Site Number 34: Branscomb’s Tavern.
According to the historic plaque on this building, it was built around 1800; but it may have been around earlier. Arthur Branscomb, Sr. had this tavern down by the waterfront during the town’s shipbuilding days, and he died in 1792. His three-year-old son Arthur Jr. eventually took over the tavern after his military service during the War of 1812.
In 1823 the Branscomb Tavern was a scheduled stop for the stagecoach, not far from the early mills by the falls. That was when the Newmarket Manufacturing Company came to town. By 1830 Arthur Jr. had moved this building up the hill between his house and his store, on the site of today’s post office.
Shortly afterward, Arthur Branscomb sold the tavern, but for decades after, it was still called the “old Branscomb Tavern Stand”. In 1870, it was moved again to make way for the new Methodist Church. The old building has been here ever since.
The Newmarket Advertiser was printed here in the 1870s; in the 1880s a grocery store and bakery took up residence. Then in 1892 Patrick Haley bought the place. He and his family ran a saloon and pool hall here until 1919 when Prohibition put a stop to that.
Patrick Haley’s sons and grandsons made names for themselves in the sporting world. His eldest son James “the Professor” passed his boxing talent on to his son “Patsy”. Both were well known as fighters, teachers and referees. Patrick’s youngest son William was a local baseball star known as “King Haley.” You can read all about them online.
After the Haleys, the building housed several businesses. Among them were Tillie Ritchie’s millinery shop and Marie Gagnon’s remnant shop. Then in 1955 two young men – a doctor and a dentist – bought and renovated the building. They called it the Newmarket Professional Building, and soon Irving Brown and Forbes Getchell were joined by dentist John Robshaw. For decades, Newmarket youngsters, excused from school for a dentist appointment, walked downtown to the old Branscomb Tavern for a cleaning, a filling, or an extraction—and then walked back to school.
Site Number 35, the Brooks Building is right next door.
END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.
Originally located on the old Main Street right along the waterfront, this former inn was moved twice, once when owned by Arthur Branscomb, Jr. in the 1830s when he sold his land on the water and moved it up to the area of Main Street where the Post Office is today. Then again in 1870, to make way for construction of the new Methodist Church the tavern was moved to its present location between the Kingman Building and the Brooks Building.
Arthur Branscomb, Sr. (1764 -1792, age 28 ) was a fisherman and a mariner. At age 14, he was also on the payroll of Captain Edward Hilton’s company during the expedition to Rhode Island in August 1778. His father was the sea Captain Simon Branscomb (1740-1768 age 28) who settled with wife and Elizabeth (Sheafe) Branscomb(1736-?) in Newcastle. Captain Branscomb died very young while on a sea voyage in Saint John, Antigua in the Caribbean Sea.
Arthur Sr. came to Newmarket with a listed occupation as mariner. He married Mary Hill (1764-1860), daughter of General James Hill in town. He ran the tavern in the village during the early ship building days when the tavern was located on the old road that ran along the waterfront. However, the tavern was owned by another party (perhaps his wife, or his father-in-law General Hill, who ran a tavern of his own at the Junction). Arthur, Sr. died suddenly by drowning in Great Bay on November 1st. 1792, he was only 28 years old – the same age of his father Simon, when he died. As Arthur left no will, his inventory was completed for Probate Court by his wife Mary.
(Branscomb family gravestone in the Old Newmarket Cemetery behind the police station)
At the time of his death, he owned half a house in New Castle left to him by his father. That property was sold with court approval to handle credit debt; there is no mention of any other real estate owned by him in the Probate record. In 1801 the estate was settled, and in that same year Mary with young children, of age five and under, married Mr. Benjamin French of Deerfield, NH (1750-1827).
Stories of Arthur Branscomb, Jr. Esquire (1789-1853, age 84)
Arthur Jr. was only three years old when his father died. He remained in Newmarket, and during the War of 1812 he enlisted as a corporal in Captain Peter Hersey’s Company from May till July 1814. According to several accounts, Arthur Jr. was also involved in privateering prior to and during the war.
After the War, he returned to town and settled into life as a trader, running his store and the Branscomb tavern (down by the river). Both his house and store were located where today’s post office now stands, up the hill from his tavern. Taverns were often places for lively discussion, so it’s no surprise that Arthur Jr. entered into local politics. He was elected to the NH Legislature 1820, 1825, 1826 and 1830. And in 1849 he was elected as vice president of the Whig convention held in Exeter.
And there’s the story of Elder Osborne who did not own a suitable coat to wear to perform a baptism in the Lamprey River. He borrowed Arthur’s coat for the ceremony, but after coming out of the water he realized that Arthur’s soaking wet wallet was in one of the pockets. The two men spent considerable time separating and drying all the bank notes.
On March 26, 1823, when the northbound stagecoach made its scheduled stop at this tavern, four strangers—one a soft-spoken Quaker—got off. They started their walking tour of the village, with particular interest in the Ebenezer Smith’s sawmills below the falls. They left the same way they arrived, on the next stage out of town.
A week later the Quaker and group of surveyors appeared with charts and tools. Not long after that, Mr. Smith sold his sawmill and grist mill along with all mill privileges to Quaker Stephen Hanson, the agent of the newly formed Newmarket Manufacturing Company. Thus began a frenzy of land sales.
As word got around that the NMCo was buying up land with the intention of putting in a cotton mill, deeds started changing hands quicker than a jug of rum on Chapman’s Wharf. Attorney Tenney and James Creighton were buying property along the creek. In April 1924, the town sold a strip of land of what is now known as Water Street to the combined interest of a Mr. R. Morse, Daniel Cram, Paul Chapman and Arthur Branscomb. The land ran down to the Lamprey River channel.
And in Arthur’s tavern on November 17, 1827, John Brodhead, Seth Shackford, Benjamin Wheatland and others met and formed “The First Religious Society of Lamprey River Village.” This was the forerunner to the Methodist Church, of which Arthur Branscomb became a committee member.
At some point between 1827 and 1830 Branscomb sold his parcel of land along the waterfront and moved the tavern up the hill between his store and his house. The Branscomb family land behind his house consisted of an apple orchard that extended up the hill as far as Deacon Murray’s orchard. While this land too was eventually sold to the NMCo, Branscomb’s store, tavern and house remained on Main Street for many years.
Arthur eventually left the tavern business and concentrated on farming. In the 1850 Census three years before his death, his was one of larger farms with 100 or more acres of “improved lands”. The primary production of these improved farms was Indian corn, Irish potatoes, butter, cheese, hay, beans, orchard produce, rye barley and beef and pork products.
Just before the beginnings of the Civil War, the Haley Brothers, Samuel and Benjamin, came to Newmarket from Exeter and purchased Arthur Branscomb’s old store. They tore it down and replaced it with a new 3-story wooden clothing and uniform manufacturing business.
His house was bought by Z.D. Creighton (under his wife Susan’s deed of ownership) who demolished the structure and developed the remaining portion of the lot and built a new store at the corner of Chapel and Main Streets.
(Photo: stereoscopic card of the B.F. Haley manufacturing Company. Built on site of old Branscomb store.)
The tavern had retained the Branscomb name, but after it moved up from the waterfront to Main Street, it was bought and operated by Benjamin “PA” Tuttle for several years. “PA” also built the Newmarket House in 1847 for his son Benjamin, Jr. who had previously worked at the old ”Branscomb stand” with his father (as had his brothers and sisters).
In 1855 PA died; in his will he gave the tavern to his son and daughter Erastus and Sophia Tuttle. The brother and sister later sold the property to another brother and sister Sylvestus and Elizabeth (Tuttle) Harding. They in turn sold the property deed #397-54 in 1861 to Susan Creighton with the printed provision that “the Branscomb Tavern Stand was for her to hold to her sole and separate use free from the interference or control of her husband”. This statement was on just about all the property deeds she bought. It was a condition stipulated by her husband Z.D. Creighton who arranged the business transactions, but which legally put him and his assets outside any possible litigation.
If the tavern remained opened as an inn, it is unlikely that any alcohol was ever sold on the premises once Susan Creighton bought it. She was adamantly opposed to any use of alcohol whatsoever, and she made strict restrictions on other property that she sold or leased. With her militant stand against any alcohol use, it’s not surprising that she was very much involved in the Temperance movement in town.
In 1871 when the new Methodist Church was constructed, the tavern was moved up the street between the Masonic Building and the Brooks Building. It replaced the old wooden house that once been occupied by J.W. Smart in the 1850’s. When it was moved to the present location it was turned into a commercial building with space for businesses on the bottom floor.
In the 1870s the building had a flat front when The Newmarket Advertiser was printed here.
A Tavern Once More
By the 1880s the building was owned by Attorney Charles H. Smith who leased it out as a grocery store on one side with a bakery on the other. In April 1892 he sold the building to Patrick Haley, who had just finished with a six-year lease of the Newmarket House—so he knew about the saloon and tavern business. Patrick moved his family in upstairs and ran a saloon from the first floor. He renovated the building and added an additional shop on the ground floor. From the 1890s until 1910 it was home to Patrick Haley’s pool hall and saloon. Patrick’s grandson Billy Haley operated the poolhall later.
More information on Patrick Haley and his colorful family is at the bottom of this article. Despite several temporary local bans on alcohol sales, the Haley family ran a successful saloon right up until national Prohibition went into effect in 1919. After that, the only alcohol used in the building was in doctors’ offices for sterilizing purposes.
(Photo taken by Thibault between 1901 and 1915)
After leaving the Haley family ownership, the building passed through several proprietors: Joseph Sopel, Chesley “Chet” Ralph, and Ralph Berry.
Between 1914 and 1919 Chet Ralph ran a second-hand shop on one side of the building while Billy Haley ran a saloon on the other. Tillie Ritchie (1874- 1921) operated a millinery and sewing shop in the building for several years until her untimely death due to complications from an appendicitis operation. After Prohibition, Marie Gagnon ran her remnant shop from the first floor.
After WW II, the old Branscomb Tavern went through a couple more owners: Ralph Berry sold the building to Fred H. Degonyoun, who sold it in 1950 to Marie Gagnon.
In June of 1955, Doctors Irving Brown, MD (1915-2009), and Dentist L. Forbes Getchell (1919-2012) purchased the building from Marie Gagnon.
Renamed the Newmarket Professional Building, Inc. the two doctors did extensive remodeling and moved into the building by February 1956. There were accommodations on the first floor for three doctors with a common waiting room.
Walter Gazda had his jewelry shop in one of the two front rooms, the other side was Doc Getchell’s Office. Doc Brown and Dentist John Robshaw had the two rear offices. The two apartments on the second floor remained as they were.
Dr. John Robshaw (1924-2021) practiced dentistry in this building from 1954 until his retirement in 1989. He was president of the Southeastern Dental Society, served with the Newmarket Service Club, and was a Newmarket School Board member for five years. He was also a member and director of Rockingham Country Club.
After nearly 30 years of operating from this spot, Doc Brown and Doc Getchell retired, selling the building in 1984 to Dentist Christopher Batt who moved his practice into the Doc Getchell’s space. It would remain a downtown dentist office until 2007 when Dr. Batt sold the building to Randall Bennett, Jr.
Dr. Nathan Swanson was the third dentist to practice here, but he shortly vacated this space and moved into the new medical building at 60 Exeter Road.
The old tavern was renovated once again, and in 2018 Basil Thai Restaurant moved into one side and Browns Bagles moved into the other. Both businesses closed briefly during the pandemic, and then re-opened for takeout orders. Thus the businesses survived Covid-19, opening up fully in the early part of 2022.