An attempt to confirm the location of the subject
A research project for the Historical Society of Cheshire County
By Randy Frazier with the assistance of Norma Thibodeau of the Richmond Archives
of Robert Strong Woodward's painting
"Mr. Franklin's House"
I'm astonished to find that it's been 6 or 7 weeks since Alan Rumrill came into the Wright Room at the Historical Society of Cheshire County, NH and handed me an email request from Edward J. of NC. Mr. J. was looking for information on the location of a house in Richmond, NH that was the subject of the painting he and his wife own by Robert Strong Woodward titled "Mr. Franklin's House". The painting was done in 1929 or 1930 and was originally owned by Louis and Tina Rosenzwieg of Greenfield, MA. It then passed to their daughter Gerda and later to Gerda's daughter Vicki, Ed J.'s wife.
There was another larger painting of the same subject titled "Out of New England Soil
l". The artist, in his will, left this painting to his friend, F. Earl Williams who then presented the painting to the Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, Mass. in 1957. It hangs in a study room of the main library at Deerfield Academy.
The project has been a great pleasure to me. I've learned about a genuinely heroic artist who was painting scenes from our backyard and I've met many interesting people and been exposed to great original artwork. I've also learned a lot about a small corner of Richmond, NH on Whipple Hill Road.
Mr. J. was hoping we could confirm that Edson Franklin had owned the house in question that fit the description the artist gave of "over back of Warwick toward Fitzwilliam's Road."
He mentioned that the historian in Richmond believed it was the house at 70 Whipple Hill Road, and he said it did look like his painting.
The Putney House at 70 Whipple Hill Road
Mr. J. had done his homework. He provided us with lots of historical references for Edson and Emma Franklin. I downloaded all his referenced records and made a trip to the Cheshire County Registry of Deeds that Friday. On that visit I found only the property Edson and Emma had bought in Chesterfield, NH. So the next day I stopped in to see Norma Thibodeau (the Richmond historian). I found then that Mr. J. had also contacted her and she was already working on the project. She had been looking at Town Reports and could find no reference to Edson Franklin's ownership of the property. She remembered that she had been visited by a Dr. Purinton years before asking the same question, and she remembered identifying the 70 Whipple Hill Rd. house (the Putney House) at that time. But neither of us had a photo of the painting to compare it to.
Coincidentally, Norma and I (and her grandson Robert) had worked together on a Richmond Archives "Old Richmond Houses" PowerPoint presentation that featured the Putney Place (among many others) just last summer.
So I e-mailed Ed J. to have him send us a photo of the painting. I received in response two e-mails, One from Ed but another from Dr. Mark Purinton. Both provided me with links to the painting on the website: http://robertstrongwoodward.com. It was immediately apparent that this was probably the Putney house.
But also the website captivated me. I started exploring it (I'm still exploring it and haven't seen it all) looking first at the sister painting to "Mr. Franklin's House", "Out of New England Soil" that hangs in the Library at Deerfield Academy in Old Deerfield, MA. Then after viewing a lot of the paintings, I started poking around in other corners of the website and found that Dr. Purinton had a close relationship with Robert Strong Woodward and had been the major beneficiary of his estate. And I found that the website was Dr. Purinton's monument to his great friend. And the story of RSW triumphing over so much adversity, I found truly moving. Robert Strong Woodward was paralyzed from the waist down at a young age and overcame that obstacle and many others to become a renowned and revered artist.
Dr. Purinton has worked so hard to gather every detail about each of RSW's paintings; I really wanted to help.
So I made another trip to the Registry of Deeds and I did find Edson's wife Emma Franklin buying property in Richmond in 1876. Unfortunately, the farm she bought was a mile or so from the Putney house and did not fit the location given for the painting. Also, the painting was done around 1930 and Emma sold their farm in 1882 to Mirick Burgess. The Franklin's then moved to Chesterfield.
So, I stopped to see Norma again to tell her I could find no connection between Edson Franklin and the Putney house. She was still certain the painting was of the Putney house. She had been working with the vital records and had found Edson's death in 1932 in the Richmond vitals. The record gave his mother's maiden name as Elvira Nash and that she was from Chesterfield. So Norma had her husband Joe Thibodeau, who also volunteers at the Historical Society of Cheshire County, make a copy of the Nash genealogy from the Chesterfield Town History.
We were looking at this genealogy and we read that though Elmira (not Elvira) was first married to Edson's father, Stephen Franklin of Winchester she was secondly married to Mirach Burgess. Also, we pored over the various Richmond town maps and we found EA Franklin on the 1877 map as Ed had told us (at the Old Turnpike Rd. house) but down where the Putney house should be, the name, N Burgess. Could this be a misprint for Mirick or maybe a relative of his? It was only later at home, while reviewing all the records that I noticed that the 1870 census entry for Edson said he was living with a Mirick Burgess and Almira F, and that he was a farm laborer.
I had looked at this census before but not knowing Edson's mother's name, I had thought he was out on his own and living where he was employed. And it was then I remembered that Emma had sold her Richmond farm to a Mirick Burgess. Another trip to the Registry of Deeds was in order.
This time, I did my search on Mirick Burgess' holdings and was able to confirm that Mirick did indeed own the Putney house along with 3 or 4 adjacent parcels. He bought his first parcel in 1875 from Omer Brown, one year before his daughter-in-law Emma bought her Richmond farm.
But all of these, he sold parcel by parcel before 1921. He died in Winchester on 7 Sep 1921. The last parcel he owned, he sold on 4 May 1921 to Pliny Jewell, a rich investment banker from Concord, MA.
This lead me to a search on Pliny Jewell's holdings and I was surprised to find that he had also bought each parcel of Whipple Hill Rd. property that Mirick had sold to others. These others were Fred Prescott, Alfred Saben and William C Putney. By 1924, Pliny owned all of Mirick's Whipple Hill Rd. property.
So during the time the painting was made, Edson's stepfather and mother's former Richmond home was owned by an absentee landlord. Maybe Pliny and his family spent some time in Richmond at one of the houses but there were two houses on the property and it makes sense that he would want someone there to keep an eye on his estate.
It seems likely that Edson was Pliny's caretaker and was given use of the Putney house (Edson was listed as a caretaker for a private estate on the 1930 census).
Then Robert Strong Woodward showed up in his open touring Nash probably driven by his hired man, Fabian Stone. I'm not surprised that Mr. Franklin felt no need to explain the ownership of his house to the artist. Thus, to RSW, it was Mr. Franklin's House.
The Putney House at 70 Whipple Hill Road
Pliny Jewell owned the property until 1937 when he sold it all to Gwynne Ross, of Staten Island, NY.
I was also able to follow the deed trail down to the present owners of the Putney house, Rostislav and Jean Eismont.
Edson Albee Franklin was born in Swanzey, NH on 14 Jul 1855. He was the second son of Stephen Franklin and Almira Nash. His older brother died in childhood. He was 13 years old when his father was killed in a grisly sawmill accident. On 16 Oct 1873 he married Emma Jeanette Henry b. in Chesterfield 16 Oct 1853. He was a guide for ten years in the Adirondacks. He served in the Spanish American War for which he applied for a pension in 1910. He died in Richmond, 26 Mar 1932. He was buried in Chesterfield beside his wife in Spofford Cemetery.
Stephen Franklin, Edson's father, b. 23 July 1830 in Winchester, NH married Almira Nash on 1 Aug 1852. He served in Company K of the 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. He was discharged as disabled on 18 Jun 1862 in New Berne, NC. He was killed in a mill by having his head sawed open on 24 May, 1869 in Winchester. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Winchester.
Almira (Elmira, Elvira) Nash, Edson's mother, was born in Chesterfield, NH on 9 Feb 1832. She was the fourth child of Reuben Nash and Eliza Watkins Howard. After Stephen Franklin's death, she later married Mirick Burgess of Winchester. He had previously been married to Almira's younger sister, Lucina. He was not a widower. There is information that Lucina may have had two subsequent marriages. Almira died in Winchester on 18 Jul 1922 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Winchester.
Emma Jeanette Henry, Edson's wife, was born in Chesterfield on 16 Oct 1852 or 1853, records conflict, the daughter of Willard and Mary (Shaw) Henry. She married Edson on her birthday in 1873. She seems to have been the dominant partner in their relationship. She is the listed purchaser of most of their property. In the 1910 census she is living with her brother Nathaniel and lists herself as divorced, though I can find no record to confirm this. She died in Winchendon, MA on 11 Feb 1917. Her body was brought back to Chesterfield for burial at Spofford Cemetery.
Mirick (Myrick, Myrich) Burgess, Edson's stepfather, was born in South Ashburnham, MA on 20 Sep 1837 to Joseph and Maria (Sawyer) Burgess. He first married Lucina Nash of Chesterfield on 8 Oct 1856. They had a daughter Olive Ellen Burgess b. 15 Apr 1856. There are no other children listed in the genealogy but Mirick Burgess and his wife show up in Swanzey (in old handwritten Swanzey Birth Records scanned by Tammie Davis, another HSCC volunteer) as parents of a girl born on 19 Apr 1859. It is assumed that Lucina is the unnamed mother. There is no further information on this child.
Mirick Burgess was a Civil War veteran. He served In Company I of the 3rd NH Infantry Regiment and Company H of the 12th US Infantry Regiment. There is conflicting information on his service record. He enlisted on 24 Aug 1861. I first found information that he deserted at Ft Hamilton, NY on 28 Mar 1863. However there is another record that has him mustering out on 18 Dec 1862. The same record has him transferred on that same date, 18 Dec 1862 and mustering out again at Ft. Hamilton on the 28 Mar 1863 date. I did find him claiming a veteran's exemption from his property taxes in Richmond from 1907 on. In 1914, he had enough political clout to have "an act for the relief of Mirick Burgess" brought before the US Congress and he was declared as honorably discharged. A flag flies over his grave. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 7 Sep 1921. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Winchester.
Almira Nash and Mirick Burgess were married on 2 May 1877 (I've seen at least two other dates) though she is already living with him (her son Edson also) in Swanzey in the 1870 census. There is no record that Almira and Mirick ever had any children together but they did adopt a son Arthur Edgar Burgess, b. 14 Apr 1884 in Boston, MA. In fact, the 1920 census has Mirick and Almira living with Arthur and his family in Greenfield, MA. This could only be for a short time as they moved to Winchester in the spring of 1921. They were said to be very devout and were the last two members of the Baptist Society of Richmond and after that closed they walked the 3 miles to the Winchester Methodist church from their Richmond home in their advanced years.
Most all of the above genealogy can be found in "A History of the town of Sullivan, New Hampshire 1777 - 1917 by Rev. Josiah Lafayette Seward Vol. II, which has an especially complete genealogy of the Nash family. Excerpts are on the disc. The book is available (as are most of our local town histories) for download on Google Books and Internet Archives. Other details are out of the Keene Sentinel. All the records are on the disc.
Pliny Jewell was from a well to do family with business in Boston. He was born in Hartford, CT on 14 Jul 1877. He managed to get counted twice in the 1900 census. It seems his family had a house in Medfield while they rented another in Boston. His father was a leather merchant. In 1900 Pliny is listed as a journalist. Later records have him as an investment banker. He was a world traveler. I have two passport applications for him and one for his wife and children, photos included. Pliny died in September of 1962 according to the Social Security death index.
On the disc you will find all the source documentation in the following folders:
Registry of Deeds- Digital photo copies of all the deeds for the Whipple Hill Rd. properties along with deeds of Edson and Emma Franklin's other holdings.
Town Reports- I've extracted pertinent property tax records from Richmond, year by year. I've included records for all the owners of the properties from Mirick Burgess to the present.
Richmond maps- the 1858, 1877 and 1892 historical maps and a current Richmond Tax map of the Whipple Hill Rd. area.
Headstone photos- photos of headstones of Edson and Emma Franklin, Stephen Franklin, Mirick and Almira Burgess, and Reuben and Eliza Nash.
Folders for Edson and Emma Franklin, Mirick and Almira Burgess, Stephen Franklin, Reuben Nash, Pliny Jewell, and Gwynne Ross. These folders have census, birth, marriage and death, military service and genealogical records.
House photos- the three photos of the Putney Place from the Richmond Archives.
Norma's Richmond Archive- the house photos again and a couple other documents
Also other folders with topics of interest:
Paintings- Photos of the two paintings of the Putney house along with photos two other RSW paintings owned by Mr. J.'s family.
RSW & Mark Purinton- info on RSW and MLP. Included is a folder with the photos I took of RSW's studio during a visit with Dr. P and his wife Barbara.
Deerfield Academy visit- Photos from our visit to see the painting "Out of New England Soil" at Deerfield Academy.
RSW's Art- These are copies of photos from Dr. Purinton's RSW website for readers who aren't familiar with his art. It's a beautiful collection. There are lots more on http://robertstrongwoodward.com.
By Randy Frazier
with the assistance of Norma Thibodeau of the Richmond Archives