Interesting and Beautiful Scenes Along Line Of Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway -- Chapter 12
By D. Fisher -- 1900
Whittier's To Amesbury
The road follows the old post road through Hampton Falls and Seabrook to the state line. After passing the old Toppan house, on the left, about an eighth of a mile, the large square house of forlorn look, standing close to the highway on the right, is the Moulton house. It was erected by Colonel (and, later, General) Jonathan Moulton about 1770.
General Moulton was contemporary with Weare and Langdon, and one of the largest landowners and wealthiest merchants in the colony. He never gained the affection and respect of the people. It is said that the news of his death was carried to the haymakers on "the marsh," and the cry, "General Moulton is dead!' was passed from mouth to mouth for miles in no regretful tones.
The general occupies much space in New Hampshire legends. In popular belief he was familiar with the devil, and from him gained all his great wealth. Drake's "New England Legends and Folklore" closes its account of Moulton's dealings with the devil as follows:
"When the general died and was buried, strange rumors began to circulate. To quiet them, the grave was opened; but when the lid was removed from the coffin, it was found to be empty."
The death of Moulton's first wife and his marriage with a young woman who had been his wife's companion, was another cause for great gossip. "In the middle of the night, the young bride awoke with a start. She felt an invisible hand trying to take off from her finger, the wedding ring that once belonged to the dead and buried Mrs. Moulton." The ring had disappeared, and the ghostly visitor is supposed to have carried it away.
On this incident is founded Whittier's poem of the "New Wife and the Old."
Beyond the Moulton house the road crosses the marshes bordering on Taylor's river. This was once a turnpike owned by a company, and was long the subject of much contention. The toll gate was on the right bank of the river, at the white house on the left. In about a half a mile from the old toll gate house, the village of Hampton Falls is reached. The town of that name was long a part of Hampton. It became Falls church parish in December 1711. After years of application to the colonial legislatures and much negotiation with Hampton about parish and other rates, it was about 1760 that it legally became a separate township.
The first object to attract attention is the pretty common with a striking monument on the right of the road. A tall granite shaft rises from a well-proportioned base. On either corner are old style 32-pounder ship cannonades, each with its pyramid of cannon balls. The story of the man to whose memory this shaft was erected by the state, is best told by the inscription it bears:
Born June 16, 1713,
Graduated at Harvard College, 1735.
Speaker of House of Representatives, 1752.
Commissioner to Congress at Albany, 1751.
President of New Hampshire, 1776-1781.
At the same time Counsellor from Rockingham,
Chairman of the Committee of Safety,
President of the Council and
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
In public service 45 years.
Died January 14, 1786."
Standing by the monument and looking westward, the modest, white, elm-shaded house just beyond the church was the home of Governor Weare. During the Revolutionary War, General Washington once rode from Cambridge to visit Governor Weare. He passed the night in this house.
Just beyond the common, on the left, may be seen a large, square, drab, colonial house. It is pointed out as a once famous tavern," where at one time 125 horses were cared for." The next house on the left, with "hipped roof" and three dormer windows on the side next the road, is also a once well-known tavern. Lately it has added the sad distinction of being the place where New England's poet, Whittier, died. The visitor may be told that the seed from which the great elm was grown was brought from England. Wherever the seed came from, the tree is an American not an English elm.
Just opposite the house where Whittier died is a brick house. It is on the site of the famous George tavern.
To all in this region the two hundred years of strife, but recently settled, between Massachusetts and New Hampshire over the boundary line between the two colonies is an old story. When it was at its height, it was arranged that the assemblies of the two colonies with the royal governor, Belcher, to direct them, should meet near the disputed line and settle the whole question. The meeting took place in the George tavern. Belknap says of this meeting:
"A cavalcade was formed from Boston to Salisbury, and the governor rode in state, attended by a troop of horse. He was met at Newbury Ferry (Aug. 10, 1737) by another troop, who, joined by three more at the supposed divisional line, conducted him to the George tavern at Hampton Falls, where he held a council and made a speech to the assembly of New Hampshire." Having made the speech, the governor rode away on a three days' junketing trip to the "falls of Amuskeag," and after much talk the meeting of the assemblies came to nothing. Those were brave days in Hampton Falls."
From Hampton Falls, the road runs south through the centre of the town of Seabrook, which was also once a part of Hampton. At Seabrook Centre, the store of J. W. Locke is a waiting room for the electric cars. Here is the greatest curiosity in the way of a country store in all this section. If you do not believe this statement, go in, look around all of the various rooms, note all the curious things, new and old, that can be seen, and then asks the genial proprietor for something you think he has not got. Ask for anything, from the little hatchet that cut the famous cherry tree to a millstone from the old windmill that once ground corn for the town about the time the Quakers were marched from Hampton to Salisbury.
About a mile and a half south is a pretty hamlet with a new church, known as Smithtown. Here the old post road turns to the left on its way to Newburyport, and here is the junction of the Hampton and Amesbury electric railway, with a branch electric railway from Newburyport. Just here is the recently established boundary line between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The whole country around is generally quite level. All along the road to this point can be seen fine old colonial houses with their adjacent farms, that are even now attracting the summer visitor.
Passing the state line, the road now enters what is known as Salisbury plains, so level is the land. At Hunt's Corner, highways run to Salisbury and Newburyport. Just beyond Hunt's Corner the road turns to the west and goes to Frost's Corners. Here is the Frost's Corners' "turnout," and here you enter the township of Amesbury. Then south for about half a mile and the road turns west in Clinton street for over half a mile more, passing the new railroad car barn, to Market street, and then south along Market street, passing the fair grounds, to Market square in the city of Amesbury.
Angle pond, lying partly in Sandown and partly in Hampstead, is the source of what is known as Pow-wow river. After a generally easterly course through the Kingston ponds, it passes through the township of Amesbury, into the Merrimack river. Around a point where this river falls seventy feet in about fifty rods, with a flow of 180,000,000 gallons daily, has grown up the enterprising city of Amesbury.