Muster Day ... the greatest of the "Old Time Holidays"
Hampton's 325th Anniversary, 1638 - 1963
"The long procession of a hundred years
Is passing now. I hear the solemn tread
Blend with the muffled voices of the dead
Who greet a faded host. Mine eyes give tears
For every loving things that disappears."
Days of play 175 years ago were not many. Real holidays were few. Christmas was observed as a Children's Festal Day; Thanksgiving was an annual family and religious day; and Fourth of July called for public celebration of a patriotic nature.
The only other "Holiday" was "Muster Day" that comes every year, usually in the late summer or early fall.
The French and Indian Wars, The Two Wars with England (The Revolutionary War and The War of 1812) had made our pioneer forefathers a people conscious of both the need for readiness to bear arms and to protect their homes at all times in true minuteman spirit.
Thus began the creation and establishment of local militia groups in each town. Each town had its own military company with each soldier, at least twice a year, "showing his gun for inspection" and the Selectmen of that town "taking" account of stock in powder and ball, and to see if the town is ready to defend its people and its homes."
At the session of the State Legislature, December 27, 1792, an act passed, "arranging the Militia into regiments, Brigades & Divisions & describing their limits 'provided' that the companies in the Towns of North Hampton, Hampton and Hampton Falls shall form a first battalion; the companies in the Towns of Seabrook, Kensington & South Hampton shall form a second battalion -- which shall constitute the Third Battalion." At this time the law required that all free able bodied, white, male citizens from eighteen to forty years of age shall be enrolled.
Each company was to be called-out for inspection and drill at least twice a year. In 1795, the age limit was made sixteen to forty.
Each town company had its "Captain, Lieutenants and Corporals"; each Battalion had its "Major", and the Regiment had its "Colonel". There would be a great deal of natural rivalry between companies as to which could march, shoot the best, or make the best appearance at the "Fall Muster."
These Regimental Muster Days were gala days. Even after the danger of wars and the Indians had been removed, the militia service and Muster Days continued for many years. Old and Young looked forward to them,and joined "with zest in the days activities."
"After a forenoon of 'drill' and 'maneuvers,' contests such as wrestling matches between the champions of each company and which company could present the best band, took place on the 'Green'."
Old men, young boys, and all the women and girls urged on their favorites. The Muster Field with its "eating booths," "tent shows," "auction carts," "Candy stands," and plenty of New England rum at "three cents a glass," presented a gay appearance, marred, too often, by the spectacle of men with muddled brains and unsteady feet.
In the early evening, the women folks would serve to all present a feast so plentiful that even the heartiest eater would leave for home well satisfied. Thus another Muster Day would pass into the history of Hampton and her daughter Towns.