Who Lived Here? 

Who were the Ladds and the Gilmans?

Built in 1721, the American Independence Museum building has been home to two main families, the Ladds and the Gilmans.  Nathaniel Ladd, purchased the land from Eliphalet Coffin and went about building his house out of brick – a costly and time-consuming venture as there were no brick manufacturers or brick kilns in Exeter at the time.  By 1741, he leased the house to his two sons, Elias and Josiah.  By the mid 1750’s the Gilman’s owned the entire house and began renovations to the structure.  The house stayed in the Gilman family (with only a few years owned by a different family) up until the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati purchased the building in 1902.

The Ladd Family

The Ladds first came to Exeter in



 Nathaniel Ladd


Nathaniel Ladd was a merchant, millwright, and land dealer in Exeter. In 1721 he purchased 1.5 acres of land from Eliphalet Coffin and built what is now known as the Ladd-Gilman House.  This plot of land was close to the river and his mills, with a great view of the town.  in 1731 Nathaniel leased his house to his two oldest sons, but he stayed in the east side of the house until 1740, when he moved to Stratham, NH.

Mercy Hilton


She was Nathaniel’s third wife and most likely lived with him in this house for around 20 years before moving with him to Stratham, NH.

Josiah Ladd


Was a millwright, carpenter, and deacon at a local church.  He was gifted part of the house by his father, most likely as a wedding present.  He lived in the west side of this house with his wife and four children until he sold it to Nathaniel Gilman, Sr., the son of Daniel Gilman who originally bought the east side of the house from Elisa.

Sarah Morse


Sarah married Josiah Ladd in 1741 and at four children.

Elisa Ladd


Elisa was a tailor.  In 1747 he deeded his part of the house to Col. Daniel Gilman and moved to Stratham, NH.

Ann Gilman


Daughter of Capt. John Gilman, Jr.  She married Elisa in 1740 and had at least one child, Elizabeth, who lived with them in the Ladd-Gilman House before moving to Stratham, NH.

The Gilman Family

Col. Daniel Gilman


Daniel was a wealthy merchant and prominent figure in Exeter.  He was deeded part of the house by Elisa Ladd in 1747, but it is unclear if he ever spent much time in the house.  A couple years later, he gifted his part of the house to his son Nicholas Gilman. Sr.

Daniel’s Wife

Not much is known about his wife.

Ann Taylor Gilman


Ann was the wife of Nicholas Gilman and was in charge of the running of this house.  Together they had a total of 8 children, but only 6 survived until adulthood.  She passed away in 1783, one month before her husband.

John Taylor Gilman


John followed in his father’s footsteps, clerking for him when Nicholas was the State Treasurer.  He read the Declaration of Independence to the people of Exeter at the age of 22.  He later served as the State Treasurer and was the Governor of NH on and off for 14 years (the longest serving Governor of the state).  He lived here while Governor and the house became known as the Governor’s Mansion.

Deborah Folsom Gilman


Deborah Folsom and John Taylor Gilman married in 1775.  Together they had 5 children.  She would have been in charge of this house for most of her married life.  She died young, at the age of 38.

Nicholas Gilman Jr.


Nicholas tried his hand as a merchant, like his father, but it didn’t catch his interest.  He served in the Revolutionary War, first in the NH Militia, then was promoted to Aid de Camp to George Washington.  After the War, he lead a life in politics as a member of the Second Continental Congress and took part in the Constitutional Convention.  Later he was a Senator for New Hampshire.  He was a bachelor his whole life.

Nathaniel Gilman


He, like his two older brothers, had a life in politics.  He clerked for his father, served as a selectman, was the State Treasurer, and a NH Senator.  He married twice and had a total of 11 children.  When Nicholas Jr. passed, Nathaniel inherited much of his estate.