New Hampshire’s First Female Selectman: Lenna Gwendolen (Wilson) Perry (1899-1986)

The small town of Sharon, located in the Monadnock region, is prominent in history for being the location of New Hamphire’s first female selectman. Even today Sharon’s  population is only 340 people.

Mrs. Lenna (Wilson) Perry

Mrs. Lenna (Wilson) Perry (1899-1986)

Lenna Gwendolen Wilson came from a well-known local farming family, being the daughter, and tenth child of  Thomas J. & Ellen A. (Worcester) Wilson.  Lenna was born 9 March 1899 in Sharon, Hillsborough Co. NH.

She was educated first in the Sharon schools, then later at Katherine Gibbs School, and Burdett College in Boston, MA (both of these facilities then provided business and office courses).  From 1918 to 1920 she worked at the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C. [The 1920 U.S. Census shows her residing in Washington D.C. with a sister, occupation “typist.”].

Starting in 1925 until 1939 (fourteen years) she was Town Clerk of Sharon, New Hampshire. In that position she probably became a familiar face to most of the town’s residents.  In 1927 she was elected to the New Hampshire General Court (legislature) as a Republican representing Sharon, receiving 16 votes in the election. During that term she was member of the Cheshire County, N.H. Bldg. Committee, and was clerk of the New Hampshire House of Representatives [Editors Note: the House Clerk is elected by the House members at the beginning of each biennium].   The book: “New Hampshire Women Legislators Golden Anniversary 1921-1971” that was prepared by Leon W. Anderson and others, states: “It has been recalled that in her first term, Miss Wilson, at 28 the youngest of the 14 women then in the Legislature, became fondly known as ‘The Rose of Sharon‘.”

In 1928 she was elected selectman of Sharon, [the first woman to be elected to a selectman position in the State of New Hampshire] continuing in this capacity until 1940 (three additional terms of three years). She was trustee of the Town of Sharon’s Trust Funds (1926-1940), and library trustee (1926-1940).

In 1936 she married James Bigelow Perry, son of Jason Stanley & Elsie Augusta (Page) Perry. After her marriage she moved with her husband to Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where her husband ran a lumber business. One source states that Lenna earned a living as a nurse, but I have not found any primary documents to substantiate this.  James B. Perry was elected by the town of Jaffrey to serve that town in the NH House, and he died in 1951 during his third or fourth House term. After her husband’s death, Lenna ran as a Republican in her adopted town of Jaffrey, to succeed her husband.  During that election there was a complaint that her opponent Hubert F. Oneill’s name was inadvertently left off ballot. At any rate she was considered the winner, and in 1955 as a member of New Hampshire’s General Court, she was a member of the Ways and Means, Municipal and County Govt., Banking, Legislative Dept. Committees.  Real Estate, Forestry, Taxation. At that time she resided on Squantum Street in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

Lenna (Wilson) Perry was a delegate to NH Constitutional Conventions in 1930 and 1938, and she served as a  DAR member and Regent.  She had other interests being a member of the Society for Protection of N.H. Forests, American Forestry Association, National and N.H. Orders of Women Legislators, vice pres.  and the Sharon Taxpayers Association. She was a Congregationalist, and a trustee of the First Church of Rindge, N.H.

In 1971, the book “New Hampshire Women Legislators,” reported “Now a chipper septuagenarian, Mrs. Perry keeps busy peddling blueberries and Christmas trees, while tending her woodlands sprawled through four towns. And her hobby is preservation of old stone walls, the monuments of pioneering New England toil which are without equal anywhere else in the world.”  Mrs. Lenna (Wilson) Perry died  17 February 1986 in Peterborough, NH while she was a resident of Jaffrey NH


[Editor’s Note: I was unable to verify earlier trees, but possible lines immediately follow]
#1 Joseph Wilson > John & Elizabeth (Foster) Wilson > Lieut. John & Joanna (Carter) Wilson > John & Hannah (James) Wilson > John & Elizabeth (Mansfield) Wilson]
#2 Joseph Wilson > > > John & Hannah (James) Wilson > William & Patience (Grindal) Wilson > William & Alice (?) Wilson.

Joseph Wilson, son of John & Elizabeth (Foster) Wilson was b. 21 May 1699 in Billerica, Middlesex Co. MA, and d. —. He married abt 1732 to Sarah ?Jackson. She died 30 December 1762. The History of Shirley Mass, states: “Joseph Wilson, resided in Groton MA (afterwards called Shirley) as early as 1733 in the area known as ‘Parker Grove,’ in the center of the town, designated as ‘Wilson Lot’ in the earliest tax records. His wife, Sarah, died at Shirley MA 30 December 1762. He was one of the signers of the petition that the territory be divided and that an independent municipality be established. They had seven children.”
Children of Joseph & Sarah (Jackson) Wilson:
1. Joseph Wilson, b. 23 Feb 1733
2. Sarah Wilson, b. 26 July 1736
3. Elizabeth Wilson, b. 4 July 1739
4. John Wilson, b. 7 Sep 1742
5. +David Wilson, b. 3 June 1745 in Shirley MA
6. Esther Wilson, b. 14 June 1748
7. Susanna Wilson, b. 14 Aug 1751

David Wilson, son of Joseph & Sarah (Jackson) Wilson was b. 3 June 1745 in Shirley, Middlesex Co. MA and d. 23 Feb 1833. He married 1st) published 4 Feb 1780 to Sarah Bolton of Westminster MA; He married 2nd) published 21 March 1784 Lunenburg MA to Martha Page, dau of Daniel & Ruth (Haskell) Page. She b. 15 Dec 1750 in Groton NH and d. about 1800. David was one of the eighty volunteers who responded to the alarm of the 19th of April, 1775. He enlisted 25 May 1776 for a service of sixty-eight days, and afterwards enlisted for three years, 2 December 1777.
Children of David & Martha (Page) Wilson:
1. +David Page Wilson, b. 10 March 1785 Shirley MA
2. Abel Wilson, b. abt 1795 MA
3. Eliza Wilson, b abt 1797 in Shirley MA; m. Moses Bacon

David Wilson, son of David & Martha (Page) Wilson was b. 10 March 1785 in Shirley, Middlesex Co. MA and d. 5 May 1878 in Sharon, Hillsborough Co. NH. He married 17 Sep 1815 in Peterborough NH to Hannah Carlton, dau of Moses and Sibbel (Shed) Carlton. She was b. 1 May 1791 in Sharon NH and d. 25 Feb 1877 in Sharon NH.
Children of David & Hannah (Carlton) Wilson:
1. + David J. Wilson, b. abt 1819 Sharon NH
2. John S. Wilson, b. abt 1816 Sharon NH; d. 12 Oct 1895 Sharon NH
3. Sebel Wilson, b. 11 Jan 1831 in Sharon NH and d. 8 April 1915 in Winchendon MA, from an accidental fall down a flight of stairs; she married Charles W. Royse.

David J. Wilson, son of David and Hannah (Carlton) Wilson was b. abt 1819 Sharon NH and d. 23 Nov 1895 in Sharon NH. He m. by 1842 to Lucy Sanders, dau of David & Lucy (Adams) Sanders. She was b. abt 1813 in MA or Peterborough NH and d. 14 March 1888 in Sharon NH; occupation housekeeper
Children of David J. & Lucy (Sanders/Saunders) Wilson:
1. Sarah J. Wilson, b. abt 1842 NH; she married — Bacon and d. 8 Apr 1871 in Sharon NH
2. Marcus A. Wilson, b. 2 January 1846 Sharon NH; d. 25 Nov 1910 Sharon NH
3. +Thomas J. Wilson, b. 4 Nov 1847 Sharon NH

Thomas J. Wilson, son of David Wilson Jr. & Lucy Sanders/Saunders, b. 4 Nov 1847 in Sharon NH, died 10 Feb 1933 in Sharon NH; married 24 Sep 1878 in East Wilton NH to Ellen A. Worcester, daughter of Nathan & Sarah (Richards) Worcester. She was born 20 March 1864 in Mason NH, and died in 4 July 1948 in Sharon NH [NH County Probate Index 1660-1973] . Thomas J. Wilson served in the Union Army during the Civil War, enlisted in Company F., NH 6th Infantry Regiment on 21 Nov 1863, mustered out on 23 Dec 1863 at Camp Nelson KY. [Register of Soldiers and Sailors of NH 1861-65].  Their marriage record shows their occupations as farmer and domestic.
1900 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Sharon
Thomas J. Wilson Head W M Nov 1857 52 married 22 yrs NH NH NH Farmer
Ellen A. Wilson Wife W F March 1864 36 married 22 yrs 20 ch 9 living NH NH NH
Alpha T. Wilson dau b Jan 1879 21 single NH
Otis J. Wilson son b Nov 1881 19 single NH
Lewis E. Wilson son May 1883 17 single NH
Eva A Wilson dau Feb 1885 15 single NH
Wait E. Wilson son July 1888 11 single NH
Shepley F. Wilson son June 1892 7 single NH
Edith S. Wilson dau Sep 1894 5 single NH
Harold A. Wilson son July 1897 2 single NH
Lenna G. Wilson dau 1 March 1899 single NH
Children of Thomas J. & Ellen A. (Worcester) Wilson:
1. Alpha Thomas Alphey Wilson, b. 27 Jan 1879 Sharon NH [son]; He died 13 July 1929 in Greenfield NH. He m. 18 July 1925 in Manchester NH to Eva Joan Maloney, dau of John & Mary A. (Garrity) Maloney.
2. Otis J. Wilson, b. 14 Nov 1880 Sharon NH
3. Lewis Elvin Wilson, b. 30 May 1883 Sharon NH. He m. 30 Nov 1910 in Jaffrey NH to Nellie M. Brown, dau of James P. & Selina (Flood) Brown.
4. [male child] b. 30 May 1884 Sharon NH
5. [girl] Wilson, b. 9 Feb 1885 Sharon NH
6. Waite Edward Wilson b. 27 July 1888 Sharon NH. He m. 30 Nov 1910 in Jaffrey NH to Flossie T. Wills, dau of Paul & Celia (Austin) Willis.
7. Flossie Ellen Wilson, b. 10 Dec 1890 Sharon NH. She died 15 Dec 1890 in Sharon NH.
8. Shipley/Shepley Forest/Forrest Wilson, b. 28 June 1892 Sharon NH. He m. 27 Oct 1917 in Peterborough NH to Bernice Maria Myhaver. She b. abt 1893, dau of George F. & Bertha E. (Philbrick) Myhaver].
9. Edith Wilson b. 5 Sep [prob 1895]. Sharon NH.  In 1930 US Census with parents in Sharon, Hillsborough Co. NH, and in 1910 with sister Lenna in Washington DC typist.A Edith Wilson dau of Harry & Lina (Chamberlain) Wilson married in 1933 at Jaffrey NH to Thomas J. Bosley, son of Frank & Louise (Taylor) Bosley
10. Harold Abernleach/Allen Wilson, b. 28 July 1897 Sharon NH. He m. 1 Feb 1919 in Peterborough NH to Rosilda Sara Sucier/Lucier, dau of Joseph R. & Cornelia H. (Maran) Sucier/Lucier. Father b. Fall River MA, mother b. Canada.
11. ****Lenna Gwendolyn Wilson, b. 9 March 1899 Sharon NH. She m. 9 May 1936 in Keene NH to James B. Perry, dau of Jason Stanley & Elsie Augusta (Page) Perry. (The document states that this is her 2nd marriage, and she is divorced.  I cannot find any document stating she was married previously, so possibly the document is in error, and the 2nd marriage was intended for James B. Perry. [see her biography above]


– Chandler, Seth. History of the town of Shirley, Massachusetts: from its early settlement to A.D. 1882; 1883, Shirley, Mass., page 688
– Hargrave, Helena M. Goodale, Carleton-Carlton forebears: a genealogy of some descandats [sic] of Edward Carleton,proprietor of Rowley, Mass, 1639/1648/9; with some biographical notes; 1977, page 17
– New Hampshire Notables: Presenting Biographical Sketches of Men and Women Who Have Helped Shape the Characdter of New Hampshire and Their Communities; 1955; Concord, N.H.; The Concord Press, page 97-98.
– New Hampshire Women Legislators Golden Anniversary 1921-1971; Prepared by Leon W. Anderson, Mrs. Alice V. Flanders and Edward J. Gallagher; sponsored by New Hampshire Savings Bank; published 1971 The Evans Printing Company.

Lenna Wilson Perry, NH DAR Chapter, National # 351529, Chapter 1020NH, Joined April 1945.  She was regent of Mary Varnum Platts Chapter, 1946-1954.
-Ancestor: Joel Adams, b. 4-1-1749 Mendon MA; d. 1-17-1828 Sharon NH; Child LUCY who m1) David Sanderson; *S, also MM, Capts Prichard & Smith 2) Cols Greaton & Nixon
-Ancestor: Daniel Page, b 8-10-1722 Groton MA; d. Post 1790 prob Shirley MA; Service Lexington Alarm, Capt. Henry Haskell; 2) Col. James Prescott; child MARTHA, married David Wilson
-Ancestor: David Wilson, b. 6-3-1745 Shirley MA; child David m. Hannah Carlton; Corporal; 1) also Pvt Capts Moore & Haskell; 2) Col. Haskell, Lex. Alarm and Later
Ancestor: Francis Worcester, bap 8-13-1749 Methuen; d. 11-5-1836 Groton MA; child: Benjamin, m1) Azubah/Zeubah Hoit/Hoyt; Service private MA Sols & Sails Vol 17, p 885; and Capt. Joseph Sartell, Lexington Alarm


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