The Spoonwood Saga, Part II

A Plot Twist

Sunrise on Spoonwood Pond

Sunrise on Spoonwood Pond. (photo © Roxanne Copeland)

In the 1980s, an unusual twist took place regarding Spoonwood that no one saw coming. I’ll summarize much of the story through excerpts from the press, beginning with “The Baron of Greengate,” by Ernie Hebert in the 1983 Christmas issue of the Boston Globe:

At age 76, Newt Tolman is a living legend. Now alone on his hill [his wife Janet deceased], he’s selling almost all he owns. . . . Below, shining all silvery, is Spoonwood Pond. Newt has a mile of frontage on the water. Beyond are more lakes and brooding hills, framed by Mount Monadnock. Greengate offers one of the best views in New England.

Just a couple of weeks later, a story by George Manglove ran in the January 7, 1984 issue of the Keene Sentinel, with the headline: “Lumber firm buys share of [420]-acre Nelson forest”:

Anthony Cersosimo Sr., of Cersosimo Lumber, Inc., in Brattleboro, Vt., is the new owner of a half-interest in the property that was settled by Tolman’s ancestors more than two centuries ago. Tolman said he would spend the money living “high, wide and handsome” . . . including the delivery of his new Rolls Royce . . . he plans to spend part of the day just “sitting in the heated back seat . . . listening to my television.”

Trading Spoonwood for a Rolls Royce?

The New Hampshire Times ran a story by David Lord in February 1984 called “Greengate Swap”:

. . . Tolman has really shaken his family and neighbors this time: He has traded half-interest in Greengate, his [420]-acre ‘special part of the world,’ for a Rolls Royce. No ordinary Rolls, mind you—a Red Mark, one of only 75 to 100 made to commemorate the company’s 75th anniversary . . . . The day—Jan. 6—that he decided to buy the Red Mark, . . . Cersosimo came to Greengate . . . with four lawyers, Tolman said, and the agreement was tape recorded. Cersosimo handed over a check for $60,000, and Tolman had enough to pay $51,000 for the Red Mark and a little left over. Now it’s a matter of dispute. Tolman’s son, Renn, has hired Jaffrey lawyer Jeffrey Crocker and . . . people who witnessed the transaction are being questioned about it . . . . “The community at large has an enormous feeling that injustice has been done,” said Renn Tolman . . . . “People are irate at Cersosimo” for paying so little for half-interest in the property.

Then on May 23, 1984, Martin Frank wrote in the Keene Sentinel: “Judge issues restraining order against Cersosimo’s land rights in Tolman estate”:

Presiding Justice William J. O’Neil issued the order on request of Tolman’s court-appointed guardians—son Renn Tolman of Homer, Alaska, and nephew Barry Tolman of Nelson . . . . The two guardians have filed a lawsuit asking that Cersosimo’s purchase of half-interest and timber rights in the [420]-acre estate be voided. The suit charges that the rights were bought at substantially below market value, amounting to “unconscionable exploitation” of 76-year old Newton Tolman . . . . In the court papers, the guardians maintain that the 1982 appraised value of the property and Tolman’s house was $435,000 and that the estate’s value has appreciated in the meantime.

A Settlement

And then in the December 27, 1984 Keene Sentinel, Martin Frank wrote: “Lawsuit over [420] acres in Nelson is settled”:

The Greengate property . . . has been returned to the Tolman family . . . an-out-of-court settlement was reached between members of the Tolman family and a Brattleboro developer and timber company owner, Anthony Cersosimo, who had bought half-interest and timber rights to the [420]-acre estate from an ailing and aging Newton F. Tolman.

All the articles excerpted above were collected by Karen Tolman and used as illustrations for her detailed (and humorous) account of the whole story, The Greengate Saga 1982-1986. Email Karen to buy a copy; it’s a great read.

But it’s not over yet…

—Meade Cadot