Writing History Keeps Lassiter Focused

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by Mike Bisceglia

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Scene], August 15, 2012

Cheryl is delighted to live in Hampton, and Dan is thrilled to return to his Seacoast roots.

"I was notorious for not completing projects. I always had a creative mind, and I would have the best of intentions to start and finish something very involved and very imaginative. It always happened that I could get the 'start' part off and running; it was the 'finish' that I seemed to have problems with," chuckled Cheryl Lassiter, author of A Meet and Suitable Person and A Page Out of History: A Hampton Woman in the Needletrades 1859-1869.

"Somewhere along the line that all changed," Lassiter continued. "Now, I stick with every project I start and see it through to completion. I find my work very satisfying."

"She has incredible drive, great focus, amazing creativity, and a wonderful imagination," said Ken, Cheryl's husband. "What he's really saying is that while I'm occupied, I'm out of his hair," Cheryl laughed.

Cheryl, a graduate of North Idaho College, was a very technical person. "With my degree, I became very busy writing and drawing up computer-related materials. The work was interesting and rewarding, but it just didn't seem to fulfill me. I had always been a reader. As a kid, I loved to read about people in history and try to make sense of their lives. I am fairly certain that things began to click for me when I realized that humans are humans. They have flaws. They do some amazingly remarkable things, and they also do some tremendously silly things as well. I think when I made that connection I was able to start writing about people in history. My work is not dry and fact-laden. I offer plausible dialogue and explanations for historical events."

"When we moved here from Virginia, I became a volunteer with the Hampton Historical Society. I was to help to organize and transcribe early documents and diaries from some of the town's fathers. I love my work, and once I began I started to see research possibilities. Suffice to say, I was hooked."

"My first book, A Page Out of History: A Hampton Woman in the Needletrades 1859-1869 focuses on Mary Page Getchell. When we think of women of that era, we usually believe they huddled in the background and that the men handled all the heavy lifting. That wasn't the case with Mary. She just might be considered to be an industrial pioneer. Mary graduated from Salem Normal School and went on to become a teacher. But Mary didn't stop dreaming, and she certainly didn't stop persevering. Using some of her teaching salary, she opened a fancy goods store in Exeter about the time that Todd Lincoln was attending Phillips Exeter Academy. The store became very successful, and that only inspired Mary. She went on to design, produce and market her own line of clothing in her shop. Business thrived, so well, in fact, that she opened a second shop in Polo, Illinois. Now, that was astounding. Here is a Civil War era woman owning a business in two stores half a continent apart from one another!"

"My most recent book, A Meet and Suitable Person, is an account of tavern-keeping in Hampton from 1638-1783. The title comes from the description of how a prospective tavern owner should conduct himself in order to obtain a license. It truly is interesting because it brings to light a great deal of local and state history. So much of it really did happen in or near town taverns. To begin, taverns were called 'ordinaries,' which were little more than private homes designated to provide travelers with food, drink, and a night's safe lodging. By law, a person couldn't go to a tavern in his hometown, nor could he go to the next town just to have a drink. He had to be a traveler. People may have been a bit more honest in those times, for there is one case of an individual from Hampton who drank in town. He turned himself in the next day and paid the fine. He just couldn't live with himself!"

"Coinciding with the release of this book, there will be a Tavern Walk. It will be held on October 13, as a sort of Fat Tuesday before Hampton's 375th anniversary. Tavern Tales will be told at the Old Salt, the 401 Tavern, and The Galley Hatch. Drinks from the past, such as: the Flip, the Cherry Bounce, and the Syllabub will be the favored libations." Additional details regarding Cheryl's books and upcoming Hampton historical events will be available through the Hampton Historical Society.

Recipients of free copies of the new book are (left to right in photo, behind Lassiter) Peg Duffin, Ann Carnaby, Amanda Reynolds Cooper for the Lane Library, Bill Keating, Karen Raynes, Art Gopalan, and Eleanor Becotte. [Photo courtesy of Candace Stellmach]

Photo and autograph of Mary Page, from the first book, A Page Out of History: A Hampton Woman in the Needletrades, 1859-1869. This book and associated museum program won an award in 2011 from the Association of Historical Societies of New Hampshire. In 2012 it won an honorable mention from the New England Museum Association.

Representation of Goody Cole, from the book "A Meet and Suitable Person: Tavernkeeping in Old Hampton, 1638-1783."

An image of Love Sherburne's "approbation" from the Hampton selectmen, approving her for a tavern license.

An image of Ephraim Marston's approbation from the Hampton selectmen.