‘Founding Hampton’ Exhibit

A few years ago I proposed to tell the story of Hampton's founding, using eight of its surviving original documents. Sponsored by Hampton resident H. Alfred Casassa, Esq., the resulting exhibit was installed in the main hall of the Tuck Museum of Hampton History. Recently, however, the Hampton Historical Society has made a digital version... Continue Reading →

Hampton History Matters II

The famous sandy beaches and first-class boardwalk of Hampton, New Hampshire often overshadow its long and robust history―that is, until Hampton History Matters. In the style of its predecessor, Hampton History Matters I, this latest collection of stories is an eclectic and entertaining sampling of the history of Hampton―from its early days as a colonial... Continue Reading →

Hampton’s Old Town Hall

Engineering sketch of the old Hampton Town Hall, 1892. For nearly two centuries, New Hampshire towns had taxed their citizens to support the Congregational ministry. Each town hired its pastor and paid his salary, and it owned and maintained the meeting house where both church services and town meetings were held. A growing revolt by... Continue Reading →

Goody Cole and the Enchanted Oven

By any measure, Goodwife Eunice Cole of Hampton was a dreadful person. She was argumentative, foul-mouthed, and generally impossible to get along with. Even with the threat of physical punishment, she refused to change her behavior. Unfortunately, she lived at a time—the 17th century—and in a culture—Puritan—where being a cantankerous old shrew was not in... Continue Reading →

The short history of the Miss New England contest at Hampton Beach

1925 Miss New England Hazel Houghton of Lowell, Massachusetts (l) and second place winner Dorothy Dobbins of Methuen, Massachusetts (r). (Haverhill Gazette). In 1924, more than two decades before the advent of the now-iconic Miss Hampton Beach beauty pageant, the Hampton Beach Board of Trade sponsored a photo contest to determine who was the “most... Continue Reading →

Hampton’s History in Maps

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... Continue Reading →

The ‘phew’ in the meeting house

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... Continue Reading →

When tea rooms were a thing

By the early 1920s, America’s tea room craze was on. A triad of cultural forces—women’s rights, automobiles, and Prohibition—had combined to make tea rooms as ubiquitous then as Starbucks is today. The first establishments were cozy little restaurants opened by women for women. They were socially acceptable for a woman to own, and at a... Continue Reading →

Lady Tavern keepers of Hampton

Lady Tavern Keepers of Hampton, New Hampshire Second 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... Continue Reading →

The Hampton Saltworks

(Above: Mid-19th century view of a Cape Cod saltworks wind-driven pump, which supplied sea water to the evaporation vats. The Hampton windpump owned by David Nudd would have been similar. Library of Congress.) In 1840 the Eastern Railroad was built through Hampton, New Hampshire, bringing a new era of commerce to the area. As it... Continue Reading →

Pardoning Goody Cole

Hampton, New Hampshire, 1938. Three hundred years since its founding and 257 since the death of the accused witch Goodwife Eunice Cole, the town had grown to nearly 2,000 inhabitants. Almost everyone in this small, close-knit community was a descendant of at least one early settler, and some were descended from five or more founding... Continue Reading →

More Than a Poet’s Fancy

The poet John Greenleaf Whittier of Haverhill and Amesbury, Massachusetts, spent many a summer on the New Hampshire seacoast. Well-acquainted with its natural beauty, history, and local legends, he penned a number of ballads set in the Hampton area. His visits to the shore gave us “Hampton Beach” (1843) and “The Tent on the Beach”... Continue Reading →

The Cold Water Army

Wine connoisseur Benjamin Franklin once said, “If God had intended man to drink water, He would not have made him with an elbow capable of raising a wine glass.” But for typical Americans of his era, drinking alcohol was more than a mere exercise of the joint between the humerus and ulna: it was becoming... Continue Reading →

Horseless in Hampton

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.... Continue Reading →

NH History Matters: February’s Birthstone

"Wear amethyst and from passion and care you will be kept free." February’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... Continue Reading →

NH History Matters: January’s Birthstone

January's birthstone is Garnet. Although not as sought after as the ruby gemstone, garnets are treasured for their protective powers. Even Noah carried a large carbuncle garnet aboard his Ark. Tradition says that when worn as an amulet, the garnet gemstone protects its wearer against poisons, fevers, wounds, bad dreams, and depression. Garnet in New... Continue Reading →

Puritans to Parades – Christmas in Hampton

Of the 221 towns and 13 cities in New Hampshire, only the settlers of the original four—Hampton, Exeter, Portsmouth, and Dover—can claim to have once banned Christmas. For those 17th century Puritans, the holiday was a pagan ritual rife with excesses of merrymaking, drinking, dancing, and binge eating. Like the Pilgrims of Plimoth Plantation, they... Continue Reading →

To Thanksgiving

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... Continue Reading →

Constables of Hampton

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... Continue Reading →

Ode to Joe Billy Brown

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... Continue Reading →

Hampton History Matters I

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... Continue Reading →

The Queens of Hampton Beach

Painstakingly researched and written, 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 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... Continue Reading →

Hampton Beach Hotels

The Great Boar’s Head bluff, rising prominently above the shoreline at the northern end of Hampton Beach, was once part of the Great Ox Common, an area of land that in 1641 the founders of Hampton reserved “to the world’s end” as common pasturage for their oxen. But times and traditions changed, the Common passed... Continue Reading →

Early Fire Companies of Hampton

The founding of Hampton, New Hampshire's fire department rightfully belongs to the early twentieth century, with the formation of a beach fire precinct in 1907, a village fire precinct in 1909, and, in 1912, a volunteer company comprised of a chief, captain, lieutenants, clerk, and twenty “members.” These century-old associations, however, were not the town’s... Continue Reading →

Tramps in Hampton NH

“The successful hobo must be an artist,” wrote Jack London in The Road, a collection of stories about his life as a teenage tramp in the 1890s. London’s “artist” was a man who could spin a convincing tale of misfortune and woe in exchange for a handout at the doors of America’s kitchens. The writer... Continue Reading →

Early Women’s Rights Advocate Nancy Towle of Hampton NH

“She is an instrument of much evil in the world,” wrote Nancy Towle, an itinerant evangelical preacher from Hampton, New Hampshire. Towle was referring to women in general, and laid the blame for their condition squarely at the doorstep of an educational system that taught women to see themselves as “subordinate beings.” Towle was born... Continue Reading →

A Fundamental Flaw (Part II)

Roby's brushes with witchcraft, role as a father in trying circumstances, and a risky confrontation with the church. Brushes with witchcraft            Soon after settling in Hampton, Roby and his family encountered the purported maleficium of their neighbor Unise Cole, with whom they were already acquainted from their days in Exeter. From early on, Cole may... Continue Reading →

A Fundamental Flaw (Part I)

Henry Roby of Hampton, New Hampshire stands out as one of the most intriguing minor figures in 17th-century New England. The fragmentary record of his life portrays an industrious colony-builder who demanded respect, but through some fundamental flaw in his character had failed to actually earn it. He abused the power of his position, disregarded... Continue Reading →

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.... Continue Reading →

Winnacunnet Remembered

Winicowett, Winnicummet, Winnacunnet. However you spell it, this Abenaki place name has a skeleton in its wigwam. Although variously translated as “beautiful place of pines,” “pleasant place of pines,” and “beautiful long place,” no one really knows what the word signifies, or—judging by the variant spellings—how it was pronounced by the Native Americans who passed... Continue Reading →

The Enticing of Ann Smith

A TALE OF VVITCHCRAFT IN OLD HAMPTON The consequences of bad mothering are subjects of ancient and enduring interest. The all-consuming and overbearing mother—who is at heart a terrifying hag—is a staple leitmotif of folktales like Beowulf, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. One of the finest modern examples is the 2009 animated film... Continue Reading →

The Checkered Past of Hampton’s Trolley Tycoon

Wallace D. Lovell of Newton, Massachusetts holds a special place in the history of the development of Hampton Beach. Lauded as an ambitious man with “imagination and vision,” he was the driving force behind the construction of the street railway in 1897, the Casino in 1899, and the wooden ‘mile-long’ Hampton River bridge, which opened... Continue Reading →

The Traveling Bowling Alley

Writing in the Hampton Union newspaper in the 1930s, historian Caroline Lamprey Shea informed her readers that the Puritans of Hampton, New Hampshire had kept a bowling green in a field near the lower end of the road to the sea (Winnacunnet Road). Now, Puritans aren’t remembered for their tolerance of games and other time-wasting... Continue Reading →

Like fried dough, henna tattoos, and trips to the arcade, Beach Queens have long been an important part of the summer rituals at Hampton Beach. What started out as a way to sell raffle tickets with the Queen of the Carnival contest, open to all women, had by the 1940s evolved into the Miss Hampton Beach beauty pageant, for which only young, single women were eligible.

Hampton’s Country Doctor

 A merchant tailor at the turn of the 20th century said he could tell a man’s profession by the clothes he wore. A doctor’s clothes, he stated, were “generally clean and well preserved” but reeked of iodoform (an antiseptic) and more often than not a small vial of morphine tablets could be found tucked into... Continue Reading →

The 1923 Carnival Cottage

...where'd it go? During the thirty-nine years from 1915 to 1953, Carnival Week at the beach was a Labor Day holiday tradition. Created by the Hampton Beach Board of Trade to extend the summer season, it was a week-long exhibition of vaudeville, games, parades, fireworks displays, and, until 1940, the Queen of the Carnival contest... Continue Reading →

Splendid Articles of Baseball

Twenty-first century baseball historians are an unromantic lot. By exposing as myths Abner Doubleday’s invention of baseball and Alexander Cartwright’s “father” status, they’ve altered our view of the game and stripped away some of its mystery. Lucky the fans of 100 years ago, their joy undisturbed by the modern day historian’s dull realities. By the... Continue Reading →

Authors at the Inn

Mark your calendars and save the date! On Friday, May 13, 2016 from 6-9 pm the Victoria Inn plays host to another popular Authors at the Inn book sale and signing. Sponsored by The Hampton Historical Society, the event brings together the best Seacoast-area authors in the history, mystery, legends, and lore genres (I'll update you... Continue Reading →

Puritan superstition confronts an indomitable will in this richly researched, ground breaking biography of Goodwife Unise Cole, the woman known as the Witch of Hampton. Unise Cole’s story has great appeal for anyone interested in the history and mystery of the New England witchcraft persecutions and their aftermath. Beginning with her death in 1680, Cole... Continue Reading →

The Lady Quill Drivers

In the week preceding the June 14, 1899 inaugural issue of the Hamptons Union newspaper, John Templeton’s Exeter News-Letter gave notice that Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts, “an experienced newspaperman, though young in years,” would soon be publishing a newspaper from his offices above D.O. Leavitt’s grocery store in Hampton. Templeton could afford to welcome... Continue Reading →

Captain Samuel Sherburne

-Tavernkeeper, Early Patriot, and Indian Fighter- During its first 145 years as a town, Hampton had accommodated twenty-six licensed tavernkeepers within its bounds. Among that number was Captain Samuel Sherburne, a man just two months older than Hampton itself. Born in 1638 at Little Harbor (now Rye), Samuel was the grandson and heir of Ambrose... Continue Reading →

A WWI ‘Gentleman Volunteer’

A volunteer ambulance driver in World War I was not selected for his ability to bind a wound or repair his temperamental transport vehicle. As one recruiter put it, “a volunteer must be a man of good disposition possessed of self-control – in short, a gentleman.” Fitting the bill was handsome, outgoing, nineteen-year-old Clark College... Continue Reading →

The Witch of Hampton

It’s my guess that most people in town would not be surprised to learn that the most frequently asked questions by visitors to the Tuck Museum, especially around this ghostly time of year, are those about Goody Cole, the Witch of Hampton.      For the benefit of those who might not have heard of Hampton’s... Continue Reading →

Jack is Back!

Pumpkin Jack is back in town! A gravedigger by profession (squirrels burials are his specialty), he loves any kind of digging, and especially road deconstruction - the more bumpy and bothersome the better - and he couldn't wait to see our guys digging up Route One and High Street here in the beautiful 'burg of... Continue Reading →

Hampton’s Argonauts

In the mid-nineteenth century some anonymous wit applied the term “Argonaut”—from the Greek epic of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece—to the tens of thousands of men and women, including thirteen from Hampton, whose own passionate seafaring quests for things of gold begot the California Gold Rush of 1849. Our Hampton Argonauts were descendants of... Continue Reading →

Hampton is a very strange, very haunted town, a place where fact and fiction tangle together like lobster traps in a hurricane. And judging from the content of the locally-produced literary efforts on file at the Historical Society, the people like it that way. This fact v. fiction conundrum is no more evident than in... Continue Reading →

For such a little state, New Hampshire has an amazingly large and complicated history, especially during the early days when it seemed that everybody and their minister wanted a piece of her soil. So it’s not surprising that the myth of the state’s ‘four original townships chartered by the General Court of Massachusetts’ continues to... Continue Reading →

It was the 1920s, the war to end all wars had been fought and won, prosperity was rising, morals were relaxing, and a rush of innovations was creating a new mass consumer culture in America. Amid all the ‘roaring’ going on in the country, significant changes were taking place in Hampton, too. The population was... Continue Reading →

In his brilliant new book The Wright Brothers, historian David McCullough reminds us that in 1903, when the two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio proved to the world that powered flight was possible, America was not entirely onboard with the idea that machines could fly. Wilbur Wright made his first public flights in front of... Continue Reading →

The Post Office. You either love it, hate it, or find no practical modern use for it. Yet there was a time, let’s say two centuries or so ago, when it was The Post Office Department – a revered government agency with its own clause in the Constitution and a seat in the chief executive’s cabinet. That Post Office was hailed by Benjamin Rush as the “true non-electric wire of government” and praised by James Madison as the agency that would check the abuse of governmental power by carrying news of political shenanigans to an ever-watchful public. Congressman John C. Calhoun called it the “nervous system of the body politic,” and it was admired by French historian Alexis de Tocqueville as a “great link between minds.”

It was during those halcyon days, in 1805, that the Post Office first came to Hampton. Which is not to say that a system of mail delivery had not existed before then. Post Road and Benjamin Franklin’s milepost in North Hampton remind us of the postal route that ran between Portsmouth and Boston, established by information-hungry colonists in the late seventeenth century. In 1761 John Stavers’s stagecoach began carrying both mail and passengers along the road, passing through Hampton on the way.

By the time President Washington had passed through town on his grand tour of New England in 1789, there existed throughout the country 75 post offices (roughly 1 for every 50,000 inhabitants) and some 2,000 miles of post roads. By 1805 there were 1,558 post offices (roughly 1 for every 4,000 inhabitants), and postmasters comprised nearly 70 per cent of the federal civilian work force. Contemporary writers likened this rapid expansion of the Post Office to a romantic tale. Processing and delivering the mail was by far the largest enterprise in the country, not to be outdone until the rise of the railroads in the 1870s.

So it’s hardly surprising that for most people in the small villages and towns of the time, the Post Office was the central government. Here in Hampton, the people may have felt, perhaps for the first time, part of the larger, far-flung country when Postmaster General Gideon Granger granted the town’s request for a post office and approved its choice of 45-year-old James Leavitt as postmaster.

A Man of His Times

Like just about everyone else in Hampton, including his wife Betty Batchelder, Leavitt was a descendant of town founder Stephen Bachiler. He was born in the Bride Hill section of town in 1760. His father died when he was young and he was raised by his stepfather Benjamin Tuck. As a boy he would have attended the Bride Hill grammar school, but where or if he continued his education is unknown. His various adult occupations – tavernkeeper, merchant, justice of the peace, early venture capitalist – demanded a good head for business and knowledge of the law. Judging from his account book at the Tuck Museum, he stuck to his business, almost to a fault. When his youngest daughter Lavina and her children came to live in his house, he treated them as paying customers, charging his son-in-law Moses Coffin $2.00 per week for their board and recording each week’s bill. This continued for over a year, until June 1835, when according to Leavitt’s own notation, Moses was “found dead in Newbury river.” Leavitt handled the probate affairs and charged Coffin’s estate accordingly. In another personal matter, he sued his future son-in-law Simon Towle for non-payment of a 57-cent bar bill and a note for $4.25 plus interest. To us he seems like quite a stickler, but he was a man of his times, his stern character an essential part of his stature in the community.

A writer in the 1840s observed that many early postmasters were former military men who took pride in being the “herald of all news, foreign and domestic, and the medium of all the good and evil tidings.” It’s impossible to say if Leavitt threw himself into the role of town crier, but he had served as a private at Peekskill in 1776 and Ticonderoga in 1777 (for which the Town of Hampton rewarded him with a suit of clothes).

In 1781 he married and received his portion of his father’s estate. In 1793 he was just another 33-year-old yeoman with eight children, but not long after, he hit his stride. He became involved in town politics, holding a selectman’s seat for ten years and that of town moderator for four. In 1803 he was appointed justice of the peace, a post he would hold for the rest of his life.

Leavitt Buys a Mansion

1920s_Moulton House crop

 Congress was reluctant to spend money on public buildings of any kind, and not until after the Civil War would it authorize construction of post office buildings. Even in New York City the post office was located in the postmaster’s home. And so it went in the hinterlands, where post offices were located in privately-owned taverns, law offices, stores, and apothecary shops. One was even located in a brothel. It seems safe to say that along with a military record, having a roof over one’s head was an important qualification for the job of postmaster. Leavitt may have had a future appointment in mind when he bought General Moulton’s mansion house from lawyer Oliver Whipple. Situated on the stage line between Newburyport and Portsmouth, it was an ideal location for a post office.

For Whipple the sale could not have come too soon. He had once practiced law in Portsmouth, but an association with the royal cause had forever tarnished his reputation among the town’s elite. Not so in Hampton, where his presence was welcomed, and where for nearly a decade he was moderator of the town meeting. Yet no doubt he felt that he had been banished to the sticks with the proletariat. Since the mid-1790s he had been trying to obtain a political appointment, anywhere, it seems, other than New Hampshire. His letters to sitting president John Adams, with whom he had a slight acquaintance, carry the taint of desperation. “Have I not a Right to feel a Pride,” he declaimed, “that the President of these States, once condescended, in a friendly Manner, occasionally to advise & instruct me, & teach the Young Ideas how to shoot?” Poor Oliver, reduced to begging. After selling to Leavitt in 1802, he moved out of the area. He died in 1813, never having received a government appointment.

Leavitt and his wife Betty moved down from Bride Hill, bringing the kids, now numbering eleven, and an ox cart full of furniture. According to his great-granddaughter Anna May Cole of Hampton, this was a major step up for the Leavitts, as the new house was “fine with its carved stairway and high paneled walls, very different from the low posted farmhouse from which [they] had moved.” From then on, it’s doubtful the house ever enjoyed another moment’s peace.

 All Work and No Play

 Leavitt had spent some time at the tavern house of Widow Rachel Leavitt, where he learned the trade of an innkeeper. Now in his own house he opened a tavern, a store, and, when Hampton Academy opened its doors in 1811, a boarding house for students. When the Academy decided to put on a second story, classes were held in Leavitt’s house until construction was completed.

Leavitt did a lively business in rentals of his horses, chaises, sleighs, and wagons. He also hired out his grandsons Greenleaf Dearborn and Simon Franklin Towle, boys who would plant, dig, and haul anything from seaweed to dung.

1820s_Leavitt Envelope crop

Being postmaster in a town of 1,000 people was not a full-time job, nor did it pay a regular salary. Letters were paid for by the receiver, not the sender, postal rates were determined by mileage, and Leavitt earned commissions on all items that arrived for his patrons. If anything in the early nineteenth century illustrates Hampton’s size and level of business activity relative to neighboring towns, it’s the commissions earned by their respective postmasters. In 1816, for example, Leavitt’s commissions totaled $16.61. His counterpart in Hampton Falls earned $12.47, in Exeter $130.89, and in Portsmouth $1,669.73. Postmasters could also earn extra money renting letter boxes, but most earned less than $100 per year. Like other small town postmasters, Leavitt kept accounts and extended credit. One Hampton patron, the tailor Ezra Drew, famously failed to pay his post office account for nearly nine years.

As justice of the peace, Leavitt engaged in land deeds, probate, and estate administration. This was not a salaried position and fees charged for these services were set by the State. One of his cases involved managing the financial affairs of Jeremiah Lamprey, whom the court had declared non compos mentis. “Uncle Jerry” ran a hotel on Boar’s Head and was known as “a character, a merry fellow, who loved rum more than anything else.” After various attempts to sell Uncle Jerry’s assets to pay his debts, Leavitt himself came into possession of the hotel. Almost immediately he sold it to local entrepreneur David Nudd, who built the Hampton Beach Hotel (otherwise known as The Folly Castle) on the premises.

Leavitt had more than enough work, children, grandchildren, and church and civic duties to keep him occupied, yet he still found the time and money to invest in such local enterprises as Hampton Academy, Nudd’s canal (to straighten a portion of the Hampton River), and the Hampton Causeway Turnpike Corporation (to build a road and bridge over the Taylor River). His lifetime of hard work had taken him from a middling farmer with few assets to a well-respected gentleman with a mansion house and over 100 acres of land. In all but one respect, then, he must have considered his life a success. While he had produced 14 children, only two of them had been sons, and neither lived to carry on his name or inherit his estate. Rather than to divide the estate among his six remaining daughters, he gave one dollar to each of them and to his grandchildren whose mothers had died, and devised the rest to his grandson Simon Franklin Towle.

In 1836 Leavitt retired as postmaster and was replaced by local attorney Edmund Toppan. After he died in 1839, Betty and 17-year-old Simon continued to run the tavern and store. Betty died in 1841, followed two years later by Simon, and the Leavitt-Towle estate was parceled out and sold at auction.

A HISTORY MATTERS column published the Hampton Union, April 7, 2015.




By Cheryl Lassiter

(Reposted from the Hampton Union, original print publication, April 7, 2015.)

The Post Office. You either love it, hate it, or find no practical modern use for it. Yet there was a time, let’s say two centuries or so ago, when it was The Post Office Department – a revered government agency with its own clause in the Constitution and a seat in the chief executive’s cabinet. That Post Office was hailed by Benjamin Rush as the “true non-electric wire of government” and praised by James Madison as the agency that would check the abuse of governmental power by carrying news of political shenanigans to an ever-watchful public. Congressman John C. Calhoun called it the “nervous system of the body politic,” and it was admired by French historian Alexis de Tocqueville as a “great link between minds.”

It was during those halcyon days, in 1805, that the…

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(Another) Goody Cole Story Surfaces at the Museum

Repost from History Happens at the Tuck Museum blog.


GOODY-COLE-COVER-ART-3In the archives of the Hampton Historical Society reside the yearbooks and associated records of the now-defunct Hampton Monday Club (1907-2007). Produced by a group of civic-minded women who took their record keeping seriously, it is an impressive historical collection that spans nearly the entire 20th century. There are lists of club officers and members, reports, letters, activities, and photographs, as well as original member-written essays which were presented orally at club meetings.

Among the more interesting artifacts is an undated script for a radio play titled “A Haunted Town,” written for the club by an unknown author. In 1937, according to a history printed in the club’s 100th Anniversary program (2007), “…Five Club members assisted in a broadcast on the local radio station WHEB. They presented the History of the Hampton Monday Club, told a NH Folk Tale, and special music was provided by the Musical Committee.” …

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The Tuck Museum Turns 90 in 2015


Tuck House, 1925.Tuck House, 1925.

Happy first day of 2015!

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Hampton Historical Society and Tuck Museum, founded in 1925 by Reverend Ira S. Jones and others. To celebrate this milestone the Society has planned several events throughout the year. Also, this summer museum visitors can experience our Retrospective exhibit, a decade-by-decade visual exploration of the museum’s history set against a backdrop of important town, beach, and national events. And here at our blog we’ll be highlighting the history of the Society, the museum, and the staff of dedicated volunteers who keep it all running.


On February 28, 1925, over 70 people signed Articles of Agreement to establish the corporation whose purpose was “to erect a suitable memorial to the founders of the first settlement in Hampton.” The following week the Articles were approved by the New Hampshire Secretary…

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Panning for Gold in Hampton’s History

I’m reposting this from “History Happens at the Tuck Museum” for those of you who aren’t subscribers to that blog but might find the article of interest. Besides publishing items of historical interest, the blog and its associated website, hamptonhistoricalsociety.org, will keep you up-to-date on what’s going on at the Tuck Museum.


gold nugget“There’s gold in them thar hills,”  as the saying goes. So, too, with historical research, in which the paydirt is information. Like panning for gold, research requires the patience to scour objects for hours on end “looking for color” – a gold mining term for determining the presence of oro. Instead of bending over a swirling pan of dirt in an icy creek, researchers stare into computer screens and hunch over a miscellany of old documents. To extend the metaphor, these miners of information sometimes get dust, sometimes flecks, while other times they get lucky and score with a big, shiny nugget.

Right now I’m researching Hampton’s “Argonauts” – those men who went to California during the Gold Rush of 1849 and the Klondike Gold Rush fifty years later. I expected at the outset to find one or two names, but the list is growing longer as details begin…

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I love living in a place where a body can call you up on the phone and say "I'd like to buy your book for my granddaughter's birthday...how can I get it from you?" and a couple of hours later, there you are, hand-delivering the book to her home! Jeannette is a life-long resident of... Continue Reading →

Right-click the map to save a copy to your computer, or use the Save and Print tools under your browser's File menu. The book in which this map appears, "A Meet and Suitable Person: Tavernkeeping in Old Hampton, NH, 1638-1783," is available at Amazon.

History Saved by the Bees

Stephen Bachiler’s honey bees were in a tizz. Their hive had been invaded by bees from a foreign stall, one that Bachiler had promised to deliver to John Winthrop, Jr. in Ipswich. It was a gift from Winthrop’s father in law, presumably Reverend Hugh Peters of Salem, the stepfather of Winthrop’s second wife Elizabeth Reade.... Continue Reading →

The Gilded Troches

None of the intrepid men and women who originally settled Hampton were born in America, so to get here, at one time or another they had to cross the Atlantic in a small, leaky, rat-infested wooden ship. If they were anything like modern humans, they would have seriously demanded their money back, and nearly all... Continue Reading →

Bones on the Stones

My friend Karen Raynes introduced me to this unique 1745 'Grim Reaper' headstone, which resides in the Southside Cemetery in York, Maine. This is the most unique headstone image I have ever come across. Research by the Graven Images investigators has thus far yielded only negative information. We don't know the name of the stone... Continue Reading →

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