Hampton History Matters, the book!

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The famous sandy beaches and first-class boardwalk of Hampton, New Hampshire often overshadow its long and robust history. In this eclectic collection of stories, historian and columnist Cheryl Lassiter invites readers behind the scenes for a fascinating look at some of its lesser known residents and surprising events.

“The town [of Hampton] is a fascinating mix of history and economics peopled by a lively cast of characters, and so is Cheryl Lassiter’s book. She is an entertaining and very well-informed writer.” —Jeanne Ryder, editor Leavitt Leaves Newsletter.

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HHM BOOK COVER

HHM BOOK COVER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heartfelt thanks to Karen Raynes, a former newspaper correspondent and Hampton Historical Society board member, for getting me into this media gig, and to the Board of Trustees of the Tuck Museum of Hampton History and Betty Moore, the museum’s Executive Director, for generously allowing access to the museum’s archives and for reprint permissions.

 

 

 

Hampton’s History in Maps

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The New England towns that dotted Captain John Smith’s 1616 map (above) didn’t really exist, but a sixteen-year-old English prince named Charles had taken the liberty of replacing Smith’s indigenous place names with English ones, most of which did not survive the era of Puritan migration. As to the future site of Hampton, located on the mainland just south of “Smiths Iles,” neither the young prince nor Smith had paid much attention—its place on the map was nameless and nearly hidden by Smith’s outsized portrait.

A decade later, William Alexander, the future viscount of Canada, divided New England north of Cape Cod into twenty feudal manors, each with its own named governor. Alexander’s plan met the same fate as Charles’s imaginary towns, but if it had been enacted as envisioned, a church historian named Sir Henry Spelman would have governed the still-unnamed area that one day would be called Hampton.

Local area placenames, “Strabery Banke” and “the boreshead,” from the 1634 map of New England by William Wood. NYPL Digital Collections.

Soon enough, place names that modern Hamptonians would recognize began to appear on maps. William Wood’s 1634 map identifies “Strabery Banke” and “the boreshead,” and Reverend William Hubbard’s 1677 map, drawn to illustrate his account of King Philip’s War, marks the town of “Hamton.” Then in 1689, a decade after King Charles II had ordered the separation of New Hampshire from Puritan Massachusetts (much like the Puritans had ordered the separation of his father’s head from its body 40 years earlier), the correctly spelled town of Hampton, with its coastal promontories of Great Boar’s Head and Little Boar’s Head, appeared on an English map.

Hampton as it appears on the 1737 map by George Mitchell, drawn to facilitate the 1741 Massachusetts-New Hampshire boundary decision.

1737-1741 Mitchell map

The establishment of the Province of New Hampshire renewed the question of the true location of the Massachusetts colony’s northern boundary—did it extend three miles north of the northernmost point of the Merrimack River as claimed by Massachusetts, or was it a straight westerly line three miles north of the river’s mouth as claimed by New Hampshire? The competing claims launched a dispute that would drag on for years, with both sides asserting taxing authority over the inhabitants of the disputed zones. King George II of Britain would have the final say, his decision guided by the map prepared by George Mitchell, a surveyor who had spent the previous five years mapping stands of mast trees in Nova Scotia. The town of Hampton and its harbor appear on his 1741 map, which plots the so-called Mitchell Line. Ultimately, the king chose a line similar to the boundary as it exists today.

1761 Blanchard Map

Hampton as it appears on the 1761 map by Col. Joseph Blanchard and Samuel Langdon. Boston Public Library.

1761 Blanchard-Langdon map

Colonel Joseph Blanchard of Dunstable, New Hampshire served in the New Hampshire militia and fought in the French and Indian War. Assisted by Samuel Langdon, a regimental chaplain from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he surveyed “An accurate map of His Majesty’s province of New-Hampshire in New England…which exhibits the theatre of this war in that part of the world.” Hampton, Great Boar’s Head, and “Hampton R. & Marshes” appear on this map, published three years after Blanchard’s death in 1758.

Thomas Leavitt’s 1806 map of Hampton. Hampton Historical Society.

1806 Leavitt map

In 1803 and 1805 the New Hampshire legislature directed that a state map be compiled, and to that end it required all New Hampshire towns to make plans of their territories. The plans were to show all principal roads, water features, mountains, hills, and the names of adjoining towns, and were to be transmitted to the office of Secretary of State Philip Carrigain by June 10, 1806. The resulting state map, published in 1816, features a pictorial vignette of Boar’s Head.

To produce Hampton’s contribution to the project, the town hired Thomas Leavitt of Hampton Falls. A selectmen’s record for 1806 shows that the town paid $64.85 for “surveying the town.” To engrave the map, Leavitt recruited his friend James Akin, an artist and political cartoonist then residing in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The selectmen evidently had not approved the expense beforehand, as the town voted “not to allow Thomas Leavitt Esq. [his] account for engraving the plan of the town of Hampton.” Leavitt’s map is the first to include a detailed portrayal of Hampton’s built environment: churches, schools, businesses, and the names and locations of property owners.

Portion of the c. 1830 map of Hampton. Hampton Historical Society.

1830 Hampton map

This rustic, color-coded map by an unknown maker was found in the North Hampton Library and donated to the Hampton Historical Society in 2008. The linen backing suggests that it may have been used as a wall map. Besides depicting the principal buildings and the names and locations of property owners, it identifies two roads by their names then in use, Sandy Lane (Winnacunnet Road) and Nook Lane (the eastern end of High Street).

Portion of the 1841 Marston-Dow map of Hampton. Hampton Historical Society.

1841 Marston-Dow map

At the 1837 annual meeting the town voted to hire former school teacher Josiah Marston to survey and draw a plan of the roads in town. Edmund W. Toppan assisted Marston by keeping the minutes of the survey. In 1840 the town authorized the selectmen to make any necessary corrections to the map and print 250 copies for the use of the legal voters. Former Hampton Academy principal Joseph Dow added the town’s boundaries and rivers, and, notably, the track of the Eastern Railroad that now cut through town. Like the 1806 and c. 1830 maps, the built environment was included, as was a commentary on the town’s history, the output of its fishing, farming, and salt industries, and a census of human and livestock populations. The Marston-Dow map is the only one known to have been proposed and carried out by the town itself.

Portion of the 1857 map of Hampton, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. Hampton Historical Society.

1857 Rockingham County map

The 1857 county map, published as a large color wall chart, was compiled from surveys by John Chace, Jr., a prolific surveyor of county maps in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Property owners and structures are named, and pictorial vignettes of Hampton Academy and the residences of Aaron Coffin, Esq. and Dr. William T. Merrill are prominent among the illustrations that line the map’s border.

 

Map of Hampton from Hurd’s Town and City Atlas of the State of New Hampshire (1892).

1892 Town and City Atlas

From his publishing offices in Boston, Massachusetts, historian Duane Hamilton Hurd produced dozens of works on the histories of New York and New England, including the illustrated 1882 History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties. Maps of Hampton and Hampton Beach appear in Hurd’s 1892 Town and City Atlas of the State of New Hampshire, which is the last privately published map of this type to mark Hampton residents’ names and property locations.

Early Settlers Map

Map of the old town of Hampton from Joseph Dow’s “History of the Town of Hampton” (Lucy Dow copyright 1894).

1892 Dow’s early settlers map

This illustration, included in Joseph Dow’s History of Hampton, identifies the locations of the church and homesteads of the early settlers at the original center of town, the so-called “Ring” that encompassed the area now bounded by Park Avenue, Winnacunnet Road, and Lafayette Road.

Portion of the 1923 Sanborn fire insurance map of Hampton Beach, showing the Opera House and Convention Hall. Dartmouth College Digital Library Collection.

20th century Sanborn insurance maps

In 1867, Daniel Alfred Sanborn published his first fire insurance map for the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Realizing the lucrative market for this kind of map, Sanborn built his company into the country’s largest insurance mapper. The company’s near monopoly and premium prices spurred competitors to develop cheaper methods of assessing fire risks, and by the mid-20th century the Sanborn Map Company had diversified into more profitable mapping activities. From 1904 to 1942, Sanborn mapped the commercial, industrial, and adjacent residential sections of Hampton and Hampton Beach.

Guides to the past

More than just tools that point the way from here to there, maps reflect the interests of their audiences at the time they are produced. Early maps like those of Captain John Smith and William Wood helped would-be colonists see into the unknown by depicting the natural resources, wildlife, and native populations of what was then a vast wilderness. Maps like Colonel Blanchard’s, made during the wars of the 18th century, marked military forts and pointed out the trails where Indians were known to carry off their captives. Maps made during the relatively peaceful decades following the establishment of the United States paid marked attention to domestic matters—property owners are identified by name and buildings are drawn as they actually appear. Leisure activities, too, are often illustrated, as on the 1806 Leavitt map, which depicts gunners hunting on Boar’s Head while their horse and carriage await. From the 17th century to the 20th, the town of Hampton appeared on state, county, and town maps that were the product of both public and commercial interests. Today these maps serve as valuable guides to the past for historians, genealogists, and anyone interested in the history, growth, and urbanization of the town and its beach.

Originally published in the Hampton Union on July 5, 2019.

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 ‘phew’ in the meeting house

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Hampton, New Hampshire. Built in 1797, the fifth town-owned Congregational meeting house—where the ‘phew’ incident took place—was converted in 1844 to secular public use only. As the town hall (shown above), the building was altered a number of times and assumed its final appearance in 1888, when, according to town historian Joseph Dow, it was “radically made over.” Lawrence, Massachusetts architect George G. Adams designed the alterations, which included the unique belfry tower. The hall burned down in 1949. —Postcard image courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

The firing of Reverend Ward Cotton, a man known to sometimes lose control of himself while in the pulpit, had been years in coming. The complaints of certain female parishioners were becoming impossible to ignore, and in 1765 he was removed as pastor of the Hampton Church. No one disagreed that his behavior had been shocking, but on the subject of how the case should be handled there was a large divide between those who worked for his outright dismissal and those who took a more sympathetic approach, believing his mind had been damaged by “disease.”

The differences spilled over into the choice of Cotton’s replacement. Every plan put forward was met with opposition. When the town finally settled on 32-year-old Ebenezer Thayer of Boston, the vote was far from unanimous. Dissenters believed he had been chosen only to keep a more liberal candidate from taking the position, and they warned that if Thayer should become pastor, “the Town of Hampton is on the Verge of Ruin,” which they were “Determined to find out some way to remedy it.”

Some saw the deaths of Deacon Joshua Lane, a dissenter who had been killed by lightning as he stood at his doorstep, and the child of another malcontent, Simon Nudd, as “special providences” in favor of the new pastor. Others not swayed to his side went elsewhere for their religion, refusing to pay their minister’s tax. The town didn’t like it, but short of rounding up the dissenters and confiscating their property, there was little that the selectmen could do.

Adding to the strain of these religious troubles were the British Acts of the mid-1760s, which had been enacted to tax the colonists’ commerce. The Acts agitated Hampton as much as any town, and everywhere in the colonies efforts were made to encourage anti-British sentiment and to make life hard for the royal officers charged with enforcing the laws. It was a risky course of action, one that eventually exploded in the Boston Massacre of 1770.

It was within this atmosphere of dissent and dissatisfaction that the bizarre affair of Nathaniel Sheaf Griffith of Hampton, a 24-year-old clock and watch repairer, was carried on.

“Z.Z.” goes public

In a letter published in the July 1, 1768 issue of the New Hampshire Gazette, someone calling himself “Z.Z.” first brought the affair to the public’s attention. His purpose for writing was to expose the “abandoned character” of one “N—th—el S—fe G—fi—th of Hampton, who on the Night of [Saturday] the 11th of June…descended into some Sink for Human Excrements…and therewith freighting himself, proceeded to the Meeting-House in Hampton, and in a dirty, filthy and polluted Manner discharged the same upon the Linings and Cushions of a Gentleman’s Pew.”

The 12th of June being a Sunday, the deed was soon discovered, “to the Interruption of divine Service, and to the Discomposure of the whole Congregation.” According to Z.Z., “had the stinking Offender…Wit enough to have kept his own secret,” he would have gotten away with it, too.

Nathaniel responds

Two weeks later the Gazette published Nathaniel’s reply, in which he expressed “the greatest Surprize, Amazement and Astonishment”—not that he had been accused of smearing human excrement inside a church pew—but that such a “hard mouth’d scandalous Defamer, a Detractor…a most indelible Disgrace to the human Species, a Defamer of so black a Dye” actually existed in the world.

He did, however, “solemnly declare” his innocence, and he defied anyone to prove that he was guilty, because he knew that “only the circumstantial Evidence of a Girl…who for Ten Dollars more, and another green Gown, may be induced to swear” to his guilt. In short, the girl had been bribed to falsely accuse him, apparently at the behest of a person who had “found himself disappointed in all his former Attempts” to seize the property that was to be Nathaniel’s inheritance.

In response to Z.Z.’s impassioned outcries about defiling a house of God, Nathaniel shot back, “how dare you enter within the sacred Walls of that Meeting House where so many distress’d Persons, made so by your cruel Oppressions, present themselves to your View?” Clearly, Nathaniel believed that Z.Z., the briber, and the gentleman of the befouled pew were all the same person. Even if they were not, his revelatory remarks point, as we will see, to the one man in Hampton whose reputation fitted their blunt assessments.

A letter from “T.N.” and an apology

Several weeks later, a third writer calling himself “T.N.” (possibly Thomas Nudd, Esq., a Justice of the Peace in Hampton) entered the war of words. He chastised the editor for bothering to print such “personal, rude and indecent” missives, vouched for the reputations of both the girl and the gentleman whose pew had been fouled, and wholeheartedly agreed with the premise of Z.Z.’s letter. The “whole Neighborhood, if not the whole Town” of Hampton, he said, knew that Nathaniel was the one who had put the poo in the pew, and he likened the Griffiths to “lazy, idle People” who think they are “greatly abused if they are made to pay their debts.”

Mocking the “fine strain of Eloquence” that ran through Nathaniel’s letter, T.N. hinted that someone with more writing talent than young Mr. Griffith possessed had composed it. Like a well-aimed arrow shot, the allegation found its mark, and sure enough, toward the end of the year the Gazette published an apology from the anonymous scribe, who confessed that if he had known then what he knew now—notwithstanding Nathaniel’s claim of innocence—he “would sooner have cut off his right Hand, than have put Pen to Paper in behalf of the Author of that Piece.”

“Bitter cries and lamentable moans”

 If Nathaniel was the culprit, then surely revenge was his motivation. The clues lie in the words of his letter, which tell us that an “Oppressor” was attempting to get at his “Father’s Inheritance,” and in the county records—where a man’s secret failures and humiliations are unapologetically made public—which show that Nathaniel’s father, Hampton innkeeper Gershom Griffith, had gotten himself deeply into debt. By the summer of 1768 his creditors were closing in on his tavern and 26 acres of prime Hampton land. Unfortunately, Griffith’s principal creditor was his neighbor Jonathan Moulton, a prominent merchant and land dealer whose greed and deceitful financial dealings were the stuff of legend (and not a few tears). His takeover of Griffith’s property was imminent, and there was nothing that Gershom or Nathaniel could do—except perhaps take revenge on the heartless man (Moulton) said by Nathaniel to have caused the “bitter Cries and lamentable Moans of the distrest Widow and the helpless Orphan.”

“Devilish envy and revenge”

Had the vile prank satisfied Nathaniel’s need to get even, or was he planning more acts of revenge? As it happened, for some time Moulton had been the target of arsonists who had burned down three of his barns in Hampton Falls. He opined that his antagonists were “persons of bad character and shattered circumstances, who…when they cannot be discharged from their just debts in a course of law [will] give full scope to their devilish envy and revenge.” He brought charges against Capt. Jonathan Swett, a man of similar social rank whom he had bested in a contentious court case, and who was jailed for failing to pay a judgment levied against him in the arson case. But while Moulton was focusing his attention on Swett, he may have missed the fact that it’s not always the most obvious or strongest enemy who does the greatest damage. Swett seems to have left the area by early 1768, but a few months after the pew incident an arsonist struck again, torching Moulton’s home barn and hitting him right where he lived. Of course, anyone could have done it, but we could ask the question—since Nathaniel had the means, opportunity, and enough motive to fill a barn—had the “phew in the pew” been his gateway crime to arson? We may never know for sure.

Originally published in the Hampton Union, June 7, 2019.

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.

 

 

Leora Philbrick Bristol of Hampton, New Hampshire

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Leora Philbrick Bristol, c.1910. Courtesy of Julie Bristol Mortlock.

Leora Philbrick Bristol, c.1910. Courtesy of Julie Bristol Mortlock.

Leora Philbrick Bristol of Hampton, New Hampshire had a reputation in her family as “no shrinking violet.” Born in 1887, with bloodlines that stretched back to the town’s earliest years, on her 18th birthday she married Frank Bristol, a divorced man 12 years her senior. It was an act that most parents of the time would have found appalling. She had been one of the first women to conquer the complexities of the automobile in her hometown, and as early as 1916 had bought and sold real estate in her own name. In 1912, when Frank turned from house painting to cars and opened Bristol’s Garage at Hampton Beach, no doubt she was right there, involved in its operation. But the auto business, still in its infancy, was by no means a sure thing, at least in the minds of some folks—when Frank Brooks decided to open the Hampton Center Garage in 1915, his parents advised him to “get a decent job.” The World War took a toll on the auto industry as production was devoted to the war effort, with sales and repair shops inevitably taking a hit. Then came the deadly Spanish flu pandemic that killed some 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the United States. During the years 1918-1919, Leora’s grit was sorely tested as first Frank succumbed to the flu, leaving her with four small children and a business to run, and then Millard, her 13-year-old son, died of pneumonia.

The Bristol Garage

Bristol Garage and Wilbert Hotel, c. 1920

Bristol’s Garage and The Wilbert Hotel, c. 1920. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

Shortly after Frank’s death Leora assumed sole ownership of the garage by buying her children’s inherited interest in the property. The family continued to live in their Marsh Avenue cottage, adjacent to the garage, and Leora continued to run the business with help from Walter Goss, a former chauffeur who managed the day-to-day operations of the garage. But she evidently had other plans for her life, as in early 1922 she put the garage up for sale and bought an undeveloped lot at the corner of Lafayette Road and Ann’s Lane on which she would build a house. The garage went unsold that year, and in March 1923 she once again advertised that it was for sale, and could be bought with or without the two adjacent cottages. Unfortunately, on a windless night in June the garage took fire and burned to the ground, two years to the day of the last great beach fire.

1923 Boston Globe front page

Front page of the Boston Globe, June 23, 1923.

Explosions rocked the garage as the fire spread from car to car, the night watchman making his escape from the burning building by breaking a window. While a “roaring mass of flames” shot high into the night sky, Leora and her family, and the pajama-clad guests at the Wilbert Hotel next door to the garage, fled for their lives as the fire quickly ignited the surrounding buildings. The Bristol cottages were utterly destroyed, two others badly scorched, but the Wilbert, by virtue of its fireproof shingles, was saved from total destruction, and was credited with helping to check the fire’s spread. Various culprits were assigned to the cause of the blaze; a short circuit in one of the 22 cars parked inside the garage, an unextinguished cigarette butt, an overheated engine. The following day the fire made the front page of the Boston Globe, which reported, somewhat fantastically, that some 100,000 people had arrived during the day to inspect the calamity.

Bristol's Garage in ruins, from Boston Globe image, June 25, 1923.

Bristol’s Garage in ruins. Boston Globe image, June 25, 1923.

Leora’s Bristol Cafe

Put out of her home by the fire, Leora rented an apartment in one of John Janvrin’s new houses across from the Odd Fellows Hall at the center of town. She and her family resided there until July 1925 when the Ann’s Lane house became ready for occupancy. Here she opened a cafe and rooming house (later known as the Lafayette Inn), which she ran until selling the property in late 1926. This house was later moved to the adjoining lot to make way for the Town and Beach Motel, and is still standing there today.

Later Years

Unlike many women of her time, Leora never remarried. After selling the Ann’s Lane house she turned to housekeeping, advertising for situations “in refined gentlemen’s homes.” Over the years she worked at a number of private homes in places like Kittery and Portsmouth, and later, until her death in 1956, she lived in Exeter with her daughter Charlotte Bristol Doyle, a former Carnival Queen (1927) who owned a real estate agency in Hampton for many years.

According to Leora’s great granddaughter, Julie Bristol Mortlock of Exeter, who is currently writing her family’s history and who contributed to this article, Leora loved cats, and kept many in her home. Not surprising, really, since I have it on good authority that “cat ladies” the world over are and have always been nonconformists who love challenging traditional roles. Leora Bristol certainly fit the description.

Originally published in the Hampton Union, May 3, 2019.

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.

When tea rooms were a thing

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By the early 1920s the tea room craze in America was on. The first establishments were cozy little restaurants opened by women for women. They were socially acceptable for a woman to own, and at a time when a woman still could be barred from entering a restaurant alone, they were places for unescorted women to dine. Department stores and suffrage groups alike capitalized on the trend. Filene’s in Boston invited women shoppers to sit a spell in their elegant tea rooms, blissfully apart from the “men’s” restaurants where cigars were sold and smoking was permitted. Before the 19th amendment was ratified, suffrage groups opened tea rooms to gain signers for their petitions. A triad of cultural forces—women’s rights, automobiles, and Prohibition—had made tea rooms as ubiquitous as Starbucks.

On the New Hampshire seacoast, the first tea rooms were located in Portsmouth and Newcastle. In 1909 the Portsmouth Herald informed its readers that “Tea rooms are now quite the thing.” Familiar names in Portsmouth were The Colonial, Gray Gables, and The Jarvis, and in Newcastle, the White Cat and Wayside Inn. Farther down the coast in Rye was Virginia’s Tea Room, and at Little Boar’s Head, the exotically named Blue Dragon Tea Room.

Hampton was not far behind, and over the next four decades tea rooms were a common sight at the beach. In 1910 the Hampton Beach Casino opened one of the first tea rooms for which there is a record. Located in a former laughing gallery, the room had been “prettily fitted with Japanese hangings” in the latest fashion, and, just in case the tea thing didn’t pan out, it doubled as an ice cream parlor. Over the next half century at least 14 other tea rooms would operate at the beach, and at least two uptown, in the “village.” Some lasted only a few seasons, while a few survived until the beginning of the fast food era in the 1950s.

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 Stevens Tea Room

Around 1920 Phoebe Campbell Stevens and her husband Charles O. Stevens bought the site of the former Whittier Hotel, just west of their Hotel Echo, at the junction of Lafayette and Winnacunnet roads. In 1922 Phoebe opened a tea room in the building that Charles had built on the site. How long she welcomed patrons to her tea room with her soft Irish brogue is unknown. As a widow in 1934 she leased the property for use as a gas station, and after her death in 1939 the land was purchased by her nephew, Herbert Patterson of Lynn, Massachusetts.

East End School (1873-1922)

East End School, c 1910. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

East End Tea Room

In 1925 Eva Kamett Mason, originally from Madison, New Hampshire, opened a tea room in the former school house located at the corner of Locke and Winnacunnet roads, which from 1873 to 1922 had been the East End grammar school. Sitting in desks now redeployed as dining furniture, Eva’s patrons were served a menu of “salads, chicken fried or broiled, clams in all styles, sandwiches, and coffee par excellence,” and, of course, an English Tea from 3-5 p.m.

About 1930 Eva closed the tea room and did business at a dry goods store on Lafayette Road. By 1940 she had relocated to Portsmouth, where she worked as the manager of the Women’s Exchange in that city.

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the Palmers

c. 1920 photo post card of Charles Henry and Ruth (Leavitt) Palmer. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

 Palmer’s Tea Room

In 1923 the small restaurant known as Palmer’s Clam Shell began life as a tea room under the ownership of Charles and Ruth (Leavitt) Palmer, both descendants of Hampton’s earliest families. That same year The Hamptons Union reported that “Mrs. Ruth Leavitt Palmer is doing a very thriving business at her tea room at North Beach.” Located opposite the fish houses where Charles was often employed as a fisherman, and renowned for its “home cooking and seafood specialties,” Palmer’s remained in business until 1944.

 

1925 Elsa Marie Aitken

Elsa Marie Aitken, proprietor of the Acorn Tea Room (Boston Globe, June 4, 1925).

 

Acorn Tea Room

In 1926 Helene Pabst Aitken and her husband Eli, a classically trained musician who for 16 summers had played the trombone and bass viol at Hampton Beach with the Charles Higgins Concert Band, bought three house lots on Acorn Road, in Frank Leavitt’s new Greenlands subdivision near Plaice Cove. Although their deed prohibited commercial enterprise on the premises for 20 years, that same year the Aitkens opened the Acorn Tea Room in a cottage on the lot nearest the beach road. No one seems to have minded.

 The Aitken’s daughter Elsa Marie, who had served in World War I as a U.S. Navy “Yeomanette,” was the Acorn’s proprietor. Her advertising slogan, “An Artistic Touch to the Surroundings as Well as the Food,” said that this might just be the kind of cozy tea room that ladies read about in magazines.

By 1930, the year Elsa married local milkman Homer Johnson, the Acorn Tea Room was called simply “The Acorn.” On the menu were chicken, steaks, and lobsters, with “tea and bridge parties a specialty.” In later years the Acorn morphed into the Acorn Village and Motel, and although Elsa’s main residence was the Johnson’s Park Avenue homestead, she continued to run the business with her parents.

B1 - 1926Jul27 HBNG Acorn Tea RoomBoth Eli and Elsa died in 1959. He was 93, she was 67. The motel, including the original “Acorn Teahouse” cottage, went on under other management until the 1980s when it was torn down and replaced by the Harbour Pointe condominiums.

 

-tea rooms at hampton beach-

Delta building Hampton Beach

Cozy Corner Tea Room in the Delta Building, corner of Ashworth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, c. 1925. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

 Cozy Corner Tea Room

For years Thomas and Minnie (Brown) Hobbs of Manchester, New Hampshire had spent their summers at Hampton Beach. In 1908 they made the move permanent, and by 1920 Minnie was the proprietor of the Cozy Corner Tea Room, located on the boulevard between A and B streets. She was admired for her beauty and praised as a “wonderful cook” whose chicken dinners were “famous” among the town’s socials clubs that frequented her tea room. She earned a reputation for “endurance and ambition” when she worked out of a tent on the beach after her tea room was destroyed in the fire of 1921.

In 1922 the Cozy Corner opened in the new Delta Apartments building at the junction of Ocean Boulevard and Marsh (Ashworth) Avenue. Tea rooms were often venues for local women to sell their handcrafted items, and Minnie did her part by selling preserved foods and homemade items for the Rockingham County Farm Bureau Women’s Exchange.

In 1926 tragedy struck the Hobbs family when Minnie suddenly died. Although the newspapers reported that the culprit was food poisoning, the official cause of death was a cerebral abscess caused by an infection in the 56-year-old woman’s mouth. Thomas ran the tea room for a time, but later acquired other management. The tea room continued under the Cozy Corner name until 1946, when it became the William James Dining Room.

Chat Room staff

Waitstaff of the Chat Tea Room, c. 1930. Courtesy of Carole Wheeler Walles, granddaughter of Joseph S. and Clara Libby Dudley.

The Chat Tea Room

Opened in 1926, this tearoom was located in Joseph and Clara Dudley’s Hotel and Gift Shop building at the corner of C Street and Ocean Boulevard. Said to have been “one of the Dudley family’s great hobbies,” it became “a business second to none on the beach.” Then in 1931 Clara died and The Chat ceased to be a family hobby. The following year it opened under new management. A 1938 advertising supplement informs us that diners came from places as far away as Fitchburg and Hanover in Massachusetts “to enjoy the special attention of their favorite waitress”—picked from a stock of girls who had been specially “selected for their personality and appearance.” Oh, and the food was really good, too.

In 1947 George and Lea Downer of Southbridge, Massachusetts bought The Chat from George Fostie of Lawrence, and it may be this café that was later known as Lea’s Tea Room. Lucky for the Downers, the tea room survived the 1950 fire—which started in a shed at the rear of the building and eventually destroyed 19 businesses—and was still in business in 1958.

Colonial Inn

Postcard view of the Colonial Inn and Tea Room, c. 1930. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

Colonial Inn Tea Room

After 20 years of managing the Hampton Beach Casino and Ocean House Hotel, in 1926 Frank Nason purchased and renovated the Central House on F Street. He fancified the exterior of the new but austere-looking building and rechristened it the Colonial Inn. The Central’s Surfside Café became the Colonial Inn Tea Room, which operated under the name into the 1930s. The Colonial Inn remained in business until 2005, when it became the Boardwalk Inn & Café.

Fairview Tea Room

Postcard view of Garland’s Ice Cream Shop, Fairview Hotel, and Tea Room. c. 1940. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

Fairview Tea Room

Around the turn of the 20th century, Lemuel and Abbie Ring of Haverhill, Massachusetts built the Fairview House, a smallish hotel with an attached café. In 1908 they sold it to James and Lucy Garland of Manchester, New Hampshire. The Fairview burned in 1915 and again in 1921, and, like other beach hotels of the era, each time a more substantial building arose from the ashes of its predecessor.

In 1922 Charles F. Butler, the Garland’s son in law, opened the Fairview Tea Room on the north side of the new building (located at the corner of B Street and Ocean Boulevard, this structure is still standing, unfortunately with none of its former charm). As postcards will attest, the tea room was still in business in the 1940s.

Boar's Head Inn

Hylas and Almeria Wheeler’s rebuilt Boar’s Head Inn, 1929. Hampton Beach News-Guide, August 28, 1929.

Ye Boar’s Head Inn and Tea House

Located on Dumas Avenue on the north side of Boar’s Head, this inn and tea room—the former “Seldom Inn”—opened in 1927 under the ownership of Hylas and Almeria Wheeler. Before coming to Hampton Beach, Hylas had managed the St. James Hotel, his father’s venerable Washington, D.C. hotel, whose golden age had turned to rust by the 1920s and was demolished in 1928 to make way for the construction of Constitution Avenue.

In the early morning hours of January 23, 1929, the Wheeler’s own hotel would be demolished, not by the wrecking ball of progress but by fire. No one was hurt in the conflagration, and fortunately for the rest of the neighborhood, the wind was blowing offshore at the time, sending the flaming embers harmlessly out to sea.

Almost immediately the Wheelers built a larger inn, expanding from four bedrooms to fifteen, and from one dining room to two. “Tea House” was dropped from the name, but English Tea was still a specialty of the inn. Unfortunately, the fire and the Wheelers’ hopes for the future came at the worst possible time. The Wall Street crash and the economic depression that followed meant fewer paying guests, and in 1934 the inn was foreclosed and put to auction. Under new owners the Boar’s Head Inn became one of the most popular eating spots at the beach, but its days were numbered. In 1986 the inn was demolished.

-other beach tea rooms-

Williams Coffee and Tea Room—run by Mary Young Williams of Exeter, New Hampshire, this tea room had been in business on Nudd Avenue, perhaps as early as 1916.

Cutler’s Tea Room—started in 1923 at Cutler’s Sea View on Ocean Boulevard, this tea room seems to have been discontinued after only a few seasons.

Bobbie and Freckles Tea Room—just north of Cutler’s, this was another mid-1920s venture that seems to have had a short life span. Besides tea and “home cooking,” Bobbie and Freckles sold candy, gifts, and embroideries.

Martha’s Tea Room—located near the Dance Carnival at the foot of Boar’s Head, another mid-1920s tea room with a run of only a few seasons.  

Mahoney’s Lunch and Tea Room—this venerable boulevard eatery, “As Famous as the Beach Itself,” seems to have come late to the tea room party, advertising its tea room as late at 1948.

The Coffeecupinn Tea Room—opened in 1922 by Canadian immigrant Florence Munsey in her new Janvrin Building, after the fire of 1921 destroyed its predecessor. This tea room seems to have lasted only a few seasons.

The Renwod Tea Room—started in 1932 by brothers Frank and John Downer of Amesbury, Massachusetts. For nearly three decades they had run Downer’s Lunch on Hampton Beach, and their experience surely contributed to this tea room’s relatively long life, as the Renwod was still serving customers when it was destroyed by fire in 1948. (If you haven’t guessed, Renwod is Downer spelled backwards.)

White’s Tea Room Cafe—opened about 1927 by John C. White, the former partner of Joseph Dudley. This tea room was still doing business as of 1932, but the name may have been shortened to White’s Cafe shortly thereafter.

Looking back over the half century in which tea rooms were a common enough dining choice in Hampton and Hampton Beach, it’s clear that these eateries were more about exploiting a fad to turn a profit than immersing customers in a cozy, semi-exclusive, getaway atmosphere. Those that lasted long enough eventually dropped “tea room” from their names and became what they had been all along—small cafes and restaurants that served cheap comfort food. But the idea of the tea room has never exactly gone away, and with today’s fast casual cafés that feature “fully immersive experiences,” the tea room might be poised to make a comeback. Just last year a pink-on-pink Hello Kitty café—a bellwether of the changing food culture if ever there was one—opened in California. And it offers an afternoon tea.

Portions of this article were originally published in the Hampton Union on April 5, 2019.

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 in downtown Hampton. Contact Cheryl at hamptonwriter@gmail.com or lassitergang.com.

 

The Silhouette Lady of Hampton Beach

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After falling out of fashion in the 1970s, the black-paper silhouette portrait seems to be making a comeback, if its 6,200 search results on the handcraft site Etsy.com are any indication. With roots in ancient Greek pottery painting, silhouettes first appeared in the early 18th century as “shades,” an art form in which likenesses were quickly and easily cut with scissors from black paper. Initially adopted by European aristocrats, “having your shadow taken” became an inexpensive means of portraiture among the lower classes. The art form got its nickname from Etienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister whose unpopular frugality made his name synonymous with doing things fast and on the cheap. Anything deemed affordable was labeled “à la Silhouette.”

Silhouettes soon crossed to America. In 1802 the painter and inventor Charles Willson Peale installed a silhouette-making machine called a physiognotrace in his Philadelphia museum. According to the Smithsonian, the public loved it, with more than 8,500 silhouettes cut the first year. Peale’s slave, Moses Williams, earned enough money from operating the machine to buy his freedom.

 By mid-century, however, photography had eclipsed the shadow portrait. Yet the romantic allure of the flat black silhouette ensured that it would never completely disappear from popular culture, and in the 20th century silhouette makers recast themselves as scissor artists, cutting on-the-spot black-paper portraits at popular venues like fairs, sideshows, and vacation resorts. Traveling, “internationally renowned” silhouettists became all the rage, with some even appearing in vaudeville shows.

1946Jul24 Beachcomber 1st advertThe Silhouette Lady comes to the beach

The middle class popularity of silhouette portraits bred elitist detractors who questioned whether the making of silhouettes was an art form at all, since, as one writer put it, “there is so little art about them.” But then, the critics weren’t referring to the famous French painter Henry Matisse, who began “painting with scissors” when an illness confined him to a wheelchair in the 1940s—around the time that Lillian Clarke was snipping her way to renown as the “Silhouette Lady” of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

Lillian was born in Massachusetts in 1900, just one year after the opening of the Hampton Beach Casino, where from 1933 on she would spend nearly 50 summers in a small shop on its promenade, cutting silhouettes portraits and drawing pastel profiles for the vacationing public. Before coming to the beach she studied at the Boston Museum School (now the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University), worked as a jewelry designer, and devoted a few years to teaching with the League of New Hampshire Arts and Crafts. In the off-season she snipped portraits all around the Boston area, at charity bazaars, home and flower shows, and Jordan Marsh’s Toyland.

1958-60 Lillian Clarke

Top: Lillian G. Clarke and husband John P. Bunker, c 1960. Bottom: Lillian at Hampton Beach shop, 1958. Courtesy Hampton Historical Society.

Lillian didn’t just work at the beach, she was literally invested in it. Over the years she had owned at least five properties, most with multiple dwellings and situated on Town or Hampton Beach Improvement Company leased land. Her first Hampton Beach cottage was The Gables on K Street, which she bought in 1943, one year after the death of her first husband. Others she would later buy with her second husband, John Bunker, who ran John’s Popcorn on the boulevard.

1959 Popcorn Stand 2

John Bunker and popcorn stand, Hampton Beach. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

 

Lillian’s limericks

Lillian was also known to occasionally “cut a few shadow pictures in limerick form.” In 1934 the Hampton Beach News-Guide published her limerick about life at Hampton Beach.

If to the ballroom you wish to retreat
To do some dancing with nimble feet
Billy’s Arcadians are very good.
And so I think you really should
Spend lots of nickels to make it complete.

In Hal’s Hampton Beach Band is a sweet gracious man
Who’s admired by many a feminine fan
For it’s “IT” he possesses
And who ‘tis you’ve three guesses
Adolph Blazer’s the one who’s so grand!

Now Hal has a Daddy, in the band he does toot
He’s a little fat man from his hat to his boot.
When his son says “obey”
He ne’er tells him “nay”
Want to see him? He wears a tan suit.

Hap Rowell the “Sheriff” in the band is getting old
>He wears flannels and boots to keep out the cold.
I’ll be blest where he’ll go
When we get ice and snow
Let’s give him a cold range to hold.

On Monday nights at the bandstand is a very good show
And who thinks he’s Bing’s double? Why Lawrence you know.
After attempt number three
An endurance prize got he
Now we’ll endure him as long as he’ll go.

Last year Bill Stickney was a cop
And tagging cars kept him ahop
But he got a chance
For a little advance
As a captain now, he’s no flop.

Now we’ve Jim and we’ve John of the family Dineen
As two corking brothers as you’ve ever seen
Who own half the Casino
And no wives in Reno
Now, girls, you can’t make a real choice between.

If the future or past you wish to know
To Madame Cooper you want to go
She’s as clever as can be
Just take a try and see
She’s a whiz as a palmist ‘tis so.

This beach, it is great for Conventions of late
If you wish to have any be sure not to wait.
If all rooms are not taken
For vacations, you may be mistaken
And our transients think Hampton Beach is just great.

In 1936 the Hampton Beach Advocate gave us Lillian’s poem of wind-blown woe titled, “North-easter? Watch Out!” In 1955 the Beachcomber published her poetic testimonial to Bill Elliot, the town’s singing cop, of whom she had cut a full-length silhouette 19 years earlier.

No longer a thing

Not only had the Silhouette Lady cut an untold number of black-paper portraits in her forty-plus years at the Casino, but she had captured in silhouette and poem a piece of Hampton Beach history. She was as much a beach institution as the Singing Cop and the Carnival Queen, both of whom she outlasted. But by the 1970s hand-cut silhouettes were no longer a thing, and when the Casino’s new owners took over in 1976, they replaced old-timers like Lillian Clarke with a new generation of retailers.

Fortunately for us, her daughter presented a set of Lillian’s silhouette portraits—which include full-length profiles of all 17 members of the Hal McDonnell Band, the beach “house” band from 1925-1936—to the Hampton Historical Society. These original portraits can be seen at the Tuck Museum, 40 Park Avenue, Hampton. For anyone interested in the history of Hampton Beach, they are worth a look.

1934 Hal McDonnell Band members

Lillian Clarke silhouette of Hal McDonnell Band (1 of 6). Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

Originally published in the Hampton Union, March 1, 2019.

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.

Uri Lamprey, “Old Seaweed” of Hampton

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His political cronies called him “Old Seaweed.” The town historian lauded him as a man of “great business ability and forethought.” But to Uri Lamprey’s enemies he was a dictator, thug leader, Copperhead, seller of Peruvian guano, a hardline Democrat who callously looked the other way at slavery.

It was once rumored that he had designs on the governor’s seat, but the Civil War was over, Reconstruction had begun, and the Democratic Party to which he had pledged his loyalty for over 30 years was on the ropes. His wish for the leadership of the state would remain just that.

His occupations were as many and varied as the names thrown at him—he was a farmer, justice of the peace, deputy sheriff, constable, collector of taxes, bank director, president and agent of the Rockingham County Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company. And when he was still young enough not to know any better, he had been the Hampton agent for a quack product called Dr. Holman’s Jaundice Powder.

Political career

Uri Lamprey, 1871

Uri Lamprey of Hampton, 1871. Courtesy of the Hampton Historical Society.

Born in 1809, Lamprey became politically active during the Age of Jackson. He was drawn to the party of power in New Hampshire, the anti-federalist Democratic-Republicans, who saw as evil both the national bank and the “fanatical doctrines of universal emancipation.” He rose through the ranks as selectman, town meeting moderator, and state representative, and, as a delegate to the 1850 state constitutional convention, had tackled a slate of vexing issues, including a proposal to remove the provision barring any but Protestants from holding public office (in Hampton as well as statewide, voters soundly rejected this measure).

In the 1852 presidential election, three of the candidates were New Hampshire natives—Brigadier General Franklin Pierce, Democratic ticket; U.S. Senator John P. Hale, Free Soil ticket; and U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster; Union Party ticket (he, however, died a week before the election). Pierce had set up his campaign headquarters at the Ocean House in Rye, just a short carriage ride from Hampton, and Lamprey, who would be elected to the state Executive Council in 1853, was one of his most active campaigners. His relationship with Pierce went back a decade or more, and it was likely around 1842 that he received from then-U.S. Senator Pierce the gift of a black walking cane, which was said to have come to him “through the late Hon. Tristram Shaw.” Shaw, who died in 1843, is the only person from Hampton to have been elected to Congress, serving his term of office when Pierce was in the Senate, 1837-1842. In 1931 Lamprey’s granddaughter Caroline Lamprey Shea presented the Pierce cane to the Meeting House Green Memorial and Historical Association (now the Hampton Historical Society).

1852 Pierce Campaign broadside

1852 Pierce Campaign broadside, Library of Congress.

After Pierce won the presidency, Lamprey resigned his agency with Farmers’ Mutual and went to Washington. It’s not clear what role he played there, but in 1854 we find him back in his old haunts, serving as State Insurance Commissioner and lobbying for Pierce’s agenda. Like his hero in the White House, he was fatally attached to the idea that for the sake of the Union slavery must be tolerated. The opposition press called him a “Thug leader,” one whose interest in politics started and ended with the spoils system. To criticize his lobbying efforts they lampooned him as an “agent of the New York Guano Company,” who had set out in the back room of a Concord hotel his samples of “Peruvian or Chincha Islands sugar, commonly called guano,” which some Democratic members of the New Hampshire legislature had liberally imbibed with their liquor.

During the early years of the Civil War, Lamprey threw his support behind the “irascible old physician” Dr. Nathaniel Batchelder of Epping, who had been arrested and temporarily imprisoned for leading a group of antiwar protestors in tearing down the U.S. flag at the Epping post office and “shouting hosannas to the Confederate regime.” Batchelder became an overnight martyr to the anti-Lincoln crowd, and Lamprey proudly introduced him at the next party convention (which opponents called “slaveholder rallies”), where Batchelder expounded his theory of the “divinity of human slavery” to an appreciative crowd.

Charges of jury tampering

The war was still ongoing when William Young, a Deerfield, New Hampshire physician, was indicted for the murder of Sarah Atwell, alias Fannie Morgan, a 24-year-old factory worker from Clinton, Massachusetts. Sarah had arrived at Dr. Young’s house in early August 1864, “in a condition of pregnancy” with the intention of “procuring an abortion.” She never left the house alive, and Young was arrested and charged with her murder.

Lamprey’s interest in the case is a mystery, but during the trial held in Exeter he was accused of attempting to influence a member of the jury. The judge ordered him arrested and held for trial, but later released him without charges. The trial ended with an acquittal for Dr. Young.

A legacy, of sorts

While he was loathed by his political opponents, Old Seaweed had the esteem of supporters who saw him as a “bigger man than Old Jackson.” Fifteen years after Lamprey’s death in 1881, Lewis K. H. Lane of North Hampton wrote the following edited anecdote, which serves to illustrate his iconic stature in the minds of his admirers, and the sort of men, in Lane’s opinion, they tended to be.

“One day in the autumn of a certain year, an advertising team drove through Hampton, painting the fences and rocks alongside the road with the letters T  L for the purpose of exciting curiosity and to cause people to inquire as to their meaning. A second team was to follow a few days later and supply the missing letters, which would then spell the name of a patent medicine. But before that could happen, two men, loaded with ozone blown over from the classic shades of Newburyport, came walking into town from a late night gunning trip off Boar’s Head. When they saw the mysterious first letters they wondered what they meant, and the mystery deepened as they continued up from the beach, encountering more and more of these strange symbols. At last one of them threw up his hands and shouted, ‘T is for Uri and L for Lamper! Oh holy, how plain I see it.’”

Lane concluded his story by saying that while the “days of Uri Lamprey are no more, the quaint saying T is for Uri, and L for Lamper is a common proverb in Hampton today.”

Originally published in the Hampton Union, January 25, 2019.

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.

 

Lady Tavern keepers of Hampton

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Lady Tavern Keepers of Hampton, New Hampshire

Hampton Tavern mapSecond only in importance to the meetinghouse, taverns in colonial New England were charged with meeting the public’s expectations of hospitality. To accommodate travelers, every town was required by law to provide a tavern, also known as a “public house of entertainment,” and those that failed to do so could be fined. And while taverns were meant to be places of rest and refuge, unless strictly controlled they could easily become dens of immoral (and therefore illegal) activity. To curtail such common sins as drunkenness, gambling, dancing, and singing bawdy songs, the town selectmen looked for tavern proprietors who were “meet and suitable” persons—those individuals who would maintain good order in their houses and prevent inhabitants from drinking away their livelihoods.

Tavern keeping was primarily a male occupation, but there were circumstances under which a woman could be granted a tavern license. In Hampton, as elsewhere, she was typically a widow who needed employment to keep her family out of poverty and off charity. In most cases, she had been running her husband’s tavern before her widowhood, and was trusted to continue the tavern after his death. From Hampton’s founding in 1638 to the late 18th century, the town approved eight women—Joanna Tuck, Sarah Roby, Love Sherburne, Joanna Lane, Mary Leavitt, Rachel Freese, Anna Leavitt, and Rachel Leavitt—all widows save one, to keep taverns within its bounds.

Joanna Tuck

At the request of the town, Robert and Joanna Tuck established Hampton’s first tavern in the early years of settlement. By the time Robert died in 1664, they had been in business for over a quarter century. His death happened suddenly during the fall session of the court, held every October in the Hampton meetinghouse, and to keep the beer flowing legally the magistrates’ first order of business was to issue Joanna a license. She ran the Tuck tavern under her own name until the following year, when Henry Deering, a Portsmouth innkeeper, was hired in her place.

Sarah Roby

Sarah Roby was the third wife of Henry Roby, who had been granted his first tavern license about the year 1670. They married in 1678, but had no children together. When he died ten years later, she received little more than the use of the house she lived in.

Now a widow, Sarah was granted a license to run the Roby tavern in her own name. Over the next decade her health declined, and in 1698 she asked for relief from paying excise taxes on liquor. In her petition, she described herself as a “pore widow of about sixtie years of Age,” who had for “this ffower or five years lost the use of my limbs and hath not bin able for the above sayd time to stand on my feet nor to dress or undress myself no more than a child.” Her sole means of support was “by keeping a publick House of entertainment as I have done for neare twentie years,” and she was “very much streightned to pay ye person I keep to tend my house.” T

sarahroby_autograph

he colonial assembly in Portsmouth granted the suspension of the excise, “so long as she keep her license in her owne Hands but no longer.” With this concession Sarah was able to keep the tavern until her death in 1703.

Love Hutchins Sherburne

Born in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1647, Love was the wife of Captain Samuel Sherburne of Portsmouth. In 1678 they bought the old Tuck tavern and ran it together until 1691, when Sherburne was killed during a military expedition to Maine. Now a widow with eight children—four younger than thirteen and one not yet born—Love ran the Sherburne tavern under her own name.

In the fall of 1701, a man named Ebenezer Webster assaulted at her tavern. Witnesses testified that Webster “did strike her some blows which was the cause of her sore eye, and took her by the neckcloth and was in danger of choking her,” and that she was “all bloody” from the attack. The reason for the assault is unknown, but a short time later she moved to Kingston, New Hampshire, having leased the tavern to Webster’s kinsman, John Lane of Boston. Love died in 1739 at the age of 91.

lovesherburnemark

 Joanna Lane

Joanna Davidson Lane was the wife of John Lane, the new keeper of the Sherburne tavern. John was a military man, and in his absence in 1703 the Hampton selectmen gave Joanna permission to run the tavern under her own name. Because of John’s military duties, the Lanes moved around a lot, and probably did not stay in Hampton the full year.

Mary Carr Leavitt

With her husband Moses, Marr Carr Leavitt started what was to become a Leavitt family innkeeping dynasty, in which branches of the clan had entertained travelers and townsfolk from one end of Hampton to the other and at both ends of the beach for over 150 years.

Between 1700 and 1703, Moses and Mary sold illegal liquor from their home on Post Road (now in North Hampton), then ran a legal tavern from 1706 until Moses died about 1730. After his death, Mary ran the Leavitt tavern under her own name. A fire destroyed the tavern in 1733, but her neighbors pitched in to build her a new one. She was soon back in business, and, with help from her son John, continued to run the tavern until her death in 1747.

Rachel Chase Freese

In 1697, Joseph Chase bought a homestead at the riverfront Landing, where 59 years earlier the first Hampton settlers had come ashore. The spot would become a busy trading and fishing wharf, in part due to Joseph’s success as a merchant. He died a rich man, and his daughter Rachel, married to the merchant Jacob Freese, inherited most of his estate.

While Rachel did not need to work, her father had stipulated in his will that she was to entertain “Strangers, more particularly Quakers” in the house he had bequeathed to her. Widowed in 1727, by 1731 she saw a way to honor his wishes—by opening a tavern that would serve the salt marsh farmers. In approving her license request, the selectmen said that they were “very sensible of the hard labor and toil that many of our men have in hay time, some of them are from their houses twenty four hours at a time and want refreshment.” Rachel kept the Freese tavern until her marriage in 1737 to Andrew Wiggin, the Speaker of the New Hampshire House. She moved to Stratham and sold the Landing property to her son.

Anna Dole Leavitt

With the selectmen’s approval, in 1746 the court granted a tavern license to Ensign Jonathan Leavitt. Over the years he attained the status of a gentleman, and his tavern on the Country (Lafayette) Road became the most prominent, and at times the only, drinking establishment in Hampton. In 1755 he married his second wife Anna Dole, and they had one child, Thomas. In 1783 Jonathan killed himself, his body found hanging from a rope in the barn. Anna kept the Leavitt tavern in her own name, but eventually gave it over to Thomas. She lived to be 99 years old.

Rachel Philbrick Leavitt

Thomas’s wife Rachel was the last of the meet and suitable ladies of Hampton’s early history. When Thomas died in 1791, Rachel ran the tavern under her own name, with help from Philip Burdoo, a former slave, and her mother in law Anna, now in her seventies. When Rachel retired she sold the tavern to her son in law Josiah Dearborn, who rebuilt and renamed it Dearborn’s Inn.

Originally published in the Hampton Union on January 4, 2019.

History Matters is a monthly column devoted to the history of Hampton and Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. A Meet and Suitable Person: Tavernkeeping in Old Hampton, New Hampshire is available through amazon.com. Hampton History Matters, a collection of new and previously published essays, is available through amazon.com and at Marelli’s Market in Hampton.

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