Hampton History Matters, the book ;-)

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Those who follow this blog know that for a number of years I’ve been writing History Matters, a column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, which is published monthly in the Hampton Union newspaper and republished on my social media sites at Facebook, Twitter, and lassitergang.com.

In 2017 I combined this collection of columns, plus extra photos and a few bonus articles, into a book titled (big surprise!) Hampton History Matters. The book is available on Amazon.com and at Marelli’s Market in Hampton, New Hampshire.

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HHM BOOK COVER

HHM BOOK COVER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heartfelt thanks to Karen Raynes, a former newspaper correspondent and current vice president of the Hampton Historical Society, for getting me into this newspaper gig to begin with, and to Betty Moore, Executive Director of the Tuck Museum of Hampton History, for generously allowing access to the museum’s archives and for reprint permissions.

 

 

 

Horseless in Hampton

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An anecdote passed down in the early 20th century by Reverend Edgar Warren of Hampton, New Hampshire, says that the first horseless carriage to appear on the streets of town was brought in 1878 by Loring Dunbar Shaw, a fireman with the Boston Fire Department and the son of local residents Dearborn and Clarissa Shaw. Loring was an up-and-coming inventor of mechanical devices, having received several patents for an automatic steam relief valve which he licensed to the fire department for use in its horse-drawn fire engines. His patents became the foundation for the Boston-based Shaw Relief Valve Company, formed in 1882.

1869 Roper Steam Buggy & Velocipede

Sylvester H. Roper handbill advertising, 1869.

Loring’s interest in motorized vehicles may have been sparked by the pioneering work of Sylvester Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts, an inventor who had exhibited a steam-propelled carriage and velocipede not far from Shaw’s engine house in South Boston. In any event, a steam carriage was a convenient way for Loring to demonstrate to prospective buyers and investors the effectiveness of his relief valves. He brought his carriage to Hampton by rail, and upon arrival at the depot “curious bystanders” helped him push it to a nearby water pump to fill the boiler. Once the steam was up, Loring started down the beach road “at the dizzy pace of five miles an hour.” He was seen jaunting around town for a few days in his “teapot on wheels,” until the selectmen deemed it a nuisance and ordered it off the road.

The Locomobile

The next horseless carriage of note in Hampton was an early Stanley steam car called the Locomobile, driven by its inventor and builder, Freelan O. Stanley of Newton, Massachusetts. As Stanley passed through town in August 1899, en route to the White Mountains to attempt the first-ever motorized ascent of the Mount Washington Carriage Road, he stopped to show off the Locomobile at the Whittier Hotel on Lafayette Road, where local resident Mary Toppan (Clark) photographed the man and his machine.

1899 Locomobile

Inventor Freelan O. Stanley with unknown woman and Locomobile in front of the Whittier Hotel, Hampton New Hampshire (August 1899). Courtesy Hampton Historical Society.

Stanley and his twin brother and business partner Francis had been in the embryonic automobile industry for less than three years. They were better known for their photographic dry plates, which they manufactured through the Stanley Dry Plate Company of Lewiston, Maine. Miss Toppan must have been pleased to make Stanley’s latest invention the subject of her photographer’s lens, perhaps even using plates made by his own company.

 Hampton’s early auto laws

In 1904, a quarter century after the selectmen had banned Loring Shaw’s horseless buggy, the town posted its first ever automobile laws to combat the “reckless manner” in which the rapidly proliferating motor vehicles were running over the roads. The speed limit through town was set at 8 miles per hour and vehicles were required to stop when approaching a team of horses that seemed spooked (this was a serious problem, and some New Hampshire towns wisely arranged meet-and-greets at the town square where their horses could acclimate to the noisy contraptions before going under harness). For some years it appeared that the new speed limit law, while not always obeyed, was carefully enforced, with $400 in fines assessed in 1907 alone. But like the tramp laws of an earlier era, enforcement eventually fell by the wayside, and in 1910 and 1912 town meeting voters requested the selectmen to again enforce the speed limit laws.

Hampton’s first woman driver

Before Charles Kettering invented the electric starter in 1911, only a handful of women owned and operated cars. Kettering’s invention helped change all that by eliminating the need to hand crank, making cars much easier to operate. That is unless your car was a Ford, which didn’t begin installing electric starters until 1919.

1915 Bernice Glidden

Hampton’s first woman driver Bernice Glidden (Palmer) and grandmother Anna Victoria Glidden in a sporty Ford Model T Roadster (1915). Courtesy Hampton Historical Society.

With that in mind, it was at the wheel of a hand cranked Ford Model T Roadster that 26-year-old Bernice Glidden took to the road in 1915, giving her the distinction of being the first woman in Hampton to drive a car. Bernice had been born in Medford, Massachusetts, grew up in Hampton, graduated cum laude from Tufts University in 1910, and worked as a designer in Boston before marrying Charles D. Palmer of Hampton. She was an artist, and a collection of her hand-drawn notecards depicting familiar Hampton scenes is owned by the Hampton Historical Society, of which she was a longtime member.

Get a decent job

Also in 1915—the year the one-millionth Tin Lizzie rolled off Henry Ford’s assembly line—a 24-year-old former chauffeur named Frank E. Brooks opened the Hampton Center Garage, near the train depot, on land purchased from the Boston & Maine Railroad. The garage was one of the earliest service stations in Hampton, and, as Brooks Motor Sales, one of the first Ford dealerships in New England.

To Frank’s parents the horseless carriage was a passing fad, and they had urged him to get a “decent job.” But he knew automobiles were the future of transportation. The following year he expanded to Portsmouth, where, from the barn of his father in law’s residence, he started out as a sub-dealer for pioneering auto dealer and blacksmith Hiram Wever. “Your best friends in those days, if you owned a car, was the blacksmith,” Frank said in a 1966 interview. “They had the mechanical ability to replace broken springs and make other repairs in the days before there were garage service stations.”

Within a year Frank moved his operation to the old Portsmouth Forge building and became a direct dealer of Ford automobiles. At least four brothers and a brother in law found employment in the growing Brooks auto empire, with Frank’s brother John, who served as Hampton’s town moderator from 1937 until his death in 1952, as a sales manager. In 1961 Frank parted with the Hampton Center Garage, which reopened that same year as C&B Ford Village. In 1966 he sold Brooks Motor Sales, which reopened under the name Brady Auto Sales and is today Portsmouth Ford.

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Top: John Brooks on right, in front of Hampton Center Garage (c 1930 Ford Model A). Bottom: Hampton Center Garage with a Model T at front of building (c. 1925). Photos courtesy of Hampton Historical Society.

Going, going, gone

In 1900, Hampton’s annual valuation included 270 horses—almost one for every four residents in town. By 1920 the number had dropped to 157, and by 1940, when a car could be found in most driveways, the number of horses had fallen nearly 90 per cent. By mid-century Hampton was truly horseless, with only 4 equines among the resident livestock counted in 1963, the last year they appeared in the records.

Early Horseless Humor

“Horseless vehicles may do well for long distance excursions on the road, but it is plain they will never answer for making neigh-borly calls.”

Originally published in the Hampton Union, June 22, 2018.

Featured (public domain) photograph: Sylvester Roper and his steam carriage, c. 1870.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. “Hampton History Matters,” a collection of new and previously published essays, is available at amazon.com and Marelli’s Market. Contact Cheryl at hamptonwriter@gmail.com or lassitergang.com.

The Hampton Beach Secessionists

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Hampton Beach in the 1890s was still enjoying its classic Hotel Era, with hats and gloves and German cotillions and everybody in bed and asleep by 10 p.m. Separated from the main village by three miles of farms, woodlands, and bumpy roads, the beach was usually left to its own devices, unless threatened by squatters, seaweed-stealers, or even another state. It then became the most important and most jealously guarded part of town. So even though Hampton was no stranger to its parishes going off to form new towns—she had nine daughter towns to her credit—no one at the time would have imagined that in less than 40 years Hampton Beach would be trying to form a tenth.

But everything changed with the coming of the electric railway. By the turn of the century, its trolleys were carrying thousands of day trippers from the inland cities of the Merrimack Valley to the New Hampshire seashore. Seemingly overnight, Hampton Beach had been transformed from a gently-used summer resort and fall gunning haven into a bustling tourist town operated mainly by out-of-towners, people with no sense of the ancient and unspoken ties between town and beach. Yet the town was happy to accommodate the newcomers, and those who wanted a more permanent relationship with the beach could sublease a 50’ x 100’ lot from the town or the Hampton Beach Improvement Company and build themselves a cottage. Rooming houses sprang up as businesses thronged the still-unpaved beach boulevard.

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Trolleys bring a convention of Shriners to Hampton Beach, 1901. Courtesy Hampton Historical Society.

 Hampton didn’t know exactly what its old Ox Common would become in the new century, but it had definite ideas about what it would not become. As James Tucker liked to remind the readers of his Hampton Beach News-Guide, “There are no rattling rides, whirling whips, swirling swings, dizzy drones, silly side-shows or vociferous bally-hoo men” at Hampton Beach. Instead, “a splendid class of [strictly tee totaling] vacationists has been attracted to this resort.”

The beach became a victim of its own popularity. The protective sand dunes were destroyed to make room for more leased lots, roads, and automobile parking, and storm erosion became a serious problem. The town built a series of breakwaters using railroad ties and granite blocks, but they might as well have used matchsticks. The leased lots at White Island, a notoriously unstable section of land south of the main beach, were always hit the worst.

Winter nor’easters be damned, by 1912 the town had expanded the lots at White Island and added hundreds of new ones at Plaice Cove, North Beach, and along the Hampton River. The rent money flowed into the treasury, along with fees from licensing, parking, and the comfort station at the beach. Town reports from the time seem to confirm the common complaint that the mainly non-resident property owners of Hampton Beach were paying the freight for the rest of the town, yet were not receiving benefits commensurate with their tax burden. Certainly, the benefits were not equal to what was needed, especially where fire protection was concerned. After years of wrangling unsuccessfully with the uptown “farmer types,” in 1907 the beach communities formed a separate precinct to fund their own fire protection services. It was the first step toward what would ultimately become a move to secede from the mother town.

 While the new precinct solved the problem of hydrants and firetrucks, the town still controlled the money needed to maintain every other amenity at the beach. And so the dispute over adequate municipal services continued.

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Hotel owner George Ashworth (l) and Hampton Beach News-Guide editor James Tucker, c. 1925. Courtesy Hampton Historical Society.

“Hampton Beach Wants Self Government”

 With this dramatic front page headline in the August 24, 1926 issue of the News-Guide, James Tucker ripped the scab off a long-festering rift between the new guard at the beach and the old guard of the town. The subheading “Town Officials At Odds With All The Beach Organizations” made it perfectly clear whence the pus had oozed—an elected board of selectmen that harbored “narrow, restricted, and even bigoted” viewpoints and “high-handed and arrogant” attitudes toward the beach and its needs.

Tucker set before the public a list of grievances against the selectmen, starting with their failure to attend a reception given for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture as part of Grange Day at the beach. They had refused to allow the town-funded band to play at an event, had dragged their feet on the hiring of a much-needed lifeguard, had declined to lay a sidewalk in front of the Chamber of Commerce building while laying other sidewalks nearby, and were unconcerned about the discourtesy and lax patrolling of the police force. And when the Chamber asked for permission to display its Carnival Week prize automobile in a location other than at the rear of the beach toilets, the selectmen had issued an emphatic no.

“A crying disgrace”

According to Tucker, residents and visitors alike were disgusted by the uncleanliness of the beach, and, when the wind was right, the odor of rotting swill and seaweed (alleged Town response: “Move if you don’t like it.”). Potholes were a regular feature of the North Beach road, and the dark and dangerous “Death Corner” (the accident-ridden intersection at Winnacunnet Road and Ocean Boulevard) was in dire need of proper lighting and signage. In a scene that might have inspired Li’l Abner’s creator, a motley collection of used peach crates and barrels had been tied to the utility poles along Ocean Boulevard as trash receptacles. Tucker said the appearance of the beach was a crying disgrace, and not at all in keeping with the sentiment of the in-town sign that read “Hampton, Cleanest Beach on the Coast.”

“White Rocks situation dangerous”

But the most conspicuous evidence of the town’s neglect was its lack of concern for the endangered White Rocks (White Island) section of the beach. Schley, Sampson, and Dewey avenues, named after heroes of the Spanish-American War, had completely disappeared and some 30 houses had been either washed away or moved. With winter’s destructive storms still fresh in his mind, Tucker hailed the town’s breakwaters as “monuments to waste, inefficiency and extravagance.”

White Island House

Storm-damaged house in the White Rocks (also known as White Island) section of Hampton Beach, 1926. Courtesy Hampton Historical Society.

“A legal and lasting separation”

The upshot was that by 1926 relations between the town and beach were “strained almost to the breaking point,” with a number of frustrated Hampton Beach businessmen calling for the Precinct to completely separate from the mother town. It would take another nine years—during which time Hampton made the heartbreaking decision to cede its beachfront to the State in exchange for a State-funded breakwater—but in 1935 Precinct chairman George Ashworth stepped forward to champion the creation of the new town of Hampton Beach. In a report to the State, Ashworth said that most of the uptown residents held “archaic ideas of recreational development” and were only interested in the beach’s revenue producing possibilities (the Town might have replied: “And we cut off a limb to please you, too.”). In a notice to property owners, the Precinct commissioners said that “in no other way is it possible to have complete control over the tax situation,” while failing to mention that non-resident owners without legal voting rights would remain non-resident owners without legal voting rights in the new town. It was a fiefdom disguised as a democracy. 

A tenth daughter town?

On January 22, House Bill No. 160, an act to divide the Town of Hampton, was introduced into the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Proponents had high hopes that Hampton Beach was about to become the State’s first new town since 1876 and its 234th municipality. The House referred the bill to a committee of Rockingham County delegates, which after public deliberations resolved that the proposal was “inexpedient to legislate.” The bill was defeated on March 7 when the House unanimously accepted their recommendation.

The Precinct never again mounted a serious attempt to divorce itself from the mother town. In fact, the use of tax money to promote the beach had caused an about-face in the move to separate. In the 1950s, James Tucker, who once supported an independent Hampton Beach, called for the Precinct to be disbanded. In 1979, the state legislature exempted single-family homeowners from paying the Precinct’s promotional expenses. In 1988, the North Beach and Boar’s Head neighborhoods returned to Hampton. In 2002, the Town of Hampton resumed responsibility for fire protection at the beach, and in 2012 the White Island neighborhood asked to be returned to Hampton (but was denied).  It seems a tenth daughter town will just have to wait.

 Originally published in the Hampton Union, March 31, 2018.

Images courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Hampton History Matters, a collection of new and previously published essays, is available at amazon.com and Marelli’s Market. Contact Cheryl at hamptonwriter@gmail.com or lassitergang.com.

 

A very good business, while it lasted

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“Now for a while we shall buy & sell to get gain instead of trying to teach the young.”

Brave words for a young woman with no previous business experience in any era, but they were written in 1859, a time when the doorway to employment opportunities for women was as narrow as it had ever been. So it was with a risky leap of faith that the writer, Mary Page of Hampton, New Hampshire, and her sister Susan, gave up their jobs as school teachers to buy Elizabeth Odlin’s millinery and fancy goods shop in the nearby town of Exeter for $2,300 and reopen it in their own names.

 An independent income seemed an imperative for these two as yet unmarried women. Susan was 29 years old and Mary was 26, and by virtue of their ages, their chances of ever finding husbands were rapidly diminishing. Rather than panic at the prospect of becoming bothersome maiden aunts, they chose their path well, the decision to purchase shooting them right to the top of the custom millinery and dressmaking profession. Even in a small town like Exeter, they could now count themselves among the aristocrats of female needleworkers, able to enjoy a certain prestige and command the highest wages.

At the time, thirty-one of Exeter’s 3,309 residents worked in the needletrades, 28 women and 3 men. As tailors and hatters, the men occupied the top tier and were among the well-to-do of Exeter. The tailor Robert Thompson and the hatter Jeremiah Merrill had families and live-in domestics, with assets of $6,000 and $7,500 respectively. Women like Mary and Susan worked as lower-class seamstresses, dressmakers, and milliners; they were mostly single, lived in boarding houses, with assets that averaged $500. They could only dream of making the kind of money their male counterparts enjoyed.

Advert_01The Page sisters’ younger brother John approved of their venture. “I believe the girls will do well,” he wrote from Illinois to their mother in Hampton. “The millinery business is a very good business because the fashions change so very often. They are stepping into an extensive trade which will be of great service to them. I should advise them to expend a good sum each year in advertising. It will always be a profitable investment for them.”

The sisters generally followed John’s advice. Their first advertisement posted in the Exeter News-Letter in April 1860 and ran regularly for the ten years their shop was in operation.

S.L. and M.A. Page in Illinois

“Little transpired that was out of the daily routine of buying and selling and gathering gain, until August 21 [1860], when I diverged from the regular line and landed in the great west,” Mary confided in her diary while on a visit to John, who was teaching school in the Illinois town of Polo (named for the adventurer Marco Polo), some 110 miles west of Chicago.

 

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The Polo Weekly Advertiser, April 8, 1861. Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

“Only a few years ago I was a teacher with 50 little children, all looking to me for direction and guidance, and watching my every action by which they would be influenced to either good or evil. Now here I am—and well may this land be called the Great West, for it has produced in me a desire to expand and enlarge my idea of things.”

Acting on that desire, and perhaps to “hunt a husband,” as John in his letters to their mother had hinted was eminently possible in the rapidly growing town, Mary decided to extend her visit into a residency. With Susan managing the Exeter shop, Mary opened a second shop, one that her brother believed would meet with success.

“There is not such a store within a dozen miles of Polo, one of the best business points in the State,” he told their mother, adding, “Mary is doing well for a stranger. I am inclined to think that bye and bye she will have as much as she can do.”

Soon after, Virginia “Jennie” Perkins, another young Hampton woman with a hankering for a little western adventure, joined her as a partner.

 

MAPage&Cos

M.A. Page and Company

Two years later, Susan announced that she was “a-going to give up her single blessedness” and marry William Cole of Portsmouth, a widower with three small children. As marriage for women generally precluded work outside the home, Mary reluctantly sold her share in the Polo shop to Jennie and returned to Exeter. The partnership firm of S.L. and M.A. Page dissolved and Mary became a sole proprietor under the name M.A. Page.

Without Susan in the shop, Mary struggled to find and keep skilled employees willing to work for what she could pay them. To promising young ladies she traded her knowledge of the millinery and dressmaking trades for their unpaid work. But as often happened, once they were trained the good ones “got the fever” and struck out on their own. With so many new competitors entering the field of female fashion, profits were getting harder to come by.

Mary economized by living above the shop in a frugal flat she christened the “Old Maid’s Hall,” and scrupulously tracked every penny spent. She found working partners willing to invest in her firm, which became known as M.A. Page and Company.

MAPage&RATiltonAt some point, Mary became the object of attention of one Joshua Getchell, a wealthy but aging dry goods merchant whose nosing around the subject of her living arrangements she found offensive. But her opinion of him changed when his wife died, and, after observing a proper mourning period, they were united in marriage on August 3, 1869, thus ending her career as an independent tradeswoman.

Mary sold her share of the business to her partners and joined her husband, his daughter, and a servant in the Getchell home on High Street, only steps away from the Old Maid’s Hall. While nearly twice her age, acquired in the secondhand-husband market, he was a glorious catch for a woman whose parents fretted that she was too homely to get a man (foreseeing that Mary’s own single blessedness might accompany her to the grave, they had bequeathed her one-half of their Hampton homestead). 

The New Mrs. Getchell

For the new Mrs. Getchell, the timing couldn’t have been better. Small, female-owned millinery and dressmaking shops would provide women with employment for years to come, but the future was in ready-made garments, churned out in factories that competed directly with the independent, highly-skilled artisans. And marketers of the new “scientific” methods of garment making sold women on the idea that they could create their own fashionable clothing at home, using their own sewing machines and modest skills. Just one year after her marriage, many of Mary’s former partners and competitors were selling Singer sewing machines as their primary product offering. The victim of post-war industrial expansion, the “very good business” that Mary and Susan had entered a decade earlier was now teetering toward its deathbed.

Originally published in the Hampton Union, April 27, 2017.

A Page Out of History, based on the personal papers of Mary Page Getchell, is available for $10 through the Tuck Museum of Hampton History.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. “Hampton History Matters,” a collection of new and previously published essays, is available at amazon.com and Marelli’s Market. Contact Cheryl at hamptonwriter@gmail.com or lassitergang.com.

Featured image (top): Susan Leavitt Page (left) and Mary Anna Page, c. 1860. Courtesy Hampton Historical Society.

Images (below): Jennie Perkins c. 1860. Courtesy Hampton Historical Society. Her advertisement in the Polo Press, May 16, 1863. Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

 

 

 

First women officeholders in Hampton NH

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In 1872 the adult male citizens of New Hampshire received from their government the right to vote for women candidates in local school board elections. It wasn’t an earth-shattering development, and the measure passed by with little attention paid to it. A few eyebrows were raised the following year when several citizens’ petitions for the right of women themselves to vote in school elections appeared before the legislature, but in 1878 this, too, passed into law. Between these two milestone years, women were elected to school committees in over twenty New Hampshire towns, a small but reassuring start to the larger woman’s suffrage movement.

Lucy Ellen Dow (1840-1896)

Lucy Ellen Dow

At the 1877 town meeting, Lucy received the majority vote as Superintendent of the School Committee. She was elected to a second term the following year, but the new suffrage law giving women the right to vote in school elections was not enacted until August, five months too late for Lucy to cast a vote for herself.

 In 1888, while helping her father with his History, Lucy wrote and published The Beautiful Place of Pines, a historical monograph of the town. Said to have been very popular at the time, it remains a fine piece of writing. After Joseph’s decease the following year, she finalized his work and in 1893 arranged for it to be published. But the undertaking had left her exhausted. Her friend Lucy Godfrey Marston once remarked that her life had been considerably shortened by the effort of completing the two-volume work.

At the time of publication, Lucy and her sister Maria, both single women, were living in Warren, Massachusetts. They sold the Dow family house in Hampton and traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to live with their brother Joseph Henry, a minor inventor and father of Herbert Henry, the young, soon-to-be founder of the Dow Chemical Company. Unfortunately, Lucy died before her entrepreneurial nephew became an icon in the chemical industry.

Shortly before her death on January 21, 1896, Lucy conveyed to Maria her interest in their remaining Hampton properties. Both she and Maria, who went on to live with the Herbert Dow family in Midland, Michigan until her own passing, are buried in the Dow plot in Hampton’s High Street cemetery.

Elizabeth Butler Norris (1864-1939)

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Nottingham, New Hampshire native Lizzie Norris was the second woman elected to office in Hampton, and the first to sit on the High School Board. She was the namesake of her great-grandmother Elizabeth Butler, the daughter of Revolutionary-era General Henry Butler, one of the “Four Generals” memorialized by the 16-foot-tall Minuteman monument in her hometown square. She lived with her family in Texas and North Hampton, and in 1882 graduated from Putnam Free School in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Four Generals MonumentIn 1885, the year before the Norrises took up residence in Hampton with Lizzie’s aunt Laura Norris, a school teacher, the State replaced the local school districts and their superintending committees with a single, town-wide district overseen by a three-member School Board. Also that year the privately-held Hampton Academy merged with the public high school, giving Hampton an additional three-member board.

In 1887 Lizzie began her career as a Hampton grammar school teacher, and soon became the highest paid teacher in the district. Pretty, popular, and smart, she made quite an impression on School Board Chairman Dr. William T. Merrill, who paid homage to her almost magical teaching abilities. “The degree of excellence our Grammar School has attained,” he declaimed, “is due to the experience, zeal, and ability of Miss Norris. Her earnest study had been to enlarge and make her work more fruitful. A systematic, thorough teacher, with dignity that commands love as well as respect, every word has a meaning which is perfectly understood and appreciated. We can but express our individual wishes that she may be induced to remain the teacher of the Grammar school for a long time.”

In 1891 Elizabeth was voted to the high school board. Unlike Lucy, who had served the local schools for just two years before retiring to concentrate on other pursuits, she remained a board member for the next quarter century, and from 1911 until her retirement in 1915, served on both high school and school boards.

Elizabeth never married. After her retirement she traveled and spent time with her brother William’s family, becoming a director of his lumber company in Houston, Texas. She died in Portsmouth Hospital on November 22, 1939 and is buried in the High Street Cemetery.

Other Hampton ‘first’ ladies

1921—Library trustee, Sarah Hobbs Lane

Sarah Hobbs Lane

Sarah Hobbs Lane

1952—Town auditor, Wilma Toppan White

1953—Town clerk, Helen W. Hayden

Helen Hayden 1940s Blackout Warden

Helen Hayden

1962—Tax collector, Hazel B. Coffin

1972—Selectman, Helen W. Hayden; State Representative, Ednapearl Flores Parr

Ednapearl Parr c1979

Ednapearl Parr

1988—Town Moderator, Louisa K. Woodman

Louisa Woodman 1987

Louisa K. Woodman

(Thanks to Hampton Historical Society vice president Karen Raynes for research assistance.)

Originally published in the Hampton Union, March 30, 2018.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. “Hampton History Matters,” a collection of new and previously published essays, is available at amazon.com and Marelli’s Market. Contact Cheryl at nh.historymatters@gmail.com or through her website lassitergang.com.

Seacoast Citizens Soldiers at Saratoga

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On the afternoon of September 6, 1777, Colonel Jonathan Moulton of Hampton received orders to ready his regiment of citizen soldiers to march to Bennington, Vermont, where they would place themselves under the command of the intrepid General John Stark. Since his promotion to commander of the New Hampshire Third Regiment of Militia two years ago—at a time when he and his family were still quarantined in their mansion house by the outbreak of smallpox that had killed his wife Abigail—it had been Moulton’s responsibility to guard the seacoast south of Portsmouth. Other than spotting a few ships, his men had little to do. Now, with the seemingly unstoppable British army marching south toward Albany with a plan to seize control of the Hudson Valley, all that was about to change. In less than two weeks the Continentals and British would clash at Freeman’s Farm, just south of the village of Saratoga, New York. It was not a decisive action, but it forced British General Burgoyne to dig in and wait for much-needed reinforcements and supplies.

Drake’s regiment

In charge of New Hampshire’s war effort was the Exeter-based Committee of Safety. Under pressure to provide troops to halt the British advance, the Committee authorized Moulton’s staff officer, 61-year-old Lt. Colonel Abraham Drake of North Hampton, to form his own regiment. While it may have been the only choice, still it was a good one. Drake was a former cavalry officer in the French and Indian War; by his first wife he was brother in law to New Hampshire President Meshech Weare; his regimental surgeon was Dr. Levi Dearborn, the cousin of Major Henry Dearborn, one of the future heroes of the Revolution; and his company captain, Moses Leavitt of North Hampton, would go on to become a general in the state militia. Also serving with Drake were six Hampton men, including Adjutant Nathaniel Batchelder and Quartermaster Thomas Leavitt.

In early September Drake’s regiment marched to Bennington, where they would come under the command of General William Whipple, whose own orders were to place himself under the command of General Gates of the Continental Army at Saratoga.

Moulton’s regiment

Colonel Moulton’s regiment set out for Bennington at the end of September. With the 51-year-old Moulton was his son Josiah, serving as adjutant, Captain John Dearborn of North Hampton (the brother of Major Henry Dearborn), Captain William Prescott of Hampton Falls, two lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals, a drummer, a fifer, and 39 privates. Although Moulton’s command encompassed Hampton, North Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook, Kensington, and South Hampton, the majority of his present force was drawn from the towns of Hampton and Hampton Falls.

Camp Now or Never

By the time Drake’s regiment arrived at the American encampment near Saratoga—dubbed “Camp Now or Never” by Colonel Alexander Scammell of the 3rd New Hampshire Continentals—the total patriot force had swelled to over 12,000 men, while the British force had dwindled to under 7,000. Separated by less than two miles, the two armies played a waiting game. After the realization dawned on Burgoyne that reinforcements were not coming, on the afternoon of October seventh he broke the stalemate by launching an attack on the Americans’ left wing.

Now attached to the brigade of General Learned, Drake’s regiment formed up at the center of the battlefield to support the Continental line. Colonel Moulton’s regiment was still with Stark, somewhere on the east side of the Hudson River. After six hours of chaotic fighting the British pulled back, the Americans moved forward, and in the days to come Stark’s militias crossed the Hudson to shut the door on a British retreat.

Surrender of Burgoyne

Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, October 17, 1777 (John Trumbull, 1821). New Hampshire officers Cilley, Stark, Dearborn, Scammell, and Whipple are present. Library of Congress.

Ten days and numerous negotiations later, the British surrendered their arms. The Seacoast militia regiments lined up with the Americans, muskets shouldered and bayonets fixed, to witness the Revolution’s first capitulation by a British general. To the defeated troops trudging by, militia officers like Moulton and Drake, who had fought without proper uniforms, appeared to them as prosperous businessmen in want of clean clothes.

Going home

Escorted by General Whipple and under guard, the British army marched to Cambridge. Burgoyne was eventually allowed to return to England, but his army would remain imprisoned in Massachusetts and Virginia until the end of the war.

At his headquarters in Saratoga, General Gates sat down to pen a letter to his wife about his victory. “If Old England is not by this lesson taught humility,” he wrote, “then she is an obstinate old slut, bent upon her ruin.”

Colonel Drake was ordered downriver to New Windsor, where his regiment received its Continental pay and mustered out in mid-December. While one of his four companies lost nearly half its men to desertion after Saratoga, Moses Leavitt’s company returned to the seacoast with a full complement of soldiers. Colonel Moulton’s regiment went directly home and mustered out on October 30, 1777, receiving State militia pay only. Their only casualty had been the loss of rank by a lieutenant, whom Moulton had busted to private.

In Paris, the American commissioners Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane were finally in the catbird seat, and when the British prime minister’s agent came calling to broker a secret deal to end the war, they politely declined. Soon after, France formally recognized American independence and took up sides against Britain. Saratoga had turned the tide to victory, and the citizen soldiers of the New Hampshire seacoast could be proud of their part in it.

Originally published in the Hampton Union, February 23, 2018.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. “Hampton History Matters,” a collection of new and previously published essays, is available at amazon.com and Marelli’s Market. Contact Cheryl at nh.historymatters@gmail.com or through her website lassitergang.com.

 

NH History Matters: February’s Birthstone

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“Wear amethyst and from passion and care you will be kept free.”

Amethyst 2 FebruaryFebruary’s birthstone is the clear-headed sobriety stone, AMETHYST. Ancient Greeks associated its purple color with Bacchus, the god of wine, and they wore amulets of amethyst to prevent drunkenness.  So beware, if you’re planning a night of drunken debauchery, leave the amethyst jewelry at home. If, on the other hand, you wish to retain your sobriety, wear an amethyst in the spot on the body where the stone purportedly does its best work—the navel.

Amethyst is also believed to be a cure for drug addiction, gambling, and even pimples, and as a mystical healing stone it exudes a calming energy to relax the mind. The Hebrew word achlamah translates to “dream stone,” and sleeping with the stone is said to bring strong dreams. (these same powers are assigned to lavender, also purple-colored).


Amethyst in New Hampshire

Amethysts have been found in many places throughout the state, from the White Mountains in the north to the southernmost locales of Hampton Falls and the Isles of Shoals.

Geologists estimate that New Hampshire’s mineral deposits are between 350-400 million years old, long before plate tectonics pushed North America off as a separate continent. (Those beautiful rock ledges at the shoreline? They were once attached to Africa!)

A variety of quartz, amethyst owes its purple color mainly to the presence of iron. Formed deep within the earth, a single one-inch crystal, growing at the rate of one atomic layer per year, took some 10 million years to create.

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Origin of Birthstones

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Birthstones are thought to have originated with the 12 gemstones embedded in the magic breastplate of the high priest of the Israelites. Amethyst, like January’s garnet, was one of the stones. The concept was later fused with the 12 signs of the zodiac, which led to the belief that a particular gem protected those born during a particular month.

The National Association of Jewelers created the modern list of birthstones in 1912.

Next month: Aquamarine


Brought to you by Cheryl Lassiter and History Matters New Hampshire. nh.historymatters@gmail.com

How Hampton Voted in the Revolution

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In 1738, while Hampton was exercising its taxing authority upon residents no longer wishing to pay the minister’s portion of the town tax, America’s future egregious taxman, George William Frederick, was born in London. As King George III, a man who once commented that “everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor,” he lit the long, slow fuse that eventually ignited the American Revolution.

Angered by the 1773 Boston Tea Party, the King forced the British Parliament to enact a series of punitive measures known as the Intolerable Acts. While these acts were aimed mainly at Massachusetts, British intervention in colonial government was seen as a threat to all. In Hampton, as in many communities throughout the country, townsmen gathered at the meeting house to consider the “unseasonable and unconstitutional power and claims which the Parliament of Great Britain have assumed over the rights and properties of His Majesty’s loyal subjects in America.” Later they would send representatives to a convention in Exeter to choose New Hampshire’s delegates to the First Continental Congress, held in Philadelphia in the fall of 1774. That first Congress responded to the Intolerable Acts by enacting the Continental Association, which required Americans to boycott British goods and declare their loyalty (or not) to the United Colonies.

Association Test

Association Test

First page of the Hampton Association Test with signatures, dated June 4, 1776. Courtesy of the New Hampshire State Archives.

A few weeks after the fighting at Lexington and Concord had opened the war, the Hampton men met again, this time to choose delegates to attend the provincial congress held at Exeter in May 1775. They chose Captain Josiah Moulton and Mr. Josiah Moulton, and empowered them to “adopt and pursue such measures as may be judged most expedient to preserve and restore the rights of this and other colonies.” Based on advice from the Exeter meeting, Hampton voted to station a nightly four-man guard at Hampton Beach and to create a thirteen-member Committee of Safety.

In 1776 the Committee of Safety conveyed a (Continental) Association declaration or “test” to the selectmen, who were directed to see that it was signed by every sane white male, twenty-one years and older, in their jurisdiction, and together with the names of those who refused to sign, to return it to the Committee. Hampton’s declaration, dated June 4, 1776, bears the signatures of 174 men (whose names are commemorated on the Bicentennial Park monument). Only two men, Captain Jeremiah Marston and Daniel Philbrick, refused to sign.

New Hampshire Constitution

In late 1775, after Governor John Wentworth’s “sudden” departure from New Hampshire, the provincial congress at Exeter voted to draft a new constitution. On January 5, 1776, six months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the New Hampshire representatives made history by enacting the first independent government in the colonies. Intended as a temporary framework and never submitted to voter approval, the hastily constructed constitution proved to be unpopular with the people of the state. Hampton chose not to join with the eleven other seacoast towns that formally objected to the new form of government.

In 1778 the provincial congress called for a second convention, to be held that June in Concord, to draft a permanent form of government. Hampton, which had originally dissented from the proposal, voted to send as their delegates Captain Josiah Moulton and Colonel Jonathan Moulton.

Once again, New Hampshire made history. The Concord convention was the first in history to meet for the sole purpose of framing a constitution, one that would be adopted only if ratified by the people. With only two dissents, Hampton voted to approve this second constitution as written, but the statewide result was a “total rejection of the new-formed constitution.”

In 1781 the state’s third constitutional convention convened in Concord, with less than sixty members in attendance. Captain Josiah Moulton again represented Hampton. When the draft constitution was submitted for approval, towns that had decided to vote in the negative were asked to suggest amendments. At a meeting held on Christmas Day, Hampton townsmen appointed a committee of leading citizens to examine the convention’s latest effort and report back their findings. After consideration, the committee was not in favor, and as a result the town voted to reject the draft constitution.

1781 Meeting Notice

Notice to the Town of Hampton to elect one person to the General Assembly to be held at Exeter on December 19, 1781. Courtesy of the New Hampshire State Archives.

Rather than offer amendments, the town gave three reasons why it had voted against the draft. First, even though the American victory at Yorktown in October 1781 had effectively ended the fighting, the war had so agitated and disturbed the people that they were unfit at the present time to take “so important a matter under consideration.” They also worried that if the form of government should be accepted by so few towns, it would surely cause “great uneasiness in the State.” Lastly, they were concerned that the western towns that had seceded to Vermont were not represented. While some believed the threat of secession was real, the men of Hampton didn’t see it that way. They felt that those “disaffected” towns would eventually “return to their duty,” and when they did, they would be “justifiably aggrieved” if they had to conform to a government they had no voice in framing. As it turned out, Hampton was not alone. The constitution was flatly rejected by town meeting voters across the state.

With the news that a preliminary peace treaty had been signed in November 1782, the State decided to try again. In April 1783 the towns had to decide whether to accept the new form of government “as it now stands,” or make recommendations for alterations. As before, Hampton townsmen voted a committee of their best citizens to reexamine the constitution and report their findings. The committee returned with six amendments, which were accepted unanimously by the 76 voters present, but as it turned out, only their recommendation that the chief executive of the state be styled “president” instead of “governor” was implemented. The other recommended amendments were 1) that the legislative and executive functions be vested in one body, 2)that civil and military officers be appointed by the Senate, 3) that the waiting period for amendments be shortened from seven to three years, and 4) that the wording of the 28th article in the Bill of Rights, which they felt erroneously implied that the power to lay and levy taxes was transferrable, be clarified.

Hampton voters approved the final version of the constitution, which went into effect on June 2, 1784, less than one month after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Revolutionary War. Four years later, Christopher Toppan, Hampton’s delegate to the convention to adopt the federal constitution, was privileged to be among the men who cast their “Yeas” in a close 57-47 vote—“in the name and behalf of the people of the State of New Hampshire”—thereby making the Constitution the new law of the land.

HHM BOOK COVERHistory Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. “Hampton History Matters,” a collection of new and previously published essays, is available at amazon.com and Marelli’s Market. Contact Cheryl at nh.historymatters@gmail.com or through her website lassitergang.com.