John Brown (~1595-1686): Shipbuilder, Landowner, Litigant

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Asa Brown provides the following account of John Brown’s activities as one of the founding fathers of Hampton, New Hampshire:1

From 1635 until 1638, he remained in Salem or Lynn [Massachusetts] (tradition says Salem); he was one of the first proprietors and settlers in Hampton, 1638. About 1648 he appears to have been engaged somewhat in shipbuilding, for “he built a barque, at the river near the present sight [sic] of Perkins mill, supposed to be the first craft, larger than a common row boat, built in town”.

He was one of the largest land holders in Hampton, being owner of one of the four farms, and tradition asserts that he and his sons were engaged considerably in raising stock. This is, no doubt, correct, for from the records of the Court, it appears that John Brown in 1654 sued Thos. Swetman for a “debt due for two fat oxen” for the want of which money he claimed to have been much damaged. In 1673 and 1674, he, with his son John, brought suit against the “prudential men” and also against the town of Hampton for not causing a road to be built to his farm near the Falls River towards (now Seabrook). The Court decided that the road should be built.

Now, this next bit would appear to be a case of damning with faint praise:2

In the management of the affairs of the town and church, Mr. Brown never seemed to have taken a very active part, nor to have been very prominent; in 1651 and 1656 he was one of the selectmen. It is doubtful if he was ever a member of the church; in 1664 he was one of those chosen to watch over the boys in the gallery.

All in all, though, not a bad fellow:3

Concerning the moral character of the man, and the estimation in which he was held by his townsmen, little can be known; but he was sober, industrious, hard working, and enterprising.

1Asa Warren Brown, “From the Exeter News Letter, October 27, 1851: The Hampton Brown Family” (unpublished manuscript, Personal Papers of Ronald Dalrymple Brown, n.d.), 2-3.

2Brown, 3.

3Brown, 4.

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