Winnacunnet: An Historic Name for an Historic Town
Hampton's 325th Anniversary
1638 - 1963
As early as the year 1000 A.D., when the Vikings visited Great Boar's Head, and the early 1600's, when our country was being settled by the English Colonists, records show that an Indian village has been laid out and was flourishing on what is now the "Meeting House Green" and along the lower part of "Exeter Road". This village was known as the "Winnacunnet Settlement". The Indians living there were probably members of the "Wampanoag Tribe" of the "Abenaki" Nation.
Winnacunnet was properly named. Thick wooded areas of tall virgin pines grew along the eastern slopes which led to the ocean, marsh and river. By the time that the settlers came to Winnacunnet, the Indians living here had vanished -- probably wiped out by a small pox epidemic that had plagued the Indians of this area during the late 1600's.
Further reference was made to the Indian settlement at Winnacunnet in the extensive land grant made by the Council of Plymouth in 1623 to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Capt. John Mason. It was likewise included in the lesser New Hampshire grant made to Capt. Mason in 1629. Also dated March 3, 1636 is an order contained in the records of the General Court of Massachusetts: "that there shall be a plantation settled at Winnacunnet and that Mr. Dumer and Mr. John Spencer shall have power to presse men to builde a house forthwith, in some convenient place, and what money they pay shall be repaid".
-- -- "and Winnacunnet shalbee called Hampton". [Editor's note: This name change took place on September 4, 1639.]
The following extract from a letter, written by Hon. Charles E. Batchelder of Portsmouth is of much interest in understanding the reason for the change of the town's name from "Winnacunnet" to its present name "Hampton". Under the date, January 27, 1890, the good Doctor writes:
"Why was the name Hampton given to the new settlement north of the Merrimac?" The record says the name was given at the request of Rev. Stephen Bachiler. I have often wondered what connection there was between the new Hampton and old Hampton in England. I think I discovered the reason in my trip to England this last summer. The last settlement of Rev. Stephen Bachiler in England was at South Stoneham, at St. Mary's Church. This church is a dependency of St. Mary's Church, Southhampton, and the latter church presents the living of the South Stoneham church to such incumbent as they choose.
"The common name of Southhampton in 1630 was Hampton, as can be seen by Gov. Winthrop commonly calling it Hampton in his History of New England. The "South" is said to have been added at a comparative late day to distinguish this Hampton from Hampton in Middlesex. The name is said to be derived from Hantstone, that is, the stone of the county Hants or Hampshire.
"South Stoneham was practically a suburb of the City of Southhampton, being situated just outside the city limits on the north.
"This close connection between South Stoneham and Southhampton and the settlement of Rev. Stephen Bachiler at the former place evidently accounts for the name of our Hampton; and there may have been a real or fancied resemblance to Southhampton Water as the first settlers of our Hampton sailed up Hampton River in a shallop when they made their settlement there in 1638".