Sam Towle Is Ninth Generation Hampton Son

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By Ed Ballam

Hampton Union, Thursday, November 28, 1984

HAMPTON -- "I never move very much," remarked Hampton's native born son, Samuel Albert Towle.

Towle claims to be "very provincial" and rightly so. He had moved a whopping half-mile in all the 80 years he has lived in Hampton: from the family farm on Towle Farm Road, to his current home at 81 Exeter Road.

He jokes that he spent the first 25 years of his life sleeping in the same bed in the same room in the same house -- the farm where he was born in 1904, only to spend the next 55 years repeating the pattern in the house he built just a stone's throw down the road.

"I'm one of the few natives," he said with an unmistakable Yankee twang.

Recently, Towle has been noticeably absent from his morning walk downtown along Exeter and Lafayette Roads.

He has been recuperating from a fall down stairs in April that put him in the hospital with a broken leg for four months, the first time he was ever "laid up" in his life.

In fact when Towle retired as postmaster of the Hampton Post Office in 1965, he turned back over 3,000 hours of unused sick time after 40 years of loyal service.

"I never took a day of sick time or never took a real vacation," Towle boasted of his years in the post office.

Towle started working in the office in 1925 as a general post office clerk, back in the days when it was located in the "so called" Merrill Block on High Street. Back then, it cost a penny to mail a [post or postal] card and two cents to mail a [first class] letter.

He worked at all levels in the post office until he was appointed postmaster in 1955 by [President] Dwight D. Eisenhower, the position he retired from 10 years later.

In 1930, he took time out from the post office to marry the girl next door, the same one he met at a grange meeting. Margaret Murray, a "carpetbagger" from Scotland. He and his wife recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary.

Towle and his wife raised three boys in their house: Phillip, who is a teacher in North Andover, Mass., and owns the Towle farm; Murray who is a surgeon in Greenville, Penn., and Allen who is a teacher in Lee, Mass.

Towle said there is no real secret to account for the length of his marriage but he did say compatibility is important.

"I can't see these folks who get divorces," he said. "You don't always have to agree on everything, but at least try to be civil to each other."

Towle was raised on the farm and knows what hard work is all about. Every morning, he would start farm chores at 6 a.m. just before school. He was the man of the house and took on a lot of responsibilities. His father died from pneumonia three weeks before he was born.

He and his mother, Jessie, and his sister, Fanny, did the best they could to survive.

"My mother took over the farm and made enough to live on," he said reflectively. "There was no welfare back in those days."

The family sold off most of the cows and kept just the bare minimum, a few pigs, some hens and other livestock. A hired man helped out through the hard years.

Towle was named after his father and one of his favorite "ditties" goes something like this: "There was old Sam Towle and there was young Sam Towle and young Sam Towle will be old Sam Towle when old Sam Towle is done." he said with a gleam in his deep blue eyes.

Towle's father would have been pleased with his only son, the way he worked around the farm, milking the cows early in he morning to make sure the milk was ready for the train. In the early part of the century, milk sold wholesale for 10 cents a quart, according to Towle. He and the hired man would take fire eight-quart cans by horse and wagon down Exeter Road to sell at the train depot in Depot Square. It wasn't much, but it kept the family going.

The family used farm eggs to get groceries and "hard" items from Lane's Store in the center of town. Towle would barter for goods using the eggs.

Despite the rough times the Towle family fell on, Towle managed to complete his schooling and graduate from the Hampton Academy and High School in 1922, back when Charles H. Teague was principal and C. H. Walker was superintendent. He was one of a class of 12 students.

Because he graduated from high school, he was able to take the civil service exam and was hired at the Hampton Post Office fresh out of high school.

At first, he was assigned to be a mail clerk on the Boston train route sorting mail. Even back in yesteryear, there was a lot of mail to sort. He said on an average day during the summer, the beach would generate 18,000 pieces of mail, all of which Towle was responsible for.

Everything had to be hand sorted and cancelled in the early days of Towle's postal career. But, as time passed, the post office was mechanized which speeded up the process.

Gradually, his responsibilities grew to the point where he was in charge of all the money from the beach, including the money from the Casino, which sometimes amounted to $100,000 a day. Towle said it was his job to make sure all the money from the beach was counted and put on the Portsmouth train by 5 p.m. to arrive at the bank in Portsmouth on time. He explained that there were no banks in Hampton in the 1930s and 1940s.

"That's one thing I'll never forget about working in the Post Office, handling all that money," he said. "I never had an error."

Towle didn't give up working after his retirement from the post office. Instead, he channeled all his energy into town government, his church and volunteer work at Exeter Hospital.

Some of the positions he has held include: supervisor of the checklist for the town of Hampton, planning board member, a 75-year charter member and former treasurer of the [First] Congregational Church, Nobel Grand (high office of the Odd Fellows), Master of the Lodge of the Masons and the list goes on and on.

Towle has earned his status as a true native of Hampton. He is the patriarch of the nine generations of Towle to settle in Hampton, none of which are "carpetbaggers."

"I used to like and enjoy it (the town), still do." he said looking out the window over his neighborhood. "I saw all the cities I wanted to see."

Editor's note: Sam Towle died on December 28, 1988. Read his obituary.