Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: THE DARK DAY -- AN ACT FOR OPENING LITTLE RIVER

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The 19th day of May, 1780, was unprecedented in New England for its great darkness. The sun was visible a little while in the morning, but was soon obscured by clouds. For some days previous the air had been filed with smoke, arising, it was supposed, from extensive fires, somewhere raging in the woods. Prevailing westerly winds had spread the smoke over a very great extent of country. On the morning of the 19th, the wind, though variable, was principally from the eastward, and brought with it a dense fog from the ocean. This meeting and mingling with the clouds and smoke formed a mass almost impervious to light. The darkness became noticeable a little before eleven o'clock, and rapidly increased. Domestic fowls went to roost, and cattle collected around the barn yards, as at the approach of night. About noon it became necessary to light candles, and these were needed through the remainder of the day, thought he darkness was greatest from twelve to one o'clock. The darkness of the evening was scarcely less remarkable than that of the day. Dr. Belknap says: "It presented a complete specimen of as total darkness as can be conceived. About midnight a light breeze sprang up from the north or northeast, which dispersed the clouds and vapors, and it soon began to grow light.

The darkness extended over several thousand square miles, though differing much in intensity in different places. Nowhere, perhaps, was it greater than in this vicinity. The day was appropriately called, and is still known, as THE DARK DAY.

An Act For Opening Little River

On the 27th of June, 1780, an act was passed by the Legislature, for improving the salt marsh drained by Little river:

"Samuel Jenness, Jeremiah Dearborn, Benja Philbrick, and John Lamprey Jun. in a petition, set forth that there is a certain piece of Salt Marsh and Meadow land lying in Hampton & North Hampton, containing about one hundred & twenty acres, that for some years past has been made Salt marsh by a river running through the seawall beach, so called, but for three years past the said river hath been stopt by means of gravel & stones washing into the same; and thereby the said marsh & meadow land was damnified -- Wherefore they prayed that they might be impowered to clear out said river & let the water off said marsh & meadow land at the proper cost of the owners thereof, and to assess the said owners for that purpose, which appearing to be reasonable,

Be it therefore enacted" --etc. that the above named men, or a major part of them "be, and hereby are appointed a committee to clear out said river" --etc. according to the petition, assessing the cost on the owners, "and to appoint a collector and cause the same to be collected as town charges are usually collected.

This act to continue and be in force for the space of Ten years & no longer."

The same difficulty is still experienced, in keeping Little river open at the point indicated, now called "The Breach;" and still the marsh becomes "damnified" unless it is occasionally cleared out.


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