The house is named after Jonathan Mitchell Sewall, a lawyer, poet, and orator who lived here until his death in 1808. During the American Revolution, he wrote popular patriotic songs. “War and Washington” was a favorite in the American military camps during the conflict:
After the war, Sewall delivered the first Fourth of July speech in Portsmouth, on July 4, 1788.
George Washington, the first President of the United States and beloved friend of Portsmouth, died on December 14, 1799. On the 31st, a somber procession of military units, fraternal organizations, clergymen, and citizens marched through the center of town. All of the ships in the harbor lowered their flags to half-mast. After a service by Reverend Willard at St. John’s Church, Jonathan Sewall delivered a eulogy for the fallen hero.
In 1801, William Treadwell & Company of Portsmouth published Miscellaneous Poems, a collection of verses by Jonathan M. Sewell. He is also known for writing epitaphs to honor prominent citizens of Portsmouth upon their deaths.