Early History of the Parish House
1862 - 1962
by Helen Davis Hobbs, M.A.
Written for the Centennial of the Parish House
Hampton, New Hampshire
The present parish house of Trinity Episcopal church, Hampton, New Hampshire, was built as a dwelling for Daniel Hobbs and his family in 1861-1862, shortly after the opening of the New Road now known as High Street.
Daniel, the son of Washington Hobbs, was born December 12, 1802, on the original Hobbs homestead on Winnacunnet Road, which is southeast and parallel to our church property. It was on the site of this ancient homestead where William Eastow, one of Rev. Stephen Bachiler's little band who founded Hampton in 1638 first settled. Between 1640 and 1645 Eastow's daughter, Sarah and son-in-law, Morris Hobbs, made their home with him. Thenceforward this tract continued through the Hobbs line until the northern section was purchased by the Trinity Episcopal church and the Marston school respectively.
For over two centuries, the Congregational Society was the Established Church as well as the only church in Hampton. Generations of Hobbses, along with other early families served as deacons here. Daniel was no exception. Like his forefathers, Daniel began a lifetime of sacrificial service to the church following his marriage to Sally Johnson on October 9, 1823.
In 1844 the present and sixth Congregational "Meeting House" on Winnacunnet Road was dedicated. The next year the basement was finished for a vestry. After a hard day of haying on the salt marshes, Daniel assumed the task of driving his ox team to Newburyport and returning with a load of plaster for the vestry walls. (Such devotion to the church reminds us of the long evening hours spent by the original members of Trinity parish, preparing this structure as a suitable and dignified place of worship and Christian fellowship!)
During early days of New England meeting houses neither organs nor choirs were used. Common practice was to "line" the hymns. This meant that the first line of a psalm or hymn was read, usually by a deacon, and immediately after sung alone by the person whose duty it was to "pitch" the tune. Then the congregation, accompanied by the leader, sang through the hymn as it was read, line by line. Not until 1846 did the Congregational society introduce a musical instrument for the purpose of leading congregational singing. And this was a double bass viol, recently bought by subscription, and played by Daniel Hobbs. It was this particular Christian service which Daniel most dearly loved.
No doubt it was somewhat disappointing to him to see the church purchase its first organ ten years later. His eldest son, Edwin, a ship's carpenter and later a captain, referred to this in one of his letters from the ship SARACEN BOW in Hong Kong, June 26, 1856: "I see Jonathan Perkins plays the organ. It is something I have wished for our church for a long time". Again from Hong Kong on September 10, 1856, he wrote: "I hope the organ has a good effect among the singers. I should like to be with you on the Sabbath". At St. Helena, June 6, 1857, Edwin once again inquired about the church. "The choir is as good as usual, I hope, especially with the organ. I do want to get home to hear the organ and to see the church since your repairs. It must be splendid. I would love to step in among that noble body of songsters every Sabbath and join my voice with theirs in those sacred song. Never did I enjoy myself better when at home than I used to when I was found among that number. The time may come yet when I shall have that privilege again".
That "privilege" did come again when Edwin returned to Hampton about 1860. By this time Daniel and his younger sons, Washington Harrison and Horace, were making plans to build a new homestead north of the New Road. The old Hobbs' windmill which had served Hampton farmers since almost the beginning of the town's history had already been removed. Formerly occupying the site of the proposed new house and road, this windmill perched on a hill and standing in the midst of fields of corn and grain was referred to in early records as Windmill Hill.
After Edwin's return, plans were completed for the house and construction began in 1861. Edwin assumed the task as master carpenter with his brothers assisting him. As the "irrepressible conflict" had culminated in civil war by the spring of 1861 and the first Battle of Bull Run on July 24, 1861 had aroused the North to the seriousness of the war, Edwin expressed his concern for the Union by carving these words by a newly completed front stairway:
Hobbs, Thursday, August 8, 1861, the
year that the South rebelled against the
government of these United States of America.
Long may the stars and stripes float over
this western continent !
(Capt. Edwin J. Hobbs, the boss workman
of this house.)
By the following spring, the house was completed. A shed already over one hundred years old was drawn by oxen across the fields from the ancient homestead, and attached to the new house. And a new barn was built next to the shed.(The barn was destroyed about 1938. After the property was purchased by this parish, the shed was removed in 1960.) Moving day, always a monumental one, took place on June 10, 1862. Daniel, Sally, Edwin and W. Harrison named their new abode, "Ocean View Farm". The youngest son, Horace, did not move with his family but remained at the ancient homestead with an uncle.
Edwin could not enjoy the tranquility and beauty of his new home for long. Ardently desiring to become a part of the Union cause, Edwin was mustered into the Sixteenth New Hampshire Regiment as a sergeant October 25, 1862. Then following the Civil War he married and went first to Boon Island and later to the Isles of Shoals as lighthouse keeper.
Meanwhile personal tragedy clouded Daniel's delight in his new house for in 1863, just one year after the dream of a new homestead had become a reality, his beloved Sally died. Small wonder that Daniel welcomed W. Harrison's bride to "Ocean View House" in 1864 and was pleased to have them make their home with him!
Since hotels were a rarity in those days and Hampton Beach was becoming a popular resort in this post Civil War era, many Hamptonites with large houses began to take summer boarders. Daniel opened "Ocean View House" for this purpose in 1875. Meeting his guests at the railway station or taking them to and from the bach, Daniel Hobbs' big barge or carry-all was a familiar sight about Hampton.
During all these years at "Ocean View Farm", Daniel still enjoyed playing his double bass viol. Sunday afternoon concerts were the rule even after Harrison succeeded his father as head of his household. As Daniel advanced into the twilight years, both his memory and eyesight failed. Yet he never lost his love for the church or for his bass viol. Often on a weekday evening he insisted that he must go to church. Thoughtful members of the family would lead the old gentleman around the yard and back into the house, a convincing performance that he had reached the church. Then one of the family would seat him and place his beloved bass vio in his feeble hands. With tenderness he played the old hymns which he knew so well and members of the family joined him in singing, completing this illusion.
If there is any knowledge of the present in that life beyond, the dedication of this house as Trinity Episcopal Church to the worship and glory of God would please Daniel most of all.