The Leavitt Family Clock Finds a Home at the Tuck Museum

LEAVITT CLOCK 5Visitors to the Tuck Museum are always impressed with our eclectic collection of period furniture. For example: a 1740 Hampton-made chair that was used by the James family in their meeting house pew and was one of the first donations to the museum at its opening in 1925; two 18th-century six board chests from the Hampton summer home of artist Charles Henry Turner; a c.1850 velvet armchair from the now-defunct Farragut Hotel; and a recently acquired 18th-century turned crest rail armchair attributed to southeastern New Hampshire. One of our most interesting acquisitions, however, is a beautiful 18th-century tall case clock, a 2013 gift from the Leavitt family whose roots go deep into the bedrock of Hampton history. At the 2014 annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society, Betty Moore presented the following program on the clock.

I chose the grandfather clock as my item [to present at the annual meeting]. It is special to me because we have a documented history, the building it is associated with is still in existence, and the connections I have made with the donor.


Detail from Thomas Leavitt’s 1806 map of Hampton

The Leavitt family was among the original settlers in Exeter in 1638. They were listed in Hampton by 1644. Moses Leavitt, great-great-great grandson of Thomas, the original settler, was a tailor. Records show that he lived in central part of Hampton for a few years and in 1802, at the age of 28, he with his wife Sarah, according to Joseph Dow, “bought of John Elkins his new house on Nut Island, near the fish houses at the beach… moved thither and kept a house of entertainment to service the fishmongers who would travel down from Vermont and Canada among other places”. Moses’ father and grandfather had been tavern keepers, too.

Across the road from the tavern were the local fish houses; which at that point numbered around sixteen. Local families owned these small buildings where they kept their dories, sails, bait and equipment. Leavitt carried on fishing and farming, as well as owning and operating a nearby gristmill. Moses and Sarah had twelve children. Their son Amos carried on the operation of the building as a summer boarding house welcoming overnight guests in 1865, and after Amos, two of his sons, Jacob and Moses continued into the next generation.


Laurence Leavitt loading the clock into the back of Betty’s SUV.

During 2010 I was involved with the Leavitt Family reunion when they gathered in Hampton. It was then I met Laurence Leavitt and his family who ended up giving us the Leavitt Family cradle and later several other family items. Mr. Leavitt and I kept in contact and in 2013 he called and asked if we would like the grandfather clock that had stood in the Leavitt Homestead for generations. There was a catch….we needed to come to Maine to pick it up. No problem – from the photo you can see the clock had inches to spare in the back of the SUV.

LEAVITT CLOCK 4And now this beautiful tall case (or grandfather) clock is back in Hampton. The clock is estimated to be from the late 1700s. The case of the clock is made out of maple which has been refinished over the years. The original clock face is enamel with a hand-painted floral design in the four corners and a group of three birds above the dial. The hour numerals also have regular numbers over the top. As would be expected with an item of this age, there is some wear and crazing of the enamel on the face.

The bonnet of the clock has carved and scrolled moldings accented with a center and two side brass finials. The glass in the door over the face of the clock is original showing lines and imperfections consistent with age. The weights, pendulum and skeleton key are all present. The waist of the clock has a rectangular door and the clock rests on ogee bracket feet. It is simple and graceful and best of all, in working condition.

I wonder how many people have stopped and looked at this clock to check the time over the years?

millHighStMoving through history – the original 1709 Tuck’s Grist Mill was replaced by Moses Leavitt in 1815 with the is20053qtr_2current building. The homestead barn where horses were stabled became the Barn Theater in the 1930s, a restaurant and then Randy’s Gay 90s. In the 1970s, the barn was torn down for condominiums. The homestead has been known as the Aqua Rama Motel, Bailey’s Motel and today is called the Windjammer Hotel. It is located at 935 Ocean Blvd.

Leavitt's in the 1930s

Leavitt’s in the 1930s

Windjammer Motel

“M. Leavitt’s Tavern” as it appears today: the Windjammer Motel.

- presented by Betty Moore, Tuck Museum Executive Director, at the 2014 annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society.

First Thanksgiving in Winnacunnet Plantation

Happy Thanksgiving from snowy Hampton!

Happy Thanksgiving from snowy Hampton!

In 1638 the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony designated the “last Thursday of the 8th month” (October 25) as a public day of thanksgiving in appreciation of the good spring weather, the ripening harvest, and the “safe coming of so many ships this year.” Governor John Winthrop noted in his journal that 20 ships and at least 3,000 persons had arrived that year, “so that they were forced to look out to new plantations.” Winnacunnet, or as Winthrop spelled it, “Winicowett,” was one of those new plantations, settled by a group from Newbury led by Reverend Stephen Bachiler. According to Bachiler’s letter to John Winthrop, Jr., Winnacunnet Plantation (later named Hampton) would be settled on October 14, 1638, making the October 25th day of thanksgiving Hampton’s first.

Designated days of thanksgiving could come at any time during this early period, depending upon the event or circumstance being celebrated. For example, June 11, 1646 was set aside to give thanks for the Puritan victories in “our dear native country.” Autumnal thanksgiving celebrations generally would not become customary in New England until mid-century.

Week in Review

Last week a group worked very hard to get our annual newsletter/membership mailing printed, assembled and out the door. This issue is a compilation of the reports from the annual meeting and summarizes all that has been accomplished throughout the year. Sitting at home and reading the newsletter as a regular member would, I was awestruck at what is accomplished by a dedicated group of volunteers. Sometimes when you are in the thick of it all you lose track of the larger scheme of things.

The big new of the week…year….(maybe decade) – is the Society’s purchase of a building that will be dedicated to collection management and research. Proper collection space has been an issue for as long as I can remember – which is a loooong time! I have been on two building committees, a long-range plan and strategic plan where space was the number one priority.

Our new collection and research facility is two minutes away – just around the corner on US 1 in the center of Hampton Village. Over the winter the building will be retrofitted with an office/research area, collections work space and customized storage areas.  No more crowded storeroom where we have to move three things to get to what we needed. When that is completed, the library/meeting area in the main museum building on Park Avenue will be given a face-lift and volunteer work space will be created in the former storage areas. We will get small luxuries like electrical outlets, good lighting and a place to keep work in progress.  It will be a dream come true at a fraction what our new building addition was adding up to be.

The other “dream” part of this whole project is that we have a donor who is willing to match contributions made to the building fund dollar for dollar – so our affordable space alternative has become even more so! I want to thank the Building Committee and  HHS Board who kept on the issue until a suitable alternative was found. By this summer, our 90th anniversary celebration will be going strong,  and we should be ready to show off both locations. More on the building project can be found on our website.

I’d say it was a pretty good week!


President, Candice Stellmach, at the signing of the new research and collection center space.

Panning for Gold in Hampton’s History

gold nugget“There’s gold in them thar hills,”  as the saying goes. So, too, with historical research, in which the paydirt is information. Like panning for gold, research requires the patience to scour objects for hours on end “looking for color” – a gold mining term for determining the presence of oro. Instead of bending over a swirling pan of dirt in an icy creek, researchers stare into computer screens and hunch over a miscellany of old documents. To extend the metaphor, these miners of information sometimes get dust, sometimes flecks, while other times they get lucky and score with a big, shiny nugget.

Right now I’m researching Hampton’s “Argonauts” – those men who went to California during the Gold Rush of 1849 and the Klondike Gold Rush fifty years later. I expected at the outset to find one or two names, but the list is growing longer as details begin to accumulate.

What I didn’t expect to find, however, was a Hampton woman, one who had gone ’round the Horn to California to boot! Her letter, written from San Francisco to her parents in Hampton, was printed in a May 1849 issue of the Exeter Newsletter (reproduced below). Thanks to the Internet, I was able to parlay this serendipitous find into a goldmine of information about her life, her historic journey to California, and the family she left behind in Hampton.

Her name was Caroline Augusta Perkins Joyce Jackson, born in 1825 to John and Caroline Harriman Perkins. Caroline Sr.’s father was John Harriman, an early pastor of Hampton’s Baptist Church, said to have been one-half Penobscot Indian and the founder of the New Light Christian Baptists. Young Caroline, however, became enamored with the Church of Latter Day Saints – the Mormons – and against her parents’ wishes was baptized into that faith. In Boston she was known as the “Mormon nightingale” for her singing talent. She married John Joyce of New Brunswick and in 1844 gave birth to a daughter, Augusta. In 1846 she and John paid $150 to sail from New York with other Mormons on the ship Brooklyn, headed for upper California.

Map of the voyage of the Brooklyn (origin unknown).

The group planned to rendezvous there with the main body of Mormons traveling overland from Nauvoo, Illinois (the meet-up didn’t go off as planned, but that’s another story). The voyage of the Brooklyn is historically significant in that it is (as far as is known) the first colonist ship to carry women and children around the Horn to California. Of the 234 passengers, about 60 were women and almost half were children. The six month voyage, which included a stop in Hawaii, was a nasty one—with all those kids, how could it be anything else?—storms, deaths, foul water, insect-infested food, days of sweltering heat with no wind to fill the sails.

The ship arrived at Yerba Buena (San Francisco) at the end of July 1846. The next year Caroline gave birth to Helen, her second and last child. The pioneering life in California was a hard one but the discovery of gold improved the Joyces’ fortunes tremendously. Although he had grown wealthy, John Joyce’s “apostasy” ruined the marriage and he and Caroline divorced. At some point Caroline was visited by her father and brother John from Hampton. By 1860 she was living in San Bernardino where she married 52-year-old Colonel Alden Apollos Jackson, a lawyer and veteran of the Mexican War. By 1867 the Jacksons had settled in Utah Territory. According to their shared headstone, Alden died that year and Caroline died in 1876, but Caroline’s daughter Augusta wrote that they had died within five weeks of each other in 1876. They are buried in St. George, UT; their gravesite has been fitted with a modern headstone that features a round “Ship Brooklyn Pioneer” plague under Carolyn’s name. Shortly before she died Caroline penned a memoir, which her daughter Augusta, a poet, writer, and plural wife, published in a book titled “The Representative Women of Deseret.”

Ship Brooklyn, built in New Castle, ME in 1834

Ship Brooklyn, built in New Castle, ME in 1834

Caroline’s letter, transcribed from the May 21, 1849 issue of the Exeter Newsletter

 San Francisco, Dec. 3, 1848

 Dear Parents –

We are comfortably situated in our far western home, although we should like to have you all with us, and I think the boys had better embrace the first opportunity to come out here, as there is every chance for them to make a fortune, and they are as safe to be trusted on a voyage as I was certainly.

My husband has been in the gold mines and in four months has dug out two thousand dollars’ worth of gold which is but a small sum in comparison to the luck of some who have worked there. Any boy twelve years old can get from one to three ounces of gold – pure gold, in a day. And who would not leave home for a while and risk the ocean waves, rather than work for years?

The town of San Francisco is improving fast and looks quite like home. Lots of land which could be bought for fifteen dollars when we came here, two years ago, sell now from one to six thousand dollars. We shall try and buy a farm in the Country this coming year: so if you will come out you will have a home ready.

This is to be a great farming country as produce is very high at present. Every man is busy digging gold and of course farming is neglected, so long as a man can make from fifty to a hundred dollars a day.

I would advise you to come by land in case you conclude to come, but by all means send all your furniture by water, well packed and marked; and do not leave home as I did, with nothing to keep house with.

I think, however, you had better remain in the States and let the oldest boys come to California. The journey either way is tedious—and I shall either come home or send you money to make you comfortable without working any more, as you have been obliged to do all your life. I can assure you it is very hard for me to see plenty of gold around and know that you are toiling every day for a scanty subsistence. I know my oldest brothers at home could earn in one year sufficient to enable you to live independent all your life; and I want the youngest boys to go to school, as there are no schools in this place, and no prospect of any so long as a man can get from fifty to an hundred dollars a day in the mines.

I may take a start and come home in the spring, for I do not mind a journey now as I once did. My husband will stay here, as he intends going into the mines as soon as the rain is over.

 Your affectionate daughter, Caroline

 P.S. You will perceive that I have sent you a small specimen of the gold as dug from the mine.

Who knows? Maybe this letter inspired the Hampton ’49ers, men like Charles M. Perkins, Edwin Johnson Hobbs, Nathaniel Johnson, and the Lamprey and Dearborn boys, to pack up their belongings and head to California. Gold, indeed!

Caroline’s daughter Augusta Joyce Crocheron (1844-1915)

Caroline Perkins Joyce Jackson Headstone St George UT

Headstone of Alden Jackson and Caroline Augusta Perkins Joyce Jackson in St. George, UT (


Week in Review

Every week I say to myself “If you wrote a weekly entry on Sunday nights it would be so easy to keep the blog up.” And another week passes and another.. Oh, I know  it is Monday, not Sunday…but at least it is a start. On November 9, Thomas Dumont organized a flagpole dedication as […]

Museum Acquires 18th Century Armchair

Elizabeth Ackroyd

Elizabeth Ackroyd. Photo credit unknown.

Elizabeth Aykroyd, curator of the Tuck Museum, presented an update at the annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society regarding the museum’s recent acquisition of a mid-eighteenth-century banister-back armchair made in the Hampton area.

“The unusual turned crest rail and the similar drop panel above the seat mark this chair as belonging to a small group of similar chairs which have been attributed to southeastern New Hampshire,” she said. “It relates to two chairs found in Hampton Falls, with a history of having belonged to the Meschach Weare family. Those two chairs are now in the Currier Museum of Art. They have the turned crest rail like ours, although the banisters are different. Chairs with similar crest rails have also been found in the Portsmouth area with an attribution to that town.


Our new chair on display in the Charles Henry Turner room at the Tuck Museum. Photo Cheryl Lassiter.

“The turned legs are also typical of chairs made in southeastern New Hampshire. For instance, two banister-back chairs in the American Independence Museum in Exeter have the same turned legs. Those chairs originally belonged to the Revolutionary soldier Major Joseph Cilley of Nottingham, NH. Chairs with similar turnings turn up relatively frequently in antique shops and at auction in this area.

“What makes this chair, found by an antique dealer at auction in Plainfield, NH, almost certainly a manufacture of the greater Hampton area is its extravagant form. Turned chairs with similar exaggerated decorative features seem to share a history of having been in Hampton in the eighteenth century. The James family chair in the Tuck Museum is one example, as are the two Hampton Falls chairs mentioned above. The strong similarities between our chair and those from Hampton Falls indicate a shared tradition of chairmaking. Such chairs seem to date from about 1740 to 1760 or so and illustrate a very local creative impulse which only died out with the new styles that came into fashion after the Revolution.”

The chair is now on display in the Charles Henry Turner Room at the Tuck Museum.

New Volunteer Donates Antique Holiday Postcards

kathy headshotKathy McLaughlin is one of our newest volunteers. Besides excellent organizational, research, and writing skills, she brings to the Tuck Museum lots of good ideas on how to best tell the story of Hampton’s history. Kathy recently donated a collection of antique holiday postcards to the museum and gave a talk on them at the annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society. Below is a transcription of her program with images of the postcards. (The photo of Kathy is from the Hampton Historical Society’s Victorian Tavernwalk on October 11, 2014. She donned the garb of a late 19th century ‘woman of means’ to portray Marilla Ricker, New Hampshire’s first woman lawyer).


I’d like to show you some postcards from my Aunt Sadie’s holiday postcard collection. She lived in Salisbury, Massachusetts and my family lived in Connecticut. Sadie gave her collection to me when I was in high school, when we were spending the summer vacation with my grandmother in Hampton Falls.

About 40 years later, in 2014, I moved to Hampton. I stopped in at the Tuck Museum to ask about becoming a volunteer. I’m interested women’s history, so Betty Moore, the Director of the museum, started me off indexing the Monday Club scrapbooks. The Monday Club was a women’s organization in Hampton that was in existence for 100 years.

Working in the museum made me think about the postcards, and other family items from the Hampton area, that the museum might like to have in its collection. Betty agreed that the holiday-themed postcards would make a nice addition to the existing postcard collection, and I donated them to the museum.

(1 & 2) The first two postcards are Valentine’s Day cards from the early 1900s. One was hand delivered, probably by the sender. The other was mailed through the postal service with a 1-cent stamp in 1914.


Postcards were used then to send short notes and messages the way we use email and texting today. You can see that these postcards are ornate – embossed, using gold. (3) The same is true of the postcard for Washington’s Birthday. Most postcards at this time were printed in Germany and were of higher quality, as compared with later postcards printed in England and the United States.


(4) The Halloween postcard was mailed in 1917 and postage had gone up to 2 cents.


(5 & 6) Next are two Thanksgiving postcards. On the second postcard you’ll notice the date 1620, which is when the Puritans landed. The first Thanksgiving was 1621. This postcard was made in Germany so it appears they were a bit unclear about US history.


(7) Next is a Christmas card, again embossed and using gold. This card was hand delivered in 1913.


Postcard collecting was a national addiction. In 1908 the post office counted 678 million postcards mailed. This number doesn’t include the postcards that were hand delivered. People collected postcards in shoeboxes, and my Aunt Sadie gave her collection to me in a shoebox.

(8) Next is a New Year postcard, this one from 1912, printed in Germany. It is unique because it was printed using silver ink. (9) And another New Year card.


(10) Here is a birthday postcard, from 1913


(11) And finally a Rally Day card to notify children about Sunday school.


(12) Here is the back of one card to show how easy it was to get mail delivered by the postal service. You see my Aunt’s name and that she lives in Salisbury. There’s no street address.


Other cards in Aunt Sadie’s holiday postcard collection are at the museum to be shared.


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