Brother and sister Clesson Blake and Ruth Cook were born on Mountain Road in Gill, where they lived for most of their lives on 87 acres of rolling land they maintained as a small farm and working woodlot. Both were strong proponents of conservation in the old New England sense, with Clesson keeping his model-T truck in operation as a snowplow until the 1990s.
Model-Ts, vintage tractors, and original paintings by nineteenth-century American folk artist Ruth Henshaw Bascomb were among the items on view at the estate auction held at the Blake Farm to benefit land conservation after Ruth Cook passed away in 2008, four years after Clesson. The estate also included the diaries of millwright and carpenter Simon Phillips, covering 1853-1885, and providing a wealth of detail about life in a small New England town.
“Clesson and Ruth always wanted to see their land protected and to see Gill keep its small-town character,” says Dick French, a cousin of the pair and executor of their estate. “They willed their property to trusts for the benefit of land protection in Gill, and that’s helped pay for the appraisal and survey costs on a number of pieces of land protected out here, including our Gill Town Forest.”
The Blake and Cook land had been protected with a temporary conservation restriction in 2008. French then worked with Mount Grace to find a way to permanently protect the land, which includes more than 1,000 feet of frontage on Gill's Main Road.
This year, in accordance with Clesson and Ruth’s wishes, new owners Colleen Sculley and Chris Polatin have now donated a permanent CR on the property to Mount Grace. "We are thrilled to call the Blake Farm home," says Polatin, "and we're thrilled to carry on the common vision of land conservation and stewardship shared by the Blake family, our family and Mount Grace."