"Our Town" By James W. Tucker
Thursday, September 17, 1959
Our town was settled in 1638, just 321 years ago, come October. The settlers, led by Rev. Stephen Bachiler, came from Newbury. The founders of Newbury, headed by Rev. Thomas Parker, went there from Ipswich. They had to leave Ipswich because the old town, settled in 1633, was already bulging at the seams with people. During the years 1633 and 1634 over three thousand immigrants and their cattle had arrived in Ipswich in thirty ships from England. In 1634 many had either to move or to go back home.
Two Short Voyages
Some went to Boston, Salem, Watertown. and Cambridge, but Rev. Parker and his company of forty embarked in the spring of 1635 and voyaged north inside Plum Island, landing on the north shore of a river which now bears Parker's name. It was neither a long nor a dangerous voyage. As a matter of fact it was much like the voyage that Stephen Bachiler and his followers took three years later when they sailed by shallop from Newbury to the site of the Indian settlement, Winnacunnet — now Hampton.
In reality that voyage by shallop in the fall of the year 1638, which brought Rev. Stephen Bachiler and company to Hampton was the more dangerous for, after leaving the sheltered side of Plum Island, they had to sai1 out of the mouth of the river, now known as Merrimack, and then on the open ocean until they reached the wide mouth of a river which we now call the Hampton River.
Pilgrims vs Angelicans
There was still another hazard. The first settlers of our town were much closer spiritually to the Pilgrims of Plymouth than to the Angelicans who had settled at Dover Point, at Strawbery Banke and at the Isles of Shoals. And the voyage by shallop brought Rev. Bachiler and company much closer physically to the disciples of the Mother Church of England than were any other pilgrims -- a situation, which, if understood, probably would not have been relished by Hampton's founding fathers.
During this period of early settlement, towns governed themselves until 1641. Then there came a union between the towns in what is now New Hampshire and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This governmental union, ‘ which began when Hampton was three years old, extended to 1679, a period of 38 years. In 1690 there was a second similar union which lasted only two years.
Last Royal Governor
There followed nearly a century of permanent provincial government. From 1692 through 1775, eleven executives served as head of the Province of New Hampshire. The last of these was John Wentworth who, under George III of England was Governor of the Province from 1766 to 1775. He built himself a beautiful mansion on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth. It still stands, serene, graceful and privately owned. The bricks used in its construction were made in England before 1750. Recently the kitchen chimney of this remarkable specimen of early American architecture, was taken down.
A Colorful Epoch
Eloise Lane Smith, a native of Hampton who now resides in Portsmouth, secured a few of these bricks which she has been distributing among her friends as souvenirs of that colorful epoch in the history of our state which immediately preceded the stirring Revolutionary period. We were one of the lucky recipients and we shall cherish the memento, wishing all the time that we were able to conjure up in our mind's eye the streets and the people of Portsmouth in the year the brick was laid as part of a course in the kitchen chimney of Governor Wentworth's new home.
A Rare Gift
That is exactly what Mrs. Smith is able to do. She can travel back in her mind to that long ago era and see an accurate mental image of the streets, the homes, the commercial and public buildings and the people attired in both business and formal costumes, as they appeared in that day and age. It is a rare gift, encountered only in those with a thorough knowledge of American history. And Mrs. Smith has an equally intimate acquaintance with the history of her native town of Hampton.
Her thorough knowledge of the history of our town was eloquently displayed in "The Pageant of Hampton," which she wrote and directed and which was the feature attraction of the elaborate three-day program held in 1938 to mark the three hundredth anniversary of Hampton's settlement. Our town was one of the first four communities established in New Hampshire. Its history is of great importance.
Eloise Lane Smith could record many reels of important facts and so could Fred R. Batchelder, Mrs. Jessie Toppan and Mrs. Marilla Brown. These and many others should be asked to contribute in this way to a Hampton history project if and when one is started. When we think of the invaluable recordings of this nature which could have been made by Frank Leavitt, Henry Hobbs and Ned Batchelder, to name only the three sterling gentlemen who first come to mind, we more fully appreciate the worth of such a project.
Ned Batchelder, who died recently, had a wonderfully retentive memory and his knowledge in particular of Hampton Harbor and its tributary rivers' and creeks and of the hundreds of acres of local marshland, would have been invaluable to future historians.
Ned was a retiring gentleman, modest to a point of fault, but pleasant, accommodating and kindly, he could not have loved Hampton more had he been born in our town instead of in Maine, which was his mother's native state. His paternal ancestors were natives of Hampton and direct descendants of the Batchelders who were numbered among the earliest settlers. He was a substantial citizen who served our town faithfully as a selectman and in various other capacities. He will be greatly missed and the specialized information he could have left as a legacy to his community will likewise be missed by the future historians of our town.
Gift of a Brick
Out of Mrs. Smith's gift of a brick from the chimney of the home of our state's last Provincial Governor, came to us the idea that the time to preserve the record of Hampton's remarkable historic heritage is today —not tomorrow. For what is happening presently will be of as much interest to Hamptonians of 2259 as what happened in 1638 is to Hampton citizens of today.
Men and women are slipping away daily whose minds are veritable storehouses of knowledge concerning our town. This knowledge can be and should be preserved for posterity. We would like respectfully to suggest a civic commission, the duties of which would be to search out and become an official repository for all possible types of material——photographs, records, manuscripts etc.—that might be used in writing the next History of Hampton.
Dow's History contains salient facts about our town up to the end of the 18th century, but since Joseph Dow wrote his splendid account of early Hampton, aided by his talented daughter, Miss Lucy, new and important source material has become available which may make it advisable to cover the entire period from the settlement in 1638 up to the publication date in any new work that may be attempted.
Much material can be gathered by means of tape recording and a history commission should have this electronic device by means of which the impressions and accounts of our senior citizens concerning the Hampton of their own time and the Hampton which they have been told about by their ancestors and by their friends of bygone days, might be permanently recorded.