Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Care of the Cattle

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The people of Hampton, at an early period, appear to have given considerable attention to the raising of cattle, of which in a few years they had four hundred fifty head, and cattle at that time bore a very high price. For the means of wintering so large a stock, they were much indebted to their extensive salt marshes. In summer they had no lack of pasturage. As yet, however, they had enclosed but few, if any, pastures, and were consequently liable to lose their cattle in the swamps and forests, and to have their sheep destroyed by wolves and other wild beasts that prowled the woods.

To preserve their sheep and cattle,--and acting on the principle, that a division of labor promotes the general good,--the town authorities appointed shepherds and herdsmen, to whom was committed the care of the flocks and herds. The first herdsman mentioned in the records is Moses Coxe, who was appointed in the spring of 1640. From a contract made with him by the selectmen, we are informed as to his compensation and duties. "All the other beasts wthin the town, except such as have calves sucking them," were to be entrusted to his care, and he was to keep them from doing and receiving hurt by day till "foddering time" in the succeeding autumn. It was no part of his business too collect the cattle from their owners in the morning nor to return them in the evening. The town had caused a fence to be built around that portion of the Green near the Meeting-house, and to a considerable distance along the roads proceeding from it, and gates to be set up across these roads. To the Green, or common, the cattle were driven by their owners in the morning, and delivered into the care of the herdsman, who returned them to the same place in the evening, and was then released from all care of them for the night.

In full compensation for his services for the season, Goodman Coxe was to receive £20 to be paid in three instalments, viz.: 12d. per beast in hand; a like sum at the end of seven weeks, and the remainder when his work was done. The records give no information as to the number of cattle under his care.

The same year, May 4, by an agreement made with William Palmer, the care of the calves was committed to his son Christopher, a young man then in his minority. His management seems to have been satisfactory to his employers, for the next year, in May, the engagement was renewed for that season: "It is agreed betwixt the towne and Wm Palmer yt Chr: Palmer shall keepe the calves every working day & every 4th Lord's day, 20 weeks from the tenth of this moneth; for wch he shall have 8s pr weeke, to be payed in worke & other commodityes. This agreemt to continue unless three owners of calves come on that day--in the morng--and give notice of another keepr."

As the cattle must be cared for on the Sabbath as well as on other days, so also should their keepers be cared for. The people were not willing that they should be entirely deprived of the privilege of attending public worship. An arrangement was therefore made to have the care of the cattle committed to other hands, on some of the Sabbaths of each month. Thus, Christopher Palmer was required to spend but one Sabbath in four in taking care of the calves. So also the town agreed with Thomas Jones and Moses Coxe to have the care of the cows by turns on the Lord's day, after having joined a while at the beginning, "to go forth aboute half an hour after sunrise" each Sabbath.

At a meeting, April 13, 1640, the town passed the following vote: "No man shall suffer any of his beasts to feed in the meadow or corne-ground belonging to other men, after the [--] of this month, under payne to forfeit for every beast so [feeding] 12d for every tyme."

At the session of the General Court in the spring of this year, John Moulton, Thomas Moulton and John Crosse were appointed to appraise the "horses, mares, cowes, oxen, goats, and hoggs," belonging to the inhabitants, and by law they were required to value them below rather than above their worth.

The court also "ordered that there should be a levy of 1200£ raysed," to be laid "upon every towne proportionably and paid within two months." The proportion for Hampton was £10 or the one hundred twentieth part of the whole sum ordered to be raised.

At a town meeting, July 20, it was "agreed or declared," that the grants of land, made on the 24th of December in the preceding year, should stand good to the persons to whom they were then made, and that each of them should have the same, although it had been proposed that the grants should be annulled. It was also voted "yt the prsent country Rate of 10£ shall be made by the Towne Clarke, according to the quantity of upland and freshm[eadow] of those portions & of the rest sithence [An old word meaning since] granted, together wth the land that some have wthout this Towne; wch latter land shall be rated but after ½d per acre; the former, more, so as the 10£ may be raised."

The Court had ordered that in payment of this rate, "silverplate should passe at 5s the ounce; good ould Indian corne growing here being clean & marchantable, at 5s the bushell; summer wheate, at 7s the bushell; rye at 6s the bushell."

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