Monadnock Moments No. 28: The Cheshire Place
During the 1880s Jones Wilder came to Rindge, New Hampshire, purchased 7,200 acres, and quickly built up one of the largest farmstead developments ever witnessed in New England.
Wilder had made a fortune in New York as a partner in the Butterick Dress Pattern Company. Many years earlier, as a young many in his twenties, Wilder had failed miserably as a saw mill operator in Rindge, but he returned to the town to build his utopian farm community.
Wilder’s 7,200 acres included twenty small farms that were all renovated and restocked. He kept a work force of 3 to 500 men busy for the next thirteen years. In addition to the farms, the community included saw, grist, and cider mills, bobbin and vinegar factories, blacksmith and wheelwright shops, a greenhouse, animal hospital, brickyard, tenements, Wilder’s mansion, and several windmills which powered an underground water system. The cost of construction ran well over $800,000.
The farm estate grew and Wilder opened it to the public in 1893. The Cheshire Place, as he called it, was visited by many people who came to study his farming methods. One year later, however, Wilder died, and the estate was closed down. The Butterick Company soon reopened the Cheshire Place on a smaller scale. Much of the estate was sold off during the early years of the 1900s. During 1926, Wilder’s son George purchased the remainder of the place and dismantled most of the original buildings, leaving the mansion intact. George’s widow sold the estate upon his death in 1931. Several years later the remains of Jones ‘s dream, a few buildings surrounded by cellar holes and endless stonewalls, became the home of the Hampshire Country School.