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12-18-05   Historically the Lights have been kept burning in Gilford

Blustery winter can chill to the bones but seemingly more so during the dark of night. At no other time is the flicker of a light more welcome.

Historically a farmer would carry a lantern while outdoors doing chores at night. A candle in a window of the farmhouse acted not only as a beacon giving direction in the night but also a sign of welcome.

The custom of placing candles in windows of our homes today keeps alive a tradition that is grounded in history.

Whereas a true flickering candle was used in the 1700s up through the early 1900s, electricity has made possible more convenient and safer electric-powered candles today.

In the museum displays of Thompson-Ames Historical Society in Gilford Village a visitor can see candle molds used in bygone days to create the many, many candles that were needed. Also included in the displays are several vintage lanterns.

If you drive through Gilford’s Historic District, at 88 Belknap Mountain Road you’ll come to the Benjamin Rowe House. The windows of this c. 1838 farmhouse, which is on the NH State Register of Historic Places, offer to the traveler flickers of welcoming light reminiscent of times past.

In the Rowe House parlor a Christmas tree, standing in one corner, is decorated as in times past with candles. -- How thankful we are that in these days strings of Christmas tree lights with “electrified” candles are available!

Madrigal festivities at the First United Methodist Church of Gilford-Laconia in the latter part of the 1900s and early 2000s used candles standing in sand in paper bags along the walkway to greet guests as well as to provide light for them.

During the late 1900s a more modern twist was used in Gilford Village as candles standing in sand in frosted plastic gallon milk containers flickered greetings of the season to people driving through the Historic District.

Street lights were in existence in Gilford Village in the early 1900s. We refer to Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s book The Gunstock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hampshire, in which author Adair Mulligan states, “Streetlamps appear in early photos of the village, and provided pocket money to Ahira Bacon in the 1910s. Bacon carried his ladder and kerosene around to light the half-dozen lamps each night, except when the moon was bright.”

Each winter, lights flicker in the front windows of Gilford’s Grange Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places as the John J. Morrill Store of 1857.

To learn more about electricity’s coming to Gilford, we again turn to the Gunstock Parish book. It is stated that electrification came to Gust Copp’s sawmill on Gunstock Brook in 1895, but, in reference to the Grange Building, it is stated, “In 1922 a Delco lighting system, run by a gasoline motor in the woodshed, provided reliable electricity if Charlie Gove was there to minister to the motor.”

Historically, the bottom line is that lights have been kept burning in Gilford as a welcoming beacon to residents and visitors alike.