Old Hampton Tales of Sea and Shore: How Two Feuds Were Ended
By Thomas Leavitt
The Exeter News-Letter
December 9, 1898
How Two Feuds Were Ended
Mr. David Nudd, of Hampton, as I remember him in the forties (1840s), was a somewhat thick set elderly man of robust appearance. He was by far the wealthiest man in the town, and a large owner of real estate scattered in various parts of it. As I look back to that time I am sure he was a man of energy, enterprise, and business ability.
He was never seen afoot except in his door yard. His possessions called him to all parts of the town, and he always drove in an open wagon, seated at the extreme right with his left arm extended, the hand resting on the top of the back of the seat and with face square to the front, and at a gait of about five miles an hour. So that anyone who knew him could recognize him as far as he could see him.
He had a way of asking the advice of all sorts of men as to his affairs, hence he might be seen at any time, in any place, talking with any man. As most of the men of whom he asked advice were no more competent to advise him as to his affairs than they were to run a modern steam engine, I have thought he cared nothing for their counsel, but did it to flatter them, and thus make them more confidential and communicative -- and I have no doubt that many men, who had not the ability to increase their inherited patrimony one dollar's worth, confidently believed, to their dying day, that they had contributed materially to Mr. Nudd's fortune by their sage advice.
There were two men, however, with whom he was never seen talking up to the date of which I am writing. They were his own nephew, Jerry Nudd, commonly called "Jed," and my father. I don't know the cause of this, nor is it of any consequence, and I only mention it because of its connection with what follows.
I remember it perfectly, as if it were but yesterday. The soft June day, with the wind blowing from the cape just enough to temper the heat, and to make the sea a little choppy, when about the middle of the afternoon, Mr. Nudd was seen driving up the road that leads by Capt. Cutler's Sea View house, at what for him was breakneck speed. In fact his horse was on the gallop. And when he reached the corner by Leavitt's, instead of going on up the road, he drove straight up to the south side of the Winnicumet house as near as he could to where my father happened to be standing on the piazza alone. With his right arm stretched out towards the sea, and in otherwise excited manner, he said something. My father was evidently startled at what he heard, and immediately ran to the back yard fence, and in a startling tone called on three men by name to come out. Then he ran into the office and returned with a spy glass. He told the men that somebody was overboard, and to get the wherry into the water as quickly as possible, and that when he could find out where the man was, he would tell them where to row, at the same time sweeping the sea with the glass.
Almost more quickly than I can tell it, the men were in, and the wherry flying over the water for the outer end of the Sunken Rocks. If anyone of my readers has witnessed one of these strifes of the sympathy, hope and courage of man with the relentless ocean for the life of a human being, he can understand the feelings of these two men, my father and Mr. Nudd, as together they watched and discussed the chances of the struggle.
It did not take the men in the wherry long to make the distance of the miles and a half or two miles, and soon they appeared to be taking something aboard, and then one seemed to be hauling a fish. That was a puzzle. Soon the wherry was coming back, and, if anything, more swiftly than she went out.
As the boat drew near only the men who went out in her could be seen. The whole thing was explained, however, when they arrived, by the fact that the two rescued men were insensible in the bottom of the boat, and that the fish line was tangled about the leg of one of the them with a haddock on its hook.
The half drowned men proved to be George Marston, my mother's nephew, to whom our family was strongly attached, and Jed Nudd. It was George's leg around which the fish line was tangled. They were quickly got into bed in blankets. Hot drink was poured into them and they revived, and then went off to sleep. In an hour or so they awoke apparently as well as ever. Then Jed took it upon himself to "spin the yarn," as he called it.
George came down to his place and coaxed him to go fishing. The day was right, the tide served, and he knew where to go to catch "lots" of haddock. He always talked him round to his way when he tried, -- and he did then. They took their lines and trusted to luck to get a boat and bait.
They arrived at "Leavitt's Landing" between one and two o'clock, and found, as George said they would, a boat and bait. They took a small dory in which they found a hillock and rope to anchor with. The hillock was a very large, heavy one made to be used in a much larger boat than the dory, but they didn't mind that, as they would have to haul it up but once. All the time they were making their preparations they saw no person.
Jed rowed under George's directions, until they were almost to the outer end of the "Sunken Rocks" and nearly off the mouth of Hampton river. George had "unreeled" his line and baited his hook, and when he told Jed to stop rowing and "throw" the hillock, he at the same time threw over his line. Jed went forward and threw the hillock and as "quick as a flash they were over." When they rose to the surface they were some little distance from the boat, and Jed, knowing that George could not swim, helped him to the boat.
And now a new trouble appeared. Every little while the boat would roll over and break their hold on it, and then they would go under water and have to struggle up to it again. As he had to help George, it began to tell on Jed after a while. "At last George got it through his noodle what the trouble was." The hillock rope was not long enough to reach the bottom. George took out his jack knife, opened it, and worked his way to the bow of the boat, reached down, sinking himself entirely beneath the surface, got hold of the rope and cut it. Then the bow rose and brought him up. "And that crittur shut his knife and put it back in his pocket."
At last, when as he thought they had been in the water an hour and a half or two hours, he felt benumbed and exhausted. He recalled the fact that they saw no one when they went out, and thought no one had seen them. They were out of the thoughts of men. This was terrible -- and he lost heart and hope and thought he might as well let go and end his sufferings. The sea had them and it was a question of time when they would sink down into it. He did let go and sank face upward some ten feet, when he saw George's legs "kicking" in the water, and the thought went through his "head" that he would try once more. He arose and had got hold of the boat when he heard voices, and immediately he began to lose his senses. He had a dim consciousness of some large object end of being pulled and jerked, and that was the last he knew until he awoke there in bed.
When he had finished he suddenly looked up to my mother who was standing by the bed and said: "Mrs. Leavitt, how did they know we were out there?" She told him his Uncle David had heard their cries while coming up from the "Willows," and ran his horse up and gave the alarm.
Upon hearing that, he turned upon his side, his face away, and lay ten minutes perfectly still. Then he looked up and said: "Mrs. Leavitt, I shall have to speak now to old Uncle Dave, shan't I? I must, musn't I, to be decent? Well, I will." And ever after Jed was as good as his word.
This incident swept away whatever enmity there existed between my father and Mr. Nudd, and although they moved in different paths, they never afterwards refused to speak whenever they met.