Wentworth Cheswell was the grandson of black slave Richard Cheswell, who gained freedom in 1717 and became the first black man to be a property owner in New Hampshire.
In 1763, Wentworth attended the Dummer Academy, in the colonial era when few were formally educated. He studied reading, writing, and arithmetic, Latin, Greek, swimming, and horsemanship.
In 1767, Wentworth became a schoolmaster and married Mary Davis of Durham, New Hampshire. By that time, he also was a landowner and a prominent member of the local church. His achievements for anyone at the age of twenty-one were impressive. But for an African American, it was almost unheard of.
In 1768, Wentworth was elected town constable, the first of many offices he would hold throughout his life. Cheswell was also one of the five men elected as one of Newmarket’s first school board members. In 1770, he was elected town selectman, a position referred to as town father.
In April 1776, Wentworth signed a pledge, at the risk of life and fortune, to take up arms to resist the British. The number of signatures gave the signers of the Declaration of Independence assurance that their acts would be supported by the country.
Like Paul Revere, he made an all-night ride back from Boston to warn his community of the impending British invasion.
In 1777, Cheswell enlisted under Colonel John Langdon in a select company called “Langdon’s Company,” which made the 250-mile march to Saratoga, New York, to join with the Continental Army under General Horatio Gates. They defeated the British at the Battle of Saratoga—the first major American victory in the Revolution.
After the Revolutionary War, Cheswell was named the first archaeologist in New Hampshire for his work in copying town records from 1727, chronicling of older stories of Newmarket, and keeping lists of the town’s events.
Wentworth Cheswell died from typhus fever in 1817.
Source: Wentworth Cheswell– African American Founding Father
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