Skip to content

GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Staff Writer

TOWNSEND — Every year, people are treated to 10 weekly free performances by the Townsend Military Band on the common during the summer.

Nine of the ten concerts are paid for by the town, but the June 28 concert stands out as being different. It’s paid for by Amanda E. Dwight, or rather a committee that bears her name.

Band concert coordinator Betty Mae Tenney said a previous budget cut had threatened to reduce the band concert season by one performance.

“The last few years, the committee has been nice enough to cover the performance,” said Tenney.

The cost for each concert is close to $900, according to Amanda E. Dwight Entertainment Fund Committee member Faith Wilkinson.

For anyone wondering what the Amanda E. Dwight Entertainment Fund is, the answer is in the name of the committee: Amanda Dwight.

Dwight died in 1925, but her last will and testament provided enough money to pay for town entertainment over 80 years later.

Dwight had actually wanted to leave $85,000 to Townsend in her will for a library, cemetery maintenance, the poor, and a concert and lecture fund. Calculating for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, $85,000 in 1925 is equivalent to almost $1 million today.

Dwight had actually wanted to leave $85,000 to Townsend in her will for a library, cemetery maintenance, the poor, and a concert and lecture fund. Calculating for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, $85,000 in 1925 is equivalent to almost $1 million today.

Unfortunately for the town, Dwight’s will was contested by her relatives, who claimed she was mentally incompetent when writing the will. According to historian Richard N. Smith’s book, “Divinity and Dust,” published in 1975 and available at the Townsend Historical Society, Dwight felt that her father, who died intestate, hadn’t left enough money to continue their family legacy in Townsend. She wanted to remedy that in her own will.

Her father was Walter Fessenden, owner of the town’s largest business — Fessenden’s coopering mills.

The exact details of the dispute are unclear, but town documents from the 1926 town meeting show a compromise was reached that year.

“The Library Committee, composed of the selectmen, town treasurer, and the library trustees, have signed a compromise agreement in behalf of the town whereby the town will receive from the estate of the late Amanda E. Dwight 60 percent of the amount bequeathed to the town under her will,” read article 25 from the town meeting.

Instead of the $85,000 stated in the will, the town received $51,000. Of that money, $15,000 went for construction of the library, $12,000 to maintenance, $6,000 for cemeteries, $9,000 for the poor and $9,000 for an entertainment fund. Where the remaining 40 percent of her original $85,000 bequeathment went is unknown.

The entertainment fund was named after Amanda Dwight and continues to this day.

“All of our money comes from the interest” earned from the original endowment, said Wilkinson.

Dwight’s will may have caused debate 80 years ago, but its final results are still enjoyed today.

Besides being paid for by the Amanda E. Dwight Fund, the June 28 concert will stand out as marking the eve of the Townsend’s 275th Anniversary, where a commemorative postage cancellation stamp will be used for the first time.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.