Joseph Dow's History of Hampton - Author's Preface


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Joseph Dow
April 12, 1807 - December 16, 1889

It is many years since my interest was first awakened to collect material for a history of the town of Hampton. In the intervals of an otherwise busy life, I have brought together, from all available sources, such information as seemed to me important to preserve and disseminate, in compact form, for future generations. I was the more inclined to do this, since the history of Hampton, in its earlier years, was in some measure, the history of the Province of New Hampshire. Being one of the four original towns and united with the other three in many public acts; being a half-shire town of Norfolk County when under Massachusetts jurisdiction; being a border town between the two provinces, and so participating in the boundary disputes; being a sea-board town, whose defenses were of vital importance to all the rest,- the record of its progress, for at least one hundred years, must be of more than local interest.

Moreover, from many of the early families have gone out branches, to people the newer towns, as they were settled, one after another; and even in remote portions of our country, are found many persons, who trace their ancestry back to this settlement by the sea.

Every person, who has attempted to trace his own descent from the several families from which he has sprung, in following out any one of them for two centuries, through all the branches into which it has ramified, has found the task to be very difficult. No one can appreciate the difficulty, except from his own experience. Written memorials he finds to be exceedingly rare; and living members of the family, often, on this subject very ignorant or very indifferent. In many cases, there are traditions and little besides traditions, relative to some branches. But not unfrequently, these vary one from another, so that they are of but little value. Indeed, tradition, at best, is not a very reliable source of information. Fortunate, then, must he be considered, who, after long, patient research, has been able to approximate his beau idealof a complete genealogy.

If such obstacles are to be encountered in tracing a single family, how much greater must be met when fifty or a hundred families are to be traced through a period of two hundred years and more. Such is the work I would gladly have performed for the readers of this History. But to prepare a full and correct genealogy of all the families that were in Hampton at an early period is impossible. In many instances family records have been lost, and in a larger number none were ever kept. The Town Records, indeed, afford valuable aid. Entries of births, beginning in 1652, and of marriages and deaths, in 1654, are perhaps as full on the Hampton Records, as on those of almost any other town. The records of the Congregational church also, the church of the town till well into the present century, are very valuable, containing entries of marriages by the ministers, after 1687; of baptisms, after 1696; and of deaths in the town, since 1734. This last record, with some private records kept in the town, gives us an almost complete list of deaths for a period of a hundred fifty-seven years. With such material, supplemented by a laborious search of wills, deeds, the old Norfolk County Records and numerous private papers, I have prepared the genealogies embodied in this work. That but a great amount of labor has been employed in this preparation, and no pains have been spared to make them correct.

To prevent mistakes in regard to certain dates, it must be remembered that, during the whole of the seventeenth and one-half of the eighteenth century, the civil and ecclesiastical year in England began March 25th, and March was called the first month; while the historical year, beginning on the first of January, was often used in narration. This gave rise to the system of double-dating, from January to March, till 1752, when the historical year alone came to be recognized. All dates in this work, so far as practicable, are made conformable to the historical year.

By an act of Parliament, passed in 1751, to make the reckoning of time conformable to the Gregorian Calendar, so called, it was ordered that the day next after September 2, 1752 should be reckoned September 14, thus dropping eleven days. This has been called a change of style. Dates before this change are said to be in Old Style; later dates, in New Style. All the dates in this work, earlier than September 2, 1752, are in Old Style. To change them to New Style, add ten days to those prior to 1700, and eleven days to those after that year.

I have given more space to this discussion of the boundary lines and the protective measures in regard to the beach and the public lands contiguous, than would ordinarily be alloted in a work of this compass; but it has seemed necessary in the one case, in order to correct a popular error, which has long prevailed, as to the original extent of our territory; and in the other, to establish by the records themselves, the fact of the town's ancient and habitual control.

In the early stages of my study, I had an efficent co-laborer in my friend and cousin, Josiah Page, of Hampton, who devoted himself assiduously to the task of gathering information, which, by his notes, and from the treasures of his wonderfully retentive memory, he placed in my hands. A born genealogist, Mr. Page brought to this department of the work his greatest zeal, while he collected also many facts of historical importance. I have to regret that he died without seeing the work completed.

The names of John Wingate Thornton, Amos Tuck, Edmund B. Dearborn and others, who have passed away, recall much valuable help rendered by these men. To all who have given access to papers, searched records or otherwise aided me in my researches, I would render grateful acknowledgements.

Free reference is made, in these pages, to the works of Belknap, Winthrop and various town historians; to the Provincial and State papers, edited by Rev. Nathaniel Bouton, D.D.; to Adjutant General Head's Reports; to the New Hampshire Historical Society's Collections, the New England Historic-Genealogical Register and kindred works; while the records of town, church and county have been the main reliance for the history of local affairs.

If I have succeeded in preparing a worthy memorial of my native town, in the years fast receding, I shall not have labored in vain.

                                                                Joseph Dow
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