WILLSBORO The Willsboro Heritage Society was an exciting place to be on Friday evening as the painting of William Gilliland, the founder of the town of Willsboro, was unveiled in front of a crowd of 80 people.
The portrait of Gilliland was created by artist Ralph Earle in the late 18th century in the latter part of his life. The painting was discovered in the Maine Digest, a resource for antique seeking people. The painting was located in the possession of an art dealer in Oxford, Md. It so happened that Morris Glenn, a local resident and historian who lives there, checked out the painting for the area and recognized its value.
While the Heritage Society attempted to purchase the prized painting on their own, Peter Paine and the Boquet Foundation realized how difficult this would be and purchased the portrait for the area. The painting, once purchased, was turned over to Fort Ticonderoga. The staff of the fort agreed to take care of the renovation, restoration and repair of the painting. The stipulation was made that when complete, the portrait would be displayed in Willsboro during the months the Heritage Center Museum is open.
William Gilliland is the founder of the town of Willsboro. In 1764 Will bought from Dr. Joseph
Field 2,000 acres of land lying along the shore of Lake Champlain between the mouth of the Boquet River and Split Rock Falls for 100 pounds. In 1765, on June 7, Will reached this location on the shores of Lake Champlain and named the place Willsboro.
The program commemorating the unveiling included a welcome by Darcey Hale, president of the Willsboro Historical Society. Gillilands story was told by David Glenn and Darren Darrah did a wonderful presentation of the discovery of the portrait and the history of its eventual return to Willsboro. Christopher Fox discussed the life and times of Ralph Earle, the artist, to the interested crowd. Peter Paine described how the painting arrived in Willsboro and Nicholas Westbrook of Fort Ticonderoga talked of the Stewardship of Fort Ticonderoga with regard to the painting. Darcey Hale and Westbrook signed the Fort Ticonderoga-Willsboro Heritage Society Loan Agreement.
The culmination of an exciting evening arrived with the formal unveiling and dedication of the portrait by Peter Paine and Nicholas Westbrook. A copy of the portrait is in the New York Historical Society Museum. A reception with refreshments followed the program.
The Willsboro Heritage Society Museum located on School Street in Willsboro, is filled with many other local artifacts and is a fascinating spot to spend a couple of hours. The museum hours are Wednesday from 1 until 4pm, Friday and Saturday hours are from 10-4 or by appointment at 518-963-4284.
The Willsboro Heritage Society Museum is open.