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Captain John Tibbetts House/Dame Tibbetts Tavern

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45 Silver Street

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Georgian colonial dates to c.1730. Builder unknown.

Late in 18th century, the house was owned by Capt. John Tibbets Jr.(son of John and Tamson (Ricker) Tibbets) and his wife Lydia (Gerrish) Tibbets. The Captain was born in Dover in 1748 and was in the naval service during the Revolutionary War as commander of the cutter “Swallow” which had 5 guns and a crew of 20. (see Tibbetts Genealogy, v.1, p. 264).

Capt. Tibbets married Lydia Gerrish (baptized Dec. 10, 1749; daughter of Capt. Samuel and Lucy Gerrish of Dover) on August 10, 1775. The couple was married by Rev. Dr. Jeremy Belknap (Collections of the Dover NH Historical Society, v.1, p. 174). Tibbets became a master mariner but was lost at sea on September 21, 1786. The 1790 US Census lists Lydia as head of household, along with three males over 16, one male under 16, and five females. (No male descendants of this family lived to perpetuate the name).  

After her husband’s death, Lydia kept a tavern at their home on Silver Street where the Fish & Potatoe Club met once each month to talk over the accounts of the town and to exchange ideas. Daniel Webster was among the tavern’s regular clientele when he was in Dover presiding over the court. Her house, labeled “L. Tibbets”, appears on the hand-drawn 1827 Dover map in the library’s Historical Room. 

It was during one of these Club meetings that entrepreneurs John Williams and Isaac Wendell suggested that they and 8 other investors, pool capital of $50,000 to start the Dover Cotton Factory, a manufactory to produce yarn and muslin cloth. The company was incorporated at the tavern on December 15, 1812 and investors William Hale, Andrew Pierce, Joseph Smith, John Wheeler, Robert Rogers, Jeremiah Stickney, Moses Clements, Walter Cooper, Stephen Patten Jr., plus Williams and Wendell, held their first organizational meeting there at 5pm on January 19, 1813. The first factory was built at the Upper Falls in 1814 and eventually led to the development, during the 1820s, of the huge Cocheco Manufacturing mill complex in downtown Dover. 

Granite State Monthly (vol. 54-55, p. 362) reported that “Mrs Tibbetts appears to have been a guardian spirit of the infant industry, for when in 1821, with an increased capital of $500,000, the Dover Cotton Factory laid the foundation stone of Mill No. 2 at the Lower Falls, it is recorded that the brethren afterwards partook of a collation at the house of Mrs. Tibbetts, and spent the evening in characteristic harmony.” 

After Lydia’s death on September 17, 1833, at age 84, the tavern was auctioned off on August 8, 1837. The 1833 Dover directory lists Lydia Tebbets living at neighbor James Richardson’s home on High (now Locust) Street. 

The 1851 map shows the house marked with owner’s name “E. Austin”. In the late 1860s and early 1870s, it appears the house was owned by a McDaniels family: the 1870 map shows “Mrs. McDaniels” there and the 1867 and 1871 City Directories list Elizabeth K. McDaniel there.

The house was later (ca. 1878—1898) owned by another master mariner, Capt. Benjamin O. Reynolds (b1836—d1923) and his wife Martha. He was a sailor from the age of 17 and had traveled around the world from Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope to the Gulf of California, Shanghai,  and the ports of Europe. He had been stranded, on two different shipwrecks, on uncharted islands in the Java and China Seas. Reynolds later commanded the Dover Navigation Company’s 140’ long, 3-masted schooner “Jonathan Sawyer” for 21 years (1886—1907) until the ship was wrecked near Cape Porpoise, Maine during a November 1907 storm.

 At some point between 1898 and 1905, the house became a duplex. The Dover City Directories list George W. Brown (b1827—d1917; PHC 341) as the homeowner (“retired”) at #43 from 1905—1917. In #45 in 1909 is also listed Edith L. Brown, widow of Alphonso Brown. Edith was living there (with daughter Elizabeth L, a student) through 1926. It appears that, sometime between 1926 and 1928, Edith remarried her late husband’s brother, Harold W. Brown, whose first wife Katherine died in January 1926. By 1934, 43/45 Silver St. is owned by Harold W. Brown (b1875—d1956; president of Strafford Savings Bank) and his 2nd wife Edith (b1874—d1954). (PHC 182). In 1944, Mrs. Brown’s daughter, Mrs. Allen Higgins, is also listed. The Browns owned the home until Edith’s death in 1954 and Harold’s in 1956. From 1958—66, the owner is listed as Mrs. Elizabeth Davy, a nurse, and possibly this is Mrs. Brown’s daughter.

 In 1968 the property, converted back to a single family home once more, was owned by Robert and Leda Keefe. The Keefes owned it until ca. 1978. The 1979 Dover City Directory shows the property as “Vacant”, then in 1980, it was the law firm of Gregoire, Calivas, Newman and Morrison. Bob and Ann Kelley purchased the house in May 2003 for a realty business and put on a new roof, installed 44 new windows, and new brick steps. The Dame Tebbetts Tavern was sold again in 2010 purchased by attorney Tom Torr for his Cocheco Elder Law Associates practice.

 

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