Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: NORFOLK COUNTY AND COURTS

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In 1643, a new county was formed, called the county of Norfolk, comprehending all the towns between the rivers Merrimac and Pis-cataqua. These towns were then six in number, viz.: Salisbury, Haverhill, Hampton, Strawberry Bank, Dover and Exeter. Strawberry Bank and Dover, often called the Piscataqua settlements, were in many respects separate from, and independent of, this new count. They still continued to have to some extent, as before, a jurisdiction of their own and courts for the trial of their own causes, when not exceeding £20 in value. From these courts there was a right of appeal at first to the board of Assistants at Boston; but, at a later period, to the county courts of Norfolk.

The county courts were holden alternately at Salisbury and Hampton, and these two towns might, with property, be called half-shire towns, as there does not appear to have been any legislative act designating either of them as the shire town, in distinction from the other, till more than six years after the formation of the county, when Salisbury was declared to be the shire-town; but even after that time, the same arrangement was observed in holding the courts as before, and this continued till the county was broken up by four of the towns being severed from Massachusetts by royal authority, when the remaining towns were annexed to the county of Essex.

In each town in the county, an inferior court was held, competent to try all causes of twenty shillings value, or under. This was a court of record, and its clerk was styled Clerk of the Writs. This court appears not to have been different from the board of commissioners, previously existing in Hampton, and first appointed when the town was incorporated. Indeed, so nearly identical were the two, that there was no necessity for a reorganization of the existing board, or a reappointment of its members. Only a single change was made, William Easton being appointed in place of John Cross, who had been in office two years.

The court or board of commissioners, in 1643, after the appointment just mentioned, consisted of William Howard, James Davis and William Eastow. Whether a clerk of the writs was then appointed, or whether the duties of clerk were performed by one of the commis-sioners, as was the case at Exeter in 1645, is not known. Such a court or board was continued here till the separation of the New Hampshire towns from Massachusetts. The members usually styled "Commissioners for small causes," were sometimes appointed by the General Court, and sometimes chosen by the town.

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