Built by John Moffatt, who came to America as, likely, a captain in the mast trade, this lovely Georgian-style home was finished in 1763. It was first occupied by Samuel Moffatt and his bride Sarah Catherine Mason in 1764. Samuel was part of a group of friends—including future Patriots William and Joseph Whipple—that would be split apart by the controversies leading to the Revolution.
John Moffatt’s nephew and future son-in-law, William Whipple, lived in the house with his wife, Katharine, and father-in-law after his marriage in 1771. William was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Like many of the signers, he had an enslaved servant, whose name was Prince Whipple. But unlike most, he engaged directly in the slave trade, along with his brother, when in 1764 they sent the ship Black Prince to the west coast of Africa. The ship loaded 186 enslaved people and sold 145 of them in Barbados and South Carolina.
Prince traveled with William as he served in Philadelphia and Baltimore in the Second Continental Congress. It was during this time that the 1779 Petition of Freedom was written, and Prince—who was well-versed in Revolutionary language—was possibly a contributing author. The petition, signed by Prince and 19 other “Natives of Africa now forcibly held in bondage”, was presented to the New Hampshire legislature.
Evidence suggests that after signing the Declaration of Independence, William and Prince planted horse chestnuts from Philadelphia near the front of the house. One of these grew into the magnificent tree visitors can see today.
Katharine Moffatt was also independent. When her husband and father both died, she was able to retain the house, becoming one of several females to own the house in her own right. She also helped maintain the family business.
Maria Ladd was the next female to take possession of the home, thanks to her father who wanted her to have the home and her own financial security. Maria was well-educated and wrote her “Recollections of Half a Century” for her 13 children, only 5 of whom survived to adulthood. When she died, Maria Ladd left the house to her surviving children, the two women holding their shares outright, and the two men holding their shares in trust for their children.
Alexander H. Ladd, one of the sons, bought out his siblings’ portions in his wife’s name. Three-quarters of the house became the property of Elizabeth Jones Ladd until her death in 1865, when she bequeathed her portion to her children. Alexander H. Ladd modernized the house and engaged his love of tulips in a magnificent show garden.
Today’s Colonial Revival-style garden preserves portions of Alexander’s design and some of his plantings. His children—after five generations of Moffatt and Ladd family ownership—leased the house to the NH Society of the NSCDA beginning in 1912, at which time it became a museum. The heirs sold their portions of the house to the Society between 1958 and 1968.