In N.H. Town, Calls To Put Up Statue Of Black Revolutionary War HeroBreaking News
tags: African American history, memorials, Revolutionary War, New Hampshire, public history
“The first battle of The Revolution was not in Concord,” Kyper says, “it was actually technically in Portsmouth. The first sort of like engagement with the British troops at New Castle. And Wentworth Cheswill was the first person to round up people, and in some ways instigated this first battle of The Revolution.”
Jon Kyper first learned of Cheswill from a friend, local English teacher John Herman.
“His race is definitely part of the story,” Herman says. “He had the same racial background as Sally Hemings, who was the slave of Thomas Jefferson but he was free. His father was free. His grandfather was a slave who was freed in 1716.”
Herman first read about Cheswill on the historical marker at the Cheswill Cemetery a decade ago and has been pursuing him, with difficulty, ever since.
There are no books about Cheswill, no authentic paintings or renderings – but Cheswill created the first library in town, wrote Newmarket’s history, and is known as New Hampshire's first archaeologist.
“He was the moderator, the assessor. He was a town councilman. He was a school board member. He was the school teacher. He was the coroner. He was the constable. He served almost every single year of his life right up into his death. He was a judge. He was justice of the peace.”
When he was voted in as town constable, in 1768, at the age of 22, Cheswill became the first African-American to hold elected office in the United States.
Like Paul Revere, Cheswill was an elected member of the Committee of Safety and rode from secret meetings delivering messages through the woods on horseback — earning him the dubious nickname the ‘Black Paul Revere.'