nails. This machine was much appreciated by local carpenters, and many of these factory-made nails, a less expensive option than handmade ones, can still be found in the old houses of the area communities.
Jacob Perkins designed new dies or metal stamping tools for striking copper coins. Half Cent of 1788. Courtesy of Mark Goodman, photographer of Coin Rarities, Wallingford, Connecticut.
During the American Revolution, the colonies became independent states and were freed from British monetary regulations. The Continental Congress issued paper money known as Continental currency to fund the war effect. By the early 1780s the currency had depreciated, and the paper notes were worthless. Private banks were issuing their own paper currency, although the quality was poor and counterfeiting was widespread. The practice resulted in losses to storekeepers, artisans, and tradesmen. Well aware of what was happening Mr. Perkins developed a steel plate for printing currency to prevent counterfeiting. Copies of his plate were purchased by banks throughout New England. In the Newburyport Herald of March 8, 1805, Mr. Perkins described his invention in an article titled "Stereotype Plates for Banks":
"The Patentee of the Stereotype Plates for the impression of Bank Bills informs the Public that he has constantly on hand readymade plates (the name of the Bank and Town excepted), and will be happy to supply Banks on the shortest notice. His terms are reasonable and uniform, the plates executed, and he has the authority of many eminent artists, as well as the sanction of experience, to say that bills impressed from these plates cannot be counterfeited. No attempts of the kind have ever yet been made, tho’ it has been adopted and is now used by sixteen Banks in New England.
Example of a copper plate engraving by Jacob Perkins, 1803.
"Encouraged by the success of his principle, and the increasing demand for his plates, he has at a great expense improved his former invention by adding beauty to security. He has formed a steel plate of sixty-four dies, impressed by the same dies now used for copperplates, neatly fitted and keyed together in a strong iron frame. The name of the Bank and Town and the denomination of the Bill are removed and substituted at pleasure. The standing part of the plates are elegantly engraved by James Akin. When completed there will be from six to seven hundred days work in the plate, and being well hardened, it will, without injury, print more paper than will be used in the United States. It is now nearly finished, and any orders addressed to him at Newburyport will be punctually honored. Jacob Perkins"
In 1808 Jacob’s brother, Abraham Perkins (d. 1839) joined his business as manager, and they built a three-storey brick building behind their house on Fruit Street. By the 1820s the operation of printing currency had ceased. The factory was then used to print copy books for school children, book illustrations, and to reproduce portraits. Known as the Jacob Perkins Printing and Engraving Building, it is the oldest surviving printing and engraving factory in the country. In 2007 the Historical Society of Old Newbury purchased the building with the help of a $200,000 grant from the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank. A Community Preservation grant of over $180,000 helped with the restoration efforts.
Perkins Mint on Fruit Street, 1890s. Photograph by Noyes Studios. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
A year after the Great Fire of 1811, the town purchased "Mr. Jacob Perkins' Hose Engine," a more powerful pump for fighting fires. Mr. Perkins took his previous model of a pump and built it into a design to fit a fire engine. In 1816 Mr. Perkins departed Newburyport for Philadelphia and was persuaded to move to London to share his expertise in steel printing plates for the Bank of England. Though contracts with the Bank of England never materialized, smaller banks did purchase his printing plates. Mr. Perkins remained in England until his passing in 1849.
Jacob Perkins is remembered as one of the most prolific American inventors and as a mechanical engineer of great diversity, although his remarkable curiosity often distracted him from profiting in his business practices. After completing one invention Mr. Perkins would be off to his next idea and creation. He held over twenty patents in the United States and London, including those for fixed and portable pumps, steam engines and machinery for propelling steam engines, construction of furnaces and boilers, apparatus for producing ice, and improved ship pumps and navigational instruments.
Advertisement in the London Mechanics Register, November 6, 1824.
In 1821 Mr. Perkins was elected as the 36th Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, an honor also bestowed upon his son Angier March. Founded in 1818, the institution is based in London with members representing 150 countries. Angier March Perkins (1799-1881) inherited his father’s engineering talents and held over a dozen patents of his own for heating air in buildings, heating ovens, steam engines, and apparatus for generating steam.
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Newburyport Academy, Brockway and Osgood House
On June 20, 1807, the private Newburyport Academy for boys and girls was incorporated and opened on October 20th, one of the first in the United States. Its two storey building was erected on High Street, now number 83 and 85, opposite Fruit Street. The Cushing children who lived across the street attended the academy. In 1825, Albert Pike who was born in nearby Rowley in 1791, was appointed director of the boys and Miss Philippa Call the female department director. A short time later, Miss Call’s place was taken by Mrs. Francis Lord of Boston who later married Dr. Richard S. Spofford, a well-known doctor in the community. Dr. Spofford was the father of Richard, a personal secretary to Caleb Cushing, and father-in-law of Harriet Prescott Spofford, a famous writer and poet of her time.
The Brockway Osgood house, 1937. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
In 1840, Elias Nason supervised the female school on the second storey and Ebenezer Savory led the boys on the lower storey. Mr. Pike, well respected and popular, was a teacher at the academy for nearly fifteen years. Mr. Pike’s pupils erected a gravestone in memory of their beloved teacher in Byfield Parish, a section of Newbury. The school closed in 1842 when the building was sold to John Osgood and Charles J. Brockway and converted into a two-family dwelling.
The Osgood and Brockway families created gardens in the back, dividing the lot in half by a fence and later by natural shrub barriers. The Osgood garden on the west side featured larkspur, iris, columbine, roses, heliotrope, zinnias and sweet alyssum. Vines such as wisteria, clematis, and woodbine grew over the barn and trellis. A more elaborate garden design filled the Brockway side with paths, geometric designed beds, cut-flower gardens, and terraces filled with fruits and vegetables.
A view from the Fruit and High Streets looking east. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
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