Newport New Hampshire’s Early Women Physicians: Freelove (Buell) Nettleton and Mabel (Nettleton) Buell

Pen and ink sketch of colonial woman with candle, man bowing. Library of Congress.

It is not unusual in American history for the story of remarkable women to be overlooked.  Thankfully the book, ” History of Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, New Hampshire” included mention of two women healers of Newport New Hampshire.  If they had been born one hundred years earlier, perhaps they would have been accused of witchcraft, for medicine was deemed to be the domain of men.

Editor’s Note: Freelove (Buell) Nettleton [Mrs. Jeremiah] was the great-great-aunt of Sarah Josepha (Buell) Hale, the “Mother of Thanksgiving.” [See BUELL Genealogy and story of Sarah J. (Buell) Hale].

Quoting from the history: “Mrs. Jeremiah Nettleton [Freelove Buell] is said to have ministered to the wants of the afflicted with much ability, and possessed the necessary skill as midwives. She traveled long distances on foot, sometimes using snow-shoes, to visit the sick. It is also said that she once traveled to New London on a hand-sled hauled by four men for the purpose of visiting a patient.

Her daughter, Mabel, born November 15, 1762, in Killingworth CT, came to Newport NH with her parents in 1779, and became the wife of Aaron Buel Jr., succeeded her mother, and was the only physician in Newport for several years, and was particularly successful in her practice. She was known in later years of her life as Aunt Mabel, and is still remembered as a most estimable woman.

During a fairly dark time in New Hampshire’s medical history, these two women deserve recognition for their healing abilities and dedication to the sick and injured.


*Jeremiah Nettleton, son of Jeremiah & Deborah (Kelsey) Nettleton, was born 7 Oct 1738 in Killingworth, Middlesex Co. CT. He married 19 Nov 1761 in Killingworth to Freelove “Love” Buell, dau of Daniel & Elizabeth (Post) Buell. She was b. 28 Oct 1737 in Killingworth CT.
Children of Jeremiah & Freelove (Buell) Nettleton:
1. Mabel Nettleton b: 15 Nov 1762; m. 1792 to Aaron Buell**
2. Charity Nettleton b: 29 JUL 1764
3. +Aaron Nettleton b: 16 NOV 1766; m. 1793 to Mehitable Dow
4. Jeremiah Nettleton b: 18 SEP 1768; m. 1795 to Lydia Ledoit
5. Nathan Nettleton b: 01 JUL 1770; m. Hannah Wheeler
6. Rachel Nettleton b: 11 OCT 1772; m. 1794 to Joshua Heath
7. Deborah Nettleton b: 18 FEB 1775; m. Peter Stow
8. Joel Nettleton b: 22 FEB 1778; m. 1805 to Elizabeth Dow. The original Newport Hotel was built on the site of the present Newport Horse, corner of Maine and Sunapee Streets, in the year 1814 by Colonel William Cheney. It was purchased and improved by Captain Joel Nettleton and remianed in the hands of the Nettletons, father and sons, for more than a quarter of a century. It was burned in 1860, and the present building was erected the same year by the Messrs. Cross, then proprietors.
9. Daniel Nettleton b: 01 DEC 1780; m1) Esther Peck; m2) Rhoda Bryant

Aaron Nettleton, b. 16 Nov 1766; m. 5 March 1793 in Exeter, Rockingham Co NH to Mehitable Dow of Exeter NH. She b. 7 June 1769 in Salem, Rockingham Co NH. They removed to Newport, Sullivan Co., NH by 1794. Was a farmer and the first sheriff of Sullivan County NH.
Children of Aaron & Mehitable (Dow) Nettleton:
1. +Jeremiah Nettleton, b 10 Apr 1794 in Newport, Sullivan Co NH
2. Lydia K. Nettleton, b. 5 Oct 1795
3. Fanny Nettleton; m. 20 June 1820 to Josiah Stevens. Resided in Concord NH and had several children.
4. Aaron Nettleton Jr. b 8 July 1799; m. 22 Dec 1825 to Sarah H. French. Postmaster and merchant.
5. Bela Nettleton, b. 5 July 1801; m. Sarah Louisa Boynton of Windsor VT; merchant, teacher, postmaster, selectman, sheriff, representative.
6. Mehitable Nettleton, b. 2 June 1803, d. 1804

Jeremiah Nettleton, b. 10 Apr 1794 in Newport, Sullivan Co NH. He died 8 December 1852. He was elected representative for Newport in 1837 and 1839. He was town selectman 13 years. Member of the Baptist church. He married 1st) Zilpha Bowman. She b. 6 Dec 1793, and d. 12 March 1829. He married 2d) by 1832 to Orpha Sweet. She b. abt 1806 in NH.
1850 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Sullivan > Newport
Jeremiah D. Nettleton 56 M Farmer 2500 NH [b 1794]
Orpah Nettleton 44 F NH [b abt 1806]
*Jeremiah Nettleton 17 M Farmer NH [b abt 1833]
Orpah Nettleton 15 F NH
Aaron F. Nettleton 20 M Farmer 900 NH [his nephew]
U.S. Census > 1870 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Sullivan > Newport
Nettleton, Orpha 64 F W Keeping House 100 b MA
Nettleton, Jeremiah 37 M W Works in Woolen mill NH
1880 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Sullivan > Newport > District 273
Nettleton, Orpha W F 74 keeping house NH MA MA
Nettleton, Jerremiah W M 47 son laborer NH NH NH
Children of Jeremiah & Zilpha (Bowman) Nettleton:
1. Lydia K. Nettleton, b. 5 May 1817; she m 5 Oct 1837 to Hiram Emerson and had eight children.
2. Fanny E. Nettleton, b. 25 Nov 1821; she m. 10 Oct 1845 to Hartford Sweet and had five children.
Children of Jeremiah & Orpha (Sweet) Nettleton:
3. Aaron Y. Nettleton, b. abt 1830 in NH
4. Jeremiah Nettleton, b. 14 July 1832
5. Orpha Nettleton, b. 13 Nov 1834; m. 10 Nov 1853 to Albert Rowell, and had two sons.

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