The Farmers

By John D. Fogg

'Recollections Of A Salt Marsh Farmer'

Edited by Eric N. Small -- 1983

Section 6

There's a lot of good mowing out there between the Brown's River and Hunt's Creek in Seabrook -- around 100 acres. I'll mention a few out along Hunt's South Creek, those and other marshes I have mowed in years past.

Landowner Residence of Owner Acres
David Chase Seabrook 2
Ira M. Chase Hampton Falls 3
Percy S. Weare Hampton Falls 3
Daniel Evans East Kingston 5
Moses Evans Kensington 4
John Evans Kensington 4
George Weare Kensington 7
David Chase Seabrook
Samuel Perkins Seabrook 3
Joshua Neal Janvrin Seabrook 7

There were ten others north and west of Hunt's Island having close to 60 acres over and around our three acres.

This next is back on the Hampton Falls marsh. Some of the folks that would be there were George F. Merrill. He always had a newspaper to read. John W. York's folks, Ben Elkins, Warren Lamprey and helpers, the George M. Gove crowd, and the Sanborns would be working in the vicinity of Healey's Island. There was A. W. Nason -- we called him the "Charcoal Man" because he made charcoal on the side. He was from Kingston and owned four acres on the Hampton Falls marsh, not far from the island bordering the bank of the Brown's River directly across from the Seabrook Rocks Dock.

Arthur and Horace Evans would cut on Charles N. Dodge's marsh which was a little southeast of the island. They used Horace's horse, "Old Bill," and he was a good horse on the marsh. They made some kind of rig to drag the hay to the stack. I could see them but they were so far away that I could not tell what kind of rig it was, only that they got hay to stack without poling. They also cut from other pieces of marsh where they could get any.

You can see how the marsh was laid out in small lots. I'll mention a few. John W. York with 25 acres in 5 separate lots of 7, 9½, 3, 3, and 2½ acres; Robert McQuillan and David Chase mowed with the Yorks. The Yorks did some of their own mowing too. Stephen Brown with 11 acres in lots of 3, 4, and 4 acres. These lots seemed to join or were very close, by the deeds. Ralph B. Fish with 14¼ acres in lots of 2½, 5, 1¾, and 5 acres. He had a 2½ acre piece joining ours on the west, with a five-acre on the north of ours. We had the one-acre piece laying east and west, a narrow long piece and was ditched and bedded crossways to drain into a run-off ditch from Fish's and ours (then Poor's) to the Brown River. Ralph had a five-acre piece over near the Ox Bow Creek.

That acre piece of ours was slow to mow being short work. The ditches were too old and had rotten banks to mow it the long way. Brownie did well watching for the holes, etc. This is about the time we bought "Jack." He was a nice worker, weighing about 1,200 lbs. -- a black roan. We were getting more mowing for the others all the time so needed Jack to help Brownie.

There was a lot of cutting around the island. Mike's Island is northwest of Healey's just a short distance. The marsh from Mike's Island goes north of Hugh Brown's place near the railroad and Hampton Falls Depot Dock, the Hampton Falls River, and the Hampton River north. Northeast from those islands was a large area of marsh where Grandpa John Batchelder told about so many camps. I didn't know so much about that part of the marsh but I did mow 2½ acres for Augustus Fogg out near the Hampton River north and a 2½ acre piece for Charles Robie out northeast.

Harry Philbrick and his father Frank put up 20 stacks in one summer in two seasons. Paul Batchelder did the mowing. They used to tell you if you weren't sure of your bounds, you had better find out, for if you should cut over the line and had taken the hay away before the abutter found out, you would be liable for damages. If you could not agree on a settlement, they would call in a third party, a man that showed no partiality. One such man was Joseph B. Cram of Hampton Falls. He was a very fair and honest farmer and they took his word, no matter what. They thought so much of that salt marsh hay, they would fight for the last spear. This happened in my time when Porter Brown cut about 12 feet over on the John W. Locke marsh. It was Charles Bragg having Locke's hay. Porter hadn't raked it, so Bragg raked and took the hay!

This next is now getting around 1910 and 1916, when so many farmers had given up mowing with their own horses and I'll mention again the people that took over the mowing.

Paul E. Batchelder, I heard him say he mowed 12 acres in a long day, using a two-horse, six-foot cutter bar. Warren H. Batchelder used a two-horse matching, a Walter Wood mower using the Dodge bog shoes. Those were the only two horse machines used on the Hampton Falls marsh. John Cannon and Robert McQuillan -- they mowed with one-horse machines.

The following is the 1914 and 1916 valuation of the livestock in the town of Hampton Falls. A lot of folks do remember those days in this town, but for the younger generations, it shows why the farmers could use so much salt marsh hay.

  1914 1916
Horses 143 169
Cows 420 381
Sheep 54 42
Oxen 8 6
Neat Stock 68 50
Fowls 640 3,274

I shouldn't forget Hugh Brown. His place was almost on the marsh at the end of Brimmer's Lane, just over the railroad bridge. By this time Brimmer's Lane, the railroad and the bridge were there. Hugh got a lot of his living off the marsh. He mowed a great deal in August and September and some in October. He bogged off a lot that wasn't too far out and he would cut where he could find some uncut, take it around and sell it to folks who didn't do any marsh cutting. They would use the marsh grass to bank their homes when burning wood and would let the fires out at night to save fuel. The cellars would get cold so the banking helped to keep the cellars from freezing.

In the spring the salt hay was used to mulch the gardens. Hugh's little place was almost self-supporting. He had a cow, horse, pigs, and a good garden where folks would come to buy vegetables from him.