Hampton's Historic Mills

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By Mike Bisceglia

Hampton Union, Friday, February 10, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

[Photo not in original article]

It's not open now, but a run of 199 years isn't too bad.

The Tuck-Leavitt Mill, a block west of Ocean Boulevard on High Street on Nilus Brook, is still one of the major attractions for photographers and painters. (The building is not open to the public.)

Beginning as far back as 1640, settlers of the region used this mill and several more like it for various produce that needed to be ground. In 1642, in an area near "the landing," the first windmills in the area were erected. One was off Winnacunnet Road (hence Windmill Lane between Winnacunnet and High Street), and the other was off Little River Road.

Wheat, barley, oats and corn were among the items taken to the grist mills to be ground. The region was so rich in corn that it was known as "Little Egypt."

The region began to grow and prosper. In 1658, the area's first sawmill was constructed to help in developing timber into uniform lumber for wood-frame houses. At the beginning of the 18th century, a corn mill was erected on the Taylor River.

About 1841, Sylvanus Coffin rebuilt the factory and enlarged it to make boxes (don't laugh, it's true). In 1875, a box manufacturer from Massachusetts bought the buildings and put in steam power.

In 1648, the town allowed Abraham Perkins and Henry Green permission to build a watermill. It was to become a grist mill. Other mills sprang up in the region, providing employment and materials for building growth. Some existed for only brief periods of time. There are no accurate records about the mills of the region. It can be said, however, that Hampton could have been called a mill town.

In 1897, the town was pleased that Abbott Joplin rebuilt the Tuck Grist Mill for then owner Joel Jenkins. Jenkins, you'll remember, was the inventor of the safety pin. Joplin built the Casino, which was completed in 1901.

The Old Grist Mill on High Street is not open to the public. Those interested can walk the scenic grounds and photograph a genuine part of American history. The water is still flowing under the mill. Care should be exercised if you plan to walk the perimeter of the pond behind the mill. Be warned, parking is at a premium in the area.

Just a reminder, you might be lucky enough to spy a beaver or two performing some woodwork in or around the pond. Don't try to pet them; they're busy.

Those traveling the region may wish to step off the main roads and meander through some of the very scenic country roads in the Southern New Hampshire region.

If your eyes are keen, you'll see large round stones with holes bored through the centers. They may be found in stonewalls, along the sidewalks of rural farms, or built into the brickwork of buildings such as the one belonging to Hampton Historical Society. Those are the grist stones, and there is a very good chance that some of those stones have a history that began right here in Hampton.

For more information on the history of Hampton, check out www.hamptonhistoricalsociety.org.

A special thanks to Betty Moore and her dedicated staff at the Hampton Historical Society, and to the dedicated folks at the Lane Memorial Library.

[Mike Bisceglia writes an occasional history column for Hampton Union. He is a retired teacher living in Hampton.]

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