The Devil and General Jonathan Moulton



Shrewd businessman or in league with the Devil? That is the question posed by the life of Hampton, NH resident and Revolutionary War hero, General Jonathan Moulton. Will the answer ever really be known?

Moulton was born in Hampton, and spent most of his life in the general area, save for his military deployments during King George's War, the French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War. Prior to those endeavors, his childhood was spent as a cabinetmaker's apprentice,
The Devil and General Jonathan Moulton
but by his 19th birthday, he was able to buy his freedom, and soon saw his first battles as a Captain in the New Hampshire Militia. When not off fighting, he found time to marry his first wife, sire 11 children, and build his first successful business, selling housewares, men's and women's clothing, and other products in high demand in the Puritan community of Hampton. He used his earnings to purchase large land parcels, and eventually founded new townships including Moultonborough (guess who that was named after), New Hampton and others. His wealth rose considerably when he acquired salvage rights to a beached ship loaded with valuable bounty. He served in various municipal offices, and became well known for his wealth, power, and ambition. With that came burgeoning hatred among the locals.
Several reasons for this were evident. When Moulton was determined to be the legal owner of the beached ship's bounty, townsfolk who had helped themselves to much of the salvage were forced to return everything. There was even a theory that Moulton had paid off the ship's captain to beach the ship intentionally. In the growing anti-British climate of the mid-18th century, Moulton was especially friendly with the British Governor of New Hampshire, and even named one of his children after him, and in one renown instance, paraded a prize ox, led by slaves and draped in flowers, over several miles to the capital, as a gift for the governor. Purely by coincidence, soon thereafter,
the governor reciprocated by giving Moulton an 18,000 acre land parcel. Add the facts that Moulton was one of the earliest land speculators in the New World, and that he built himself the finest mansion in his little section of NH, and the townsfolk had plenty to dislike. Thus arose the talk of the town. Devil talk.

No one could, by themselves, amass such a fortune, believed the townsfolk. How could he have acquired so much? Only one answer was possible - Moulton made a deal with the Devil!

So, the story developed, Moulton made a bargain with the Devil to deliver his soul in exchange for the Devil pouring gold guineas down the Moulton chimney and into a pair of boots left properly positioned, once a month. Each month, Moulton thus got richer and richer, but his greed overtook him, and month
The Devil and General Jonathan Moulton
after month he had larger and larger pairs of boots cobbled, until he thought of the ultimate answer - he cut holes in the toes of the boots, so that they could not be filled until the gold ran through the boots and filled the entire house. But the Devil got his due, and later that night, after the home had been filed to the brim with gold, it burned to the ground. It was reported that when Moulton scoured the scene expecting to find melted gold, he found none.

He wealth still immense, Moulton soon rebuilt his home, but the Devil was not done with him, and after a brief illness, Mrs. Moulton died. Shortly thereafter, Moulton re married, to a woman almost 40 years his junior. He showed the Devil who was who on that one! Or did he? One night as the couple lay in bed, the first Mrs. Moulton appeared, and, legend has it, ripped her wedding ring - that had been recycled to the second Mrs. Moulton - off her finger, leaving a bloody impression.

And it was the Devil who got the final bow: He was soon able to collect his long-awaited soul, as Moulton himself died at the tender age of 61. It was said that a pallbearer thought to open the casket at the funeral, only to find no corpse, but rather a box of gold coins, each having been stamped with an image of the Devil.


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