Fire at Hampton, 1899

Well Directed Efforts Prevent A Serious Loss

The Exeter News-Letter, Friday, August 18, 1899

Hampton last evening very narrowly escaped heavy loss by fire, and as it was, lost one of its old landmarks, the large two-story house, L and shed on the Stacy Towle place, so called, owned by John A. Towle and Albert D. Brown, and except for chimneys they were burned to the ground.

Though quite old, a century or more, they were in fair repair, were assessed for $2000 and were insured for $1000 in the Rockingham Farmers'. Mr. Brown, who was well insured in the Granite state, saved the greater part of the household goods and personal effects.

The fire started from unknown cause about 5:20 in a shed not in use by Mr. Brown. Only a few minutes before his housekeeper had left the premises, and there was no one at home at the fire's outbreak. The flames, which were quickly discovered, spread rapidly, and from the locality aroused the greatest fears. Closely adjoining on the west was the great ice house, owned by W. H. Chase, of Boston, with large barn at its rear, and on the further side, and but a few feet distant, the Thomas N. Chase dwelling, with the Franklin house and numerous dwellings just beyond and opposite. There are few more compactly built sections in Hampton.

Its authorities immediately telephoned to Exeter and Portsmouth for aid, Assistant Engineer Flanigan receiving the local message a few minutes before six O'clock, and the alarm for an out of town fire was sounded at 6:05.

The dilatory conduct of the street railway company in the matter of this fire was severely censured by the Hampton authorities. In times of such stress, paramount duties devolve upon common carriers, and are generally performed with the utmost willingness and promptitude.

The Exeter engineers upon receipt of the call telephoned a request for the street railway's flat freight car upon which to load the steamer and its hose. Chief of Police Eaton, of Hampton, had previously hurried this car towards Exeter, bit it was stopped at the power station. Results might have been disastrous.

Finally, the steamer and its hose reel, each drawn by four horses, left Exeter at 6:30. The steamer company and detachments from the three hose companies and the hook and ladder took the 6:30 electric, which should have been given full right of way for a quick run. As a matter of fact, despite the remonstrances and requests of Hampton's chairman, Joseph B. Brown, and the Exeter engineers, it was held 10 minutes at the school-house turnout and 15 minutes on James' hill to pass delayed Exeter cars, and worst of all was held a few minutes at the power station, for no good apparent reason.

As a consequence the firemen did not reach their destination until long after arrival of the apparatus. They left their car to find the steamer in position in readiness for service and with hose partially laid.

Meanwhile the men of Hampton had been working like beavers. The Leonia House sent up its new engine, but its hose, insufficient in amount, could not be coupled to the pump at the Boston and Maine pumping station, and the bucket brigade was the sole reliance. It should be proud of its work, which was mainly directed to the saving of the ice house. There was fortunately little wind. Two teams were kept busied in bringing water in buckets and milk cans from the town well in the square and other sources of supply, and the exposed side and roof of the ice house was thus kept drenched. It escaped with a slight scorching. So intense was the heat in which they worked that the men on duty at the ice house had frequently had to be drenched with water and even then Chief Eaton was painfully and badly burnt about the legs.

The Towle house had fallen in upon arrival of the Exeter steamer, but it did valuable work in playing upon the fiercely blazing ruins, taking from the railroad watering tank through 750 feet of hose. Upon arrival of the Exeter force the request of Portsmouth was countermanded.

At the fire's outbreak, the Thomas N. Chase dwelling, next west of the ice house, was as a precautionary measure stripped of all its contents. Mr. Chase was then out of town and was naturally somewhat surprised upon arrival home at seven o'clock.

The Exeter firemen and apparatus arrived home shortly before 10 O'clock. The fire attracted hundreds of spectators from Exeter and vicinity.