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Euclid Farnham, longtime champion of Tunbridge, dies at 87

  • Euclid and Priscilla Farnham have a quick lunch at the Tunbridge fairgrounds on Sept. 16, 2009. The fair, opening the next day, was Euclid Farnham's last as president, a position he held for 31 years. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News File photo — Jennifer Hauck

  • Euclid Farnham, of Tunbridge, Vt., rings the bell at the North Tunbridge Baptist Church in August 2003. Members of the congregation share the responsibilities of ringing the bell and greeting churchgoers as they arrive on Sunday mornings. (Valley News - Laura DeCapua) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2021 9:33:55 PM
Modified: 6/22/2021 9:34:00 PM

TUNBRIDGE — Euclid Farnham, an eighth-generation Vermonter who helped bring the small farm town of Tunbridge to the wider world, died Monday. He was 87 and had been struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and pancreatic cancer, family members said.

After a stay at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Farnham had moved from his farm on Whitney Hill in Tunbridge to The Village at White River Junction in late October, where he died, according to his wife, Priscilla Farnham.

As town moderator for 37 years, president of the Tunbridge World’s Fair for 31 years, longtime treasurer of the Tunbridge Church, and 50-year president of the Tunbridge Historical Society, Farnham was the omnipresent, welcoming face of the town of 1,250.

“A lot of towns have this, every 100 years, this one person who just really defines the town, and that would be Euclid,” said John O’Brien, a filmmaker, Selectboard member and state representative who grew up in Tunbridge. Farnham had small roles in two of O’Brien’s movies, including as a political handler of dairy farmer-turned-candidate Fred Tuttle in Man With a Plan.

Farnham also was a hard-working dairy farmer, milking Jerseys in the last wooden-floored stable that still shipped milk in Vermont. As a young farmer, he liked to recount, he used to lug a large portable radio with him around the farm to catch every Red Sox game. By the time he had to give up milking, in the late 1990s, he had titanium knees to testify to the grueling nature of the business.

A graduate of South Royalton School, Farnham served in the Army in the mid-1950s but had to pass up a chance to go to Boston University because his father needed help with the family farm. But he became well-known for his writing, photographs and presentations on town history, the Civil War, historic churches and covered bridges in the area. He also served as a substitute teacher.

“That was his one sorrow, that he wasn’t able to go to Boston University, but he became a historian on his own,” said Priscilla Farnham. The couple, who would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in August, were prominent figures on “Antique Hill,” the area at the fair that showcases tools and agricultural traditions from more than a century ago.

Farnham, who received a resolution from the Legislature honoring his “extraordinary legacy” and a standing ovation to mark his last Town Meeting as moderator in 2020, is also widely credited with helping transform the fair, which in the 1970s had become notorious for its strip shows and boisterous beer tent.

“He was just a very likable man, and he loved his history, and the one thing I think he did more than anything with the fair is in 30 years he changed the face of the fair, making it more family-friendly,” said Alan Howe, who succeeded Farnham as Fair president and is himself a former dairy farmer.

Euclid and Priscilla married in their 40s and had no children, but were close to others including their nephew, Ben Wolfe, a Tunbridge resident who highlighted his late uncle’s curiosity about life.

“I think that’s what fueled his interest in history. He loved people. He helped bring history out of the words and numbers into a real experience that people went through,” Wolfe said.

“He was the town memory.”

Farnham also treasured the barns at the fairgrounds when they overflowed with cattle and other livestock.

“If you’re going to have an agricultural fair, you’ve got to have some semblance of agriculture, or we’ll no longer be a rural, agricultural fair — we’ll be a carnival,” Farnham told the Valley News in 2009.

O’Brien, the Tunbridge selectman, said he thinks it was fitting that Farnham died on the summer solstice, a “favorite day” for many farmers.

“For Tunbridge, he was our longest, sunniest day,” O’Brien said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at 603-727-3217 or jgregg@vnews.com.




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