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1/25/07   The Search for Benjamin Rowe

Written by Diane Mitton

Adair Mulligan said that the "Rowe House was more than just a beautiful historic building gracing the Village. It represents the legacy of the Rowe family, a family that for 100 years called Gilford home." And yet, what do we know of this family.

As far as we know, it began with Capt. Robert Rowe (1684-1761) and Apphia Shaw (1699- ?) in Kensington, NH. By 1726 the Rowe family had moved to Brentwood, NH where Simon Rowe's sons Ezekiel and his brother Benjamin (1726) were born. Both of these men eventually moved to Gilford where we find Benjamin, married to Susan(ah) Tuck, in 1815. Benjamin and Susan purchased the 85 acre homestead farm of Jessie Thing on the southern end of the village where they eventually built the beautiful brick farmhouse that still "graces the Village" and where their descendants remained for the next one hundred years. Benjamin and Susan had two sons, Simon and Benjamin Franklin, and three daughters.

In a journal kept by Benjamin, Jr., he speaks admiringly of his parents. "My father, I think, is a man of more than ordinary abilities. His inventive power is very great. He is a firm believer in the Christian religion and is always prompt in the performance of his duties. My mother possesses great force of character and is a devoted Christian." Benjamin Jr., himself a pious young man, became a professor of elocution at Bowdoin College. He died at an early age and is buried with his parents in the Pine Grove Cemetery. In addition, Benjamin, Sr. was a farmer, builder, brick maker, silk worm grower and church elder. His son Simon was a farmer and a shoe maker and seved as town clerk. Less pious than his parents and brother, he nevertheless was considered an outstanding citizen.

Simon eventually took over the family farm where he raised his family. In the 1880 census, Benjamin, age 89 and Susan, age 84 are living on the farm with Simon and his wife Mary. Also living with them is Simon's daughter Mary. His son Albaneus died of consumption at the age of 15. and at his death, the farm passed into the female line. In "1908 his son-in-law, John Barnard Morrill retained much of the land and sold the homestead and seventy acres to Ernest Sawyer who converted it to a dairy farm."

The Rowe Farm which consisted of 85 acres when Benjamin purchased it from Jesse Thing probably falls under the description of a typical large farm of the mid-1800s as described on page p94 of The Gunstock Parish - "In 1826 the typically stable larger farmer had 15-20 acres of working land, with another 30-70 acres of woodlot. On this active land, the farmer grazed his animals on eight to ten acres of pasture, mowed hay from a separate four to five acres for winter feeding and actually tilled only a single acre for crops….another acre was devoted to (an) orchard."

The Rowe House stands as a monument to Benjamin Rowe and his family and yet we know relatively little of the family. Currently we are pursuing the acquisition of a Rowe family Bible. This family Bible was purchased about 2004 on e-bay by an individual in Texas hoping to find a connection to her husband's Rowe family. Unable to do this and knowing that the Bible mentions Rowe family members of Gilford, NH, she has expressed a willingness to donate the Bible to T-AHS. T-AHS is very interested in acquiring memrobelia and documents (originals or copies) related to the Rowe family and invites anyone with knowledge and/or photos of the family to get in contact with us at 527-9009 or by e-mailing us at thomames@worldpath.net.

Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical Society is a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the cultural history of Gilford, NH and adjacent areas. The Society, dating back to 1943, meets its preservation goals through the collection, research, documentation and appropriatae conservation of materials including papers, photographs and artifacts of daily life relevant to Gilford, as well as the maintenance and operataion of the two Society owned buildings, The Mt. Belknap Grange and the Union Meetinhouse, and the historic Rowe House operated under lease from the Town of Gilford. The Society is dedicated to the presentation of educational programs, activities to keep alive heritage arts and crafts, the promoting of historical publications and to commujnity service. Anyone interested in more information on the activities of Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical Society can visit our website (www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org), our office at 8 Belknap Mt. Road (open whenever the Open flag is displayed), or by calling us at 603-527-9009 to arrange for a tour of the society's buildings, You may also write us at the e-mail address given above.

I am endebted to The Gilford Parish byAdair Mulligan, Susan Leach and Fred Kacprzynski for information contained in this article.