The house is now owned by the third family to make a home there, the Gerbis family. For many years it was the home of Joan and Harold “Dutch” Gerbis.
May Sarton, writer, poet, and scholar, lived and worked in the house from 1958 to 1973. She published Plant Dreaming Deep, largely an account of her purchase and renovation of the old house, in 1968. She wrote that “the house had been neglected, never modernized, rooms were dreary, a succession of water-stained wallpapers and crumbling ceilings, the old barn had given out and sagged into a useless mound of debris.” She bought the house because the Belgian furniture she had inherited from her parents “needs wide walls and small windows” and because “old houses have more feeling about them.”
The current occupants of the house, Kip and Sandy Mackenzie, bought the house in 1996 and have done extensive renovations, including rebuilding the barn at its original location.
The child’s rocker with basket seat (inset) was made by the Demeritt-Fisher company, which bought the chair factory in Munsonville in 1919. The chair was donated to the Nelson Archives in 2015 by Carol Thompkins, the granddaughter of Ethelyn Thompkins. Ethelyn, born in 1903, was the eldest child of Zaidee and Willie Guillow, and a lifelong Nelson resident. She married Harold Thompkins.
Henry Melville, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, practiced law in New York City for many years, but returned to his home in Nelson every summer. With a strong interest in local history, Henry was a generous town benefactor, funding many projects, including the monuments and tablets that commemorate our town’s history and the loyal men who fought for our country.
Meanwhile, some things never change at the farm, as so brilliantly described by Floppy Tolman in More Spit than Polish, published by Yankee Books in 1987. “The farm at Tolman Pond was in a sorry state when Sadie and Wayland Tolman (son of Orson) were married at the turn of the century. The farmhouse was already a hundred years old and looked every day of it. After they had lived there for fifty years, it looked much the same. The walls had popped a few more clapboards, the roof had a few more old-age wrinkles, and the porch had sagged lower under its tangled load of vines. Through the decades, sporadic attempts were made to shore up the foundations; in fact they are still holding up, and the house is still standing – leaning, perhaps, but up. The stubborn, slovenly, good-humored character of the place has endured.”
In 1890 William H. Elliot of Keene purchased the then-unoccupied property as a summer residence. He enlarged the house and bought several adjoining lots, bringing the total acreage of the property to its present 262 acres. Since 1890 members of the extended Elliot family have continued to use Lead Mine Farm as their summer residence. This photo from the 1890s shows how little the farmhouse has changed during the last 120 years. Although the road has been moved outside the stone wall, the triangular rock formerly used as a hitching post remains in place.
When John and Ann Bunce bought the farm in Munsonville in 1974, it had been vacant for many years. The only toilet was a three-holer out back, and a 22' well piped water into a soapstone sink in the kitchen, the only water in the house. The spindly little trees on the front lawn were about 85 years old by the time John Bunce took them down.
The people in the older photo, which shows the house before the additions, probably in the 1880s, are, from left, Ellen Gertrude Tolman Corey (daughter of Eben C. and Ellen) and her husband, Henry E. Corey; Ellen Jane Rugg Tolman, wife of Eben C.; Eben C. Tolman, holding Kenneth or David Corey; an unidentified person; and Wilmer Tolman in the buggy. (Special thanks to Pamela and Ethan Tolman for the identifications.)
The property is now owned by Harvey and Frankie Tolman.
The house changed hands several times. Sometime prior to 1906, Tucker Daland, a summer resident from the Boston area, bought the property. In 1939, D. Page Wheelwright bought it for $2,000, having been “at once attracted by its charm.” He named his farm Top Haven. Today it is owned by Wheelwright’s grandson, Michael Iselin, and his wife Alouette. The larch tree in the photo grew to enormous size before Wheelwright took it down in the early 1940s.
“My father, Frank Upton, was a stonemason, farmer, carpenter, hunter, trapper. Mother was Frances Rodgers Upton, from Hampton, Virginia. On this farm we kept three or four cows, chickens, a pair of horses. Mother kept boarders in the 1920s and 30s. My father built four cottages for them. Mother fed them here, out on the back porch. She was a great cook. The fee was three dollars a day.”
Excerpted from “Talking with Frankie Upton, July 11, 1998,” in Lake Nubanusit (Long Pond/Great Pond), Its History and Its People, by Francelia Clark/Dave Robinson with Alison Rossiter. This property is now owned by Dan and Beth Prawdzik.
ALBERT DUVALL QUIGLEY PAINTER, MUSICIAN, FRAME-MAKER 1891-1961