Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Last Words

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Last Words

The year 1888 dawns auspiciously upon the now ancient town. In the different departments of this work, we have traced the course of events through two hundred fifty years. The church, the first institution planted here, has sent off branches or large accessions to Kingston, Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Rye, and colonized in the Baptist and Methodist churches, within our present limits. The common school has been maintained without interruption; and the Academy, now, however, united with the free high-school, is hastening on toward a century's growth. Seed-time and harvest have never failed on these farmers, for which ground began to be broken in 1638; while farming implements, undreamed of by our ancestors, lessen the labor and increase the profits. The spinning-wheel and the loom have been relegated to the great factories in the cities and villages that dot the once wilderness land; communication with which, by easy carriage drive or railroad train, by telegraph and telephone, contrasts with the old-time bridle and cart paths, the slow-going stage-coach and the uncertain watercourse. Low postal rates and quick transmission and a multiplicity of books and newspapers have added many fold to our knowledge of the outside world. Some of the old mill privileges are still utilized, with improved machinery, and the use of steam makes it feasible to set up a mill anywhere. Goods in great variety may be purchased within our borders and delivered free, at our doors. Conveniences unknown to the ancient dame are in every house. Only upon the seas have our industries declined. But domestic trade has but changed her course for the iron rail, where speed is greater and danger less; and foreign commerce is more cheaply effected at second-hand. Sin and sorrow, indeed, cast their withering blight here, as elsewhere; but while moral agencies strive to purify, the philanthropy, to alleviate, these cannot overshade the pleasing scene. Batchelder and Sanborn, Moulton and Palmer, among the original grantees and settlers, and Blake, Brown, Dearborn, Dow, Drake, Elkins, Godfrey, Hobbs, Johnson, Lamprey, Leavitt, Marston, Nudd, Page, Perkins, Philbrick, Redman, Shaw and Taylor, within the first twelve years, are still leading names within our narrowed limits; as are Fogg, Garland, Jenness, Knowles, Lane, Locke, James, Mason, Towle and Weare, that appeared before the eighteenth century. Other names that have grown familiar in perusing these pages are familiar to-day, just over our borders, north, west, and south, on our original territory. While by far the greater number of these citizens have been farmers, artisans and seamen, yet, as they pass in review, we find a goodly number in wider spheres of influence -- legislators and judges, physicians, teachers, clergymen, lawyers, inventors, soldiers of renown. What could be more fitting, this anniversary year, than for the mother town to appoint a great thanksgiving day and invite her children home to the old hearth-stone.

Anticipating by two months the real anniversary day, the celebration took place on the 15th of August, when the town became gay with flags and streamers, and alive with thousands of people. Charles M. Lamprey, Esq. was president of the day. Hon. John J. Bell, of Exeter, delivered an eloquent address, from a stand, shaded by the old Toppan elms. An industrial procession, with bands of music from Newburyport, Hampton Falls and Rye, and various Lodges and Orders, civic and military; a dinner, followed by stirring speeches from eminent men; a tent meeting in the evening; and a display of fireworks, completed the chief features of the occasion.

Dr. Claudius B. Webster, youngest and only surviving son of the good "Parson Webster," whose pastorate is set forth in these pages, read, as his contribution to the after-dinner speeches, a poem, of which the following are the opening lines;

"We're looking round, good friends, to-day,
To see and guess, as Yankees may,
If here, among this goodly show
Of happy faces all aglow,
There's one, of seventy years ago;--
One, who looked out with eager eyes
With ours on the same sea and skies.
It is hard guessing -- for you know
There are no photographs, to show
The friends of seventy years ago.
And if there were -- alas, the change!
The wondrous transformation strange!
From these gray locks, that thinly flow
O'er bowing heads, how can we know
The child of seventy years ago?"
Dr. Claudius B. Webster

Then follow lighter strains, in a more tripping measure; and the poem closes thus:

"And somehow, the hands that were joining then,
Reach out with a longing to join again.
Oh, few are the hands we can reach to-day
We held in the years that are far away!
Perhaps (could we see them) their hearts are here,
More true than we think, more real, more near;
Though dwellers long since on a foreign shore.
They lose not their love for the friends of yore.
Then this be our toast -- we will speak it low --
To th' friends that we loved in the long ago;
We drink it in silence, as here we bow,
The friends who loved then --
  the friends who love now."

The old church, older than the town, had her celebration too. Never were skies more fair than on that Sabbath day, the 19th of August, 1888, when the commemorative services were held. [p. 460.]

But little more remains to be said. The anniversaries left Hampton courageous to enter upon her sixth half century. Men and Women returned to their daily duties, grateful for a brave ancestry, and with high resolves to hand down their goodly heritage, untarnished, to future generations.

By the census of 1890, there are found to be thirteen hundred thirty inhabitants in the town. Time bears them along, much as in former days, through the summer of 1892. On them, fair Plenty showers her favors. High over all, Heaven breathes the BENEDICTUM.

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