Step Back Into History at the Tuck Museum

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By Betty Gagne

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, June 15, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene]

You've got to have a sharp eye to find the Tuck Museum on Park Avenue in Hampton. From the outside, it simply looks like someone's house - a private residence that sits just off the road. The sign is tiny - it's connected to the bottom of a larger sign, which says "Tuck Field." You might drive right by the museum once or twice before you realize where it is.

So, now that you've found the place, you're going to go in, right? What? You say historical society people are stuffy? Is that really what you think? What's that? You say all they do is drink tea, nod their heads, and discuss things that you have no interest in?

Come on! Admit it - you've avoided the place because deep down inside, you know that you're going to end up getting so enthralled with what you see that you'll still be there four hours later, listening to fascinating stories about the town.

Historical preservation -- it's something everyone should be involved in, and it's a long, time-consuming process. Thankfully, those who've taken the initiative to keep things alive have paved the way for the rest; as Elizabeth Aykroyd, Museum Curator says, "We build on what the people left us before." Well-kept town records make it possible for she and the others to continue preserving and enhancing Hampton's history.

On this day, Elizabeth is perusing a bound volume of copies of the Hampton Union newspaper, dated from 1936-1961. You can tell this woman is comfortable reading the aged articles. She's not reading for leisure, however - "I'm trying to find out who painted those pilgrim people," she says, pointing to the fireplace mantel, where two wooden pilgrims in full dress sit. The book she's looking through is at least 4 inches thick, and would probably take a lifetime to read. She primly turns the pages patiently, hoping to find the answer she's looking for.

"Yes, Elizabeth is quite the historian," says Betty Moore, Director of the Tuck Museum.

Betty Moore is a native of Minnesota, but finds the history of Hampton "fascinating. In my hometown, we had structures that were called 'century' buildings," she says. "That meant they were 100 years old, and everyone in town was real proud of that." Her eyes widen. "When I moved to Hampton," she says, "and saw that the town was settled in the 1600's, I just couldn't believe the history!" Betty proudly holds up the 2005 "Faith in the Future" Award, which was presented to the Tuck Museum by the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce this year. The plaque reads, "For significantly upgrading the museum's buildings and grounds to better preserve Hampton's heritage."

When you visit the museum, you might be greeted by Sammi Moe, the Director of the Historical Society. (The society owns and operates the museum). Ask her about a woman named Goody Cole who lived in Hampton long ago. What? You've never heard of Goody Cole?! Go on any search engine, type in Goody Cole, and see what comes up. Better yet, go to the museum and let Sammi Moe tell you all about her.

"Yes, rumors and folklore still continue to circulate about poor Goody," says Sammi. "People have claimed to see her ghost, too." Sammi says that repeated stories about Goody have been passed down from generation to generation and that some of the lore is kind of amusing.

Eunice "Goody" Cole (15? - 1680) was convicted of Witchcraft in 1656 in the town of Hampton. Stories about her include farmers accusing her of poisoning their cows who died after drinking from her well, and other hard-to-believe tales of strange happenings that involve this old woman who truly was unfairly treated by her neighbors. After spending time in a Boston jail at an elderly age, she was released and returned to Hampton. What's amazing about her is that no one really knows where she's buried!

In 1938, a ceremony was held in Hampton to pardon Goody Cole and to reinstate her status as a citizen of the town. During this celebration, her court papers were burned and the ashes sealed in a canister, which is on display in the museum. "When kids come in to tour the museum, they all have their own stories about Goody," Sammi says. Smiling, she points to the canister and says, "Some of them think Goody Cole's ashes are in there."

Also on display is a replica of a Goody Cole Doll; the dolls were made by Miss Ruth Moir and sold at the 1938 ceremony.

There is a triangle of land at the junction of Park Avenue, Winnicunnet Road and what was once called Lafayette Highway, commonly known as "The Ring." This land is where Hampton was first settled. You know the place; it's lined with monuments inscribed with names. Because of the trees, it's dark even during the day. According to legend, a resident named Jack Hayden had spotted a "stooped, grayclad, wraith-like figure," darting from stone to stone in the triangular Memorial Green during early evenings of late. He reported that the figure was apparently that of an aged woman who peers intently at the inscriptions on the bronze plates which are set into the granite boulders. "You know darn well I don't believe in ghosts," Hayden said. "hut there's something strange and uncanny about the way this woman moves about. I see her at one end of the green examining stones, and take off my glasses to clean them quickly to get a better look. When I put them back on, presto, she's 250 away at the other end still examining inscriptions." He described her movements as "flitting. " (Taken from "The Witch of Hampton," a publication of the Memorial and Historical Association, Inc., Tuck Memorial Museum).

Sammi stands in front of the memorial stone, which is placed on the land in front of the museum. It is the third stone that stands in front of the big, white Lilac bush. The museum staff believes that Goody's hut once stood nearby the lot where the academy was located. "This is the Goody Cole stone," she says almost sadly. Cold and aloof, the stone contains no markings or plaque of any sort. It's just a rock. Shaking her head with an amused look on her face. Sammi says, "Some of the kids think she's buried under here." And so the legend of Goody Cole lives on.

The museum is run by a number of dedicated volunteers, and several of them were working on this day. Volunteer Nancy Coes was just leaving -- she does filing, and general record-keeping. "She keeps everything in running order," says Betty. Percy Annis, a Trustee, who Betty describes as "an independent worker," is very active in the museum. He's an all-around, person who does a little bit of everything. "He's a researcher," Betty says.

"When I came into the museum, I wanted to learn what was in the collection," Percy says. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard retiree enjoys finding the answers to questions.

"I like to get involved in what the others are doing," he says. He bounces around from project to project, and spends a lot of his spare time at the museum. "The list of things to do keeps getting longer and longer," he tells us. Percy grew up in Hampton, but claims, "Just because I grew up here, it doesn't mean I know everything about the town."

Vice President Linda Metcalf uses her proofreading skills to update the catalogue system that the museum is converting to. It's time-consuming, detailed work, but she enjoys it. "We work ourselves into a position," Linda says. "When Betty found out I was a former proofreader for a magazine, she put me right to work," she laughs.

"I like history," Linda says. "My Mom's house is in Salisbury, and down on the front part of the property, there was a plaque claiming that the barn was the oldest structure in Salisbury." She says the house is still there. "My Dad was a history lover," she adds. "If one grows up in a house where history is talked about, you just become interested in it."

The group works well together and tackles huge projects as a team. One of their most recent accomplishments is the completion of a book, which will be out in July. "It's a postcard book which is currently at the printers, and is titled 'History Through Postcards'," Elizabeth tells us. "It's a group effort." The entire staff worked together on the book, which promises to tell the story of Hampton's history through a collection of postcards.

Presently, the staff is in the process of re-erecting the Leavitt House Barn, which stood at the corner of Drakeside and Lafayette Roads for over 200 years. The barn was recently disassembled and moved to the grounds of the Tuck Museum. The plan is to re-build the in-town, post and beam carriage barn on the grounds of the museum, and use it to display farming occupation history and as a meeting place for educational programs. "It was a piece of Hampton's history that we didn't want to lose," says Betty. "We hope to have it up and with the roof on by the end of the year." The society is looking for help with this project. For more information, you can call them at 929-0781, or log on to their website at

"Rich Hureau is our web developer," Betty says. "He's paid such attention to detail -- we're very proud of the website." Sammi agrees. "Rich makes it look like the museum is huge," she laughs. "He certainly doesn't need any help from us." The website contains old maps and photographs, along with a wealth of other information.

If you still think a historical society is a bunch of white-haired people drinking tea and discussing tiring topics, think again. You'd be surprised what this dedicated crew can tell you about Hampton and it's vicinity. To look at Linda Metcalf, you'd never dream that she just happened to be at Hampton Beach during the riots of the `60's. She's grown into a quiet, conservative historian who's very involved with the museum today. But her colleagues know better. "Ask her about how she was on the last bus that left the beach that day," one of them says.

But that's another story.

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