Grafton – A Step Back in Time

By Bette Reynolds

The man for whom the town of Thomlinson is named never visited the United States, much less Thomlinson. John Thomlinson, was a business representative of the British governor of New Hampshire, Benning Wentworth. Wentworth granted a charter in 1754 to the town of Thomlinson before the French and Indian Wars.

A group of Grafton children celebrate Flag Day dated 1911. They are standing on the front step of what is now the current Post Office and Town Hall. At the time the photo was taken, the building served as the library. Photographer unknown, image courtesy of Jennifer Karpin of Grafton Homestead.

The townsfolk thought they should rename their town. On Halloween, 1791, the honor of renaming the town was sold at public auction to a resident, Joseph Axtell, for the highest bid of five dollars and a jug of rum. He named it after his hometown of Grafton in Massachusetts. Uncoincidentally, this is the name of a local best-selling book, Five Dollars and a Jug of Rum, available at the Grafton Historical Society and other locations in the area; this is a history of Grafton.

Grafton was the home of Daisy Turner, descendent of slaves, age 104 in 1987, whose quote “Every one of those turning battles (Civil War), where victory was won, it was the Vermont boys who were there.”

In more modern times, a Budweiser television commercial was filmed complete with a team of eight Clydesdale horses in March 1986 for a Christmas scene. In 1987, the Chevy Chase film, “Funny Farm” was being filmed in the area and a local citizen’s home was used for the movie character’s house. The film crew meticulously decorated the building and lawn for winter, complete with plastic snow and icicles; cotton batting over rooftops and fences and the next day eight inches of heavy wet snow fell.

On my return visit to Grafton, I was delighted to meet the owners of The Grafton Homestead, Jennifer Karpin and Draa Hobbs. Draa also happens to be a jazz guitarist who performs throughout New England. The Grafton Homestead was built in the 1830’s, a short distance from Grafton Village. They offer a downstairs Morning Glory Room, or an upstairs three room suite with private entrance for your getaway.

Another splendid retreat is the Farmhouse ‘Round the Bend Bed and Breakfast, circa 1844. The bed and breakfast proprietors are Barry and Joan Shade. They are located on Route 121, one-third mile east of the village. They offer three guest rooms, one of which is aptly named The Blue Room Suite with a cozy sitting room. They also welcome children, ten years and older.

Grafton is the location of two fine real estate companies, Barrett & Company Realtors and Hughes Associates, Realtors. Barrett & Company Realtors takes its name from a prosperous ancestor, Captain John Barrett, who settled in Grafton in 1805 as a storekeeper. Barrett & Company Realtors is located on Main Street. Hughes Associates is located on Four Chimneys Road and specializes in Grafton property and surrounding areas.

A most fascinating attraction in the village on the Townshend Road is the Nature Museum. The director is Steve Lorenz. You’ll want to bring your camera and the children to view their innovative and interactive exhibits.

A unique antique shop makes its home in Grafton. Grafton Gathering Place Antiques, located off Route 35 on Eastman Road between Grafton and Chester is a two-story country barn. Peter and Mary Dill stock early country and period furniture and accessories.

“A most amoosing shop” in the old Firehouse is Firebarn/ Food & Stuff featuring gifts, Lionel trains, gourmet groceries, maple syrup and many other items, and is run by Pat Mack and her employee Phil Babcock.

I was fortunate to arrive on a Sunday afternoon and heard the oldest (1867) continuously performing Vermont band, the Grafton Cornet Band, rehearsing upstairs, as they have been doing since1939.

If all of these wonderful places and things aren’t enough to entice you to explore Grafton then I’ll mention one more place not to be overlooked, The Rusty Moose on Pleasant Street. Craftspeople Payne and Elise Junker, and their employee Margery Heindel invite you to visit their crafts gallery. Yes, there really is a Rusty Moose, he stands outside the shop! They offer unusual metal art, hand made soaps, pottery, scarves, jewelry and more.

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