The Kershaw estate has a tantalizing history with a murder involved. For that story, read online or in print the story of Stone Pond, A Personal History by William D. Eddy, The Plain White Press, 1988. Included are the stories of the opulent and mysterious George Bigelow Chase, a Boston and Dedham Episcopalian. Next the bon-vivant and diminutive-figured author Paul Leicester Ford who was the murder victim. Then Edward H. Kidder, whose wife was in the house when Ford was murdered. He was at the top of the high society lists. His tenure boasts rides for his wealthy fun-loving friends in hupmobiles, jaunts on dirt roads into the surrounding country of his Marlborough, NH home. Last came the privileged Kershaws, steeped in religion and the arts, they too had their share of scandal in prohibition days.
The Kershaws purchased Meerwood on Stone Pond, Marlborough, N.H. in 1916 from Forrest L. Hart and renamed it Merrywood. The Kershaws lived on Bond St in Boston and were members of Christ Church, Cambridge. The St. Francis Chapel was built in 1926 on the shores of Stone Pond. The book notes that many things from the chapel were stolen and vandalized, “statues of Francis and other chapel treasures.”
Ivah and Rosamond Hackler supplied information about the Chapel. They were living there in 1985 on the Dublin side of the Public Landing. Ivah cleaned the chapel from 1924-1928 and stayed with Mrs. Kershaw in Boston in his time off from college studies. Ivah became headmaster of Pinkerton Academy in Derry for 32 years. He married Rosamund, an R.N., in Maine in 1936.
The St. Francis statue pictured in the book on p.70 with its millstone base from Lyndeborough, was put in place by Ivah Hakler and Morris Carter, a secretary to Mrs. Kershaw and later in charge of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Adio diBiccari, a favorite student of Frederick Warren Allen, was a regular at Merrywood. He was first invited there in the early 1930’s by his friend and fellow student at the Museum School, Peter Hawes who had been “adopted” by Justine Kershaw after the death of her husband Francis. Peter had aspired at one point to the priesthood so he and his friends would put on little religious plays in the St. Francis Chapel. Adio became entranced by Stone Pond and Merrywood, was married there and lived for a while in one of the estate houses. “It was there that his sculpture career began to take root.” (p.117) He was a student at the Museum School during the 1930’s, receiving a coveted traveling scholarship for the 1936-37 year. It was after his year in Europe that Merrywood became his home.
Frederick Warren Allen sculpted four pieces for the Kershaws. A lunette fresco relief for the door of the chapel, a crucifix in oak for the exterior apse wall, the St.Francis statue in granite and a marble bust of Francis Kershaw.
Miscellaneous notes of interest are that 1) Allen’s daughter remembered the Crucifix as having been made for the private chapel of Mrs. Prince in Dedham. There is no one of that name listed in Dedham, but Mrs. Prince was Allen’s student between 1919-1922 and rented a studio from him. 2) Chase was very involved in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Dedham at the time of his death about 1893. Perhaps the family stayed involved into the early 1900’s. 4) Father Whitney Hale, the Priest starting around 1960 was a descendant of the Frosts who had been in Marlborough since before Chase. He had also been Rector at Church of the Advent in Boston for which Allen sculpted a very large relief for the West Portal. So many connections in this high society network. Those are the patrons who support the fine arts.
For more information on diBiccari and his experiences at Merrywood, refer to Adio diBiccari, A Life in Sculpture, by Elizabeth Lutyens, privately published in a limited edition.
For more on the Kershaws and their gracious summer estate, see the following articles on this site.
St. Francis Birdbath Garden Statue
Chapel of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio
Crucifix, St. Francis Chapel
Francis Stewart Kershaw