Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: THE GRAY RAT -- CONSTABLES

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Dr. Belknap says: "The town of Hampton, though adjoining the sea, and one of the earliest settlements in New Hampshire, had no gray rats till the year 1764, when an English mast-ship was wrecked on the beach." This is not entirely correct. The gray rat was introduced here from a vessel wrecked on our beach near Great Boar's Head sometime before the mast-ship came ashore.


Any person chosen for constable was by law required to accept the office and perform the duties (unless he were excused by the town), or be subjected to a fine of £20, old tenor. Such were the duties to be performed by constables, -- or perhaps so meager their pay -- that there was a general reluctance among the people to holding the office. On one occasion, after it had been voted to have two constables for the ensuring year, five men were chosen in succession, and each of them refused to serve, and paid his fine. At an adjourned meeting two weeks afterward, it was voted to choose one constable for the whole town and to give him the £100 fine money received from those men who had refused to serve. Jeremiah Dow was then chosen constable, and he procured his brother Simon Dow as his substitute, and the town accepted him for the office.

Several years later, the town tried the experiment of setting up this office by vendue to the lowest bidder. In this way it became known who would accept the office, and on what terms. The town then went through the formality of electing a constable by vote. This was the customary course for many years, though in the opinion of some of the voters, its legality was questionable.

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