Local author digs into Hampton's past

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Lassiter to write monthly column for Union

By Max Sullivan

Hampton Union, April 3, 2015

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Cheryl Lassiter

HAMPTON - For Hampton author and historian Cheryl Lassiter, digging through archives for historical documents is like "going down the rabbit hole" to Wonderland. She said it opens up a different world than the one we live in today.

Now, Lassiter will be taking Hampton Union readers down that hole with her in a new monthly column, shedding light on Hampton's history and the characters that shaped it. The column, History Matters, will debut in Tuesday's Hampton Union.

Lassiter, a member of the Hampton Historical Society, has had three books published, all non-fiction. Her most recent was "The Mark of Goody Cole," the first-ever biography of Goodwife Unise Cole, also known as "The Witch of Hampton." Her previous book, "A Meet and Suitable Person," takes readers on a tour of the taverns kept in Puritan Hampton.

Lassiter also helped publish two books by local authors through Amazon.com, including "Marelli’s Market, the First 100 Years in Hampton, New Hampshire, 1914-2014" by Karen Raynes and Marcia Hannon-Buber.

Lassiter comes to the Hampton Union at the suggestion of Raynes, her friend and fellow member of the Hampton Historical Society. Raynes is the granddaughter of Luigi and Celestina Marelli, who opened Marelli's Market in 1914. She now runs the store with her uncles and sister.

When Raynes saw that the last Hampton Union history columnist had retired, she encouraged Lassiter to take it up.

Lassiter's first column is about Hampton's first ever postmaster, James Leavitt. She thought it would be fitting to start the column with a "first," she said.

Lassiter has been writing and reading since she was very young. She grew up in Milwaukee and moved with her family to Wyoming. She went to college in Idaho before working in Seattle.

There, she met her husband, Kenneth, and in 1991 the two moved to Hampton to be close to Kenneth's father in his last days.

And upon moving, she fell in love with the town, especially its past, she said. Never had she lived in an area so saturated with history as the New England Seacoast.

"I said, 'Wow, this is ancient history,'" Lassiter said. "When I was living in Wyoming, that state hadn't even turned 100 years old yet. So coming out here, where you've got this town, it just passed its 375th birthday… I thought it was pretty impressive."

Much of Lassiter's work is done through researching court documents, which she said there is an abundance of. Rockingham County's court system has deeds that go back to the 1620s, she said.

The British, she said, were quite sophisticated in their literacy and record keeping, and they brought that with them when they colonized America.

But just as important is Lassiter's curiosity. She's eager to turn up stones that others haven't thought to look under.

"I'm a nosy person," Lassiter said.

For instance, Lassiter's second book, "A Meet and Suitable Person," came from her wondering about what tavern life was like in Hampton three centuries ago. For such a fascinating idea, no one had published a history of how "far from pure" the local Puritans were, she said.

"No one's ever told that story before," Lassiter said. "People probably thought there were taverns here. You'd think that was natural, but no one ever went, 'Well, what were they? Who were the people that kept them? What were their life stories?'"

Lassiter grew up reading science fiction and fantasy, and she's written plenty of science fantasy herself. Most of those stories are "crap" that she's left in the desk drawer, she said, but her next book is a fictional novel about witches and angels.

Even though she enjoys telling stories, she said she's never actually considered herself a storyteller. She thinks she's more of a "researcher" or a "writer of facts." What she does is rooted in "knowing stuff," she said. That's what gets her going the most.

"Like I said, it's going down the rabbit hole and seeing what's there," Lassiter said. "Human beings are wired that way. I think it's the only answer I can give you. We just want to know more stuff."

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