Excerpts from the Life and Letters of Paine Wingate

One of the Fathers of the Nation

by Charles E. L. Wingate

Medford, Mass.: James D. P. Wingate, 1930

Paine Wingate (May 14, 1739 – March 7, 1838) was an American preacher, farmer, and statesman from Stratham, New Hampshire. He served New Hampshire in the Continental Congress and both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Much of his ancestry came from Hampton, and what follow are excerpts from chapter two: "Paine's boyhood and His Ancestors."

Naturally, little Paine liked most to hear of the adventures of his grandfather. Those were often very thrilling. This Joshua, the youngest son of John, "was born at Hampton where his mother casually was at the time of his birth, February 2, 1679." His boyhood was passed in Dover but a tradition in the family has it that Joshua, shortly before the birth of his eldest son Paine, removed from Dover to Hampton in order to have his wife safe in the garrison house in Hampton. There was much danger from the Indians in those days, and in the very year of this Paine's birth (1703) Governor Dudley had issued an order that a convenient number of garrisons for the town of Hampton should be built where the women and children might find refuge in case of attack by the savages.

Colonel Joshua's house was not one of these garrisons but it was often called in later years the "Garrison House" because it was very strongly built and because, as the residence of the military commander, it frequently became a place of refuge when the red skins attacked the town. Later in history it was known as the "Old Toppan House," since it was handed down from Colonel Joshua to his grandson, Col. Christopher Toppan. Colonel Toppan, who was four years older than Paine Wingate the younger, was the son of Dr. Edmund Toppan, a physician of Hampton. Dr. Toppan was the husband of Sarah, oldest daughter of Col. Joshua Wingate, and was the son of Rev. Dr. Christopher Toppan of Newbury, Massachusetts.

After the house was enclosed by a stockade, the records say, many of the inhabitants of the town were sheltered therein. Some came in only for the night, carrying bundles of straw and sleeping in the yard while the appointed watch was kept. In the morning the gate would be opened to allow the men to go forth to their daily work while all others remained on guard. One tradition has it that a Hampton girl recklessly ventured out near sunset to drive in a cow and was surprised by an attack by an Indian who had been lurking behind trees, so that she had to run for her life. She reached the gate just a little ahead of her pursuer and was pulled safely through by a woman inside who assisted the frightened fugitive.

The house was built by Joshua Wingate in the year 1700. The el was added by Mr. Wingate's grandson Christopher Toppan. It is to be presumed that all Col. Joshua's children were born in this house. It remained in the possession of the Toppan descendants, passing on to Christopher's son Edmund who wove another link of connection with the Wingate family by his marriage, three years after his graduation from Harvard, to Mary Chase, the grand-daughter of Rev. Stephen and Jane (Wingate) Chase — Jane being the young Paine's aunt. From them the "Toppan House" went to the widow of Edmund Willoughby Toppan, whose later husband was Col. Peter Sanborn. Finally, however, the homestead passed from the ownership of the Wingate branch. The building accidentally burned to the ground in the very last years of the nineteenth century. Its location was the southeast corner of the Newburyport and Hampton Beach roads.

The hospitality of Grandfather Joshua's house, it is recorded by one writer, was proverbial. And here is a description of the old mansion drawn by the same person in the New England Magazine of January 1886, "A large, low, two-story house with a lawn in front and side yards, and a grassy lawn beyond that and the road, with massive protecting elms as high as the house in front and around it. In the rear spacious barns extended on one side, and a small, old-fashioned garden of fruit, flowers and vegetables attractively dressed the other side. It would be difficult to find a more pleasant, old-fashioned house of equal age, with its physiognomy of generous hospitality and unobtrusive refinement and good sense."

A lady now living in Hampton (Mrs. Shaw, 1930,) tells the story that came from her people about a daughter of the house in early days venturing outside the big gate after dusk, and unfortunately dropping the large key of the padlock. As she was looking about on the ground for it, to her surprise and great terror an Indian appeared stealthily. But he did not attack her. Instead, the redskin gallant softly glided to her side, picked up the key near her feet and handed it to her so that she might enter the refuge.

Another Indian story was told to Paine Wingate, an adventure in the winter of 1720, nineteen years before Paine's birth and not long before the birth of Colonel Joshua's daughter Love, afterwards the wife of Rev. Nathaniel Gookin. The people of Hampton were alarmed by the rumor of an intended attack by the Indians and Mrs. Wingate fled and concealed herself in the woods. On learning of her flight — after the alarm was over — a negro servant was sent to guide her back. But in her confusion and terror she mistook the negro for an Indian and fainted as he approached. She was revived and, as the danger still continued, Captain Wingate sent her, guarded by a detachment of troops, to Newburyport, about ten miles distant, as a place of safety.

Paine Wingate saw in his grandfather's house the lingering existence of slavery in New England, for the old records contain mention under date of October 15, 1752, "Dinah, negro of Colonel Wingate's." Dinah's corn-cakes Paine, then thirteen years old, must have enjoyed with a boy's appetite. And October 3, 1779, the record mentions "Peter, servant of John Wingate."

Colonel Joshua married at Newbury November 19, 1702, Mary Lunt, who was born in that town January 16, 1681, and was, therefore, eighteen years old at the time of her marriage, while the bridegroom was twenty-three. She lived to be ninety-one years of age, passing away May 27, 1772, three years after her husband. Her father was Henry Lunt, at one time a naval officer, serving on the ship Lion as Ensign in 1681 when he was twenty-seven years of age. His father was Henry Lunt, Senior, one of the first planters of Newbury, who came with his wife from England on the ship "Mary and John" and landed in the Spring of 1634-5 at Agawam, now Ipswich, Mass., where he became a very successful farmer and left a large property.

Joshua Wingate himself became a distinguished citizen of New Hampshire, industrious and highly respected although very stern and rigid in his opinions. When he wished to resign his commission as Colonel of the Hampton regiment, the Royal Governor, Shute, urged him not to do so, declaring that it was not possible to find a man who could fill the place as well.

Governor Shute visited Joshua Wingate's house often. But his most ceremonious visit was made in October 1716, when Shute, as the new Executive in succession to Governor Dudley, passed through Hampton on his way to Portsmouth to publish his commission as Governor of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Leaving Boston on Monday morning, the fifteenth of the month, with a coterie of dignitaries in his train, he was escorted through Harvard College by the faculty and students and there greeted with an oration. Then with escorts of horse and foot before and behind his chariot he arrived, two days later, on Wednesday, at Salisbury, just across the Province line from Hampton. Here he was met by Lieutenant Governor Vaughan of New Hampshire, members of the Council, the Sheriff and men of note, "being guarded with a troop of horse from Hampton, and after that met with a troop of horse from Exeter," as the old records say : "and at Hampton Town four companies of foot were drawn up upon the Common before Captain Wingate's, where the Governor dined." Late in the afternoon, after his Hampton entertainment, the Governor traveled on to Portsmouth.

At the time of young Paine's birth, Grandfather Joshua was sixty years old, and he lived to take pride in the fact that his grandson was established in the ministry. But he did not survive to follow him in his national career.

The deaths of Colonel Joshua and his wife are recorded in the manuscript of his grandson, Hon. Paine Wingate, as follows,

Feb. 9, 1769, Grandfather Wingate dyed. His descendants have been (1809) 11 children, 8 of which survive him. His Grandchildren were 79, of whc. 59 are alive. His Great Grandchildren were 66, of whc. 60 are living.

May 27, 1772, This morning about 4 o'clock departed this life Mary, the relict of Col. Joshua Wingate aged 90 years and 4 months.

Col. Joshua Wingate early in the morning of Feb. 9, 1769 N. Stile dyed, having compleated the ninetieth year of his age wanting 4 days. He sustained for many years several respectable offices, both civil and military, with reputation. Was a steady & exemplary Christian, a faithful neighbor & friend and in domestic life was esteemed & beloved; having a well founded expectation of future blessedness he waited for death with a desireable serenity of mind and acquiescence in the Divine will. At last being worn out with the trials of life and the infirmities of age, he on a sudden fell on sleep & rested from his labors and burdens. He left a widow with whom he had lived 68 years.

Little Paine had plenty of uncles and aunts to visit, as well as his grandfather, and as they all lived near-by, it was not difficult to persuade his father on a quiet Monday to jog over the rough sandy roads so that the boy might play with his cousins in the neighboring towns. At Hampton he would see Aunt Sarah Toppan who lived in the Wingate-Toppan homestead.

But even more interesting than the trip to that famous house, was the drive southward for twenty-five miles to Salem, Massachusetts, there to sit in the quaint, gabled homestead built by John Pickering, in 1651, and handed down from him through succeeding generations to the present day (1930). The broad house, with spacious grounds, was located under the shade of the elms on Broad Street in the little town that was even then showing signs of its future fame as a sailing port, to say nothing of its record as the "home of the witches." There lived Mary, the second daughter of the elder Paine Wingate, who nearly eleven years before young Paine's birth had married the worthy Deacon Timothy Pickering, the ninth child of John Pickering, who in turn was the first child of the previous John Pickering, who came to America from Yorkshire, England, and settled about 1636 in this same town of Salem.

There was to come a double link in the Wingate-Pickering families, though Paine, the little boy who visited his interesting cousins at the Salem homestead, could not at first have dreamed that he was to be the agent of that double association. Deacon Timothy and Mary (Wingate) Pickering had nine children of whom the sixth and seventh were the twins, Lois and Eunice, born three years after young Paine's birth. The youthful Paine came and saw both his twin cousins ; but it was Eunice, who was to conquer his heart and to marry him and be his wifely associate for nearly seventy-five years, outliving him at the end.

There was an uncle Joshua who lived in Wakefield, New Hampshire, but he was not so often seen by the boy.

Aunt Jane, however, the wife of Rev. Stephen Chase of Newcastle, — who after graduating at Harvard five years later than the elder Paine was ordained at Lynn, now Lynnfield, and finally resettled over the parish of Newcastle, — was often to see her talented nephew, since the clergymen of those days more or less frequently interchanged, not only to work off their old sermons, but also to enjoy personal reunions with intellectual college friends. Newcastle was close to Portsmouth and, therefore, only some twenty-five miles away from the Wingate homestead in Amesbury.

Rev. Stephen Chase became distinguished for great scholastic attainment and was regarded as a proficient theologian. His hereditary line gave to his descendants a claim in the famous Chase-Townley legacy, which stirred all England in later years and which continued a bone of legal contention even up to the present generation. The story was that the vast English estate of Lord Townley, amounting to millions of dollars, was in dispute because of the fact that Sir Richard Townley had a daughter (or a sister) who married John Lawrence, emigrated to America, and was lost sight of in this country; that the vast wealth which she would have inherited was taken under charge by the English Government in the absence of any heirs in England, and that the Chases in America believed they might come in for a share in the property. In spite of the statement of United States Minister Phelps, in 1887, that the Townley Estate dispute in England related simply to a settlement of an amicable suit between the possessors, and that any other assertions were fraudulently made, the golden dreams still shine periodically here in this country.

Then there was another aunt living in Newburyport, Abigail, who two years before Paine's birth had married John Stickney, a well-to-do merchant of that maritime town. Abigail was a twin, her twin sister being Anna who married Daniel Marston of Hampton, and whose line, unlike the others of the family, was to die out with her single child.

In the pretty little town of Greenland, just beyond Stratham, on the way to Portsmouth, lived Aunt Martha, who a year and a half before Paine's birth had married Dr. John Weeks of that town, an eminent physician in later life and a Colonel in the militia. Rev. Jacob Chapman, their great grandson, wrote of the family, "I think the generosity in the use of property was inherited from the mother, Martha Wingate ; the father was a successful financier and accumulated a large property."

When Paine was a little over nine years old, he had the pleasure of attending the first wedding in the family since his birth. It was about a fortnight before Thanksgiving when Love Wingate, the ninth child of the elder Paine, was married in the Amesbury Chureh to Rev. Nathaniel Gookin of North Hampton. The bridegroom, a Harvard graduate, was the son of Rev. Nathaniel Gookin of Hampton also a Harvard graduate, and the grandson of Rev. Nathaniel Gookin of Cambridge, still an earlier Harvard graduate, and the great grandson of Major General Daniel Gookin of Cambridge.

Among the children born to Love was the distinguished Judge Daniel Gookin, at whose death in 1831 at the age of 75 his cousin Paine Wingate, then in his tenth decade of years, remarked with a twinkle in his eyes, "The Gookins are a short-lived race. I always thought Daniel would die young."

It was the father of Love Wingate's husband who made the prediction from his pulpit that has lived to this day as either an extraordinary prophecy, a peculiar vision, or a strange coincidence. It seems that this Rev. Nathaniel Gookin of Hampton had become so impressed with the feeling that a great danger was impending over his people that he could not dismiss it from his mind. And so, when he went into the pulpit on Sunday morning October 29, 1727, he took as his text the words of the Bible, "The day of trouble is near," and in his introductory remarks he said, "I do not pretend to a gift in foretelling future things but the impression that these words have made upon my mind in the week past has been such that I could not bend my thoughts to prepare a discourse on any other subject. It may be a particular warning designed by God of some day of trouble near, perhaps to me, perhaps to you, perhaps to. all of us."

And to the amazement and startled dismay of his parishioners, on that very same day, a few hours after the sermon was delivered, there came to New England the most terrific earthquake ever recorded there. In Hampton it was reported "The shake was very hard, and was attended by a terrible noise. The houses trembled as if they were falling ; chimneys were cracked and some had their tops broken off. The sea was observed to roar in an unusual manner, the earth broke open near the south bounds of the town and some saw streams of light running on the earth." There were intermittent shocks for some time afterwards, but no person suffered injury.

Paine Wingate himself was to experience an earthquake, some years later, when attending Harvard College, but not one to stir the community as did the earlier earthquake. How the 1727 'quake disturbed the Wingate household and other residents of Amesbury was recorded by Captain Richard Kelly, the sea faring man of that town, in his Diary in these words, "In ye yeare 1727, October 29, about ten of ye clock, it being Sabath day night, was the Grate earthquake which was extrodenery loud and hard as awaked many out of sleep, the housen did shake & windows ratel and puter and dishes clater on ye shelves & ye tops of chimneys fell of & many ware so shattered as that people ware fain to take them down and new build them again."

On the way to Salem — a long trip in those days, — the elder Paine, taking with him his oldest son and namesake, often stopped over a night in Newburyport to visit not only his sister Abigail Stickney, but also sister Elizabeth, the wife of Dr. John Newman. It was Dr. John who stood his brother-in-law in good stead whenever the Parson wanted to replenish the cellar where he kept the customary refreshments of the day...

... Whether the worthy doctor sold groceries, wet and dry, in addition to practising his profession as a physician, or whether, being in a busy maritime city, he bought these goods from the seamen for his relative, is not known. At any rate he was a good churchman, because the histories of Newburyport record that Dr. Newman had been admitted to the church at Hampton, N. H. He had lived in Hampton - where his first three children were born - up to the time his nephew Paine was seven years of age, and had later moved to Newburyport where his last two children were born, and where he lived until his death during Paine Wingate's judgeship (1806).