This town was originally granted in 1752 under the name of Boyle. Its present name is said to have been created by uniting the surnames of two prominent proprietor families, Gilbert and Sumner, and came into use after the town was incorporated in 1763.
Mining of feldspar and mica was a major industry here for many years. Crystals of tourmaline and quartz of fine quality, as well as beryl, can be found in Gilsum. The annual Rock Swap draws large numbers of mineral collectors to visit mine sites and geologic locations such as Vessel Rock — a huge boulder and the largest glacial erratic in the region — potholes, kames and steep rock ledges.
Lucy Mack, mother of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith Jr., was born in Gilsum in 1775. Several woolen mills in town once harnessed the energy of the Ashuelot River.
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