Karen Tolman History

What People Are Saying about The Greengate Saga

by on December 23, 2015 in Home Page, Karen Tolman History


by Karen Tolman

If you don’t already have a copy of The Greengate Saga, get yours from me at tolmanpond@pobox.com or 603-827-3226, or borrow it from our library, and read my newly printed manuscript about our family efforts that made a little bit of recent Nelson history. The manuscript is over a hundred spiral-bound pages of narrative, newspaper attachments, photographs and more, that tells the thirty-year old story of how, with the help of family, friends, neighbors, large doses of legal help and lots of luck, we were able to reverse the ominous sale of nearly five hundred acres of prime Nelson real estate (including over a mile of shore frontage on Spoonwood Pond) and direct it toward its present conserved status.

Meanwhile, here’s what people are saying:

Oh, my god, what a story!” JE

You have captured the story perfectly—the humor, tragedy, suspense––everything.” JC

You did a great job on The Greengate Saga––there were lots of twists and turns in the story that I certainly didn’t know about and to your credit you made sense from what was looking to be a catastrophic loss for the family and the town.” SG

There seems to be a villain, a victim, a hero and a spy!” RC

All I can say is: well written, great anecdotes, a rollicking good time––though I bet it was a lot more fun to read than to live. I think you should fictionalize it, change the town to Darby and you’ll have a story worthy of Ernie.” TL

I loved LOVED The Greengate Saga. It was informative, entertaining, funny, sad and, above all, human. It’s an excellent framework for a movie by an independent filmmaker.” EH

You definitely have the gift of the Tolman yarn, with a wry twist. A great read––that fleshed out so many gaps in the story. One of my biggest pleasures was the unexpected addition to the tales of the drawings––fabulous all, especially of the Rolls Royce.” DS

Well, first tears welled up at the memories, then laughter, then grateful that I knew all of you so dutifully involved.” HW

Congratulations, Karen. It was an honor for me to play a small part in the story, and quite the exciting experience for a young lawyer still wet behind the ears. Your writing brings it all back as though it happened just yesterday. You have done us all proud.” JC

Spectacular imagery in your storytelling. I loved The Greengate Saga, learned a lot and have a new appreciation for the protection of this most special place on earth.” DB

I really enjoyed reading through this. You write well, and you have some great material. I hadn’t heard ‘Going Out’ or all the details about the fun and games at the nursing home. Very funny!” MC

An enjoyable tale of a close family from our own Nelson.” DB

What a great tale from the archives of the Tolman family. It’s well written, organized and illustrated. Interesting to the end. Thank God, we all don’t have such interesting relatives because few of us have such wonderful writers to tell their tales.” CM

You stepped in and salvaged life and land.” JM

Nelson Town Hall Front Door

by on August 11, 2015 in Karen Tolman History, Life in Nelson

written by
Karen Tolman

In 2013, the Town of Nelson received a grant from the State of New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources Moose Plate Program “to repair the historic windows and front door of the Nelson Town Hall.” The Moose Plate Grants are funded by the sale of “moose” conservation and heritage license plates.

Nelson’s Grant Writing Committee asked Linda Willett, Executive Director for Historic Harrisville, Inc. (HHI), for a cost estimate to repair the windows and door based on Preservation Guidelines recommended by architect Rick Monahon as part of a Preservation Alliance Grant awarded to the town to create plans to preserve both the Town Hall and the Old Brick Schoolhouse. The town received the maximum amount given for any Moose Plate project, $10,000, and Fred O’Connor, Project Manager for HHI, was hired to do the restoration because of his expertise in the field. Both Linda and Fred are very highly regarded in the building preservation community as is exemplified by their work on Harrisville Village’s National Historic Landmark buildings.

This summer HHI hired a very dedicated intern, Maia DiLorenzo, from Boston’s North Bennet Street School, who is a student in their preservation carpentry program. Fred had already preserved the windows in the Town Hall, but the door remained to be tackled. And tackled it was by Maia, under the tutelege of Fred. Maia has documented her work in exquisite detail with both photographs and a project report, which have now been filed as part of the municipal records in our Town Archives.

The Town of Nelson is very grateful to HHI and Linda Willett, Executive Director, for sparing Fred and Maia long enough to do this important work.

Above is a slideshow (photos by Maia) of the project.

  • Maia removing the door.
  •  Layers on paint were stripped from the front door: dark green, light blue, medium blue/gray, mint green, light yellow and white.
  •  The door was taken apart and each piece was studied, dissected, stripped, repaired, primed and painted. Here are excerpts from an example of the scrutiny that each piece received: “the bottom interior rail had extensive wood failure where it is believed an ant infestation created voids as deep as 1¼” and subsequent rot starting at the upper strike stile tenon and extended horizontally approximately 24” across the interior face. For these reasons, the rail was cut to eliminate the most extensive failure and a replacement piece of eastern white pine was added measuring approximately 35” long x 5” wide x 1 7/8” thick. Stock for this piece could not be sourced locally, so two pieces were glued together to achieve the necessary thickness.”
  •  Samples of repairs to individual pieces.
  •  Individual pieces laid out on the workbench.
  •  All of the pieces repaired, primed and ready to be reassembled.
  •  Our new front door.

Haying at Tolman Pond

Editors Note: Renn Tolman, son of Newton F. Tolman, grew up in Nelson, and passed away in Homer, Alaska on July 5, 2014  t the age of 80. Betsy Street recently found a few essays written by Renn when he was a student at UNH, in the late 1950s. This one is very slightly edited and transcribed by Karen Tolman.

Haying in Nelson

the old Model A Ford truck with Bobby Curtis and Foster Sisson “making the load” and Pop (Wayland Tolman) looking out the window. Pop was Renn and Barry’s grandfather.

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.

Exactly how many acres his fields totaled is uncertain because they were scattered, irregular fields of a New Hampshire hill farm, but ten was the number he would quote if anyone asked him. Of course this acreage was figured without taking into account the combined areas of the rocks that stuck up in the fields. It is a worn-out joke that New Hampshire fields grow rocks as well as hay.

The only field that you could mow with the assurance that the mowing machine wouldn’t tip over and that was relatively rock-free was the Intervale, a ten-acre field of which my grandfather owned half. The Intervale, however, presented a different problem. It was as flat as a pond and tended to degenerate into a swamp on a wet year. Continue Reading »

Frank’s Kitchen

Frank Upton’s gone now, along with his kitchen.  But, it wasn’t long ago that Barry often went down the road to Frank’s farmhouse to sit around his kitchen table.  As Frank got older, Barry said that he was just checking up on the old man who then lived alone, but there was clearly something more.  Something that not only enticed Barry, but enticed a host of friends and neighbors to gather around Frank’s scruffy old drop-leaf table.

And, it certainly wasn’t the smell of the kerosene pot burner or yesterday’s fried liver (Frank liked it well done).  Nor was it the stale and overflowing ashtray hand-crafted by his good friend Boo Doore from Harrisville, or the spare floatplane propeller propped up in the corner, or even the Remington pump-action deer rifle that hung in the spider webs over the kitchen window, under which a toaster fire had once charred its butt end.  And it probably wasn’t the wind that howled off the lake through the north end of the house, often accompanied by mini-drifts of snow blowing into the kitchen. Continue Reading »

On The Ski Hill at Tolman Pond

Editors Note: In case you haven’t had enough winter, this article from Karen Tolman should satisfy you.

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.

I sit here, looking out over this little 40-acre gem of water, and wonder what it was like in the early days of skiing when small ski hills were sprouting up all over the New England landscape.

Newt Tolman skiing off the roof. See more pictures at the end of this article.

Such was the case at Tolman Pond where brothers Newt and Fran Tolman helped their folks Ma (Sadie) and Pop (Wayland) run a guesthouse in the old family Farmhouse.  They also rented out ten summer cabins, whose renters usually joined the others for meals in the Farmhouse.  In order to make ends meet a little bit better, they expanded their winter business by adding something new – skiing.

They not only cleared the Jack Rabbit in the 1920’s, but also extended the clearing out in all directions eventually encompassing several acres.  They cleared trails up Hurd Hill behind the Farmhouse, and anywhere else they deemed feasible for a ski run.  The used the field, where Ted Lenk and Susan Weaver now pasture their sheep, for lessons and practice.  This field is still called the Practice Slope. Continue Reading »

Party Lines


Two things brought this story together:  Remembering a funny event and an assignment from Wednesday Academy mentor, Bonnie Riley, to write a story using only dialogue – which is included at the end of this piece.

Thus a little bit of town history emerged – the party line.

When Barry and I first moved into the Farmhouse at Tolman Pond in 1969, our only available telephone service was a six-party line.  (Or, perhaps it was eight.  I can’t remember.)  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!

For instance, we all knew that two of our party-line women talked with each other every morning at 9:00 (often sharing gossip about the neighbors) because, while each of us had our own personal ring, everybody’s ring rang on all of our phones.  One woman dialed up the other on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and vice-versa on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  They didn’t gossip on Sunday!

Our personal ring was one long and one short.  And if we wanted to call someone on the same party line, we would dial their number and quickly hang up.  All the phones on the party line would then ring that number.  When the ringing stopped, it usually meant that the other party had picked up, and said “hello.”  So, we’d then pick up our phone again and say “hello”, too.  The “hellos” were sometimes pretty awkward, because if the timing was slightly off, the receiving party would often be saying “hello” before the dialing party had picked up again – thus talking to a vacant phone.  And when the dialing party finally picked up and said “hello”, it was often confusing as to who was calling whom because both parties were echoing “hellos” back and forth.  Of course the eavesdroppers had to time their interference pretty carefully, too, being sure to pick up only after the other parties had said their “hellos”, or otherwise risk revealing their nosiness. Continue Reading »

The Hotel Nelson Revisited

Sponsored by Moving in Step

In 1997, the people of Nelson raised funds from private donations, the Town of Nelson and the Nelson Congregational Church to sponsor The Hotel Nelson, a musical theatre that was created by, for, and about the Town of Nelson. Facilitated by Larry Siegal of Westmoreland, it was performed in the Nelson Congregational Church on August 14 and 15 to sold out audiences.

In 1840, The Nelson House was built to house the hotel, the post office, the library and a store.  The three-story brick building burned down in 1894!  So, for 54 years, sitting on the village common, it was literally the center of the town.
Thus, it is the metaphor from which our theatre, The Hotel Nelson, was born:

“When I built this hotel I put a porch on the front.  It was the best decision I ever made.  People come and sit out there, from the end of black fly season until the first snowfall.  Now granted, that’s not a very long stretch of time, but it’s enough time for some good stories to get told, and for more stories to get made.  The town goes by, day by day, and just when I think I’m getting to understand how it works, something happens and I realize I really don’t have it figured out after all.  But I love it here – this place, this land, these people.  I’ve found myself quite a home here….  Please… come in.  You might stay for a night, or for a summer.  And if you can’t figure out how to leave, well – you won’t be the first. “
Narrator in “The Hotel Nelson”
(from the opening scene)

From the above scene onward, songs were sung and stories were told by the same people who researched, wrote and composed them.  They covered some of
Nelson’s history and politics, some of its notables and characters, and many anecdotes past and present.

Some of the songs that were sung are simply too good to relegate to the archives, so we’re going to sing them again…with your help.

So, please join us on Friday night, January 29, 2010, 6:30 pm, at the Nelson Town Hall.

After a potluck supper (please bring something to share), we’ll have some skilled musicians teach us a few of the songs so that we can all join in.  But, if you don’t sing, that’s OK.  Just come to enjoy the festivities.

“The mud can’t get deeper on Old Stoddard Road.
My white car is brown: what a sight to behold.
I’d give anything for a driveway that’s dry,
And to taste the tart pleasure of fresh rhubarb pie.”

From “Sing Halleluiah!”

“The world is full of gladness, and joys of many kinds.
There’s cure for ev’ry sadness, each troubled mortal finds.
My little cares grow lighter.  I cease to fret and sigh.
My eyes with joy grow brighter, when she makes lemon pie.”

From “The Lemon Pie Song”

“When you’re a kid in Nelson you’re like a tall oak tree
Roots reach down into the past
Arms reach for eternity
Whether we’re playing baseball
Or biking through the square
There’s always something happening
And music fills the air”

From “Being a Kid in Nelson”

And, stay tuned for more:  On Saturday, March 27, 2010, we will incorporate the songs that we learn on January 29 with more of the original songs and many of the stories (and perhaps even some new ones!) into another evening out at The Hotel Nelson Revisited.

“There’s one thing certain about the future, which is — it’s always going to be there.  Some folks worry about it, some try to plan for it, some think it’s preordained, and some spend so much time thinking about it that today becomes tomorrow with nothing in between.

“Now the past is always there too.  And we might not worry so much about it, but people can get to dwelling on that too, and lose the present.

“I like it here in Nelson, ‘cause folks seem to enjoy the past, the present, and the future, all in good measure.

“When I’m away from here I tell people about this place.  And sometimes someone will ask – tell me, that town of yours, and that Hotel, is it real, or is it just make believe?

“And I answer:  yes.”
Narrator in “The Hotel Nelson”
(from the closing scene)