Norseman's Grave

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By Charles M. Lamprey, June 27, 1902

Is Hampton the Last Resting Place of Eric the Brave?
Good Evidence to Establish Claim

Discovery of Grave Stone With Its Crosses Made 900 Years Ago

The Hamptons Union, July 4, 1902, Vol. IV -- No. 3

The pre-Columbian discovery of America by the Northmen is now undoubtedly true, from what knowledge can be gained from Icelandic sagas, although for many years it was sincerely doubted. Bancroft, in his history of the United States, Vol. 1, alludes to it and says: "The story of the colonization of America by Northmen rests on narratives, mythological in form, and obscure in meaning; ancient, yet not contemporary," and admits that "the motives of these intrepid mariners, whose voyages extended beyond Iceland and beyond Sicily, could have easily sailed from Greenland to Labrador; no other clear historic evidence establishes the natural probability that they accomplished the passage."

The Norsemen were a Norwegian race of bold sea-faring men who had founded a settlement in Iceland so that at the beginning of the tenth century there was a population "estimated at from fifty to seventy thousand souls." Their motto was "Westward, ho," and they pushed on, reaching the shores of Greenland and there made settlement, and in the beginning of the eleventh century Greenland was well settled and tributary to Norway, where Eric, the leader, had established the Christian religion. Why, if "they could have easily sailed from Greenland to Labrador," as Bancroft says, did they not sail still westward and accomplish the passage to Labrador? They did, and there is no doubt in the minds of the students of ancient history that they sailed to Labrador and further south till they landed on the New England coast as far south as Cape Cod, and perhaps as far as Connecticut. Lief Eric, according to the narrative, was in Greenland in the year 1003 and proclaimed Christianity. In the second voyage he discovered Vineland on the shores of New England, to which he gave that name because of the abundance of grapes growing wild in the woods. "Thorwald, the brother of Leif, (A.D. 1002) made ready for his voyage with 30 men, after consulting Leif. They rigged their ship, and put to sea and there is nothing particular about the voyage until they came to Vineland, to the Booths put up by Leif, where they secured the ship and tackle and remained quiet all winter and lived by fishing. In the spring (A.D. 1003), Thorwald ordered the vessel to be rigged and that some of the men should proceed in the long boat westward near the coast, and explore it during the summer. They found the country beautiful and well wooded, the distance small between the forest and the sea, and the strand full of white sand."

In the following spring (A.D. 1004) Thorwald, with his merchant ship, proceeded eastward toward the north along the land, opposite a cape where, meeting bad weather, they drove upon the land, broke the keel, and were obliged to remain there a long time to repair the vessel.

"They then sailed away eastward, keeping near the coast and entering the mouths of the bays, to a point of land which was covered with woods. They moored their vessel to the land, laid out gangways to the shore, and Thorwald, with all his ship's company landed. He said, 'Here it is so beautiful and I would willingly set up my abode here.' Afterwards going on board they saw three specks upon the land within the point, and went to them finding they were three skin boards with three men under each boat.

They divided their own men and took all of the strangers prisoners, except one man, who escaped with his boat. They killed eight of them, and went to the point to look about them. Then a great drowsiness came upon them and they could not keep them selves awake, but all of them fell asleep. A sudden scream came to them, and they all awoke. And mingled with the screaming they thought they heard the words: 'Awake, Thorwald, with all thy comrades, if you will save your lives. Go on your ship as fast as you can, and leave this land without delay.' In the same moment an innumerable multitude, from the interior of the bay came in skin boats and laid themselves alongside. Then said Thorwald, 'We shall put up our war screens along the gun whales and defend ourselves as well as we can, but not use our weapons much against them.' They did so accordingly. The screallings [Indians] shot at them for a while and then fled as fast as they could. Thorwald asked if any one was wounded, and finding nobody hurt he said, 'I have a wound under the arm. An arrow flew between the gun whale and the shield under my arm; here is the arrow, and it will be my death wound. Now I advise you to make ready with all speed to return, but ye shall carry me to the point which I thought would be so convenient for a dwelling. It may be that it was true what I said that here would I dwell for a while. You shall bury me there, and place a cross at my head, and one at my feet, and call the place "Crossness"'

Such is the story from the Icelandic sagas as we read it, of the pre-Columbian discovery of America by the Northmen. Now where is "the point of land well covered with woods," and where is the grave of Thorwald, marked with crosses? Several localities in New England's shore have tracings of inscriptions; one is found on the Northman's Written Rock at or near West Newbury, Mass. Tracings on a stone tablet and stone pipe in ancient graves in Beverly, Mass., and other things in Rhode Island and Connecticut are evidence of the landing of the Norsemen 900 years ago on New England's shore which they called Vineland.

Hampton, N.H., has a stronger claim than any other locality, and Great Boars Head must be the "point of land" and "well covered with woods" centuries ago. Boars Head was then a much longer point of land and has been wearing away constantly for a long time. There are rocks extending out southeasterly more than a quarter mile which are easily seen under the water by the gunners and fishermen and which are a continuation of the rocks lading from the point; so it is undoubtedly a fact that the bluff, generations before the settlement of the town in 1638, was more than a half mile in length from the westerly side where its rising commences to the easterly point. It is the extension out into the sea which makes the bay on the south side called the South cove, and the one on the north side the North cove. But where are the woods that covered the land?

Tradition -- handed down through seven generations of the writer's ancestors and to them through many generations of Indians -- says, that Boars Head and all the upland running westerly a mile or more to Eastman's point, southwesterly to the Oliver Nudd farm, was covered with wood. There is still a deed taking in a part on the Nudd farm and written nearly 200 years ago, which called the land the Nut Trees.

So there is no doubt but that Boars Head was covered with woods, making it the wooded point with its bays, and "the distance small between the forest and the Sea," and the strand full of white sand.

Now there is no other landing place as described by the Norsemen in their Voyages to Vineland which answers this description as well as does Hampton shores. But that description is not all, for we have the crosses cut on the stone many generations ago before settlement of the town by the white man -- crosses made not by the Indians, but by some one who knew and believed in the Christian religion. A certain field near the narrow marsh and beach on the main road up town contains the rock on which are cut the three crosses designating the grave where was buried Thorwald Ericson in the year A.D. 1004. That field, with others adjoining, came into the possession of the writer's maternal ancestors over 230 years ago and that part of the field which contains the rock has been under tillage and subject to the plow for over 150 years, and to the writer's knowledge for over fifty years, but that rock was not known with its crosses, till within the last twenty years. It is a large granite stone laying in the earth, its face near the top of the ground, with two crosses cut thereon and other marks, cut by the hand of man with a stone chisel, and not by any owner from the original proprietor who took possession 260 years ago down to the present owners. "They came to a head land that jutted out, that was all covered with wood; and there were bays on either side and the strand that was covered with white sand, and the distance small from the forest to the sea." How true is the description for there is the head land and the bays on either side, the long sandy beaches and the land which contained the woods "not far from the sea." There is also the rock with the cut crosses made by man 900 years ago. That field now belongs to Wallace D. Lovell, the street railway promoter, and it, containing about eleven acres, together with the three adjoining fields, and the twenty five acre pond (noted for its big trout) behind the whole tact, with shade from the oak, the walnut and the birch, and with excellent spring water, makes this pre-historic spot one of the choicest place located on New Hampshire's sea shore. Five minutes by a private way to the ocean. It is handy to the street railway; there are excellent walks in the pine and hard wood forests, fine soil for landscape gardening, and plenty of room for golf, base ball and all other respectable sports. It is good enough for millionaires and a choice spot for the business man who love and enjoys nature during the summer months for it is "rich with the spoils of nature."

"Nature, with folded hands, seems there,
kneeling at her evening prayer."

Lovell intends to erect a monument near that of Norse Rock, and to lay off the land into a park with "flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose."

"And I will make thee a bed of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies.
There is a pleasure in the ruthless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore.
There is society where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and music in its roar."
--CHARLES M. LAMPREY Hampton, N.H., June 27, 1902
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