Burton farm sold at auction
BATH — Saturday was a picture-perfect day for cutting and drying hay: bright sun, warm temperatures, low humidity and a strong wind.
Just the sort of weather the Burton siblings would appreciate when they grew up and worked to fill their massive barn with the baled produce of the field.
Around Bath and Woodsville Saturday, that’s just what was taking place. The familiar green and yellow John Deere tractors leaving a path behind them, created that most welcome fragrance of spring, new hay.
Three of the Burton siblings were even at their old farm once again on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River.
But their haymaking days are long over. They were on hand instead to watch as the old farm departed their family.
The fourth sibling, Ray Burton, departed last November when he lost his battle with cancer. Saturday’s sale was one of the last remaining pieces of business to settle the estate of the longtime New Hampshire Executive Councilor.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet time,” his sister, Joan Day, said as she watched potential bidders pull off River Road and park in her old dooryard.
Her brother was a good farmhand in his youth, Day said, confirming accounts from an old friend of his that Burton was indeed adept at the tricky task of driving backwards on a tractor with a fully loaded hay trailer attached.
“Over there is where we used to drive the tractors,” Day said, pointing to the old barn that still stands.
“We’d jump off the beams inside into the loose hay. We’d make tunnels in the hay, and then we’d drag our relatives in there,” she said with a laugh.
“There were always picnics here.”
Old friends and neighbors showed up Saturday. Most with white hair and moving slowly. There were hugs and tears.
Local auctioneer Archie Steenburgh started the bidding, but didn’t get the $250,000 he sought, or $225,000. He ducked quickly into the kitchen to confer with longtime Burton family friend and estate executor Duane Baxter, and emerged seeking instead the established minimum $180,000 bid.
It came from Gail DeLucia, the lone bidder. The auction was closed and the room burst into applause.
Raymond and Gail DeLucia are from New Haven, Conn. Their son, Alex and his wife, Sara, live on property that adjoins the Burton farm. The four plan to use their new land to do some farming together as a family, Sara said afterward.
That plan, judging from their tears of happiness and more hugs, appeared to be a pleasant prospect for the Burton sisters and brother.