A Pox On Your House

HAMPTON FALLS — A recent Board of Selectmen meeting took a spellbinding turn when resident John Parker chose to air a grievance.

In a prepared typewritten statement, Parker, 78, a 50-year resident of Hampton Falls, asked the Board of Selectmen to contemplate his request to “restore Ancient Minutes” to the Annual Report.

Town Administrator Eric Small shares original town meeting documents from the 1700s with town resident John Parker

From 1997 to 2007, a few pages of minutes from town meetings 200 and 100 years prior to the date of the Annual Report were included, Parker said. In 2008, the historical minutes were excluded. According to officials, the pages were omitted as a means to save money.

“They were a delight to read because they provided a fascinating insight as to how we governed ourselves in the past,” Parker told the Board of Selectmen. “For the genealogists among us, how satisfying it was to come upon our ancestors, including my own.”

As selectmen soon learned, Parker’s ancestors were not your “typical” relatives.

“You should know that I have witches in my family, two of whom were hung as such on Sept. 22, 1692, in Salem, Mass.,” Parker told selectmen.

According to Parker, the names of the executed were Alice and Mary Parker. Additionally, Parker said his late wife, Sara A. Parker, was “a direct lineal descendant of Susannah Martin,” who “received the same ugly fate” as Alice and Mary on July 19, 1692.

“(If the selectmen choose not to include the historical documents in the forthcoming Annual Report), we shall have no recourse but to arouse the spirits of these said ruined souls in order that they may cast certain ‘vexatious spells’ upon thee,” Parker told the Board of Selectmen.

According to Parker, failure to honor his request would trigger a number of unfortunate occurrences, including the release of “thy cattle …; into the wilds of our fair town” and the loss of “thy wagon wheels …; in the spongiest portion” of the marsh.

Parker also informed selectmen that “thy Hair shall fall out,” and “crackers there shall be in thy beds,” should the board opt not to restore the historical minutes. “And, as mine wife’s late Aunt Louise was wont to say, ‘ye shall not prosper,'” Parker continued.

Hampton Falls resident, John Parker, 78, looks through old town meeting minutes after his successful “spellbinding” appeal to the Board of Selectmen to include portions of “Ancient Minutes” in the 2009 Hampton Falls Annual Report.

Should selectmen honor his request, Parker said his ancestral spirits would refrain from utilizing witchcraft, and town officials would enjoy favorable fortune.

“Whithersoever thou goest, ye shall find thyselves rich beyond measure, with buxom wives and numerous children who clean their rooms and, of course, a ne’er ending supply of strong waters,” he said.

Concluding his grievance, Parker warned selectmen they would be “judged” come election time and signed off, “respectfully.”

“Thy humble yet agitated citizen, 50 years living on Hogpen Road, and being rated that long, I remain faithfully thine,” he told selectmen.

“It was very eloquent,” Selectmen Chairman Michael Farinola said of Parker’s statement. “It brought back the flavor of some of those earlier minutes. It certainly is a reasonable request.”
“Do what needs to be done to take the curse off,” Selectman Richard McDermott said.

Selectmen voted unanimously to restore the pages of historical minutes to the Annual Report.

A week after presenting his bewitching request to selectmen, Parker had the opportunity to peruse the original town records from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s with Town Administrator Eric Small.

Over the years, Small said the town has sent out records to Brown’s River Bindery, located in Vermont, which specializes in the preservation of historical records, to ensure the binding and paper of the documents are properly safeguarded.

While looking through the records, Parker said his idea to request the restoration of the minutes in a style reminiscent of the past “just popped into my mind. Three hundred years ago, it was how people expressed themselves,” he explained.

Parker said an examination of an author from the 1800s, Nathaniel Hawthorne, helped him master syntax, grammar and pronouns that have disappeared from the English language over the years.

As far as using his creativity to make a relevant case for the “Ancient Minutes,” Parker said he was looking to “kill with comedy,” and is pleased selectmen recognized the need to preserve the minutes of town meetings from the past.

“There was a blip,” Parker said of the lack of historical minutes in last year’s Annual Report, “but (the selectmen) have seen the light.”

Originally published in the Hampton Union/Portsmouth Herald/Seacoastonline Oct. 9, 2009.

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