Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Captain Thomas Thompson House

Captain Thomas Thompson’s house, once known as the Mark H. Wentworth house,  is located at 179 Pleasant Street, next south of the Governor John Langdon House and directly across from the intersection of Junkins Avenue and Pleasant Street.

Thomas Thompson was a respected Portsmouth shipbuilder and shipmaster. The Continental Congress commissioned him a naval officer on October 10, 1776. His commission was signed by John Hancock.

He supervised the construction of and captained the USS Raleigh, a 32-gun frigate built on Badger’s Island, which at that time was known as Langdon’s Island. The Raleigh is the warship depicted on the Great Seal of New Hampshire.

The Raleigh was the first American warship built in Portsmouth. Launched on May 21, 1776, the ship sailed from Portsmouth on August 12, 1777, accompanied by the 24-gun Alfred. Their destination was L'Orient, France, to embark and transport arms and ammunition to the Continental Army.

The Raleigh captured the British schooner Nancy on September 2. Two days later, they attacked a British convoy and damaged a 20-gun brig named Druid so badly that the British ship had to return to port. The Druid suffered six men killed and twenty-six wounded, while the Raleigh had casualties of three killed and wounded.

After loading the stores in L’Orient, the two American warships sailed for home on December 29, 1777. During the return voyage, they captured a British ship off Senegal. On March 9, 1778 two British warships, HMS Ariadne and HMS Ceres, captured the slower-sailing Alfred near the Lesser Antilles. The Raleigh was too far away to rescue her; however, as a result of Alfred’s loss, the Marine Committee accused Captain Thompson of cowardice and dereliction of duty, and he lost command of the Raleigh.

Captain Thomas Thompson built this mansion on Pleasant Street a year after the Revolutionary War ended, in 1784, the same year that John Langdon built the mansion next door. As Governor of New Hampshire, his neighbor appointed Captain Thompson a Colonel of the Regiment of Artillery on August 10, 1785.

Thomas Thompson, as Grand Master of Masons in New Hampshire, laid the cornerstone for the current St. John’s Church on June 24, 1807. He died in 1809.

The photograph below, from the Library of Congress, was taken around 1907.

One of Thomas Thompson’s daughters married Dr. Josiah Dwight, and they lived in this home for a number of years.

Mark Hunking Wentworth, a seventh generation of Portsmouth’s powerful Wentworth family, lived here until his death in 1902. He was a descendant of the Mark Hunking Wentworth who purchased the Governor John Wentworth mansion for his son in 1764.

This house remains a private residence.


  1. TY for the lovely post and I have link to you from my posting. Do you have any idea, what he did after being discharged? And what happened to the daugther?

  2. Thank you for commenting, The Historic Traveller!

    Unfortunately, none of my references say anything about Captain Thompson's activities during the Revolutionary War, from the time he was relieved of duty from the Raleigh (1777) until he built his mansion on Pleasant Street in 1784. As a master shipbuilder, I suspect he was employed by John Langdon at his shipyard on Langdon (now Badger) Island.

    As for his daughter, her name was Susanna (Thompson)Dwight. Dr. and Mrs. Dwight had four children: William Lyman (1808-1899), John Thompson (1810-1811), Martha Strong (1812-1888), and Ann Brierly (1913-1904). They owned this house at least until 1855, the year of his death, and she probably continued as the owner until the house was sold to Mark Hunking Wentworth in 1859

    The Historic Traveler was nice enough to include a link to my article on her blog page, so I happily return the favor: