Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: An Enemy to be Met

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Before the formation of European settlements in New England, the beasts of the forest had been free to range the country, their right undisputed, and themselves unmolested, except occasionally by an arrow from the bow of some Indian hunter. But now, the white people were rapidly making inroads upon the forest, and disputing the right of the wild beasts to come upon grounds that had been cleared and cultivated. It could hardly be expected that the authority of the new settlers would be at once respected, and the wild animals leave them entirely unmolested. The people, indeed, were not often attacked, but their sheep and cattle were in constant danger, especially from wolves.

To devise means, then, for destroying the wolves, was considered worthy the attention, both of towns and legislatives. Bounties were frequently offered for killing them within certain limits. As early as 1645, a bounty of ten shillings was offered here for each wolf killed by a townsman. This vote was passed, 27: 11 mo: 1644, that is, Jan. 27, 1645, and is thus recorded: "It is hereby declared that every townsman which shall kill a wolfe & bring the head thereof & nayle the same to a little red oake at the northeast end of the meeting-house--They shall have 10s a woolfe for the paynes out of the town fines; or otherwise, if noe fines be in hand."

Nine years afterward, the bounty was quadrupled. In 1658, it was increased to £5. in 1663, it was £6 10s.

About the year 1648, the General Court directed that 80s., at least, should be paid to an Englishman, and 20s. to an Indian, for killing a wolf within any town in the colony;--in either case, 10s. to be paid by the county, and the remainder by the town where the wolf was killed. Several years later, a bill passed the lower house, to allow 40s. for each wolf killed, to be paid out of the public treasury, besides what the town might give. Although this bill, by not being concurred in by the magistrates, failed to become a law, yet it is important in a historical view, proving by implication at least, the sufferings and losses occasioned by the depredations of the wolves, here represented as "the destoryers and devourers of cattle of all sorts."

Another expedient was resorted to by the General Court. The selectmen of each town were authorized to procure, at the town's expense, so many hounds as they might think proper, and impose the keeping of them on such persons as they judged fittest, so that all means might be used for the destruction of the wolves. No other dogs than those allowed by the selectmen, were to be kept in any town.

No record has been found of any action under this law, by the selectmen of Hampton. Hence it is not known how many hounds if any, were considered needful, nor on whom the keeping of them was imposed. As little do we know of the success of the plan in other places.

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