Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: The Parsonage Lawsuit

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The Parsonage Lawsuit

Troubles between this town and North Hampton, on account of parsonage property, had been rankling a long time. Several years after the removal of Madam Gookin to East Kingston, the house and barn built for her use were sold[p. 202.] and, since North Hampton had always continued to pay its proportion of her pension, the old town voted that North Hampton have its proportion of the money received from the sale. This was satisfactory; but there were various pieces of parsonage land lying, some in one town and some in the other, the whole income from which, the old town appropriated, while the new town claimed its proportionate share for the use of the church at North Hill. Both parties being tenacious of what they considered their rights, an action of ejectment was brought in the name of Rev. Nathaniel Gookin, of North Hampton, against Joseph Taylor Weare, Benjamin Mason, Benjamin Batchelder and Samuel Blake of Hampton; and Thomas Haines, Jr., Josiah Marston, Morris Lamprey, Sr., and Benjamin Lamprey, Jr., of North Hampton Parish; all of whom were in possession of land called Parsonage land, belonging to Hampton, one half of which, the said Gookin demanded of the above-named persons as his property, etc., -- said action to be tried the first Thursday following the first Tuesday in December, 1757.

The above-named men leased the several parcels of land in question, and Mr. Gookin claimed one-half the rents "during the term of his ministry." This town chose Mr. John Sanborn and Dr. Anthony Emery, agents, with full power to "answer, prosecute and defend." The next year, owing to existing litigation with Dr. Emery in the small-pox case,[p. 209.] his power as agent was revoked, and Col. Jonathan Moulton chosen in his room, Mr. John Smith to serve with him.

As with many another lawsuit, this dragged through the courts for many years, but North Hampton eventually gained the suit. March 19, 1765, Christopher Toppan, Esq., and Jeremiah Towle were chosen a committee, to examine Colonel Moulton's accounts, as agent for the town against North Hampton. At an adjourned meeting, April 9, that duty was transferred to the selectmen.

Again, December 1, 1766, it was voted, that the agents be empowered to complete the appeal from judgment of the Governor and Council for parsonage lands, given North Hampton, to the King and Council at Great Britain. The appeal, however, was not made, a better solution of the difficulties having been devised.

Jonathan Moulton, Anthony Emery, and Thomas Nudd, Esquires; Jeremiah Marston, Gent.; Josiah Moulton, Gent.; John Lamprey and Jeremiah Towle, yeomen -- all of Hampton : -- and John Leavitt, Esq.; Abraham Drake, Gent. ; Caleb Marston, Jonathan Page, Reuben Dearborn, Joseph Hobbs, yeomen, and Levi Dearborn, physician, -— all of North Hampton -- were chosen a Committee "to hear & consider the proposals made relative to a settlement concerning the Parsonage Lands belonging to said Hampton & North Hampton." On the 20th of January, 1767, they met and agreed to report to their constituents respectively the following terms of settlement: That the parish of North Hampton should bear their own charges in all past lawsuits concerning said parsonage, and also as to a further division of said parsonage -- but should not be required to reimburse to Hampton, any charges that they had already recovered by execution, and that they should have, including what they had already recovered by law -- "One sixth part of the Parsonage belonging to said Hampton & North Hampton, wherever of right it may be found," on condition that North Hampton should relinquish and quitclaim to Hampton all other demands whatsoever relative to said Parsonage. It was agreed that in the division both quantity and quality should be considered, and that the part set off to North Hampton should be in said Parish or as near as may conveniently be.

On the 26th of February, 1767, the same committees in behalf of the two towns (or parishes), passed deeds -- the members from Hampton quitclaiming to North Hampton all "right, title, interest, claim and demand" that Hampton has "in and to two Tracts or Parcels of Land (called the Parsonage) Situate in Said Northampton, being three North Divisions Shares (So called) Containing Ninety Acres more or less, being the whole of the three North Division Shares layd out as parsonage in Northampton aforesd And also one other Share of Land called Rockey Nook, being likewise Parsonage Land in Northampton aforesaid, containing twenty acres more or less," -- and paying forty pounds Lawful money: -- and those belonging to North Hampton quitclaiming to Hampton "All the Right, Title, Interest, Claim & Demand" that North Hampton has "in & to all the Parsonage Land (so called) that now doth. or ever did belong to the Township of Hampton, as Land for the use of the ministry, however laid out or bounded," except the portion above mentioned as quitclaimed to North Hampton by the Committee of Hampton.

These instruments were executed in presence of Richard Jenness 3d and John Pickering as witnesses, and acknowledged before Richd Jenness, J. P., February 26, 1767.

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