(Host) The Interstate brought commerce and prosperity, but it also brought unwelcome change for some. Romaine Tenney was one such person.
Tenney was born on a farm in Ascutney in 1900. After his parents died he worked the farm alone, without mechanized equipment, and he lived without electricity.
But in 1964, Romaine Tenney and 21st century progress collided. His land was condemned to make way for Interstate 91. He fought his eviction and kept farming. But when the sheriff arrived to serve him papers, Tenney made a dramatic decision.
Rolly Cann of Weathersfield was Romaine Tenney’s neighbor. He recounts the events of September 1964:
(Cann) “His main activity was his dairy farm and he farmed with horses. He seemed to be a reasonably normal person. He was not a hermit, though he lived alone. He would hitchhike into Claremont to go to a favorite restaurant there. We would pick him up on the road if we saw him coming or going.”
“When the news came of Route 91 construction and the condemnation of his property, he wasn’t in desperate straits economically or physically. But emotionally, he did not want to move. He did not want to give up the place where he’d lived for so long. His mother’s dresses were still hanging in the closets, he showed those to us. He could not bear to part with those things.”
“We helped him move many of the objects that were stored outdoors around the various buildings. That would give the appearance that he was planning to eventually to give in and move – and maybe at that time he still was. Later he changed his mind and decided to end his life.”
“He set all the different buildings on fire in rapid succession, set all the animals free and went into the house and he apparently lay down on a bed and shot himself. In the cellar, after the floor burned through – in the cellar was found the remains of a metal bed and a few charred human bones and metal overall buttons and rifle.”
“After we heard that he’d burned the place down, we figured he was off hiding in the woods somewhere – sort of trick on the people with that twinkle in his eye. So my wife and I put food out in the woods, and also we went around in the woods hollering that we’d put food out for him and such. Of course, afterwards we learned what they’d found in the remains of the building.”
(Host) Romaine Tenney’s farm was bulldozed and on that spot was built Exit 8 the Ascutney exit of Interstate 91.