Hampton Reminiscences -- Part VI

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By Enoch P. Young

(July 3, 1824 - January 11, 1910)

The Exeter News-Letter

March 3, 1899

- Part VI -

Editor, Exeter News-Letter. -- The Sabbath day years ago was noted for its quiet rest. Not even the cattle were allowed to do unnecessary labor; the horses were not hitched up for pleasure riding; drunken carousings were wholly unknown. The beaches had not then become the resort of Sunday pleasure parties, mixed with drunken rowdyism. There was no piling up seaweed till long after the midnight hours of that day had passed. The day was remembered and revered by nearly every inhabitant, aged, middle aged and youth of both sexes. The injunction, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," was enforced with proper observance. It is needless to say that the hardest worked man on that day was the minister, with his sermons both forenoon and afternoon and services in the evening, usually in the room of the old academy building.

The families living in the outskirts of the town, who could afford to own the one horse chaise, usually rode to church. Some of the ladies rode on horseback, on the "pillion," a cushion or saddle made purposely for women riders. A large block of granite weighing several tons was placed in the street near the meeting house, with one end so elevated that it could assist the lady riders in mounting or dismounting their horse. This granite block remained in that position where first placed, till nearly 40 years since, when it was taken away. The one horse chaise and horseback riding were then about the only conveyances used in journeying.

The elements made rough weather that day if the people were kept from worship and the house was not well filled. The sermon might be divided into segments, from firstly to seventeenthly and mainly doctrinal, not interesting enough to keep many of us from going to sleep, thus subjecting us to having our ears pulled by the tithing man, who was ever on the alert to show his authority.

Among the drawbacks of those times was going to church barefoot, which was not uncommon with the boys in warm weather. Some of the girls in warm days to save their new shoes, would carry them in their hands till near the meeting house, then put them on, taking them off when returning. Such was one of the ways of forced economy of those times. Such drawbacks did not excuse us if we were well from attending church on the Sabbath. Father and mother went and we must go.

The memory of those God fearing parents, their regard for God and His Word, is a legacy to this country beyond computation. It is that class of our ancestors who have been the instruments, under God, of handing down to us this great nation, free, prosperous and happy, respected by all other nations and peoples, with a free home for the oppressed of the whole world. May we do our part in aiding its continuance. Sabbath breaking is a reproach to any nation, town or individual. Its evil consequences are apparent to every thoughtful lover of his home.

The large meeting house, which is now our town house [Town Hall], then had its gallery on three sides, with pulpit shaped like the glass drinking goblets of today. Its place was at the rear centre of the audience room, the pulpit part of which was reached by a flight of about fifteen stairs, its entrance at the rear. The inside room of this pulpit, where the minister had his home, would contain four men in standing position. The minister or preacher, when in his position, could be seen from every seat in the large room. At the foot of the pulpit stairs, and directly under where the preacher stands, were the deacon's seats. This large audience room was as open to the chills of winter as a barn. Its only means of warming was by one moderately sized cast iron box stove for wood. This was before furnaces and hard coal came into use. Its warmth would be felt not more than 10 feet away. Many of the ladies used the foot stove, carrying coals of fire from home, or have the janitor furnish them fire out of the stove, with which he was trying to warm the meeting house. Under like conditions today, how many of our ladies would be seen inside the church building on the Sabbath during the cold days of winter? Some of those foot stoves then used are still to be seen, where with a few of the older families they are kept as souvenirs, tokens of grandmother's experiences, as their well worn frames fully attest.

The whole town then was with one denominational church, although two others had commenced and were struggling for existence. The minister was settled for life or during good behavior, and was paid his salary by the town, the whole town being taxed for that purpose. Those who attended the other church meetings, and those who attended nowhere, all had their proportion of this minister's salary to pay, a sort of taxation without representation. That inequality of things ceased at his death.

The minister of those times was a hard worked man, with two or more sermons every Sunday, services both forenoon, afternoon and evening, and several evening meetings through the week. He attended funerals and weddings, and did much visiting. We wonder if he was ever tired or had vacations. Now we have four churches in the town with quite an increase in its population, yet it is doubtful if the attendance in them all on the Sabbath now is equal to the one congregation then.

The Sabbath day and the preacher are so closely allied, pardon me if I throw out a few hints about the preacher then connected with this people. He was the one man who had the respect and love of the community; was sought after as the confidant, counsellor and consoler; was an example of morality, not a busybody in matters pertaining to his neighbors; did not paddle in politics, nor preach it from his pulpit; preached Christ and him crucified, and by both precept and example taught the same to others. His home was the example of family discipline which shed its benign influence throughout the whole community. The children loved and reverenced him. When meeting him on the street they saluted him; the boys by raising the hat made their bow, the girls with a modest curtsey. He was ever ready to stand by his convictions. He boldly stood up to be counted against rum. It required bravery, but his consciousness that right was on his side was his satisfaction, although members of his church and parish differed from him. I well remember one fast day sermon preached when he talked rum with a vim, and like a true watchman, sounded the alarm. My grandfather, with several other leaders in the parish and church, was so offended that I think he never attended his preaching again. He felt the minister was interfering with their liberties. That word liberty, then as now, signified much. Aside from the word Gospel, few, if any words, deserve our love and reverence more. They can well be called twin sisters working together for the world's redemption. That minister was also chaplain of the regiment and was a fine horseback rider. When at the annual muster, he offered prayer, seated on horseback in front of his regiment, the bared and bowed heads showed how dearly he was reverenced and loved.


Those Hampton Reminiscences

{A Post Script}

By J. M. S.

Although a stripling, I was there, Brother Young, in that same old church in Hampton when Sunday came, "way back in the thirties" (1830s). Yes, the goblet shaped pulpit and those three galleries come back to my memory, "Open as a barn to the chills of winter." Well, we must remember that the religion of those days must have perceptibly warmed up the auditors; and besides, Ma, at least, on very cold days, always brought along her "foot stove." I appreciate the tribute you would pay to the memory of Rev. Josiah Webster, (father of Dr. Claudius B.) and his successor. Reading in the [Exeter] News-Letter of Dr. Chapman's discourse in Hampton the other Sunday upon good old Job of whom we read in the Bible, it occurred to my mind that it would have been quite a card for the doctor if he had selected Mr. Webster instead of Job for the subject of his sermon. In his advanced years, Dr. Chapman is still an able preacher.

How little we could tell whither we were drifting while students there in the Hampton Academy. When I knew J. A. M. Chapman at the latter institution he hadn't the faintest idea of studying for the ministry; no more idea of it than "Tom" Leavitt had, at that time, of ever become a judge. Sixty-five years? Why, that isn't long ago, Brother Young. You know our preachers love to take u away back to old Job's time, and often we listen quite attentively to their sermons. Referring to church people of by-gone years -- glancing back to the days of our grandpas, we call to mind Christians of the old Puritan type, and in our hearts we feel like declaring that we ar far from possessing their sterling piety -- their sincere regard for the welfare of their fellow men; now, then, what becomes of the frequent assertions from our pulpits that "man, a progressive being, is certainly, without any doubt whatever, growing better and better from one generation to another. Our Heavenly Father, infinite in Wisdom and goodness, cannot possibly have ordained otherwise -- cannot possibly repel us in our struggles for mental and spiritual growth as time speeds on from one age to another."

In the [Exeter] News-Letter, I have recently noticed the death of Mr. J. T. Hilliard, of Kensington, another of Preceptor T. O. Norris' pupils along in the fifties, and one of the finest and most promising of the young men in our midst at that day. His life record has proven that we made no mistake in our estimate of him.

Although forty odd miles distant from Exeter, our interest does not lag in perusing the contents of the weekly [Exeter] News-Letter, "spicy" correspondence and all.


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