Biographical Notices of Deceased Judges of the Highest Court, and Lawyers of the Province and State and a List of Names of Those Now Living
By Charles H. Bell
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company ; The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1894
The following are judges and lawyers who worked or resided in Hampton at some point in their lives.
- Joseph Smith
- Nathaniel Weare, 1631-1718
- Peter Weare
- Nathaniel Weare, 1669-1755
- Moses Leavitt Neal
- Lory Odell
- Thomas Rice
- Edmund Toppan
- Amos Tuck
- Oliver Whipple
J. 1693-1696. C. J. 1696-1697; 1698-1699.
Joseph was a son of Robert Smith, one of the signers of the Exeter Combination in 1689. He was born about the year 1653, either in Exeter or in Hampton, to which place his father removed, and where he himself passed his adult life. He was many years in public employment. He was a representative in the provincial Assembly in 1692, 1708, 1709, and 1716, at least; selectman of Hampton seven years, and a justice of the peace as early as 1708.
His first commission as an assistant Justice of the Superior Court was dated in 1693, and he acted as such until 1696; then he was advanced to the position of Chief Justice, which he held, with perhaps a slight interval, till 1699.
In 1696 he was treasurer of the province, and in 1698-99 was of the council. In King William's war he was much engaged in military affairs, being then a major of the militia. He also held the office of Judge of Probate from 1703 to 1708. It is evident that he was a useful and much trusted citizen.
He left no descendants, though he was thrice married; first to Dorothy, eldest daughter of Rev. Seaborn Cotton; second, April 17, 1707, to Mary, daughter of Captain William Moore; and last, February 16, 1709, to Mrs. Elizabeth Marshall, who outlived him. He died November 9, 1717.
C. J. 1694-1696.
Nathaniel Weare, whose father bore the same name and was an early proprietor of Newbury, Massachusetts, was born in England in 1631, and became a resident of Hampton, where he was a well-esteemed citizen. When Robert Mason attempted to assert his claims to the ownership of the soil of New Hampshire against the bona fide occupants, by the aid of venal and corrupt officials, Mr. Weare distinguished himself by his resolute stand against him, and was chosen by the inhabitants, outraged by the arbitrary conduct of Governor Cranfleld, to go to England and lay their complaints and petition for his removal before the King. He afterwards made a second voyage to England as attorney for William Vaughan in his appeals from the judgment obtained by Mason against him in a land suit, and in other matters. Weare was successful in part, and gained much credit by his conduct of the business. He was ever on the side of the people, in their struggles against the invasion of their legal and civil rights.
After the overthrow of the Andros government in New England in 1689, New Hampshire being without an executive, an attempt was made to restore authority by the election of commissioners from the several towns, empowered to meet and conclude upon a form of government ad interim. Mr. Weare was chosen one of the commissioners from Hampton; but the plan was not carried out. He was also sent as one of a committee from Hampton to advise with others at Portsmouth, as to what was necessary to be done in defense of the province against the incursions of the savage enemy in King William's war.
In 1692 he was chosen by Lieutenant-Governor Usher and council a councilor of the province, and in April, 1694, was appointed Chief Justice of the Superior Court, as successor to Richard Martyn, and presided in the court until 1696.
He retained his seat in the council until January, 1698-99, and then, on occasion of some difference with Governor Allen, was by his own decree excused from further attendance. He resumed his place at the council board upon the publication of Governor Bellomont's commission in 1699, and until 1715, when he retired from public employment. He died May 13, 1718.
He married Elizabeth Swain, December 3, 1656. She died about 1660. He took for his second wife Huldah Hussey, November 9, 1690. His two sons, Peter and Nathaniel, were Judges of the Superior Court, as was his grandson, Meshech; and also Chief Justice.
Peter, the son of Nathaniel Weare, was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, November 15, 1660, and lived in Hampton, afterwards Hampton Falls. He was admitted to a seat in the council in 1698, but apparently went out with Allen's government the next year. He was then styled lieutenant ; he afterwards rose to be Major and colonel. He was a representative from Hampton in the Assemblies from 1715 to 1728, with scarce an exception, and Speaker of the House in 1722. He appears to have been a man of decided opinions, who spoke his mind with much candor, and a useful public servant, being repeatedly a member of important commissions.
It is understood that he received his appointment to the bench of the Superior Court in 1726, and retained it till 1730.
He married Elizabeth, probably daughter of Humphrey Wilson, of Exeter, January 6, 1692.
It is said that this gentleman was the son of Peter Weare [actually, he was Peter's brother], and was born in Newbury, Massachusetts. He afterwards lived in Hampton, in that part of the township which was incorporated as Hampton Falls. In 1727 he was a member of the Assembly from Hampton Falls, and was elected and served as Speaker. Relations between the House and Lieutenant-Governor Wentworth and his council had become somewhat "strained," and when in 1728, on a new election of the House, nearly the same persons composed it, and Mr. Weare was again chosen as Speaker, the lieutenant-governor refused to approve the choice. The House demurred to his authority so to do, and it was nine days before another Speaker, agreeable to Wentworth, was chosen in his stead. For a number of years after this Weare was reelected a representative. He was evidently a leader of the popular party.
He is understood to have held the commission of Judge of the Superior Court from 1730 to 1738. His will was made in 1738, and he probably died about 1740.
He was twice married. The Christian name of his first wife was Theodate. [In fact, his first wife was Huldah, daughter of John Hussey.] His second, Mary Wait, he married August 24, 1703. He had five sons and eight daughters. His youngest son, Meshech Weare, became the Chief Justice of the Superior Court, and first President of New Hampshire under the republican government. [He was born Aug. 29, 1669 and died March 26, 1755.]
Son of John Neal; born, Hampton, 1767; Harvard College, 1785; admitted, 1793; practiced, Londonderry, Rochester, and Dover; died, Dover, November 25, 1829.
Young Neal was quick to learn, and entered Dartmouth College at the age of fourteen. At the close of his sophomore year he migrated to Harvard. After his graduation he was engaged for five years in teaching; then studied law with John Prentice at Londonderry. He practiced in that town three years, in Rochester about ten years, and in 1806 took up his residence in Dover, where for a while he kept a select school. In 1809 he was chosen clerk of the state House of Representatives, and was annually reelected until 1828, with the exception of two years. In 1816 he was appointed register of deeds for Strafford County, and continued to hold the office till his death. He was said to be diffident of his legal abilities, and not sorry to obtain a place which gave him a permanent support.
Mr. Neal was a keen politician, and favored the war of 1812. Having a knack at versification, he found employment for his pen in ridiculing his political opponents. Some specimens of his style are given in notices of his contemporaries, in this work. He published other poems, also, one under the remarkable title of " Minimaltasperus," iu 1786; another called " the Presbyteriad," in pamphlet form, in 1797; but they are inaccessible at this day.
He excelled as a classical teacher. He was improvident, and not seldom in pecuniary straits. In his family relations he was affectionate and kind, and in his intercourse with others was affable and obliging. But his ways of life did not tend to foster habits of sincerity and truthfulness. One day, when he was inveighing with much virulence against a brother lawyer, the latter suddenly appeared. Neal's manner changed in an instant. Holding out his hand to the newcomer, he exclaimed in the heartiest manner, "Ah, my good old Christian friend, how glad I am to see you!"
He was married, first, in 1793, to a daughter of John Prentice of Londonderry. After her decease, he married, in 1820, Sarah Forbish. He had a numerous family of children.
Son of Hon. Richard and Molly (Eastman) Odell ; born, Conway, September 16, 1801 ; Bowdoin College, 1823 ; practiced, Portsmouth and Hampton ; died, Portland, Maine, March 23, 1883.
The subject of this notice read law one year with Judah Dana of Fryeburg, Maine, and finished his studies in the office of Jeremiah Mason at Portsmouth. In that place he began practice, about 1827, as a partner of Charles W. Cutter, and did a good share of business, especially in writ making, which was then abundant and tolerably profitable. Mr. Odell became a little affected by the mania for land speculation, and went to Georgia and invested some money there. Perhaps fortunately, he lost his venture and returned. Two or three years he had his office in Hampton, but he never did much in the practice of the law after that, though he attended the courts, and never gave up his profession. He twice held the office of collector of the port of Portsmouth, first in 1844, less than a year, and again in 1849, nearly four years. In July, 1855, he received the commission of Judge of the Police Court of Portsmouth, and acceptably filled the position until 1871. His knowledge of the law, his pride in the correct performance of his duties, and his entire independence made him a model magistrate. It was while he occupied this position that he is said to have judicially decided that the word "damn" is not legally profane. Probably be meant that the question of its profanity was to be determined by the context.
Judge Odell was a tall, slender, erect man, of prominent features and striking figure. He habitually wore a blue dress-coat with bright buttons, a stiff neck-stock, and gold spectacles, and was altogether a man to attract attention anywhere. A current but probably exaggerated story represents that after inspecting himself in a mirror one day, he pronounced judgment as follows: "Not handsome, but devilish genteel."
In this connection it is not out of place to quote a scrap from a doggerel rhyme that some wag of Portsmouth composed, in which in allusion to Mr. Odell's facetious qualities, and the slenderness and uprightness of his figure, he described him as —
In his later years Judge Odell was a great reader, and passed much of his time in the library of the Portsmouth Athenaeum. There he might be found at almost any hour, with elevated feet and a substantial volume in his hand, poring over the lucubrations of some author of the olden time. But he was always ready to lay down his book and bid a friend welcome, in his brisk, decided tones. For he was as fond of social intercourse as he was of reading, and was a most genial companion, full of anecdote and pleasant talk.
He never married.
About the time when James Thom quitted Exeter for Londonderry, in 1816, Thomas Rice appeared in the town and succeeded to his law office. He may have been the graduate of that name from Yale College in 1803; but that has not been ascertained. He had but little practice, and lived in the town only a year or two. He appears to have been an accomplished musician, and opened a singing-school in Exeter, and is said also to have given lessons on the violin.
When he left Exeter he went to Hampton, where he died, " a poor but honorable man," as it was said.
Son of Hon. Christopher and Sarah (Parker) Toppan ; born, Hampton, September 25, 1777 ; Harvard College, 1796 ; admitted, 1799 ; practiced, Portsmouth, Deerfield, and Hampton ; died, Hampton, July 29, 1849.
Mr. Toppan entered the Phillips Exeter Academy in 1788 for his preparation for college. His law tutor was Theophilus Parsons of Newburyport, who described bim as " a promising young man, attentive to study, and well balanced." He first made trial of Portsmouth as his field of practice, but the next year removed to Deerfield as successor to Daniel French. His business at Deerfield was at first quite good. The statute of limitations was about going into effect, and a great number of old claims were put in suit. But he did not think fit to remain there long, and in the autumn of 1803 returned to his native place. He was a selectman of Hampton in 1808, and representative in the state legislature fourteen years between 1809 and 1826, and several years postmaster. In the General Court his professional training, his readiness of speech, and his parliamentary experience combined to give him much influence.
It was he who, when the question of the location of the state house in Concord was pending in the General Court, and the north end and south end were at loggerheads to secure it, said wittily of the out-of-town legislators, who were taking sides with much zeal," that they were not representatives of their towns but of their boarding-houses." He had naturally good powers of mind; his professional and general knowledge was respectable; he spoke with fluency and grace. But he had a wealthy father, and acquired habits of self-indulgence during his residence in Deerfield, so that in later years be became disinclined to earnest effort, and was rarely present at court.
He married, June 22, 1T99, Mary, daughter of Stephen Chase of Portsmouth. They had six children, — four daughters and two sons.
Son of John and Betsy (Fowle) Tuck ; born, Parsonsfield, Maine, August 2, 1810 ; Dartmouth College, 1835 ; admitted, 1838 ; practiced, Exeter ; died there, December 11, 1879. Upon leaving college Mr. Tuck spent two or three years in teaching in the Pembroke and Hampton academies, at the same time reading law, and finished his preparation for the bar with James Bell at Exeter, whose partner he then became. They were associated eight years in an extensive practice, much of which was in the trial of causes. Afterwards he had other partners, and appeared in the courts more or less for more than twenty-five years. He was a diligent, sagacious, and faithful lawyer.
He was chosen a representative in the legislature in 1842, and joined the Free Soil party, which by the aid of the Whigs elected him to Congress in 1847. He served six years with marked ability and credit. In 1856 be was a member of the convention which instituted the Republican party, in 1860 of that which nominated Abraham Lincoln for the presidency. In 1861 he was a prominent delegate to the "Peace Congress." President Lincoln appointed him naval officer of the port of Boston, from which position he was removed by President Johnson in 1865. For a number of years afterwards he was engaged in enterprises which took him away from home and from his profession, and twice be made visits to Europe.
He never lost his interest in education. A trustee of the Phillips Exeter Academy nearly thirty years, and of Dartmouth College about ten, he was one of the most actively influential in giving form and character to the Robinson Female Seminary of Exeter, drawing the constitution which the town adopted, and acting as trustee and first president of the board.
His life was an active and honorable one. His public career reflected much credit upon his ability and judgment. He had a high ambition, and was endowed with the qualities of a leader of men. His separation from his original party was as creditable to his sense of right as to his political sagacity. His administration of the various positions of honor and trust that were bestowed upon him was able and faithful. An astute man of business, he accumulated a large estate, and was liberal in contributing to public objects, and in private charity.
He married, first, Sarah A., daughter of David Nudd of Hampton ; and second, Mrs. Catharine P. (Townsend) Shepard of Salisbury. Of the children of his first marriage, he left a son and two daughters, one of whom became the wife of Francis O. French of the legal profession.
Born, Rhode Island, c. 1743; Harvard College, 1766; practiced, Portsmouth and Hampton; died, Georgetown, Maryland, April, 1813.
When Mr. Whipple was proposed for admission in Portsmouth, the other lawyers of the town, it is said, made him promise that he would not begin practice there, for fear, doubtless, that there was not sufficient business to support another member of the profession. But once admitted, he gave notice in the newspaper to "the gentlemen of Portsmouth" that he would open an office there for the transaction of law business, etc. At the instance of Major Hale, Wyseman Clagett answered his advertisement in the next issue of the paper, in the following strain : —
Friend Oliver, 'quoth Major Hale,
'Though worded nice as may be,
You advertise that now and then
You do law jobs for "gentlemen,"
But not a word of "lady."
"'Like me extend your generous aid
From Mother Hicks to Joan her maid,
And set it down in print, sir.
The ladies then will you surround,
In business you will soon abound,
And thank me for the hint, sir.'"
Mr. Whipple received employment as attorney of Dr. Sylvester Gardiner of Boston, in connection with his extensive landed property in Maine. The handsome young lawyer was taken captive by the charms of his client's daughter Abigail, and an attachment quickly grew up between them. Shortly before the Revolution they were married. Dr. Gardiner's family was one of wealth and position, and distinguished for intense loyalty to the crown of England, and the newly wedded pair received calls from Admiral Graves, Secretary Flucker, General Gage, Mr., afterwards Sir, William Pepperell, and various other persons of the highest social standing in Boston, all identified with the royal cause.
When hostilities opened, and the lines began to be strictly drawn between the friends and the opponents of the popular movement, Mr. Whipple was naturally suspected of belonging to the latter class. It appears that he and fourteen others, residents of Portsmouth, were apprehended by order of the committee of safety of that town as notoriously disaffected to the American cause, and were escorted by a squad of Colonel Langdon's light infantry, under the command of a sergeant, to the provincial committee of safety at Exeter, by whom they were examined and required to give bonds to remain good and peaceable subjects of the State, and not to do anything in opposition to the cause of America.
Notwithstanding that his father-in-law cast his fortunes with the mother country so that he lost by confiscation his extensive estates,1 it does not appear that Mr. Whipple was ever again suspected of want of attachment to his country's cause. It is possible, however, that his wife and himself did not entertain like feelings in regard to the change of government, for they were divorced, and for a time lived apart. But as they were strongly attached to one another, the cause of their estrangement, whatever it was, afterwards passed away, and they were remarried.
On this event a well-known wit and versifier of that day, Jonathan M. Sewall, produced these lines: —
Both mourned the rivet out;
Now whet and riveted again,
You'll make the old shears cut."
Mr. Whipple resided in Portsmouth above twenty years, and then removed to Hampton, where he made his home for about twelve years more. He represented the latter town in the legislature five years, and during his stay there published two poems in pamphlet form, entitled The Confessional Tears of a Louis d'Or," 1794, and " The Historic Progress of Liberty," 1802.
He was well educated, with more than usual literary taste, and was a lawyer of considerable practice. He was courteous, agreeable, and interesting. When he quitted Hampton he is understood to have taken up his abode in Washington, District of Columbia, or its vicinity. He left descendants.
[1His heirs, however, by reason of some informality in the proceedings, recovered them.]