By Susan Morse
The Hampton Union - Herald Sunday, Sunday, May 4, 2003
HAMPTON - Many of us find old, forgotten items during spring cleaning. Judi Thibault of Nottingham found 100-year-old artifacts, about a half-dozen newspapers from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Her cache includes the first issue of Hampton Union - or Hamptons Union as it was then called - from June 14, 1899. In one Exeter News-Letter from 1876, Amos Tuck writes a letter to the editor.
Thibault has known of the existence of the newspapers for about five years. They were at the bottom of a box of old family photographs stored in her aunt's house. The box went to Thibault's mother in Hampton Falls, Stella Shaw McEachern, after the death of her sister.
Thibault and her mother looked briefly at the newspapers and put them back in the white plastic bag in which they were stored, marked in magic marker for curtains.
"One thing I was very surprised," Thibault said. "They were still intact enough to read. I thought how sad they were not better preserved. I read some of it. I was almost afraid to touch it."
The papers eventually migrated to her house in Nottingham. She unearthed them again last month during spring cleaning and decided to give them to Seacoast Newspapers.
"I think something like this needs to be shared rather than tucked away in a house," Thibault said. "It makes fascinating reading. What they thought was newsworthy."
Thibault carefully looks through the 1899 Hamptons Union.
"The big news was that Warren had blueberries from New Jersey," she said. Thibault also finds a typo, the word flags misspelled.
Today's audience might find the papers a hard read. The type is small, the language flowery, and there are few photos or drawings to capture attention. But the stories are a fascinating look at life here 100 years ago.
On the front page of the original Hamptons Union, June 14, 1899, Vol. 1, No. 1, there is space blocked off for seven display ads, all missing their photos.
The names of the businesses missing their halftone images are as old as the page: The Leonia of North Beach; Hotel Whittier of Hampton, "located at the junction of the Hampton and Exeter and Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway"; Jenkins' Cafe at Hampton Beach; Batchelder's at Little Boar's Head; Cutler's Hotel in Hampton Beach; Marden's Hotel in Rye Beach; and New Boar's Head Hotel in Hampton Beach.
Inside the editor tells of some delay that resulted in the photos being omitted, but there is no editor or publisher's name listed.
The 1899 Hamptons Union tells us that Civil War veterans participated in the decoration of comrades' graves over Memorial Day. Also, "a gasoline engine is soon to be set up at Hotel Whittier, where it will be used in various ways as motive power."
On June 3, 1899, one story states, those within earshot of Hampton Academy heard a "cannonade" of an explosion, which blew out 32 panes of glass in the academy building.
"A year ago," states the author who does not give his or her name, the event "might have been construed to be a forewarning of the landing of a band of blockading Spaniards off Boar's Head ..."
No such band of renegade Spanish-American War soldiers were found. The Hamptons Union said it thought it would have been a nice gesture if the cannon had been fired as a salute to its very first publication.
Other Hampton news from 1899: "The Hampton Depot has been the scene of much heavy trucking for some time past, on account of the construction of the electric railway to Amesbury and Newburyport."
Other news: "W.M. Batchelder is getting in blueberries from Boston, the first of the season."
"Mrs. Otis H. Whittier spent Friday last in Boston."
"Baseball teams of Hampton and Rye played a hotly contested game on home ground Wednesday."
"The town hall is receiving a thorough spring cleaning."
"Electric cars are now making regular trips between Hampton and Newburyport."
Many surnames are familiar. Here's some Rye news: "Rev. A.W. Mills preached an interesting sermon; Andrew G. Locke was visiting in Portsmouth; the Seaside Literacy Club entertained at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Walker; Chester Drake spent the summer with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adam E. Drake."
In Seabrook news: "Seabrook is now accessible by electric car as well as the Boston and Maine Railroad"; population 1,700 and "maintains three post offices, two railroad stations, and three telephone stations." It is made up of "several pretty little villages with picturesque scenery intermingled ..."
Another Hamptons Union of June 21, 1901, shows the paper was published on Fridays by Charles Francis Adams and a one-year subscription costs $1.
Copies of The Exeter News-Letter, which was established in 1831, include a Friday, Aug. 18, 1876 edition.
Charles Marseilles is the "editor and proprietor."
Underneath his name is the name of President Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio for president and Vice President William A. Wheeler of New York for vice president. It probably doesn't need to be said that these were the Republican candidates.
Amos Tuck, said to be the founder of the Republican Party at Exeter, writes a letter to the editor saying illness had caused him to miss deadline for submitting stories.
"However," Tuck writes, "as I consider the record of the past important, and highly valued by some, I resume my contributions and herewith send you article No. VII."
Tuck goes on at length about a Democratic convention held in Concord in 1845.
There's also an article about an outbreak of intestinal trouble at a Rye hotel that was eventually traced back to "infected ice" gotten from a stagnant pond.
Another Jan. 12, 1900, edition of The Exeter News-Letter, now published by John Templeton for $1.50-a-year subscription, gives no support for president, but does sound off, in very familiar tones, about exactly when the new century starts or started.
"The papers say that there is a great deal of discussion on the question when the new century begins, but we have not seen many people as stupid as the German emperor is said to have been," one story states
Obituaries include death notices of numerous infants and children.
Thibault figures that the newspapers must have been saved by her great-great grandfather. Simeon Albert Shaw, born in 1856, who was the kind of guy who was a keeper, she says.
Shaw lived in Hampton on what is now the site of the Tidewater campground. Shaw was already the eighth generation living on the property.
Thibault's grandfather, Elroy Garfield, born in 1881, lived in the homestead, as did her mother. A family member lives there now.
Unfortunately, as much as Thibault knows about her ancestors and wants to preserve the historic newspapers she's found, not much is known about the family photographs that were also in the box brought to her home.
Some of the photos were taken pre-1900, Thibault says, but there is no one in the family now who can identify these ancestors.
"None of them were marked," she said. "None of them were named."