Historic Harrisville

P.O. Box 79
Harrisville, NH 03450
603-827-3722

Erin Hammerstedt
Executive Director
ehammerstedt@historicharrisville.org

 


 

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Monday-Friday
8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

 

 
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From the Archives: The F.M. Travis Collection

Fred Milan Travis

Fred Milan Travis

A few years ago, Historic Harrisville’s archives accepted an important gift of notable proportions: nearly 800 glass negatives—the entire collection—taken by Fred Milan Travis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Working from his home in Chesham village, Travis reproduced iconic images of local landscapes and village streetscapes, some of which were sold as postcards in the Bemis country store. He became a sought-after portrait photographer to wealthy families in the area, and he photographed events at prominent estates. He took pictures of residents in Chesham and of the children at Chesham School.

Perhaps his most endearing images, however, were of his own family. It’s fair to say that his beautiful wife, Minnie Lee Jenkins, from Gastonia, North Carolina, was his favorite subject. Their romantic story—the probable pen-pal introduction, their initial meeting at a church supper, a four-year-long courtship, their elopement when Minnie’s father declared, “No damn Yankee is going to get my daughter,” and their happy marriage—could be the making of a Hollywood movie.

Minnie Lee Travis

Minnie Lee Travis

These family stories were revealed by F. M. Travis’s sixth child, Virginia Travis Bates Heath, and were reported in a Common Threads article in 2004. Gini, as she was known, lived much of her life in the Chesham house where she was born. When she died, her sons, Eric and Frank Bates, inherited their grandfather’s photographic collection and offered it to Historic Harrisville. We accepted with gratitude.

In the spring of 2015, archives volunteer Lida Stinchfield began the meticulous process of cleaning and housing the glass negatives. She and Sarah Scott, who interned for several months at the archives, used distilled water and goat hair brushes to gently clean the plates. So far, nearly 70 percent of the negatives have been cleaned, inserted into archival paper enclosures, and stored in acid-free boxes designed to hold them.

Chesham Baptist Church, early 20th Century

Chesham Baptist Church, early 20th Century

As they worked, Lida and Sarah used photo albums loaned by Eric Bates to identify and document many of the glass negatives. HHI incorporator Henry Taves also helped to identify localities and houses. Once the cleaning/storing phase has ended, the archives seeks help with the scanning of images so that we can create albums for HHI and offer digital images to others when requested to do so. If you are able to assist with scanning, please let us know.

The F. M. Travis Photographic Collection includes not only his photos of local places and people; it also includes images taken in and around Gastonia, North Carolina. The Archives Committee debated whether to divide the collection but chose instead to keep it intact since it represents the complete body of work of a noted local photographer. The Gaston County Museum of Art and History, which is interested in acquiring digital copies of Travis images from that locale, will have a chance to do so once our work is complete.

Historic Harrisville’s archival collection of photographs and other valuable records continues to grow. We are grateful to all who trust their treasures to us for safekeeping or who provide us with copies for our files. Our door is open Tuesday morning 9:00-noon and by appointment. Please visit!

Jeannie Eastman