New Hampshire Is The Home Of The First African American Elected To Public Office

By Richard Alperin.

 

I am the President of the New Market Historical Society in Newmarket,NH, and I have a story to tell you!

 

Hidden not only from Newmarket citizens,and the citizens of New Hampshire, but also from the pages of history!

 

I reference a thesis written(in 1995) by a man named Erik Tuveson for his Masters Degree in History while attending The University of New Hampshire. The title of the thesis is A People of Color "Race and Racial Identification in New Hampshire 1750-1825".

 

The first part of the thesis is about a man named Wentworth Cheswell (sometimes spelled Cheswill). Wentworth built his home where my home now stands in 1768. My house is the 3rd house on the foundation. The 2nd house was built by his grandson John W. Smart in 1866.Edwin S. Carpenter purchased all 125 acres in 1899 from the executor of Mr Smarts estate. After a barn fire destroyed part of the grandsons house in 1912, Mr Carpenter built my house in 1913, and moved the grandsons house over to a side street about 200 feet away.

 

Wentworth Cheswells grandfather was a black slave who purchased 20 acres of land in 1716. Whether he had gained his freedom or not is not known because it was legal in NH for a slave to own property. This deed is the earliest known deed in New Hampshire showing land ownership by a black man!

 

If you have the time to search on Google, search the name "Wentworth Cheswell" in quotation marks (or my name "Richard Alperin") and you should find a plethora of websites with information about him, including local newspaper articles showing what I've done to raise awareness of this amazing African American who was formally educated at a 4 year private boarding school from 1763 to 1767.

 

Wentworth was all but forgotten about, and his family graveyard on South Main Street near my home was neglected and in horrible condition. I spent the next 4 years with help from the New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association restoring the graveyard. I applied to the State to have a historical marker erected (which was just erected in October of 2007), and I received an award from The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance for "Outstanding restoration and stewardship" of The Cheswell Graveyard in May of 2008.

 

If you click on the following link (or copy and paste it into your browsers address bar) you will see an article printed in The Washington Post dated June 7th,2008. After you read that article which claims that John Mercer Langston, is the first black man to be elected to a public office in the United States, please click on (or copy and paste) the second link. This second article is from a website called "History News Network" a website run by George Mason University in northern Virginia near Washington,DC.

 

The Washington Post article was investigated by George Mason University. They have concluded that the Washington Post Article is incorrect.The first African American elected to public office was in fact Wentworth Cheswell of Newmarket, New Hampshire! Imagine that! In little Newmarket New Hampshire, national history was made!

 

Now we have the first African American President elect! The highest public office in the country! Not many people are aware that Wentworth Cheswell paved the way for Barack Obama to become the President of The United States, when he became the first African American elected to public office prior to The American Revolutionary War!

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/06/AR2008060604509.html?hpid=topnews

 

http://hnn.us/articles/51808.htm

 

Sorry to have gone on so long, I hope I didn't bore you! My chosen mission in life (some say obsession) is to educate as many people as possible about Wentworth Cheswell and how he devoted his entire adult life to public service!

 

Thanks
Rich Alperin
www.newmarketnhhistoricalsociety.org