Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Woodwards

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When nearly the whole territory of the township, except the salt marshes, was covered with a dense forest, which had hitherto been undisturbed, it might, to some people, have appeared of little consequence what TREES should be taken from the public lands. But such was not the opinion of a majority of the freemen. Their course in this matter evinces a great deal of foresight and a careful regard to the welfare of succeeding generations, as well as to their own immediate interest. To prevent waste upon their timber lands by an indiscriminate destruction of trees, the town appointed Philemon Dalton, William Eastow and William Wakefield, a board of woodwards, to assign to individuals, what trees they might take from the common land.


Another subject which engaged the attention of the people at this early period, was the admission of persons as inhabitants. Some precaution was evidently needed to preserve the town from harm. Unprincipled and disorderly persons might otherwise, in the infancy of the settlement, have come in from abroad and harassed the whole community by their irregularities, and exerted an influence for evil, that could not have been easily counteracted. This was foreseen, and prudential regulations were adopted for its prevention. The power of admitting inhabitants was guarded with great strictness as the palladium of their civil rights. The town would not delegate this power to any man, or any set of men, but most scrupulously retained it in their own hands. After the first organization, no persons from abroad were admitted as citizens, without permission of the town, whatever might have been their character or reputation; unless on the condition expressed in the following vote: "No manner of person shall come into the town as an inhabitant without the consent of the town, under the penalty of twenty shillings per week, unless he give satisfactory security to the town."

On several occasions, votes were passed to prohibit the selectmen from admitting inhabitants. As a specimen, the following may be cited, although passed about forty years after the first settlement. The selectmen for the ensuing year had just been chosen. The authority conferred upon them having been stated, the were then "strictly prhibited from granting or exchanging, or any wayes disposeing of any land, timber or commonage, or receiueing of Inhabitants: which things are left to the whole Town as formerly."

To show the manner of admitting inhabitants, the two following votes, passed near the close of the year 1639, are transcribed from the records.

December 6. "Liberty is given to Wm Fuller, of Ipswich to come and sit down here as a planter and smith, in case he bring a certificate of approbation from the Magsts or Elders."

December 13. "The like liberty is given to John Saunders of Ipswich, as was to Wm ffuller at the last meeting."

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