By Rev. Roland D. Sawyer
Hampton Union, November 6 & 13, 1952
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
In my life-time, which means memories of 70 years, I have seen so many of the fine old homes built by our ancestors receive no care and finally decay and fall.
Thus it is the salvation of the days of long-ago when in these old towns there comes a family that takes over, loves and appreciates and keeps in repair one of the old houses.
Those homes over whose threshold ran the frolicking children and limped the aged and sheltered the robust became consecrated spots.
Thus it is a fine thing when the old Hampton home of John Knowles and his posterity goes into the ownership and becomes the home of people like Mr. and Mrs. Royal C. White.
Early records show a John and Richard Knowles in Cambridge very early. Richard settled on Cape Cod and John came to Hampton. They were probably related, brothers or cousins. Both names are so common it is not easy to trace their English forebears. The first record of John in Hampton is when he married Jemima Austin on July 10, 1660.
March 25, 1666 he bought from Giles Fifield "one dwelling house and house-lot, containing ten acres, together with six acres of marsh; the house being between ye ground of Jon Garland on the west and a common way on the east, with common land on the north and another common way on the south.
Thus the original Fifield home became the home of the Knowles Family, and there in 1892 was living Elbridge A. Knowles, the seventh generation from pioneer John. Pioneer John was blind the last ten years of his life and died December 5, 1705, being father of 7 children born in Hampton, the first being John, Jr., born February 6, 1661.
William Fifield was an original settler coming from Newbury in the spring of 1639 to a lot he had selected in the fall of 1638. There came with him a Giles Fifield, probably a nephew or younger brother; he married June 7, 1652 Mary Perkins (daughter of Abraham); he was in Charlestown in 1657 but back in Hampton 1659 when a daughter Mary was born. He went back to Charlestwon, selling the house he had built to John Knowles in 1666. The present buildings I will let the late Mrs. Elizabeth. Knowles Folsom describe in a letter to a Knowles living in 1940 in Minnesota: "You will be glad to know that the Knowles Homestead in Hampton is now owned by Boston people who have put it into fine repair, repainted it, and it looks very lovely. The barn has been fixed up, the horse stalls finished in hard wood, the new owner is interested in blooded horses.
"It is a beautiful house, such large rooms, I had hoped that some time a member of the Knowles family might own it and carry on the old Knowles home of seven generations. The ell of the present house is the original house in which the first John lived and which is full of interesting charm."
The description is good. The large rooms of the old houses, when restored or kept up in shape, have great convenience for a home and their walls are hallowed by a long past of the happy. hard-Working and God-fearing people who have lived there. Men, women and children posessed with a rich Christian faith and living their lives, so often filled with sorrow, in the strength of that faith.
The present Knowles-White house is clearly in two sections; a later section that runs parallel with the Locke road (the "common way" of 1666), and the old section which runs at right angles with the road. The new section has the shutters so much in use in the late years of the 18th century. I know a score of old houses in this region with the same shutters and windows, and all were built between 1780 and 1800.
Now the date of the old section, it is clearly, by all evidence a 17th century building.
First family tradition. This house is in the old part of Hampton which was carefully explored by the late Asa Warren Brown of Kensington between 1847 and 1852, and at later dates.
Family tradition in a family that had lived on the same spot for 200 years or more is seldom in error, and that tradition in the Knowles family was, that pioneer John died in the house in which he had built and lived all his live.
He died in 1705 and had been a blind and old man ten years.
An original house would be built parallel with the road which was there in 1666 and probably laid out when Giles Fifield built, probably in 1652.
It is my opinion that the original Fifield house stood where the new section stands, parallel with the road, but that John Knowles, a man of great industry and good intelligence, set about building a better house — a good house for the period — and that he built it probably not too long after buying the property. His family was not large, he was in very comfortable circumstances for his day, as his will shows, his oldest child John Jr was married in 1685, and lived in the same house, perhaps the original Fifield section, so his father must have looked to that event and had his own new home (now the ell-old part) built before that date.
Amos, married 1724, lived on the homestead, as did his son Amos Jr., married 1751, as did his son, a third Amos (Lieutenant), married 1788 as did his son Deacon Jesse Knowles, who married 1832, as did his son Eldredge Appleton Knowles, who married 1886. It would be my guess that the new section was added for Lieut. Amos and built 1787, while the old section was built not long after 1670.
But the real value is in that the house is saved in all its convenience, history and beauty. Royal P. White, born in Lowell, and his wife, born Agnes Pearl Sales in Albany, N. Y. moved in eleven years ago, and they enjoy every minute of life in it.
And when their son brings there the grandchildren, Caroline Sales White and Marcia Tillotson White, or the daughter Ruth brings John Taber Westerfield or Ellen Gates Westerfield, or the daughter Elizabeth brings the daughters Deborah and Gretchen Rawlinson, it seems like the old days in the old house, where years gone by there gathered members of the clan of Knowles.
In the large room in the new section stands a fine old clock, and when one opens the door and reads, he is back again 200 years, for reads a verse that Thomas Listor, making clocks 240 years ago, used to put on the inside of his clocks; it reads-
I serve thee here with all my might
And tell the time both day and night,
Therefore, warning take from me
- And serve thy GOD as I serve thee.
R. D. S.
[Editor's note: This house was completely destroyed by fire on March 22, 1994, cause unknown.]