Preserving the Twombley Farm

Preserving the Twombley Farm at the Historic c.1768 Gilman Homestead  Wakefield Barn one of the N.H. Preservation Alliance’s 52 Barns in 52 Weeks initiative


The timber frame barn consists of a major rafter/minor purlin roof system, dropped wall plates with continuous ty beams and a hay track with fork at the ridgepole. Besides the barn and house, the property includes an English style barn (once used as a carriage house), summer kitchen (perhaps the original house), a sap house, a three-seater outhouse, and a sheep shed.

The Twombleys applied for and received an assessment grant from the Preservation Alliance made possible by donors to the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign. Barn contractor Ed Pape visited the property and drew up a report prioritizing the barn’s needs and offering suggested repairs and rough cost estimates. The Twombleys, who are both disabled, will use the report to determine which projects will require a professional and which they can attempt on their own.

The homestead was the first established in Wakefield (then called East-town) by way of a “Masonian Grant”, a land grant issued by the King of England, with stipulations that family(s) must winter over, build a structure, clear pasture and get other families to join them in settling the area. The original owners were Jonathan Gilman and family, who maintained the farm for several generations starting in 1767. Gilman was known for his participation in the Revolutionary War as well as his interest in community and church.

By the mid-1900s, Paul’s grandparents William and Fran Twombley had become stewards of the property, and along with their four sons they raised animals, grew crops and made maple syrup here. They were community-minded and interested in celebrating the agricultural heritage of the region. They served as town leaders, were active in the Grange, and helped establish the NH Farm Museum in Milton. The couple also welcomed local grammar school children for field trips to tour the farm and planted pumpkin patches so local children could come PYO.

Paul and Juliana have a similar mindset and would like to reinstate the connection to the community, including inviting schools for field trips. They think it is important for children to see a working 250-year old farm, interact with farm animals, and explore both continuity and change through the centuries of this homestead.

Aspiring to be self-sustaining, the Twombleys currently have organic gardens (they sell their produce at local farmers’ markets) and hope to bring livestock back to the farm, once the barn is ready. For now, they have Vietnamese potbelly pigs and an elderly rabbit named Izzy. They would like to add chickens, donkeys and alpacas. The Twombleys have raised several litters of rabbits on this farm, including a Flemish Giant Angora mix, whose soft hair Juliana spun into yarn.

The couple has done a lot of maintenance and repair already, including restoring old windows – thanks, in part, to their participation in a NH Preservation Alliance window restoration workshop. They have a New England spirit of conserving resources and neighbors-helping-neighbors and are grateful for the help they received from the sustainability non-profit organization Global Awareness Local Action (GALA), and the Carroll County community and folks as far as Salem, Alton, and Portsmouth, who have donated surplus shingles, tar paper and nails in order to fix the barn's south roof.  The materials currently lie in wait as the couple considers how to complete the work on the 12 pitch roof.

The commitment and creativity the Twombleys show in working to restore both their barn and their farm are commendable given their limited resources and health issues. 

The goal of 52 Barns in 52 Weeks is to help at least 52 barn owners across the state with assessment grants, assistance in securing tax relief, and educational opportunities to help save their historic barns. Throughout 2017, barns and their owners have been showcased by the Preservation Alliance to celebrate good work and offer practical information and inspiration to others. 

We are grateful to all of our donors to date, and encourage others to add their support with an investment in the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign so we can do more!