By Liz Premo
Thursday, May 3, 2001
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON — Hampton town history received a long-overdue adjustment to one of its pages when Beverly Ring Prakop set it all straight regarding the lineup of fire chiefs who have served Hampton and Hampton Beach since the early days of the 20th century.
At a special presentation in the New Hampshire Room at the Lane Memorial Library last Thursday morning, Mrs. Prakop addressed Hampton Fire Chief Frank Lipe, Deputy Chief Tony Chouinard, Lane Library History Volunteer John Holman, and members of the press when she presented the chief with a framed photograph of her great-grandfather, Lemuel Churchill Ring -— the town's first fire chief.
That particular position had earlier — and errantly -— been attributed to Fire Chief Elmer C. King, who served the town from 1912-14.
In an April 19, 2001 letter addressed to Hampton Fire Chief Hank Lipe and the firemen of the Hampton Fire Department, and again at last Thursday's presentation, Mrs. Prakop stated the following:
"It has been a long tradition in our family that Grandfather Ring was the first fire chief of Hampton, and we are proud of him. The picture I am presenting to you, for display is an enlargement of his picture on a post card. I feel it is time to honor him and give the man what is due him for the history of your fire department."
Mrs. Prakop read a brief history of how the beach precinct had been formed and "became a reality in 1907. The fire department was organized under the precinct commissioners. The first equipment, purchased in 1908, consisted of three hand-drawn hose carts that could be attached to the hydrants of the newly operating Hampton Water Works Company."
Mrs. Prakop went on to say that "By July 1911... three fire companies were organized and a fourth was planned, each manned by summer resident volunteers, with Lemuel C. Ring as chief."
A description of how Ring had been voted in, described how "the chief and all firefighters would be chosen by the voters, and the names submitted to the selectmen for their approval. In a final vote, the clerk recorded, 'That every man opposed to L.C. Ring as the chief of the Hampton and Hampton Beach Fire Department, stand up! No one stood up.' Ring, owner of much beach commercial property, was the town's fireward, or fire chief."
Mrs. Prakop summed up her remarks by saying, "On the annual Town of Hampton report for the year ending February 15, 1916, Lemuel C. Ring is the only person listed under the title, 'Fireward - Lemuel C. Ring.' I am very proud of him and I hope you are too."
Chief Lipe respectfully accepted the photograph, which shows Fire Chief L.C. Ring in full uniform and holding a nick- el-plated flared horn — a symbol of fire service — which contains a bouquet of flowers. The photo was taken from a post card dated 1916, upon which was written the fire chief's name.
Calling her great-grandfather "an extraordinary man," Mrs. Prakop told Chief Lipe, "I hope you cherish the picture."
"Oh, we will," Lipe promised. Chief Ring's picture will be hung at the beach fire station.
"He would be very proud," said Prakop. "He's been overlooked so many times. I couldn't let it go on. I was driven."
Lipe acknowledged Chief Ring's service to the town by commenting, "If it weren't for Chief Ring, Hampton Beach would not have been as protected back then."
"What an extraordinary man he was," Prakop commented. "This day is so happy for me."
The list of Hampton's fire chiefs as they appear on the Lane Library's Web site has now been updated to include Chief Ring as its first, thanks to library history volunteer John Holman.