James Franklin Gilman
Gilman was a man who was very much a part of his era, a capable artist who bought the best water-marked paper available in Boston for his etchings, taught art, published his ideas on teaching, and used the media to advertise both his work and his instructions.
Born, possibly in Woburn, Mass. Six feet tall with red hair and beard, most of his life Gilman was an itinerant artist, traveling through the countryside and towns of Massachusetts and Central Vermont. He knew everyone in the communities where he lived. A solitary worker, he left some three hundred paintings of New England farms, homes, fields, and dooryards; preserving for us pictures of life during the time of his paintings and drawings.
He arrived in Barre, Vermont in 1872, during the severest winter known in New England for many years. He stayed at the Nehemiah French home on Trow Hill in Barre and waited for the snow to melt. Twenty years of his 55 year career were spent in the Central Vermont area, where he lived from 1872 to 1892. He taught at Goddard Seminary from 1876-1878.
While in Vermont he operated a studio in the Union Block in Montpelier. He did portraits and homestead representations in water colors, oils, crayon and wash, and etching. It was during this time that he boarded with well-to-do farmers, helping with farm chores in return for homestead and farm pictures. Idealistic and independent, an indefatigable worker, he left a loving record of the life he shared in New England villages.
Census of 1880 lists him as residing at the Riverside Boarding House in Montpelier - “James Franklin Gilman, white, male, age thirty, birthplace Massachusetts.” This census was the first to ask where parents were born and Mr. Gilman answered that his father was born in Massachusetts and his Mother in Vermont.
He painted and sketched a number of works in Calais and East Montpelier; a sample of which is shown here. This is the Coburn house on Daggett Rd..
In 1892, Gilman, now a Christian Scientist, left Montpelier and for a short time he lived in Concord, N.H., where he worked for Mary Baker Eddy. While there he illustrated her book, Christ and Christmas.
Not much is known of his later years other than he returned to Massachusetts. In his final years Christian Scientist members provided for him. Gilman died July 5, 1929 at Westboro Hospital and was buried July 10, 1929 at Pine Grove Cemetery in Westboro, Massachusetts. In May 1930, a granite memorial tablet was placed on the grave. The inscription: “James F. Gilman, Artist, 1850-1929.”