Odd Fellows Block
"Views and Reviews Of Old Rockingham"
By Rev. Roland D. Sawyer
January 30, 1947
showing Town Clock in steeple.
Odd Fellows Block destroyed by fire January 27, 1990
On of the earliest organizations in this community, Rockingham Lodge, No. 22, I.O.O.F., Also boasts one of the largest buildings for its headquarters. The Odd Fellows did not always, however, have such spacious quarters.
First organized at Hampton Falls in 1848, it became inactive a few years later and remained so until 1878. Those instituting the society's beginning were John F. Jones, Edward D. Pike, Charles C. Gove, Elijah Valentine, John W. Dodge and Woodbury Masters.
On April 18, 1878, interest was revived and it was reorganized with Jones, Pike, John L. Perkins, James Janvrin, George S. Merrill, Lewis S. Prescott and Albert J. Sanborn as charter members.
This time the lodge had a strong start and grew rapidly, covering Hampton, Hampton Falls, North Hampton, part of Rye, Seabrook and Kensington. After some debate, the Grand Lodge granted the members permission to seek larger quarters. At that time, the old Hampton Academy had classrooms on the first floor and public rooms or halls on the second. In August, 1883, the trustees leased one of these to the Odd Fellows and it was dedicated as a Lodge-room for their activities.
From the beginning, the Lodge built up a large treasury and before long the men were in a position to erect their own building. In addition to having Lodge-rooms, the society made provisions for store space on the street floor. On the second and third floors are the main hall, two ante-rooms, a recreation hall, dining room, and kitchen. On the ground floor are Trofatter's Appliance store and the Hampton Cooperative Building and Loan association and Tobey and Merrill Insurance Agency. At the rear of the building are several garages.
According to Walter J. Palmer, the building was endangered by fire only once and that was a small furnace blaze that caused no damage. Mr. Palmer, who has been a member of the Lodge for over 60 years, was one of the painters on the building.
We can see from this picture and from the building we know today that it was an important contribution to the appearance and life of the town. Possibly the quality that has become a part of the everyday life of each resident has been overlooked and yet it is one of the building's most important features -- the huge clock that sits at the top like a four-eyed sentinel. The bell tower is not an original part of the building but was added several years later. Ever since it was put firmly into place, the time-piece which is referred to as "The town clock," immediately became a faithful servant and has been tirelessly but relentlessly counting off the seconds of half a century.
In place of the conventional numerals, the face displays gold letters spelling the words, "Memorial Gift." This oddity is very rarely discussed because the towns-people don't usually notice it. Perhaps once in a while, one might see a stranger take a second look and say, "Well, I guess it's I past M," or "A to I."
It's a long climb to the clock, itself up stairs and ladders until you reach the room where just the mechanism is located. This machinery is so large it takes up practically the whole room. The intricate springs, wires, and ropes seem hardly enough to manage the clock, especially since the face and the "works" are so far apart. On the machinery is a plaque with the inscription:
By Joseph T. Brown of Newburyport, Mass.,
descendent of John and Sarah Brown
who settled in Hampton, 1639."
Another ladder takes you to the balcony where the monstrous bell awaits the hammer to strike the hour. The view from here is breath-taking. The miles of roads, fields, chimneys, etc., all seem to be leading directly from, or to, the bell tower and when the lock strikes, it's as though it were a giant king shouting triumphantly to his vast kingdom.
With almost 100 years behind it, the Rockingham Lodge, No. 22, I.O.O.F., can be proud of its achievements, not the least being this building and clock. Today they are as active and interested in their work as the little group that first met in Hampton Falls.
The present officers are Carl C. Bragg, Noble Grand; David O. Brooks, Vice Grand; Samuel Towle, Recording Secretary; Forrest Creighton, Financial Secretary, and John W. R. Brooks, Treasurer.