Jacob Sheafe was a successful merchant who owned large parcels of land around Portsmouth in the 1700s. When he died in 1791, he left each of his ten children a house and a farm. One of his sons, Thomas, built a large home near the riverside on Market Street, almost directly opposite his wharf, which stood at the end of Deer Street.
This “Sheafe’s Wharf” should not be confused with the Sheafe Warehouse in Prescott Park. That building was constructed by Thomas’s grandfather, Sampson Sheafe, circa 1740. It was located near the Point of Graves burial ground, south of Prescott Park.
Sadly, Thomas Sheafe is best known for an event that occurred on July 22, 1798. One of his merchant ships, Mentor, arrived at his wharf from Martinique carrying sugar, molasses, coffee, and the yellow fever. The disease quickly spread to nearby homes. By the time the first frost ended the plague in early October, 96 townspeople had been infected and 55 died.
Thomas Sheafe lost three children. According to the family gravestone, they were Sarah, age 17; Thomas, Jr. age 14; and Horatio, age 6. Next door, at the Noah Parker House, the late reverend’s widow lost a daughter and niece as well as a merchant boarder.
A commercial building and city pumping station now occupy the former location of the Thomas Sheafe house.