John Harvey

Lieutenant John Harvey (1745-1812), 1st Regiment, New Hampshire Continental Line, Original Member

A biography written by his great-grandson in 1907

John Harvey was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, August 4, 1745 and died in Falmouth, now Westbrook, Maine, February 1812. He married about 1771, Sarah Blake of Epping, New Hampshire. She was born December 5, 1747 and died at Northwood November 14, 1827.

When he first enlisted as a soldier in the Revolution is not known, but in the pay-roll, 1 August 1775, of the Company of Capt. Henry Dearborn, of Nottingham, Col. John Stark’s Regiment, which was at the battle of Bunker Hill and in subsequent campaigns, occurs the name of a John Harvey, who enlisted May 11, 1775, served 2 months, 26 days, and Oct. 16 he received $4.00 for his regimental coat, promised by the Colony of New Hampshire. In the fall of 1775, Dearborn’s Company was in Arnold’s Regiment, which marched to Quebec by way of the Kennebec. In April, 1776, the Association Test was drawn up in the town of Northwood, and a return made of all those who signed and of those who refused to sign. The name of John Harvey does not occur in either of these lists. He was probably in the Army. When he became a member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati in 1784, he signed as a Lieutenant, having served four years, to the end of the war. But he was a soldier for a longer period. According to the New Hampshire Muster Rolls (imperfect), he enlisted Feb. 22, 1777, for three years, as Sergeant, in the 1st Company, Capt. James Gray, 3d New Hampshire Regiment; was Ensign, May 1, 1778, to Jan., 1780, and promoted to be Quarter-master, Sept. 15, 1780, from Ensign. In the new arrangement of officers in the 1st Regiment, Col. Joseph Cilley, he was Ensign, and promoted to be Lieutenant, May 12, 1781.

In 1779, and later, he served in Pennsylvania and along the Hudson River. His Regiment formed a part of Sullivan’s expedition against the Six Nations of Indians of Western New York. He was present at the execution of Maj. John Andre, Oct. 2, 1780, at Tappan, N. Y. He kept a Diary during this campaign, from 1779-1781. It is a small book, in excellent preservation, of some 130 pages, and about 120 words to a page. The writing is plain, and the language used is good, though the spelling, of course, is not always correct. He records that he left Northwood March 7, 1779, and marched 15 miles to Epping. It has two well-drawn plans of battles. At the end he gives the record of his own family, the date of the birth and death of his father, and the date of birth of his mother, without giving her maiden name, and the month only of her death. This Diary he gave to Joseph Quinby, Jr., son of widow Quinby, at whose house he was then living, Jan., 1812, not long before his death in the following February, as Joseph has marked on a fly-leaf. This Diary is now in the possession of Miss Lillian Quinby, granddaughter of Joseph Quinby, Jr., and Librarian of the Westbrook Public Library. In 1904 I called at her residence to see the book. She was very courteous, and allowed me to examine as much as I pleased the Diary, which she values very highly, but would not part with it on any consideration, and, unfortunately, would not allow it to be printed ; so that the descendants of Col. John Harvey may probably never be able to see the work of their ancestor. But, fortunately, in the “Journals of the Military Expedition of Maj. John Sullivan against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779,” there have been printed by Frederick Cook (Auburn, N. Y., 1887), five Diaries written by New Hampshire officers, from which may be gathered the same information as that contained in Lieut. Harvey’s Diary : — Lieut. Col. Henry Dearborn, 3d N. H. Regiment, with plan of order of march and battle, the same as in Harvey’s Diary, pp. 62-79; Sergeant Moses Fellows, 3d N. H. Regiment, pp. 86-91 ; Maj. James Norris, 3d N. H. Regiment, pp. 223-239 ; Maj. Jeremiah Fogg, 2d N. H. Regiment, pp. 92-101; Ensign Daniel Gookin, 2d N. H. Regiment, pp. 102-106.

After the close of the war in 1783, he returned to Northwood, where he was a prosperous farmer, and interested in the welfare of the town. In 1783 he bought various lots of land sold for taxes, 1779-1782, and in the Deeds he is styled “gentleman” (Rockingham Deeds, cxiv: 496-501 ; cxxxii: 195, 199). He had the title of Colonel at least as early as 1788, probably from service in the militia. In 1781 the Congregationalists built a Meeting-house. June 3, 1784, the pew privileges were sold, varying from 112.00 to #19.50. A first, second and third was sold to John Harvey, and he was one of the committee men to sell them. His wife Sarah became a member when the church was organized, Nov. 29, 1788, but he did not. He was Town Clerk, 1784-1788, and a selectman in 1787. He signed a petition for laying out a road, Dec. 15, 1788.


At the close of the War of the Revolution, the officers of the Continental Army, at Newburgh-on-the-Hudson, May 13, 1783, formed a Society to be called the Cincinnati, to perpetuate the memory of the struggle, and to promote mutual friendships and acts of beneficence among its members and their posterity. For convenience the Society was divided into thirteen State Societies. Gen. Washington was the first President-General. A Society of the French officers was also organized July 4, 1784, under the presidency of Count d’Estaing, who was guillotined April 28, 1794, — the first and only President of the Society in France. It included among its members many illustrious nobles and military officers. Louis XVI, by decree in council, permitted them to wear the Order. No other foreign Order, except that of the Golden Fleece, was allowed to be worn in France. The institution was formally sanctioned by Louis XVI at Versailles, Dec. 18, 1783, with the head of the Government as patron of the Order. It became dormant and the members were dispersed by the outbreak of the Revolution in 1792. (See “The Order of the Cincinnati in France,” by Asa Bird Gardiner, 1905.)

The New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati was organized at Exeter, Nov. 18, 1783. The original members were twenty-seven, whose names were subscribed on that occasion, and at a subsequent meeting, Feb. 4, 1784. Lieut. John Harvey subscribed in 1784. Owing to a lack of interest in creating new members, many of the original ones having died or removed to other States, the Society became dormant in 1823, and the last meeting was adjourned after voting ” that the next annual meeting be held at Portsmouth.” So it is plain that the Society never intended to disband. A few years ago the work of resuscitation was begun, and the Society is now in a very flourishing condition. It was chiefly owing to the action of the New Hampshire Society in 1784, in opposing the proposed amendment to the Constitution abolishing the rule of hereditary succession, that the Order was preserved. Nov. 1, 1902, the Society purchased the “Gilman House,” a fine old Colonial building, as a permanent headquarters, and here its meetings are held every Fourth of July and on other occasions. The house was built by Nathaniel Ladd in 1721, and was the residence, during the Revolution, of Col. Nicholas Gilman, Treasurer of New Hampshire from 1775 to 1783.

After serving so long in the war, it is no wonder that many of these men had become incapacitated for hard farm labor. Large arrearages were also due them from the Government, which it was promised should be paid them with interest as soon as the state of the finances allowed. Many with broken fortunes and health could not wait, and their claims and certificates were sold to sharpers for what they could get, often a mere fraction of what was due them.

John Harvey owned many farms, had a good house, and was an innholder, but he desired a better dwelling; so he erected the house, afterwards the residence of his son Judge John Harvey till 1820, when he built a new house for himself, now a hotel, the ” Harvey House.” It commanded a fine view of Harvey pond, or lake, as it is now called, and here his former companions in arms were always welcome to a generous hospitality. His new home was so much superior to most other dwellings that it caused general comment. His hospitality was such that he went beyond his means, and he became badly involved in debt. He began selling his property. In 1790 he sold John Blydenburgh, of Durham, 168 acres and buildings, being the whole of lot No. 20, and 50 acres of lot 19, south of the pond. In 1791 he sold other lots. (Rockingham Deeds, cxxvii: 433, 521 ; cxxix : 127.) April 23, 1795, his son bought back lot 21, about 100 acres, for £50, which his father had sold March 21, 1791, and also bought of Sherburne Blake for $800 the lands sold John Blydenburgh, Aug. 31, 1790. (Rockingham Deeds, cxli: 17-19.) He also paid many debts contracted by his father. Later, Col. Harvey went “down East,” as Maine was called, to visit some friends, old soldiers. One of the daughters of Jonathan Harvey of Nottingham had also settled in what is now the town of Deering. He went to what is now the town of Westbrook. The town of Falmouth was incorporated in 1718, and included the present towns of Portland, Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Westbrook and Deering. Westbrook was set off and incorporated as Stroudwater in 1814, and in 1815 the name was changed to Westbrook. Deering was set off and incorporated in 1871. He resided at the house of Azuba Quinby, near Nason’s corner, widow of Joseph Quinby, a Revolutionary soldier, and here he died in February, 1812. It is not known where he was buried. In the Massachusetts Records, in a Muster Roll for 1777 at the camp near Valley Forge, the name of Joseph Quinby occurs, credited to the town of Falmouth, who enlisted Jan. 1, 1777, for three years. Till 1820 Maine was a part of Massachusetts.

It is not known when John Harvey went to Maine ; but the Rev. Caleb Bradley, locally known as Parson Bradley (H. U. 1795), who died in 1861, records in his Diary, June 24, 1799, a subscription of $2.00 from John Harvey towards his settlement as minister. He died here during one of his visits.

Abstracted from John Harvey Treat, Ancestry of Col. John Harvey, of Northwood, New Hampshire, An Officer of the Line in the War of the Revolution, and an Original Member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati (Boston, 1907), pp. 25-30. John Harvey Treat represented John Harvey from 1899 to 1908.