Town Clock 62 Years Old On July 17, 1959

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"Our Town" by James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

June 25, 1959

In three weeks and one day -- on July 17, when the town clock in the tower of Odd Fellows building strikes the hour of noon, it will have been exactly 62 years and five minutes since it first started ticking in 1897.

The starting of the clock on the day it was formally presented to our town involved six representatives of the ninth generation of John and Sarah Brown who settled on the banks of the Hampton River in 1639, one year after Stephen Bachiler founded the town. That was quite a ceremony on July 17 in 1897. Because the 62nd anniversary of the affair is close at hand and because the town clock is everyone's time-piece, we want to relive that gala afternoon with you.

A Bit Neglected

It's the town clock all right, even though it has been a bit neglected of late by our municipal officials. The clock faces need repainting and the hands need regilding. Our town does not neglect to pay rent to the Odd Fellows for the use of the tower in which the clock is housed. We are likewise certain that the winder gets his usual stipend from the town and on the day it is due. Our selectmen should make certain that the old clock's four faces and eight hands are all prettied up for its 62nd birthday [103rd birthday in the year 2000.]. After all, old faithful must be getting a bit weary. At noon on next July 17, it will have struck more than 4,073,400 times in order to let us folks know the hour of the day or night. We haven't counted the leap years. Such service deserves at least a face lifting.

Gift of John T. Brown

The clock was presented to Hampton by John T. Brown of Newburyport. It was accepted by a vote of the Town Meeting in March 1897 and the tower of the Odd Fellows building was designated as the place where it would be installed. A committee of citizens was appointed to act with the selectmen, W. E. Lane, J. B. Brown and S. A. Shaw, in arranging all details in connection with installation, and the presentation program which was set for Saturday, July 17.

Starting the Clock

At 11:55 o'clock in the forenoon of that day, six representatives of the ninth generation of John and Sarah Brown pulled together on a cord which started operation of the great clock. They were Edward J. and Mary S. Brown of Hampton; Theodore F. and Alice G. Brown of Minneapolis, Minn. and Dorothy D. and Marguerite W. Elkins of Amesbury, Mass. All of the group, according to an account in the Newburyport Morning Herald of Monday July 19, 1897, "were in fancy holiday costume, their faces expressive of the important part they were taking, and when the 'tick, tick' followed their efforts, they were very happy."

Satisfying Luncheon

Citizens who were gathering for the afternoon exercises, listened with pleasure as the new clock pealed the noon hour. At 12:30 all of the church bells in town were rung in friendly greeting and at 12:45 there was a lunch for officials and invited guests. The Herald said of the luncheon: "it was so complete in quality and quantity of material that everyone proclaimed its excellence, and all enjoyed fully this provision for their needs."

Rye Cornet Band

The Herald continues: "The large hall of Odd Fellows building was crowded at the opening of the exercises at 1:30 o'clock. The Cornet Band of Rye played an opening selection which was followed by an invocation offered by Rev. Mr. Adams of the local Baptist Church. 'America,' sung by the audience with band accompaniment was next in order. Rev. John W. Dodge of Newburyport was then introduced by the chairman. . . ."


Rev. Mr. Dodge, acting as representative of the donor, formally presented the clock, saying, "I have the honor to present to the Town of Hampton this clock for the use and benefit of the present and succeeding generations. You may be assured that it is offered for your acceptance with the cordial good will of the donor, who finds great satisfaction in thus conferring a public benefit upon the place where his ancestors resided, and to which he is happy to make this filial return of thankfulness for the blessings he has enjoyed, as well as the expression of affection for the old home where his ancestors sleep. He commits it with confidence to your care to keep and guard for the benefit of all the people."

Mr. Lamprey Accepts

After Mr. Brown, donor of the clock, was presented a bouquet by Mrs. Effie A. Cook, Noble Grand of the Rebekahs, Charles M. Lamprey accepted the gift on behalf of the town. His speech was involved and flowery, after the style of the day. We quote his concluding paragraph, "The Town of Hampton accepts this clock and receives the gift with much heartfelt thanks and with the promise that she will perform her duty, keeping it in good order, that its face may be looked upon by generations to come. Its hands will point out the time to the traveler on his way, and the bell in the hours of the night will remind the lover how long to stay."


Following the acceptance of the clock by Mr. Lamprey, Rev. Mr. Adams read a letter written by Mrs. J. Spaulding of Newburyport. A native of Hampton, Mrs. Spaulding described some of the local homes as she remembered them in her childhood and the characteristics of prominent people, including Christopher Toppan and others. Following other speeches, the benediction was pronounced by the Rev. Dr. Fay of Dorchester, Mass.

Free Trolley Trip

At four o'clock, Superintendent Cotton of the Exeter and Hampton Street Railway, furnished cars for a trolley trip to Hampton Beach and return. The trip was greatly enjoyed by nearly everyone who had attended the presentation exercises. A few of the younger men remained behind and climbed to the tower top, closer to examine the mechanism of the new town clock. They were particularly interested in the inscription on the brass plate attached to the clock frame. It read: Presented to the Town of Hampton, N.H., July 17, 1897, by John T. Brown of Newburyport, Mass., a descendent of John and Sarah Brown who settled in Hampton 1639." In place of the usual numerals, the clock faces bear 12 letters which spell out the words, MEMORIAL GIFT.

An Official Promise

Town Clock in Odd Fellows Bldg.
Town Clock in Odd Fellows Building in the 1940s

Yes, it is the town clock, even though it is hung in the tower of the Odd Fellows building. It was committed "in confidence" to "our [illegible] to keep and guard," and in accepting the gift, the town's representative promised that Hampton "will perform her duty in keeping it in good order. So let's have the clock faces painted and the hands and letters regilded without further delay. We made official promise to do so just 62 years ago, come Wednesday, July 17.

Ancient Newspaper

We got the story of the preservation of the town clock from a copy of the Newburyport Morning Herald, Monday, July 19, 1897. The yellow and fragile copy of the old newspaper was presented to Jack Dunfey by John L. Bryant, a retired engineer who lives at the corner of High Street and Mill Road in our town. Jack Dunfey loaned this paper to us for reference.

Prices Were Right

It contains four pages of mighty interesting articles and advertisements. Men's suits were being sold for only $12 and $15; ladies' shirt waists 69c and 89c; bicycle suits, $5 and tenements were listed to rent at $1.50 per week.

Appledore House Open

A feature story on page one told how Rev. J. W. Ward of the Peoples' M. E. Church, "preached a practical and eloquent sermon" Sunday morning, denouncing Sunday bicycling and causing "spiritual damnation." It announced by the Laighton Brothers that the Isles of Shoals Appledore House opens June 24 and closes September 15 and that "the hotel has [illegible] feet of cool piazzas." A dispatch from Washington said that it had agreed to fix the price of armor [illegible] "for three battleships, now build [illegible] at $300 per ton." In these hectic days, a 62 year old newspaper made mighty peaceful reading.
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