Site No. 11.  177 Main Street:  This building elicits stories—of the grandson of an African slave, of the families who arrived from Ireland seeking a better life, and of a French-Canadian immigrant who fought for his adopted country.  Newmarket historian Sylvia Getchell called this “one of the most interesting old buildings standing in Newmarket.”  On old maps, it was known as “Cheswell’s store,” originally located across the street.

    It’s unclear when Wentworth Cheswell built it, and little is known about how it was used after his death in 1817.  Dr. Benjamin Towle had his office here before the Civil War, and by 1870, Helen Leavitt was teaching music here.  By the 1880s, it was once again a store—and a path to success for some of Newmarket’s immigrant families. 

    First there was Irish immigrant John Saunders who prospered selling “boots, shoes and groceries.” Eldest son Frederick attended Philips Exeter Academy and daughter Lizzie attended Plymouth Normal School. Sadly, in the space of five years, both John and his wife Bridget, and all three of their sons succumbed to illness and died.  John Saunders’ funeral mass was the very first to be celebrated in the new St. Mary Church in 1897.  Their daughter Lizzie went on to support herself and her younger sister Nellie by teaching Newmarket’s 7th and 8th graders.  They lived in the house next door.

    Young Irish-American Matt Kennedy was a close family friend to the Saunders—and the next proprietor.  Never married, he lived with his siblings, and hired members of his extended family to staff the store.  Eventually abandoning shoe sales, Matt continued as a grocer here for 38 years. His sign is upstairs in the Museum.  He was a Newmarket fireman for 25 years, as well as Town Clerk, State Senator and selectman.  During World War I, he led Liberty Loan drives and send-offs for the young men heading off to war. 

    Kennedy’s store continued until his death in 1938.  At some point he may have hired grocery deliveryman Edward Marcotte, a French-Canadian émigré and veteran of World War I.  Ed’s parents had immigrated to Newmarket in 1907, and he was one of their 13 children.  By 1940, Kennedy’s store had become Marcotte’s Market.  And it remained “Marcotte’s Market” even when ownership changed during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

    But neither Matt Kennedy nor Ed Marcotte ever owned this building. They both rented it from none other than Nellie Saunders, who back in 1901, had inherited both Cheswell’s store and the adjoining house.  She and her sister Lizzie lived in the house until the early 1960s, collecting rent from the store next door—started by their immigrant father nearly 100 years earlier. 

    Site No. 12 is back on the left side of South Main Street.

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

    11 (177 Main St.)  CHESWELL’S STORE – Built sometime before 1817, this unpretentious building was moved to this site in 1849. It housed some very successful immigrant businesses for nearly a century.

    Newmarket historians describe Cheswell’s Store

     “…the little, very old building which eventually became Matt Kennedy’s store, and later Marcotte’s Market, began life as Wentworth Cheswell’s store.  On an 1817 map there was a small wooden building on the opposite side of the street, and presumably that building, then Cheswell’s store, was moved across the street.  It was a Saunders store before it was Kennedy’s; it is one of the most interesting old buildings standing in Newmarket today.” ——     Sylvia Fitts Getchell, The Tide Turns on the Lamprey, p. 191

     “In 1849 … it was moved across the road and was, successively, a work shop, a store, the office of Dr. George N. Towle, the music studio of Helen Leavitt, the Saunders grocery store, and much enlarged, it has been for years Matthew T. Kennedy’s grocery and shoe store.  The Dr. Towle mentioned practiced his profession here before the Civil War.  He was with the Fifteenth Regiment, N.H. Volunteers, as surgeon…His family resided in the house now owned by the Saunders sisters.”    —-Nellie Palmer George,  Old Newmarket, p. 110

    And there is the more recent research and assessment done in 1980.  Preservation Consultant Richard Candee listed the building in the Inventory of Historic Places:

    Fine example of mid-19th century front façade over much-altered earlier vernacular commercial structure.

    Style:  “False Front”, Cape Cod’

    One-story, wood frame and clapboard store, with 2-story rear addition.  Façade is composed of two plate glass windows and a recessed central entrance below and a clapboarded false front with three false shuttered windows and a simple cornice.

    Then there’s what we don’t know:  

    • When was it originally built?

    • What kinds of merchandise did it carry in the Cheswill years?

    • Did it continue as a store after his death in 1817? 

    • Who owned this land in 1849 when the store was moved here?

    • What kind of workshop was here after 1849?

    • Who had the early store afterwards?  

    The mention of Dr. Towle in the 1859-60 Town Report places him in Newmarket—and in this building—in the late 1850s. And online census/vital statistics, town reports and newspapers shed some light on the life of music teacher Helen Leavitt whose music studio was very likely here by 1870.  (Dr. Towle had left town by that time, and the Newmarket census of 1870 shows her occupation as “music teacher”.)   

    In 1861, at age 18 Helen Leavitt had been an assistant teacher in the District 1 Intermediate School—likely working with what would now be the upper elementary grades.  Her wages were $16 per month.  Superintendent of Common Schools A. J. Davis wrote:

    Miss. Leavitt has given more than ordinary satisfaction as an assistant.  This is her first attempt at teaching, yet the scholars under her charge showed on examination excellent drill and good advancement in their studies; being kind, patient and persevering Miss L. can but succeed well as a teacher.  

    She taught school for about three years, and at some point before 1870 began teaching music—hence the music studio here.  We don’t know exactly what she taught (piano, voice, other instruments?). Interestingly, musical ability continued in the family.  Helen’s elder brother (Nathan Jr.) had a granddaughter who was a piano teacher in Newmarket in 1919.

    Helen’s father (Nathan Sr.) died in 1869.  The 1870 census shows his widow Betsy living with three of their five children—Helen (age 28, music teacher), Sarah E. (age 22, school teacher) and George (age 18, store clerk).  Also living with them was Ai Varney, a 29-year-old “coat maker” from Alton N.H.  In 1871, Helen and Ai married; and Helen likely gave up her music studio.  They never had children, and Helen died of “consumption” in 1894.   

    Tales of three immigrant grocers: Saunders, Kennedy & Marcotte 

    Online resources paint a picture of the three families (immigrants or first-generation) who had stores here.  The first was the Saunders family.  Both parents had emigrated from Ireland when they were in their teens.   Settling in Newmarket, they had three sons and two daughters here.  From sometime around 1880 until 1901, the J.R. Saunders store was here.  Here are their stories:

    John R. Saunders (Parents:  Robert Saunders & Julia [O’] Connor) was born May 23, 1837 in Ireland.  He arrived in Boston Aug. 2, 1854 at age 17.  Many Irishmen came here during that time to work on the railroad, and his obituary suggests that Mr. Saunders followed that route:   

     “In early life he was employed in railroading, and in the early 60s went to California, remaining there several years.  On his return he engaged in the grocery business here, afterwards adding a stock of boots and shoes…”

    He became a naturalized citizen Feb. 1861 at age 23.  His naturalization papers list him as a resident of Newmarket.  The 1870 Newmarket Census shows him living here, working for the railroad, with his wife & son Fredrick.  The 1880 census lists him as a retail grocer.  At some point J.R. Saunders must have moved his business in here; and there is some evidence that in 1887 there was a store here that sold groceries, boots and shoes.  

    Beginning in 1890, online copies of the Newmarket Advertiser (N.A.) show the Saunders ad.  And he must have started to make a name for himself around town:  in 1891, a clock repair shop advertised itself as being “next door to J. Saunders.”  In 1892, he was appointed as one of Newmarket’s “Measurers of Wood and Surveyors of Lumber”.  Two years later, Mr. Saunders was a Fish & Game Warden. 

    At least one of the Saunders sons (Frederick) attended Philips Exeter Academy, and both daughters attended Newmarket High School.  (Many children of immigrants were less fortunate, leaving school early to work in the mills.)

    The family also had Saunders relatives in Lowell, MA.  There is mention in the N.A. of Misses Molly and Minnie Saunders visiting their Newmarket cousins.  And the Newmarket Saunders went to Lowell to attend the ordination of one of their Lowell cousins into the priesthood.  When St. Mary Church was dedicated in 1898, Father Saunders of Lowell was the master of ceremonies.

    J.R. Saunders died on Dec. 23, 1897.  His funeral mass was the very first in the new St. Mary Church, which opened that Christmas for services.

    Bridget (Curran) Saunders (Parents:  Patrick Curran & Bridget Kennedy) was born Mar. 2, 1845, in Minard, County Kerry, Ireland.  She arrived in Boston on the ”Anglia” on Sept. 28, 1863 at age 18.  By 1870 she was married to John Saunders and living in Newmarket with her husband and first son Frederick.  In the next eleven years, she had four more children.  Five months after her husband’s passing, Bridget contracted bronchitis and died May 2, 1898.  

    Frederick, born in 1870, went to Philips Exeter Academy.  In 1893, he was training as a pharmacist in Boston.  He was working in a drug store in Haverhill in 1897.  At some point – perhaps before, but certainly after his brother Thomas died in 1899 – he moved back to Newmarket and took over the store. 

    In April 1900, known as a “popular young merchant of the town,” he was elected to the School Board.  By Dec. 8, 1900, Matt Kennedy (with William P. Haley) had purchased the business “owned by Fred Saunders.”  Fred died of consumption (tuberculosis) shortly after on Jan. 21, 1901.  He was not quite 31 years old.

    Robert was working in the store by 1891.  An August 4 1894 N.A. article describes a boating accident on Great Bay that Robert had survived, while two others had drowned.  He was the first of the Saunders brother to succumb to consumption, at age 23, in Feb. 1895.  The obituary noted that he had become sick because of swimming in the Bay after the boating accident.  

    Lizzie was born Oct. 19, 1873.  She graduated from Newmarket High School in 1892, and went to Plymouth Normal School the following year.  By 1901, her parents and brothers had all died, and she and her sister moved from Spring St. to Main St. (next door to the store).  She began teaching in Newmarket in 1909-1910, initially teaching the first grade.  The following year she taught Grades 7 & 8, for a salary of $450.  Lizzie continued teaching 7th and 8th grades in Newmarket until 1944, for a total of 34 years.  She passed away in October 1962—nearly 100 years after her mother had arrived in Boston.

    Thomas was born about 1876.  The N.A. reported on him breaking his wrist in Apr. 1893 – something that he had in common with his two brothers.  After his father’s passing, Thomas was reported as the administrator of the estate.  And it is likely that he managed the store after that.  He died Apr. 6, 1899, not quite 23 years old, and the second son to succumb to tuberculosis.  

    Helen – known as Nellie – was born Oct. 5, 1881.  She attended Newmarket High School, but is not listed as a graduate.   (Could the loss of four family members in four years have something to do with that?)  The 1910 & 1940 Census reports list her living with Lizzie.  Newmarket’s 1924 directory lists her residence as 179 Main St.  And the 1940 Census indicates that she owned the residence.  She died at St. Ann’s Home, Dover, Dec. 31, 1967 at the age of 86.  

    The Saunders family saga is one of considerable success for an immigrant family – acceptance in their adopted town, a measure of financial stability, and education for their children.  After their father passed away, first Thomas, and then Frederick worked at keeping the family business going, before they too joined their parents in Calvary Cemetery.

    • N.A. Mar. 5, 1898:   “At the J.R. Saunders store great bargains are offered in all kinds of footwear.  They have too large a stock and are closing out many lines at cost and even less.  See their new ad.”

    • N.A. Apr. 22, 1899:  New hardwood floor in the store.

    The Store, the Saunders, and Matt Kennedy

    What was the relationship between the Saunders family and the store’s next owner, Matt Kennedy?  He was about the same age as Robert, the second Saunders son.  And while it may be coincidence, Bridget Saunders’ mother (in Ireland) was Bridget Kennedy.  

    Whether or not there was a blood relationship between Matt Kennedy and the Saunders family, he became increasingly engaged in Saunders business and family matters during those devastating years 1895-1901, when five members of the Saunders family died.  Here are some snippets from the Newmarket Advertiser during the 1890s:  

    • Feb. 1895:  Matt Kennedy is pallbearer at Robert Saunders’ funeral.

    • Aug. 1896:  Both J.R. Saunders and Matt Kennedy are Democratic Delegates.

    • Aug. 1898:  Fred Saunders, Matt Kennedy and William Haley went to York Beach on Sunday.

    • Apr. 1899:  Matt Kennedy is pallbearer at Thomas Saunders’ funeral.

    • Aug. 1899:  Lizzie & Nellie Saunders, Catherine and Margaret Kennedy, Molly Saunders (of Lowell) and Catherine O’Brien spent several days at the beach.  

    • Dec. 8, 1900:  “Matt Kennedy has resigned his position as clerk of the W.W. Durell store, and together with William P. Haley has purchased the business owned by Fred Saunders.”

    • Dec. 15, 1900:  “Messrs Kennedy and Haley took possession of the J. R. Saunders store this week.” 

    • May 1901:  The Misses Saunders have moved from Spring to Main Street.

    • Nov. 1901:  The exteriors of the store of Kennedy and Haley and the dwelling house of the Misses Saunders have been newly painted. 

    The Kennedy Years:  Matthew T. Kennedy (1872-1938), Irish-American 

    Matthew’s parents, Thomas and Catherine were born in Ireland and emigrated to the United States.  Thomas’s January 1863 nationalization papers state that he had emigrated from Cork in 1852 at age 17. While employment with railroads may have been where he (like so many of his countrymen) started, he also worked for the Newmarket Mfg. Co.  Thomas died in 1887, leaving Catherine at age 49 with 7 children, all born in Newmarket.

    Thomas & Catherine Kennedy’s  Children:

    Michael:  (1862-1934) His occupation was listed as “brass moulder”.  In 1885 he married Mary Flannigan.  He and Mary had two sons, William and James.   In 1920 he was working at the Navy Yard and living in Exeter.   

    Mary:   (1863-1949)  She worked in the cotton mills.  In 1890 she married Irish-born Patrick Connelly, a tailor.  Their son Thomas was born in 1892.   

    Elizabeth:  (1866-1951) A dressmaker, she never married, living with her siblings.

    Margaret:  (1868-1910) She worked in the cotton mills and lived with her siblings.

    Matthew:  (1872-1938) Matt never married, living with many of his siblings on Spring Street.  

    Kate:  (1876-1960) She remained single and worked in the cotton mills for over 30 years.  She too lived with her siblings.

    John B. (1878-1896) – John’s death certificate indicates that he died of consumption (tuberculosis) when he was 18 years old.

    Matthew T. Kennedy was 28 years old when he and William Haley purchased the Saunders Store.  [For a in depth accounting of William Haley, profeesional baseball player  - See the Patrick Haeley Family at Site # 34 Branscomb Tavern].   Matthew continued as a Newmarket grocer for 38 years.  His service to the town included 25 years with the Fire Department—many of them as chief engineer.  He served first as Town Clerk, and then Selectman; also State Senator to the NH Legislature.  He hired nephews, cousins and members of his extended family.  Matt also sponsored them and sent them on to school.

    The Kennedy-Haley partnership began in December 1900 and continued just a few years.  N.A. notices about the business suggest a bit of ambition and a fair amount of playfulness.  

    • April 12, 1901:  Kennedy & Haley have recently installed a boot-blacking chair in their store.

    • Feb. 7, 1902:  Kennedy & Haley have opened another shoe store in the building formerly occupied by Patrick Haley as a pool room.

    • Feb. 21, 1902:  W. P. Haley of the firm of Kennedy & Haley, is confined to his home, the result of vaccination which “took”.

    • April 25, 1902:  Kennedy & Haley have two young foxes in their store.

    • June 27, 1902:  The improvements made in the interior of the store of Kennedy & Haley add much to its appearance.

    • Sept. 19, 1902:  “It is an interesting sight to see William P. Haley feed the pigeons in front of Kennedy and Haley’s store each morning.  The birds are so tame and well trained that they will fly into his hands as he calls them by name, and eat the peanuts he feeds them.”

    • April 17, 1903:  “The partnership heretofore existing between us, under the firm of Kennedy and Haley, is dissolved.  Debts due to and from the firm will be adjusted by Matthew T. Kennedy, who is authorized to dispose of the property and close up the business of the firm.

                    M.T. KENNEDY

                    W.P. HALEY

    NEWMARKET, N.H. April 7, 1903”

    We can only wonder whether the dissolution of their partnership was amicable.  Once Matt Kennedy was sole owner, the N.A. notices tended to be a bit more businesslike:

    • May 8, 1903:  Mrs. Delia Lyden is clerking in the store of M.T. Kennedy.

    • Sept. 11, 1903:  William Fuller is clerking in the store of M.T. Kennedy.

    • Feb. 24, 1905:  Leon Turcotte is clerking for M.T. Kennedy, having taken the place made vacant by the resignation of Will Fuller.

    • Apr. 14, 1905:  Persons desiring Sunday papers delivered Sunday morning will please leave their orders Saturday at M.T. Kennedy’s store.  Sunday papers will hereafter be handled exclusively by Mr. Kennedy.

    • Oct. 13, 1905:  M.T. Kennedy has on exhibition in his store windows two mammoth squashes, the larger of which weighs 147 pounds.  They were raised by Charles Allen of Lee.

    By 1906, Kennedy was running ads in the Newmarket Advertiser.  They sometimes focused on shoes, and sometimes on food.  Or there might be a promotion of specific products or brands. 

     There was a setback early in 1906, when the store suffered damage from a fire.   Repairs were made, but there must have been a cash flow issue.  Kennedy’s April 20, 1906 ad promoted a “fire, smoke and water sale” everything at cost, cash only.  And then the statement:  “All persons owing me, please settle at once, as I need the money at this time.”   But by December, his new ad announced:  “Full line of boots, shoes and groceries; holiday goods”.

    Kennedy’s store continued to sell shoes until sometime after 1928.  There were a couple of full-page ads in effect selling off shoe inventory in 1927 and 1928.  Advertisements after that focused more on groceries – with phone orders and deliveries offered.  

    Newmarket’s 1917 telephone directory lists about 200 numbers, along with detailed instructions on how to make calls via the operator.  The number for Matt Kennedy’s store was 36-4.  (To get connected, the caller would have to say “three-six-ring-four.”)   Other small businesses who couldn’t afford a phone often arranged to get calls at a larger business.  In 1920, those interested in hiring “John Edgerly’s Trucking and Jobbing” were instructed to stop by or call Kennedy’s store.  Odds are that they would end up buying something from Mr. Kennedy too.

    In 1902, Kennedy ran for town clerk and lost.  It took a few years, but he succeeded in 1905.  Within ten years, he was voted onto the Board of Selectmen.  By the time the country entered into the Great War, he was the chair, leading Liberty Loan drives and speaking at send-offs for the young men heading off to war. 

    The end of the twenties saw the end of the NMCo in Newmarket.  It was not a peaceful exit.  In 1930 Matt Kennedy became president of a newly-formed Chamber of Commerce that tried to navigate the troubled waters.  While it did not succeed in keeping NMCo in town, it started the conversation about how to attract other businesses, and how best to manage the mill buildings.   

    Kennedy’s store continued until his death in February 1938.  At some point he may have hired Edward Marcotte, a French-Canadian émigré who was a veteran of WWI.  The 1930 census lists his occupation as “deliveryman for meats and groceries.”

    Ed Marcotte (1897-1963)

    Ed was ten years old when his family relocated from Quebec to Newmarket.  According to the 1910 Census, Ferdinand and Angelina Marcotte were living on North Main Street with their 13 children (plus a boarder).  Thirteen-year old Ed was attending school. His five eldest siblings (aged 15-20) were working as weavers in the silk mill.  Four of them listed their language as “French,” while many of the younger siblings—including Ed—listed “English.”  

    In 1918 at age 21, Ed enlisted as a private in Co. E, 212th Engineers 12 Div.  He was not the only one in the family to sign up:

    N.A., Sept. 6, 1918:  “In the state war historian’s list of honor families this week the name of Fernannd [sic] Marcotte appears, with three sons in the service.”

    After his military service, Ed married fellow Canadian-American Lea Hamel.  They had two daughters, Lucille and Esther Doris.  In 1930 the family owned a home on Spring Street.  In 1940 (two years after Matt Kennedy’s demise) he was listed as the clerk/owner of a grocery store.   So Kennedy’s became Marcotte’s.  The name changed, but the telephone number did not. 

    Shirley Roper Walker recollects shopping at Marcotte’s:

    [My] family lived on the second and third floor at 7 Church Street …from 1949 until 1959…   Early on in these years [my father] Sam worked for a construction company, oftentimes in winter being out of work.  Ruth [my mother] worked in one of the mills in town.  As a young teenager I frequently walked to Marcotte’s Market after school to pick up groceries for the family.  Most times money was not exchanged on my visits to the store.  Instead I asked “Please put it on the bill.” My understanding was that my parents had permission from Eddie Marcotte to purchase groceries during times when Dad was out of work in the winter and would “clean up the bill” when he returned to work… I was never refused purchases and each time was presented a bill for purchased items. 

    Ed Marcotte retired several years before his passing in 1963; but the store continued as “Marcotte’s Market” for many years after.  Other owners included William & Judith Crafts, Ronald & Priscilla LeFavour, and Richard & Barbara LaBranche.  

    Cheswell’s Store—A Quintessential Newmarket Story

    The grandson of an African slave built this structure and set up a store inside.  As with so many old Newmarket buildings, it was later moved here from its original location.  It became associated with the efforts and success of immigrant families for the better part of a century—from John Saunders and the Kennedys who arrived from Ireland during a time when “No Irish Need Apply”, to French-Canadian immigrant Ed Marcotte who fought for his adopted country, and whose name would remain here long after his passing.  Throughout those years, ownership of the old Cheswell building itself remained the same.  Nellie, the last surviving member of the Saunders family, owned both the old Cheswell store building and the adjoining house until 1963.  She and her schoolteacher sister Lizzie lived out their years right next door to the retail establishment that paid them rent – and that was started by their immigrant father nearly 100 years earlier.