Municipal Affairs / An annotated chronology of town meetings

Chapter 12 -- Part 1

Back to previous chapter -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents

1886 to 1899

The following chronology is offered to provide continuity and perspective to the many important municipal issues that were presented to voters at town meetings. The articles discussed were acted upon in town meetings for the years listed. Some subjects not mentioned here are covered elsewhere in specific chapters.


Voted to provide a well with a pump in the new (High Street) cemetery. Indefinitely postponed an article to allow B. F. Daniels and others to keep their houses on Beach Hill near the Causeway (Winnacunnet Road). This was one of many actions by voters taken to protect the Town's ownership of the Beach. A special meeting in December voted to request the selectmen to enforce the Supreme Court decision against Edson Hill and others who were ruled to be squatting on Town property at the Beach.


Voted to hire General Gilman Marston to file a suit against those who had not moved from Beach Hill.


Appointed a committee of 10 men to plan a celebration of the town's 250th anniversary. Voted to lay out a road, beginning at Oliver Nudd's at the Beach, in front of the houses moved back from Beach Hill. Voted to instruct the Eastern Division of the Boston & Maine Railroad to place a flagman at the Exeter Road crossing. A major issue was the decision to spend $3,000 to repair the town hall. Built in 1797 as the Congregational Church, the hall was badly in need of repair and some speakers questioned the wisdom of repainting the structure, citing a need for a new building. The Union described "an outburst of eloquent and pathetic pleading for preserving the venerable and sacred building [by remodeling and refurnishing it for a dance hall and eating saloon] as a memorial tribute to the faith and piety of the Puritan fathers!" The repairs included building a tower, containing stairs and the bell, in the front of the building, remodeling the second floor with two anterooms and a stage, laying a new hardwood floor on top of the existing floor, plastering, painting, and repairing windows where necessary, building a new chimney, leveling the main floor and erecting new partitions to make space for the library and the selectmen's room, and painting the exterior. At a special meeting in June, contractor Samuel W. Dearborn was hired to complete the work that had not been finished by a low bidder from Epping.


Voted $200 to repair (today's) High Street from the Grist Mill to Jacob Leavitt's inn at the Beach. Voted to repair the sidewalk on "Winnecummit Street so that pedestrians who now are obliged to walk in the carriage path may be protected from the danger of being run over by teams."


Voted John Brown as undertaker to take care of the town hearse. A cemetery worker, he had charge of the hearse for many years and was also paid for "ringing the bell." Voted to have the selectmen appoint an agent for liquor sales.


Voted to purchase a monument for $100 to the memory of General Jonathan Moulton, to be placed in the cemetery. Although this money was voted, the action was not completed until 1988, when town meeting voters appropriated $600 for the Moulton monument, which was placed in Pine Grove Cemetery.


Voted to enlarge the cemetery by two acres. Indefinitely postponed was an article requiring highway taxes to be paid in cash. Many residents, especially farmers who had teams and wagons, preferred to work off their highway taxes. The Town accepted the provisions of the will of Christopher S. Toppan of Portsmouth to use $2,000 (establishing a trust fund with the income going to the Hampton Academy and High School) for the education of three males and three females in Hampton. The Town voted to pay Jacob Brown $200 plus interest for his roadwork on Small Gains (Drakeside Road), and he would drop his suit against the Town for nonpayment. The Town this year also purchased a fireproof safe for the town hall.


Voted to pay Lucy Dow $500 for editing her father's History of the Town of Hampton. Voted to instruct the selectmen .... in case any person or persons should attempt to build any kind of structure or building .... or to occupy any part .... of the territory on Hampton Beach sometimes called beach land or waste land" to remove the structures at once. Indefinitely postponed was a lengthy resolution stating, "Hampton Beach has become notorious as a summer retreat where intoxicating liquors are freely and openly sold in defiance of law, good morals or decency thereby excluding from our beautiful shore a desirable class of summer tourists who would otherwise come and is very odious to many cottage owners we have." The selectmen were requested to withdraw the protection of the police and to offer a reward of $50 to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons illegally selling liquor. The Town spent $2,760 as its share of the new seaside road from Winnacunnet Road north to the North Hampton town line. A committee was appointed to seek a site for a public park, and the meeting voted $150 for a building to house the road machine.


Voted to authorize the selectmen to instruct the police to close saloons from 9 P.M. Saturday night until Monday morning at 8 A.M. Voted that the selectmen enforce the tramp law. The Town spent $48 for "caring and feeding tramps." (The following year, the Town spent $50 for caring and feeding 148 tramps. As late as 1907, the town paid Selectman Joseph B. Brown $9.50 for the care of 38 tramps.) Some tramps were also fed at the Hotel Whittier, and occasionally the Town paid train fare for penniless people, perhaps tramps. Perhaps it was less expensive to buy train tickets than to pay for meals. Voted to spend up to $500 for breakwater work north and south of Boar's Head. The Town spent $68 erecting signboards. The end of the fiscal year changed from March 1 to February 15.


Voted to pay Lucy Dow the $500 that was voted in the 1893 meeting. Voted "that what money there is in any one(s) possession belonging to the town it be paid to the town treasurer." Routine matters handled at this meeting, and at most of the town meetings at this time, included electing surveyors of highways, surveyors of wood and lumber, keeper of the town pound, fence viewer, and sealer of weights and measures. The selectmen appointed the tax collector, but the voters elected the moderator, selectmen, town clerk, and the town treasurer. Police officers and overseers of the poor were appointed. This is the first year the Town received rent (a total of $35) from Beach land.


Voted to mark with suitable bounds the line between the Beach lands (Town property) and adjoining abutters in the area between Winnacunnet Road and High Street. This was necessary because people were thought to be building on Town land in this area, which had been opened for development by the new seaside driveway. The Town also voted $400 for a new town clock. The Town paid out $92.25 in hawk bounties for 396 birds shot. Police officer Clinton Eaton shot 90 of the birds. The bounty came from state funds, but Hampton was then an important chicken-raising town, and the hawks must have had a major impact on the farming economy.


Voted $50 to gravel the driveway from John W. Locke's store at the Beach south to the river. The previous year's appropriation for the town clock was not enough for the purchase, but John T. Brown, a native of Hampton Falls but then a wealthy resident of Newburyport, solved the problem by donating a clock to Hampton. Hampton gave $400 to the Odd Fellows, with the provision that the lodge raise its tower 12 feet, buy a bell weighing at least 1,200 pounds, and install a "first class 8-day clock with four dials." The Town agreed to maintain the clock, and the meeting voted to have the bell rung nightly for five minutes at 9 P.M., and to ring it for 15 minutes morning, noon, and night on Washington's Birthday, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving. The meeting also gave a vote of thanks to Brown for his generous gift of the town clock, which serves to this day. The meeting also authorized the selectmen to prepare a quitclaim deed for any Town-owned land at the Beach that the federal government may want for "contemplated life saving station." Two days after town meeting, Wallace Lovell, George Merrill, and three members of the Cotton family, all from Boston, filed a petition with the selectmen to build the electric street railway. This petition resulted in the April 24 special town meeting, perhaps the most important one ever held in Hampton. At that meeting, the Town voted to exempt from taxes for "as long as laws.. .will permit" the street-railway powerhouse and other equipment. The second article asked, "To see if the town will pass any vote or votes relative to the leasing of any or the whole of the lower beach or Pines Marsh beach so-called to the said electric railway co., or to parties who will open and improve the same for building purposes on some reasonable terms." As voted, this article read,
Whereas the land owned by the town extending from the Island Path to the river mouth not being utilized and will not be for any town purpose nor yield any income for the town and where as said land being located and so convenient for cottage purposes under the new Exeter Street Railway ... and capable of yielding a large income to the town and greatly increasing taxable property and whereas there are responsible parties ready and willing to lease and improve the same for town interest, therefore resolve that the selectmen be instructed to lease the same to the Hampton Beach Improvement Company at such rental and under such conditions as will be for the best interest of the town and for the most valuable improvement of said land and that the selectmen be instructed to lay out a road in a southern direction to the river parallel to the beach hill and to do what is necessary to improve said land.

This article led to the formation of the Hampton Beach Improvement Company, incorporated not by the street railway but by a group of farsighted local men. Having passed these two articles, voters at the special meeting rejected articles calling for a $1,000 contract with the railway to provide electric lights for the town.


Voted to permit the sale of intoxicating liquors in the town; voted to move the town tomb in the cemetery to a better location and to reserve its former site for the use of the Grand Army of the Republic on Memorial Day; voted to allow the Hampton Academy to improve the baseball field on the former site of the academy, which is today's Tuck Field; and voted to study the possible construction of a tramp house.


Voted to allow the selectmen to divide the town into 12 highway districts; voted to spend $200 on streetlights but not to "light the streets in town by electricity"; voted to revoke the right of anyone to sell liquor in town and to spend $200 to enforce liquor laws; and voted $500 to grade the turnpike, that portion of the main road from the Village across the marsh to Hampton Falls. The Town cared for 269 tramps and spent $590 in connection with leasing land and building the new Beach road.
Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents