Tuck Museum preserves the history and heritage of Hampton

Hampton Historical Society helps a community remember its past

Ken Palm

Historical societies like to collect, preserve and promote knowledge for the people in their communities. They are the town’s storyteller connecting people to the past.  The Hampton Historical Society has been telling the story of Hampton since 1925 when it was incorporated and named the Meeting House Green Association. In 1994 its name changed to the Hampton Historical Society.

(Judy Palm photo)

Its purpose was to honor the original settlers of Hampton. A descendant of one of the original families, Edward Tuck, donated funds to purchase a house on the site of the original meeting house green. The land surrounding the house was laid out in a park and the house was turned into a small museum appropriately named the Tuck Museum (above). The Society maintains and preserves the Tuck Museum and its contents. Executive Director, Betty Moore, explained the society's mission. It is:

 “The mission of this organization shall be to promote and honor the history and heritage of the town of Hampton, New Hampshire and its founders and inhabitants; and to preserve such history for future generations.”

Reverend Ira S. Jones (photo courtesy of Tuck Museum)
The Lane Memorial Library www.hampton.lib.nh.us/library/ works closely with the Hampton Historical Society. Working together they have much information on the Tuck Museum and the people most involved with its beginnings. The following is a small sampling of available information.

In 1925 the Reverend Ira S. Jones of Hampton was the first president of the association. He was not a native of Hampton, but he moved there later in life to study its history with a desire to honor the first settlers of Hampton.

He studied Dow’s History of Hampton and the historical sites within the town and researched the genealogies of the first families. He is primarily responsible for starting the  Meeting House Green Memorial Association to honor the original settlers of Hampton with a memorial. Rev. Jones was the one who contacted Edward Tuck, a well known philanthropist who provided funds for this project.

When contacted by Rev. Jones, Edward Tuck (1842-1938) was living in Paris, France. He was a banker and philanthropist who donated money to many places in New Hampshire as well as to his adopted country. He was raised in Exeter, graduated from Dartmouth College and his father, Amos, was the principal of the Hampton Academy High School. He gave over $6 million to Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business Administration is named in memory of his father. He also provided a residence for the president of the college. He donated money to Exeter and Tuck High School is also named after his father. He supplied the funds for the New Hampshire State Historical Museum in Concord. Its granite structure is considered to be one of the finest buildings in the state. An interesting side note is that Tuck once offered the town of Hampton money to build a new high school if they renamed it Tuck High  School. The town fathers turned him down.

Tuck also paid for the installation of a large granite obelisk on Star Island, in 1914, to commemorate his ancestor Reverend John Tucke, who was active on Star Island in the 1700's.

Edward Tuck (1842-1938) (photo from Hampton Tercenternary booklet)

Tuck also donated to his adopted country, France. He restored the trophy of the Alpes, la Turbie near Monte Carlo in 1934. This is a massive monument built by the Romans in 6 B.C. He and his wife built and supervised a hospital in the city of Rueil. At the time of his death he left his art collection of tapestries and porcelains to his adopted country of France.  They are housed in the Petit Palais in Paris. He established a museum in a suburb of Paris that is still in operation today.

On October 14, 1925 the Association and Jones realized the dream of honoring the first settlers with the dedication of the Meeting House Green Memorial Park (below) to the first settlers of Hampton. Most people refer to it as  Founder’s Park or Memorial Park.

Photo courtesy of Tuck Museum

This is a triangular-shaped piece of land bordered by Park Avenue, Landing Road and Cuss Lane. There is a center stone that lists the first group of settlers under the leadership of Stephen Bachiler of Southampton, England. When Hampton was incorporated in 1638 its area comprised 100 square miles. As time passed people moved within the settlement to establish their own towns. These towns were called “daughter towns” and included Seabrook, Hampton Falls, Sandown, Rye, North Hampton, Kingston, East Kingston and Danville.  At the corners of the land big stones were placed from the “daughter towns” of Hampton. Jones went before the “daughter town’s” boards of government to get them to donate and transport stones from their town to the park. The perimeter stones represented the original settlers of Hampton. Jones helped clear and landscape the land. He obtained funding from Ed Tuck. The amazing thing is that Jones accomplished this at the age of 90.

Tuck was a great benefactor to the town of Hampton.  His many gifts included the funds to purchase a house on the original meeting house green which was the Fogg property on Park Avenue. The building was renovated and it housed antiques of Hampton that people donated. It was originally called “Tuck Hall” and later “Tuck Memorial Museum”. Now it is called the Tuck Museum. He also sent money to build a playground for children. Now there are two playgrounds and a playing field called Tuck Field. Ironically the day the check arrived in 1927 to fund the athletic fields was the day that the Rev. Ira S. Jones died.

As quoted in The Exeter News-Letter: In June, 1926, Tuck wrote that he would be sending $1,000 a year to the Tuck Museum, and he added, “If I were to have the privilege of again riding over the Hampton roads and inhaling the delicious air with its mixed flavor of sea water and marsh mud . . . (it) would be a great delight.” He would indeed be delighted to see the fine museum that has developed since his initial investment.

The Tuck Museum's brochure states that the museum is a complex of five buildings spread out on the original green. It houses exhibition areas, artifacts and the main building has permanent exhibits of early Hampton, the development of Hampton Beach and Hampton’s military history. The museum also contains a small library on Hampton genealogy, New Hampshire town histories, town and school annual reports, photographs and post cards. It also has a small gift shop.

Fire equipment at the ready (Judy Palm photo)

Old School House building (Judy Palm photo)

There are several buildings on the green which are part of the museum and located on the original green. These are a firefighting Museum which houses a 19th century fire pumper, a collection of antique fire alarms, a Whiting Light, photographs and firefighting equipment.

A 19th century one-room schoolhouse has authentic furniture, books and equipment. This building is the last of the one-room schoolhouses of 19th century Hampton. It was moved to this site  and the visitor can see the growth of education from 1750.

Beach Cottage from Hampton Beach (Judy Palm photo)

Leavitt House Barn with many displays of early life in Hampton (Judy Palm photo)

Two other buildings moved to the green are the Leavitt House Barn and a beach cottage. In the Leavitt Barn, circa 1796, the visitor will see artifacts from the early Hampton industries of farming, fishing, shoemaking, etc. The beach cottage, circa 1930, has been outfitted with authentic furniture of the era. In it are  a bed, a small kitchen nook which has a refrigerator, and a sink, stove, burner combination.

As well as these buildings there are also several interesting structures on the green. A well is all that is left of the replica of the first meeting house. There are three millstones which are a reminder of the early industries of Hampton. Several monuments remind us of some early history of Hampton. One is to Ira S. Jones, one to the First Meeting House (1638), one to the first Hampton Academy (1810), another to  Goody Cole, Hampton's witch, and the final one called Thorvald's Rock. Thorvald is widely believed to be a Norseman who explored Hampton's coast 1000 years ago and was believed to be buried here.

Memorial Tablet to Rev Ira S. Jones (Judy Palm photo)

Eunice "Goody" Cole Monument (Judy Palm photo)

If you want to learn about the story of Hampton, a visit to the Tuck Museum has something for everyone. The children can run around on the green and enjoy the schoolhouse and the firefighting museum where they can ring the bell.

The Society invites grades 1, 4 and 8 on field trips to the Museum and they visit the 2nd grade classrooms each year with a moveable presentation.

Each year on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend the Historical Society holds a Pig Roast. This event is open to the public and serves as a fund raiser for the Museum.

The Tuck Museum is open Sunday, Wednesday and Friday 1-4 p.m. (all year)

You can visit the Society online at www.hamptonhistorical.org

Additional photos of the Tuck Museum

Carriage inside Leavitt Barn (Judy Palm photo)

(Judy Palm photo)

Fire pumper from 19th century (Judy Palm photo)

(Judy Palm photo)

January, 2009