By Terrill Covey
Tuesday, May 1, 2001
[Photo at right: Beverly Ring Prakop (left) presents Hampton Fire Chief Hank Lipe (right) with a photo of her grandfather — Hampton's first Fire Chief, Lemuel C. Ring — at Lane Library on Thursday. The photo was added to the Hampton Fire Department history section at the Lane Memorial Library. A Terrill Covey photo]
She said that the town's history had not recognized Ring as the first chief, so she compiled information to show that he was, indeed, Hampton's first Fire Chief.
"We've always been told that grandfather Ring was the first Fire Chief of Hampton," Prakop said. "This day is so happy for me."
Prakop explained that in 1904, beach residents petitioned the town's Selectmen to form the beach precinct, after realizing that the town wouldn't buy fire equipment for the village. Their request was granted and the precinct became a reality in 1907.
"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," Prakop said. "By July 1911, the Portsmouth Herald reported that few resorts could boast of better fire protection than HamptonBeach."
Ring became the first Chief in 1911. Prakop said that the precinct raised over $900 in 1911 for new equipment. That was the most they had ever raised. At that same meeting, they voted to elect the Fire Chief and Fire Fighters.
"The clerk asked that anybody who opposed L.C. Ring as chief stand up," Prakop said. "Nobody stood up."
Prakop also said that Ring, and his department of volunteer Fire Fighters, fought every fire up through a big fire in 1915. before Ring retired in 1916.
Lipe, Hampton's thirteenth Fire Chief, read through the work that Prakop had done with great interest.
"I'm glad you did this research," Lipe said. "If not for Chief Ring, I'm sure Hampton Beach wouldn't have been protected. This is an important part of our history."
Deputy Chief Tony Chouinard, who also attended the presentation, said the information should have come out sooner.
"This is one of the few Departments I've seen where the history is fragmented," Chouinard said. "Some of it is lost. It has been a transient Department over the years, and I think a lot of our history was lost because of that."
Lipe said that the information and pictures presented to the Department by Prakop will go into the town's fire museum, and an enlarged picture of Ring will be "hung proudly" in the station.
"I felt really driven to bring this up." said Prakop. "Now they'll finally know the true history of the department." Prakop said that Ring was a great builder. In addition to building a fire department, he build three churches at the beach, he built the Ashworth Hotel twice, and he built the house that she lives in.
"He built up a great portion of the beach property that still stands today," she said. "He was an extraordinary man. I'm very proud of him."
Both Lipe and Prakop said that it was interesting that the timing of this revelation coincides so closely with the precinct's vote to remove themselves from fire protection.
"This is another point in history," Lipe said. "This is the beginning chapter, and now we are living the final chapter."