Foster provides a markedly different account of Webster's lodgings while at the College. "Contrary to traditions that he roomed in the Farrars' house on South Main Street his first two years, and in Dartmouth Hall his Senior year, the Treasurer's accounts prove he roomed in a college dormitory for the first three years, and in Senior year occupied a room outside of College. That he roomed in a private house Senior year is confirmed by a letter to Bingham, Dec. 29, 1800" (Foster 516). There is no letter in National Edition or any other collection of Webster's papers that has been used in this research. The closest item is a letter begun on December 28, and continued on December 31. There is no evidence in it that Webster lived off campus for the duration of his Senior year. Whatever letter Professor Foster may have had is lost for the time being.
|As such, the only solid evidence lies in the treasurer's notes. However, even then, there is only an entry for Webster's sophomore year. He is listed as living in Room 12, Lower Story (presumably of Dartmouth Hall) with Freeborn Adams, and Alexander Bush, class of 1800. His rooming with Adams in confirmed in his April 25, 1800 letter to his brother Ezekiel, in which he says, "Adams, my very good room-mate, has just come on." However, this is the only entry for Daniel Webster in the Treasurer's accounts. The only other Webster listed is Josiah Webster, class of 1798, who lived on campus Webster's freshman year. Perhaps this entry has been the source of confusion, as students are often only listed with their class and last name. The room Webster et. al. occupied is listed at 12 Dollars. It is likely that this was not a per-student cost, but rather a cost that the three roommates shared. This indicates the relative cost of room and board at the time. Webster stated in his autobiography that he was able to pay for his housing for a year by superintending the Dartmouth Gazette (Lewis 11).|
However, the study of Webster yields the fact that historical traditions die hard. And there is one that should be discussed further because of its prominence in Dartmouth lore and on the Dartmouth campus, the matter of the Webster Cottage, so called because Webster is supposed to have lived there for a year (his senior year, it is generally assumed). The Cottage was built in 1780 for Abigail Ripley, the daughter of Eleazar Wheelock. Ripley was the widowed owner of the house when Webster was at Dartmouth. Although the house was certainly rented to tenants, the evidence that Webster stayed there, although credible, is not contemporary. In late 1895 or early 1896, Lucy Jane McMurphy, then owner of the house, wrote at least two letters for Herbert Foster verifying her story:
|I well remember Mr. William Dewey
who lived in the house that Mrs. Fred Chase now lives in and whose father with the family came to
Hanover soon after the Coll. was founded and kept tavern in that house, telling my aunt
he knew Daniel Webster well, that he roomed in this house, in the South Chamber, I think
he said. Have often heard my aunt tell people he roomed here. Heard one man ask if she boarded him when he
was in College.|
Lucy J. McMurphy
Foster, referring to an almost identical letter, offered the following coroboration.
The above statement was written at the request of H. D. Foster for the preservation in the archives of Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. The writer of those facts, Miss Lucy Jane McMurphy, has a very clear, vigorous mind and good memory and distinguishes between rumor or partial remembrances and that which is clear and full.
In her statements toome, she described the position of Mr. Dewey before her fireplace as he narrated his facts. She showed a very clear remembrance of details. Miss McMurphy says Mr. Dewey was a man of careful mental habits and good memory and that he was in the habit of writing down his facts in a book to get them exactly and to preserve them.
There seems to be not merely tradition but good evidence on the part of one who know Mr. Webster when in college that Daniel Webster roomed in the house now occupied by Miss Lucy Jane McMurphy on North Main St. at the head of Elm St.
Herbert D. Foster, Hanover, N. H.
Feb. 21, 1896 (Childs 27-28)
|Webster Cottage on East Main Street||The room Webster may have occupied|
|Source: Childs, Webster Cottage and Those Who Lived There|
Such is the somewhat questionable history of the Webster Cottage's claim. The Cottage is currently maintained by the Hanover Historical Society, members of which admit that it is impossible to know for certain whether or not Webster actually lived there. However, this story is as likely as any other. The Cottage is currently at its third location. It was originally located where the Rockefeller center is currently located. It was then located to roughly the spot now occupied by Kiewit, and now resides across the street, near the Choate Hosue.