Civic, Fraternal and Community Organizations

Chapter 23 -- Part 1

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

Community organizations have long been an important part of the life of Hampton residents. While enriching the social lives of their members, providing the opportunity for friendships, and developing personal and professional growth, the many varied past and present organizations of Hampton have performed important charitable services. Many times, assistance is provided to the needy or sick with little public notice; sometimes promotional campaigns have been conducted to raise funds or develop community support for special causes or to help those with specific needs. Organizations also have engaged in broad community projects that benefit all citizens.

Because these organizations are operated by volunteers, with officers and members who come and go, and whose concerns are usually with the demands of the present, long-term historical information about the various organizations is rarely available. In preparing this book, all Hampton organizations were asked, via the Hampton Union, to provide information for this history. Many organizations responded in detail, some offered a small amount of information, others did not reply at all. The following signed reports have been provided by various organizations. In some cases, because of the historical importance of other organizations, the author has included a few words about particular groups. Organizations that are not mentioned did not provide information, and while the omission is regretted, it is not an indication of a lack of value or purpose on the part of those organizations. A large number of organizations are mentioned by name and deed throughout this book.

The Lane Fund

In 1919, Hampton native Charles H. Lane (brother of merchant Joshua Lane) of Seattle set up a trust fund to provide, according to a document filed with the town clerk's office, "useful Christmas gifts.. .to the children of.. .Hampton being between the age of one and twelve years." To set up the fund, Lane provided 20 shares of American Telephone & Telegraph stock with a value of $100 per share. According to the trustee documents filed with the state attorney general, the income from the stock's interest and dividends was "to benefit and aid and add to the pleasures and enjoyment of the children resident in the Town of Hampton ... at Christmas time each year .. [with] preference given to those poor and deserving, if that can be properly done." The Portsmouth Trust Company (now BankEast) was designated as the trustee, and a local committee of five was appointed to handle the fund. The first year, $40 was available, so, according to the Union, 40 names were drawn and gifts were distributed. The next year, with $160 in interest, 127 children received gifts. For the first two years, the gifts were distributed through the church Sunday Schools, but in 1921, the first community Christmas-tree party was held at the town hall, where, with $195 available in interest, 208 children received gifts. The program continued ever larger as the interest grew, along with the number of deserving children. By 1928, 249 children were on the list; in 1931, some 275 young people received three gifts each.

The popular program was not without some problems. In 1932, the hardworking committee was wondering whether it should keep up the program, since some of the older boys during the previous year "manifested a spirit of rowdyism." For at least two years, some of the children did not receive gifts that the committee knew had been taken to the party for them. The committee asked parents and other adults to assist with the program.

In 1935, a measles epidemic prevented the annual Christmas party, so the committee arranged with trustee Henry Hobbs to deliver the gifts to each home. Each of 313 children received two gifts -- one a toy, the other something useful. In 1936, "the committee did not feel up to the party so the gifts again will be distributed. Annie E. Akerman, secretary of the Lane Fund Trustees, says the public does not realize the effort it takes to select and wrap 600 presents and on the day of the party there has not been enough help so that with the crowd of children it was impossible to control them and to distribute the gifts to the right children."

By 1942, the Lane Fund trustees had a difficult burden. About 400 children were given three gifts each, a task that required the committee to begin planning in August and involved setting aside a large section of Mrs. Thomas Cogger's Exeter Road barn as the sorting and wrapping area. Although wartime shortages made the gift buying a chore, even one-year-old children received a large ball and a silver spoon. The committee found it difficult to keep track of the new children who had moved to town and urged the parents of new babies to notify the town clerk. Meanwhile, beginning about 1930, the Beach children had their own Christmas party at the Precinct fire station. In 1942, 127 Beach children received gifts, courtesy of Kiwanis Club members who lived at the Beach.

In 1943, the committee could not buy enough toys, so they gave the children defense bonds and stockings, which were delivered to the Centre School and the Precinct fire station, but "this plan did not prove wholly satisfactory." So, in 1944, the committee decided to cancel the gift giving and allow the interest to accumulate "until later when we trust it can be used to a greater advantage."

Surviving trustees Henry Hobbs and Herbert B. Beede (Annie E. Akerman, Mary Craig, and Lucy Redman having died) in 1948 appointed three individuals (who were the selectmen) to fill out the committee. Others subsequently were appointed to the committee, and for at least the last 20 years, until 1988, Mrs. George Downer was chair of the committee. In 1989, Natalie Hockenhull became chair. A fire at the Downer house in the 1970s destroyed many of the committee's records, but the committee now distributes its available funds to needy children through the churches of Hampton. In 1987, the fund had a market value of $15,693, generated an income of $857, and Mrs. George Downer received $318 "for the benefit of the Children of Hampton, NH, at Christmas." Since the funds available are not substantial, the committee recently has distributed the money only every other year.

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