We’re celebrating black heroes who made history, and I want to introduce you to Wentworth Cheswell. Cheswell, the freed grandson of a slave, was the first black judge elected in 1768. He was a devoted husband, church member, father of thirteen children, and for forty-nine years he served our nation in some form of public office.
Many of us are familiar with Paul Revere and his well-known Midnight Ride during the American Revolution. However, Cheswell also rode a Midnight Ride. While Revere rode west to deliver urgent news, Cheswell rode north to alert patriots to head south for the imminent conflict with the British. In 1777, he enlisted in a militia unit that joined the Continental Army at the Second Battle of Saratoga.
In 1780, Cheswell was elected as a town administrator of Newmarket and served four terms. He then held various other elected public posts, including assessor, auditor, moderator, and coroner. He helped organize the town’s first library in 1801, and helped preserve Newmarket’s history by hand copying important town documents. In 1805, he became justice of the peace for Rockingham county and served there until 1817.
Cheswell should be celebrated on the same level as Paul Revere for being a patriot, for his actions during the American Revolution, and for his public service.