Delivered at Hampton, New Hampshire,
on the 25th of December,
In Commemoration of the Settlement of That Town:
Two Hundred Years
Having Elapsed Since That Event.
By Joseph Dow, A. M.
Published by Request.
Printed by Asa McFarland, Concord.
(Opposite the State House.)
February, MDCCCXXXIXBack to previous section -- Forward to next section
"it was voted that a committee should be chosen to agree with, and to send out two men as scouts, to see what they could discover of the enemy, so long as they could go upon the snow, or so long as the neighboring towns sent out."
A distinguished historian says of a period a little subsequent to this, that
"the state of the country at this time was truly distressed: a large quota of their best men were abroad, the rest harassed by the enemy at home, obliged to do continual duty in garrisons, and in scouts, and subject to severe discipline for neglects. They earned their bread at the continual hazard of their lives, never daring to stir abroad unarmed; they could till no lands but what were within call of the garrisoned houses, into which their families were crowded; their husbandry, lumber trade and fishery, were declining, and their taxes increasing, yet these people resolutely kept their ground." [Belknap.]
But we need not confine our attention to a recital of their fears and apprehensions, and to their preparations for self-defence. We may look at the actual loss of lives among them. How many of the early inhabitants of Hampton were slain by the Indians, we cannot confidently tell. The following facts rest on good authority.
On the 13th of June, 1677, four persons were killed in that part of the town which is now North-Hampton. These men were Edward Colcord, Jr., Abraham Perkins, Jr., Benjamin Hilliard, and Caleb Towle.
August 4, 1691, Capt. Samuel Sherburne and James Dolloff, both of Hampton, were killed by the Indians, near Casco Bay, in Maine.
August 26, 1696, John Locke was killed, while at work in his field, in the northeast part of the town, at Locke's neck, now in the town of Rye. **[In Farmer and Moore's Gazetteer, it is stated that Locke was killed in 1694. The date given here rests on the authority of Hampton Records.]
August 17, 1703, five persons were killed between this town and Salisbury. One of them was a little boy, named Huckley. The others were Jonathan Green, Nicholas Bond, Thomas Lancaster and the widow Mussey. The last two were quakers. One of them, Mrs. Mussey, was distinguished as a speaker among the quakers, by whom her death was much lamented.
Dr. Belknap states that these persons were killed at Hampton village by a party of Indians under Capt. Tom, and further, that at the same time, the Indians plundered two houses, but having alarmed the people, and being pursued by th;em, they fled.
August 1, 1706, Benjamin Fifield was killed in the pasture near his house, and at the same time a boy was either killed or taken.
Having mentioned these instances of murder, nearly all of which were committed within the limits of Hampton, I will merely subjoin a brief account of an expedition, which proved fatal to Capt. Swett, one of the inhabitants of this town. He was sent by the government to assist the eastern settlements against the Indians. He was accompanied by forty English soldiers, and 200 friendly Indians. With these forces he marched to Ticonic falls, on the Kennebeck, where it is said the Indians had six forts, well furnished with ammunition. Having met the enemy, Swett and his men were repulsed, and he himself with about sixty others slain. Probably a part of this number, as well as their leader, belonged to this town.
WE shall next glance at the civil and political history of the town during the early period of its existence. In doing this, it may be proper, not only to consider the connection of the town with the colonial governments of Massachusetts and of New-Hampshire, but also the policy pursued by the people, considered simply as a town.
Very soon after the inhabitants acquired corporate powers, we find them, as has already been remarked, assembled in town meeting. The transactions at the first meeting of which any record remains, have already been noticed. A town clerk, and three lot layers were chosen, the latter for the term of one year. It appears from the records that some of the town officers were from the first elected annually. Others seem to have been chosen for an indefinite period, or till their places should be supplied by a new election. The first town clerk held his office more than four years, probably without being annually reëlected. His successor continued in office nearly three years before any new election was made. There is no evidence from the records that this became an annual office for more than sixty years after the settlement was commenced.
It may be well here to notice the fact, that the people of this place have not, during any period of their history, been disposed to change their town clerks frequently, there having been less than twenty during the two hundred years that the town has existed.
The duties and the compensation of the lot-layers have been already mentioned.
Another set of officers, chosen at a very early period, was that of woodwards, an office which long ago became extinct among this people. It would be very natural to suppose that when almost the whole township was a wilderness, no objection would have been made to cutting trees in any part of it; but such was not the case.
As early as 1639, three woodwards were elected, and no man was to fell any trees except on his own lot, without permission from these men, or at least two of them; and at another meeting during the same year, the town voted a similar prohibition, and also a fine for its violation. The fine was ten shillings for every tree felled without license from the woodwards.
It was further voted, that if any man had any trees assigned to him, he should fell them within one month, and make use of them within three months after felling, or the trees should be at the disposal of any two of the woodwards.
In taking a brief notice of the town officers, during the early part of our history, it will probably be expected that the board of selectmen should hold a prominent place. It does not appear, however, that such officers were elected till the settlement had been begun several years. The practice of choosing selectmen seems to have been of New-England origin, and to have grown up from the circumstances in which the early inhabitants were placed. After they had established themselves in the wilderness, far from their native land, and from the seat of that government to which they acknowledged allegiance, they found themselves under the necessity of managing their own affairs. At first these seem to have been conducted in a purely democratic way, so far at least as those who were regarded as freemen were concerned. They held frequent town meetings, and delegated power to committees from time to time, only for a specific purpose. This method of proceeding being at length found inconvenient, several persons were chosen to act for the town, as sit is expressed in the records, "in managing the prudential affairs thereof." This board of officers, to which at length the name of selectmen was given, at first, consisted in Hampton, of seven persons. The first notice of such a board is in 1644. On the 4th of May in that year, the following vote was passed -- "These several brethren, namely -- William Fuller, Thomas Moulton, Robert Page, Philemon Dalton, Thomas Ward, Walter Ropper, and William Howard, are chosen to order the prudential affairs of the town for a whole year, next followings; reserving only to th freemen the given out of commons and receiving of inhabitants."
In about ten or twelve instances the number of selectmen has been seven. Generally five were chosen, till the year 1823, and from that time to the present only three have been elected annually, except in the year 1829, when the board consisted of five persons.
It is unnecessary to speak particularly of other town officers, as they were generally the same, and possessed of similar powers, with those of more modern times.
To show that the town took cognizance of some matters which at the present day are left to adjust themselves, I will mention a regulation, made in 1641, in regard to wages. From September to March, workmen were to be allowed only 1s. 4 d. per day, and from March to September, 1s. 8d. except for mowing, for which 2s. should be allowed. For a day's work for a man with four oxen and a cart, five or six shillings were to be allowed, according to the season of the year. Soon after it was voted that the best workmen should not receive more than 2s. a day, and others not more than 1s. 8d.
It has already been noticed, that Hampton was settled by the authority of Massachusetts, and it was for many years considered under the jurisdiction of that colony. In 1639 the town was authorized to send a deputy, or representative, to the General Court at Boston.
This privilege was not long neglected, for about five months afterwards the town assessed a tax to pay their deputy, John Moulton, who had at that time been twice to the court, having spent twenty-seven days in the service of the town. The compensation allowed him was 2s. 6d. pere day, besides his expenses.
In September, 1640, John Cross was elected a deputy to the court to be holden on the 7th day of the next month. He was the second representative chosen by the town.
Hampton was probably for a short time under the immediate jurisdiction of the courts at Boston. On the 25th of July, 1640, a "a grand juryman" was chosen for the court to be holden at Boston in the following month.
The town was soon annexed to the jurisdiction of the county of Essex, whose courts were held at Ipswich.
In 1643 a new county was formed, embracing all the towns between the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers. This was called the county of Norfolk. The number of towns within its limits was six. Salisbury was the shire town; Portsmsouth and Dover, however, had courts of their own, and in each of the towns there was an inferior court, whose jurisdiction extended to causes of twenty shillings and under.
The claim of Massachusetts to jurisdiction over the whole territory embraced within the county of Norfolk, was not undisputed. Mason, to whom a large part of it had been granted by charter, was dead. His heirs made some opposition, but there were at that time almost insurmountable difficulties in the way of obtaining redress by a civil process. In England, Charles and his Parliament were at variance, and civil war was raging among the people. When, after the execution of the king, Cromwell was at the head of the Commonwealth, Mason's heirs could not hope for success in bringing an action against Massachusetts, for his family had always been adherents to the royal cause.
At the restoration in 1660, an attempt was made to influence the king to grant relief to the heirs, or rather to the heir, of Mason. A petition for this purpose was presented to Charles II., who referred it to his Attorney General, and he reported that the petitioner had a good and legal title to the Province of New-Hampshire.
In 1664 commissioners were appointed by the crown to settle disputes in the New-England Colonies. These commissioners were not very favorably received, as their appointment, with such powers as were conferred upon them, was considered by the colonists, an infringement of their chartered rights.
On their arrival in New-England, they made inquiries in regard to the bounds of Mason's patent, and decided that the jurisdiction of Massachusetts should extend no farther north than the Bound House.
The proceedings of the commissioners gave umbrage to a large portion of the people. A party, however, had been previously disaffected towards the government of Massachusetts. A person by the name of Corbett, who belonged to this party, instigated, probably, by the commissioners, prepared a petition to the king in the name of the towns of Portsmouth, Dover, Exeter, and Hampton, complaining of the usurpation of Massachusetts, and praying for a release from that government. A large majority of the people, however, did not countenance these proceedings, and at their request the General Court of Massachusetts appointed a committee, before whom the people of the four towns had an opportunity to show their disapprobation of Corbett's proceedings. Corbett himself was apprehended by warrant from the secretary of Massachusetts, in the name of the General Court, and tried and found guilty of sedition, and punished with severity.
Soon after this period the New-England colonies were involved in a general war with the Indians. Previous to that time, the wars with them had been of limited extent. For many years their minds had been full of suspicions and jealousies. These were fanned and blown into a flame by Philip, a powerful sachem, who resided at Mount Hope, in Rhode Island. He was resolved upon a war of extermination. He sent runners to most of the tribes in New-England, and succeeded in engaging nearly all of them in an enterprise so adroitly planned.
Open hostilities commenced in June, 1675. The eastern Indians, who resided in Maine, extended their incursions into New-Hampshire. Houses were burned, and people slain, in various places. One man was killed and another captured, by a small party that lay in ambush near the road, between this town and Exeter. The one who was taken afterwards made his escape.
I shall not proceed to narrate in detail the events of this war. The dangers and the sufferings of the people of Hampton, at that time, have been already noticed. It must suffice to add, that the war terminated in the southern part of New-England, with the death of Philip, in August, 1676. In New-Hampshire, it raged two years longer, and for a time seemed to threaten the extinction of the whole colony.
During this war, the heir of Mason made another attempt in England to recover possession of New-Hampshire. Massachusetts was called upon by the crown to show cause why she exercised jurisdiction over this province. The royal order was brought to Boston by Edward Randolph, a kinsman of Mason. He soon came to New-Hampshire, and published a letter from Mason, in which he claimed the soil of the province as his own property. The people here were alarmed, and called public meetings, in which they protested against the claim, and agreed to petition the king for protection.
They stated that they had purchased the land of the natives; that they had labored hard to bring it under cultivation, and they thought it very unjust that their hard earned property should now be wrested from them.
Agents were sent over to England, after Randolph's return, and a hearing was granted them before the highest judicial authorities. After the hearing, the judges reported that Mason's heir had no right of government in New-Hampshire; and further, that the four towns of Portsmouth, Dover, Exeter, and Hampton, were beyond the limits of Massachusetts. In regard to Mason's right to the soil of New-Hampshire, they expressed no opinion.
This report was accepted and confirmed by the king in council.
New-Hampshire was then separated from Massachusetts, with which it had been for so long time so happily united. The commission for the government of New-Hampshire passed the great seal on the 18th of September, 1679.
Under the new order of things,s a President and six Counsellors were appointed by the crown, and these were authorized to choose three other persons, to be added to their number. An Assembly was also to be called. The powers of the respective branches of the government were tolerably well defined.
Among the counsellors named in the commission, was Christopher Hussey, of this town, and one of the three afterwards chosen also belonged to Hampton, viz -- Samuel Dalton.
This change of government was very far from being satisfactory to the people generally, and even those appointed to office entered upon their duties with great reluctance.
In the writs issued for calling a General Assembly, the persons in each town, who were considered as qualified to vote, were expressly named. The whole number in the four towns was 209, fifty-seven of whom belonged to Hampton. The oath of allegiance was administered to each voter. A public fast was observed, to ask the divine blessing on the assembly that was soon to convene, and to pray for "The continuance of their precious and pleasant things."
The assembly consisted of eleven members, three from each of the the four towns, except Exeter, which sent only two, that town having but twenty voters. The members from Hampton were Anthony Stanyan, Thomas Marston, and Edward Gove. The assembly met at Portsmouth, on the 16th of March, 1680. Rev. Joshua Moody, of that town, preached the election sermon.
Under the new government, the President and Council, with the Assembly, were a Supreme court of Judicature, a jury being allowed when desired by the parties. Inferior Courts were established at Dover, Portsmouth, and Hampton.
In 1682, another change was introduced into the government. Edward Cranfield was appointed Lieutenant Governor and Commander-in-chief of New-Hampshire. This change was effected through the influence of Mason's grandson and heir. Cranfield's commission was dated May 9, 1682.
Within a few days after publishing his commission, he began to exhibit his arbitrary disposition, by suspending two of the counsellors. The next year he dismissed the Assembly, because they would not comply with all his requests.
This act of Cranfield's very much increased the discontent of the people. In this town particularly, and in Exeter, it created a great excitement. Edward Gove, of this town, a member of the Assembly that had been dismissed, was urgent for a revolution. He went from town to town, crying out for "liberty and reform," and endeavoring to induce the leading men in the Province to join him in a confederacy to overturn the government. But they were less rash than he was. However they might feel towards the government, they disapproved of Gove's measures, and informed against him; upon which he collected his followers and appeared in arms; but was at length induced to surrender. He was soon after tried for high treason, was convicted, and received the sentence of death. His property was confiscated. He was sent to England, and after remaining imprisoned in the Tower three years, was pardoned, and returned home, and his estate was restored to him.
Several other persons were also tried for treason, two of whom belonged to Hampton. These were convicted of being accomplices with Gove, but were reprieved, and at length pardoned without being sent to England.
Not long after, when the courts shad all been organized in a way highly favorable to Mason, he commenced suits against several persons for holding lands and felling timber which he claimed. These suits were decided in his favor; the persons prosecuted, generally, indeed, making no defences. Some of the people of this town gave in writing their reasons for not offering a defence. The jury, however, gave their verdicts without hesitation. A large number of cases were dispatched in a single day, and the costs were made very great.
Still, those who were prosecuted, and against whom executions were obtained, had one consolation. When their estates were exposed to sale, no purchaser could be found, so that they still retained possession of them.
At length the grievances of the people were past endurance, and they resolved to complain directly to the king. Nathaniel Weare, of this town, was accordingly chosen their agent, and dispatched to England.
In 1684, Cranfield wishing to raise money to relieve himself from embarrassment, under false pretenses induced the Assembly to pass an act for raising the money by taxation. The constables either neglected or refused to collect the tax, and a special officer was appointed for the purpose. When this officer came to Hampton, he was beaten, deprived of his sword, seated on a horse and conveyed out of the Province, to Salisbury, with a rope about his neck, and his feet tied together beneath the horse's body.
At the time of this transaction, Weare, the agent of the people, was in England. In consequence of his representations, censures were passed on some of Cranfield's proceedings, and he soon after left New-England and sailed to the West-Indies.
When the revolution occurred, which placed Willliam, Prince of Orange, on the throne of England, the people of New-Hampshire were left in an unsettled state. A convention of deputies was holden, to resolve upon some method of government. Dr. Belknap says that "it does not appear from Hampton records whether they joined in this Convention." This statement is incorrect. The town determined to unite with the other towns in the Convention, and for this purpose they chose and instructed six delegates. The persons chosen were Henry Green, Henry Dow, Nathaniel Weare, Samuel Sherburne, Morris Hobbs, and Edward Gove. [See Appendix, E.]
At the first meeting, the Convention came to no conclusion. Afterward they thought it best to become united with Massachusetts again. Massachusetts very readily agreed to receive them till the king's pleasure should be known. In 1692, the king having refused to allow this union, sent over John Usher as lieutenant governor of New-Hampshire.
The people in general were so well satisfied with the government of Massachusetts, that they were very reluctant to be again separated from it. They, however, submitted to the king's order, as a case of necessity.
We have now arrived at a period upon which we cannot look back without astonishment and regret, at the infatuation which prevailed in regard to witchcraft. I cannot relate, in detail, the proceedings of courts, and of churches, too, in relation to this subject. The chief seat of the infatuation was in and near Salem. Many persons were accused of being witches, were tried and condemned. Several were executed, while others were pardoned. The delusion was not confined to the vicinity of Salem. It extended to this town, and persons here fell under suspicion, and were tried for the crime of witchcraft. "In fine," to use the language of an old writer, "the country was in a dreadful ferment, and wise men foresaw a long train of bloody and dismal consequences."
We may wonder that the people of that period could be so deluded; but in New-England a belief in witchcraft was then almost universal. The same belief also prevailed in England, and even took strong hold of some powerful minds. It is said that several persons were tried and condemned by Sir Matthew Hale, a gentleman of noble intellectual endowments, and great moral worth, and one of the most distinguished judges that ever sat upon the English bench.
The author of the "Magnalia," after relating several wonderful feats, said to have been performed by those who were reported to be witches, gravely adds: "Flashy people may burlesque these things, but when hundreds of people, in a country where they have as much mother wit certainly as the rest of mankind, know them to be true, nothing but the absurd and froward spirit of Sadducism can question them."
But this feeling has passed away, and few people now fear that they shall be called Sadducees, or infidels, for maintaining the opinion that witchcraft is all a delusion.
It would be interesting to go back to our earliest history, and trace the progress of education in the town; to inquire what methods were adopted by our fathers, to instruct the young, and to notice the self-denials and the expenses to which the people subjected themselves, to afford the means of instruction to their children. A subject so important and so interesting, must, however, be passed over with a very few remarks.
It is probable that the ministers of the gospel, who were, from the first settlement of the town, stationed here ass religious teachers, improved the opportunities which were afforded them, to inform the minds of those to whom they ministered, particularly the minds of the young. To judge otherwise would be derogatory to the good sense, the intelligence, and the discretion of the ministers themselves.
But straitened as were the circumstances of the people, they as a town were not unmindful of their duties to the young. Provision was early made for furnishing them with the means of acquiring knowledge. It is, indeed, uncertain at how early a period schools were established among them; probably soon after the formation of the settlement.
There is on record an agreement of the selectmen with a school-master, made in 1649, employing him, for a stipulated sum, to instruct the children of the town daily, for a whole year, when the weather would permit them to come together. [See Appendix, F.] It is hardly probable that a contract would have been made with an instructor for so long a term, unless schools, or a school, had been previously established. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the origin of schools here is nearly coeval with the settlement of the town. While the town was under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, the people were required by law to maintain a free school during a considerable portion of the time. Still, it is not certain that this law went into operation here till after the date of the agreement already mentioned. Since that time, there can be but little doubt that free schools have been maintained during a part at least of every year, where opportunities have been furnished for acquiring the rudiments of an education.