Captain Jonathan Godfrey

b. December 17, 1813; d. September 7, 1885

b. March 24, 1818; d. February 1, 1896

Lived on the homestead on Jonty's Lane, now White's Lane

15. Jonathan GODFREY (#15 Dow’s History of Hampton); m. July 16, 1835 to Theodate HOBBS. Jonathan was twenty one years of age and Theodate was 17. They moved into his family home, located on part of the seventeenth century Godfrey homestead on Jonty's Lane. Jonty’s lane, which is currently known as White's Lane, was named for three generations of Jonathan Godfreys who lived there in the 1700’s and 1800’s.

Jonathan followed his father’s occupation and became a ship’s captain. His vessel, the Black Hawk, transported lumber and salt from the Hampton River to Boston, Ma. Godfrey Ledge on the coast of North Hampton is named for him.

During their first twenty-five years of marriage, Captain Jonathan and Theodate had fourteen children. All of the children worked on the family farm.

Perhaps half of the Godfrey children eventually left Hampton to look for work or to join their husbands. The eldest child, Elizabeth, married Aaron Berry of Salem, Ma. It was Elizabeth who penned a lengthy poem, a parody based upon the names of the fourteen children, in celebration of the Godfrey’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. The youngest child Mary, married a lawyer, Frank Chipman and moved to St. Paul, Minn.

During the Civil War, Captain Jonathan left his family to serve as a keeper of the light house on White Island at the Isles of Shoals. Three of his sons fought in the war. In August of 1861 Washington enlisted in the Third Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers and served a three year duty. The following year two of his younger brothers, Jacob and Oliver, walked down to the North Beach and rowed ten miles out to the Isles of Shoals to ask for their father’s permission to enlist. Then they walked the forty-five miles to Concord and joined the Fourteenth Regiment. Jacob and Oliver served as Privates in Company D from September of 1862 to the end of the war.

Four years after returning to Hampton, Jacob married and moved into a house which is currently [1988] the location of the Hampton Playhouse on Winnicunnet Road. He was a farmer and also began an ice business. Unfortunately, Jacob suffered periodically from malaria which he contracted during the war. Many days he was too ill to work.

Oliver became a carpenter, married in 1874 and built a house on High Street near where the Marston School is today. In order to pay for the materials Oliver borrowed $1,000 from a neighbor, Warren Hobbs, and took seven years to pay the debt. In celebration of the final payment Oliver hitched the horse and wagon and took his wife, Alfie to Exeter for dinner. They never borrowed money again.

Oliver’s children have related that, in the late 1800’s, if their mother wanted lobster for supper, they would walk down to Plaice Cove and easily pick up 6 to 10 lobsters among the rocks at low tide. Speaking of children, it is interesting to note that in the nineteenth century the children of Hampton swam in the Hampton River, near Landing Road, rather than the ocean. The river was much warmer than the ocean.

Captain Jonathan and Theodate did have a fifteenth child. When Jonathan returned from the Isles of Shoals in 1865, Aaron was born. This infant son, however, only lived for a month. In her later years Theodate continued to prepare large quantities of food. Every Sunday she baked ten dozen biscuits in preparation for visits from her children.

Captain Jonathan and Theodate celebrated their fiftieth wedding in July, 1885 with their fourteen children at their home on Jonty’s lane in Hampton. Shortly thereafter, near the end of August, 1885, Captain Jonathan was on the North Beach when a passing sail boat signaled trouble aboard and asked for his help. He piloted them to Portsmouth Harbor. Upon arrival in Portsmouth, he learned that the last train for Boston had left. Jonathan decided to walk to Hampton. On the way home he was caught in a cold rain. Jonathan developed pneumonia and died two weeks later on the 7th. of September, 1885.

Theodate continued to live on Jonty’s Lane and took in boarders until her death on February 1st., 1896. Jonathan and Theodate are buried in the High Street Cemetery, Hampton, N.H. On Feb. 12, 1895 their house was destroyed by fire. Today, only the stone foundation remains.

The lives of Captain Jonathan and Theodate (Hobbs) Godfrey represent the end of an era. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, many young people left rural New Hampshire seeking new opportunities in growing cities. Hampton’s once flourishing family farms and shipping business were on the wane.

Excerpted with permission from James K. Hunt's "Hampton Vital Records and Genealogy, 1889-1986", (Peter E. Randall, Publisher, 1988), pp. 53-5.
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