Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Col. Christopher Toppan

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Col. Christopher Toppan
Col. Christopher Toppan
That "one generation passeth away and another generation cometh" is forcibly exemplified, when a prominent citizen lays down his old activities, bends to the infirmities of age in the retirement of his fireside, and then passes away, to mingle no more in the scenes of earth. Hon. Christopher Toppan was such a man -- for more than half a century, prominent in affairs, until, enfeebled by age, he was worthily succeeded in public honors and trusts, by his son, Edmund.

On the 28th of February, 1818, he died.

Hon. Christopher Toppan, the only son of Dr. Edmund Toppan that grew up to manhood, was born January 18, 1735, O.S., and was left fatherless before he had completed his fifth year. It was, however, fortunate for him, that he had a mother, capable of directing his education and training him up in correct habits. Perhaps he was naturally inquisitive and fond of knowledge. Certain it is, he was even in early years fond of the company and conversation of persons, from whom he might acquire valuable information. This he often spoke of in mature life, mentioning particularly, Dea. Joseph Philbrick, as one, from whose conversation he derived great benefit. He was accustomed to make frequent calls upon the venerable deacon, and listen with eagerness to his instructive words. By this and kindred habits, by the time he was twenty-one years of age, he not only had acquired rich stores of knowledge, but, by a well disciplined mind, was able to adapt himself to any emergency that might arise. In a word, he stood on high vantage ground.

It is believed that the property inherited by Colonel Toppan was not large, but it was carefully husbanded. It was considerably increased by the business of ship-building, in which he early engaged, and which he carried on somewhat largely. It is probable that he also made his commercial pursuits and the fishery profitable, though he met with some heavy losses, among which was that of a brig, on her return from the West Indies, and a few years later, of a schooner, upon the Banks of Newfoundland.

Colonel Toppan's influence in the town was great. His superior knowledge, his well cultivated intellect, his great sagacity, his foresight and his wealth, all contributed to this result. While his superiority in these respects was admitted, however, there were many who believed him to be too much controlled by self-interest. Such was the prevalent feeling in the early part of the Revolution. For some time, it was considered doubtful, whether he would commit himself in favor of the cause of freedom. This doubt was not removed, when, in October, 1775, he declined the office of Lieut. Colonel of the Third regiment, to which he had been appointed. Subsequently, however, he took a decided stand in favor of liberty and independence, and the confidence of the people in his patriotism, which for a time had wavered, was fully restored.

Toppan Garrison House
The Old Toppan Homestead
Colonel Toppan was often elected to office. He was on the board of selectmen, five years. At the age of twenty-seven years, he was elected one of the representatives of the town, and served in that capacity thirteen years, before the Revolution, when the town was entitled to two representatives, and eight years, after its close, when the number was limited to one. He was also elected to that office on two other occasions, but did not accept, as he had at the same time been chosen councillor, to which office he was elected five times, and four times to the Senate. In 1774, he was appointed one of the justices of the Court of Common Pleas, and held the office one year.

Colonel Toppan was a prominent man in the ecclesiastical and parochial dissensions, which agitated the people of the town for many years, after the death of Rev. Ebenezer Thayer, in 1792. He acted with the Congregationalists, and was forty-nine years a member of the church.

For several years near the close of his life, he lived in retirement, though even at that time, he was often consulted, and his advice sought, on matters of importance.

He was eighty-three years of age when he died.

  [See Genealogies -- Toppan.]
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