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9/20/07 - Gust and Jennie Copp and the Union Meetinghouse

In 1835 Joseph Potter erected a sawmill on the last fall of the Gunstock Brook in what is now called the Intervale. He and his son John ran the mill for several years producing shingles , lath and clapboards. Some years later, Hazen Copp, who had built nearby bought the mill. While we don't know exactly when this happened, it may have been in the late 1840s as the 1880 census shows that Hazen had a daughter Abbie born in Bristol, NH in Dec 1845 and another daughter, Lizzie born in Gilford in 1852. By 1854, Hazen had added a grist mill to the sawmill operation. His son Gust, born in Bristol in 1838, operated the mill with his father, eventually becoming the owner. In addition to the previous mentioned items, the mill turned out on its huge lathe such "high-end" pieces, according to Adair Mulligan (The Gunstock Parish), as balusters, and newel and porch posts. Copp also sold pine finish wood to the Laconia Car Shop and the 1882 town report shows Gust Copp providing lumber and planking for the Lake Village Bridge as contracted. The 1880 census lists Copp as a contractor and a builder.

In 1861 at the age of 22 Gust married Sarah Jane Thurston in Gilford. Jennie, as she was called, was 16 years old. It must have been around this time that he served in the Civil War. His gravestone in the Pine Grove Cemetery shows that he was a member of Co. G, 1st Reg., NH volunteers. Jennie and Gust are of particular interest to Thompson-Ames Historical Society because of their involvement with the Methodist Church, now known as the Union Meetinghouse, and one of the museum buildings owned by T-AHS.

Fortunately, Jennie Copp who was of an artistic nature created a charming and well executed oil painting of the mill and the Copp homes which were built on the adjacent hillside. This painting is now owned by her great grand niece, Marian Harris of Gilford. I went to the home of Marian and her sister to see the painting and spent a delightful hour visiting with them and talking about Jennie Copp. The only building remaining on the site is the small house shown in the lower right of the painting, for many years the home of the Tobey family. Jennie died in 1925, surviving her husband by 18 years. Unfortunately the couple had no children. Harris remembers her mother, who lived at the Harris Farm (now Beans & Greens) telling of visiting her great aunt Jennie at the request of her mother who told her " she (Jennie) was alone and would enjoy the company." The little girl, willing to make the visit, was somewhat frightened by the Intervale and so would run all the way there and back.

In 1874 the Methodist Episcopal Church acquired the former Universalist Church in the Village and Hazen and Gust Copp made some repairs. Then in 1889, a major renovation took place, designed and executed by Gust Copp. It is this renovation which assures Gust Copp a place in Gilford history. Local historian. David Ruell when doing an evaluation of the building stated that it may well depend on the many interior decorative woodworking designs created by Gust Copp to raise the architectural value of the building and make it eligible for the National Register. One of the most striking features of Copp's creativity is the trompe l'oeil design behind the altar which Ruell says "tricks the eye into believing that there is another room added to the auditorium." Copp's "artful workmanship" is also evident in the design above the windows in which the paneling is in horizontal and vertical rectangles. Other elaborate woodworking designs may be observed along the other walls. Little has changed since Copp's renovation of 1889. On Nov. 13, 1889, a new bell was presented to the church by S. Jennie Copp , who was, according to the Nov. 17, 1889 issue of the News and Critic "the moving spirit of the whole work." And so the building stands as a joint tribute to Gust and Jennie Copp.

Today, these walls and ceiling are in critical need of attention and T-AHS will soon have to consider mounting a major fund raising campaign to restore them to their former beauty.

Further proof of Jennie's artistry is a fine floral wreath made of locks of hair in various shades from Thurston family members. The wreath, located in the Victorian area at the Meetinghouse, is mounted in an oval shadow box type of frame. Also exhibited in the Meetinghouse is Copp's military cap. We know them to have been talented and accomplished and photographs of Jennie and Gust show them to have been an attractive couple as well.

Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical Society welcomes family photographs and history to add to our knowledge of Gilford's families. Your family history will be preserved for future generations . Please call 527-9009 or contact us by email at thomames@worldpath.net. You may view our website at www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org. The historic1838 Rowe House is open through the month of August on Thursdays and Fridays from 10a.m. to 2p.m. Appointments may be made to visit the Mt. Belknap Grange building and the Meetinghouse.