"HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY" FOR GILFORD STEAMER’S May 13, 2004 ISSUE
GILFORD’s OLD CEMETERIES AID GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH
Interest in genealogical research brings many inquiries to historical societies, including to Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society.
Inquiries, from as far away as Texas as well as from several New England states, come in the form of letters, telephone calls, or e-mails, with some being referrals from our local Town Hall or Public Library. At other times, persons actually travel to Gilford in search of information to help create accurate family trees.
The changing of local historic boundary lines over time has created obstacles for these genealogists who are in search of information of ancestors believed to have lived in Gilford.
Adair Mulligan’s research reveals the area of Gilford to have been part of Captain John Mason’s 1622 "Laconia" tract of land which was bounded by the Merrimack River and extended inland for sixty miles. As stated in Gilford’s 1995 history, "The interior remained the province of the Abenaki, who gathered around the fishery of Aquadoctan (now the weirs)."
In 1727, six inland townships were granted. One of these was Gilmanton, whose original boundaries encompassed Belmont, Gilford, Lakeport, and a portion of Laconia south and east of the Winnipesaukee River, as well as all of present—day Gilmanton.
After the French and Indian Wars were over, permanent settlement of this large new town by the Scotch-Irish—English occurred in the early 1760s but was restricted for over a decade to the lower part of the town. In 1794, "the earliest cluster of settlement in present-day Gilford surrounded a fine meetinghouse constructed on the summit of Gunstock Hill," Adair Mulligan tells us, while a lone sawmill occupied the site of the current Gilford village until after 1807 when the land there was no longer reserved for the ministry.
Concurrently, development proceeded along the Winnipesaukee River with a couple dams constructed to control the level of Lake Winnipesaukee to furnish water power for sawmill and other industries.
Terminology helped differentiate among the three areas of the historic town of Gilmanton. "Lower Parish" continued to refer to present—day Gilmanton, while "Upper Parish" described the Belmont area, and the Gilford— Laconia—Lakeport region became increasingly known as the "Gunstock Parish" -- thus the title of Gilford’s 1995 history book.In 1812 the residents of Gunstock Parish succeeded in separating from Gilmanton and formed their own town which they called "Gilford".
Further redefinition of Gilford’s boundary lines followed in the later 1800s as the extension of railroad lines stimulated commercial ventures.
In 1874, Laconia, which had been created in 1855 from the Meredith side of Meredith Bridge along the river, annexed the west portion of Gilford, including the Belknap County Courthouse and Gilford Academy. Then, in 1893, the City of Laconia annexed Gilford’s northwestern section, including the remaining section of Meredith Bridge and the manufacturing area of Lake Village, and the character of the town of Gilford abruptly changed.
These many boundary changes certainly have created difficulties for researchers who try to learn about people who lived in "Gilford". Yet, with perseverance, genealogical research can be successful, as evinced by the many genealogical group and pedigree charts that are part of the archival records of Gilford’s Thompson—Ames Historical Society.
Thompson-Ames Historical Society will offer a free workshop "Introduction to Beginning Genealogy" on Saturday morning, May 15.
The workshop will be held from 10:00 a.m. until noon in the society’s Grange Museum Building, at 8 Belknap Mountain Road, in Gilford Village.
Workshop presenter Susan Spearin Leach has extensive experience doing genealogical research. During the workshop, she will share insights garnered during her research experiences and will make available forms that are useful in doing both family group and pedigree charts.
"Becoming familiar with grave markers in cemeteries is very-useful in doing genealogical research," suggested Susan Leach recently during a walking tour of one of Gilford’s historic cemeteries.
Samples of genealogical research, including some from Thompson—Ames Historical Society’s archives, also will be on display.