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Outside my house this morning I heard the gleeful song of a male cardinal. Despite the heaps and mounds of snow everywhere, his song held the promise that we’ll be seeing bare ground someday soon. Well, maybe not soon, but certainly some day. As we yearn for that currently rarest of sights to make its […]
In the archives of the Hampton Historical Society reside the yearbooks and associated records of the now-defunct Hampton Monday Club (1907-2007). Produced by a group of civic-minded women who took their record keeping seriously, it is an impressive historical collection that spans nearly the entire 20th century. There are lists of club officers and members, reports, letters, activities, and photographs, as well as original member-written essays which were presented orally at club meetings.
Among the more interesting artifacts is an undated script for a radio play titled “A Haunted Town,” written for the club by an unknown author. In 1937, according to a history printed in the club’s 100th Anniversary program (2007), “…Five Club members assisted in a broadcast on the local radio station WHEB. They presented the History of the Hampton Monday Club, told a NH Folk Tale, and special music was provided by the Musical Committee.” A handwritten note in the script’s margin reads: “Monday Club Broadcast over Portsmouth Radio Station Tuesday [morning?] 11 o’clock”.
Hampton in the 1930s was defined largely by the Depression and the town’s 300th anniversary; as a result, it seemed that everyone took a giant, collective step into the past to remember the “good old days.” Yet those days were not so good for all involved, and in the 1930s, as now, you could not talk about Hampton’s past without acknowledging the lone historical figure whose wretched life story is a wart on the nose of our generally benevolent history: Goodwife Unise Cole, the Witch of Hampton.
And so it is with “A Haunted Town.” At first accusatory, then finally sympathetic, the play depicts some of the better-known tales about the reputed 17th century witch. Significant probably only to myself, there is no mention of her magic well or witch’s hovel at the beach, lending support for my finding that those story elements were created in 1938 by Haverhill newspaperman William D. Cram to promote his newly-formed Goody Cole Society. In the play, Mother explains to daughter Betty that Goody Cole “lived in a little hut in the rear of the Academy near the Meeting House Green” – completely ignoring John Greenleaf Whittier and seeming to draw from Edmund Willoughby Toppan’s then-unpublished history (it was published in 2009 by his descendant, Hampton Academy teacher Lori White Cotter).
The play’s two actors, Bernice Palmer (1899-1985) and Emma Young (1860-1952), were both long-time members of the Hampton Monday Club. Bernice was an artist and some of her watercolors are on display at the Tuck Museum. It’s said that she preferred to pronounce her name “Bur-nis,” with emphasis on the first syllable. Emma contributed to the club in a writerly way, and she may have written the script. In another posting I’ll share her c.1926 composition of a Folk Tale of Hampton, N.H. in 1836. Meanwhile, if anyone can confirm the script’s authorship, please let us know.
The Mark of Goody Cole, my 2014 biography of Goodwife Cole, is available for purchase through the Hampton Historical Society.
Here’s the script, reprinted in its entirety~
A Haunted Town
Scene: Living Room
Characters: Mrs. Waldron [played by Emma Young] and her daughter Betty [played by Bernice Palmer]
Betty: Mother, is it true that once upon a time there were ghosts in Hampton?
Mother: well dear, my great grandmother used to tell me some very interesting stories about it.
Betty: Tell them to me, won’t you? I would love to hear all about ghosts.
Mother: She told that Hampton was called “A Spirit Haunted Town.” Ghosts and witches, and even the evil one himself often appeared to its inhabitants.
Betty: I should have though they would have been terrified.
Mother: By what she told me, I should think they were. One could not lie down in bed at night with peaceful certainty that no alarming spectre would stalk through his rooms to trouble his slumbers. Nor could one jog along the country lanes without the disturbing possibility that some broom stick rider might be hard upon his track.
Betty: Don’t you think Mother, that the Hampton people were over superstitious?
Mother: I understand that the good people of Hampton were no more superstitious than men and women usually were who lived in rural communities in Colonial days, and especially those living near the sea, but it is certain that they peopled the quiet village with personages our modern eyes do not see. However it might be with ghosts, witches were tangible enough and the Hampton authorities made short shrift of them. The delusion found its chief victim in the person of Goody Cole, widow of the late William Cole.
Betty: I never knew much about witches. I know this will be interesting.
Mother: The evil powers were ascribed to her by the people of Hampton.
Betty: Did she ever do any harm through her evil spirits?
Mother: It is related that at one time some young people looked into her window and saw her busily engaged turning a bowl, they said it was in the shape of a boat. At last she turned it over and exclaimed, “The devil has got the imps now.” That night news came that Peter Johnson and James Philbrick were drowned at that hour. It was believed that the boat overturned through her agency and this greatly increased the fear and hatred of the old woman.
Betty: Where were they drowned?
Mother: They were drowned near a Creek, now known as Cole’s Creek.
Betty: What a terrible thing for her to do. Did anyone ever see the evil one?
Mother: The children reported having seen him. They too, used to indulge in the fearless pleasure of peeping into her windows, and the story they told was that the evil one was in the shape of a little black dwarf with a red cap on his head. He sat at the table and frequently she cuffed his ears to keep him in order. There was another story that was common at the time and it was that Goody Cole turned Goodwife Marston’s child into an ape.
Betty: Was there no way to stop her from doing such awful things?
Mother: In 1656 she was tried before the County Court of Norfolk. At the trial Thomas Philbrick testified that she had said that if any of his calves should eat her grass, she wished it would poison or choke them. Immediately after one of the calves disappeared. The other one came home and died about a week later.
Betty: Were there any others to testify against her?
Mother: Yes. Goodwife Sobriety Moulton and Goodwife Sleeper testified that while talking about Goodwife Cole and Goodwife Marston’s child, they heard on a sudden a scrape against the boards of the window but after they had gone out and looked around they could see nothing. They went into the house and began to talk as before. The noise was repeated so loud that if a dog or cat had done it they should have seen the marks in the boards and such evidence was conclusive.
Betty: On, this is really spooky. Just like a Halloween story. What happened then?
Mother: The poor woman was sentence to be whipped and imprisoned for life.
Betty: Did she really have to stay for life?
Mother: No. She remained there in prison for fifteen years and was then released. The Town was ordered to contribute to her support.
Betty: Well, I suppose she lived happily ever after, didn’t she?
Mother: Oh, no. Shortly after she was arrested again on a new charge of witchcraft but after a few more months of confinement she was discharged. The Court rendered this remarkable decision, “In ye case of Unis Cole, now prisoner at ye bar, is legally guilty according to indictment, by just ground of vehement suspicion of her having familiarity with the Devil.”
Betty: She certainly was familiar alright. I am glad she is not living now. Did she still continue the evil work?
Mother: No. She returned to Hampton to die soon after in bitter poverty and distress.
Betty: Where did this wonderful Goody Cole live?
Mother: She lived in a little hut in the rear of the Academy near the Meeting House Green.
Betty: Mother, did you ever hear anything about her burial?
Mother: Yes, the malignant hatred of persecutors followed her to the grave. The tradition still lingers among the older people of the Town that the witch was denied a Christian burial and that her body was dragged and then thrown into a hastily dug trench in the ditch by the side of the road near her home, and that a stake was driven through her with a horseshoe attaché to drive away the evil spirit and prevent her from again troubling the good people of Hampton.
Betty: After all, I think the poor woman was a martyr, don’t you?
Mother: Yes, I do. With her quarter of a century of persecution and suffering she was surely as much of a martyr as those to whom death came quickly on the scaffold of Witch’s Hill. Now as the hour is getting late I must not talk any more about ghosts and witches. Some other time I will tell you what I have heard about the Quakers.
Betty: Thanks, Mother. It has all been very interesting and I expect I shall see ghosts and witches in my sleep. Good night.
© 2015 Cheryl Lassiter lassitergang.com
Happy first day of 2015!
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Hampton Historical Society and Tuck Museum, founded in 1925 by Reverend Ira S. Jones and others. To celebrate this milestone the Society has planned several events throughout the year. Also, this summer museum visitors can experience our Retrospective exhibit, a decade-by-decade visual exploration of the museum’s history set against a backdrop of important town, beach, and national events. And here at our blog we’ll be highlighting the history of the Society, the museum, and the staff of dedicated volunteers who keep it all running.
THE FOUNDING OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
On February 28, 1925, over 70 people signed Articles of Agreement to establish the corporation whose purpose was “to erect a suitable memorial to the founders of the first settlement in Hampton.” The following week the Articles were approved by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and The Meeting House Green Memorial Association came into being.
Part of the “suitable memorial” included creating a repository for the town’s historical treasures. For that purpose the Frank Fogg house, located adjacent to the historic meeting house green, was purchased for $4,000 and a small addition with fireplace was built at the rear of the house. The house was named in honor of Edward Tuck, the philanthropist who funded the project and whose mother was born and raised in Hampton (Tuck, who was born and raised in Exeter, also funded Stratham Hill Park, the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, the library at the New Hampshire Historical Society, and, of course, the Tuck playing fields in Hampton).
FIRST GIFTS TO THE MUSEUM
Donations of historical items were needed to furnish the new museum – which in the early years was called either “Tuck Hall” or “Tuck House.” The museum still holds the original list of items donated in 1925. Most are still part of the collections.
–Caroline Campbell Lamprey Shea (1860-1933), a descendant of early Hampton settlers and the granddaughter of prominent local lawyer and political figure Uri Lamprey, was the Association’s first secretary. She gave the museum one of its most historically significant donations: a walking cane that had been given to her grandfather by President Franklin Pierce.
–Mrs. Joshua James, whose house would be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, gave a c. 1740 box pew chair that was used by generations of Jameses in their pew at the old meeting house.
–The Locke family gave a family-made quilt sewn from coats of both English army Redcoats and Continental army Yankees.
–Irene Trefethen Burnham gave the first organ used in the Hampton Methodist Church in the early 19th century.
–Mr. Frank Leavitt gave a late 19th century hair wreath that had belonged to Mrs. Abbie Leavitt Lamprey.
There are a few first items that are no longer in the collections (and won’t be missed, either) – a set of stuffed, arsenic-laced Hampton marsh birds and a 100-year-old (in 1925) coconut. I always smile when I wonder who donated the old coconut and why, but I have an inkling that it was brought home as a souvenir from some exotic tropical locale by one of Hampton’s intrepid seafaring men.
NO LIGHTS FOR YOU! THE FIRST ANNUAL MEETING
On October 14, 1925, the Association formally dedicated the Meeting House Green and Memorial Park, across the road from the Tuck House, as “a tribute to the heroism of the early settlers and a mark of respect to the Rev. Stephen Bachiler, the Father and Founder of the Congregational Church and the Town of Hampton.”
After the dedication ceremonies and a banquet held at the Dance Carnival on Boar’s Head (“the Prettiest and Coolest Spot on Hampton Beach”), the Association held its first annual meeting in the log cabin that had been built on the museum grounds as a “replica” of the first meeting house.* Caroline Shea’s tart New England sense of humor shines through in this brief first record:
At the closing of the Celebration of the Meeting House Green Memorial Park Association which continued for two days exclusive of the Exercises in the Congregational Church on the preceding Sunday, a Meeting was held in the Log Cabin.
The Secretary’s report was not read as there was no light in the room.
The Treasurer was not present and had sent no report.
A Committee for drawing up by-laws was appointed as follows: Mr. Barker, Mr. Chas. F. Adams with Mr. Jones.
Officers for the coming were elected as follows: Mr. Jones, President and Superintendent; Mrs. C. C. Shea, Secretary; Mr. Oliver Hobbs, Treasurer.
C. C. Shea, Secretary
*This was not a building style used by English colonists in America, and I am still trying to find out whose idea it was to build the log cabin as a supposed replica of the first Hampton meeting house. With a roof of bark-covered slats, it’s amazing this building was still standing well into the 1940s. When it finally collapsed, it was never rebuilt. According to Harold Fernald’s notes for a talk he gave at Lamie’s Restaurant in 1970, the cabin was replaced in 1950 by the restored one-room district school house (which still inhabits the spot).
Special thanks to retired teacher and historian Harold Fernald, whose amazing personal stash of Hampton history contributed to this article.
–Wishing you a prosperous and magical 2015, Cheryl
Visitors 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.
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.
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.
And 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?
Moving through history – the original 1709 Tuck’s Grist Mill was replaced by Moses Leavitt in 1815 with the current 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.
- presented by Betty Moore, Tuck Museum Executive Director, at the 2014 annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society.
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.
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!
“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.
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.”
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!