Hampton Reminiscences -- Part IV

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By Enoch P. Young

(July 3, 1824 - January 11, 1910)

The Exeter News-Letter

February 5, 1904

- Part IV -

EDITOR, The Exeter News-Letter. -- Many thanks, friend Exeter News-Letter, for your compliments in reference to my 50 consecutive yearly service as local agent for Hampton in the Rockingham Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance company. Perhaps I shall be excused if I take pen and ink myself and recite my story in my own way. The company, as well as the News-Letter, has many friends throughout Rockingham county that may thus be amused, if not instructed. Fifty continuous or consecutive years in any one special line of action is that which but few that enter life's busy arena attain to, be it husband and wife, farmer or trader, mechanic or insurance agent. My experiences in the years past I consider fully up to the average man's. So if in relating some of them, I may seem somewhat egotistical, please excuse and pardon such as may be the blame of old age. As husband and wife few enjoyed life better together, but death, that avenger of us all, parted us after 38 spring times coming and going.

My busy life service as a blacksmith, when blacksmithing's hard work had long, long days. No nine hours then for day's work, oftener 14, most always, when day time was its longest, was from sun-up to sun-down, with candle lighting till nine o'clock evenings, Saturday excepted, from September 20 till late next February. The sledge man then was a busy factor in the blacksmith shop. The horse shoes and the ox shoes had then all to be made by hand on the anvil, and must be made ready and gathered in liberal quantities for winter sharpening time. Ox shoeing in sharpening time, was the busiest few weeks of the year. With my helper I have with all other work sharpened or shod some winters 140 pairs or yoke of oxen. At the other shop near by (Jenness') were shod as many more, many coming from nearby neighboring towns. Now only a half dozen pairs of working oxen in town, then more than 100 pairs, and as many others yearly fattened and sold as beef. Now horses take the place of the workers, and the phosphate works the final end of the hose. The beef, instead of replenishing the farmer's pocketbook, tends steadily to drain it.

The sledge man is almost entirely done away with as a helper. The making of shoeing nails for horse and ox, then one of the principal labors during long winter evenings, now entirely done away with. Machine made nails and shoes are the products exclusively in use now. Iron in the bar, how different! Then to obtain many sizes the smith had to resort to splitting and drawing on the anvil. Now iron in the bar, all sizes and shapes, is obtainable readily in the markets. Much of the difficult forgings, then requiring time and skilled workmen, is now obtainable as drop forgings, easily duplicated.

About the year 1850, mowing machines made their appearance. The Manny, a wooden frame, clumsily constructed affair, was among the earliest. A few years later they appeared, having parts patented by many makers, in plenteous quantity and improved quality. With their increasing plenteousness the blacksmith business in haying season received marked impetus, doing the repairing labor. When my fiftieth consecutive year at blacksmithing closed, I bid the business good bye, feeling that I had earned a resting spell, which I must enjoy soon if ever.

I am just closing now my fiftieth year consecutively as servant of the Rockingham Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance company, its local agent for Hampton, the second in size, I think, among the various towns, counting their business transactions with company. Deerfield is the greater. In my reminiscence, or remembrances insuranceward, let me start with my earliest recollections of the company. I was quite young in the year 1833, the company's time of starting, but I remember in the later thirties incidents of so little moment now that it may seem useless to relate, as but few living can remember.

My father was custom boot and shoemaker, cobbler and tanner of hides, had learned the trade in all its parts. Tanning of hides was a necessary contingent of the shoemaker then. My father was then the principal one in town. His shoemaker shop was among the then places where on stormy days, days unsuitable for outside labor, neighbors gathered, getting and circulating news. Newspapers were scarce and infrequent. Oftentimes the one paper answered for four or five families, and all had their time for using it. It was one if not two weeks till the next paper arrived, no rail cars then, nor Boston daily papers for sale. Shoemaker shop, blacksmith shop and the grocery store were largely the resorts for news. Thus I was given extra opportunity for such luxury, for my work, after my school days were over, was with my father in his shoemaker shop. Boys and girls in those times were brought up to know their places in the family comforts, and dare not hesitate themselves to do their part cheerfully and promptly. The second winter season with my father in his shop I was able to bottom and finish several sets of youth's long top boots for an Exeter manufacturer, by the name of Robinson (I have often thought it may have been the same gentleman whose benefactions many years later donated the Exeter female seminary). The boot and shoe industry by the wholesale was then in its infancy. With no machine work in sight, with my thus much progress in my experimental stage of shoemaking, I wasn't satisfied, and could not stand it longer as my life business. So quit for a more muscular employment.

Let me now turn to my insurance work and its remembrances. An elderly gentleman, Stephen Brown, of Kensington, was often at my father's shop. He was deeply interested, or appeared to be, in the insurance company's success. He visited Hampton periodically often, soliciting applications and renewals. This was previous to the law passed requiring a local agent for every town where the company did business, which agent was obliged to furnish bonds for the safe accounting of all company's monies coming to his hands. Up to that time, Mr. Brown's service, territorial, seemed limited only by county boundary lines. Down to those years and many beyond did I ever have the faintest idea that I should ever be in closer connection with the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance company.

While serving my apprenticeship in Exeter, in the early forties [1840s], my home, fortunately for me, was among the good ones. Among its members was an only daughter, Kate. She seemed as an elderly sister to me. She was among the fortunate ones. She had a beau. He was then secretary and treasurer of the Rockingham Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance company, John Palmer, Esq. While I still remained in the family, they were married and Kate went to her new home in South Hampton. Rice throwing and old rubbers played no part in that wedding. Friends, true friends, they had many, all wishing them the largest share of true happiness.

That incident drew me thoughtfully nearer the company. When I read about the company I did not forget those friends of mine. July 3, 1845, I bade Exeter and my friends there good bye and started out in this uneven world to begin life's back alone. Nine years later I was back in Hampton. One morning in 1854, I was approached by two gentlemen with whom I then had but slight acquaintance, who afterwards through a long life ever remained my firm friends, Jonathan P. Robinson, of North Hampton, and Nehemiah P. Cram, of Hampton Falls. If I remember right, both of them then were directors in the Farmers', Mr. Cram, I think, then acting temporarily as secretary and treasurer. They offered me the company's agency for Hampton. Surprised at such, I at once declined, giving as reason my unacquaintance with and ignorance of its duties. That with them was not sufficient. They still persisted. Finally I told them I must take one week for consideration, then would make an answer. They gratified me, I consented to try and gave bond for $8500 for safe keeping of all company's monies that should come into my hands. After 50 years' continuous service and the handling of many thousands of dollars of the company's money, my bond still remains undisturbed.

Here let me refer to other circumstances in bringing about my appointment as insurance agent. Franklin Pierce was elected President of these United States in November, 1852. March 4, 1853, he was inaugurated as President. Hon. Uri Lamprey, of Hampton, a man then active in the political world, was among Pierce's active workers and was present at the inauguration. Expecting to be absent much in the interests of the administration, he resigned his agency in the Farmers' Insurance Company. As some new man must now make the sacrifice, I fell into the trap. Soon after a new secretary and treasurer, Charles E. Lane, appeared at the office of the company, son of Samuel D. Lane, as we start out on the Hampton road, whom I knew well as among the good farmers, possibly a Hampton boy. Exeter is indebted to Hampton for a few of its best Lanes. Charles E. served as secretary and treasurer quite a term of years. Next was Mr. George W. Wiggin, a school teacher, I belive, from Stratham. He served many years. President William Conner, a man not easily daunted, was his friend. The next, Henry A. Shute, Esq., the present incumbent, has been secretary and treasurer quite a term of years and so acceptably fills the positions to-day. Those three men as secretaries fill the continuous line of 50 years last past.

Looking casually backward over these 50 years as one period in time, they seem as but yesterday. Counting time in sections may seem different. Fifty years ago was seven years before the commencement of our Civil War. Youth then, what is left of it now, is in gray hair and wrinkles. Those of us then with families can best reckon the flight of time, when we enquire for those who were with us then. In 1851, when my agency began, my second daughter was but four years old. Growing up through her school days, she graduated at the Free Baptist seminary at New Hampshire, taught school and was married. After nine years of married life, called while in her youth to bid farewell to life and all its pleasures, leaving a daughter seven years old. She came to live with me and her grandmother. She grew to woman's estate and married eight years since, has a son in his sixth year, my great grandson. This all happening since, and while the 50 years were passing that I have served as Hampton's local insurance agent.

As I have proved it, after 50 consecutive years' intimacy, the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company I have ever found an affair where interests are truly mutual in its full meaning. Every one whose property is insured by the company is thus constituted a member, with equal rights as to voice and vote on matters pertaining to company affairs, as is his neighbor. Then please take time and come out to its business meetings, and fully exercise the privilege that is yours, else find no fault afterwards. Your absence on such occasions counts in approval of the officials' doings. The few in attendance is no discouraging symptom of prosperity, but is full of encouragement to those that lead, to climb higher and still higher.

From its small beginnings in its experimental stage, almost alone in 1833, it has steadily grown to be among the big factors controlling insurance interests in Rockingham county, now covering by its insurance nearly five millions of dollars' worth of properties, designated as farmers' risks in Rockingham county alone. The company's charter limit, I believe is Rockingham county.

After 70 years' continuous existence, it stands before the public, not one dollar in debt September 7, 1903. It readily borrows all needed monies, to pay its fire losses as they occur, then once in two years, by assessment, pays every dollar of its borrowed money, then starts, out of debt, for another two ;years of risks. If that practice is kept up, as it has been the past 70 years, what reason have we to expect failure?

We have had no assessments to defray office expenditures. Your policy fee, of premium, comes but once in seven years, the policy time limit in seven years. What you pay for your policy, as I understand, pays your proportion of office expenses that seven years; secretary's salary, the only salaried officer in the company, agents' commissions if they do any business, if not, they expect nothing, same with directors, the rents, fuel, postage, stationery, printing, express and all other contingent office necessities included. The usual biennial assessment pay all losses for that two years, with expense of assessing and collecting the same. The last assessment, that just collected, was only three fourths of one peer cent, on the amount you had insured, for the two years, three-eighths of one peer cent each year. The assessment collected two years since, the highest rate I believe ever collected by the company, was but nine-tenths of one per cent for the two years. Where can you do better? You are not asked to pay till losses are assured, no paying in advance; three years' interest lost makes additional cost. Don't expect something for nothing.


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