Interesting and Beautiful Scenes Along Line Of Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway -- Chapter 7
By D. Fisher -- 1900
The Early Settlement of Hampton
The Rev. Stephen Bachiler, a dissenting minister, landed in Massachusetts in 1632. Going at once to Saugus, in Lynn, he organized a church there, "without asking leave and without ceremony." In 1635, this society had so increased as to afford a serious dispute between the pastor and the larger portion of the members. This dissension resulted in Mr. Bachiler asking for dismission for himself and some seven or eight of the members, which was granted.
Instead of leaving Lynn, as was said to be understood, he and his followers reformed themselves into their old society, or rather they renewed their old covenant. The authorities of the colony now took a hand in the controversy. Bachiler moved to Ipswich, in 1637, and planned to go to the Plymouth colony. In 1638, he and his little flock were in Newbury. Here it was decided to settle near or on Hampton river, then generally understood to be beyond the bounds of Massachusetts.
The formal permission to go was granted by the general court in September, 1638, and a month later Winnacunnet was formally founded. It is on the reorganization of Bachiler's society, in 1635, that the "First church" in Hampton bases its claim of being the oldest continuous church organization in New Hampshire.
During 1639 many additonal families joined the new settlement, and in 1640 grants of land were made to some sixty persons.
The Massachusetts authorities claimed jurisdiction over the new colony at once, and ignored Wheelwright's claim to the territory on Hampton river under the Indian purchase deed. At the autumn sessioin of the general court, in 1639, an act was passed, at Bachiler's request, which declared that, Winnacunnet shal bee called Hampton."
In January, 1641, it was voted that the meeting-house porch should be used as "a watch house until another may be gotten."
At the time Bachiler came to Hampton, he was seventy-six years of age. Troubles seemed to follow him. One year later, Rev. Timothy Dalton was called by the society to become an assistant to Bachiler under the tyle of "teacher." Charges of improper conduct, of what nature is not known, were soon made against Bachiler, and Dalton assumed full control. Bachiler remained in Hampton some eight years, when he returned to England, where he died.
In 1647, Exeter's founder, then at Wells, Me., was called to Hampton, with the title of preacher, to assist Mr. Dalton who was still styled a teacher. In all local affairs Wheelwright seems to have been but a sort of "second fiddle" to the stern and forceful Dalton. This relation continued until 1656, when Wheelwright went to England. When Charles II came to the throne, Wheelwright returned and became pastor of the church in Salisbury, where he died at the age of eighty-five in 1679.
In 1656, Goody Cole of Hampton was arraigned before the county court of Norfolk on the charge of witchcraft. Many witnesses were called. The testimony against her, if viewed in the light of to-day, was frivolous enough. Abram Drake deposed that, "Aboute this time twelve month my neighbor Coles lost a cowe and wen we had found it, I and others brought ther cowe home to his house & hee & shee desired me to flea this cowe, and presantly after shee charged me with Killing her Cowe, for the just hand of God was upon my catill & forthwith I lost two catill and the latter end of somer I lost one cowe more."
Goody Cole was sentenced to be whipped and then imprisoned for life, or until released by the court. While Goody was in prison, her aged husband died. The jailor in Boston seized one of the Hampton selectmen to recover pay "for her keep." The town seized the property of the Coles, and paid £8 a year for her board in the Boston jail. At the end of fifteen years she was released and then became a town charge. In 1672, she was again arrested and sent to Boston where the court rendered the following decision:
"In ye case of Unis Cole now a prisoner att ye Bar not Legally guilty acording to Inditement but just ground of Vehement suspissyon of her haveing had familly arryty with ye devill."
Goody was accordingly released from prison, and returned to Hampton where she lived alone in a hovel which stood a little way back from the spot where the academy now stands. She died here. Several days elapsed before her death became known; and even then, it required a great deal of courage on the part of the townspeople to force an entrance to where she lay dead. The body was dragged to a hole hastily dug into which it was tumbled, and then, conformably with current superstition, a stake was driven through it in order to exorcise the baleful influence she was supposed to possess.