Chapter 9 -- Part 3

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The Hampton Beach Gas Company was organized in May 1913 and provided gas to customers by July 1. With about 12 miles of pipes from Great Boar’s Head to White Island, the company was capitalized at $10,000. Several Hampton people were investors, including clerk George A. Johnson. First planning to have its own gas manufacturing plant behind the Ashworth, the company later decided to extend a line to Salisbury Beach and to buy its gas from the Haverhill Gas Company. The summer-only gas supply worked well for about a decade, but it erupted into controversy in 1926.

In July 1926, the Union reported that the Hampton Gas Company was not supplying gas to the Beach. Apparently the company had not paid the balance due on its 1925 gas bill, so Haverhill Gas would not provide gas for 1926 until the previous bill was paid and the Hampton company guaranteed payment of the 1926 bill. Hampton claimed Haverhill’s bill was excessive. Most of the hotels and restaurants relied on gas for cooking and hot water, and without the utility, these businesses were having difficulties serving guests. Previously a complaint had been filed with the Public Service Commission (PSC), which ordered Hampton to turn on the gas by June 24, but on June 23, the Haverhill company informed the PSC that it would not provide gas to Hampton. The local company asked for a rehearing, which was denied by the PSC. Superior Court Justice William H. Sawyer ruled that the Hampton company had an obligation to supply the gas under its charter, and if it did not, he would appoint a receiver for the company.

On the morning of June 29, gas was finally turned on at the Beach. Edward Seybolt of Portsmouth had been appointed receiver, and he quickly complied with the PSC order. Gas was turned off again the next day, when company owner John Cashman of Haverhill filed for bankruptcy. Another court order was issued and gas was turned on again for the rest of the summer. In December, the Hampton Gas Company was purchased at auction for $10,000 by John Cashman. By early May 1927, though, there were problems again with the gas company. Meanwhile, the Pyrofax Gas Company was soliciting customers, and if it reached its goal of 100 customers, the company planned to build a plant and supply bottled gas.

Finally, in late May, Cashman sold the gas company to the Franklin Light and Power Company. Gas was turned on for Memorial Day, the usual start-up date. Service of manufactured gas was eventually extended to the Village in 1928 by the Exeter Gas Company. For many years, until the early 1980s, a Hampton landmark on Winnacunnet Road was original (and later, larger) gas balls which held compressed gas pumped to the site from the Exeter Gas Company plant. Local gas company manager Frank Moody, Sr., spent many late summer nights when the Beach was crowded running the compressors at the gas balls to supply resort cottages, hotels, and restaurants. In recent years, the balls were not used and eventually were removed to save taxes, and the property was sold for a house lot. Eventually the small gas companies became part of Allied New Hampshire Gas Company, which in 1952 switched its 2,500 local customers to natural gas, which was brought to southeastern New Hampshire by a transcontinental pipeline from wells in Texas and Louisiana. Northern Utilities now owns the gas delivery system in this region.

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