Serving Their Country at Home and in Battle

Chapter 17 -- Part 1

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Hampton Men and Women Endure Four Tragic Wars

World War I

Not since the Civil War had Hampton residents been called upon to serve their country as they did in the so-called war-to-end-all-wars. Only two Hampton men served in the Spanish American War, and few local people felt threatened by that conflict, which was fought mainly in the Caribbean and in the Philippines. World War I was a different matter. Although the United States first faced the war as a neutral power, public sentiment was clearly in favor of the Allies and against Germany. There was real concern that this country would be attacked; certainly our coast and ships were vulnerable to German submarines.

Hampton residents were first called upon as civilians. In April 1917, America formally entered the war; soon afterward, the Hampton Committee of Safety (a branch of the state committee) held a meeting to hear what the State was doing to meet the "present crisis and to learn what is expected of the citizens of Hampton in bearing our share in the great struggle into which we have entered." Three committees were appointed: Executive, chaired by Herbert L. Tobey, who was the town clerk and the leader of Hampton's civilian war effort; Food Production, chaired by Howell M. Lamprey; and State Protection, chaired by George Ashworth. Local farmers agreed to increase food production, determining to plant as large a crop as they could care for. The problem was not a lack of fertilizer but of labor. There were few farmers, and not many people wanted to work in the fields. Money was raised to grow about 40 acres of corn, and the possibility of a municipal piggery was also discussed. At this same time, the Hampton branch of the American Red Cross was organized, with Margaret C. Wingate as chairperson. In May, the Committee of Safety reminded all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the draft as soon as the president issued his draftee proclamation. Locally, the use of fireworks at the beach was discouraged for the year. Meanwhile, in the type of decision that governments often make in times of crisis, the State Protection Committee reported favorable action on a motion to take all tramps and vagrants into custody and put them to work.

In early June, 71 local men enrolled for the draft. Two men, however, were aliens; of the remaining 69, 48 claimed exemptions, one on religious grounds. Kenneth N. Ross and Paul B. Merrill, among the first 150 men to be called up from Rockingham County, were ordered to report for physicals on August 8 in Portsmouth.

As a relatively small town, Hampton was not asked to provide a large number of men for the war, and there were no casualties among Hampton soldiers. But the community did rally behind the war effort in other ways. Residents were quick to purchase Liberty bonds. By June 14, 1917, the Hampton Co-operative Bank had sold $7,500 worth of bonds, which cost $50 each. In April of the following year, at a Friday-night Liberty bond rally, Hampton residents were called upon to purchase $40,500 worth of bonds. Just a week later, some $18,000 worth of bonds had been purchased by patriotic residents. The bond effort was treated almost like a competition between the various towns, each of which had a quota to meet. Just a month after the rally, Hampton's bond drive reached $41,500, and the town received an honor flag to fly over the town hall. By early June, the final bond-sale total was $44,450, of which about $11,000 was subscribed by summer residents. Despite the concerns of the Spanish influenza epidemic, in late 1918 Hampton people had purchased an additional $55,000 to $60,000 worth of the fourth issue of Liberty bonds, toward a total allotment of $75,000.

Hampton women organized to provide medical and other supplies for the fighting men. In June 1917, Mrs. Howard G. Lane was appointed to form a Navy League in Hampton. Its purpose was to provide uniforms for the "Jackies" of the battleship New Hampshire. A regular front-page particle of the Hampton Union was the report of the Hampton chapter of the Red Cross. During the month of November 1917, the women made 99 surgical shirts, 27 sweaters, 10 mufflers, 7 helmets, 11 pairs of service socks, 5 pairs of hospital socks, and 17 pairs of wristlets. By July 1918, the Hampton Red Cross branch had 350 members, had sewn garments for soldiers and made medical supplies such as bandages, had raised money for supplies and for the war effort, and also had collected clothes for citizens in the European war zones. On July 7, a War Camp Community Rest Room for visiting soldiers and sailors was opened at the Ashworth.

During the war years, there was little local news in the Union, but many articles about food and food production. (In May 1918, the Union announced that due to the war and the need to economize, and "with farmers and publishers having less time to read, the paper would be limited to four pages until after the harvesting of crops.") Because America entered the war in the spring of 1917, there was little time to expand planting, but the following year, Hampton residents were ready. The local Food Production Committee urged all citizens to plant gardens, and teams for plowing and harrowing were to be provided. Charles Francis Adams, secretary of the committee, used the pages of the newspaper to generate interest in planting. A garden contest for schoolchildren was sponsored by the Food Production Committee, which offered $50 in prize money. The size of the garden to be grown was based on the student's grade in school. Some 19 students signed up for the contest.

Meanwhile, in August, Town Clerk Herbert L. Tobey, who was also fuel administrator for Hampton, issued regulations for people ordering coal for domestic use. Residents had to report on the type of building in which coal was to be used, the type of heating system, size of coal desired, quantity for immediate need, quantity received for the year ending March 31, 1918, quantity on hand that date, and amount needed for the year ending March 31, 1919.

Although war was soon to end, local effort remained strong. In September, all males between the ages of 18 and 45 had to register for another draft. Tobey was the registrar, assisted by Adams and Lewis Perkins. Registration cards were issued to 144 Hampton residents. In October, the Women's Committees on National Defense were asked to make a survey to locate every able-bodied woman in each town and to make a list of those who could help in an emergency. Included would be the names of women who could volunteer, those who would need compensation, and those who were available part time or full time. There was also a major change in the way Hampton people went shopping. J. A. Lane and Company announced that since the federal government had requested all dealers to lower the cost of living, they would institute a cash-and-carry plan. No packages or canned goods would be wrapped, and customers would have to act as their own delivery clerks. As a result, the prices would be lowered.

Hampton's honor roll of servicemen and women was listed on the front page of the Union's October 31 issue, and just a week later, "As we go to press the ringing of bells announced the surrender of Germany to the Allies." This was about the only mention of the war's end made by the paper; there were no large headlines. Perhaps everyone just was relieved that it had ended and that Hampton had not lost any soldiers.

As a result of regular and special town meetings in 1919, voters appropriated $800 to purchase two plaques honoring veterans. These were to be placed on either side of the entrance of the Lane Memorial Library. The honor-roll committee consisted of Edgar Warren, Horace M. Lane, and Howell M. Lamprey. Tablets, 32 inches by 58 inches, were made of the "best bronze." One tablet lists the 115 men who served in the Civil War, the other lists the 40 men and two women who served in World War I, plus an inscription honoring those who fought in Indian wars, Colonial wars, the Revolution, and the War of 1812 -- some 500 men.

At first there was controversy over who should be listed. Some people believed that only those who lived in town at the time of the draft, or minors who were children of residents, should be named on plaques. Because other people would be listed in other towns where they were living at the time, an effort was made to avoid the listing of names in two different places. Finally the committee decided to list all Hampton names as planned, then to have a line under the names of men born and reared in Hampton but drafted in other towns. In August, the plaque committee again listed the names in the paper and said it was the last call for corrections, as the names had to go to the contractor. (The honor rolls of military veterans are included in Chapter 25.)

An adjourned September town meeting heard a report from the plaque committee and voted $500 for a celebration on November 11, the first anniversary of the official end of the war, to honor the men listed. The Armistice Day celebration featured a reception for all the men who served in the war, a banquet for the servicemen and women and invited guests, a parade through town, the official unveiling of the plaques at the library, and welcome-home exercises at the town hall with speeches, a concert, and a dance at night. Eleven of Hampton's 20 living Civil War veterans attended. Although plans were made to publish a book about the celebration, to include a biography and photographs of each person who appeared on the plaque, that project apparently was not completed.

While Hampton residents did not suffer many hardships as a result of the war, other people did need assistance. In 1921, at the urging of Mrs. Lucy A. Marston, who was local chairman of the national fund drive, townspeople responded to a call for assistance to the European Children's Relief Fund, raising $452.

Another result of the war was the formation in 1931 of the local American Legion Post 35, with charter memberships opened to December of that year. The organization first met in the Beach Precinct building, but in January 1933, it dedicated a new hall on Winnacunnet Road with a parade and open house. The first meeting of the Legion Auxiliary also was held that month.

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