|A Brief History of the James House
about the 300th anniversary of Benjamin James' and Suzanna Smith's wedding.
Benjamin James arrived in Hampton from Newbury,
Massachusetts in about 1690, to learn the trade of weaver. Apprenticed
to John Stockbridge, young Benjamin was only 17. When his apprenticeship
was completed, Benjamin James married Susanna Smith, daughter of
John Smith, the tailor, on July 23, 1702*
On November 20, 1705, Benjamin James purchased
from Zechariah Brackett, also a weaver, four acres of upland on
the Drakeside. Tradition (sometimes unreliable) has it that he built
a small house there in 1707. There is some evidence to support the
claim, according to Robert Pothier, a master craftsman specializing
in First Period restoration, that the ell attached to the main house
is that first structure.
long after, Benjamin James built the present house, facing south
toward the salt marshes and running from the Drakeside to the sawmill
on Taylor River. Benjamin was a hardworking, ambitious farmer and
weaver. There can be no doubt that he became prosperous by 1723
in order to build such a large house with so many fine features.
Benjamin's son, Jabez, also trained to become
a weaver, set up a loom by his father's. Together, they established
a flourishing business. Jabez' son Joshua also trained to follow
in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, to become a weaver.
During the Revolutionary War, Joshua served on a committee in 1775
to gather twenty-three blankets to meet the town's quota, which
were delivered to the Continental Army then quartered at Cambridge.
Some may have come from the James' looms.
Later, Joshua, of the third generation,
made the first alterations to the house. Between 1790 and 1800 -
or thereabout - a vestibule in the Federal style was added
to the front entry. Likely done by Joshua's son Edmund, who had
recently completed apprenticeship as a house joiner, its Federal
style windows still remain.
Captain Edmund inherited the house along with the loom and warping
bars, but he did not follow the family trade of weaving. As a house-joiner
Edmund introduced finely finished work in the Federal style throughout
the house, some of which remains. His inventoy lists a joiner's
bench and "many saws". A shareholder in Coffin's mill,
he took his turn there as a sawyer.
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Edmund's son Joshua II apprenticed as a carpenter,
and he inherited his father's share at Coffin's saw mill. At his
premature death in 1858 the property was left to his wife Martha
Ann, who made the most sweeping alterations to the house. During
this period the massive central chimney was removed, thereby opening
up the formerly cramped entry (known then as the porch) into a spacious
hall. A straight-run, easy climb stairway, in mid-Victorian style,
ascended to the second story. Two narrow, widely spaced chimneys
were built to accommodate wood-burning stoves, a new and better
way of heating.
Joshua II's widow Martha Ann carried on farming
by raising hogs. There is evidence that their son Joshua Edmund
and his wife Jennie earned their living with a small dairy farm
around the turn of the twentieth century. They were responsible
for the installing the Victorian style windows, replacing the Federal
windows. Joshua E.'s health began to fail, and by 1922 he had suffered
his fourth paralytic stroke. Finances, of course, had become severely
Their son, J. Hale did not choose to earn
his living by farming. Although not able to run the farm during
his father's illness, he helped his parents maintain it in other
ways. However, in 1930, at age 42, J. Hale died suddenly from a
massive stroke. Left with no heirs, Jennie had no choice but to
sell the James farm, its pastures, woodland, and marshes, to the
Winfred L. Campbell family. After two hundred and twenty-six years,
the ancestral acres left the James family forever.
A brief history of seacoast New Hampshire, home of the James House >