Hampton Historical Trivia

Hampton Historical Trivia Page

Compiled by Kathleen Hall 

What does a librarian do when a stay-at-home order is in place? She tries to read nearly illegible Hampton Town Reports from the 1600s and 1700s. If you’d like to know what everyday life was like in colonial Hampton, read on.

Click the title to jump to a section
Earmarkings in Old Hampton
Stray Livestock in Old Hampton
Sabbath History
Winnicunnet Plantation
Hampton, County Norfolk
Old Hampton Town Meeting House


 Earmarkings in Old Hampton      April 9, 2020

Everyone knows that cattle ranchers brand their cows, bulls, and steer with hot irons right into the skin of the poor beasts with a unique mark that tells which ranch the animal belongs to. That is not, however, how the colonials in Hampton marked their livestock. In the Hampton Town Records, 1636 to 1947, Volume 1, I found pages and pages, year after year from 1636 to about 1714 of earmark registrations. Livestock, which included cows, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and anything else kept on a farm with an ear, were clipped, cut and poked in their ears according to the register for any certain farm. The types of markings differed according to the style of cut, placement on the ear, and number of cuts. There were crops, swallow tails, notches, hole-punches, and slits.

Here are three records of earmark registry.

Some are simple: “Jonathan Louitts eare marke fouer holes punched in the right eare.

SNIP FROM TOWN RECORDS Others are more creative: “Samuel Batchedoer of North Hampton ear mark a swallow tail on the end of each ear & a notch in the under side of the right ear – entered 1791


And still others are really too intricate to remember: “Richard Taylor the left ear a half pony (penny) on the upper side the sayd ear and one on the under side the sayd ear and the right ear a half peny on the under side and a notch on the upper side the sayd ear”

 ear snip tools 

Types of earmarks.L-R: swallowtail, half halfpenny and slit; and double L earmarks with the earmarkers designed for sheep. (Wikipedia)

 Stray livestock in Old Hampton         April 14, 2020

Last week’s teaser question was “: Did those earmarks help keep livestock from going astray?”  Well, not entirely. In the Hampton Town Records Volume Two, there are some pages with notices or “advertisements” of livestock having been found “stray” and having done damage to property.

It is possible that some livestock with well-known earmarks were immediately returned to their owners. But many were impounded and “cried” in each of three towns (no town names given). Then a fee was imposed for the town and for any damages done to the property of the farmer who found the stray animal.

One can only wonder why the authority in charge (usually the constable) didn’t look up the recorded earmarks and go directly to the owner of the animal. Also, were the charges more than the animal was worth? Did farmers have cash to pay the fees? If no one claimed the animal, what then? Perhaps the answers can be found in more pages of the Hampton Town Records 1636-1947.

Here are three of the earliest entries of stray livestock found:

Joseph Page
 “Taken up by Joseph Page a stray horse of a bayish colour with a star in his face. Taken up by the said Joseph Page some time in June and cryd by the said Page according to law all three towns. Entered upon record the 29 day of June 1750.”

Sam Batchelder
 “Taken up by Sam Batchelder a stray heifer 2 years in spring, brindle coulered cropt in each eare with a (something) of the right ear.”

Jabez Smith
“This may certifie that Jabez Smith Esq. of Hampton in said province hath taken up two stears judged a coming four years old. They were doing him damage, and he hath impounded them in Hampton Pound: one of the stears is black with a white face, and three notches cut in each of his horns; and marked on the right ear with a swallows tail and a half peny on the under side of the same ear; and a crop on the left ear. The other stear is grown with white between his horns and white under his jaws with a short taile marked on the left horn (two marks) and a half peny on the upper side of each ear and on the end of the right ear a small slit or notch. – Hampton August the 14th 1756.”

Then in later years:

Amos Towle
“Advertisement – Taken up damage found in inclosure by Amos Towle of Hampton a stray heifer a coming in two years old of a black colour marked with a crop of the left ear and a slit in the end of the right ear. The right owner coming may have the heifer paying the charges. Hampton December 24th 1777 – John Tayler constable of Hampton”

John Fogg

“Advertisment – Hampton December the 8th 1768. Taken up by John Fogg a stray heifer coming in two dark brown colours with a large star in her forehead and some white upon her hind parts marked with a crop off of each ear. The right owner may have her paying the coste.”

Sabbath History        April 23, 2020

If you were born before 1970 like me, you might remember that Sundays were a time for rest and relaxation. All stores were closed on Sundays so that everyone could be at home with their families. We didn’t buy groceries, eat out, or get gas on Sundays. We did go to church and after, enjoy a huge dinner with lots of laughing and talking. My family often took a walk after the meal and we usually watched a ballgame on tv. It was a day to look forward to.

In contrast, colonial Hamptonites took the Sabbath (most likely Sunday) very seriously. So seriously that not only were there services or “exercises” on the Sabbath for worship and prayer, but it was unlawful to travel, do servile work, to play, do sports, or visit the local “ordinary” (tavern). Children were dealt with severely if they were found playing or disorderly. The town voted to divvy up each Sabbath to two men from the town members, on a rotating basis, who were in charge of keeping the youth “in order” and in their seats during Sabbath meetings. What must it have been like for a child to not be able to play for an entire day? What must it have been like for their parents to try to keep them under control lest the authorities come breathing down their necks?


November 28, 1687: “It was ordered that the constable for the time being shall take special care that the youth may be kept from playing on the Sabbath days and if any children be found disorderly their parents and masters shall be first informed and if they take not care about it but they be again found disorderly complaint shall be made thereof to authority.”



December 4, 1663: It is ordered that two of the inhabitants of the town shall sit in the gallery to keep the youth in order in time of public exercises, that they keep their places and sit orderly and inoffensively; and they that are first to begin are Thomas Sleeper and John Redman who are to give notices to John Brown and Will Fifield for the next Sabbath and so to take their turns about the town successively, and the constable is to take care to see that the youth be brought into the meeting house to prevent them playing abroad in the time of exercise, or profaning the Sabbath and that the law of the country be herein observed.”

Winnicunnet Plantation to Hampton Town   May 1, 2020

Why did colonists decide to settle Hampton? Was it for the expansive, nutrient-rich saltmarshes that were good hunting grounds for wild animals and the grass of which would eventually feed their livestock? Was it for the abundance of stately oaks and pines chopped down and traded for much needed survival supplies or profit? Was it for the ease in which one could maneuver a ship up the Winnacunnet River (now Hampton River) or the variety of fish found abundant off the coast? The role plantations played in New England's economy in the past was not as significant as the role agriculture played in Southern colonies. The soil was also very rocky and wasn't good for farming

For whatever reason, people wanted to begin a settlement or plantation here. The first to succeed was Mr. Stephen Bachiler and his company (names are not listed in the Town Records of 1636-1947) having received a grant on October 7, 1638.


“Memorandus (of?), At the general court holden at Boston the seventh day of the eighth month (called October) anno 1638 (Mr. John Winthrop, Sen. being the governor). It was granted unto Mr. Stephen Bachiler & his company (who were some of them united together by church government) that, (according to their petition then exhibited) they should have a Plantation at Winnicunnet.”

Before a year had passed, the Winnicunnet Plantation was granted township status and changed its name to Hampton.


“Afterwards to wit, on the seventh day of the fourth month, 1639, Winnicunnet (the Plantation being then in some forwardness) was allowed to be a Towne.”


“And further about the same tyme the said Plantation (upon Mr. Bachiler’s request made knowne to the court) was named Hampton.”

Hampton, County Norfolk    May 15, 2020

Hampton was once a town of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the county of Norfolk. This seems odd because Norfolk County in the state of Massachusetts today is nowhere near Hampton. Norfolk County is south of Boston and borders on Rhode Island. In colonial times however, there was an “Old Norfolk County.” Hampton, and other nearby towns were considered within its realm.

According to the Norfolk County History found at: https://www.norfolkcounty.org/about/history

“The Norfolk County of 1643 (Old Norfolk County) was an entirely different geographic area from the present Norfolk County. Located north of the Merrimac River, Old Norfolk included Haverhill, Salisbury, and Amesbury, and what are now the New Hampshire communities of Dover, Exeter, Hampton, and Portsmouth (then called Strawberry Bank)”.

Here are images of documents found in the Hampton Town Records that show money paid to the county of Norfolk. What was the money paid for? Judicial services? Help in building roads? Protection from native people?

“The amount of the County of Norfolk for the court held at Salisburrie. 12, 2nd mo. 1659”

It was difficult to decipher much of the list of expenses but the I could read that the most money paid was “ for Entertainment of the court and jurists – 23lbs – 17shillings – 01pence.”

This document shows funds paid to Norfolk County from Hampton, Salisbury, Haverhill, and Exeter during the years 1659 through 1662.


 Old Hampton Town Meeting House     May 28, 2020

The town meeting house was very important to the early settlers of Hampton. It was one of the first buildings erected. The meeting house, built and owned by the town, was used for town government meetings and religious services. According to the Hampton Heritage Commission, the first four meeting houses were built on a site near the Tuck Museum on Meeting House Green which was considered the center of the town. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of construction of the original meeting house in the old Hampton Town Records but there were plans to build a second meeting house in 1640 only two years after the original colonists decided to settle here. 

“On the 4th of the 6th mo:  [1640] Writings are forthwith to be drawne up betwixt the Towne & Richard Knight, concerning his building and keeping of a mill at the Landing place (the Towne allowing him reasonable accommodation upon that condition) his building a meeting house frame 40 foot long by 22 foot wide….”

Meeting House 1

Meeting House 2

A gallery was added: “Dated the 6 of the 12 mo: 1649. Agreed by the towne that those that are here under mentioned shall have liberty to build a gallery in the west ende which thing they promise to do….”

Meeting House 3

Meeting House 4

Repairs were made: “At a towne meeting of 12, 10 mo: 1665. The selectmen shall take further care to repaire the roof and to daube up the gable ends….”

Meeting House 5

Meeting House 6

Then repaired again: “At a legal meeting of the freeholders of Hampton 26 December 1706. That the selectmen now chosen have the same power to put the Meeting House in good repair as the selectmen had last year voted.”

Meeting House 7

Meeting House 8

Construction of the third meeting house began in 1675 but was not finished that year due to men being called away to defend the colony during the Indian Wars. The selectmen ordered able bodied men to help build the new meeting house and fined anyone who shirked their duties.

“Att a town meeting the 30 of June 1675. It is ordered that all the inhabitants of this town of Hampton that are above the age of 20 years shall attend and give their assistance to raise the new meeting house.”

Meeting House 9

Meeting House 10

The fourth meeting house was scheduled to be built in 1719: “Att a meeting of the freeholders of the old parish in Hampton May 2, 1719. Being warned to order the glass and inside work of the old meeting house… voted that whereas a vote passed formerly for building a new meeting house was there to be built 60 feet in length and 46 feet in breadth and 27 feet…”

Meeting House 11

Finally, in 1808 the fourth meeting house was torn down: “At a legal meeting held in the town of Hampton June 30th 1808…to choose a committee to tear down the old meeting house, put it into lotts and sell said lotts at [  ] auction.”

Meeting House 12

Meeting House 13

A fifth meeting house had already been built by the First Congregational Society in 1797 on Winnacunnet Road where the fire station is now located. It burned in 1949. 

Check back each week for a new bit of trivia from the old Hampton Town Records. If you’d like to look at the volumes of the Hampton Town Reports found freely on the Family Search website, please email Kathleen directly and she can give you instructions on how to view them. khall@hampton.lib.nh.us They can also be found on the Hampton Historical Society website http://www.hamptonhistoricalsociety.org/