"Highlights of History" for Gilford Steamer’s 25 July 2004 issue


Sometimes it takes a long time for a wish to come true, but those who truly believe don’t lose hope during such a long wait. Just ask Jessie Smith Naylor.

Born and raised in Gilford, Mrs. Naylor has always valued preservation of cultural heritage. It’s no wonder that she has long been an active member of the Mary Butler Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Gilford’s Thompson—Ames Historical Society.

To her credit, she was instrumental in helping add two important farm signs to Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s display in the Hallway of Historic Signs at the John J. Morrill/Graflge Museum Building, at 8 Belknap Mountain Road in Gilford Village.

One sign, from Gilford’s historic Meetinghouse Hill on Gunstock Hill Road, spotlights the Weeks Farm and was donated by Washburn who owned the historic farm from 196% until 1972.

The other features the Smith Farm on Morrill Street and has a setting of a maple tree with sap bucket and a peck basket of apples to keep viewers mindful of two important aspects of that farm’s high lights. Both displays include historic summaries which were written by Mrs. Naylor.

These are two cultural preservation efforts which Jessie Smith Naylor was persistent in carrying through to completion.

But it was another preservation goal which evaded completion for some ten years that gave Jessie Smith Naylor true happiness; in fact, her long-standing wish came true about the time of her 90th birthday celebration.

The accompanying photograph shows what Jessie Smith Naylor ‘s long-standing big wish was for: a bronze plaque affixed to a granite marker to denote the site of Gilford Village’s first schoolhouse.

Built in 1806, Gilford Village’s one room school housed more than sixty pupils and "was known as a difficult school to manage , according to the findings of Adair Mulligan as included in her book The Gunstock Parish, A History of Gilford, New Hampshire. Students attended in late summer, fall and winter so that they could work on the farms during planting and harvesting months. The school was rebuilt in 1854 to better accommodate the growing student population. In 1892 the original building was abandoned when a new school was opened on Potter Hill Road in the village, in back of what was then the John J. Morrill Store, now the Grange Museum Building.

Some ten years ago Jessie Smith Naylor and her late husband, Howard, had noted the site of Gilford Village’s first schoolhouse. A granite marker was set in place on Schoolhouse Hill Road, near the junction of Route 11-A in Gilford Village, in Gilford’s "historic district", to await the addition of a bronze plaque.

Finally, in the autumn of 2003, the Mary Butler Chapter, of the OAR, and the Thompson-Ames Historical Society joined forces to have the appropriate bronze plaque made and installed, just about the time of Jessie Smith Naylor’s 90th birthday -- thus making the big wish of Jessie Smith Naylor come true at long last as another step towards preserving Gilford’s cultural heritage.

Of course, winter’s snows soon arrived and the desire to take a picture of Jessie Smith Naylor standing next to the Village Schoolhouse Monument was put on hold.

Like Jessie, we too have learned to wait. And wait we did until the weather was just right. Then early one sunny morning a week or so ago, Jessie, accompanied by Barbara Smith Turener, visited the monument and Allan Turner snapped the accompanying photo.

This is the kind of perseverance that is needed, more often than not, to preserve and celebrate our town’s cultural history.