Wednesday, October 17, 2007

St. John's Church, Portsmouth

St. John's Church in Portsmouth is located on Bow Street, at the top of the hill overlooking the river. It's placement is rather majestic, which is fitting since it's the resting place of some of Portsmouth's "royalty".

Charles Brewster wrote of it in his Rambles, "Among the early cemeteries of Portsmouth was that of the St. John's churchyard. This was used as a cemetery some twenty years before the first interment was made in the old North Burying Ground. Within the walls of this Churchyard rest the remains of the principal and highest in rank, in their time, of the inhabitants of Portsmouth previous to the Revolution. Here are the remains of the Governors, Counsellors, and Secretaries of the Province of New Hampshire, in the colonial days -- for it was then in the Church of England that all felt obligated to worship who held an office under the Crown. So the Ground around the church was the place where they also, with the humblest citizens, mingled in one common dust, at death." Read the full ramble at http://seacoastnh.com/brewster/146.html.

The church itself was built in 1732 and was originally referred to as Queen's Chapel. The original building was destroyed in 1806 during one of the 3 great fires of Portsmouth. The current building was constructed in 1807. But after the Revolution, townspeople did away with all references to their former rulers and renamed to St. John's.

St. John's is also home to several artifacts, including a bell taken from the French at the Battle of Louisburg during the French and Indian War. The bell was in need of repair at one point so they took it to Paul Revere who recast it. It also houses a rare "Vinegar Bible" and one of the oldest Brattle organs in the country. The baptismal fount was captured from the French at Senegal by John Tufton Mason's regiment.

George Washington attended services there and Daniel Webster was a regular (and once a Portsmouth resident.)

The burying ground itself overlooks Bow Street, and its residents have some of the best views in town. There are about 100 marked graves with stones and 10 crypts built into the wall surrounding the church.

Some of the most prominent people of Portsmouth were buried here, including Royal Governor Benning Wentworth, as well as other royal and New Hampshire state governors and statesmen.

See the whole gallery at http://www.gravematter.com/cem-nh-portsmouth5.asp

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