Good Squire of North Beach

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" Our Town " By James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, May 7, 1953

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

Frank E. Leavitt was born in our town on January 22, 1873. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 19, 1953. His eighty years were fruitful, eventful and successful. We were privileged to be numbered among his many friends.

Enjoyed “Our Town”

We last saw him when and Mrs. Leavitt called at our home in August of 1952. He had spent the summer months at a cottage on the beach front just north of Plaice Cove. He loved the neighborhood for it was not far from his ancestral home opposite the Life Boat Station. Mr. Leavitt enjoyed this column and his visit, late last summer was prompted by a desire to talk over some of the articles which he had found particularly interesting. He also wanted to correct some mistakes we had made and to suggest some subject material for new columns.

To St. Pete Via Colorado

When he told us how poorly had had been feeling, we were amazed at the itinerary which he had planned for his return trip to Florida. He was going part way by auto and then by plane to Denver, Colorado where he would visit for several weeks with a cousin. Following the far West sojourn he expected to fly back to his St. Petersburg home. We learned afterwards from a mutual friend that Mr. Leavitt enjoyed every minute of his roundabout return trip to his winter home and was notably happy while visiting relatives and friends in the scenic state of Colorado.

Ninth Generation of Leavitts

Although he was of the ninth generation of Leavitts who had made their home in Hampton, Frank’s forebears were not included among the original settlers who sailed from Newbury in a shallop to found Winnacunnet in October 1638. The progenitor of the prolific Leavitt line in our town was one of the first settlers of Exeter, Thomas Leavitt, who removed to Hampton in 1644, six years after the founding. Thomas’ first son Aretas (1646-1739) had eight or nine children, one of whom he named Thomas after his father. One of the second Thomas’ eight children was Amos (1720-1808). Amos had at least two children, one of whom he named Thomas, and this third Thomas in the direct line we do not know much about, except that before he moved away from Hampton, he had six children, one of whom, Moses (1774-1846) was Frank E. Leavitt’s great grandfather.

First North Beach Leavitt

On December 7, 1794 Moses married Sarah Towle. He was a tailor in the village for several years and then he bought John Elkins’ new house on Nut Island near the North Beach Fish Houses. After that, the first North Beach Leavitt was a busy man, for he kept a house of entertainment, as hotels were called in those long-ago days, and was also a farmer, a fisherman and operator of a grist mill. And he found time to raise twelve children, one of whom was Amos Towle Leavitt (1807-1877). One of Amos’ six children was Moses, born in 1839. He married Rebecca R. Godfrey in 1861 and lived in the Leavitt Homestead for 26 years before moving to a new home on Winnacunnet Road. Moses Leavitt had five children, one of whom is Frank E., the subject of this sketch, was born on January 22, 1873.

Among First Hampton Academy Graduates

Frank Leavitt was a member of the first class which graduated from Hampton Academy in 1887. He was fourteen years old when he entered the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanics Arts at Hanover. He graduated in two years and went to work in a Boston mercantile establishment. In 1891, Mr. Leavitt made the long journey to California. He returned to Hampton in about one year and on April 30, 1892 married Sarah (Sadie) Louise Gillelan, daughter of Samuel and Carrie Gillelan,  who had come to Hampton from Newark, N.J. Almost immediately after the wedding, the young couple returned to California and Mr. Leavitt began his long and successful business career as a retail grocer in Mareno, San Bernardino County.

Associated With Silas Pierce Co.

After a few years on the West Coast, the Leavitts returned to New England and Mr. Leavitt became associated with Silas Pierce Company, one of Boston’s best known retail and wholesale food firms. He was made a district manager of the company in this capacity moved to Portsmouth where he lived for some time in the early 1900’s. It was only natural that he should become prominently identified with community life in Portsmouth and he served as police commissioner in the Port city from 1910 to 1918. He was also president of the YMCA and held various other civic posts of importance. Mr. Leavitt returned to Hampton around 1922 to live in the Leavitt Homestead at the North Beach which he had inherited from an uncle.  

Extensive North Beach Holdings

It was at this period of his life that we first became acquainted with Mr. Leavitt and with his gracious wife, the mother of their four children; three sons and a daughter, all of whom had grown up, married and had children of their own before their parents returned to their ancestral acres on the North Beach. And these acres were many, extending from the Homestead at the corner of High Street, northward along the Boulevard as far as “The Colony.” His holdings included marshland, cranberry bogs, tillage land and valuable building lots. From his return in 1922 until a comparatively few years ago when he disposed of the last of his beach property, his boundless energy and varied talents were given to the improvement of his extensive holdings on North Beach. Except that he didn’t operate a grist mill, his activities were almost as numerous as those of his grandfather, Moses, the first Leavitt to move to this section of our town.

Dawn to Dusk Labors

Frank Leavitt improved the homestead, he developed the Leavitt Campground, he built new houses of the type that are a real credit to the North Beach and to our town and he sub-divided pasture and field into generous-sized house lots which he sold at fair prices. He had wonderfully productive vegetable gardens and beautiful flower gardens and he looked carefully after his fruit trees while tending many beehives. In the fall he raked barrels of excellent cranberries from bogs which he found time to cultivate. And except for the unusual cooperation of a good wife, he had no help in this varied accomplishments which required daily attention from dawn to dusk. We and many others have been the grateful recipients of vegetables, fruit, flowers, honey and cranberries from this hard working, bronzed gentleman whom we affectionately regarded as “The Squire of North Beach.”

Attended All Responsibilities

And Frank Leavitt never neglected his citizenship responsibilities. He supported local, regional and state organizations, designed to aid industrial, agricultural and recreational business. He found time to serve the community as Chief of Police and to assist the Chamber of Commerce as an officer and director. In fact, he gave active personal aid to many projects, designed not particularly to improve North Beach but to make Hampton Beach as a whole a better and more successful recreational community. He was long past the age at which most men seek when he began to ease up a bit. He journeyed to the Near East to visit one of his sons, all three of whom had achieved success in their respective fields of endeavor. And he became more fully acquainted with the winter advantages of Florida.

“The Good Squire”

Mrs. Leavitt died on January 18, 1944 and several years thereafter Mr. Leavitt married Mrs. Mae Davis who survives him. We are told that he made a garden of rare and beautiful flowers and shrubs out of the back yard of his home in St. Petersburg and that the spot had become a sanctuary for birds. It is a fitting monument for an unusual gentleman. Frank Leavitt was proud of his Hampton heritage, but he was too wise, too experienced and too cultured to make a fetish out of it. Like Rev. Floyd Kinsley, who gave a simple but touching eulogy at the funeral, we do not know “his creed.” But his full life; his splendid family, which includes sixteen grandchildren and as many great grandchildren; his love of nature and the whole great out-of-doors, give mute evidence of a deep, underlying faith in a great and loving God who orders an incomprehensible universe. Dignified, a bit reserved, but at heart, kind and generous, our town will never forget this ninth generation representative of the Hampton leavitt family -- a gentleman whom we shall always remember as “The Good Squire of North Beach.”

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