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5/10/07 - A Glimpse Into Old-Time Gilford


Certainly one of the most important functions of any historical society is to record the family histories of those who live within its community. Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical Society recently invited long-time local resident, Shirley Faller, to share some of her family memories.

In between heavy rainstorms this spring, Faller took a leisurely tour of Gilford's historic Benjamin Rowe House. A warm and friendly woman, Faller beamed as she walked through the rooms of the Rowe House. The house itself, as well as the artifacts that are housed within, brought back wonderful childhood memories of her aunt's house in Gilford.

"Houses from this time period had all sorts of nooks and crannies; they really had a lot of character," Faller remarked, "I've always been so fond of things from the 1700's and 1800's." Her uncle along with her aunt, Lena Roberts, owned one of Gilford's old farmhouses, complete with a traditional wrap-around porch.

Sitting in the dining room of the Rowe House, Faller recalled life during the rural days in Gilford, a time when the town consisted of only farms. "People back then definitely had a more difficult time than we do today. I can remember my mother and father's potato crop failing one year and that created a big problem with their food supply. But people back then knew how to live off the land, and they got through it." Another aunt and uncle ran the town's "poor farm", a place where people in trouble went when they had nowhere else to turn. Gilford's poor farm, a simple farmhouse, was located at the end of a brook on Route 11. "You could follow that brook and come right to the poor farm," said Faller. It is fitting that brook was and is still called Poor Farm Brook; it meanders through Gunstock Acres in Gilford.

Faller's mother preferred life in a bigger town despite the fact that most of her family lived in Gilford, and thus, Faller was raised in Laconia. She most certainly looked forward to summer vacations with time spent at her Aunt Lena's house, which was located on Cherry Valley Road. Faller remembered, "Cherry Valley Road was a dirt road then and anyone who lived past the entrance to Gunstock Ski Area was considered to be really living 'out there'. The distance from town was always an issue. I remember my cousin, Iva Phelps, acting as a midwife because the doctor couldn't get all the way out there in time. My cousin didn't have any training for that sort of thing, but she did it; that's what people did." The distance from town also created problems for local politicians as well. Faller chuckled as she told a story about two men running for local office, "Well, one was a Republican and the other a Democrat, of course, and since they were from opposing parties they absolutely refused to ride into town together. One rode in and the other walked!"

Obtaining the basics in life may have been more difficult back then but there was a certain charm to that life that we seem to have lost. Faller smiled as she recalled the down-to-earth lifestyle of farm life, "There was a certain peaceful silence that is missing today; the only noise that you heard was the sound of the cow bells as the cows grazed across the pasture." She would spend hours with her cousin, Iva, hiking across Gunstock, picking wild blueberries, playing in the barn's hayloft, and eating healthy, homegrown food. "I remember my uncle haying across the street, and that was done with horses, not tractors." said Faller.

Once married, she lived with her husband in New Jersey for two years but the Faller's eventually came back to Gilford to settle down and raise their family here. They bought a house "down the road a piece" from Faller's beloved aunt and they were supplied with an abundance of food from the farm. She did a lot of home canning with that food. "I canned quite a bit, and then I took a break from it. When I finally went back to canning, I had forgotten how wonderful the taste was!" Faller remembered.

Activities in the l960's, when the Faller boys were growing up, included being part of the Gilford Outing Club. Faller said of the G.O.C., "The Gilford Outing Club was a really wonderful organization. We'd usually have four mothers scheduled to serve refreshments and then, of course, four fathers would run the tow operation. The kids whose parents were working that day were always very proud. I learned to perfect my skiing there. My husband didn't ski; he was just a city boy from New Jersey, but he still got out there and pitched in."

Gilford Town Beach provided summer fun and entertainment for the Faller's. "I remember a time when there was no town beach as we know it today. Many residents were opposed to the town making the purchase of that beach, but how fortunate we are in Gilford that they did!" said Faller.

Major changes in Gilford have occurred since Faller's family farmed here. The hayfields that were used to grow hay are gone, as is the barn which stored that hay. Cherry Valley Road is now paved. Faller said, "They paved the road when Gunstock became a major ski area. They figured that if they had a nice ski area then there should be a nice paved road, too. Gunstock started as one slope. The Gunstock Inn was once the Barracks for workers on the Gunstock project. After that, the Barracks became a lodge for skiers. It was very simple in the beginning since people were more concerned about skiing; they just needed a place to sleep at night."

The changes that have occurred in Gilford have forever changed the character of the town and Gilford's historical society would like to thank local residents like Shirley Faller for sharing their memories and stories. It becomes essential to record these stories so that the history of the community is not completely lost.

If you would like to share your family's stories and history, please contact the Thompson-Ames Historical Society at thomames@worldpath.net. Also check our website for upcoming events @ gilfordhistoricalsociety.org.