By D. Fisher
A Trolley Ride Through Historic Old Rockingham
Historic New Hampshire
Say New Hampshire to the average reader or tourist of to-day and it usually brings to mind the lake and mountain regions of the central and northern parts of the state. Draw a line from Haverhill to Dover; bound it on the south by the Merrimack from Haverhill to the sea, by the Piscataqua on the north from Dover to Newcastle, and by the ocean on the east; and there is, in proportion to area and population, no more interesting region in New England history, or song, or story, than this.
There were settlers in Dover and Portsmouth long before Winthrop and Dudley led the great Puritan emigration from England to make the Bay colony a success. Scarcely were the Puritans firmly settled in Boston than the same spirit which sent Roger Williams and the Hutchinsons to Rhode Island, banished at the same time Wheelwright to Exeter and Bachiler to Hampton. For the first fifty years Dover, Portsmouth, Exeter, and Hampton, then townships of far larger area than now, were virtually all there was of colonial New Hampshire. Here labored and wrought men like Weare, Bartlett, and Langdon. From this section went the ancestors of Webster. Here Lewis Cass was born. Here were the Hiltons, Marstons, Moultons, Gilmans, Smiths, Leavitts, Scammon, Odiornes, Folsoms, Wentworths, Dudleys, Wingates, and many more of families that have sent out men to make American history. Here was the birthplace, home, and final resting-place of America's Whittier. How he lived the land from the lower Merrimack to Hampton, and with what melody has he again and again described its places of interest and beauty! In this region Harriet Prescott Spofford wrote, and of it and of the nearby Isles of Shoals Celia Thaxter sang oftenest and best. From it have gone forth men whose bones rest in every battle-field from Lake George and Ticonderoga to Louisburg, and from Yorktown to the gates of Quebec, while the blood of its sons has stained the deck of every battleship where gun was fired or cutless was wielded in defense of American liberty.
With all this wealth of historic associations, with a seacoast line that has beaches unsurpassed in safety and attractiveness, and everywhere the most beautiful of rural farm scenery in all New England, with old colonial farm houses on every hand, it may be said that not one person visits it where ten would come if they but knew of its almost ideal interest and beauty, and its present accessibility.
Although two lines of railway passed through this section from south to north, scarce eight miles apart, and the eastern line but some two miles from the coast, comparatively few people realized how many attractions it possessed. Judge Thomas Leavitt has been writing some most interesting reminiscences of the Hampton coast line. In one paper he gave a graphic sketch of a noted local character. In speaking of this man Justice Lamprey of Hampton said: "Had David Nudd gone to Boston in his early days, he would surely have become one of that city's leading business men, and have attained to great wealth and distinction."
It has remained for Boston to repay this section for many men of that kind by sending to it one of her far-sighted and energetic men, who, seeing the possibilities of this charming region, has inaugurated and carried to successful completion a business enterprise that will make the whole of it, land and seaside, one of the best known and most popular summer resorts on the New England coast.
This has been done by the construction and opening to the public of what is known as the Exeter, Hampton, and Amesbury Street Railway.
In the pages that follow an attempt will be made to give a brief mention of the leading incidents of the early settlement of the towns through which this line passes, a notice of some of the places of historic interest, and a description of the sea beaches which it now makes easily and cheaply accessible to all people. Exeter has been selected as the initial point of description.