Marlborough NH — George Iselin, 72, of Marlborough, died September 7th, 2021 after a courageous battle with cancer. Farmer, farrier, favorite teamster, fabulous husband, father, grandfather, friend and mentor, his open generosity and devotion to family, animals, community, local history, and to the land, were legendary.
George was born September 20, 1948 in Geneva New York, the third of six children of Arthur Iselin Jr and Cornelia Wheelwright Iselin. In Geneva his father, "Mitch", raced sports cars and ran Mohawk Motors, an auto business. His mother, "Cia, was an environmental activist and educator of local renown. George's life long interest in history was fostered during his childhood when the family spent time living at Bedford Farm, where his father was born, in Katonah, New York. Now a National Historic Site, The John Jay Homestead is named after George's forebear and founding father, John Jay.
In 1954 the family moved to Nelson, NH, where his maternal grandfather had a country home. From the beginning George wanted to have a farm. He loved all animals, but especially horses. When he was ten his aunt shipped two cow ponies east by Railway Express. Thus began a life-long passion for riding and driving. George was a "natural": he learned to ride literally "by the seat of his pants" and remained half centaur the rest of his life. Always, he gravitated to any working farm he could find, learning from the "old timers". He was particularly attracted to horse drawn vehicles and equipment, acquiring skills from a bye-gone era.
Both parents were involved with the scouting movement. George distinguished himself as a boy scout taking to outdoor skills and crafts and displaying his affinity with the natural world. As an adolescent he read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring which had a lasting impact on his point of view. As an anti- nuclear activist during the 1970's George was intent on educating the public about the dangers of nuclear power so he drove a traveling puppet show in a horse drawn covered wagon across the State of NH. He was subsequently incarcerated along with members of the Clamshell Alliance for protesting at the site of the Seabrook nuclear plant. Later in life he would support environmental initiatives and make every effort to save farmland.
George was gifted with a unique creativity and ingenuity. He entertained his younger siblings by building bobsled runs, rocket ships, and miniature landscapes. Fascinated by engines and mechanically inclined, he spent much time experimenting with unusual inventions. At one point, as a boy, he mounted a garden tractor engine on his bicycle with a series of pulleys. His talents were later more practically honed through the necessity of his work: he developed an ability to fix anything, anywhere, on the fly, a skill perfectly suited to his life as a farmer.
During his teen years George and his Ango-Arab horse, "Medal", were enthusiastic participants in the Monadnock Pony Club, a branch of the international organization for youth horsemanship. Like many MPC members George went on to a career working with horses. At the age of 15 he spent a summer training horses at Ledyard Farm in South Hamilton Massachusetts, and for several years he was apprenticed to Allen Elden, a preeminant farrier and horse trainer in the Amherst area.
After spending a year in Switzerland with his family and attending several different high schools, he graduated from The Meeting School in Rindge in 1967 and went on to The Thompson School of Agriculture at UNH where he earned an Associates degree in 1969, later finishing his BS degree at Hampshire College.
As an ardent pacifist coming of age in the time of the Vietnam conflict, he filed as a Consciensous Objector and served two years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. There, he developed community agriculture in a remote colony of the Amazon jungle. He became friendly with some of the indigenous peoples who pressed him with gifts, most notably that of a coatimundi. He returned from Ecuador with the animal in his sachel. The "Kuchuchu" as he was called, was George's constant companion for years, riding everywhere on his shoulder.
George married Mary Elaine Mazgelis, in 1978. Together they set about developing and working Earth Haven Farm, (formally Pony Club Farm), in Marlborough, NH, while raising three boys. George obtained an old combine and grew enough rye, oats, and wheat, for home use, and ran an organic horse-powered CSA, growing vegetables and flowers for five years The family produced hay for sale and for their own stock, raised Romney sheep and beefalo cattle, bred Morgan horses, worked draft horses, milked goats, cut cordwood, and made maple syrup in the spring.
George practiced as a farrier for the duration of his life, drawing on his knowledge and experience to "keep a horse sound." He shod horses of all kinds, from tiny ponies to giant thoroughbred event and dressage horses, from back yard pleasure horses to drafts. His career allowed him the freedom to create his own schedule, work outdoors, and visit every day with people from all walks of life. He was generous with his knowledge, taking on many apprentices over the years. His small "shoeing rigs", hay trucks, and farming equipment, were a frequent and colorful sight on roads throughout the Monadnock and neighboring regions. Always, George "did it his own way," refusing to fit into a mold.
George shared his love of life with everyone he met. His ideas were expansive – new fields, new barns, new horses, new ideas... His infectious enthusiasm permeated his enterprises but he would drop everything in an instant to help someone in need. He loved to share his idea of fun: a big bonfire and a hay ride! He never gave up on life, remaining active till the end. When farm work became harder and harder he used a solar powered Polaris side-by-side, gifted by the community. When the machine arrived, George's first words were, "Now I can feed the horses again!"...and he did! George was eternally grateful to many friends and supporters who helped him through difficult times, especially Matt Patnode of Marlborough, hay partner and farm machinery genius, and to Mike Johnson, a particular "farm buddy" from Swanzey.
George is survived by his wife Mary, of 43 wonderful years. He is also survived by his son Geordie Iselin and his partner Amanda Norcross, Jacob Iselin and his partner, Rianne Hartwell, his son Tobias Iselin and his wife Brenna, and their two children, George and Elodie. George's beloved four year old grandson Henry Iselin, "Henry the Brave", passed on in 2020. George also left two sisters, Niña Iselin and Dorothy Iselin, and a brother, Jay Iselin. A brother, Michael Page Iselin and sister, Virginia "Widdie" Hall, predeceased him.
Calling hours will be from 11:00-1:00 and services are planned for 1:00 PM on Sunday, September 26, at Stonewall Farm, 242 Chesterfield Rd, in Keene,NH, with stories and food from 2:00 to 5:00 PM. People should feel free to bring finger food potluck to share if so inclined. A burial procession will follow at Earth Haven Farm in Marlborough. In lieu of flowers (except home-grown!), donations can be made to The Monadnock Conservancy or One Hundred Nights Shelter in Keene.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.FletcherFuneralHome.com
for the Iselin family.
Published by Monadnock Ledger-Transcript on Sep. 21, 2021.