By Archivist Susan Kindstedt


The Athenaeum has two documents signed by Wentworth Cheswill (or Cheswell), a biracial Revolutionary War veteran born in Newmarket, NH, in 1746. Wentworth Cheswill was the son of Hopestill Cheswill and his wife, Katherine Kennison. Educated at Governor Dummer Academy (now the Governor’s Academy) in Newbury, MA, Wentworth Cheswill held several public offices in Newmarket.

A signer of the Association Test, he was elected town messenger for the Committee of Safety, carrying news between Exeter and Newmarket. He went on to serve during the Revolutionary War under John Langdon at the Battle of Saratoga. After the Revolution he helped start the Social Library of Newmarket in 1801, and he served as Newmarket’s schoolmaster. While census records identified him as “white,” Cheswill’s father Hopestill Cheswill was biracial, the son of a free white woman and enslaved black man. After his death, political scholars have identified Cheswill as “biracial,” and according to George Mason University, his role as town constable in 1768 was the first time an African-American was elected to public office.


S1332 Wentworth Cheswill Document

Document to settle a dispute between Henry Watson and Levi Kynaston, handwritten and signed by Wentworth Cheswill (1746-1817), Justice of the Peace in Newmarket, NH. To settle this dispute, Cheswell appointed a committee of three men to investigate and submit their decision. The men were Joseph Durrel, Joseph L. Goodwin and Nathaniel Ewer. The name “Kynaston” might be a relation to Cheswell as his mother’s maiden name was Kennison.

S1344 Bill of sale, signed by Wentworth Cheswill

Bill of sale of confiscated land belonging to former NH governor John Wentworth titled Lot 39 in Middletown, New Hampshire. The buyer was Caleb Hodgdon of Dover, NH. Signed in Exeter by Samuel Gilman, Mark Wiggin and W. Cheswill. ​