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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Major thanks to Karen Raynes for getting me into this newspaper gig to begin with, and to Betty Moore and the Hampton Historical Society for allowing me such generous access to the Society’s archives and for reprint permissions.

 

 

 

To Thanksgiving

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As I reflect upon my blessings this Thanksgiving, please know that you – my readers – are at the top of my list, along with family and amazing friends, both old and new, near and far away. I enjoy hearing from you, to know your thoughts on my writing and the stories I’ve told. In the coming year I’ll continue to research and write those same kinds of stories, and hopefully the novel I’ve been working on for what seems like forever will finally see the light of day.

I’ll be spending my Thanksgiving reading Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. I’ve read William Bradford’s amazing first-hand account, Of Plymouth Plantation, and am looking forward to deepening my understanding of those important early years in our country’s history.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Cheryl Lassiter

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The King’s Evil in Hampton NH

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In 1657 Mary Green of Hampton, New Hampshire had developed a deep, running sore on her lower leg that at times robbed her of the ability to walk. The infection had to be treated, but, as her father Henry would soon learn, there was no one in town with the skill to diagnose, let alone cure, such a serious ailment.

Henry Green is best remembered as one of the New Hampshire justices who in 1684 convicted Reverend Joshua Moodey of Portsmouth for refusing to administer Anglican sacraments in his Puritan church. When Mary fell ill, Henry took her to Joanna Tuck, whose husband Robert ran the local tavern and dabbled in surgery. Joanna’s treatments proved ineffective, and Henry took his daughter to the home of Dr. Thomas Starr of Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she lived for the next several months while Starr attempted to heal her infected leg. When Starr failed to affect a cure, Henry took her to the “doctoress” Ann Edmonds, who with her husband ran a tavern in Lynn, Massachusetts. Ann diagnosed Mary’s disease as the King’s Evil, also known as scrofula, an infectious swelling in the lymph nodes and bones.

 The royal touch

Since the time of Edward the Confessor of England (1003-1066) it was believed that the King’s royal touch could cure the afflicted, and hence the disease was called the King’s Evil. Ceremonies were held in which hundreds of sick people stood in line to be touched by the monarch and to receive special gold coins called “touchpieces.” Some monarchs were known to have laid hands on more than a thousand people in a single ceremony. Queen Anne (1665-1714) was the last English monarch to apply the touch, but French monarchs would continue the healing magic for at least another century.

Kings Evil Cure

King Charles II of England lays the royal touch on those afflicted by the King’s Evil.

Scarred for life

In America, the scars left from lymphatic King’s Evil were used to identify fugitive criminals, servants, and slaves. In 1731 a Pennsylvania sheriff’s notice described an escaped prisoner as having “two scars upon his neck which came by the King’s evil.” In 1738 a master described his runaway servant as “an Englishman, bred to the sea, much disfigured on the Face and Throat from the King’s Evil.” In 1783 a Philadelphia jailer advised the public to be on the lookout for an escaped inmate who had “in his throat the marks of the king’s evil.” In 1825 a New Jersey slave owner advertised for the return of a slave named Bob, who could be known by his scar “from the king’s evil.”

Curing the disease

During the second half of the eighteenth-century only four cases of death by the King’s Evil were recorded in Hampton, while many more were attributed to “consumption” (pulmonary tuberculosis). Ancient remedies such as bloodletting, expectorants, and purgatives were the usual treatments. With no real cure, enterprising quacks of a later era looked to profit from the disease. A Dr. Evans advertised his “superior method” for curing scrofula, William Swaim peddled his eponymous Panacea, A. Stewart offered Compound Vegetable Systematic Pills, and Dr. S. N. Niderburg’s “galvanic machine” was touted for its curative abilities. It was not until the late nineteenth century that scientists discovered the pathogen responsible for the King’s Evil: mycobacterium tuberculosis, passed to humans through the consumption of raw milk from an infected cow. In 1921 a vaccine was introduced to prevent the disease.

Although Ann Edmonds had at her disposal the practices of bloodletting, purges, and vomits, she concentrated instead on giving Mary a healthy diet of fresh vegetables and meat and applying poultices to the infected leg. No record exists to show what ingredients she used in her poultices, but one contemporary recipe called for goat dung mixed with honey and vinegar. Another was a mixture of barley meal, pitch, frankincense, and the urine of a child. At one point Edmonds removed a six-inch piece of rotted bone from the leg, and from then on Mary’s condition improved. After eleven months of care, Edmonds declared her cured and ready to return home.

 A dispute arises

For the expense of Mary’s room and board, Henry Green paid Edmonds a cow, and for the treatment he gave her a colt. A legal suit arose when Edmonds claimed that the colt was not the same one as originally promised. This one was “small, thin, and lowsey,” and certainly not worth the twenty pounds value of her treatments. Green responded by saying that the treatments had not cured his daughter, whom he taken to the tavern in Salisbury, Massachusetts to get the opinion of the lady of the house. She was said to have observed a “running sore” on the girl’s leg.

In 1659 the suit was presented to the Hampton court. Green’s witnesses—including Dr. Starr of Charlestown, Dr. Crosby of Rowley, and Robert Tuck of Hampton—testified that Mary’s leg had not been cured. Edmonds brought in witnesses to testify that it had. The court ruled that Green had lied and dealt fraudulently with Edmonds, but the following year the Ipswich court overturned the decision when Ann’s husband William inexplicably agreed that they had made no bargain with Green for the more valuable colt.

Mary Green survived the King’s Evil and the attempts to cure her leg. A quarter century later she faced another evil, as one of the many persons accused and imprisoned during the Salem witchcraft trials. After nearly four months in jail, she was released on bond and allowed to return home, never having stood trial.

Originally published in the Hampton Union on October 20, 2017.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Cheryl Lassiter is the author of several books of local history, including “Marked: the Witchcraft Persecution of Goodwife Unise Cole,” available at amazon.com, Marelli’s Market, and the Tuck Museum in Hampton. Her website is lassitergang.com.

 

Constables of Hampton

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Up until the second decade of the twentieth century, constables were a regular feature of civic life in Hampton. They were ordinary men from the community, chosen each year at the town meeting to keep the peace and collect the taxes. Originally an important official, the constable eventually became obsolete as his duties were taken over by professional tax collectors, organized police forces, and sheriff’s departments.

Constables in the 17th and 18th centuries

In 1639, when the Great and General Court of Massachusetts allowed Winnacunnet (the original name of Hampton) to be a town, it gave the town founders liberty to choose a “constable and other officers.” The first constable was John Moulton, who not only kept the King’s peace, but collected the town and colony taxes—which were more likely to be paid in hogshead staves and corn rather than actual coinage. At the town meeting in 1641, the freemen chose Abraham Perkins to succeed Moulton in the office of constable.

Constables were the enforcement arm of the court, first in apprehending and bringing law breakers before the justices, and after, when punishments were meted out for crimes committed. In 1656, 1657, and again in 1661, constables carried out whippings on the suspected witch Unise Cole. In 1662, Constable William Fifield whipped three Quaker women, convicted of being vagabonds, through the streets of Hampton. Not comfortable with the task, Fifield offered to whip them before daylight, but they refused, saying that “they were not ashamed of their sufferings.” He offered to whip them with their clothes on, but they refused that, too.

In June 1732, the Hampton court found a man named John McVickers guilty of forging and passing counterfeit bills. He had been involved in the schemes of Tamsen Tibbits of Dover, who had convinced an artistically inclined schoolteacher to forge paper bills. McVickers was fined seven pounds plus costs, pilloried at Hampton for one hour, and suffered the cutting off of an ear by the constable at the time, Benjamin Towle. McVickers may have been the first man put in Hampton’s pillory, which had been erected just that month upon order of His Majesty’s Court of Sessions.

Constables were allowed to deputize men when they needed assistance. Constable Henry Dow’s deputy was Nathaniel Batchelder; together they transported Unise Cole to Boston to stand trial for witchcraft in 1673. The roundtrip took eight days and cost the taxpayers two pounds four shillings.

Constables were also empowered to make arrests and serve summonses on inhabitants, including other town officials. In 1684, Constable Nathaniel Batchelder arrested and incarcerated his old boss Henry Dow, now the town clerk, for refusing to pay his province taxes. In 1701, Constable Ephraim Marston served his fellow constables, Thomas Roby and Benjamin Fifield, with a summons to appear at the court in Portsmouth to explain why they had failed to deliver money owed to a man for work he had done on His Majesty’s fort at Newcastle. As this illustrates, the constable himself could be brought before the court if he neglected or refused to perform his duties. In 1662, when Constable Henry Roby failed to deliver notorious troublemaker Edward Colcord to the Boston jail, he was fined and ordered to complete the mission at his own expense.

Warning out

A 1659 Massachusetts law stipulated that any newcomers who resided in a town for more than three months (extended to twelve months in 1701) without being notified that the town was unwilling to have them stay, would be accounted a legal inhabitant and entitled to poor relief if they became indigent. Selectmen were therefore keen to “warn out” strangers before they could become a burden on the taxpayers. While the warning did not necessarily mean removal, the constable was obliged to advise strangers that should they become penniless, they could count on no help from the town. In 1691 a man named William Penny was warned to leave town unless his host, John Garland, would post a bond for his “security.” In 1726, a woman named Deborah Brown was warned to “forth remove out of the town or get security for her staying here,” otherwise the town would “proceed with her as the law directs in those cases.” In 1797, Constable Henry Dearborn Taylor issued a warning to a man named John Towle and a boy named Sylvester Miller, giving them two weeks to get out of town.

A crisis of constables

Unlike the offices of town clerk and selectman, men who were chosen constable rarely served more than one term. The office was fraught with immense and often horrendous responsibilities, for which there was no fiscal remuneration beyond reimbursement for travel expenses. It’s no wonder some men flat out refused to serve when chosen, preferring to pay a hefty twenty pound fine instead. It was a trend with roots in the pre-Revolution, Stamp Act generation of young men who resented “the man” taking their labor free of charge.

At the town meeting in 1766, the voters chose as constables Jonathan Dow and Nathaniel Towle. In what was by then a familiar scene at the yearly meeting, both men refused the post and paid a fine. William Lane, Samuel Brown, and Josiah Dearborn were chosen next, each one refusing, and each one paying his fine. At an adjourned meeting the following month, voters agreed to award the one hundred pounds of fine money paid by the five refusers to the man “that shall serve as constable for the whole town.” Not even that large sum of money could entice Jeremiah Dow, the next man chosen, to accept the post. The crisis was resolved when Simon Dow, Jeremiah’s brother, agreed to serve in Jeremiah’s place.

The following year, after the first candidate had refused, Simon was again chosen to serve. This appears to be the first time that the town offered the constable a true salary, promising Simon seven pounds ten shillings for his service.

Later, in the 1790s, the office of tax collector was separated from that of constable. For the next seventy years, however, it was a general rule that the man hired as constable was also employed to collect taxes.

Constables in the 19th century

Early Hampton police force

Early Hampton police force. Some of these men may have served as constables. Image courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, Hampton had begun to replace the constable with full-time, salaried police officers. In 1869 the town expended money on a police station, and by 1880 the names of the policemen had been added to the list of officers in the town report. Policemen wore badges to denote their office, and the position of “special” policeman began to appear in the records. What roles these men filled is not always clear, but in 1892 and 1893 policeman Curtis DeLancey was paid an additional five dollars as a special policeman to enforce the dog laws.

The constable had not been killed off quite yet, as the title continued to appear sporadically in the records of this period. In 1887, John W. Dearborn earned fifteen dollars as a policeman, ten dollars as constable, and another fifteen dollars as special constable. Clearly, the job had been absorbed into the police department, its duties most likely restricted to civil matters.

The last Hampton constables

The last constable to be mentioned by name in the town reports was Charles A. Weare in 1891. Constables were not mentioned again until the second decade of the new century, when for several years voters left the appointment of a constable to the selectmen, a sure sign of the office’s impending demise. The selectmen seem to have declined to exercise their privilege, and from 1914 on the constable disappeared from the records—and so apparently from the town.

Originally published in the Hampton Union, September 22, 2017.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Cheryl’s latest book is “Hampton History Matters,” a collection of new and previously published essays, available at amazon.com and Marelli’s Market. Her website is lassitergang.com.

Ode to Joe Billy Brown

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When wealthy Boston carpet dealer Joseph Ballard bought the Lafayette Road estate of his Leavitt in-laws in 1831, he had no idea that a future namesake would one day become one of the most popular and controversial selectmen ever voted to office in Hampton, New Hampshire.

Ballard and his wife Clarissa, the daughter of tavern keeper Thomas Leavitt, spent their summers in Hampton. From mid-century on, Irish-born Mary Johnston accompanied them as a servant. In 1858, she married John Gilman Brown of Hampton, and in 1862 their first child Joseph Ballard was born. Mary held a special place in the Ballard household, and when her employer died in 1877, he bequeathed to her the house and property at 393 Lafayette Road.

A one-man government

Mary’s son Joe Billy, as he was called, was a market gardener who sold his produce from a cart at the beach. A lifelong bachelor, he was first elected to the board of selectmen in 1887, at the age of twenty-four, and held the office for the better part of the next three and a half decades, eventually becoming board chairman. A 1921 Hampton Union article reported that he was “on the job from six o’clock in the morning until nearly midnight,” and that “no job is too big for him to tackle and no request of too little consequence to escape his attention.” In fact, Brown seemed to have had his nose in everything, and he performed so many jobs around town—from cleaning the Town Hall and caring for transients, to collecting rents on leased town land and personally overseeing public works projects—that calling his time in office a “one-man government” was not far from the mark.

Brown vs. the police force

 James Tucker of the Hampton Beach News-Guide described Joe Billy as “spare and wiry with a drooping gray moustache,” dressed in a “familiar” gray suit, and looking like a “character out of Winston Churchill’s novel Coniston (Churchill was a novelist and New Hampshire politician; his 1906 book about the state’s politics was a best seller). According to Tucker, Brown was “accustomed to leading,” and wasn’t the kind of man “that lags behind in a community like Hampton.” His personality was pleasant, his disposition stubborn, and although his “argumentative facilities might prove futile in a close debate,” at town meetings he was a “master of repartee.”

Tucker penned his biographical sketch in 1922, at the end of a contentious summer at the beach. With the assistance of Hampton police chief Sherburne “Sherbie” Blake and his officers, overzealous Federal prohibition agents had set up liquor roadblocks at the bridge end of the beach and on Lafayette Road. This angered business owners and cottagers, who worried that the liquor arrests were giving the town a false reputation as a bootlegging center. Even trolley operator Massachusetts Northeastern Street Railway complained of the inconvenience of the searches.

The complaints did not go unnoticed by the selectmen, and in September (well after the tourist season had wound down), Joe Billy Brown fired twelve of the fifteen officers on the force, including the chief. Spared from the axe were Officers Marvin Young, Uri Lamprey, and Robert Tolman.

 One of the unexpunged officers was Brown’s friend and “anxious to wear the chief’s badge,” leading Tucker to believe that “petty jealousy and local politics” were at the root of Brown’s decision. Despite Blake’s refusal to vacate his office, the ruling stood and Tolman took over as chief.

Twenty years younger than Joe Billy, Sherbie Blake was the son of Hampton fisherman Eri P. Blake. At sixteen he joined the Navy, later working as a clerk in Boston, Massachusetts and Concord, New Hampshire. He ran a liquor store in Manchester, New Hampshire, and had a marriage, two children, and a divorce, all before returning home to Hampton to try his hand at police work. After his dismissal, he found work at the Coast Guard station on North Beach.

The following year the town elected Lemuel C. Ring as chairman of the selectmen. With Brown declining to participate, Ring and selectman Harry Munsey voted to reinstate Blake. Some locals didn’t like the change, but they must have been happy with the board’s decision not to allow their police officers to work the Federal “dry squad” roadblocks. This meant a loss to the police department of a share of the municipal court revenues earned from the prosecution and conviction of rumrunners, which in 1922 had amounted to over thirteen hundred dollars. For the town’s promoters, this seemed like a fair exchange.

Other problems arose, however, and Blake abruptly resigned after an altercation with the “occupants of an automobile” that had occurred over the Independence Day holiday. He never returned, and selectman Harry Munsey took over as chief.

Old political ring broken

Munsey was the third selectman on the three-man board, but at the time of Blake’s resignation, he and Ring were operating as a two-man board. On April 29, Brown died after surgery at Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport. With his passing, the “old political ring” was broken. It didn’t take long before the public learned of irregularities in the town’s business, including a report that Brown had kept the town’s money in his own personal bank accounts. The selectmen promised a thorough audit of the books, along with fairer and more businesslike governance in the future. 

JBB Park

In his history of the town, Peter Randall called Joe Billy “an unusual town official.” That he certainly was. He was also an admired public servant, who, as James Tucker wrote, had “at heart the welfare of the town he serves so faithfully.” In recognition of his many years of service, North Shore Park at Plaice Cove was informally called Joe Billy Brown Park. In 1964, voters made the memorial official.

Ode to Joe Billy Brown

Have you seen my Billy Brown?

He’s the man who runs our town,

I will never rest ‘til he am found.

I have looked all over town,

Down to the beach and all around.

On my knees I ask please,

Have you seen my Billy Brown

—as remembered by Horace Hobbs (1899-1999),

courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

Originally published in the Hampton Union, August 25, 2017.

Photo of Joe Billy Brown courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society. Colorized by the author.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Cheryl’s latest book is “Hampton History Matters,” a collection of new and previously published essays, available at amazon.com and at Marelli’s Market in Hampton. Her website is lassitergang.com.

The Queens of Hampton Beach 2017

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Congratulations! to the 2017 Miss Hampton Beach, Emily Durant of Hampton, who received a $200 photo package courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society. Congratulations also to the Junior Miss winner, Lauren Brophy of North Hampton, and the Little Miss winner, Siena Szarek of Pelham, Massachusetts. Karen Raynes and I wish them the best of luck in the coming year.

Thank you! to everyone who came out to support our showing of the documentary video 100 Years at the Beach and book signing for The Queens of Hampton Beach last Sunday at the Seashell Pavilion. Thanks to Josh Silveira for running the video, Betty Moore and the Hampton Historical Society for sponsoring the event, and Maryanne from the State Parks department for making it possible for us to show the video in the Pavilion.

About The Queens of Hampton Beach book ~

Painstakingly researched and written by local historians Cheryl Lassiter and Karen Raynes, The Queens of Hampton Beach is a fascinating, year-by-year, winner-by-winner portrait, not only of these iconic summertime contests, but of Hampton Beach itself. The book’s stories and historic photos are guaranteed to bring back happy memories to long-time beachgoers, former contestants, their families, and fans, as well as bring delight to those whose own history with the beach is just beginning. This book belongs on every library and bookstore shelf in New England!

Available through Amazon.com, BN.com, and Baker & Taylor book distributors.

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 Praise for The Queens of Hampton Beach

“A fitting tribute to all those involved in creating, sustaining, and participating in one of the seacoast’s longest running and most cherished traditions. Let’s have a warm round of applause for The Queens – the very jewels that adorn the crown – of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.” – Don McNeill, The Continentals.

 “A must-have for anyone who loves Hampton Beach! Packed with great photos and interesting stories, not just about the evolution of our local beauty queens, but about the development of the beach itself.” – Betty Moore, Tuck Museum Executive Director.

 

“This book, a true treasure, not only chronicles the rich history of Hampton Beach but of the pageant that has touched so many and set the stage for success in many endeavors of my life. I remain forever grateful.” – Sheila T. Scott, Miss Hampton Beach 1964.


Back Cover Copy

      Like fried dough, henna tattoos, and the arcade, choosing a queen to represent Hampton Beach has always been an important part of the summer rituals at this popular seaside resort. What started out in 1915 as a way to sell raffle tickets with the Carnival Queen contest, open to all women, had by the late 1940s evolved into the Miss Hampton Beach beauty pageant, for which only young, single women were eligible. In 1959 the pageant moved indoors to the glitzy Casino Ballroom, and for the next three glamour-filled decades groomed New England girls for national pageants like Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss America. Tastes changed and interest waned over the years, and in 1996 the pageant was canceled—only to return to its roots the following year as a free community event, held on a Sunday afternoon, outdoors at the epicenter of the beach, the Seashell Stage. The tradition continues today, with beach queens chosen not only for their beauty and poise, but for their willingness to participate in community activities and to promote Hampton Beach as a family-friendly vacation destination throughout their reigning year.

 

 


The Mysterious Sadie Belle Lane

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This wonderful photo of Sadie Belle Lane and that of her house (below) were found in the collections of the Hampton Historical Society. No one knows how or when they were acquired, but a note on the digital version states they were once in the possession of a woman who was doing research on historic area houses. The guess is that they were saved from Sadie’s house when it was replaced by a block of business condos in the 1980s.

Other than these photos, Sadie Belle left precious few trails for future historians to follow. About her life I have only been able to find the basics – she was born in Hampton, New Hampshire on September 4, 1876, the youngest child of wealthy merchant Joshua Lane and his wife Lydia Emery. Her siblings were Howard G. and Ida. She graduated from Hampton Academy in 1894 and lived at 387 Lafayette Road in the house which she would eventually inherit from her parents. She was single her entire life, spent time in Boston, joined ladies’ clubs, vacationed in the White Mountains, and, rumor has it, she employed a chauffeur. She left a bit of money in her will to the Lane Memorial Library, a library created in 1910 by her brother Howard to honor the memory of their father Joshua.

Her name doesn’t appear in the census records after 1880, nor in the SSDI or New Hampshire death records. Her Rockingham County probate record is #41313, which I hope to research in person some day.

We might never know any more than we do right now about Miss Sadie Belle Lane, but we can enjoy her intriguing photograph, and wonder what sort of lady she really was.

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