"Our Town" By James W. Tucker
Hampton Union, Thursday, December 4, 1958
The historic town of Hampton has always been the source of good stories, news and otherwise. The first published history of New England was written by a man named Johnson who titled his works, "Wonder Working Providence." He had this to say about our town:
The Earliest History
"Much about this time (1638) began the town of Hampton, in the county of Norfolk, to have the foundation stone laid, situate near the sea coast not far from the famous River of Merrimack, the great store of salt marsh did entice the people to set down their habitation there, for as yet Cowes and Cattell of their kind were not come to the great downfall in their price, of which they have 450 head; and for the form of the Town is like a Flower de luce (fleur-de-lis?), two streets of houses wheling off from the main body there of;"
Source of Stories
Way back there, in what may have been the first story written about our town, the salt marshes were featured, just as they are today in current news stories about our great marsh reclamation project. We hear little in Hampton now, however, about the price of cows and other cattle. Yet, as we stated at the outset, our town for three centuries has been the source of good stories, most of them replete with human interest. John Greenleaf Whittier, the famous Quaker poet, found material in Hampton upon which he based many of his best loved poems.
Methodist Church Story
Right now a most interesting and vital story is being enacted in our midst, a story which eventually will be reduced to a few paragraphs in the church section of the next History of Hampton. It has to do with what might possibly be termed the rejuvenation and revitalization of the of the Methodist Church, which was first established here 123 years ago in 1835. We are aware also that history is being currently made in connection with the reestablishment of the Episcopal Church in Hampton.
Replete With Human Interest
The story of the modernization and enlargement of the local Methodist Church contains all the facets of that journalistic jewel which newspapermen often refer to as "human interest" -- faith, leadership, courage, personalities, imagination and sacrifice. But all really good stories have an interesting background. So, before relating the current happenings, we want to delve into the beginnings of this little church on Lafayette Road, just north of our Village Square, which is now being extensively remodeled -- much of the work being accomplished on a volunteer basis.
Local Start of Methodism
In 1835, the Rev. James M. Fuller, a Methodist preacher, was stationed at Lamprey River in Newmarket. Sometime in December of that year he came to Hampton on a Saturday evening and preached in the North schoolhouse. The next day, Sunday, he took over the pulpit in the old Christian meeting-house which was unoccupied at the time. In this way, Methodism was first introduced in our town. If the North schoolhouse and the so-called Main Road schoolhouse are one and the same, the local birthplace of the denomination is now located on Park Avenue across the street from Memorial Green ("Founders' Park"). This would provide one more good reason for the complete restoration of this ancient one-room school building.
First Church Society
Two weeks after the Rev. Fuller, came Rev. James H. Patterson, then stationed at Newfield, Newmarket. There was no further Methodist preaching in Hampton until July of the next year, when Rev. Fuller again visited our town to tell the people about "the way of life and salvation." From July until November of 1836, "local preachers" appeared here regularly once every two weeks and in November, the friends of Methodism held what was called a "protracted meeting," at which time twenty Hampton folks professed conversion. These converts were gathered into a "class" which may be considered as the institution of the first Methodist Church in Hampton.
The First Church
During these latter days, the new Methodist Society had been holding services in the old meeting house which formerly had been occupied by the Christian Society, but which was now owned by Messrs. Fogg and Lamprey. In the spring of 1837 this meeting house was given to the Methodist Society for as long as the members should use it as a place of worship. Following renovation, it was rededicated to the worship of God on May 22. The Rev. Fuller found an appropriate text for his sermon in Psalms 93, 5: "Holiness becometh thine House, O Lord, forever." Methodists of our town had their first home.
At the session of the New Hampshire Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held at Great Falls, July 4, 1837, Hampton was joined to the Seabrook Station and had its first ministerial supply, as it was called in those days. Rev. E. D. Trickey and Rev. John Brodhead were both stationed on the circuit, but the latter's activities from the day of the Conference until he died at his home in South Newmarket, on April 7, 1838, were confined almost entirely to Hampton. Consequently, he might well be considered as the first minister of the local Methodist church.
28 Pastors in 42 Years
In 1838 Hampton was connected with Greenland. This circuit was served by the Reverends Trickey and Padman, with the latter giving most of his time to Hampton. The next year, 1839, Hampton was added to Rye, and the Rev. S. A. Cushing appointed to serve the churches. The presiding elder appointed Rev. A. M. Osgood to assist, and the two ministers labored alternately from week to week in each place. This continued into January 1840 when Rev. Cushing was released from the circuit and Rev. Osgood directed to finish the year at Hampton. In 1840, Hampton became an "independent station," so called, and in the next 42 years was served by 28 different pastors, but the church continued slowly to grow and to flourish.
During the pastorate of Rev. C. H. Chase in 1846, the society secured a parsonage for its preachers by buying a house, standing in the right-of-way of the Eastern Railroad, which was then being constructed, and moving the house to a location on the Portsmouth Road, now the Lafayette Highway.
A $1,200 Church
In 1848 when Rev. Henry Nutter was laboring in the local Methodist parish, a building lot was purchased at the corner of Ann's Lane and the Portsmouth Road (Lafayette Road). Here, a small church was erected and dedicated in November of the same year. The Rev. Benjamin R. Hoyt preached the dedicatory sermon, taking as his text, the 16th verse of the 13th chapter of Hebrews: "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifice God is pleased." This church, which cost about $1,200, was used without material change or alteration until the fall of 1881.
Moved Nearer Town
Then, in order better to serve the needs of the society, the church was moved to its present location nearer the thickly settled part of the village and thoroughly renovated and repaired at a cost of $3,100. The Rev. Bradford K. Pierce of Boston preached the sermon of rededication from Luke 2,7: "Because there was no room for them in the inn."
This background, which takes us only to the latter part of the 19th century, proves conclusively the humble beginnings of our Methodist Church and the fact that it had really to struggle for its existence. It proves the courage and tenacity of the founders whose faith in God and in the teachings of John Wesley never wavered, even through what must have been the lean and testing years of the Civil Way. It is certain that the present generation of local Methodists have a religious birthright which should be of great help to them in carrying out the extensive enlargement and modernization project upon which they have made an auspicious start and which we will attempt to outline next week.