A History of Beckman's Point and White Rocks Island

from "Little Stories of Old New England"
By William D. Cram

Hampton Union & Rockingham County Gazette, Thursday, January 13, 1938

With the announcement just made by the Seabrook Beach Committee, Inc., of the purchase by it of "Beckman's Point," so-called, one of the strangest chapters of late Seabrook-Hampton history comes to an end.

Ever since Bound Rock was selected as the bound between Hampton and Salisbury in 1656, because at that time it was located approximately in the middle of the Hampton River, the erratic river with its mouth bordered by shifting banks of sand has changed its entrance north and south many times as the storms have sent scouring currents to eat away the beaches on one side and deposit the sands on the other.

Regarded as a natural phenomenon, little mention has been made of these changes in the history of the two towns but existing charts made at intervals of many years reveal these changes. Amid these alternating movements, it happened that about 1882 when the three outcroppings of ledge which form the peculiar composition of rock have a decidedly whitish tinge in the most northeasterly section from which they have gained the title "White Rocks" were then occupying the central position in the mouth of the Hampton River and forming the attractive island, Frank E. Beckman, an ardent lover of fishing, hunting and the great outdoors was so attracted by their perfection for a sportsman's camp that he with great effort ferried down lumber and other essentials and built a house on the outcropping ledge furthest inland.

In the years that followed storm and tide moved the sands and the river mouth back and forth but the Beckman house with its firm foundation and the protecting influence of the two more exposed outcroppings of ledge stood firmly in place, although to transient visitors who passed at intervals of some years, it had apparently had moved, since for a period the sands gradually moved to the north making the "Beckman Point" as it began to be called a larger island by narrowing the channel on the north and widening it on the south. This continued until the northern channel was only navigable at high tide and then on a stormy day in the '90's after two local fishermen had sailed in with the gale whipping up the sea behind them, the next morning found the passage filled up and the whole island now forming the southern end of Hampton Beach.

Those familiar with Hampton Beach history will recall the building of the Mile-long bridge in 1901-02 and its opening in May of the latter year at which time the river was running so far south the house of Frank Locke the fisherman, was about where the draw of the bridge is at present. The south end of the beach just annexed, so to speak, was laid out by the town of Hampton, the area being popularly known as White Island and laying easterly of Ocean Avenue, now popularly known as the Ocean boulevard the first street extending toward the ocean from opposite Haverhill avenue, the next south, Grafton avenue (now Bradford avenue), then Atlantic, Boston, Concord, Dover, Exeter, and Franklin avenues in turn, while running north and south was River avenue, which left the boulevard opposite P street which existed only on paper and continuing across Franklin avenue to the river had extended westerly from it 200 feet beyond Franklin Bridge avenue which did not reach the bridge because of the river. Easterly of River avenue and parallel with it were Schley, Sampson, and Dewey avenues in relative order, the names indicating well enough the time. River avenue has now become Riverview avenue.

Shortly after this Hampton river began to get uneasy in its bed southward. By 1904 at high tide and the sands began migrating there was a channel between the cottages which now occupied the area known as White Island and the ledges from which the name came and this grew deeper and wider as the years passed until the ledge was a permanent island. And now storm after storm cut more deeply into the northern side of the river and built on to the southern side. In 1919 came the first big storm in which houses on Bridge and Franklin avenues were toppled over and one or two in fact carried up against the Mile-long Bridge.

At intervals of some years these destructive storms were repeated until in the Spring of 1931 the ocean front of White Island, from the river to Grafton avenue, washed out, houses toppled over and so terrific was the damage with uncertainty as to how much more destruction might follow that the state of New Hampshire took action, the present jetties were constructed in 1934-35 and the great area of almost 50 acres which had been washed away were pumped back or perhaps more correctly filled in from the river bottom and the present layout is expected to stay put.

These storms had by 1914 filled in the south side of White Rocks ledges with the northerly end of Seabrook Beach so that the marker Bound Rock which denoted the end of Hampton was now some hundred yards south of the river and buried under eight or ten feet of sand.

During the Spring of 1937, the state of New Hampshire had this rock uncovered a protecting wall built around it and a rather treacherous sandy road makes it possible but risky for a machine to go out to it. Looking over the circular concrete wall which is about 14 feet in diameter, one may see some 10 or 12 feet below, the top of the historic Bound Rock, marking the boundary line over which heated bitter controversy was waged for so many years, and which was not wholly cleared up in final details until the Fall of 1887.

Though Mr. Beckman's house withstood the repeated hammerings of wind and rain, there came an onslaught which it could not withstand. The Hampton selectmen started a drive to clear off the beach numerous small houses which had been built thereon without permission. In carrying out their crusade, the selectmen failed to take into consideration the fact that while practically all these cottages had been so recently built that their owners had not acquired any title, The Beckman cottage had been continuously occupied for the period which gave then legal title thereto.

The unofficial tale of the highly exciting scene at the visit of the selectmen to clear the Beckman house off the sands differs much in various versions of the tellers from a mere chopping down bee to a near battle to death with clubs and fists. Whatever it was, a legal battle followed in which the courts sustained the claim of Mr. Beckman and damages were awarded him, and he rebuilt. About a year ago, fire destroyed the cottage again and once more Mr. Beckman rebuilt.

In the more than 50 years that Mr. Beckman has had his house here, many prominent men and famous fishermen have been his guests. "Beckman's Point" became noted for its owner and for the fine shooting and fishing which existed in those years gone by, and which sportsmen say, has been better the year just passed than for a long period. But now the property has changed hands and just what the new owners propose to do it has not been announced.

It sits surrounded by land of the state of New Hampshire and here is an unofficial warning to visitors who may desire to go out there during the summer. This end of Seabrook Beach has been for time almost immemorial preempted by the Arctic Terns as a breeding spot. They arrive here in early June, lay their eggs which hatch in early July and tend their young until they are able to migrate with them by early September. Watch not only your step if you go into their nesting places but more so your face and eyes. They swoop with savage fierceness at the extruder's eyes and they have remarkable speed and accurate aim. The white cap seems particularly to invite their attack but a stick reaching high above the shoulder proves a trusty safeguard. The Bound Rock is an interesting place to see and the peculiar formation of the White Rocks always repays those with geological knowledge for their trip over the sand.