An Historical Sketch
- ALSO -
A Compilation of Brief Historical Articles Concerning Hampton Beach in Colonial Days
Hampton, N.H., Rockingham Printing Co., 1929
(By Mrs. Caroline Shea)
Meeting House Green
Meeting House Green from our earliest days has been a spot around which tradition and history have circled. We write of that part of the Green which has become the Memorial Park. The History of Hampton says that the tract called Meeting House Green was a fourth of a mile northerly from the salt marsh, and took in the whole of what was after called Ring Swamp, around which many of the early settlers built their homes. The site of the first meeting house was on the Southerly side of the Green where until the 19th century was a succession of churches. The pastor following the Rev. Stephen Bachiler, Rev. Timothy Dalton, built his house in 1639-40 on the southerly side of the Green not far from the meeting-house; this was replaced by a larger and more substantial structure about 50 years later which was used as a parsonage until 1871 when it was sold, and only a few years ago, destroyed by fire. Stephen Bachiler doubtless came with the first settlers up the river in shallops and disembarked at the Landing which section together with the southerly side of the church tract became the important part of the town. One of the earliest roads opened in about 1640 was that from the meeting-house to the Landing, and it was here that the first mill was built. The Chase house was here also and it was the only residence in those days dignified as a mansion. Traces of its foundation with a few old stones where was the first burial place still remain. Here also court was held, and in more recent years there were salt-works, probably the pottery; while at one period considerable ship building was carried on.
The First School House
The first parsonage was given for a school house but it is not known just where this was situated. After the old church site was abandoned, and the new and fourth house for worship built where the Congregational church now stands, the spot was given by the church to a society which was formed in the interests of a higher education than that afforded by the common schools. Rev. Josiah Webster with a band of men contributing from 25 to 100 dollars each, started the Academy, known then as the proprietary school. A one-story building was put up near the foundation of the old church in 1811 and once more the Green became a center of activity, for the school grew in fame until it was favorably known as an institution of learning as far as the Western States. The students found homes in the nearby houses and could be seen with their book bags hurrying to and from the school, the calico gowns of the boys fluttering in the keen winds from the marsh. Our Park was doubtless their playground, as it was the baseball ground of the Academy in later days; and at one time a gay flower garden for the study of botany flourished there. But all this passed away for the Academy was moved in 1883 to it present site (on Academy Avenue).
Story of the Hampton Witch"Fie on the witch!" cried a merry girl,
As they rounded the point where Goody Cole
Sat by her door with her wheel atwirl,
A bent and blear-eyed poor old soul.
"Oho!" she muttered, "ye're brave to-day!
But I hear the little waves laugh and say,
'The broth will be cold that waits at home;
For it's one to go, but another to come!'"
-- JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
Near where the Log Cabin now stands, one of New England's most dreaded witches had her humble dwelling. The boys used to climb up to look over the window shutters, and see one of the devil's imps, a little fellow in a red cap, sitting on her shoulder to whisper in her ear. Eunice Cole, after years of persecution and imprisonment, died here and was buried in a grave by the ditch as too unclean for consecrated ground. Not far from Tuck House dwelt a maiden who, on the eve of her marriage, received word that her betrothed was lost at sea when nearing home. The distraught girl took to her bed which she seldom left in years to follow. Her white bridal robes hung before her, for she thought only of her lover who would surely fulfill his vows. When visitors came she always asked if they had news of her good man. One winter day while alone in the house, she rose and dressed herself in the wedding garments. She had heard of the arrival of strangers at the Moulton House and doubtless went forth to seek tidings of her lost one. It was snowing. In her scanty attire and thin slippers, white like the snow, she wandered unseen towards the mansion in the grey of late afternoon. She strayed from the path and fell near the house, overcome by cold and darkness, she was not found until the melting snows of spring disclosed her fragile body.
Some Historical Briefs
A pleasanter tale is told of a maiden who also lived by the Green: A motherless girl who had charge of her father's household. One Saturday afternoon when her work had been delayed by caring for a sick child, she was on her knees scouring the floor. Horses galloped up to the open door and she knew who was there. Her sweetheart, for it was no other, with a student from (Phillips) Exeter Academy, said: "You may tell Miss Nancy Marston that Mr. Philip Towle and a friend are riding to the beach and on their return at 5 of the clock will stay by to drink tea with her." She nodded assent and they drove on. An exemplary housewife she finished her task; and, dressed in a white frock, was ready at the hour named to serve her guests.
Below the parsonage toward the Landing lived a women who used to sit in her doorway of a summer evening and sing in a sweet, clear voice so powerful that the wind bore it a mile; and it was she who taught the drummer boys how to drum when they were making ready to go to the early wars. Here also the house stood where the Hon. Amos Tuck, father of Edward Tuck, donor of Tuck House, took his bride, Sarah Ann Nudd, when he was principal of the (Hampton) Academy.
The Moulton HouseFrom the oaken mantel glowing
Faintest light the lamp is throwing
On the mirror's antique mould,
High-backed chair, and wainscot old.
--[JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER]
The most imposing residence built in Hampton was the first Moulton House, built on a rise not far from and overlooking the Green. It was rebuilt soon after, and by this house from the Green could be seen the first stage supposed ever to run in America. It ran from Portsmouth to Boston and return, passing through Hampton. The first trip was made on Monday, April 20, 1781.
The present house, though a fine specimen of Georgian Architecture, is much less grand and costly than the old structure. After General Moulton's death, a family from Maine came there to live. Colored servants were kept who drove a coach and four for the master and mistress. The family was so troubled by the already famous ghost that a clergyman was fetched from Portsmouth to lay the restless spirit. Going from room to room he exorcised the unseen presence, which was planked up in an arch in the cellar. In this house Squire Leavitt kept the post office for years and perhaps the first library found shelter within its walls.
Decline of Activities at the Landing
The Landing long ago lost its prestige, the old houses fell into decay. Long ago the church found a new home, and more recently the (Hampton) Academy, a new site. The fine old parsonage burned, the Moulton house lost its grandeur; but now, moved farther back it has been carefully restored. Witch and ghost alike faded into the twilight of the past; and the old stories one by one ceased to be told. There remained but little to bring either young or old to the place. The Green became desolate, growing only weeds and brambles.
Founder of a National Memorial
Then came a man with an idea. The Rev. I. S. Jones, came to town a stranger, learned to love its beauties and know its history. Always desirous of preserving historic spots and beautifying the streets, he had done much; when with esteem for the early settlers and admiration for the beauty of the situation and its traditions, he determined to do something to preserve the Green and honor the founders of Hampton. He interested the town officials and obtained the right to put in motion his plans. Almost alone he began the work of redeeming the sacred spot and making of it a memorial to the Rev. Stephen Bachiler and the early settlers of Winnacunnet "to be called Hampton". An association was formed and a charter obtained. Meeting House Green Memorial Park, Tuck House and Hall, together with the surrounding grounds and the Log Cabin are the results of his plans, carried out with untiring effort. Grounds had to be graded and trees planted, given by the citizens in memory of their dead.
Towns once a part of Hampton contributed to the work and put up Memorial boulders. A boulder was placed in memory of the founders, marked with a suitably-inscribed tablet; while the descendants erected stones in honor of their ancestors. Help came from a number of sources through the effort of Mr. Jones. He interested Mr. Edward Tuck of Paris, France, who had already benefitted the (Hampton) Academy; so that the gentleman gave a sum of money sufficient to buy and repair a home for a caretaker, with the addition of a hall, garage and other improvements.
Dedication of the Memorial
The 13th and 14th of October 1925 were set apart as gala days. On the 13th there were exercises in the schools and a reception and entertainment for the townspeople and their guests. The following day opened with a band concert and a parade of considerable length and much historic interest, followed by a flag raising at the Park, singing by the school children, the unveiling of the Memorial tablet and a dedicatory address. A banquet was held in the Carnival dance hall with many out-of-town visitors in attendance, after which were speeches by representatives of the towns once a part of Hampton and other notables.
Completion of the Undertaking
Tuck Hall has since been completed, the remodeling of the house finished, the garage built and the grounds put in order. Many of the citizens co-operated heartily with Mr. Jones as did others, outside the town, in memory of their ancestors. The Town Officials did all in their power as representatives of Hampton to bring the undertaking to success. While the Association is grateful for every dollar contributed and for all the interest shown it cannot but feel that Mr. Jones was not only the originator but the creator of our Memorial in its entirety. To him is due the big share of gratitude and praise. But he only asked that the Meeting House Green Memorial Park and its surrounding properties be held with love and respect hereafter in everlasting memory of the ideals which caused the founders of Hampton to leave their homes and cross an unknown sea to establish a church and a town in a wilderness.
"WINNACUNNET SHALBEE CALLED HAMPTON"
East of the grisly Head of the Boar,
And Agamenticus lifts its blue
Disk of a cloud the woodlands o'er;
And southerly, when the tide is down,
'Twixt white sea-waves and sand-hills brown,
The beach-birds dance and the gray gulls wheel
Over a floor of burnished steel.
Once, in the old Colonial days,
Two hundred years ago and more,
A boat sailed down through the winding ways
Of Hampton River to that low shore,
Full of a goodly company
Sailing out on the summer sea,
Veering to catch the land-breeze light,
With the Boar to left and the Rocks to right.
--JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
Hampton Beach of the past was closely connected with the welfare of the early settlers. They drew from ocean, the shore, and the marshes an important part of their food supplies: fish, clams, lobsters, and game birds of all descriptions. After the storms the seaweed cast up along the shores was eagerly sought to fertilize the broad acres of the uplands, where corn, rye, barley, oats, and clover were grown. The great ox common, extending from what is now Nudd Avenue to the River, served as common pasture land for cattle and horses. And it was over a hundred years ago that someone thought of drawing on the beach for still further benefit and built the first public house in 1819, at the foot of Great Boar's Head.
(Extracts from letters written by Judge Thomas Leavitt of Exeter for the News-Letter in 1898).
"After the towns forming a part of the original Hampton were cut off, there was left to that town an area above 8000 acres, 1300 of which are salt marsh. The Legislature granted the people the right to lay out and dispose of the common lands as the lot layers, chosen by the people, might judge for the best interest for the whole. All records, so far as they go, show almost conclusively that the strip of land adjoining the ocean known as the 'beach', was reserved for the use and benefit of the public. In one place the record of the granting of 60 lots provides expressly that shall the ocean ever encroach, the owners shall recede and never be nearer than ten rods from high water mark." --Uri Lamprey, March 24, 1874.
That the ocean did encroach south of what is now the Carnival Dance Hall [Rocky Bend @ Boar's Head -.Ed] is known by the fact that a former generation remembered when the road beginning there was much straighter than the now curving boulevard.
"The great bluff making out into the sea, the ocean motionless and glittering beneath the sun, the low beach, stretching to the Merrimack, fringed with a narrow rim of white surf; the sand hills, the green marshes bordered with woods, the beautiful hills of Kensington and Hampton Falls forming the background, made a scene peaceful and lovely beyond description. (1841).
"I went to Hampton in 1838. With the exception of its five dwelling places and a few stone walls and wooden fences it was as nature made it.
There were three houses on Boar's Head then. They were the ones now owned by Mr. Lewis Nudd, which had the present front, two stories high with a pitched roof, and a small ell for a kitchen; (Miss Belle Nudd's home) the Boar's Head hotel, 50 feet by 45, or nearly so, three stories high with a hip roof; and the Leavitt House, with a three-story front, one room thick, and an ell two and a half stories high. The house of Parker Lamprey ----- then stood on the bank of the sea opposite the stable of the Hampton beach hotel (now Carnival Dance Hall). A half a mile below, where stands the house of Mr. Oliver Nudd (now Mrs. Charles Ross's) was the cottage of his father, Thomas Nudd. All between Boar's Head and this cottage was open land fenced only from the road.---------
From the 25th of July till September, the marshes teemed with game. The beaches were covered with great flocks of sand-peeps. I remember in 1844 my father telling his man-of-all-work one forenoon that there was to be a bird supper that night and that he must get three dozen birds. At half past three o'clock in the afternoon Jack and I went to the Glade and sat down (where the Catholic church now stands). At sunset we were at home with 44 yellow-legs. As I acted as retriever, to bring in the birds as he shot them, he did not leave his seat. A bird supper meant broiled birds, dry toast, fried potatoes, and a bottle of champagne at each plate. It was served at eleven o'clock at night. From the middle of August to the middle of September, ducks, teal, and dippers, frequented the marsh in great number ------ sea fowl came later off the coast, sweeping in immense flocks past the Head. I think I am safe in saying I have seen flocks one-third of a mile long. ------ In the spring ------ I have seen a flock of old wives gather so they would cover an acre of the surface of the sea: their soft, sonorous notes kept up by so many was music to the ear. In the month of June, I have caught mackerel so near the shore that I could toss a biscuit onto the rocks. ------ On a calm, winter evening, I have seen my father and Mr. Willard Nudd row in with their boat so full of fish that at the middle, her gunwales were only 8 inches above the level of the water. They were caught on hook and line by Mr. Nudd, my father holding the boat in place with the oars.
----- In the Spring of 1842, my father commenced to build on and enlarge his home, and by the end of the year, had made into the Winnicumet House. Mr. Nudd (David) at the same time made his house over into Boar's Head Hotel, as it was when purchased by Col. Dumas. In 1843, Boar's Head blossomed out with these improvements and a largely increased business. It was the only seaside resort on the New Hampshire Coast. Some of the guests were of high official station, and there were lawyers, doctors, scholars, merchants, farmers and sportsmen."
"Mr. David Nudd had that season furnished Boar's Head Hotel with a small schooner of about 20 tons burden. Her name was the Tremont, and her skipper was Thomas Hale Leavitt, who lived in a place where now is Mr. Henry Wingate's. The Winnicumet's boat was a Peter Wherry. This boat was built by Capt. John G. Chase of Seabrook and was christened the "O.K." She proved to be the fastest sailing boat of her time owned on the New Hampshire coast. Her skipper was Capt. George Gookin, who was captain of a Mississippi River steamboat, except for the three summer months.
"In the latter part of October 1847, on my way from school, I met Mr. David Nudd between the Causeway and Great Boar's Head. His chin was dropped upon his breast, his breast heaved, great tears were coursing down his cheeks, and on his face was such a look of agony as I pray God I may never see again. As I turned the corner of the Winnicumet House, I saw my father and two other men talking. I told about Mr. Nudd, and my father said a dreadful thing had happened -- that the 'Northern Light' (Boar's Head Hotel's new boat) with Mr. Joseph Nudd and Hale Leavitt on board, had sunk near the 'Boiler Rock' in Hampton river, and both men were drowned. Joseph Nudd was a son of Mr. David Nudd, and one of the landlords of Boar's Head Hotel, 27 years old. After dark, a boat (which had gone to seek the bodies) arrived from the river with his body. The black darkness covering land and sea was in keeping with the gloom over all hearts as they bore him home."
("Hampton Long Ago" -- from a Hampton Beach Paper Printed Printed in Haverhill in the Summers of 1880 and 1881)
"Back of the Ocean House (now Ashton Lee's property) on the 'Island' afterwards called 'The Willows', was once a solitary dwelling. When the twilight hour had come, the cows all milked and the spinning wheels put away, the gay girls of the family used to row their little boat up the river to The Landing from whence they walked to town to find their young friends. They had to pass Witch Cole's home on their walk, and they trembled as they hurried on, for they remembered that by her wiles she had once upset a boat, in the river and drowned several persons.
"Below 'Leavitt's' (on the site of the Carnival dance hall) where now is the road, Squire Thomas Leavitt used to plant his corn, but each year the ocean steals away the land pushing the street farther towards the marsh. The first visitors came to the beach on horseback, for there was no causeway for the passage of wheeled vehicles. After the Causeway was built the land below was a vast common so that a gate was built across about a quarter of a mile above to keep the cattle which fed there from encroaching on the tilled fields of the uplands. At this gate during the long summer days, bare-footed girls and boys waited a chance to throw it wide open and to scramble for the silver pieces. (four pence, ha'penny, or nine-pence) which were thrown from the chaises or stages passing through."
(1880 and 1881)
"It has been a gay week. Hops and parlor concerts at the hotels have been frequent for the crowd is here. Saturday night last was the gayest of the season, the hotels, boarding houses and cottages being filled with people on pleasure bent. The masquerade at Boar's Head Hotel was a brilliant affair, many of the costumes being very effective. The Union House in the village was having a good time in honor of the landlord's (Mr. Whittier) birthday. The hotel was gaily illuminated, while fine music, elocution, dancing and a supper made a pleasant programme. At the Ocean House and Leavitts' the hops were pleasant affairs and were repeated other evenings during the week. At the Boar's Head Hotel everyone in the parlor at the evening dancing and concerts, is in full dress; and no one outside is permitted to be present unless especially invited by a guest of the house. The music: piano, violin and cornet, is not only fine for dancing, but the skilled performers play each afternoon for any hour. The other hotels mentioned extend a welcome to the cottagers and their guests, when there is special dancing or music."
"Hampton Beach has obtained some celebrity as a watering place --- About the hotels it is animation with the polish and parade of elegant society, and gay with hops and music; and it is commonplace in the unconventional home life of the cottagers. Along the driveways and promenades, it is joyous life, in the stir of pulses quickened by the exhilarating sea breezes; while, far down towards the river on the one hand, and midway between the two Boars' Heads on the other it is absolute stillness, save for the eternal moaning of the sea. But everywhere and always the sea -- restless, grand, solemn, inscrutable."
(From book printed by Miss Lucy Dow in 1888.