Historic Highlights" for Gilford Steamer’s 10 June 2004 issue

It’s time to celebrate "Founders Day"

It’s mid-June, time for Gilfordites to think about celebrating "Founders Day."

"Who exactly were the ‘founders’?" people often ask.

There’s no simple answer to that question.

If we can rely on legend, one name could be Greene Chase.

To learn about this legend, we turn to Adair Mulligan’s words in The Gunstock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hampshire.

Greene Chase and two companions came up from lower Gilmanton to hunt cougar in what later came to be called Gunstock Mountain. They found tracks of a very large cat near the foot of the mountain. Chase, husky and a good woodsman, "...had just broken his snowshoe when the animal appeared suddenly on an overhanging ledge just above his head, whereupon his two companions fled with their dog. As Chase raised his musket to fire, the hammer of the gun broke. He quickly shifted ends of the gun and struck the cat a heavy blow, killing it and breaking the gun stock. As he proceeded to skin the creature, the others returned and offered help, which he rejected. Word got around when people asked Chase where he had killed such a large catamount. Emboldened by his success, Chase soon moved to catamount country and erected a homestead at the top of (what came to be called) Belknap Mountain Road."

This legend lends credence to the source of the name for both "Gunstock Mountain" and "Gunstock Brook" as well as for "Gunstock Parish" and, later, "Gunstock Village" and paints a picture of the kind of person who may have gravitated to and settled in the rustic environs of our historic area in the 1700s when the dangers of attack by natives kept many a more cautious folk content to live within the more protected "Lower Parish" of Gilmanton.

People attracted to Gunstock Parish’s better soils and water power include Samuel Gilman, John Bennett, Jr., James Ames, John Edgerly, Lowell Sanborn, Thomas Frohock, Samuel Jewett, and Samuel Ladd ——all names of potential Founders, as are the names of people associated with the 1794 era of Meetinghouse Hill —- with the list extending to include Daniel Stevens, Benjamin Jewett, William Sibley, and Elder Martin.

Or, to look at the picture more narrowly, perhaps Gilford’s Founders are only those people whose names are associated with the 1812 Incorporation of Gilford as a town -- a climax of an effort that dates back to its origin in 1792 when people living in Gunstock Parish not only did not relish sending tax money to a distant governing body but also found it difficult if not impossible to attend town meetings in Gilmanton when the five- to twenty-mile trip over bad roads could take hours of difficult travel each way.

On June 16, 1812, the part of Gilmanton called Gunstock Parish was disannexed and, according to Adair Mulligan’s words in The Gun— stock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hamspshire, "...the citizens of the nascent town turned ... to the most battle-weary of their brethren, Lieutenant Lemuel Mason, who was actively pushing for the towns s incorporation as representative to the state legislature" to select a name for their new town. Mason proposed to name the town after a decisive battle in the Revolutionary War, the 1781 Revolutionary War battle of Guilford Court House in North Carolina. In the end, an untraceable error gave our town’s name the unique spelling of "Gilford".

June 16 is recognized as "Founders Day" in Gilford. Annually Founders Day provides an opportunity for us to look back on and appreciate our town’s history.

Founders Day has been celebrated in several ways during recent years.

The result of one effort can be found at ges.gilford.k12.nh.us, Gilford Elementary School’s website. Teacher Otis Wirth and his third-grade students created this "Pictorial Walking Tour of Gilford Village", based on A Walking Tour published by the Gilford Historic District Commission in the year 1990, reprinted in 1991.

A year ago students in the class of Sixth-Grade Language Arts Teacher Michelle Demers, in conjunction with Co—Seed, created a Quest activity, similar to an historical scavenger hunt, which they shared with third—grade students as a culmination of grade three social studies curriculum that focuses on the history of Gilford.

This year Thompson-Ames Historical Society President Joan Nelson and Co-Seed Facilitator Alan McIntyre, of the Prescott Farm Audubon Society, have jointly created a "2004 Founders Day Quest" that will be available for use on Saturday, June 12 and Saturday, June 19. It is designed as a small pamphlet with map and poetic clues to act as a guide for a group of up to four people, including at least one adult, to follow while walking in Gilford’s historic district, starting in the Town Hall parking lot at the location of the Tannery Hill Bridge.

The Library’s Saturday hours of 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. will facilitate one of the "Quest" stops while Thompson-Ames Historical Society will hold a 10:00 a.m. 4:00 p.m. "Open House" on both Saturdays at the Grange Museum Building, the Union Meetinghouse, and the Benjamin Rowe House to provide access for other "Quest" stops.

It is anticipated that this 2004 Quest will take about two hours to complete but the activities can be broken down to be done over a period of more than one day.

Although the "2004 Founders Day Quest" is a perfect follow-up to the Grade Three May and June field trips that have been taking place at the three vintage buildings where Gilford’s historical society maintains displays, this activity is also enjoyable and suitable for all school—age youngsters as well as adults.

To reserve a copy of the "2004 Founders Day Quest", telephone 527-9009 and leave your name and telephone number.

It is hoped that a Quest-type scavenger hunt will become an annual way of celebrating "Founders Day’ in Gilford.

This Quest activity and the six-hour Open House opportunities at the three vintage buildings in Gilford’s historic district are free and open to the general public.