The Warner Historical Society:

A brief History

In 1932, a group of Warner citizens decided to organize a historical society. The following account of the first meeting appeared in the town newspaper, the Kearsarge Independent, December 16, 1932.

"The Warner Historical Society was organized at a well attended meeting at Legion Hall Saturday evening (Dec. 9, 1932) and prospects for the success seemed very bright. About 20 people were present, and officers submitted by a nominating committee of 5 were chosen as follows: Pres. – N.A. Whitford; Vice-President – Dr. L.H. Cogswell; Sec/Treas. – Miriam E. Savory. Nominating Com.: Carrie Sargent – Fred A. Savory & Elsie P. Murphy. Ex. Com.: Alfred S. Cloues – A.E. Jewell – Leon A. Gage – Ruby B. Jewell & Marion Whitford. The purpose of the society is to gather and record material – relics and facts of a historical nature. At the Library Trustee meeting held on Friday evening, storage space in the Library basement was voted. Mrs. Carrie Sargent presented the society with old time pictures of interest. Annual dues of 50 cents was decided upon, and all persons in town over 70 years of age, who desire, may become honorary members without payment of dues."

On September 3, 1935, another account of the Society’s annual meeting was recorded in the Kearsarge Independent:

"At the annual meeting of the Warner Historical Society at Simonds Free High School building, the following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President – Lloyd H. Cogswell; Vice-President: Mrs. Lora E.B. Courser; Secretary-Treasurer: Miss Miriam E. Savory; Board of Trustees: Mrs. Marion H. Whitford, Leon A. Gage, Alfred S. Cloues, John A. Sinclair, Mrs. Ruby B. Jewell, Mrs. Dollie M. Sargent. Historical Committee: Mrs. Lora E.B. Courser; Mrs. Elizabeth H. Wilkins, Nehemiah O. Whitford. Membership Committee: Mrs. Donna G. Cartledge, Fred A. Savory, Mrs. Elsie P. Murphy. Program Committee: Harry L. Smith, Mrs. Florence E.D. Savory, Mrs. Katherine B. Henley. Property Committee: Mrs. Dollie M. Sargent, Mrs. Hilma P. Sawyer, [and] Mrs. Alice H. Hardy. Miss Florence O. Bean gave a very interesting talk of the purpose and work of a historical society and told some interesting stories of old-time residents. Informal remarks were made by Mrs. Hilma Sawyer, Leon A. Gage, N.O. Whitford and Mrs. Lora Courser."

If minutes of the meetings were recorded, they have been lost over the years. Various small reports may have appeared in the Kearsarge Independent, but only a complete examination of the paper would gather such information. The Society was discontinued in 1945, but revived in 1967; the following account of the first meeting was written by Nancy Sibley Wilkins on July 17, 1968:

"On Tuesday, October 10, 1967, a meeting was held in the Warner Town Hall for all interested in re-establishing the Warner Historical Society. As a result, seventy persons who were present signed as wishing to belong to a Warner Historical Society and later, fifty others who could not be present, indicated their interest. Walter Miner, acting as temporary chairman, and a small committee composed of William Cogswell, Paul Ladd, Charlotte Holden, Mary Martin, Miriam Savory and myself, have written, after careful study and many revisions, a Constitution and By-laws for the Warner Historical Society. So, we are sending it, herewith, to all who have expressed an interest, with the request that you come to an organizational meeting for the Warner Historical Society at the Warner Town Hall, August 15th, at 7:30 o’clock in the evening. At this meeting, we will vote on accepting this proposed Constitution and By-laws, as well as a slate of officers submitted by a committee composed of Mary F. Martin, Chairman, William Cogswell and Paul Ladd. Reports of what has already been started by certain individuals will be given, with the hope that others will have suggestions to work for after we are properly organized."

Meetings were held at the Lower Warner Meeting House (from May through September), a mid-Nineteenth Century house of worship donated to the Historical Society by Nancy Sibley Wilkins in 1969. The Historical Society’s collections were stored there for more than ten years. In 1978, a very generous Mary Martin left money in her estate to the Society, which was used for maintenance of the Meeting House and, in 1982, used to purchase the permanent home on Main Street, a house that was built around 1833. In the early 1980s, the Historical Society barn was transformed into a discount shopping area, a place where all kinds of donations are made by the people of Warner, providing the Society with its major source of revenue for operating expenses. And in 2002, a Book Loft was added to the second floor of the Barn, where donations of used books, paperbacks, CDs, and records can be purchased at bargain prices. In 2000, the John P.H. Chandler Family of Warner gifted to the Society a Federal-style house that is situated across the street from the Main Building. The Upton/Chandler House (built in 1817) is being rehabilitated and restored for use as exhibit space of the Society’s collections.

Through years of dedicated service by community members, the Historical Society has become a strong and thriving organization, and continues its role as established in 1932 as the guardian of Warner history.