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    Site No. 15.  Tenney’s Corner

    Esquire Tenney must have made a good impression.  Decades after he died, people still called this area “Tenny’s Corner.”  In 1815 he began his law practice here, renting an office and a house from Widow Sarah Meade.  He bought both properties in 1818.  His law office was on this side of the street, and he crossed the street to go home.

    By 1817 Tenney was one of the busiest attorneys in Rockingham County, with as many as 16 court cases in one month. When the Newmarket Manufacturing Company moved into town and began buying property, he became even busier, with dozens of land transactions to process.  Tenney was also well known for his civic work.  By 1825, he had been a town assessor, auditor, tithingman, and moderator, as well as serving several terms on the school committee.  Appointed postmaster in 1832, he was in charge when “Lamprey River Village” was renamed “New Market” in December 1834.

    The Tenneys’ two children were both drawn to religious ministry.  Their son William was educated at Phillips Exeter and Harvard; he became a Unitarian minister. Their daughter Phebe followed a more adventurous path.  In 1831 she was one of the 134 students at the old Cheswill school and she later graduated from Adams Female Academy in Derry NH.   Orphaned at age 17, Phebe became a teacher and governess in several southern states.  But she could never accept the embrace of slavery that she found there. 

    In 1850 she became a missionary to China.  A prolific letter writer, Phebe corresponded with 50 different people during her first few years there.  In China she married fellow missionary Cleveland Keith, and by 1860 she was teaching in a boys’ school there.  It was a demanding role, as she was also the dorm mother, laundress, and medic to a dozen boys – all whom spoke a language that she never fully mastered.

    When Phebe fell ill, the couple headed for home, but she never made it back to New England.  The ship docked in San Francisco, and she was carried ashore where she died.  Her husband continued the voyage, but 17 days later his ship caught fire.  Reverend Keith managed to save a child before the ship sank, but he died at sea.  As a tribute to Phebe’s work, her brother William collected her correspondence and published a memoir of her time in China.   

    Now – about this quaint stone building:  when Esquire Tenney died in 1838, Benjamin Mathes bought the property and replaced the old wooden buildings with more durable structures.  Made of rubble stone and granite from the Mathes quarries in Durham, this building has been here for nearly two centuries.  It has housed a post office, a grocery store, law offices, a cigar maker, a shoe repair shop… and a couple of saloons.  The Mathes family owned it for about 70 years, but the location was always called Tenney’s Corner. 

    Site No. 16 can be seen from here—the large stone building across the street.  

    END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.


    85 (170 Main St.) TENNEY SQUARE – 1838.  William Tenney had a law practice here—in an earlier wooden building.  

    Tenney Square, AKA Tenney’s Corner

    William Tenney never actually built anything on this corner.  The property he bought from Widow Mead and later sold to Benjamin Mathes was a wooden structure where he practiced law for about 20 years.  And yet this central spot at the corner of Routes 108 and 152 became known as “Tenney Square” for nearly 200 years.

    Esquire William Tenney was the third recorded attorney to practice in town; he arrived in Newmarket and set up his law practice in 1815.  His office and house were wooden structures, not the stone buildings we see today.  The Widow Sarah Mead owned the property, and although we don’t know the exact date when he went from renter to owner; we can safely narrow it down between 1815 and 1818.

    Tavern owner Benjamin Mead had died in 1807, leaving the property in his will to his wife Sarah.  Wentworth Cheswill inventoried the estate. The will stipulated that his five daughters (Nancy Hill, Lucey Dearborn Hartford, Betty Harvey, Sarah Jewett and Polly Perkins) and his only son John Mead were to each receive $2 payable within ten years of his death, as they had all preciously received deeded property during his lifetime.  The rest went to his wife Sarah.  However, on December 14, 1818 the estate was declared insolvent in Probate court when “unforeseen incumbrances” became known.  Sarah appealed to the Probate Court to release her from the conditions in the will, which the court granted.  Her court paperwork was signed with her “mark” and attested to by Attorney William Tenney.

    Tenney purchased the Widow Mead’s property, and he also purchased a one and a half story wooden house on the opposite side of Main Street. That house sat at the top of Exeter Street where it merged with Main and Creighton Streets. He practiced law from his office (today’s address of 170 Main Street) between 1815 until his death in 1838.

    The Building

    These pieces of the attorney’s downtown property were purchased from Tenney’s heirs by Benjamin Mathes in 1838.  Mathes’ signature also appears as a witness to Tenney’s will.  Mr. Mathes tore down all three buildings —Tenney’s office, his home, and what was left of Benjamin Mead’s Inn.  Mathes then rebuilt with trap rock (aka rubble stone), stone which he brought in from a local quarry on Durham Point Road. These three pieces of property are still standing today: 1 Exeter Street, 164 Main Street and 170 Main Street, which is home to Newmarket’s Jonny Boston’s International Restaurant.

    The descriptive style of the building for 170 Main Street listed in the Newmarket Historic District pertains to the structure built by Benjamin Mathes, not the former wooden building previously owned by Tenney.  It was compiled by Dr, Richard Candee in October, 1980:

    1)      Rubble stone house 2 stories with gable end to street. Gable facade in rough coursed rubble with quoins, even 3-bay fenestration beneath granite lintels on each story and central door.    Deep cornice with full return with single window in pediment.   Upper sash replaced with 2/2 lst floor window openings with a small added wooden ell on right side.

    2)      Past Historical use:  Probably built between 1835-1840 by B.W. Mathes,[1] the stone store has served many uses, including a post office (1857), grocery and variety store (I880s-90s) and dwelling.

    This building was a cigar manufactory from 1900 till 1904 before becoming a barroom run by Charles Mathes.  With the help of John Long, he added new tin walls and ceiling, and installed the long bar with a large mirror and electric lightsMathes later sold the property to the Frank Jones Brewing Co. LTD; Joseph Filion operated a saloon here.

    (photo: Zeke Mathes in the white coat behind the bar and John Long in his stetson hat)

    In 1909, Frank Jones Brewing sold it to Felix Sobozenski, whose heirs would own it until 1978.  Its uses continued to vary:  in 1910 Attorney A.P. Sherry opened his law offices upstairs over the “saloon” and from 1924 to 1928 Napoleon Duhaime ran a cobbling and shoe repair business in the building (after the mill strike he moved to Manchester).  When Felix’s son William (a WW I veteran and celebrated Army sharpshooter[2]) died in 1974, he was living upstairs at 170 Main Street.  Later on, other attorneys practiced here— including Attorney Richard Albright and Attorney Shone. 

     William Tenney, the Man

    William was the 6th generation grandson of the first William Tenney who emigrated with his family from Rowley, England in 1639 and settled with 40 other families in the “new” Rowley, Massachusetts. Generations of the Tenney family slowly spread throughout New England.  Our William Tenney was born in Hollis, NH 13 Sep 1785, to William and Phebe (Jewett) Tenney. [3]  His father had been a Revolutionary War Captain.

    William graduated from Dartmouth in 1808. (His brother Caleb had earlier graduated from Dartmouth as well.)  William read law with Judges Reeves and Gould in Litchfield, CT; he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in Boston in 1811, and first settled in his profession in Salem, MA, in 1813. [4] In June 1815 he married Phebe Wheeler (b. 1781) of Salem, NH—the daughter of Abner and Sarah (Stickney) Wheeler.

    Practicing Law in Lamprey River Village

    William became a member of the New Hampshire Bar and moved to Newmarket in 1815, setting up his office in town where there were only three other attorneys who are recorded as practiced in Newmarket.

    The first settled attorney on record was Edward Parsons (1747-1776).  He graduated form Harvard College 1765 and began practicing law in Newmarket as early as 1773.  He was a member from Newmarket sent to the Provincial Convention held in Exeter from May  until November  in 1775; and he was 2nd Lt. Adjutant in Colonel Enoch Poor’s  8th Regiment in the Continental Army.  He died in the Army at Ticonderoga about 1776. 

    He was followed by Wentworth Cheswill, one of our early settlers (Site No. 5)  who was a justice of the peace.  He drew deeds, leases, agreements, contracts, wills, notes of sale or indebtedness; he also acted as a justice in court trials.   An Esquire Hunston followed Cheswill prior to Esquire Tenney .  During Tenney’s tenure in town, other esquires/attorneys appeared on the scene: Winthrop Cheswill, Seth Shackford, and his son William Shackford.

    In 1887, town Historian John F. Chapman compiled a list from a manuscript of NH court cases in the early 1800s.  It showed Newmarket’s 359 civil suits from Jan. 2, 1815 to Aug. 4, 1818.  Printed are names of plaintiffs, defendants, and attorneys, among whom were the prominent names of Winthrop Cheswell, and Seth R. Shackford.  In one month, August 1817 William Tenney was counsel in sixteen cases that went before the court. Sixteen court cases in one month is an average of four per week – that was some busy law office for one man to handle!

    When the Newmarket Manufacturing Company came to town in 1823 and started buying up property and water rights, it became busier still as contracts had to be drawn, multiple land sales settle, and deeds prepared and filed.  Mr. Tenney arrived in town at the right.

    George Walker writes:

    Land purchases made by the NMCo involved nearly all the west bank of the Lamprey River from the first falls to the creek. Access to tidewater on the river and the creek was important to the local traders of the day. That access became concentrated at the town landing area. So, from 1822 to 1824 nearly all the property in the area changed hands.

    William Tenney was directly involved in those transactions. Details and a map of all parties involved which was drawn and detailed by Mr. Walker are filed under Site No. 19.

    Tenney certainly had a successful and lucrative law business.  He was well respected in town and was elected to serve in several town offices: town assessor in 1818, auditor in 1820, tithingman in 1822; and school committee in 1822, 23, and in 1825.  In 1825 he also was the town moderator.  In 1826 he was chosen to serve as assistant law clerk in the New Hampshire State Senate. 

    All that civil service must have taken its toll, because by 1828, he no longer served in any town office.  He became a retailer of liquor with his brother-in-law Mr. Leonard Wheeler.   We are not sure if he sold liquor from this site, as he was a religious man who was very involved in a church that professed Temperance.  Yet he became very close friends with tavern owner Arthur Branscomb who was a witness signatory to Tenney’s will.   Did he perhaps have an epiphany in a bottle?

    Esquire Tenney was appointed U.S. Postmaster of “Lamprey River Village” in 1832 and The Post Office changed the town’s name to “New Market” on Dec 10, 1834. [5]  At that time a post office was not a stand-alone business, and he most likely operated it out of his building.

    The Tenney family first attended the Congregationalist church as noncommunicants, later joining the Unitarians after the church was built on top of Zion’s Hill.  His children followed in his footsteps.

    His wife Phebe died April 23, 1838 at age 57; and he died five months later on his 53rd birthday, September 13, 1838.  Both died in Newmarket and are buried at the Tenney family plot in Hollis, NH.

    He left an estate of $9,302, which when calculated for inflation would be worth in pre-Covid 2019 the equivalent of $263,070. 

    He left a large inventory that included three houses, several outstanding notes owed him, and many household goods; it was all meticulously detailed and attached to his will.  It included a pasture on the Tash farmland in Durham with livestock: a cow, a heifer, two sheep, a hog, a horse, six tons of hay, five bushels corn, 25 bushels potatoes, 10 barrels of flour, various farming wagons, sleighs, and farming equipment.  It also included one buffalo skin valued at $4.   

    What is remarkable is the vast library he had at the time of his death.  In addition to his law books, there were works on mathematics, navigation, astronomy, agriculture, religions of the world, philosophy, and history (world, national, state and local history –including the Portsmouth Annuals, and Belknap’s History of Dover, NH. ) He owned books in Latin, Greek, French, and German; novels of Racine and writings of Voltaire; biographies of the Scottish Clan Chiefs, Boswell’s Life of Johnson, Paradise Lost and The Life of Andrew Jackson.

    The page below is just one of five pages of inventory (and only a partial list of his extended library)  attached to his will in Rockingham County Probate Court. 

    [1] It was actually built between Tenney’s death in 1838 and 1840.

    [2] Bill is mentioned in the 1918 best seller, My Company by US Army Captain Carroll S. Swan:

     ”Bill Sobozenski, one of my best shots, spied some Germans in the trees to his right. He threw up a little breastwork, squatted down behind it, and coolly began to pick those Boches off the tree.  Soby said afterwards:  ’It seemed just like shooting at the targets in our old rifle range.’


    [3] A family oddity –there were three succeeding generations of males named William and three of females named Phebe. 


    [4] His law school of Judge Reeves and Gould lists him as an alum who opened a law firm in Salem, MA. However, other records suggest that it was Salem, NH where he was admitted to the NH Bar and where he married prior to coming to Newmarket.

    [5] The responsibility for the name change from Lamprey River Village to New Market is difficult to state as fact, as we can find no official document from the Post Office changing the name.  It may have been done by Mr. Tenney himself, acting alone.