Remembering Gale Peck

Many area residents will remember Gale Peck (1887- 1991) of Chester. I remember Gale but never knew him well. His son Howard (1911-2014) I did know well. Gale was an early officer of the Chester Historical Society and a strong supporter. Howard had a crystal clear memory and supplied me with much information.

Whenever I had a question about Chester history I would pay Howard a visit. He could clearly recall people and events in Chester as far back as 1918. One time I took Howard a photo album of the 1938 hurricane; Don Bates who lived on Cobliegh Street compiled it. Howard sat there turning the pages and told me where each photo was. Then Howard said, “Donnie was a good kid.”

I chuckled and Howard asked me, “What is so funny?”

I replied, “It strikes me funny that a man 100 years old referred to someone as a good kid.”

Then we both laughed.

Howard’s son Ed of Springfield recently donated to the Chester Historical Society a large collection of photos and documents that belonged to Ed’s grandfather Gale. The photos date from 1936 – 1960.

Gale was an early real estate dealer in Chester, selling Chester and area properties. I haven’t counted the photos but there must be 100 or more. Most are Chester properties but there are few Weston, Grafton and others I have yet to identify.

Clarence Balch place. Photo provided


Many readers will remember Bill Orcutt, also of Chester. Bill’s father was John Orcutt a wealthy banker in New York. John lived in what is now Stone Hearth Inn. In the 1920s-1930s John was amassing as much property in Chester as he could. In those days farms with 100 acres were common and could be bought for under $1,000.

Much of the property John Orcutt bought was in the Lovers Lane part of town. At one time he owned over 2,000 acres. Some of this land was donated to the Town of Chester. The Pinnacle we all enjoy today is one of those properties.

Gale Peck was Orcutt’s realtor in those days. When Chester property became available Gale contacted John Orcutt. He usually purchased the property if it added to his holdings.

The photos Ed just donated are photos of real estate Gale had listed for sale in Chester and surrounding towns. Many of these photos have the original sales listings attached. The next paragraph is one example. This is the Pollard house or Charthouse as some know it next to the Whiting Library.

10 rooms, 1 ½ baths, shed, barn, large porch with dry cement cellar. Oil hot water heat with two fireplaces, new asphalt driveway and new electric service.

Rooms: Large front hall and staircase. Double living room with sliding doors between. Dining room with built-in china and linen closet. Large kitchen, soapstone sink. Pantry with shelves and drawers.

Second floor has five rooms and full bath (one room has been made into a kitchen for a three room apartment.

Third floor is finished off, would make a good game room.

This sales listing is undated but probably predates 1945. Owned by Clarence Balch, asking price was $13,000 and taxes were $425 a year.

This is one example of many listings of properties in the Chester area. One that puzzled me for a while was The-Well-A-Way Farm. I researched it and discovered it is the former Eve Dawson place on the Lovers Lane Road. In Gale’s photos are several photos of this place including interior views and identified as The Well-A-Way Farm. Further research revealed that it was given the name Well-A-Way because it was “well away” from Hartford, Connecticut where the owners lived. The photos are in an envelope dated 1936.

Another thing I learned of interest to me was late in life Gale took up painting. Ed has a number of Gale’s paintings so I went to see them. Gale never had any lessons he just painted what he saw. Many paintings are deer, moose or other outdoor scenes. Some are quite good with excellent colors.

Moose painting by Gale Peck. Photo provided.
Winter birches painting by Gale Peck. Photo provided.

The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, January 26 at 7 p.m., upstairs at Chester Town Hall. The monthly slideshow will include some of Gale’s paintings with the balance of the slideshow being some of Gale’s real estate photos. It’ll be an interesting slideshow where I will add a few I don’t recognize. Maybe you will. All are invited from any town.

This week’s old saying. “God may forgive you but I won’t.”


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