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Harding family honored at SAU office dedication

September 01, 2010
The heirs of the old library, the late Wilbur and Louisa Harding, were recognized at the School District's SAU office open house and dedication on Saturday.

a preacher and his strong-minded wife,

A plaque will hang in the SAU office, engrained with the dates 1925-2008, in honor of the Hardings. A family photo will also be displayed in the building, which was built back in February, 1922.

Gilford School Board members, the Board of Selectmen, and Harding family members representing the original donors all gathered by the recently renovated library on Belknap Mountain Road. It is now the SAU's official office, which has moved out of the Town Hall.

The move was controversial at first, since the donors requested the building serve as a library in an original deed, and the heirs contested its use. But both the School Board and the town agreed the old building needed a new purpose.

Some of the remaining heirs may have mixed feelings over the old library's new use, but many family members were proud to be a part of the dedication ceremony during Old Home Day festivities last Saturday.

Jean Maxwell, the great granddaughter of Wilbur and Louisa Harding, said she was delighted to hear the building would be utilized by the School District since she is a retired teacher.

Among remaining heirs at the dedication, spanning across five generations, included Christie Harding and his wife, along with his sister Jean and Reg Maxwell, and their grandson Sabin Maxwell, all hailing from New Hampshire.

During the ceremony, School Board Chair Kurt Webber said he would like to thank the heirs of the Harding family on behalf of the School Board for the facility, and also thanked Tim Bartlett for the work he did during building renovations.

"The SAU office was once scattered in the back of the Town Hall. Now we have a wonderful facility with student artwork throughout the hallway. You can see the community at work more effectively," said Webber.

Board of Selectmen Chair Kevin Hayes spoke on behalf of the selectmen and the town at the dedication.

"It was 78 years ago that the building was given to the town as a library, and now the building is giving a different contribution to the town," said Hayes, who held up a donated photograph of Wilbur and Louisa Harding.

Superintendent Paul DeMinico said the photograph will be seen by all who enter the facility and noted that the American flag hanging from the building dates back to 1896, with 44 stars on its banner, and was donated by a Gilford resident.

While much of the Harding family originated from West Lebanon and now lives in Colebrook, Maxwell said the family has traveled to Gilford on several occasions to view the building that now stands as the SAU office, and will forever give the family ties to the town.

Jean Maxwell reminisced on the history of her family and said that her great grandfather, Wilbur Harding, was a Baptist preacher and eventually a retired farmer in Vermont who stayed in Gilford while preaching at a nearby church.

Maxwell said she also remembered her great grandmother Louisa Harding described as a strong woman and a "staunch democrat," even when she moved to Vermont in retirement and Republicans outnumbered Democrats by the masses.

Prior to the dedication ceremony, Maxwell said she wished she knew more about the history of her great grandparents but is happy the building itself has given the family a better understanding of their ancestors.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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