Lee Historical Society

Noted and Notorious Residents

From 1862-1901, George Plumer travelled the roads and villages of the surrounding areas of Lee, Durham, Marbury, Exeter, Newmarket, Portsmouth, Rochester and all around, with his pedlar’s wagon. He was a trader, auctioneer, peddler, funeral director, and poet. He was a very literate man and writes of attending ‘Lyceums’ and lectures on Anti-Slavery and other topics after his days work.

George Washington Plumer

George Washington Plumer (1828-1901) was an active player in the economy and the politics of Lee during this era. He ran a general store in South Lee on Demeritt Avenue next to the current intersection of Route 125 and Route 152, and lived in the 1877 Federal-style house just up the hill from there. Beginning before the era of the railroad, he ran a peddling business from this location, and covered routes in Northwood, Nottingham, Newmarket, Exeter, Rye, Long Sands, and other seacoast communities. His peddler’s wagon is now preserved at the Carriage Museum of Skyline Farm in North Yarmouth, Maine. As Mr. Plumer went about his business, which sometimes kept him on the road for six days a week, he kept diaries that included information on where he dined and stayed each evening, as well as weather observations and information regarding his business. Copies of these diaries are on file with the Lee Historical Society and make for many hours of interesting reading.

When the railroad became operational in 1874, Mr. Plumer’s general store became a central attraction in the area. He often used the railroad to travel to Boston to purchase goods and return them to his store. He also ran a shuttle to get local residents to and from the station when they needed that convenience. His store was an oasis for stagecoach riders making their way between the seacoast towns and Concord and other interior locations. In later years, George’s son, William Plumer, joined his father as storekeeper and he continued to run the business after his father’s death. The store sat vacant for many years, except for a short time when Stanley Plumer, George’s grandson, ran a restaurant here. In 2011 the building was restored by Lee resident Fred Schultz and it now serves as a professional office for his business.

Both Mr. Plumer’s house and store are still around today and can be seen on Demeritt Avenue next to the intersection of Routes 125 and 152.

The photo on the left was taken in the late 19th century. The people in the photo from left to right seated are: C. Huntress, George Washington Plumer, Tim Davis, and G.K. Huckins. The person in the doorway is George’s son, William. Contributed by Scott Bugbee

 

 

Henry Tufts

Henry Tufts was born in Newmarket, N.H., in 1748, son of a tailor and his wife. His criminal career began at the age of 14 with the theft of apples, pears and other “fruits of the earth” and then graduating to stealing “a paper money bill” of a neighbor. He soon went on to stealing horses (which he disguised by coloring them) including the theft and subsequent selling of his own father’s horse. He stole from houses, barns, and stores – everything from silver spoons to livestock and clothes.  His 21st year proved a turning point: He stole his first horse and met his first wife – Lydia Bickford, whom he married when he reached age 22.

Lydia would have nine children with Henry before they split up. The couple moved to the small town of Lee, N.H., and Tufts soon got into trouble for robbing a store. Though he tried to burn the jail in an escape attempt, the prosecutor offered him a deal. If he would serve three months on a ship and pay his wages as a fine, he would avoid further punishment.
Tufts eagerly agreed, but then detoured on the way to the ship to head to western New Hampshire instead. There he worked as a driver at Fort Number 4 in Charlestown, NH. From there he went to Claremont, N.H., and worked clearing land for Enoch Judd.

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Enoch Judd had two unmarried daughters and Henry, naturally enough, married one. The marriage didn’t last long; as news soon reached Enoch that his son-in-law already had a wife. Tufts wrote: “Such being the state of things, I thought it wise to decamp seasonably, so I left Claremont that very evening.”

Returning to Lee, he discovered that news of his second marriage had unfortunately reached Lydia, his first wife. She consequently gave him an “uncouth welcome.”
Tufts robbed another store, for which he received 20 lashes and was clapped in irons. But he had hidden some tools in his clothes and escaped. Tufts made it a point to accumulate an assortment of lock-picks, saws and small tools that he always hid in his clothes. He credits that practice for his many jail breaks over the course of his career.

He had a book was written of his adventures and published in 1807. The title was A Narrative of the Life, Adventures, Travels and Sufferings of Henry Tufts,  This was the first book printed about a criminal and the local citizens were incensed by it. The man who printed the book, Samuel Bragg, had his print shop burned to the ground by angry Dover residents. Mr. Tufts died in Limington, Maine on January 31, 1831 at the age of 83.

The photos on the right are from the 1930 edition of the book showing the cover page of the original edition from 1807, three graphics Henry in jail, Henry drinking, Henry at the gallows, and lastly a copy of the death warrant issued by Samuel Adams.