Portraits Resurface; Donated To Museum, History Center – Caledonian Record article by Stephen

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Portraits Resurface; Donated To Museum, History Center by Stephen Garfield

Francis Fairbanks is back home where she belongs thanks to recently-uncovered paintings that found their way to St. Johnsbury Saturday.

In 1933 Fairbanks Museum on Main Street in St. Johnsbury obtained the portrait of Francis, the wife of Franklin Fairbanks, the museum’s founder and benefactor.

“At some point we lost track of it, [but] through the hard work of Peggy Pearl, the painting resurfaced in the possession of family descendants,” stated Adam Kane, Fairbanks Museum Executive Director, in an email.

Thanks to the sleuthing by Pearl, director of the St. Johnsbury History and Heritage Center, Fairbanks’ portrait was returned along with another surprise for local history buffs.

Fairbanks descendants from Albany, N.Y., and Hanover, N.H., were on hand for presentations at both the Museum and History & Heritage Center.

From left, Whit Spaulding, Chris Foster, Nick Foster, Kelly Foster and Julia Foster gather around a painting of Francis Fairbanks Saturday at Fairbanks Museum. – Photo by Stephen Garfield


“We’re delivering them back home,” said Chris Foster of Albany. “They’d been hanging in my dad’s home in Washington, DC.” In addition to the Fairbanks painting, the Foster family also delivered an 1874 painting of Rev. Sumner Clapp, the father of Francis Fairbanks who History & Heritage Center director Peggy Pearl said was the first minister of what was then known as South Congregational Church. The arrival of the painting of Rev. Clapp came as a result, Pearl said, of the search for the painting of Francis Fairbanks. “We didn’t know about the painting of Rev. Clapp,” she said as Fairbanks family descendants gathered around it Saturday at the History & Heritage Center. “It came around as a result of the search for Francis. In the search for Francis, up came her dad.”

Peggy said the painting of Francis resurfaced in 2006. “It just took awhile to get here,” she said with a laugh.

Initially, the painting of Francis was thought to have been in the West Lebanon, N.H., home of Whit Spaulding’s grandmother, Mr. Spaulding said. “My grandmother was Franklin Fairbanks’ granddaughter,” he added.

In terms of the Clapp painting, “we thought for years as a family that it actually was Franklin Fairbanks,” said Chris Foster, who was on hand along with his wife and their two children, along with Spaulding, who isFoster’s cousin and hails from Hanover. Pointing to the back of the painting, “This is where my grandmother wrote that it was Franklin Fairbanks, but as Peggy has been able to share with us, it was actually Rev. Clapp.”

“I worked at Fairbanks Museum for years and years, and walked by the bust and painting of Franklin,” Pearl said. “When I saw the [Clapp] painting, I said, ‘uh-oh’, [that’s not Franklin Fairbanks].”

The family left the painting of Rev. Clapp to be displayed at the History & Heritage Center. The painting of Francis, meanwhile, will hang next to Franklin’s at the Main Street museum that bears their name.

“Franklin gave a lot of credit to his wife, and it’s just fitting that they should be back together,” said Pearl.

Copyright (c)2018 Caledonian Record, Edition 12/10/2018

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