Hampton Historian Joseph Dow's Birthday Observed

(April 12, 1807 -- December 16, 1889)

By John M. Holman, Hampton History Volunteer

Lane Memorial Library

Joseph Dow
Joseph Dow
On April 12, 2008, the Hampton Historical Society will join with the Town of Hampton, in observing the 201st anniversary of the birth of JOSEPH DOW, the Hampton Historian who gave the town its excellent two volume town history in 1894.

Mr. Dow was born on April 12, 1807 in Hampton, married Abigail French and died December 16, 1889, before his history was ever published.

His daughter, Lucy Ellen was born October 4, 1840, and after her father's passing in 1889, had the two volume edition published by Salem Press, Salem, Mass. in 1894, in limited edition.

Peter E. Randall of Hampton, in 1970, had a reprint made of the two volume edition into a single binding of 1100 pages, through New Hampshire Publishing Company of Somersworth, New Hampshire.

The first part of the reprint covers the happenings in Hampton from 1638 through 1892, while the second part gives detailed genealogy of Hampton families with more early Hampton photographs in the center of the book.

Mr. Randall also published an up to date "HAMPTON: A Century of Town and Beach -- 1888-1988" in 1989 along with a new volume of Hampton Genealogy, edited by James Hunt, plus an accompanying reprint of Joseph Dow's two-volume history, for a total of 4 history books.

Rev. Roland D. Sawyer had the following to say in his May 8, 1947 column in Hampton Union "HISTORY OF EARLIER HAMPTON" concerning Dow's History: "March town meeting appointed a committee to see if the town would vote to finance, in part, publication of THE HISTORY OF HAMPTON in two volumes, as now completed by Joseph Dow.

"A committee to confer with publishers was appointed. At an adjourned meeting held on April 3 (1883), the committee reported, but it was voted that owing to the drought of 1882, the poor crops, the town could not afford to undertake it at this time.

"After Mr. Dow's death (December 16, 1889), his daughter Lucy E. Dow pushed it through, and in 1947, the two copies in fine condition are worth $40."

In 1971, these same two copies, in good condition, could bring well over one hundred dollars, if available.

At Elmwood Corner, the junction of Winnacunnet Road and Landing Road, stood a giant elm, now gone, which was planted by a member of the Dow family over 175 years ago! In 1959, it was cut down due to being infected with Dutch Elm disease.

Quoting from page 686 of Dow's History of Hampton, Chapter XXIX, pertaining to genealogical data on Joseph Dow: "Joseph Dow, son of Josiah (23), graduated Dartmouth College, 1833, married April 14, 1835, Abigail, daughter of Rev. Jonathan French, D.D., of North Hampton (born Aug. 4, 1810; died Jan. 28, 1870). Mr. Dow was a teacher by profession; retired in 1860, and devoted himself to probate and other legal business and to historical study. Justice of the Peace and Quorum throughout the state. Children: Joseph Henry, Hannah Maria, Lucy Ellen, Abby Frances, Eunice Appleton, and twins Elizabeth French and Lemira Farrar."

Robert Piercy Dow in his book "The Book of Dow: Genealogical Memoirs of the descendants of Henry Dow 1637..." has this to say about Joseph Dow:

"Joseph Dow, illustrious author of Hist Hampton, was well qualified for the work, his five ancestors in direct line having been town clerks for 100 consecutive years. He grad Dartmouth 1833; A M in 1836; salutatorian of his class, which included Judge Asa Fowler of Concord, Dr Edward Spaulding of Nashua, Hon James F Joy of Detroit, John Ford LL D, and others of distinction. He became principal of Pembroke Academy for 4 years; then in charge of the Gardiner, Me, Lyceum. The panic of 1837 came and next year this school went down in the general crash. He then taught in academics at West Machias, Pompey, NY, and elsewhere until in 1862 he retired to his native Hampton. He was commissioned Maj of militia in 1867 by Gov Isaac Hill; was justice of the peace and quorum throughout the State. One of his first duties on return to Hampton was to make a new survey of the town. In 1860 he was elected president of the NH Historical Society. He engaged in probate and other legal business, which brought him in contact with the old wills and deeds of Hampton. From 1852 to his death he devoted himself to writing the History of Hampton, which was almost finished. His daughter completed it within a year and published it. Little sale was anticipated for the two-volume work and the edition was small. It was not "pushed." After several years Miss Dow sold the "remainder" for a trifle to a dealer. For years it was obtainable at about original price, $7.00. It is now [1929] worth about treble that. That the book is the finest example of a New England town history is everywhere conceded. No equal genealogical effort has ever been accomplished."

So let us pause each April 12th, and pay honor to the birthday of JOSEPH DOW, teacher, historian and friend -- for his great contribution of one of the finest town histories ever written in New England.

View Dow's History of Hampton in its entirely on this website