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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
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A New Hampshire Boyhood - A Gilford Offering

- Diane Mitton

In 1926 at the age of 80, Alvah Folsom Hunter dedicated his unpublished memoir A New Hampshire Boyhood to his children and grandchildren – an offering to them of memories of his boyhood in Gilford Village. The memoir focuses on the years of his boyhood from age four when his father, Heman Hunter moved his motherless family from Moultonborough to Gilford Village in 1851 to his departure at age of 16 for the Civil War.

Seventy-four years later, in 2004, Kelly White, who grew up in Gilford Village and is the present owner the Deacon Hunter House read his manuscript and wrote a book of poetry which she calls A Gilford Offering , loosely based on events in Hunter’s book. Together these two authors have given us a remarkable picture of the daily life of one family in a small NH village in the mid 1800s. Remarkable, as Adair Mulligan says for its very ordinariness.

“We met in the mills in 1850. He was from York and I was from Gilmanton. We both left farms in the North” Lowell

According to Alvah Hunter, his father Heman Hunter, born in Bristol, Maine left his family’s farm and found employment as a machinist in the Lowell Textile Mills about 1837. Hannah Folsom, at the age of twenty, left her father’s farm in Gilmanton to join an older sister in the Lowell Mills about 1839. Hannah and Heman met, fell in love and in 1843 were married. In 1847, tired of city life and longing for the country and a healthier life for their young family, they bought a farm in Moultonborough, NH where they remained for four years. It was here, in June 1851 that Hannah succumbed to typhoid fever when Charles was about six and Alvah four years old.

“My sister and I lie separated by the husband we shared.” Hannah Hunter (1819 – 1851) “Sister, I never thought to lose you.” Mary Hunter (1821 – 1895)

The winter after the death of his wife, when Winnipesaukee froze over, Heman moved his family from the Moultonborough farm across frozen Lake toGilford Village where he had made an exchange with Hannah’s brother Ben Gilman – a farm for a mill.

“Ours is the fifth mill on Gunstock River. It is equipped to do work in season: to saw wood, to card flax, to shape shingles, to grind meal.” Hunter’s Mill

Hannah’s parents and several of the Folsoms and Gilmans were living there and into this loving atmosphere the family arrived. In November 1852, Mary Folson, the younger sister of Hannah , home from the mills, married her sister’s husband. Alvah speaking of this says, “Mrs. Tebbets called Charles and me into the house and told us that father and Aunt Mary were married and that now we should call her mother instead of aunt; this seemed to be quite difficult, we could not think of her as mother, but one day when we were playing in the side-yard….I saw her looking at us as she was working at the kitchen sink, and I called out “mother” to her, then turned and ran out of sight. This seemed to please her, and in a short time we adopted the name and called her that constantly.” A New Hampshire Boyhood

“…..all spilling out of school and running, dodging, we’d go coasting, all the village, boys and girls flinging into a single sleigh…balanced at the very tip of Schoolhouse Hill…” Winter PastimesAlvah says the move to the Village was “of substantial benefit to Charles and me.” The Village at that time consisted of about thirty homes, two stores, two blacksmith shops, two church buildings, the town hall, a district schoolhouse, a sawmill and a tannery. Best of all from the point of view of Alvah “…in and just about the village lived twenty-five or thirty boys and about the same number of girls…..in whose games and frolics we promptly joined.”

“Indeed, our house was once one of three stores in our new town.” IndustryAlvah described how a year of so later Heman Hunter bought an old store building and according to Adair Mulligan rebuilt it into a two-story Greek Revival style home. Hunter altered it to site it laterally to the road, reoriented the roof and attached a rebuilt shed and “smallish” barn. As Alvah says, “we now had a ‘complete set of buildings’ as the country people phrase it, all connected together as is the custom in the country.”

“Noone ever called me that. Nor miller. Nor mister. I was just Hunter.
…..our very lives dependent on steady hands, level heads, quick judgements..” Deacon Hunter

Every family in our section of the Village came for Sunday dinner…garden’s bounty set the table, best in all the country..” Baked Bean Sundays

It is easy to see that Alvah had a deep and abiding respect and admiration for his father for all that he was and was able to do- what ever was needed. From rebuilding a house, building furniture to last, raising a champion hog, running the mill, and for his long years as town clerk, church deacon, good neighbor.. a resourceful, kind and temperate man. Nor was Heman the only industrious member of the family. Mary also contributed to the well-being of the Hunter family “The brick bake oven with its cast iron doors, served not only the Hunter family but many of the neighbors as well, and turned out smoked hams, pork-apple pies, and bread.” Says Adair Mulligan, former owner of the Hunter home, in The Gunstock Parish.

Ms. White has graciously consented to opening her home for guests of the Thompson-Ames Historical Society at 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, August 15th when T-AHS will host “A Gathering at the Deacon Hunter House” at 30 Belknap Mt. Road. Ms. White will read from Alvah Hunter’s A New Hampshire Boyhood and from her latest book of poetry A Gilford Offering. Tea with Hannah and Mary Hunter and a tour of the Hunter home will complete this enjoyable and informative look into Gilford’s historical past.

Reservation are limited to 15. Please call T-AHS at 52-9009 to pre-register.

Kelly White is a Gilford native, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Medical School, She is a pediatrician in inner-city Philadelphia. Her poems have been published widely in several book collections and chap-books, and have appeared in numerous journals.