[The following letter to the Editor of the Conway Daily Sun was written by long-time Freedom resident Kelsie Mayhew]
To the Editor:
Freedom is often referred to as a quintessential New England village. With its white picket fences and graceful 19th century buildings, it typifies what we think of when we think of a small New Hampshire town.
What many of us don’t realize, however, is the extent to which Freedom owes much of its charm to the efforts of one person, Mr. Chilton Thomson.
Chilton Thomson and his wife Janet arrived in Freedom along with their small children around 1951. Janet had spent summers here as a child and she wanted her family to experience a summer in the small town she cared so much for.
They rented a house on Elm Street at the corner where the road intersects with the road to Loon Lake. After spending an enjoyable summer there, Chilton decided to buy the house and make it his summer home.
In coming to Freedom at this time, Chilton found a town that seemed to have its best days behind it. A gradual decline in industry that had begun after the Civil war was exacerbated by the Great Depression and the Second World War.
In the village where he had purchased his summer home, the majority of buildings were rundown, in need of both fresh paint and structural repairs. Rather than simply enjoying his new summer home, Chilton immediately began focusing his attention outward to the entire village.
Soon after arriving, Chilton started buying properties. He bought the home where Marshall Kendall now lives, renovating it as a summer house for his mother. He bought the Federal House, which was once a store, turning it into a house with several apartments.
There was a very unattractive building that stood very close to the road, sandwiched between the Federal building and the house now owned by the Hockmeyers. He bought this, the neighboring Hockmeyer house and another house on its other side, which was also in bad repair.
Noting its beautiful lines and trim, he saved the Hockmeyer house and a neighboring carriage house and removed the houses on each side. He bought the large building across the street and put in three apartments.
On Maple Street, where the library now stands stood another old house that had decayed beyond repair. At one time a lady named Josy Hayes lived there and was paid by the town to take in the homeless. By the mid 1950s, the house was abandoned and unlivable. Chilton bought this property and removed it, eventually donating the land to the town for a library.
Sometime during the mid 1960s, I received a letter and a check from Chilton stating that he had purchased the property that had once housed George Nichols’ old garage, but had been mostly destroyed by fire. The only part that had been saved was his office which was serving as the Freedom Post Office.
At the time, it had only a summer restroom, leaving the post mistress in a difficult position through the winter months. Next to where the post office stood, there was a long, gaping hole and a rickety old wooden fence, the only barrier to save one from a 20 foot fall to a concrete slab.
In building the new post office, Chilton told me that there were certain specifications that had to be met in order for him to collect rent. Beyond that, he told me that he would trust my judgment as to how it looked. His only wish was for it to remain in keeping with the town that he was dedicated to improving.
While many of Freedom’s current residents may not be familiar with Chilton Thomson, it’s fair to say that Chilton Thompson was responsible for restoring and preserving much of the beautiful village of Freedom that we enjoy to this day.
Chilton Thomson donated land for the public library, the post office and the elementary school, places that rest at the core of our community. He is the one responsible for the white picket fences lined with lilac trees on Elm Street, making the once shabby street a place of beauty.
As someone who worked for Chilton frequently, I remember him as a friendly person, warm and approachable to everyone. He would never sought attention or recognition for all he did for our town. As a resident of Freedom for the past 65 years, however, I would like to make others aware of the contribution Chilton made to preserve our small town.