Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Elisha Johnson's Store

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Elisha Johnson's Store

John J. Leavitt--Samuel Poor--John Willcutt, Jr.--Nutter & Brown--Successors

Elisha Johnson, born in 1786, began, when a young man, to keep a grocery and variety store, at his home on Johnson's hill, towards the Landing.

The whole front of the house was fitted up in two rooms: the larger, for groceries; the smaller, for dry goods and notions. There was at this time no other store in town, so that all the trade centered here, and much from adjoining towns, many coming from Seabrook, by boat, to the Landing. At first, goods were transported from Boston in whale-boats; but as trade increased, a larger vessel was needed, and Mr. Johnson, in company with his brother John, procured the schooner, Clarissa, and later, in his sole right, the Angola, for the purpose. About the yer 1840 he took into his employ, as clerk, his grand-nephew, John J. Leavitt, then nine years of age. Perhaps it was from this connection that he came to be called "Uncle 'Lisha," throughout the community. Honest and generous towards all, he was emphatically the children's friend; and rarely did the child customer leave the store without some small gift. No lock, nor even latch ever cumbered the door, the only fastening being an oaken bar laid across it. Customers knocked for admittance. The clerk's bed in the small room served for a counter, on which to measure off cloth. Boys are not apt to be fond of early rising; and it did sometimes happen, that the counter was needed before the young clerk was up, and the customer had to wait. A new store was built, at the foot of the hill, in 1851.

Though Mr. Johnson made small profits, he drew much custom and acquired a competency. At his death, in 1856, Mr. Leavitt succeeded to the business, by inheritance. He became town clerk at twenty-one years of age, and was prominent, always, in political affairs.

In 1870 the old house, on the original Dow homestead, which Capt. John Johnson had owned for some years, was taken down, and the store moved to its site, where it stands to-day.

After Mr. Leavitt's death in 1881, Mr. Samuel Poor, of Manchester, purchased the stock, which he enlarged, and carried on a thriving trade, especially in grain, for five years, when he sold to John Willcutt, Jr., and retired from business. Mr. Willcutt removed from town in 1890. The store was then kept for a short time by Austin F. Brown (of Hampton) and a partner, under the firm name of Nutter & Brown. It is not now occupied.

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