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Rena Guernsey PortraitWatercolor, 1885
James Franklin Gilman

Ten-year-old Rena Guernsey (1875-1918) of Calais was painted by itinerant artist James Franklin Gilman. The artist posed her in a field located off the Old County Road in East Montpelier. According to local tradition, the little dog did not belong to the girl but was included by Gilman when it wandered into the scene. Her mother's death five years later left 15-year-old Rena in charge of the home she shared with her father and brother. In addition to that responsibility she also taught school in surrounding communities. Guernsey married Walter Davis in 1900 and they settled in East Montpelier. She died in 1918 of heart failure.

James Franklin Gilman (1850-1929) was a prolific artist who lived in Central Vermont from 1872 until 1892. He taught at the Goddard Seminary in Barre, and then moved to Montpelier where he had a studio. Usually Gilman stayed with families for long period of time and painted their portraits or images of their prosperous homesteads. He also did fine landscapes, including several of downtown Montpelier that he also engraved. Gilman eventually left the area and became a follower of Mary Baker Eddy the founder of the Christian Science Church. He illustrated one of her books but apparently fell out of favor with the church leader. His last years were spent in Athol, Massachusetts.