A Woman With a Share in Hampton's Heritage
By Jane Bryant
(Taken from a clipping from an unknown and undated paper, likely the Hampton Union)
HAMPTON -- Ruth Leavitt Palmer has resided in this town since her birth here on August 15, 1891. Ancestors of both she and her husband, the late Charles H. Palmer, were among the first families to settle in the area.
The Leavitt family moved here from Exeter, where they had been one of the first settlers of that town, in 1639. The Palmers came a year earlier, in 1638, after leaving Watertown, Mass.
Ruth's parents, Irvin and Agnes (Merrill) Leavitt, owned land north from High Street along the beach road to the North Shore Road area known as the Colony.
The Willows, as the family homestead was named, was built by Irvin Leavitt and was the childhood home of Ruth; her sisters, Hazel and Alzena, and her brother, Eugene. Her grandfather, Moses Leavitt, lived nearby and his home remains as part of the Aquarama Motel.
Both the Leavitt homesteads were utilized as lodging places, mainly for Vermonters who came here in the winter months as fishermen and fishmongers. The fish were then taken back, frozen, to sell largely on the Canadian market.
The two Leavitt homesteads were later used for the beach tourist trade.
Palmer's Restaurant, owned and operated by Ruth and her husband, was located on land between the two Leavitt homes, where the Yankee Village Motel now stands.
The eating place featured home baked foods and was particularly noted for its fried clams. The clam recipe remains a family secret to this day.
Starting, out with the capacity to seat thirteen, persons, the Palmers enlarged the restaurant three times until it finally accommodated seventy five diners.
The building also housed a small store operated by one of the two Palmer boys, Phillip and Richard. The restaurant was run by the couple for twenty two years until 1944, when it was sold due to the ill health of Mr. Palmer. It had always been solely a family operation and they did not wish to hire an outside chef.
Following this, Ruth Palmer was responsible for the building and operation of a tourist motor court near the beach for ten years, until her retirement in 1958.
In her youth, Ruth taught school in Portsmouth for eight years, following graduation from the Portsmouth Training School. She later worked at the Navy Yard there during the years of World War II.
Ruth Leavitt Palmer led a busy and active life all of her younger years, and as a senior citizen she maintains that life. She enjoys braiding rugs, knitting, crocheting, playing in two bridge clubs and until recently was employed by the Spindrift Motel. She is a member of the Legion Auxiliary, the Eastern Star of Hampton and Exeter and has been a member of Oceanside Grange for more than fifty years.
Ruth owns a car and is on the road frequently. She received her driver's license when she was sixteen years old and states that she was the second Hampton lady resident to do so.
Mrs. Palmer now lives in her own pleasant home on Mill Pond Lane, built on land that once was the site of an ice house owned by her brother.
The home is nearby the old High Street grist mill, which was family owned. An ancestor, Moses Leavitt, bought it when it was known as Tuck Mill and built the grist mill there in 1815.
On the wall of Mrs. Palmer's home is a detailed, antiqued map of Hampton with drawings of various Hampton landmarks surrounding it. At the top center is the official seal of the town. It is one of Ruth's treasures, drawn by her late artist sister, Hazel.
The seal was designed and given to the town at the time of Hampton's Tercentenary in 1938. A copy of the map is still used by Hampton in locating official boundaries.
At the time of the celebration the maps were sold as souvenirs by the town - one dollar for black and white copies, three dollars for antiqued ones.
Mrs. Palmer has four grandchildren and six great grandchildren. A number of her relatives are still living in the area. Her brother lives on Little River Road and her sister, now Mrs. William Elliot, lives on Dearborn Avenue. Local pharmacist, Donald Palmer, is her grandson.
An article about Ruth Leavitt Palmer's life appeared in New Hampshire Profiles Magazine in 1968, written by Marilyn Hackett Moulton.
We can be proud to have her as part of Hampton' s heritage.