Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: THE CHARTER OF HAMPTON -- Part II

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Eight of the commissioners met at the time and place appointed, and, after hearing certain statements from the parties, adjourned for one week. [Farmer's Belnap, 241-3] They met again according to adjournment, and two days afterwards, August 10, the Legislatures of the two provinces met, by adjoining towns and within five miles of each other; that of Massachusetts, at Salisbury, and that of New Hampshire, at Hampton Falls. "A cavalcade was formed from Boston to Salisbury, and the governor rode in state, attended by a troop of horse. He was met at Newbury ferry by another troop; who joined by three more, at the supposed divisional line, conducted him to the George Tavern, [On the site of the late Cyrus Brown's, at the Hill]. at Hampton Falls, where he held a council and made a speech to the Assembly of New Hampshire.[Farmer's Belnap, 244]

As, after all this pageant, the commissioners failed to establish the southern boundary of New Hampshire, in which Hampton is more immediately interested, their lengthy report has no place here; nor is it worth while to enquire into the conduct of Governor Belcher, in the matter, marked, as his enemies, at least, alleged, by great unfairness towards New Hampshire.

In relation to the boundary, the commissioners mentioned a doubt in point of law, that had arisen in their minds, and referred the matter to the kind in council.[Farmer's Belnap, 246] The result was, [Prov.Pap.V11:221-6.] that, when it was thus considered, August 5, 1740, it was determined: "That the Northern Boundaries of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, are and be a similar curve line Pursuing the course of the Merrimack River, at three miles distance, on the north side thereof, beginning at the Atlantic Ocean and ending at a point due north of a place in the plan returned by the said Commissioners, called Pawtucket Falls, and a strait line drawn from thence due west, cross the said river till it meet his Majesty's other Governments....... It is therefore his Majesty's Will and Pleasure, and you are hereby required and enjoyned under pain of his Majesty's displeasure, and of being removed from your Government" to have the line established in this manner as expeditiously as possible, and to communicate this instruction to the councils and assemblies of both provinces.

Addressed to "Jonathan Belcher Esq. Captain General in Chief in and over his Majesties Province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England."

Governor Belcher had professed a strong desire to have the boundary question settled. He had openly exonerated New Hampshire from blame; for, more than six years before this date, he had written to the Lords of Trade: [Ibid 1V:649] "Although, my Lords, I am a Massachusetts man, yet I think this Province alone is culpable on his head. New Hampshire has all along been frank and ready to pay exact Duty and Obedience to the King's Order, and have manifested a great inclination to Peace and good Neighbourhoods, but in return the Massachusetts Province have thrown unreasonable Obstacles in the way of any Settlement, and altho they have for 2 or 3 years past been making offers to settle the Boundaries with New-York & Rhode-Island, in an open, easy, amicable way, yet when they come to settle with New-Hampshire, they will not do so with them, which seems to me a plain Argument that the leading men of the Massachusetts Assembly are conscious to themselves of continual Incroachments they are making upon their Neighbours of New-Hampshire, and so dare not come to a Settlement."

Whether the governor, with these convictions, was bribed for his course at the time of the commission (as was hinted), or why he espoused the Massachusetts cause, is of no present consequence. The king's peremptory orders and threat impelled him now to instance action, and he presented the case, in its urgency, to his Massachusetts government; but that body maintaining its old policy of delay, the governor applied to New Hampshire. The council and assembly, in their reply, deprecated the unfairness of the Massachusetts government, in having obstructed the decision of the matter for thirty years; expressed the opinion that, since the Instructions were directed to his Excellency, as governor of Massachusetts only, it was not the kings's intention that New Hampshire should bear any part of the cost; but said that nevertheless, they had unanimously voted £500 for the work. [Prov.Pap.v:76]

A few days later, the governor asked for the nomination of suitable men, from among whom, he might appoint surveyors; saying that, although this affair was under the absolute direction of the king's governor, yet he would like their advice.[Ibid. V:78]

Thereupon, three surveyors and assistants were appointed, for the three divisions of the work. The survey along the course of the Merrimac river, the only portion which concerns this History, was entrusted to George Mitchell, Esq. [Ibid.V:83]

Mr. French says: Briant and Hazen made reports of this doings; but of Mitchell, for a long time, we had not report -- all was lost. Efforts were made at the State Houses in Concord and Boston , to find reports or maps, but none could be found. In England we had better results; for there Mitchell's map has at last been discovered; so that now, we have "Mitchell's Line" as an official document. [Described in McClintock's N.H.,184.]

The king's determination of the boundaries, Dr. Belnap says,"exceeded the utmost expectation of New Hampshire; as it gave them a tract of country, fourteen miles in breadth and above fifty in length more than they had ever claimed. It cut off from Massachusetts twenty-eight new townships, between Merrimac and Connecticut rivers. besides large tracts of vacant land, which lay intermixed; and districts from six if their old towns on the north side of the Merrimac."

The town of Salisbury, as originally granted, extending, like Hampton, westward to Haverhill, had before this date, become the two towns of Salisbury and Amesbury, from both of which, districts were cut off by this decree of the king. It would seem that Hampton, under the Act of September 12, 1701, defining her southern boundary as "the line between the Province of the Masichusitts Bay and New Hampshire from the Sea westwardly," might claim these new districts; but this Act, and the one relating to land grants, of the same date, though held binding by the people, had been disallowed by the king, because they did not recognize the claims of Mason's heirs. That Hampton did not attempt to possess herself of this territory is evident from the action of its inhabitants and of the government.

On the 3d of February, 1742, the council and the House chose a joint committee of six, "to prepare a bill for bringing the Poles and Estates into a Province Tax wchfalls within this Province by his Majtieslate Settlement of the Province Lines, and which have not as yet been Taxed within this Province." [Provincial Papers V:141]

Eight days later, a petition was presented to the council and assembly, [Ibid, V:601] "praying for a Township to be incorporated out of those partes of Salisbury and Amesbury which call within this Province as pr bounds mentioned in sdPetition." An address [Ibid,IX:358], signed by twenty-eight men of the east part of this district, that "now by the Settlement of the Province Lines fall into New Hampshire," had already been sent to the governor and council, humbly showing "that your petitioners are Informed that those which did belong to the westerly Part of Salisbury and some of Amesbury which by said Line falls into New Hampshire Intends to Petition that all those Persons that did belong to Salisbery and Amesbury & are now taken into New Hampshire might be made in to a town ship or Parish by themselves & not annexed to any other, and have Presumed so far as to set up a frame for A Meeting House in the Westerly Part which if it should be granted would be very Pregeditial to your Petitioners," because they live more than six miles away and could not attend the worship of God. "They therefore pray that they may not be joined to them, but may be annexed to Hampton Falls."

The committee chosen to draft a bill for taxing the new districts reported, and the bill was passed, on the 18th of March. It applied to persons and their estates within this province, not yet incorporated into townships and that have never paid their proportion of the charge of supporting this government. It provided that "sdpolls and estates shall be divided into certain Districts; and that part of Salisbury and Amesbury, so called, which by the settlemtof the aforesdBoundaries falls within this Province shall be, & thereby is made one District." The other districts were defined and regulations made for organizing them and for assessing and called collecting the taxes. A committee of three were appointed to call first meetings. [Ibid. V:183-5]

In May, this committee made their report, which, for the Salisbury district begins as follows: "Apr11th. Wee of the committee opened the meeting att a place called Loggin Plain at the meeting house there Between Salisbury and Amesbury being by Information about 28 miles distant from Court."[Ibid V:185}

A few days after the report of the committee, namely, on the 25th of May, 1742, the pending petition for a township was granted, in the incorporation of South Hampton; including all the territory between the Shapley and Mitchell lines, from the sea westward, to a south line from a "white pine stump" on the Shapley line, "excepting the Lands, Estates & Poles" of the twenty-eight petitioners above-mentioned, "who are hereby annexed to the Parrish of Hampton Falls & in all Respects incorporated into the Parrish of Hampton Falls." [Original Charter So. Hampton, town clerk's office]

One cannot fail to remark, in this instance, as in many another place and time, how tenaciously this "Parrish" and the parent town clung together; for there, in 1741, twenty-four years after what is commonly regarded as the Act of Separation, it is decreed that South Hampton shall extend from the sea northerly "to the bounds of that part of the town of Hampton called Hampton Falls."

In September of the same year, eight men of the east part of the town, and shortly after, two more, petitioned to be sent off to Hampton Falls, and in November, it was decreed that the line between Hampton Falls and Kensington be extended to the province line, and that all the inhabitants and their estates of South Hampton, east of the extension, be annexed to Hampton Falls, to all intents and purposes, except for repairing highways and paying the province tax. [Provincial Papers IX:763-5]

This exception led to complications and difficulties, which continued till 1795, when and amicable adjustment was made, [So.Hampton Records] the southern part of Hampton Falls having meanwhile, in 1768, become the town of Seabrook, holding all the rights, privileges and burdens of the former town in the disputed territory. [Provincial Papers IX:373] In 1822, an Act was passed, cutting off from South Hampton all lands east of the Kensington line and joining them to Seabrook, which town then acquired its present limits. [N.H. Pamphlet Laws]

Thus we have shown, from official documents, the fallacy of the popular opinion, which places South Hampton within the original Limits of our ancient town.


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