by Mary O'Neill
Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group
Gilmanton is a peaceful and charming town with two small village areas, the Four Corners and the Iron Works – a fine place to live. But where are the "cultural advantages," some might argue. To this, Gene Logsdon, American author and farmer, would answer, "Why does no one speak of the cultural advantages of the country? For example, is a well-groomed...fertile farm [or an unspoiled, country setting like Gilmanton] any less cultural, any less artful, than paintings of fat angels on church ceilings?" (Logsdon, Living at Nature's Pace).
And then there are the advantages of country living that urban life can never deliver. Nobel laureate Halldor Laxness had some strong thoughts on this subject: "Townfolks have no conception of the peace that mother nature bestows, and as long as that peace is unfound the spirit must seek to quench its thirst with ephemeral novelties...the countryman, on the other hand, walks out into the verdant meadows into an atmosphere clear and pure, and as he breathes it into his lungs some unknown power streams through his limbs, invigorating body and soul" (Laxness, Independent People).
It is well worth your time to look into properties in Gilmanton. The history of this tranquil town dates back to 1727, when, on the 20th of May, Colonial Governor John Wentworth signed a charter officially incorporating the town. But due to fear of Native Americans in the region and land disputes, it was not settled until 1761. In that year, two brothers from the town of Brentwood were granted land in Gilmanton. John and Benjamin Mudgett set off during the summer months to clear the land and make preparations to spend the winter in the new town. Late in the fall they returned to the Brentwood area to gather their families and return with them to Gilmanton. Heavy snows initially delayed them, but on the evening of December 26, in the midst of the storm, Benjamin and his bride of five days, Hannah, set out on snowshoes to cover the trek from Epsom (Bardwell & Bergeron, The Lakes Region New Hampshire).
"If I attempt to go further it will kill me, and if I stop here I shall but die," cried Hannah Mudgett in the middle of the storm, and yet they pressed on (Bardwell & Bergeron). Eventually they reached the crude shelter built by Benjamin during the summer. Thus Hannah was the first white woman to live in Gilmanton and she remained in the area until her death at age 95. Within 15 days, John Mudgett and his wife and the family of Orlando Weed joined them (Bardwell & Bergeron). By 1767, there were 45 families living in the town (gilmantonnh.org). The first official census in 1790 records a population of 2,613. Today, 226 years later, the population has only increased a little over a thousand, hovering around 3,700 (nhes.nh.gov).
Within the town are several beautiful waterbodies that offer an affordable way to own waterfront or water access property. Crystal Lake is located near the historic center of Gilmanton. Unspoiled forested areas surround the 455-acre lake while summer camps and residences ring its shoreline. A state launch at the southern tip provides access to this warm-water fishery (nhfishfinder.com). One hundred and forty-five acre Shellcamp Lake accommodates all types of activities such as boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and fishing. To the north of this lake are Meadow Pond State Forest and Betty Smithers Town Forest and to the south are Ella Stroud Memorial Forest and Shaker State Forest, offering groomed trails for hiking and biking (lakelubbers.com). Reasonably-priced homes and camps encircle 82-acre Sawyer Lake. Homeowners have access to five sandy association beaches. A variety of species including trout, bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, crappie, carp, and catfish make the lake a popular fishing spot (hookandbullet.com). Other waterbodies include 199-acre Manning Lake, Loon Pond, Lake Eileen, Rollins Pond, and Meetinghouse Pond (gilmantonnh.org).
There are places waiting to be discovered along many a country road or tucked along the lakeshore. One property currently available represents an adventure into the past. Build in 1793, the Temperance Tavern is a stately building situated in the Four Corners. It once served as the Governor's Mansion, the town's public house, and a courthouse. Now a private residence, all the antique features have been retained and restored including wide pine floors, six working Rumford fireplaces, and the dramatic 42 foot by 18 foot "Tavern" room (rocherealty.com). Or opt for a gentleman's dream on a magnificent parcel of land overlooking fields, ponds, and mountains.
Gilmanton is a wonderful possibility for aspiring homesteaders, city folk who dream of the countryside, or for those who just want a few moments of peace. I would match Gilmanton's rural roads gliding past sparkling lakes and historic buildings to "paintings of fat angels on church ceilings" any day.
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a sales associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith and Laconia, and can be reached at 603-366-6306.
Temperance Tavern in Gilmanton's Four Corners transports you into another time. (Courtesy photo)
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