This article by Newt Tolman, with illustrations by Mark Kelley, appeared in Yankee Magazine in August 1973. It is posted here with Yankee’s approval. Family photographs have been added by Karen Tolman.
While driving around town looking at old barns, and imagining those long lost to decay, we wonder the plight of our old New Hampshire barns. Here's the scoop on our own barn!
It is the second Tuesday of March 1946, and, just as in each of the years since, the Nelson Town Meeting will decide many of the directions the Town will take the following year: who will lead, how much must be raised in taxes, what will be done about the most pressing issues the Town faces.
This was in the mid-sixties. It was a rather warmish, foggy night in January. I had come back to New Hampshire to go to the contra dance - in Dublin, as it happened. I ran into Barry (Tolman)..........
Albert Quigley's Nelson: An Artist's Vision was a PowerPoint presentation prepared and presented by Lance Tucker for the Nelson, NH Summer Library Forum Series on July 13, 2017. This youtube was made by merging the live recording from that presentation with accompanying photographs to help tell the story of the life and work of Albert Quigley.
A tropical hurricane is impossible in New England? It might have been so once, but no longer. Mark Twain once said “If you don’t like New England weather, wait a few hours.” That may not be what he actually said, but it undoubtedly is exactly what he meant. It has rained more or less steadily since last Wednesday night, seven days and nights of almost uninterrupted rainfall.
Do you know Floppy Tolman? If you don’t you might like to. Maybe you have heard of her “confabulations,” the whimsical creations made of such practical discards as watch parts and buildings scraps. Or maybe you do know Floppy. If you do you know someone special.
A small problem can itch and harass as much as a black fly bite and can be as hard to get rid of. For instance, 59¢ showed up on a town bank statement one year when I was treasurer. It didn’t belong to the town’s account. I had receipts for every cent I’d deposited - receipts for dog licenses, taxes, car fees - everything.
After forty years of use, I’ve finally had to discard a braided rug Ma Tolman made at the Ladies Aid. Her workmanship, with its great careless leaping stitches, wasn’t up to the standard of, say, Mrs. Cora Tolman. Besides, Ma had a tendency to use what-came-to-hand, and the section which came from an old pair of Pop’s brown serge trousers was a mistake.
Listen carefully, these are the symptoms: increased heartbeat, memory loss, neuromuscular discoordination, heightened respiration, profuse sweating, confusion and fatigue. The above symptoms are exhibited by all greenhorns, newcomers and beginners at a Nelson Contra Dance. I speak from recent experience.
Live from the Tolman Pond Archives is an iMovie, turned youtube. Karen Tolman merged the audio from her 2013 Library Forum presentation with photographs to help tell the story of an unlikely resort at Tolman Pond, a small neighborhood, in the small town of Nelson, in the small state of New Hampshire.
I had a great uncle named Bill French, a tall, raw-boned old Yankee, who worked around my grandfather’s farm. Generosity was his virtue and his pleasure, and nothing so delighted him as going to country auctions from which he would return with a truck load of booty to bestow upon his friends or to donate to the farm.
In the old days, if you made a braided rug, you could look into it and see the discarded blankets and outgrown coats of your family’s history. I had a pair of blue jeans like that once.
Beth, Newt Tolman's first wife, helped with the family business at Tolman Pond: running the boarding house, the summer camps and entertaining the many guests. The following, excerpted from her family notes, gives a delightful accounting of what life was like at Tolman Pond during the 1930s:
I’ve just lugged a couple of green plastic chairs up to the top of the Jack Rabbit, a hill overlooking Tolman Pond and the 1790's vintage Farmhouse, which was cleared for skiing in the 1920’s - we're told one of the first such hills in New England.
When I was a boy, my grandfather kept three or four cows. He had just enough hay fields to provide enough hay to last them through the winter, although if the hay crop were particularly poor, perhaps he might have to buy an extra ton or two to tide them through until the cows could be put out to pasture in the spring.
We think that the northern part of heaven lies down a stretch of dirt road that leaves the paved Harrisville Road in southwestern New Hampshire. We get there, as we say, by going down the rabbit hole. That’s a bit of fantasy, I know. The “rabbit hole” is a 500-foot descent down a tree-covered road that opens onto a kind of Wonderland—Tolman Pond and vicinity.
Of the several houses in these parts as old or older than the Tolman Pond farmhouse, it’s the only one that looks its age - grey, wrinkled, gnarled like bark that woodpeckers have worked over. Then at the turn of the century, it was jerked to its feet and during the next hundred years given a series of transplants and internal transfusions that wrought wonders.
This year, the pond in my front yard froze over on November 15, a full three weeks before the deeper, clearer, windier lakes in the area. Our pond is a small, shallow puddle ringed by a protective army of white pines.
Everyone in New Hampshire knows that there are far more than four seasons. There are sub-seasons, mini-seasons, seasons that hide in the woods, and seasons that last for just a day. There are seasons that happen in the hills but not in the valleys, and vice-versa.
The first snow is like a distant relative you thought wasn’t going to come for her annual visit for a while yet and so you had time to clean the house. Suddenly, in mid-November, there is the guest, waist-deep in your clutter.
I heard the ice go out on Tolman Pond one year. My garden is next to the pond, and as I was breaking through the tough, heavy sod, I heard a soft music like silvery bells. Looking around me I realized that it was a warm breeze blowing the ice out of the pond. In a minute, it was over.
When the electricity goes, it takes the world with it. The incessant hum of incoming information from telephones, e-mail and CNN falls eerily silent, and we are cut off from events on other continents, in other towns, even down the road.
Where I live, everything gets quiet on the day after Labor Day. Where there was splashing at the dock, the thunk of tennis balls, and echoes of cocktail parties rising off the glassy water of later afternoon, suddenly there is only silence and space.
When Jack Sherrard wasn’t tending the animals in his rabbit factory (first located in the substratum of the old Munsonville brick mill) or working as a house painter, he dedicated himself to the art of hunting down miscreants.
In the 50 years since her death, my great-grandmother’s diaries have resided under a built-in bench in a sunny spot on the south side of the farmhouse that looks out on Tolman Pond, in Nelson.
This block print of Fran’s – as a work of “art” – is both typical, and terrible. Look at all those legs, table and human. Which is which? Are there enough to go around? I haven’t counted yet.
Frank Upton was the consummate Nelson story teller. Perhaps it was yesterday’s social media, but news got passed along around Frank’s table – the good with the bad. Stories that now make up a large part of our local lore were told. This was a true gathering of community vitality where things were shared and ideas were born. Frank’s kitchen was a “happening” place, where a kind of grassroots democracy thrived.
When Barry and I first moved into the Farmhouse at Tolman Pond in 1969, our only available telephone service was a six-party line. Of course we knew all the neighbors who shared the line, and after conquering the established art of discreet eavesdropping, we also knew most of their business. As they surely knew most of ours!