Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Controversy About the Great Ox-Common

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About this time, we find a controversy existing between the town in its corporate capacity, and some of the inhabitants, about the ownership of the Great Ox-Common. This common was a large tract of upland, salt marsh and thatch-ground in the easterly part of the town, the whole tract being nearly surrounded by the river and the ocean. Beginning about one hundred rods northerly of Great Boar's Head, it extended along the seashore southerly to the mouth of Hampton river; thence up the river westerly to the junction of Brown's river with the main branch; thence along the easterly and southerly side of Brown's river, to the place of beginning, which was where the river at that time approached very near the beach, a little southerly from the road now called "the causeway." From this place to the northerly side of Great Boar's Head was the only portion that needed to be fenced.

The upland within these limits includes the portions now known as Great Boar's Head, The Ridge, The Commons, Sargent's Island, and Easton's Neck, or Eastman's Point. The marsh and thatch-ground include Great Neck, Little Neck, The Common-marsh, Hendrick's, a part of the Spring-marsh, and some other smaller tracts.

It had been agreed at a town-meeting on the 23d of March, 1641, to set apart this tract as an ox-common from that time "to the world's end." It was also voted, that it should be fenced within two weeks. As at the expiration of that time the fence had not been built, the town soon afterwards appointed a day definite when the work should be done, and for security against another failure, designated by name the several persons who were to do the work, specifying which of them should make and set up the gate.

This common was appropriated exclusively to the pasturage of oxen, as its name imports. The pasturing of horses there was strictly prohibited, and any person, whose horse should be found on the common, was made liable to pay a fine of 5s. for each offence. The marsh and thatch ground, that were unsuitable for grazing, were valuable for the hay they afforded, and the sweepage belonged to the proprietors.

The parties to the contorversy to which allusion has been made, agreed to submit the question of ownership, for adjudication, to the ministers, Timothy Dalton and John Wheelwright, together with Edward Colcord.

This committee reported, March 31, 1649, that the common should belong to those persons who were inhabitants at some former period to which they alluded--probably the time of the vote already mentioned--their heirs and assigns forever, in an equal proportion; and that the house-lots at that time, which had continued such till the date of this report, should also be entitled to their just proportion of it. The report appears to have been favorably received, and the town immediately appointed and empowered William Eastow and John Sanborn to lay out all the salt marsh in this common, so that the owners might receive the benefit thereof, though the shares were not then severally assigned to individuals in fee. Indeed, the marsh was not at this time actually divided into shares, but only surveyed, still to be held in common by the owners, agreeably to the vote, by which it had been set apart as a common forever.

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