Old Hampton In New Hampshire

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By Newton Marshall Hall

The New England Magazine, March 1896, Vol. XIV, No. 1
An Illustrated Monthly

Warren F. Kellogg, Publisher

5 Park Square, Boston, Mass.

On the morning of the 14th of October, 1638, there was unusual excitement in the little settlement of Newbury on the Merrimac. Men and women left axe and loom, and came trooping down to the riverbank to say farewell to a company which was to sail away to found a new plantation in the wilderness. It was not a long nor an adventurous voyage which their shallop made, down to the sea with the tide, and across a short stretch of blue water to another river which came winding through level marshes. Winningness (beautiful place of pines) the Indians called the broad reaches of fertile salt meadow and pine-clad upland which Father (Stephen) Bachiler had previously explored and had pronounced, with the customary shrewdness of the English pioneer, "a reasonable meet place for a settlement." With a favoring wind and tide, the end of the voyage must have been reached before nightfall, and in the morning no doubt work was begun which must needs have been extraordinarily diligent if comfortable homes were provided before winter.

In a region so beautiful as well as "meet," the location of the first houses seems a strange one. Probably the edges of the marshy tract of land known as the "Ring Swamp" were selected through some consideration of shelter in the shadow of the black woods or of convenience to field and stream, not now apparent. One of the early acts of the settlers was characteristic: they promptly changed the musical Indian name of the place to plain "Hampton" (1639), not for Hampton Court as has been supposed, but in honor of old Southampton. Although this was the first permanent settlement of Hampton, a house had been built two years before within the limits of the town. This building, known as the "Bound House," has a somewhat mythical character. There is a record of the General Court of Massachusetts, granting power to "presse" men to build the house; but where it was located, or whether it was ever occupied, were matters of dispute even fifty years later.

Father Bachiler and his company must have known, when they received the generous grant of one hundred square miles from Massachusetts, that the gift was of a somewhat dubious nature. They were in fact, as well as the settlers at Exeter and Dover, trespassers upon what Captain John Mason considered his baronial demesne. The bluff old governor of Newfoundland was not the man to submit in silence to such an invasion of his rights. The bitter controversy which he began with Massachusetts, and later with the New Hampshire settlers, was carried on by his heirs, until the large family property was exhausted, and the Revolution put an end to all proprietary claims. The history of this contest, to be found now in fragmentary form only, in musty law reports, in family and town records, is one of romantic and absorbing interest. That a sp1endid dream it was which came to Mason and his friend Gorges, as they sat smoking Virginia tobacco in the dingy London office of the wealthy merchant! On the banks of our humble Piscataqua they built in fancygrander castles than ever graced the Rhine; they saw rich vineyards stretch away, and long trains of Indian slaves bringing down from the mysterious hills of the North gold and silver and furs and perhaps even the "Great Carbuncle" itself. Is it any wonder, then, that Mason's indignation rose, when the crop-headed Puritans from Massachusetts invaded his estates, bringing with them all sorts of ideas subversive of proprietary ownership? Moreover, Mason's title to the soil was unquestionably valid. The claim of Massachusetts was based upon the somewhat ambiguous wording of the charter, and it was never sustained before any impartial tribunal.

As for the men of Hampton, they cared not a fig for Mason or Massachusetts, so long as they remained undisturbed in the occupancy of their rich farms, and they fought either claimant with equal cheerfulness as occasion demanded. The most interesting period of the controversy was between the years 1682 and 1685, when Robert Mason, with the assistance of his tyrannical governor Cranford, made a desperate attempt to levy taxes upon the unwilling inhabitants of New Hampshire. During these stormy years the colony, and particularly the town of Hampton, was practically in a state of insurrection.

In 1683 occurred what has been somewhat pretentiously called "Gove's Rebellion." Edward Gove was a prosperous farmer of Hampton, whose indignation got the better of his judgment. He went from house to house, "talking seditiously," as witnesses afterward testified, announcing that his "sword was drawn" and that he "would not put it down until he knew who held the government."

On the twenty-seventh of January, he rode into Hampton at the head of a company of twelve followers, Exeter and Hampton men, with swords brandished and a trumpet blowing. The authorities of the town were not intimidated by this warlike display, but promptly suppressed Gove and his incipient. rebellion. At a subsequent trial the leader of the outbreak was convicted of treason and sentenced to be drawn and quartered. The sentence was not executed, but the unfortunate man passed two years in close confinement in the Tower of London. Resistance did not end, however. Everywhere the officials of the hated government were defied and assaulted. At Dover, an enterprising officer attempted to levy an execution while the people were at church, whereupon he was promptly knocked down, the weapon being a Bible in the hands of a person whom the good old historian Belknap admiringly calls "a young heroine." At Hampton a sheriff was seized and cruelly beaten. After he had fallen exhausted in the snow, a noose was adjusted suggestively about his neck and he was driven out of the colony, bound upon the back of a horse. Mason was himself assaulted in his house at Portsmouth by two men who threw him into the great open fire, "where," he says in his interesting deposition, "my coat, perriwig & stockings were burnt, & had it not been for ye Dept. Governr, I doe verily believe I had been murthered."

Truly, the lines did not fall in altogether pleasant places for a Lord Proprietor of New Hampshire, in the good old colony men, who had never owned a foot of land, who had lived so long under civil and religious exactions, reverted to the simple and democratic institutions of their Saxon ancestors. From the very first day, it was not Stephen Bachiler or any other leading spirit who governed the community; it was the voice of the majority of freemen in open meeting assembled, where each man had his say without let or hindrance. So much importance was placed upon this meeting in the early days, that the penalty for non-attend days. Not unnaturally discouraged, Mason soon after sailed for England, to renew his hopeless struggle in the courts.

Meanwhile the Hampton folk were building up a village commonwealth of their own, quite regardless of Mason's dreams of manor houses and landed estates. They were not always peaceable among themselves, they were no doubt bigoted and superstitious; and yet there was enough of sturdy independence, of downright common sense, of originality and shrewdness, to make the story of their lives of interest and value.

It is remarkable how naturally these men, who had never owned a foot of land, who had lived so long under civil and religious exactions, reverted to the simple and democratic institutions of their Saxon ancestors. From the avery first day, it was not Stephen Bachiler or any other leading spirit who governed the community; it was the voice of the majority of freemen in open meeting assembled, where each man had his say without let or hindrance. So much importance was placed upon this meeting in the early days, that the penalty for non-attendance was a heavy fine. The rules of order adopted in 1641 were simple and dignified. The meetings were opened and closed by prayer. A moderator presided, who was chosen at each session. When anyone spoke, he must "putt off his hatt," he must not interrupt another, and he might speak "only twice or thrice to the same business," without special leave. It is to be feared, however, that the meetings were not always as decorous as these excellent rules would imply, for a later vote was passed as follows: "Itt is ordered yt if any prson shall discharge a Gunn in the Meeting House, or in any other House without leave of the owner or Householder, Hee or they shall forfeit five shillings; nor shall any prson Ride or lead a Horse into this Meeting House under the like penalty."

Membership in the community was rightly esteemed a valuable privilege and it was not lightly bestowed. Paupers and criminals were rigorously excluded, and no one was permitted, under heavy penalties, to harbor strangers who did not possess proper credentials. None of the village communities of New England showed greater wisdom in the disposal of its public land than did Hampton. The General Court of Massachusetts granted to each of the original settlers a house lot, and all rights to the remaining soil were vested in the town. For many years much of this land was, under restrictions, the common property of all householders. What was practically a forestry commission was early appointed. It was the duty of three men who were called "woodwards" to see that no trees were cut without permission, and to regulate the amount of timber which might be used for legitimate purposes during the year. Certain great tracts of marsh land were held in common and used for pasturage. The marsh which lies to the south and west of the highway which now leads from the village to Boar's Head was called the "great ox common." Into these commons the cattle were turned at certain seasons of the year, under the charge of a herdsman appointed by the town. At various times in later years these public tracts were divided into equal shares, and these shares were apportioned by lot to the various householders of the town. Certain rights in common were even then reserved, and it is only within recent years that all the public lands have passed unreservedly into private hands.

No sooner had the first settlers provided a shelter for themselves than they erected a meeting-house, a primitive structure of logs which was rebuilt in 1650, this in turn giving place to new structures in 1675 and in 1719. None of these meeting-houses made any pretence to architectural beauty, except the last, which was ornamented by the addition of a "turret." The first church was unusually fortunate in possessing a small bell, the gift of Father Bachiler, which called the worshippers to service, instead of the customary conch-shell or drum. There were no pews in the first houses, and the people sat on wooden benches, the women on one side, the men on the other. A committee was appointed to "seat the meetinghouse," which must have been a sufficiently difficult and delicate task, even in those days. The order of seating has in many cases been preserved in the records. One of these memoranda reads as follows: "the ferst seett next Mistriss whelewrit ould mistriss husse her dafter husse goody swaine goody Pebody goody brown mistriss stanvan Mary Perkenges;" -- which would mean that the seat of honor, next Parson Wheelwright's wife, was reserved for the aged Mistress Hussey and her daughter; Goodwives Swaine, Peabody and Brown, Mistress Stanvan, and Mary Perkins. There was of course no way of heating the church, and even these sturdy Puritans were obliged to defer somewhat to the rigor of the New England winter. It was intended at first to hold communion eight times a year. "But finding ye days in winter so short and sharp, it was thought meet to omit yt of ye winter quarter viz between December 1 & March 1 & so to hold it but seven times a year." Across the end of the church a gallery was built, where all the children of the village sat together. Under these circumstances it may be easily understood why it was necessary to detail two elderly and responsible "inhabitants" to remain in the gallery to see that its occupants should sit "orderly and inoffensively."

Hampton was fortunate in having among its early pastors men whose ability was recognized throughout New England. Stephen Bachiler, the first pastor and the founder of the town, deserves more than a passing mention. He was a man over whose life hangs the shadow of a mystery. Was he stern and morose, subject to violent outbreaks of passion? Did he carry through life, like Arthur Dimmesdale, the burden of a secret sin? Was his old age blackened by scandalous conduct? Or was he a man of heroic mould, moved by a serene and dauntless purpose, whose life was at last thwarted and ruined by the attacks of relentless enemies? There is ground for each of these views in the scraps of legend and history which have come down to us. He was born in England in 1561, and was accordingly an old man when he settled at Hampton. An early dissenter, he "suffered much from the bishops," and in common with other Puritans found refuge in Holland. He may have witnessed the sailing of the Mayflower; at all events, an adventurous and restless spirit like his could hardly have failed to be aroused by the stories of the new land of freedom, which must have been eagerly told in the little colony of refugees. A company of which he was the pastor and leader was formed to follow in the Mayflower's wake to New England. This organization was called the "Company of the Plough," perhaps because a plough was prominent in the Bachiler coat-of-arms. All preparations were made for departure, when sudden misfortune fell upon the project. Through a dishonest agent all the property of the company was lost. Dismayed by the disaster, Bachiler returned to England. But a romance had been going on in his family, which was destined to have far-reaching consequences. Christopher Hussey, a young Quaker of Dorking, had fallen in love with Theodate, Stephen Bachiler's fair daughter. However liberal the Puritan preacher might be in other respects, he was orthodox on the subject of Quakers. He would have no broad-beavered follower of Fox in his family, and he sternly forbade the match. The young Quaker may have reflected that there were creeds many but only one Theodate Bachiler, for he renounced his religion and married the Puritan's daughter. After such unfaithfulness to his beliefs, it is a little singular that he should have become the ancestor of the Quaker poet Whittier. {* This commonly accepted belief, held by Mr. Pickard, Whittier's biographer, has been vigorously assailed by Rev. A. H.Quint, whose arguments, however, are not considered conclusive by Mr. Pickard.} The young couple bravely set their faces westward. They made a home in Lynn, and two years later were followed by Bachiler and several members of the little church which he had previously founded in Holland, and which he immediately reorganized at Lynn without the permission of the colonial government. Quarrels arose, which resulted in the summary removal of Bachiler from the colony.

Followed by his devoted church, he started on foot in the dead of winter to found a colony at Yarmouth on the Cape. The enterprise ended in failure, and must have been attended with much suffering. Returning to Newbury,the grant of Hampton was secured,and its settlement successfully accomplished. After such desert wanderings the fair fields of Winnacunnet must have seemed like the promised land to the travel-worn and buffeted little church. But even here there was to be no peace for the aged pastor. Shortly after the settlement, Timothy Dalton was chosen pastor's assistant, or "teacher," as he was universally called.The two men were not congenial; jealousies and bitterness arose, and for the next eight years the church seems to have been in a continual brawl.The majority of the church finally turned against their old leader; he was charged with immoral conduct, disgraced and excommunicated, and although afterward restored to fellowship he was never permitted to resume his office. It is at this period that Whittier pictures his "half mythical ancestor," in "The Wreck of Rivermouth."

"And Father Dalton, grave and stern,
Sobbed through his prayer and wept in turn.
But his ancient colleague did not pray,
Because of his sin at fourscore years:
He stood apart, with the iron-gray
Of his strong brows knitted to hide his tears."

The parish records of the unromantic suburb of London, Hackney, show that "the ancient Stephen Bachiler of Hampton, New Hampshire," died there in the one-hundredth year of his age. From the glimpses we have of him, we may infer that the founder of Hampton was a bold and original spirit, tenacious of purpose even to obstinacy. He must have possessed some strong and winning traits of character, or he never could have retained so long the loyal devotion of his followers. There can be no doubt, however, that the fairer and more attractive side of his nature was marred by occasional lapses of judgment, and even by serious irregularity of conduct. He seems to have lacked at critical times that moral dignity and self-control essential to religious leadership.

Of Timothy Dalton we know very little. He was in good repute with the authorities of the province, and he seems to have had the confidence of the majority of the church in his controversy with Stephen Bachiler. At his death the town records commended him as "a faithful and painful laborer in God's vineyard."

Rev. John Wheelwright was the second Hampton minister who was a refugee from Massachusetts. brother of the famous heretic, Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, he expressed sentiments in a Fast Day discourse delivered at Boston, which were exceedingly distasteful to the authorities. The men of the Bay had a cheerful method of dealing with such offenders at that time. The magistrates vent to the unfortunate person whose views did not coincide with theirs and informed him that he would not be expected to continue his-residence in the colony after a period of two weeks. In this way great harmony of belief was maintained within the colony, and the surrounding settlements received valuable acquisitions. John Wheelwright, after a perilous journey through the deep snows of February, found refuge at the Strawberry Bank settlement. Possessed of an indomitable spirit, he struck out into the wilderness, and became the founder of Exeter, New Hampshire, and afterward of Wells, Maine. While at Wells he received a call to become the pastor of the church at Hampton. But Hampton was at this time under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. Wheelwright, however, wrote an apology to the authorities of Massachusetts, recanting his former beliefs and affirming that he had been "dazzled by the buffetings of Satan." This pious explanation ought to have been satisfactory, but only after much petitioning on the part of the people of Hampton was he permitted to become the pastor of their church. Even then the pastoral relation does not seem to have been altogether pleasant. The old heresies broke out afresh, and after a short period of service Wheelwright resigned and sailed for England.

The troubled waters of the church were quieted during the pastorate of the talented Seaborn Cotton. He was the eldest son of the famous John Cotton of Boston, and was born on the Atlantic, August 12, 1633. He was a graduate of Harvard, and married for his first wife Dorothy, daughter of Governor Bradstreet of Massachusetts. The advent of these cultured people must have made a powerful impression upon the life of this frontier settlement; and how great must have been the sensation, when the "unmitred pope of the New England churches" journeyed from Boston to visit his son, and perhaps even to grace with his august presence the pulpit of the little church! We have few records of Seaborn Cotton's long pastorate of twenty-nine years. A little, time-stained manuscript book in the possession of the New England Historical-Genealogical Society, gives a few brief notes of his family life. The following are extracts:

"I was marryed to my Second wife, Mrs Prudence Crosbey The Daughter of Mr Johnathan Wade of Ipswich, the 9th of July, 1673, by Maior Dennison."

"My 2d childe by her & 14th in all was borne October 6 about 5 of ye clocke in ye morning 1676, & baptised oct 8 1676, and was named Wade in honour of his Grandfather Wade, & to put him in mind of wading through all. trialls to heaven."

Poor child! His wading was of brief duration, for the record adds simply, "he dyed and was buried october 11. 76."

Seaborn Cotton was succeeded in the ministry by his son John, who was also a graduate of Harvard,and a man of great ability. In view of the desirability of securing him as pastor the town voted to offer him a munificent salary, "£85 a yeare to be paid every half yeare in wheat at 5s per bushel, Indian corn 3s malt and rye each 4s per bushel, pork at 3d per pound, and beef at 2d, together with sixtie load of wood -- such loads with fower oxen, that two load shall make a cord when cutt." After a ministry of thirteen years, Mr. Cotton, according to the Boston News Letter, "died in a very sudden and surprising manner, having been very well all the day, and in the evening till just after Supper, when he was taken with a Fitt of Apoplexy." The same high authority informs us that he was "esteemed and mourned for his eminent Piety and great Learning, his excellent Preaching, his Catholic Principles, and Universal Charity."

During the pastorate of the beloved Nathan Gookin occurred the great earthquake of 1727, which was especially severe at Hampton, and which secured for Parson Gookin considerable celebrity as a prophet, inasmuch as he preached on the morning of the earthquake day a powerful sermon from the text, "The day of trouble is near." The sermon produced a profound impression, and when in the evening the shock of earthquake came, the people of the town were in a state of abject terror. In the interesting account of the earthquake and of the religious revival which followed it, which Mr. Gookin afterward published, he says: "It is hard to express the consternation that fell both on man and beast in the time of the great shock. The brute creatures ran roaring about the fields, as if in the greatest distress, and mankind was as much surprised as they."

The church was greatly disturbed during the following years by dissensions which led finally to an open breach and the formation of a Presbyterian church in 1792. Under the vigorous ministry of the distinguished Dr. Jesse Appleton, from 1797 to 1807, the Congregational church regained its lost prestige, and a union was effected with the Presbyterian element in 1808. Doctor Appleton was called from his Hampton pastorate to become president of Bowdoin College. One of his daughters, born at Hampton, afterward became the wife of Franklin Pierce, {the 14th President of the United States of America.

In 1735 a scourge more terrible than the earthquake swept the town. In May of that year, a mysterious disease broke out in Kingston, a part of the old town of Hampton. It was called the "throat distemper," and was doubtless allied to our modern diphtheria. It speedily became epidemic, spreading throughout New England and ultimately along the entire Atlantic coast. It was most severe, however, in the immediate vicinity of its origin. At Hampton Falls twenty families lost all their children, and one-sixth of the inhabitants died. At Hampton there were seventy-two deaths, while in the Province of New Hampshire there were one thousand victims, more than ninety per cent being under twenty years of age. We can hardly imagine the terror of that year of plague, when the face of God seemed to be averted from his people and the mark of destruction was on every door.

Hampton was a spirit-haunted town. Ghosts and witches, and even the Evil One himself, often appeared to its terrified inhabitants. One could not lie down in his bed at night, with the peaceful certainty that no alarming spectre would stalk through his room to trouble his slumbers. Nor could one jog quietly along the country lanes without the disturbing possibility that some broomstick rider might be hard upon his track. The good people of Hampton were perhaps no more superstitious than men and women usually were who lived in rural communities in Colonial days, and especially those whose homes were near the sea; but it is certain that they peopled the quiet streets of their village with personages our modern eyes do not see.

However, it might be with ghosts, witch's were tangible enough, and the Hampton authorities made short shrift with them. The delusion found its chief victim at Hampton, in the person of Eunice Cole, - Goody Cole, as she was called. The usual evil powers were ascribed to her by the people of the town. Two young men were drowned in Hampton River, and their boat was believed to have been overturned through her agency. The village children who indulged in the fearful pleasure of peeping in at her window reported that the Evil One in the shape of a little black dwarf with a red cap on his head, sat at her table, and that she frequently cuffed his ears to keep him in order. She is the witch of Whittier's "Wreck of Rivermouth."

"'Fie on the witch!' cried a merry girl,
As they rounded the point where Goody Cole
Sat by her door with her wheel atwirl,
A bent and blear eyed poor old soul.
'Oho!' she muttered, 'ye're brave to day;
But I hear the little waves laugh and say,
"The broth will be cold that waits at home;
For it's one to go, but another to come."'"

Again, in "The Changeling," the poet uses the story which was common at the time, that Goody Cole had changed Goodwife Marston's child to an ape.

Goody Cole was tried before the county court of Norfolk in 1656. At the trial Thomas Philbrick testified that she had said, "If any of his calves should eat her grass, She wished it might poysen them or chocke them. Immediately after one of the calves disappeared and the other came home and died about a weeke after." Goodwife Sobriety Moulton and Goodwife Sleeper testified that, "while talking about goodwife Cole & good wife Marston's childe, they on a sudden heard something scrape agaihst the boards of the windowe, which after they had been out and looked aboute and could see nothing and had gone into the house again and begun to talke the same talke as before, was repeated and so loud that if a dogg or a catt had clone it, they should have seene the marks in the boards." Such evidence was of course conclusive, and the poor woman was sentenced to be whipped and then imprisoned for life. She remained in prison fifteen years, when she was released, and the town ordered to contribute to her support. Shortly after she was again arrested on a new charge of witchcraft, but after a few months' confinement she was discharged, the court rendering this remarkable decision: "In ye case of Unis Cole now prisoner att Ye Bar not Legally guilty according to Inditement, butt just ground of vehement suspisyon of her having had famillyarryty with ye devill." She went back to Hampton to die soon after, unattended, in bitter poverty and distress. The malignant hatred of her persecutors followed her to the grave. The tradition still lingers among the older people of the town that the witch was denied Christian burial; that her body, impaled upon a stake to drive out the evil spirit, was thrown into a hastily dug trench in the ditch by the roadside. This unfortunate woman, with her quarter of a century of persecution and suffering, was surely as much a martyr as those to whom death came quickly on the scaffold of Witches' Hill.

In 168o, the superstition broke out again. The whole town was thrown into a state of alarm. A man affirmed that he had seen a company of witches on the marsh, seated about a cake of ice and comfortably taking tea. Eight men and two women were "cried out against," and the two women were arrested, but they were discharged when the excitement died out the next year.

The feeling against Quakers was scarcely less strong than that against suspected witches. Shortly after the first Friends landed at Boston, William Marston Senior of Hampton was fined £15, for "keeping two Quaker books and a paper of the Quaker's in his possession." In December, 1662, Captain Richard Waldron of Dover issued his savage order, commanding that three Quaker women whom he had arrested should be whipped by the constables of each town, until they were out of the jurisdiction of the province. His cruel decree was obeyed at Dover and Hampton only. Whittier has made this incident the subject of his spirited ballad, "How the Women Went from Dover."

"At last a meeting-house came in view;
A blast from his horn the constable blew
And the boys of Hampton cried up and down,
'The Quakers have come!' to the wondering town.
From barn and woodpile the goodman came;
The goodwife quitted her quilting frame,
With her child at her breast; and, hobbling slow,
The grandam followed to see the show."

There is no historical evidence for the existence of the tender-hearted little maid and the pitying woman of the poem. We may hope for the credit of Hampton, that Whittier had access to some tradition now forgotten. In 1674, thirteen persons all residents of Hampton were convicted before the court, "for ye breach of ye law called Quaker's meeting, and were all admonished & so upon paying ye fines of ye court are discharged for ye present." But sentiment was rapidly changing in Hampton. As early as 1697 a quarterly-meeting was established, and in 1701 a meeting house was built in that part of Hampton now Seabrook; but the Friends were still subjected to some annoyances after they were allowed to worship in peace.

In common with many of the frontier towns Hampton suffered severely during the long succession of Indian wars. Prompt measures were taken for the common defence, when after a time of immunity from danger King Philip's war broke out in 1675. None of the old garrison houses are now standing, except the Toppan house, which was not properly a garrison, but was stockaded and used for that purpose. The chief means of defence was a strong fort of logs which surrounded the church, enclosing a space sufficient for several houses, and capable of withstanding a prolonged siege. No attack was made by the Indians in force upon any of the Hampton garrisons, and no massacre occurred like those at Dover and Durham. The people who lived on the outskirts of the town were not so fortunate. From time to time, many houses were burned by war-parties of the Indians, and more than a score of the settlers lost their lives. While Hampton thus enjoyed at home comparative immunity from attack, abroad her sons bore a conspicuous part in the arduous service of the long campaigns. Hampton men were to be found in almost every important expedition. During King Philip's war, the Massachusetts authorities planned an attack upon the Indian strongholds in Maine. The command of this important expedition was entrusted to Captain Benjamin Swett of Hampton, who was already a famous fighter of Indians. His little force of ninety white men and two hundred friendly Indians fell into an ambush at Black Point, in Scarborough, and was defeated with heavy loss. Sullivan, the historian of Maine, says in his account of the battle: "Swett fought the enemy hand to hand, displaying upon the spot and in a retreat of two miles great presence of mind as well as personal courage, in repeated rallies of his men. At last, wounded in twenty places and exhausted by loss of blood and fatigue, he was grappled, thrown to the ground and barbarously cut in pieces at the gates of the garrison. With this intrepid officer fell sixty of his men, forty English and twenty Indians. Seldom is the merit of a military officer more genuine; seldom is the death of one more deeply mourned." Two prominent officers of Hampton, Captain Samuel Sherburne and Captain Anthony Brackett, were killed at another disastrous battle near Casco, Maine. In the army which marched under Col. William Pepperell to the brilliant siege and capture of Louisburg were many men from Hampton, including Dr. Nathaniel Sargent and Dr. Anthony Emery, who served as surgeons. In the French and Indian War, Hampton men saw much important service. They fought in that bloody battle in the woods between the forces of Johnston and Baron Dieskau, they were among the victims of the terrible massacre at Fort William Henry, and they saw the flag of France go down forever on the Plains of Abraham.

The events which occurred in Massachusetts before the outbreak of the Revolution aroused intense interest and sympathy at Hampton. The people of the town had early learned the lesson of independence and resistance to English claims; the descendants of the men who drove out Mason's tax-collectors were not likely to stand in awe of British regulars at Boston. At a meeting held February 7, 1774, the following resolution was passed; "Resolved: that we will to the utmost of our Power in every Reasonable & Constitutional way, endeavor to promote & Defend the Happiness & Security of America, and if ever necessity Requires it, we will be ready in conjunction with our opprssed American Brethren, to Risque our Lives & Interest in support of those Rights, Liberties, & Privileges which our Supreme Lawgiver & our happy Constitution has entitled us to." While Hampton men fought in various battles of the war which followed, the larger part of Hampton's quota was engaged in the less dangerous but no less important duty of guarding the New Hampshire coast. In the War of 1812, Hampton was represented by the distinguished Major-General Henry Dearborn of North Hampton, who was commander-in-chief of the American forces on the Canadian border during the early years of the war. Hampton responded gallantly to the call for men at the outbreak of the Civil War: one hundred and eleven men enlisted, and twenty-six were killed or died in service.

In spite of the various wars, Hampton grew and prospered. The most important business of the town was from the first the raising of cattle, for which the broad pasture lands offered exceptional opportunities. The great foes of the herdsmen were the wolves, and unceasing war was waged upon them. The earliest record of a bounty offered by the town, reads as follows: "It is hereby declared that every townsman which shall kill a woolfe & shall bring the head thereof & nayle the same to a little red oak at the northeast end of the meeting house -- they shall have 10s a woolfe for their paynes." The little red oak must have been agruesomee spectacle at times. The picturesque ruin of an old tide-mill here and there along the country roads gives evidence of a once important industry. As early as 1640 a windmill for the grinding of corn was built at the Landing, and in 1700 twenty mills of various kinds were in operation. One of the first woolen mills in the state was built on the Hampton Falls river, the same site being now occupied by the Dodge mills. Fishing and ship-building were also important industries. The shore fishery was carried on at a very early date, from Boar's Head, and especially from the cove at the North Beach, near the old Leavitt tavern. The picturesque row of dilapidated and weather-beaten fish-houses at this point dates back nearly a century. The Hampton whale-boats were once famous along the coast, and the great winter's catch which they brought to shore was carried by six-horse sleds to the far inland towns of New Hampshire and Vermont. In those days the Landing on Hampton River was the scene of great activity. A vessel was nearly always on the stocks, and even a full-rigged ship was once launched from the yard. For a number of years large salt-works were in operation at this point, the product of which supplied the fishing-vessels which sailed northward to the Banks. During the early years communication with the outside world was almost entirely by sea. In 1657 a vessel which sailed from Hampton Landing for Boston capsized a short distance from the mouth of the river, and all on board were lost. The town records thus chronicle the event: "The sad hand of God upon eight psns goeing in a vessel by sea from Hampton to boston, who were all swallowed up in the ocean soon after they were out of the Harbour."

The first "ordinary" or tavern was opened by Goodman Robert Tuck in 1654, and several others were soon after established. Each tavernkeeper was licensed by the court, and held by it to strict account. The license of Henry Roby, granted in 1669, reads as follows: "The court grants him license to sell beere & wine & strong waters by retaile & ye sd Roby doth bind himself in ye sum of 40 lb, on condition not to suffer any townsmen, men's children & servants to lie tipling in his house."

A number of stores were established in the early years, and prominent among the merchants were General Moulton and Colonel Toppan, both of whom became wealthy through their mercantile ventures. Colonel Toppan was a large shipowner, and while generally successful, he met with several serious reverses. A schooner owned by him was lost on the Banks, and a fine brig, after having been sighted inside the Shoals, was blown to sea by a northwest gale, and never heard from again. The crews of both vessels were largely Hampton men. General Moulton was decidedly unpopular with many of his democratic townsmen. They believed his wealth to be fabulous, and they were quite certain that it was not all gained by selling, to those who were vain enough to buy, the "fine braizery" and "winter and summer goods" which he so temptingly advertised in the New Hampshire Gazette. Rumors of dark dealings began to be current about the country side, and the tale that General Moulton was a Yankee "Faust" shaped itself into a definite legend, to be told at Hampton firesides until the present time. One dark and stormy night, so the story ran, when the lightning flashes revealed the broad marshes to the line of the sea, the general secretly met the Evil One, and bartered his soul for as much gold as his great top boot would contain. The money was to be dropped down the chimney throat into the boot, which would be placed on the hearth below. When the night for completing the bargain came, the general placed his boot, from which he had cut the toe, in the fireplace. The golden shower began to fall, and the great yellow pieces rolled out from the toe of the boot and lay in shining heaps in the bar of moonlight which fell across the floor. The spirit on the roof, perplexed and angry, inquired from time to time if the boot was not full, while the general roared from below that it had not begun to fill. But that was only one side of the bargain. On that summer day when the cry, "General Moulton is dead," passed from mouth to mouth among the men who were haying on the marshes, it was confidently supposed that he had been snatched away, body and soul, by the foul fiend of the air; and this belief was confirmed by the awe-struck bearers at the imposing funeral, who reported that the coffin was as heavy as if filled with stones. While the general may not have felt complimented by the circulation of such stories during his life-time, he was doubtless shrewd enough to see that they added to his power over the superstitious people.

But General Moulton used other than supernatural means to amass his wealth. A single instance will illustrate his methods. On a clear night of November, 1764, a great English "mast-ship" came ashore on the North Beach, just south of where the fishhouses now stand. It is difficult to say how true the stories were, but it was darkly hinted that the ship was too heavily insured, that a part of the cargo had been secretly landed. and that the ship was beached through a previous arrangement with certain shrewd conspirators of Hampton. At all events General Moulton and Colonel Toppan were immediately appointed as keepers, by the Admiralty court at Portsmouth, and the goods recovered from the wreck were advertised to be for sale at their respective stores. In the meantime some of the village people had picked up a few articles on the beach, believing themselves no doubt entitled to a portion of the "spoils." These persons were placed under arrest by order of the keepers. This act produced so much bad feeling, that an armed mob assembled, which rescued the prisoners and gave the thrifty keepers a bad fright. So serious grew the disturbance that the riot act was read, and Governor Wentworth ordered the militia to be in readiness to assist the authorities. The excitement soon subsided, however, the goods were sold, and the two military gentlemen realized a profit of a thousand guineas each from the transaction.

General Moulton owned at one time an immense tract of land, eighty thousand acres, it is said, north of Lake Winnipesaukeee. In 1767, Colonel Stephen Mason led a colony of thirteen Hampton families to settle upon this tract. At Alton Bay they built a boat, no doubt of the Hampton whaleboat type, and its sail, woven by Madame Mason, was the first to catch the breeze on Winnipesaukeee. Crossing the lake, they founded the town of Tamworth.

The Moulton and the Toppan families were neighbors, and lived in what was then considered princely style. They each had negro slaves and employed great retinues of servants. They vied with one another in princely hospitality, and it -was rare that one house or the other was without its distinguished guest, Governor Wentworth, some official from the Bay, or a stranger from over the sea. In 1769 General Moulton's mansion was burned with all its contents, the loss being 13,000 sterling. Shortly after another vas built, which is still standing. It was here that the great festivities were held when the general married his second wife, and it was here according to the legend that the rings were taken from the fingers of the new wife on her bridal night. Whittier has told the story in "The New Wife and the Old."

When the old general died, more ghosts haunted the house than ever visited the great drawing-room of the "House of the Seven Gables." In one room, even at the present time, it is said that a lamp will not remain lighted, but is blown out by a ghostly breath. The spirit of "Johnny Square-toes," the dwarf who was the general's body-servant, and who was said to share his supernatural. powers, divided its time between the house and the old burying-ground. Madam Moulton, the general's stately first wife, was a frequent visitor, and the rustle of her brocade gown could be heard as she ascended and descended the broad stairs. The general himself so alarmed the occupants of the house by his nocturnal visits, that a devout minister of Amesbury was summoned to exorcise the uneasy spirit. After saving various prayers the good man solemnly nailed up the troublesome ghost in a closet. All this was long ago. The old house looks innocent enough now, as the visitor sees it in the summer sunshine; but pass it at night, when the light of the waning moon, red and sinister, is reflected from its windows, when the wreaths of marsh-fog take shapes like gray ghosts about it,-let it be seen in this aspect, and the old tales take on a different meaning.

It is not known whether any special provision was made for teaching the children of the town before 1649. In that year the first public school was established in accordance with the following vote: "The selectmen of Hampton have agreed with John Legat for the present yeare insueing, to teach and instruct all the children of or belonging to our Town, both mayle and femaile (which are capable of learning) to write and read and cast accountes (if it be desired) as dilegently and as carefully as lie is able to instruct them. And allso to teach and instruct them once in a week, or more in some Artliodox chatechism provided for them by their parents or masters. And in consideration hereof we have agreed to pay the same John Legat, the som of Twenty pounds in corne, and cattle and butter." It is worthy of notice that the girls of Hampton were taught in the public school from the very first, contrary to the custom which prevailed in many New England towns. It was not always easy to provide payment in those days, even in "corne and butter," and John Legat was obliged to sue the selectmen for "schooleing & other writings done for ye Towne." Of the eleven schoolmasters employed by the town prior to the Revolution, eight were graduates of Harvard College. During the same period four of the ministers were also Harvard men, and in this way the town became warmly attached to the college and often contributed liberally to its support.

In 18Io Hampton Academy was incorporated by an act of legislature.

While this school never attained the popularity of the academies at Exeter and Gilmanton, which were earlier established, its record was a most honorable one. Among its graduates have been Rufus Choate, ex-Senator Daniel Clarke of New Hampshire, Judge Morrill of Texas, and ex-Governor Grimes of Iowa. In 1872, the academy ceased to exist as a corporate institution, and became a part of the school system of the town.

The town of Hampton as originally granted was too large to remain long undivided. The new communities which sprang up within its borders desired independent governments, which were successively granted, until scarcely an eighth of the original territory was left to the mother town. Not unnaturally the people of the old town viewed these concessions with disfavor, and always resisted them as long as was possible. The first grant made in 1694, to several Hampton families, was of a large tract of unoccupied land in the western part of the town. One of the petitioners was Ebenezer Webster, the great-grandfather of Daniel Webster. The grant was called Kingstown, and the territory which it included is now divided between the towns of Kingston, East Kingston, Danville and Sandown. The next division was in 1718, when after a long struggle the town of Hampton Falls was incorporated. This grant included the present town of Kensington, and a part of Seabrook. A settlement was very early made on the "Falls side," as it was called, Christopher Hussey moving there from Hampton in 1650. The town grew in importance almost as rapidly as did Hampton itself, and it was a natural feeling of pride, as well as considerations of economy and convenience, which led to the separation. The two villages, however, only three miles apart, have always remained closely united in common sympathy and respect. At Hampton Falls there lived, during the Revolutionary days, two of the most prominent men of the colony, Nathaniel and Meshech Weare, father and son. Nathaniel Weare removed from Newbury to that part of Hampton which is now the village of Seabrook, in 1662. From that time until the close of his life of eighty-seven years, he took a prominent part in public affairs. He was twice sent to England as the representative of the people, on secret and important missions connected with the Mason controversy. He was counselor for twenty years, and for a time chief justice. Even more distinguished was the career of his son Meshech, born in 1713. He was educated for the ministry at Harvard, but at the outset of his career the brilliant young preacher was drawn almost against his will into public service. He was a member of the General Court from the town of Hampton Falls, for a period of thirty years, from 1745 to 1775, when the royal government ended. During this time he was also Colonel of the state militia. At the outbreak of the Revolution the attitude of Colonel Weare towards the cause of the colonists was anxiously watched, and his outspoken declaration in favor of liberty was received with great joy. He was a member of the convention which assembled at Exeter in 1775, and which resolved itself into a House of Representatives. This House elected a council of twelve members, of which Meshech Weare was chosen president, holding the office throughout the war. During the same period he was chairman of the State Committee of Safety. When the constitution was adopted, he was immediately chosen the first governor, or president as it was then called, of the new state. He declined a reelection, and retired to his farm, where he died two years later. His public services covered a continuous period of forty years. He was a blameless patriot, one of New Hampshire's most noble sons. In 1853, the state erected to his memory a monument, which stands on the village green at Hampton Falls.

The town lost still more territory before it reached its present size. In 1730 a large tract was annexed to the town of Rye, and in 1742 North Hampton became a separate town.

While other towns have been almost depopulated by the attractiveness of the growing West, the people of Hampton have been in a remarkable way loyal to the old homes and the old associations. Of the fifteen men who received the original grant of land, seven have descendants still living in the town. There are few deserted farms, -- the soil is too productive for that; and in many cases the prosperous farmer is the sixth or seventh of the same line whose members have lived on the same spot, if not in the same house, and have tilled the same fertile acres. But Hampton has not been altogether ungenerous, and the town boasts among the distinguished men who have traced their lineage directly back to Hampton families such names as Daniel Webster, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John G. Whittier, Lewis Cass, General Joseph D. Webster, General Henry Dearborn, and Bishop Chase of Ohio.

While Hampton people have been tenacious of the old associations, they have not been equally careful to preserve the old landmarks. There are a few very ancient dwelling-houses; but the public buildings of the early days, churches, school-houses and garrisons, have long since disappeared. The most interesting part of the town, historically, is easily accessible from the Hampton railway station. A few rods south of the station is Hotel Whittier, on the site of which a public house has been kept since Jonathan Leavitt opened his ordinary in 1713. In front of the hotel a broad avenue leads to the south. On the left of this road, nearly facing the hotel, surrounded by magnificent elms stands the Toppan mansion, built in the somewhat rare type of colonial architecture, in which two wings meet at a right angle. The house was built about the year 1720, by Dr. Edmund Toppan, and has been occupied by the Toppan family until very recently. On the right, at the turn of the road, a few rods farther on, is the General Moulton house. Square and massive, with huge plaster-covered chimneys, it still retains something of its ancient dignity. Taking the road to the left, a short distance from the Moulton house, is "Meeting-house Green." Every trace of the old church has vanished, but the parsonage, black and weatherbeaten, still faces the road.

The building was erected in 1767, the laborers receiving "43 shillings old tenor & a gll of Rum per day." It was occupied as a parsonage until 1871. On the south side of the main road, just beyond its junction with the road which passes the meeting-house green, is the old burying-ground [Ed.: Ring Swamp Cemetery], first set apart in 1654. If the visitor expects to find here those quaint and touching memorials of the earliest settlers which are so carefully preserved in most colonial towns, he will be disappointed. It is a matter of deep regret that this ancient burying ground should have been so neglected. It has been allowed to grow up to brambles and bushes, and the old stones have been broken and buried beneath the accumulating soil. If the resting places of those eminent divines of early Hampton, Timothy Dalton and Seaborn Cotton, are known, they are not marked in any way. The tall stone with its stately inscription to the memory of Nathaniel Gookin is the earliest which marks the grave of a Hampton minister. The earliest stone which is now leg'ble was erected in 1685, but that and all others of early date will disappear in a very few years if prompt steps are not taken to preserve them. The burying-ground at Hampton Falls, hardly less ancient, is similarly neglected. Near the entrance of this ground is the stone to the memory of Theophilus Cotton, the first minister of Hampton Falls, a flat tablet of slate, dated 1726. Near the grave of the learned pastor is a rough field stone, wonderfully well preserved, upon which is cut in rude and uneven letters this epitaph:

Body oF RuTH
SanBun Ho diED
in 1 YEAR oF
CH 14 dAY

Lovingly and tenderly the father must have cut the letters in those far off days, in memory of the little girl who died, and when we think how his tears fell fast upon the rough stone, it becomes invested with sudden pathos and dignity. In another Hampton Falls burying-ground not far away on the Exeter road, is the stone which marks the obscure grave of a man who was once a famous preacher and scholar, Samuel Langdon, D. D., pastor at Hampton Falls, and later president of Harvard University.

The main street of Hampton Village leads to the beach, three miles away, which has a history of its own quite apart from that of the town. The tide of summer travel long since left Hampton hopelessly behind. There is now no fashionable pageant of the summer months, and even the cottages are for the most part of a type of marine architecture now quite obsolete. No one who visits the beach in these days of its decadence would imagine that it was once one of the most popular resorts on the coast, the dangerous rival of Newport and Long Branch. A stock company built on Boar's Head, in 1826, a hotel for summer guests, one of the first erected exclusively for that purpose in the country. The original hotel, much enlarged and improved, stood by the bluff, a conspicuous landmark, until it was destroyed by fire in 1893. During the days of its prosperity it was a favorite resort of people from every state in the Union. Hardly less popular were the Ocean House, which was erected in 1844, and burned in 1885, and the Hampton Beach Hotel, which is still standing.

The noble headland which stands between the north and south beaches, named "Bore's head" by the earliest settlers, commands a beautiful prospect. Southward at the mouth of the Merrimac rise the spires of Newburyport, and beyond them the low shores of Cape Ann reach out to sea, at night star-tipped by the twin lights of Thatcher's Island. Nearer at hand lie the broad sands of the "South Beach," where Whittier in fancy pitched his poetical tent. Eastward twelve miles as the seagull flies, just far enough to make them enchanted islands, the country of dreams, are the Isles of Shoals. One day they are so clear through leagues of bright, sea-scented air, that you can see the flag as it blows out free from the roof of the "Appledore." Again they seem to drift away to sea, in the heated land-breeze, or they are changed into fantastic and fading shapes by the mirage. Northward, adding all unexpected charm to the landscape,

"Aganlenticus lifts its blue
Disk of a cloud the woodlands o'er."

But it is not beach, nor bluff, nor islands of the sea, which make the chief attractiveness of Hampton scenery. It is the marshes. They bear no resemblance to those dreary stretches of muddy flats through which the railroads pass as they approach the sea-board cities. The Hampton marshes are so broad, the sea of sky and cloud which floats above them is so vast, that unpicturesque details, if they exist, are unnoticed. The marsh is at its best in late summer, when seabirds begin to haunt its shining pools and rivers, when it is dotted with stacks of salt hay, and its surface is variegated with masses of rich color, vivid greens and reds and golds. The trees, clumps of pines and oaks which grow on the long promontories of upland which reach down into the marsh, occur at just the right intervals to break what might be too monotonous levels into charming vistas; the herds of great black and white cattle seem to arrange themselves in the most effective groups; and over all the marvellous lights and shadows play.

A short drive in almost any direction from the village of Hampton will take one to a land where time seems to have been standing still. You leave the obtrusive railroad and the trim houses of the town, pass a turn of the road, and before you stretches the winding, elm-arched way. At the foot of a little hill is a bridge over a brook, whose black waters run swift and strong, drawn seaward by the attraction of the falling tide, miles away. Beyond the brook, by the meadow's edge, is a low farmhouse, with huge, plastered chimneys, and near it a red barn surmounted by a weather-vane in the shape of a wooden ship which has been beating up into the east wind, unsuccessfully attempting to make a harbor, for nearly a century. Perhaps you will drive toward Hampton Falls over the famous and historic "causeway."

Along this road galloped Paul Revere on the night of December 13, 1774, bringing to Portsmouth the message of the Committee of Safety at Boston, which resulted in the seizing of the military stores at Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth Harbor,powder and ball which most opportunely supplemented the scanty store of the Americans at Bunker's Hill. Over this road came General Washington, while making his triumphal tour of the States, escorted through New Hampshire by Governor Sullivan and four troops of light horse. Over this road came Lafayette and later President Monroe, on their way to visit Portsmouth. Over this road was driven one of the earliest stage coaches in New England, a curricle and span, making the round trip from Portsmouth to Boston in five days. The village of Hampton Falls is most satisfying to one who loves the old New England community. If Lafayette could drive again through its quiet street he would find little change.

At the northwest corner of the village green is the Meshech Weare house, enlarged, but otherwise the same as when Washington, while the army was at Cambridge, spent the night in consultation with the president of the Committee of Safety. South of the square, on the right, is the little low country store, with its green shutters and its inviting jackknife-scarred bench just within the door. And here you may see real country people who come to gossip and to trade; people who might have just stepped out of one of Miss Jewett's stories, not the sophisticated kind who have kept summer boarders. Across the way is a real inn, the "Wellswood," which was built in 1808, and which a kind Providence and intelligent owners have preserved substantially unaltered. It stands on the site of the "George," a "famous colonial hostelry. It has its own history, too, for it has entertained distinguished guests without number, and once its spacious hall was used as an improvised court room, in which Daniel Webster made an eloquent plea. Just south of the inn, across green lawns, is Elmfield, the Gove mansion, where Whittier died.

Whittier's love for Hampton was great, and he never failed, after the year 1860, to make an annual pilgrimage to it, even if his stay was very brief. It was so fitting that he should have spent his last summer there, in this beautiful old house, with his dearest friends about him, within sight, almost within sound of the sea. In the garden on the southerly slope below the house is a magnificent elm, with a rustic seat at its foot. It was here that the aged poet loved to sit through the long afternoons, until the level sunlight streamed through the gaps of the trees and across the marshes to the darkening sea. The room in which he died, with the precious relics of his occupancy, is sacredly kept as he left it. The quiet town seems still to feel the benediction of his presence.

The younger generation of the ancient town of Hampton is enterprising in spirit, and is looking of course toward the future. The popularity of the beach as a fashionable resort may never be regained. Some day, however, an electric road will be built from Exeter and Salisbury. The swarming thousands of the Merrimac valley will bring profit to the town, and will find health and amusement in their own way, a way in which beer and roller coasters and shore dinners will play a prominent part. This is, perhaps, as it should be; but it seems a pity that anything of the kind should happen. A spell should be cast over the town, and it should be cut off from the Merrimac valley and all other places where spindles are whirling and the fierce game of money-making is going on. The railroad should not come nearer than Exeter. Communication with Portsmouth and Newburyport should again be by "curricle and pair." The curfew should ring again, and the bell which used solemnly to toll the age of the dead. All the old houses should regain their former stateliness. Lights should shine once more in the Moulton mansion, and at the Toppan house punch should again be brewed in the great china bowl which was saved from the wreck of the "mast ship." Lotos and "the poppies of Cathay" would surely grow by the quiet pools of the marshes; and no one should be admitted to the town who would not drink of the draught of forgetfulness.

[See also, Old Hampton In New Hampshire Pictorials, By Newton Marshall Hall -- March 1896]

For a digital scan of this article, see the Hampton Historical Society website.

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