The Bridal elm

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Views and Reviews of Old Rockingham

By Rev. Roland D. Sawyer

Hampton Union, May 13, 1948

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Bridal Elm"Bride Hill" is a name given to the section of Hampton adjoining the Exeter line thru which runs a slightly elevated ridge. And that name has been used from a very early date, Dow, page 522, found it used in a record of October 12, 1669.

The section name was given to the school house that stood there as early as 1757, for the March meeting on March 16, 1757, speaks of "The Bride Hill School" and "The Drake-Side School."

The traditional origin of the name has ever been that a young couple seeking to be married in either Hampton or Exeter found the marrying authority absent in the other town, so they rode there, the groom on horse back and the bride back of him on the pillion.

They found the man they desired and he rode back with them across the line and married them beneath a stately tree by the roadside.

All sorts of conjectures have been made as to which minister it was, or whether at that time it was not the magistrate or a civil officer, who alone could marry.

The tradition is so old and the title "Bride Hill" is so unique, that the tradition is probably based on fact, but the marrying power was in so early a date [it was likely] some civil officer rather than a minister. For over 100 years the beautiful lyre-shaped elm that is shown in the photo was pointed out as the Bridal Elm beneath which the young couple were married.

But several things show that the fine tree was NOT the tree beneath which they stood. To begin with it stood quite a bit off the road by a stone wall, down in the field nearly opposite the present home of the Misses Helen and Frances Tredick. It is not probable that the dignified official who married the couple would take them down thru bushes and growth away from the road. And again before 1669 the tree was not then a large tree.

Furthermore the oral accounts of the matter of where the tree stood are clear and reliable.

Around 1850, Rev. Joseph Fullonton, traveling correspondent of the Exeter Newsletter, visited the tree to write it up and was told by one of the Sanborns, who then lived in the Tredick house, that the Elm was NOT the Bridal Tree, but that the real tree was a birch and stood on the road.

Now I have found a direct and reliable report from Joseph Blake Cram of Hampton Falls.

Mr. Cram tells that around 50 years ago he rode over to the Tredick place to buy some plank from Capt. Joe Sanborn who then lived there. And that Capt. Joe pointed out to him the spot, not far from the shop which still stands there but which was then the Sanborn blacksmith shop, where the original Bridal Tree stood, and he gave the source of his knowledge of the fact.

Capt. Joe was born May 5, 1817; his grandfather was born in 1742 and died 1831. Capt. Joe said when he was a boy he was digging at the spot designated when he dug out some peculiar black dirt; his grandfather sitting and watching told the boy that it was part of the old stump of the Bridal Tree which had been a YELLOW BIRCH.

Capt. Joe told Mr. Cram that when stages began to run between Hampton and Exeter, the drivers started pointing out the elm, then large as the Bridal tree, and the name stuck and the Bridal Birch was in the course of time forgotten.

The beautiful elm that appears in the photo was cut down nearly 30 years ago.

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