Stories of New Hampshire

By Eva A. Speare,

New Hampshire Publishing Company
In Collaboration With the
New Hampshire Federation of Women's Clubs

(Second Printing, soft bound edition: 1977)

Eva A. Speare, 1875 - 1972

Eva Speare's Stories of New Hampshire

[Three Excerpts]

Eva Speare lived most of her life in Plymouth where her husband was superintendent of schools. She was a teacher, civic leader, and author, and for nearly seventy years was associated with the New Hampshire Federation of Women's clubs. Mrs. Speare wrote ten books about her adopted state. By far the richest part of her written legacy is this book, the Stories of New Hampshire based on a series of newspaper columns she began when she was ninety-four and which ran weekly until her death in 1972.

Eva Speare was part of the history she retold so delightfully. When she wrote about the hardships of colonial days, she might have been thinking of her ancestors in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. When the subject was Fort Number Four, she wrote with the authority of one who played a major part in restoring that monument of the French and Indian Wars. When she recalled "the good old horse and buggy days," she was remembering her own childhood.

Here, for the first time, all of this remarkable person's columns have been gathered in permanent form so that they may find an even wider readership. The result is a history of New Hampshire that is more than history. It is a tribute to the Granite State by one of its most enduring citizens.


The New Hampshire Federation of Women's Clubs, as its contribution to the State of New Hampshire's celebration of our nation's Bicentennial, has come up with a unique project, namely the publication of this volume of the late Mrs. Eva Speare's columns which deal with the history of New Hampshire.

The publication of this book seems particularly appropriate. Not only was Mrs. Speare for many years a leading member of the New Hampshire Federation of Women's Clubs, but she devoted much of here life to emphasizing the value of the history of the Granite State. She wanted always to keep clear the memory of the great men and women who by their effort and also through their sacrifices -- often of their lives -- gave us New Hampshire as it is today. Eva Speare did not want us to take for grated the efforts of those who had come before.

When she was over ninety years old, Eva Speare became probably the oldest newspaper columnist in the nation. Once a week she honored our newspaper by writing a column. In spite of her own protestations that she was not a trained writer, it is my belief that she was sincerely pleased and happy by the fact that an amazing number of our readers expressed their gratitude and appreciation of those columns of hers. The simplicity and yet the strength and sincerity of her writing seemed to appeal to readers in New Hampshire of every age bracket and educational and economic background.

In the fullness of her years, when many an individual of similar age would have difficulty relating to the present, Eva Speare had an ability not only to be very much a part of the present, but also to bring the past into the present day, so that the two almost merged together to make life richer and more understandable for us all.

My only regret, entirely aside from my personal fondness for Eva Speare, was the she did not live to see her column published in our paper on her one-hundredth birthday.

And yet Eva Speare certainly does live through the columns in this book, which through the efforts of the New Hampshire Federation of Women's Clubs has been so appropriately published in this Bicentennial year. If Eva Speare were alive, nothing would please her more than this volume, dedicated to the Bicentennial of the nation she loved so well.

Manchester, New Hampshire
July, 1975 William Loeb, Publisher
Manchester Union Leader

The Intrepid Lief Erickson

Many years ago a minister was claiming that the first settlers of Portsmouth were Puritans when a voice from the rear of the room interrupted: "Tut, tut, mon: the first settlers were English fishermen." The speaker was correct. To explain how this came about is a long story.

It begins a thousand years ago when the northern countries of Europe were ruled by the Northmen who were invading the nations to the south. Along the North Atlantic Coast a harbor was called a vik. The Northmen who lived near the viks were called Vikings.

The vigorous Vikings were bold seamen who rode over the ocean in their broad-beamed ships, open to the weather, and propelled by one large square sail and sixteen or more pair of oars in the hands of strong-armed oarsmen.

The Vikings discovered Iceland and inhabitated the island in the section where many hot springs cause the climate to be more or less warm.

This story about Lief Erikson begins in Norway where Lief's grandfather, named Thorwald, belonged to a family of the nobility. The Vikings were fighting men who often settled their quarrels in hand-to-hand combats. If a man killed his foe, the law compelled him to banishment from the country for a period of three years.

Thorwald killed a man in a contest. He fled to Iceland with his family which included a son, born about 950 A.D., named Erik the Red, because of the color of his hair. Erik grew to manhood in Iceland, married, and was the father of three sons: Lief, Thorstein, and Thorwald.

While Erik was away from his home, an enemy killed two of his slaves. In a fight for revenge, Erik killed five men. He fled to a nearby island but his enemies followed him. A relative told him about the land to the north. He gathered a small crew of sailors for a voyage to these distant islands.

After sailing many days, a point of land was discovered that was covered with grass and a few trees. Erik named the point Greenland.

At the end of his three years of banishment, Erik returned to Iceland to tell about this new country where cattle could be raised. Soon a colony of families filled fourteen ships that landed in Greenland.

Erik's eldest son Lief grew to manhood in Greenland. He became a sailor and learned navigation, meaning that he studied the movement of the stars that guided him on the sea as the captain of a ship does today.

A cousin of Lief was a trader who owned a ship that was driven by a tempest over the ocean to the west where he saw a coast that was covered by trees. He did not dare to land there because reefs prevented it. The wind changed and he returned safely to Greenland.

The men erected a log cabin and remained there about a year. One day a sailor, who had lived in Germany and knew what he found, came bringing grapes. Then Lief named his new country Vinland. Lief noticed that the days were longer than in Greenland which indicates that Vinland might have been in Massachusetts.

In the spring the ship was loaded with lumber, because few trees grew in Greenland, and sailed for home. On the voyage fifteen shipwrecked people were rescued from an island. Because of this good deed and his discovery of a new country, Lief was given the title of Lief the Lucky.

Lief Erickson was the discoverer of some spot in New England in 1004 A.D. He died in Greenland in 1021 A.D.

The Vikings In New England

The news that Lief the Lucky had discovered Vinland across the North Atlantic Ocean was heard soon in Iceland and Norway. This is proved by a round, stone tower that may be seen today at Newport, Rhode Island. The English settlers arrived there in 1639 and were astonished when they saw this well-constructed tower on a hill with a clear view of the harbor.

The tribe of Narragansett Indians did not remember about its origin. English architects declared that this tower was constructed in the same design as the towers in Norway before 1200 A.D.

There is an alphabet called runes that was used in Norway about 800 A.D., so long ago that its meaning was forgotten. Within this century scholars have discovered how to read this ancient alphabet.

Poems that were written in this runic alphabet about 1300 A.D., called sagas, have been translated today. One of them tells about Erik the Red and his son, Lief the Lucky.

In 1946 two scholars discovered five runes that were cut into a stone inside the wall of the round tower about fourteen feet above its base. These runes read, "ON, 1010 A.D." Because the windows in the tower face the harbor, it is believed that this tower was a lighthouse.

When the first English settlers arrived at Hampton, New Hampshire, 300 years ago, one family discovered a boulder upon their land with strange, white lines upon its surface. In 1902 a judge who was a descendant of this family, wrote an article for a newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that told about this boulder and the lines upon it.

This article attracted the notice of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Mr. Malcolm D. Pearson sent a picture of this boulder to a runologist, Mr. Ola Strandwold in Washington.

Mr. Strandwold interpreted the white lines to read, "Bui raised stone. 1043 A.D." He explained that BUI was the name of a famous family of navigators in Norway at that time.

This boulder may be found in Hampton about one-third of a miles from the Great Boar's Head. Along the Winnacunnet Road look on the right side for a gateway that is marked Surfside Park. Turn right from the gate into Thorwald Avenue and soon turn left into Emerald Avenue and on a lawn between two cottages, the boulder stands. [Ed. note: The boulder has since been moved to 40 Park Avenue, Hampton, on the grounds of the Tuck Memorial Museum, to preserve it from souvenir hunters and vandalism.]

Before his death, Mr. Strandwold visited Hampton and verified his translation. He wrote several books about the Norse boulders that are found along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Virginia that may be read among the collection in the Baker Library at Dartmouth College.

About thirty boulders with their runic inscriptions may be found in Massachusetts and Rhode Island where Vinland is supposed to have been settled by Lief the Lucky and later Vikings. Others are along the shore in Maine.

At the northern cape in Newfoundland the ruins of the foundations of stone buildings have been excavated and records of this village exist in Norway. Thus the proof that Vikings discovered New England about one thousand years ago is verified today.

The important of this ancient history to New Hampshire is that these navigators drew maps of the coastline and made charts of their voyages that were preserved in Iceland.

Exeter and Hampton

Three years after the death of John Mason in 1635, a new town was developed by Puritans from Massachusetts. The Bay Colony of Massachusetts possessed a charter from the king of England that permitted the householders to own their land and homes and the right to vote in the General Assembly if they were members of the Puritan church.

The religious beliefs of the Puritans were strict. If a person disagreed with them he was banished from the colony. The Reverend John Wheelwright disagreed. With ten families who believed with him, he purchased thirty acres from the Swampscott tribe of Indians along the bank of the Swampscott River.

Although these Indians had no knowledge of reading, this clergyman thought that he was making legal arrangements when he gave to them a written agreement which the Indians did not understand and did not honor.

The new town, named Exeter, was the first in New Hampshire to be established for religious freedom. More objectors increased the population, some of whom were ship-builders. Exeter became famous for its shipyards.

Evidently Exeter feared the Indians. The oldest house now standing in New Hampshire was erected by John Gilman for a garrison house, meaning a refuge for the inhabitants if attacked by Indians.

The second story projects several feet beyond the lower story with an open space in the floor that permits water to be poured below to extinguish a fire, or boiling water to repel Indians.

This town became prominent in military affairs of the colony and was the capital of the province and later of the state when its constitution was adopted.

South of Exeter a company of Puritans from Norfolk, England, was granted 100 square miles beyond the north bank of the Merrimack River in 1638 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This was the same land that King James I had given to John Mason.

With Reverend Stephen Bachiler (old spelling), their leader, fifty-six families desired freedom to worship God as they believed. They possessed considerable wealth and imported 100 cows with the intention of using the marshes along the coast to raise cattle. The town was called Winnacunnet, now Hampton.

Inland, beyond the coast, the village grew rapidly. Two-story houses were erected with oak framework so firmly fastened together, many of them are standing today. Their meetinghouse was surrounded by a stockade that enclosed sufficient space to protect the entire population from hostile Indians.

One of these families discovered the Norse Rock that is mentioned [in the previous article].

The small bay now called Rye Harbor was soon busy with small boats that carried on trade along the coast which proves there were fishermen who knew the skill of building boats.

Hampton folk believed in witches. Goody Cole was accused of witchcraft in 1656. She was tried in court, convicted, and the town paid her board in the jail at Salem, Massachusetts. She was released to care for her sick husband but was jailed again after he died.

After the taxpayers grew tired of paying the annual tax for her board at Salem, she was again set free. She died in poverty, alone, and was considered a guilty woman.

The tradition is that she was buried by the roadside and small trees were driven into her grave to prevent her ghost from coming to surface of the ground. Old ghost stories are many in Hampton. The religious Puritans suffered from superstitions long ago.

Within twenty years after 1623, the province of New Hampshire contained four settlements, separated by several miles of dense forest. The only communication between them was by sailing ships.

See also Thorvald's Table of Contents