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Gage, F.B. – December 2011 Edition of History & Heritage

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Welcome to the December column of the History & Heritage Center. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve our town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. Remember, we are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.

To bring you up to date, we are still focusing on the Armory for the Center’s new home. We are in a holding pattern for the Town’s insurance to perhaps provide additional funds to finish the work on the mold problem. Patience is a virtue!


For those of us who were employed by the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery maintaining the grounds, there was an area known to us as “lost nation.” It is tucked away, down behind the Fairbanks area to the north. On a small bank are two time-darkened slabs that mark the resting places of Mr. & Mrs. Franklin B. Gage and a young child. To Mr. F. B. Gage we owe gratitude for some of St. Johnsbury’s earliest photographic images. It is believed that F. B. Gage was St. Johnsbury’s pioneer photographer.

Edward Fairbanks makes mention in his Town of St. Johnsbury history, prior to 1850, of a Daguerreotype Car, complete with a sky light dome where pictures were taken. This car was pulled by four horses that appeared at times and parked below the original burying ground, where the Court House is now. In 1851, Mr. Gage opened his St. Johnsbury Portrait Gallery in Emerson Hall which stood where the Athenaeum is today.

His talents included those of an artist, a poet and philosopher. He referred to himself as “The-Man-with-the-Long-Flowing-Beard” and sometimes “The-Old-Daguerreen.’ His advertisements often consisted of whimsical poems:

“For twenty-five cents

Is all the expense

Of an Ambrotype made of your face

And for double that sum

If you presently come,

‘Twill be made and put in a case”

The portraits of individuals were followed by landscape views which often consisted of two of the same view on one card to be used with the stereoscope which when looked through brought the two into one in a 3d presentation.  One of those is shown here with F.B. Gage in the foreground! This was another one of his traits to have himself or members of his family in the photograph. Notice the photo; the Athenaeum is there which means that F. B. Gage had moved across the street into the Brown Block. Easily recognized are the South Church, North and South Halls of the Academy, and the court house. The depth of field is amazing! Where is Franklin in this picture? My best guess is the hill where Brightlook Hospital was to be and where the water reservoir was then. Yes, he has a beard but what I don’t know is what is in his hand – maybe a watch for timing?

Another format he used was twice the size of a business card. The Main Street scene shown here was that size. In sorting through Dad’s things, I found two of this size, the street scene being where the Passumpsic Bank is today down to the corner of Main and Prospect Streets. The other photo had a close-up of the middle building of the three in a row. The left side was J.T. Cassino, Upholsterer with the right side of the same building being Bingham’s Drug Store. One back side advertised F. B. Gage; the other had a long verse by Gage, called Myra.

Thank goodness time has not lost all of the talents of Franklin Gage and these images serve us as we not only talk and write about a time gone by but picture it as well. In closing, here is another of Gage’s verses that speaks of time and the preservation of it.

& So Forth & So On

By the Flowing Beard

How swiftly the moments of life hurry on,

Nor slow forth nor slow on,

But swift as the tide of a swift rushing river

They flow forth & flow on

& so forth & so on.

Then O, as you row down the River of Life,

As you row forth & row on,

Have your likeness preserved in a case or a frame

To show forth and show on

& so forth & so on.

And e’en though the weather be cloudy or fair

 Or snow forth & snow on,

And e’en though the tempest should rise in its wrath

& blow forth & blow on,

We’ll take you a picture you won’t be ashamed

When you go forth & go on

To show forth & show on

& so forth & so on.

On behalf of the Board of The St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center, we wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Please keep us in your thoughts and actions as we work towards the preservation of the F. B. Gage’s of this town.

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