Friday, January 4, 2013

A Statehouse Mystery

The Honorable Henry Wilder Keyes
by Craig Pursley of Bath, New Hampshire

On December 5th, a portrait of New Hampshire Governor Henry Wilder Keyes was hung at the statehouse in Concord.  If you have been to the statehouse in the past, perhaps you are thinking “ Wasn't there already a portrait there of Keyes?”   The statehouse holds over 200 portraits in its halls and rooms, from generals to senators, governors and even an astronaut (Alan B. Shepard of Derry). 

For years there has been a portrait hanging on the second floor labeled as Governor and US Senator Keyes.  Former state representative Dean Dexter (also a former New Hampshire Mayflower Society Governor) was the first to question the authenticity of the portrait since he knew the Keyes family.  In August 2012 a family member wrote the statehouse asking that this portrait be removed since it was not her grandfather.  The first portrait was later identified as Jacob Hart Ela (1820-1884) of Rochester.  It was mislaid for years after being donated to the state library by the Keyes family.  Curators assumed the portrait was of Gov. Keyes when the painting was found with a label identifying the donors, and it was erroneously hung at the statehouse.

After the old portrait was removed, New Hampshire artist Craig Pursley was commissioned to paint a new portrait of Gov. Keyes.  The painting was dedicated and rehung at the statehouse on 5 December 2012 by Dean Dexter, in a ceremony with Governor John Lynch and members of the Keyes family. 

Dean Dexter helps hang the new portrait
at the New Hampshire statehouse
newsclipping from the Laconia Citizen 15 December 2012

Henry Wilder Keyes was born 23 May 1862 in Newbury, Vermont and died 19 June 1938 in Haverhill Vermont (the two towns are across the river from each other).  He was a farmer and banker from Haverhill, New Hampshire, where he was a selectman for 25 years.  He was a member of Harvard’s class of 1887.  He was elected Governor from 1916 to 1919, and served as US Senator from 1919 to 1937 (three terms).   He married Frances Parkinson Wheeler in 1904, when he was a 42 year old bachelor.  They had three sons.   Frances and Henry W. Keyes are buried together at the Oxbow Cemetery in Newbury, Vermont.

History of the New Hampshire Statehouse 

Thank you to Dean Dexter for the photos and the newspaper links to this story! Click here for a link to the same story at Dean's website "New Hampshire Commentary":

The artist Craig Pursley's website 

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. Now, this is an instance where basic vital information really counts, and is NOT boring. We need to keep track of who is who, above all! Donated by Keyes family, so assumed to be Keyes -- an easy mistake to make.