An 1813 document in beautiful calligraphy, written and signed by African American Revolutionary War hero, Wentworth Cheswell (1747-1817). Wentworth served his town in varied capacity every year from 1768 to 1817, including terms as town selectman, justice of the peace and town assessor. Wentworth Cheswell is honored as a Revolutionary hero rather closely modeled on the figure of Paul Revere. As the town messenger on the Committee of Safety during the Revolution, he too, had made an all-night ride back from Boston to warn his community of the impending British invasion. As the town scrivener, he hand-copied the town's records, which date back to 1727. These town records remain a part of Newmarket Historical Society's collection. Born on April 11, 1746, in Newmarket, the son of Hopestill March and Catherine Kennison Cheswill was named in honor of Governor Wentworth. Two accounts describe him as "colored" as it was reported that his grandfather, a former slave named Richard Cheswill, had married a daughter of the Wentworths of Portsmouth. This union was considered a disgrace to the Wentworth family, who sent them away to the woods of New Hampshire. It is in part because of his African American lineage that Wentworth truly stands out as a leader in diversity and equality in New Hampshire.
Historical Background: In 1768, Wentworth became active in Newmarket town affairs at the age of 22. His first appointed position was as justice of the peace that same year, and he went on to serve as town auditor, coroner and moderator. The Massachusetts Historical Society has in its collection a document that is thought to be the earliest archaeological report from New Hampshire. Coauthored by Mr. Cheswill, this report was later sent to the Reverend Jeremy Belknap of Boston to be included in his history of New Hampshire. The undated document is believed to be written in 1790 or 1791 and details the aboriginal artifacts and relics he had recovered in the area surrounding Newmarket. Many historians agree that Wentworth's writing contains the seeds of modern archaeological theory. Despite the limited scope of Wentworth's writing, scholars defend his title as New Hampshire's first archaeologist. Wentworth stands for all we admired about our Founding Fathers, integrity, dedication and resolve. Wentworth's legacy has gone uncelebrated for far too long. It should be noted that Wentworth Cheswell also was the subject of a national accolade which he had received during a Congessional debate in 1820 over the Missouri Compromise. In his address opposing the legislation that prevented mulattos from attaining Missouri citizenship, Senator Morril of New Hampshire stated that "In New Hampshire there was a man by the name of Cheswell, who, with his family, were respectable in point of abilities, property and character. He held some of the first offices in the town in which he resided, was appointed justice of the peace for the county, and was perfectly competent to perform with ability all the duties of his various offices in the most prompt, accurate and acceptable manner. But this family are forbidden to enter and live in Missouri."
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