How Hampton Citizens Lived In Colonial Times -- Part 6

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- 1776 -- 1976 -

How They Worked

The Surveyor

The Surveyor

Surveyors were in much demand during the Colonial era. Newer towns were being formed from the older ones and it was important to have a surveyor establish the correct boundaries when parts of the old, original Hampton became what are now adjoining towns. Captain James Jeffrey was an early Hampton surveyor.
The Merchant

The Merchant

Hampton's Colonel Christopher Toppan was a merchant, and he would be watching his merchandise being unloaded from his ships. The barrels of supplies would then be taken to his store in Hampton, unpacked and sold to the townspeople.
The Blacksmith

The Blacksmith

The blacksmith was important to every community. He shod horses and made hoops, kettles, hinges, chains, forks, knives and other items. At his death in 1792, Hampton blacksmith Ben Batchelder left his business to his son John. John's daughter, Polly Batchelder, married Thomas Leavitt, who also was a blacksmith.
The Farmer

The Farmer

Farming was the most common occupation of Hampton men of the 1700's Even those who had other trades farmed part of the time. They had to make sure their families had enough to eat. Farmers raised vegetables and grain to feed their families and livestock. They also cut marsh grass for the animals. During the planting and harvesting seasons, the men worked from dawn till dusk.

Harvesting the grain
Ship building

Jobs Connected With The Sea

[Left: Sailing ships built of oak and pine were once constructed at Hampton. Used for fishing and coastal trade, they were a must in days when almost all supplies required by Hampton residents arrived by the sea instead of by land.]

Many Hampton men held jobs connected with the sea. Some of them were ship builders, others were fishermen and several served on the crews of vessels which plied the waters between Hampton and other ports.

Trees for ship masts

[Right: The tallest trees were marked to be saved for ship masts. In the days prior to the Revolutionary War, it was illegal to cut such a tree unless it was saved for the mast of a British Navy vessel. Such laws angered the colonists and were among the reasons why they rebelled against Great Britain.]

Nehemiah Heath was only one of several Hampton sea captains of long ago. Many men from this area, including mariner Jasper Blake, died at sea.

More than 300 years ago, Sargent's Island was assigned to fishermen. They built docks and sheds for curing fish. During the 1700's, Ebenezer Shaw and other fishermen lived on the island. Later, many whale boats set out from Hampton.

Hampton fishermen caught cod, hake, haddock, mackerel, eels and even halibut. Some of the cod they caught weighted about 60 pounds. Lobster was also plentiful in days gone by.

Several Hampton lads left home before their 15th birthday to serve as cabin boys on the Hampton-based schooners. It was a dangerous, adventuresome life.

Other Occupations

Hampton men also had other types of work. Here are the names and occupations of a few men who lived in Hampton in the 1700's:
Samuel Brown, miller
Jacob Currier, baker
Benoni Fogg, weaver
Gershom Griffith, trader
Rev. Ebenezer Thayer, minister
Henry Moulton, potter
Edward Tuck, carpenter
Jonathan Moulton, mason
Ephraim Marston, brewer
William Moulton, cooper
Edward Moulton, joiner
Oliver Whipple, attorney
Ebenezer Sanborn, book-binder,
tanner and shoemaker

Samuel French, clothier
Anthony Emery, doctor
William Lane, tanner
Josiah Moulton, Justice of the Peace
& Inferior Court Judge
during the revolution.

Travel By Land

When Hampton was first settled, there were but two ways to reach it -- either by boat or on a narrow footpath through the woods from Newbury. By the 1700's, however, this and other paths leading out of Hampton to the north, west and south had been widened into dirt roads. The fastest way to travel on land was by horseback. Often, two people rode one horse. One sat in a saddle and the other behind him on a cushion called a pillion, riding sideways. Only an occasional horse and buggy could be seen on the bumpy roads, but heavier horse-drawn wagons were used to transport supplies.

The first stagecoach passed through Hampton on Monday, April 20, 1761. It was on the way from Portsmouth to Boston and had room for three passengers. It departed Portsmouth on Monday and returned on Friday. The round trip cost six dollars. Those were the days when a 90-mile trip took 72 hours, a distance than can easily be driven by car in two hours today.

Stagecoach passengers and people traveling by horseback were put up overnight in taverns or inns. The weary traveler was given a hearty meal and comfortable bed; likewise, the horses were fed and bedded down for the night.

Lieutenant Jonathan Leavitt kept such a tavern in Hampton for many years, probably opening it shortly after his 1735 wedding with Mary Rand. Here, his 10 children were born. His son, Thomas Leavitt, operated the tavern until his death in the early 1790's. His wife then carried on the business until daughter Nancy and her husband, Josiah Dearborn, took it over. A newer building was erected in the 1800's and it eventually became the Hotel Whittier By then, many people were also coming on the railroad.

Travel By Water

In reaching out toward the rest of the world, Hampton looked seaward. Many Hampton residents of the 1770's owned small sailboats. Larger sailboats, called packets, made regular trips to Boston and New York, bringing back supplies to Hampton. Often, they carried as passengers Hampton residents who had business in the big cities or wished to visit friends and relatives in coastal cities along the Atlantic seaboard.

In those days, travel by water was slow and uncertain. It depended upon wind and weather. Storms, uncharted rocks and pirates sometimes made it dangerous.

200 years ago a 16-ton sloop could make a round trip to
Boston in less than a week.
There were all types of boats to be seen in Hampton. Several of the beautiful masted schooners were owned by Hampton merchants and traders. Numerous fishing boats sailed from Hampton. Large rowboats were often seen on the river.

Two hundred years ago a 16-ton sloop could make a round trip to Boston in less than a week.

Col. Christopher Toppan, who was born in 1735 and died in 1818, was a large Hampton ship owner. His fleet included fishing, as well as trading and passenger vessels.

The Johnson family of Hampton also included many seafaring men. James Johnson was on a fishing schooner which disappeared in 1768. Captain Ezra Johnson, master of his own vessel both during and after the Revolutionary War, was a noted mariner and an authority on the art of navigation.

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