“One Darby Field, an Irishman, living about Piscat, being accompanied with two Indians, went to the top of the White Hill. He made his journey in eighteen days. His relation at his return was, that it was about 160 miles from Saco, that after 40 miles travel, he did for the most part ascend; and within 12 miles of the top, was neither tree nor grass, but low savins, which they went upon the top of sometimes, but a continual ascent upon rocks, on a ridge between two vallies filled with snow, out of which came two branches of the Saco river, which met at the foot of the hill where was an Indian town of some 200 people. Some of them accompanied him within 8 miles of the top, but durst go no further, telling him that no Indian ever dared to go higher, and that he would die if he went. So they staid there till his return, and his two Indians took courage by his example and went with him. They went divers times through the thick clouds for a good space, and within 4 miles of the top they had no clouds but very cold. The top of all was plain, about 60 feet square. On the north side was such a precipice as they could scarcely discern the bottom. They had neither cloud nor wind on the top, and moderate heat. All the country about him seemed a level, except here and there a hill rising above the rest, and far beneath them. He saw to the north, a great water which he judged to be 100 miles broad, but could see no land beyond it. The sea by Saco seemed as if it had been within 20 miles. He saw also a sea to the eastward which he judged to be the gulph of Canada; he saw some great waters in parts to the westward, which he judged to be the great lake Canada river comes out of. He found there much Muscovy glass, they could rive out pieces 40 feet long, and 7 or 8 broad. When he came back to the Indians, he found them drying themselves by the fire, for they had a great tempest of wind and rain. About a month after, he went again with five or six of his company, then they had some wind on the top, and some clouds above them, which hid the sun. They brought some stones which they supposed had been diamonds, but they were most chrystal.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Internet Archive, Claire T. Carney Library, University of Massachusetts Darthmouth, “Winthrop’s journal: ‘History of New England,'” by John Winthrop, 1630-1649. (top) “By 1875, the Profile was a popular attraction. Like the other attractions of the White Mountains, however, it had lost much of its mystique. These tourists clambering over the Profile betray little of the earlier visitors’ romantic perspective, nor do they appear to be interested in a transcendent emotional experience. From George L. Keyes, Keyes’ Handbook of Northern Pleasure Travel (Boston, 1873.) Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.” Image courtesy of the Internet Archive, Smithsonian Institution Press, “Inventing New England,” by Dona Brown, 1995
The Profile, the Old Man in the Mountain, the Great Stone Face, by David McConnell Steele
“Appearing suddenly around a corner as you approach… 1200 feet above the lake’s surface… variously known as the Profile, the Old Man in the Mountain, and the Great Stone Face; a countenance as melancholy as the Buddha, as silent as Gautama, and as noncommittal as the Sphinx. The Indians had many legends to account for it. To them it was an object of worship, long before it was to others one of interest or of mere curiosity. It still speaks silently one message. It can only be seen as you pass over space of a very few feet. If you walk a few paces too far either way, the features confuse, then the image fades, and now the whole has vanished: fit symbol of the fleet passing of life — its origin, its destiny, its brevity — ‘So soon passeth it away and we are gone.'”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Internet Archive, New York Public Library, “Vacation journeys east and west; descriptive and discursive stories of American summer resorts,” by David McConnell Steele, 1918
Ode; inscribed to William H. Channing, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Though loath to grieve
The evil time’s sole patriot,
I cannot leave
My honied thought
For the priest’s cant,
Or statesman’s rant.
If I refuse
My study for their politique,
Which at the best is trick,
The angry Muse
Puts confusion in my brain.
But who is he that prates
Of the culture of mankind,
Of better arts and life?
Go, blindworm, go,
Behold the famous States
With rifle and with knife!
Or who, with accent bolder,
Dare praise the freedom-loving mountaineer?
I found by thee, O rushing Contoocook!
And in thy valleys, Agiochook!
The jackals of the negro-holder.
The God who made New Hampshire
Taunted the lofty land
With little men; —
Small bat and wren
House in the oak: —
If earth-fire cleave
The upheaved land, and bury the folk,
The southern crocodile would grieve.
Virtue palters; Right is hence;
Freedom praised, but hid;
Rattles the coffin-lid.
What boots thy zeal,
O glowing friend,
That would indignant rend
The northland from the south?
Wherefore? to what good end?
Boston Bay and Bunker Hill
Would serve things still; —
Things are of the snake.
The horseman serves the horse,
The neat-herd serves the neat,
The merchant serves the purse,
The eater serves his meat;
‘T is the day of the chattel
Web to weave, and corn to grind;
Things are in the saddle,
And ride mankind.
There are two laws discrete,
Law for man, and law for thing;
The last builds town and fleet,
But it runs wild,
And doth the man unking.
‘T is fit the forest fall,
The steep be graded,
The mountain tunnelled,
The sand shaded,
The orchard planted,
The glebe tilled,
The prairie granted,
The steamer built.
Let man serve law for man;
Live for friendship, live for love,
For truth’s and harmony’s behoof;
The state may follow how it can,
As Olympus follows Jove.
Yet do not I implore
The wrinkled shopman to my sounding woods,
Nor bid the unwilling senator
Ask votes of thrushes in the solitudes.
Every one to his chosen work; —
Foolish hands may mix and mar;
Wise and sure the issues are.
Round they roll till dark is light,
Sex to sex, and even to odd; —
Who marries Right to Might,
Who peoples, unpeoples, —
He who exterminates
Races by stronger races,
Black by white faces, —
Knows to bring honey
Out of the lion;
Grafts gentlest scion
On pirate and Turk.
The Cossack eats Poland,
Like stolen fruit;
Her last noble is ruined,
Her last poet mute;
Straight into double band
The victors divide;
Half for freedom strike and stand; —
The astonished Muse finds thousands at her side.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the New York Public Library, Digital Collections, “Ode; inscribed to William H. Channing,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, dated Monadnock, June 1846
The White Mountain guide book, by Samuel Coffin Eastman
“One of the Indian names of these mountains was ‘Agiocochook,’ which signifies, ‘the place of the Spirit of the Great Forest,’ or, according to Judge Potter, ‘the place of the Storm Spirit,’ and another ‘Waumbekketmethna,’ alluding to the whiteness of the mountains. The distinctive title of ‘White’ has always been applied to them on account of their peaks being white with snow during ten months of the year. Even in July and August the bare rocks have a greyish cast, when seen from a distance, which almost entitles them to the name of white. These noble hills were first visited in 1642, by a man named Darby Field.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Internet Archive, The Library of Congress, Sloan Foundation, “The White Mountain guide book,” by Samuel Coffin Eastman, 1858
The White Hills; their Legends, Landscape, and Poetry, by Thomas Starr King
Discovery and Colonization.
Read by Henry Hall of Rutland, before the Vermont Historical Society, at its Summer Meeting in St. Johnsbury, 1864. [CONCLUDED.]
“New York and New Hampshire were settled three years after Massachusetts. From 1610 to 1623 the Europeans on the soil of New York were merely traders with the Indians for furs, or privateers against Spanish commerce, without families and without settlements. Forts were erected at New York and Albany in 1614-5; trading huts had been built earlier. In 1614, while Capt. John Smith is surveying the eastern coast of New England, the Dutch explore Long Island Sound, ascertain Long Island to be an island, discover the Housatonic and Connecticut rivers and coast eastward to Massachusetts; they call the Delaware South, the Hudson North; and the Connecticut Fresh River. The first permanent settlement of New York was made in 1623, not by the Dutch Republic, but by the Dutch West India Company. This company, like the Republic, was a strong aristocracy of warrior merchants; its resources were immense; its power, subject to the approval of the States, absolute. The Republic allowed no popular rights to its contented, uneducated peasant boors at home. It did not require the Company to grant any to its colonists. The Republic granted to the Company the exclusive right to trade with and colonize all the Atlantic portion of America; but it did not attempt to convey any right of soil, it did not even promise protection; the Company might carry on war with foreign nations without involving the States; they were mere allies. Massachusetts had been settled for freedom; New York was settled for trade and plunder.
In 1626 — the year in which Lord Bacon experimenting to prevent animal putrefaction by stuffing a fowl with snow, caught cold and died, the Dutch introduce slaves, and purchase of the Indians the Isle of Manhattan, (New York City), ‘rocky and full of stones,’ for 60 guilders, about $24.
In 1628 — the year in which Lord Coke drafts, proposes and effects the passage by Parliament of that great declaration of freedom, the ‘Petition of Rights’ — the Spanish prizes taken on one occasion of the Company’s privateers, exceed almost eighty fold in value the entire exports from New Netherlands during the previous four years; this indicates the great object of the original settlement of New York.
In 1630, Boston is founded on the peninsula Shawmut, or Trimountain; previously inhabited only by the solitary Blackstone.
The Dutch having bought of the Indians some land in Hartford, Conn., on the 8th of January, 1633, they erect a fort there, called the ‘House of Good Hope;’ in the October following, the colonists build a trading house in Windsor.
In 1634 — the year in which Lord Coke died Catholic Maryland is settled, and possesses the only true Christian freedom in the world.
In 1635, Saybrook fort is built at the mouth of the Connecticut by the English colonists; and sixty emigrants, from about Boston, men, women and children, driving their cattle before them, for fourteen days struggle through the pathless forests, and settle in Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield.
In 1636, the great and good Roger Williams, an exile from Massachusetts, wandering fourteen weeks in the woods during a very severe winter, without bread or bed, receiving from the pagan Indians, the hospitality refused him by his persecuting brother christians, founds the city of Providence: his only white predecessor in Rhode Island being the solitary Blackstone; while caravans, one of a hundred souls, led by the pious Thomas Hooker, journey from Boston to Hartford, living on the milk of their kine, guided by the compass, sleeping on pillars of stones, wading through running waters and stagnant swamps, threading the tangled vines and briers, and pathless woods, many of them had been accustomed to European affluence — cause the wilderness to resound with the lowing of their numerous herds, and their own ‘hymns of lofty cheer.’ Springfield also is settled the same year.
In 1637, the Pequods, one of the most powerful New England tribes, dwelling along the Pequod river, or River Thames, numbering seven hundred warriors, with bows, arrows and clubs, but without firearms, having murdered some English colonists, are blotted out of existence, as a nation, by a far inferior number of colonists, clothed in armor and armed with muskets and swords.
In 1638, a wealthy company of English emigrants, led by the eminent Rev. John Davenport, of London, and two merchants, buy of the Indians land at Quinapiack, ten miles by thirteen miles in extent, for ten coats, and found New Haven; Harvard College is also established; the next year a printing press is in Cambridge, and common schools abound. Contrast Virginia’s Governor, Sir Wm. Berkely, in 1671, writing the Lords Commissioners, ‘I thank God, there are no free schools or printing; and I hope we shall not have, these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.’
The rocky summits of the White Mountains, glistening in the sunlight, had long been fondly gazed at far out at sea, by the departing and returning mariners of New England, as a kind of natural light-house.
In 1642 — the year in which the great English Civil War began between King Charles I. and his Parliament; the year in which Galileo died, and Sir Isaac Newton was born a party of explorers, Capt. Neal, Darby, Field and others, piloted by Indian guides from the Piscataqua, visit these heights, and, returning, report that their summits extending hundreds of miles mid eternal snows, rise high above the clouds; one of the moss-covered summits was a vast level plain, requiring a day’s journey to cross it; on this broad table land, towered away up in upper air, an immense Babel of stones, a mile high, along whose rocky sides was a winding stairway leading to its apex, whose area of an acre, contained a lakelet of transparent water; the soil promises the precious ores; the whole are called ‘The Crystal Hills.’
The germ of our Republic and Constitution was formed in 1643, the year the peerless John Hampden was slain. Four of the seven eastern colonies, Massachusetts, Plymouth, Rhode Island and Providence, unite in the Confederacy. ‘The United Colonies of New England;’ providing for joint war expenses, the delivery of fugitive criminals and servants, (slaves,) & c., but conferring no supreme authority.
A negro village, in Africa, is attacked one Sabbath, by the crews of London and Boston ships; many of the negroes are killed; two slaves become the share of the Boston ship and are imported; the facts transpire in a law suit in 1645; Massachusetts effects to be horror-struck, the offenders are imprisoned, the Africans sent home at the public expense. The Massachusetts code of 1641, allowed slavery and the slave trade, provided the slaves were purchased or captured in war, but punished man-stealing with death. A Jesuitical distinction that seems worthy of papacy, yet was copied from the Mosaic Law.
In the winter of 1656-7, eight years after Charles I. was beheaded, and several months before Cromwell in Parliament refused the crown of England, supposed to have been so long and eagerly sought by him — three hundred Waldenses, escaping from the massacre, whose horrors appal Protestant Christendom, are donated by the city of Amsterdam a free passage to New Amsterdam, and settle in Delaware. Milton’s sonnet impales and eternises the papist’s crime:
‘Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
E’en them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worship’d stocks and stones.
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piemontese that roll’d
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To Heav’n. Their martyr’d blood and ashes sow
O’er all th’ Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundred fold, who having learn’d thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.’
Immigration into New England almost ceased when the Long Parliament sat, in 1641; Emigration from New England scarcely began until the colonies became States. From 1620 to 1640, the ancestors of about one third of the present white population of the United States came into New England; 21,200 colonists, in 198 ships at an expense of nearly one million of dollars; fifty towns and villages and nearly forty churches flourish; hamlets adorn the shores of Long Island Sound.
A book published in 1643 declares one might dwell in New England ‘from year to year, and not see a drunkard, or hear an oath, or meet a beggar.’ England mourns ‘The departure of so many of the best,’ such ‘numbers of faithful and free-born Englishmen and good christians.’
Since 1641, there have immigrated into New England, four or five hundred Scotch prisoners sent over by Cromwell in 1651, after the battles of Dunbar and Worcester; 150 French Huguenot exiles to Massachusetts, in 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by the merciless Louis XIV., and in 1719, one hundred and twenty Scotch Irish families arrive and settle in and near Londonderry, N. H. There are half a million of foreigners resident in New England, but they rarely intermarry with the natives.
It is believed that the blood and language of New England are purer Anglo-Saxon than those of any County in Old England.
The maligners of New England gnaw a file.
Soon after the discovery of this hemisphere, veritable Lemuel Gullivers filled Europe with wild tales of American monstrosities; and the voyages and explorations of two centuries scarcely sufficed to dispel the illusions. The soil of the New World glittered with gems and jewels so profusely, the happy natives rarely deigned to stoop to gather them; the gift of perpetual youth bubbled in its waters, mid mineral wealth and vegetable beauty; the dwellers upon its southern extremity were sons of Anak, twice the stature of Europeans; as late as 1671, the Dutch enumerate the lion among American animals, and describe and illustrate with engravings, as indigenous to New Amsterdam, a wonderful elk with huge antlers, whose hoofs cured falling sickness, which died from the slightest wound, and which, when pursued by dogs, spewed hot water upon its assailants; and a horse with cloven hoofs, swine-like tail, and a horizontal horn projecting from its forehead half as long as its body; while Sir Walter Raleigh, able, learn’d and brilliant, describes one nation of Guiana as having eyes in their shoulders and mouths in their breasts. This last was obviously the butt of Shakespeare’s palpable hit in Othello, about,
‘The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.’
Geographical knowledge was vague, deficient and erroneous. The streams emptying into the Atlantic were supposed to communicate with the not far distant Southern Sea or Pacific Ocean. In several Dutch maps of the seventeenth century, the Great River of Canada, or the St. Lawrence, runs due East, unconnected with any lakes; while Lake Champlain, with its surrounding French territory is located far away east of Connecticut river.
Political claims were vast and conflicting. New England was included in the charter grants of several French and English companies; the Dutch mapped out New England as a narrow strip of coast extending from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, while they claimed that New Amsterdam, starting from the Atlantic between such a New England and Virginia, swept inward and North westwardly, beyond all known human bounds. The Dutch claims might as well have been bounded by some northern constellation of stars, or a flock of migrating birds, for all accuracy and definiteness of boundary. In Spanish geography, Canada was a part of Florida.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Vermont Record (Brandon, Vermont), “Discovery and Colonization,” by Henry Hall, Saturday, March 25, 1865
PLEASURE PLACES. — OUR WHITE MOUNTAINS CORRESPONDENCE.
A TRIP TO MOUNT WASHINGTON — White Mountains, N. H., August 1, 1866.
“It is not a little surprising that the white hills of New Hampshire, affording as they do such a variety of grand scenery, should have been heretofore a place of so little resort to the pleasure seeker. Nowadays, however, every body is turning his feet thitherward, as if making up for lost time; and, as everywhere else, ‘shoddy’ is in the ascendant. It is astonishing what a vulgar class of people, and what numbers of them, one meets at all the popular resorts here. Even the stage drivers say, ‘the people who come to the mountains now are a very different looking set from those who used to come before the war.’ But so it is; and if we have to endure it surely we are justified in laughing at the mistakes they make. They merely go because it is fashionable, and having a superfluity of greenbacks they come here to get rid of them. Most of them think that each mountain occupies an isolated position on a vast plain. The ‘Notch’ is believed to be an incision in the summit of Mount Washington, as if a cut downward were made with a knife in the upper portion of a pear. Approaching the object of their journey they stretch out their necks to look for ‘the notch,’ and ply the driver with all sorts of questions. Our country cousins when in the city are universally made sport of, and now here they return it with compound interest on the green ones, and truly they have enough to keep them busy. The lady who supposed the birches were painted instead of grown in their white apparel, was only one of thousand equally unsophisticated travelers.
The first printed mention of the White Mountains is in John Josselyn’s ‘New England Rarities Discovered,’ printed in 1672. The author spent fifteen months in New England on his first visit in 1638, and eight years on his second in 1663. He did not, however, explore the mountains, for, according to Winthrop’s History, to Darby Field is due the credit of that pioneer labor. Accompanied by two Indians he climbed Mount Washington in 1642. Both Josselyn and Field published glowing accounts of the mountains, but in many cases their imaginations ran far beyond their veracity. The next ascent that we hear of was by a ‘ranging company’ in April, 1725. In March of 1746 another party ascended, and were much alarmed by the noise of falling rocks, not knowing at first what they were. Until about 1771 no one except Indians dwelt in the neighborhood of the mountains. The earliest white men who passed through the Notch were Timothy Nash and Benjamin Sawyer, whose names are perpetuated among the hills — some ungranted land having long been known as Nash and Sawyer’s locations. From the year of 1784 explorations of the mountains grew more and more frequent, especially by scientific men, until now they are visited by thousands annually — more, however, for the purpose of ‘cooling off’ than for any scientific purposes. This was what induced your correspondent to follow in the stream of fashion, urged on by the additional hope of being benefited by the bracing mountain air.
We, that is our party, consisting of myself and another — no, not another, but a lady whom we will call a ‘cousin,’ though she was not — arrived at the White Mountain House on the afternoon of July 21, and to our utter dismay found the woods on fire, and a thick black smoke rolling about the mountains, so that all idea of a view was dashed in a minute. However, I am not one of the kind who look upon a grand mountain as an observatory upon an immense scale, and only ascend it in order to see what can be seen from the summit; but I think one of the grandest sights is the mountain itself, lifting its lofty brow six thousand feet in air, looking, as Schiller beautifully says —
— ‘for all your bared brows,
More gorgeously majestical than kings
Whose loaded coronets exhaust the mine.’
These philosophical views I tried hard to impress upon my ‘cousin,’ who was entirely unable to appreciate them, and forthwith retired to her room to arrange her ‘waterfall’ (all her own hair, too), which was out of order in some way. A delicious supper, however, aided by that best of sauce, hunger, cheered our ‘party’ up, and we were hoping for the best, when rain began to beat against the windows. And to make it still worse the clerk informed me that he thought we were going to have about four days of rain, as it had been preparing for it some time. ‘Very well, sir,’ said I, ‘then I shall retire to my virtuous couch, and sleep the sleep of childhood.’ All night long it poured down in bucketfuls, and each drop seemed as big as a bucket. The next morning the rain had ceased, but the clouds hung thick around the mountain, so that we could not see more than half of them. ‘Well, what is to be done?’ is asked. ‘Shall we venture or shall we not?’ We ask the guide’s opinion, and he gives it. ‘You carnt amost allers tell about the mountings.’ Satisfactory, wasn’t it? Between us I do not think the guide wanted to go. However, after seeing the stages from the Crawford to the Profile and Waumbec houses come and go, we decided to start. A veritable Dutchman and an American girl, his wife, joined our party, making five, including the guide. And now began my troubles. As soon as we decided to go, my ‘cousin’ wanted to know where my heavy overcoat and shawl and thick underclothing were. I remarked pleasantly they were reposing quietly, I trusted, many miles away, where I had left them; and then followed a series of adjectives and exclamations. ‘I would certainly freeze, and I must borrow a shawl or something,” &c. I suggested the propriety of getting herself ready and I would do the same. I will not attempt her outfit, but mine consisted of (in addition to my usual clothing) a light overcoat and a flask of brandy ‘in case the guide should be thirsty.’ We did not get off until half-past nine, an hour later than the usual time. We made the ascent on horseback, and here I will remark that to a lame man who has not been on horse but once in twelve years (and then he was on a little runt of a pony), to take a twenty mile ride up such a road as we went is not what it is cracked up to be, and especially when the horse you are on is about as comfortable if you were astride of a rail which was violently agitated at both ends. If ever I bestride another such I hope he will throw me off. As we rode along, the clouds gradually lifted and we had every promise of a fair day, as the rain had put out the fire in the woods and condensed the smoke, so that provided it should clear it would be glorious. The guide monopolized most of the conversation, and as we came along b a beautiful little spot where we crossed the brawling Ammonoosue, he remarked that there was an immense nest of hornets somewhere about there. ‘Yes,’ said I, as one of the villains stung me on the leg, ‘and I think I have found out where it is.’ We went up over the old Fabian path, and got on without further incident until we reached the cold spring, where the guide left his horse, and made us dismount while he fixed our saddles to prevent them slipping back upon the horse, as the ascent proper begins here, it being two and a half miles to the summit. It is alone worth a journey to the mountains to get a drink of water from this spring, so cool and clear, coming, as it does, from the base of the mountain. But on we start again, and proceed without interruption till our Dutch friend’s horse steps on a rolling stone and off he goes; wife screams, but nobody is hurt, and mounting on we go till, whoa! its the wife this time, her horse has lost a shoe. The guide anticipating such an event, however, has hammer and nails ready and puts it on, and on we start again, stopping but three times more, once for the guide to kill a partridge with a stone (they are very numerous, and stand fire like veterans); once more because our Hollander’s steed becomes ugly and has to be left, his rider walking the rest of the way to the top, and last, because we come to a particularly slippery place on the rocks, and the guide helps the horses over one by one. And now we strike the carriage road from the glen on the east side of the mountain, about an eighth of a mile from the top, and canter gayly up to the stables, where we dismount, and a two minutes’ walk over the rocks brings us to the Tip Top House; the Summit House is a few feet lower, on the north. Both houses are securely lashed by cables to the rock, in order to withstand the force of the wind, which sometimes blows like mad. The Tip Top House contains a reception and dining room, while the Summit is composed of bedrooms, for those who wish to stay over night. There were a good many people at the top who had all come up over the carriage road, and expressed much surprise that we had come on horseback; we were quite ‘lionized.’ As for the weather, when we reached the summit it could not possibly have been better — clear and warm. I took my overcoat off it was so warm. Our guide said he had been up between three and four hundred times, and he did not remember but one day when he could see as far and as distinctly as he could then. And truly the view was superb. On the north and the east Maine lay stretched out, her broad bosom dotted with numerous lakes, while far away in the distance rolled the restless surges of the Atlantic. Many persons said they could see Portland, but I have always prided myself on my eyesight, and I could not; I saw distinctly, however, the islands in Portland harbor. On the other side lay New Hampshire and Vermont, with the boundary line, the Connecticut river, running like a silver thread between; and in the distance the wooded peaks of the Green Mountain range. It was a grand sight we enjoyed, but it did not all impress me half so much as Mt. Washington itself, the exceeding desolation of which produces a sensation you can really feel. Dinner was a very ordinary sort of affair. I trust the beefsteak had seen younger days. After dinner we wandered about, and our Dutch friend’s wife fainted from the rarefaction of the atmosphere. I was myself rallied on the loss of my spirits. ‘My spirits!’ cried I, in dismay, and rushed into the house to where I had left my overcoat, with my flask in the pocket, which I found in safety and clasped to my breast, crying, ‘Come to my arms, my dear old friend,’ and then proceeded outside, conclusively proving that my spirits were by no means lost. But, alas, even while I was enjoying my triumph the flask fell from my hand, and my spirits ($2 the half pint) then indeed were lost. But tempus fugit on the mountains as well as elsewhere, and we started to descend at three o’clock. Virgil must be transposed, or rather entirely changed to come down Mount Washington on horseback. He would never have written ‘Facilis descensus’ if he had done it; for it is easy going up in comparison with coming down. Then it is that the tug begins. To sit on our horse’s back at an angle of sixty five or seventy degrees, and ride along the edge of precipices on a path a couple of feet wide, where you can look down a thousand feet or more, requires more nerve, I am perfectly willing to own it, than I have got; but we were up, and, as I did not intend to spend the rest of my life on the mountain, it became necessary to face the music, and go ahead. When we came to the steepest part the guide advised us to get off and walk, for the shoes on the horses’ feet were so smooth as to render it extremely dangerous. The poor brutes themselves felt afraid, as we could see by their actions, and the guide said he would never go up again with them in the condition they were then in. It was my horse’s turn to lose a shoe in going down; it was put on again, but came off a second time, and was lost. We arrived safely at the cold spring, our Hollander and his wife walking all the way from the summit.
From here it was plain sailing, as I thought; but who can tell what dangers will come? I had entirely forgotten that in escaping Scylla we had yet Charybdis to encounter, and I can you, from personal experience, that it is not at all a pleasant sensation to one who does not pride himself upon horsemanship to suddenly find your horse rearing and kicking and turning round and round, &c. Alas! the hornets were upon me — or rather on my horse — and for a few minutes it was rather undecided as to whether I was to remain on or get unceremoniously pitched off into the nest. Providentially I escaped this latter attention at my horse’s heels, and a liberal application of the essence of birch soon carried me out of reach of further danger in that quarter. No further incident occurred till we reached the hotel, at a quarter before nine, where every one wanted to know ‘Why we were so late?’ to which question, considering all we had been through, I felt justified in maintaining a dignified silence.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, New York Daily (New York, New York), Sunday, August 12, 1866
The White Mountains, illustrated by Harper’s magazine
THE ASCENT OF MOUNT WASHINGTON.
“The White Mountains were little known before the year 1642. Indian tribes then inhabited the territory around them. Their name for them was Waumbek Methna, from whence the Waumbek Hotel gets its name. They called Mount Washington, Ogiocochook. They stood in great fear and awe of these mountains, supposing that they were peopled by beings superior to themselves, who had absolute control of the winds and tempests, and whom it was not safe to provoke. They were afraid, therefore, to make the ascent of the higher mountains, reckoning it not simply perilous, but impossible.
It is said that there was a tradition among them of a deluge, in which all the world was drowned save these mountains, and every human being destroyed, but a single powwow and his wife. These retreated to the highest summit, and were saved, and so preserved the race from extinction. From this same lofty summit, they had another tradition that Passaconaway, a powerful chief, famed among them for holding conferences with the spirits above, once passed to a council in Heaven, from which he never returned. The following lines quaintly tell the story:
‘A wond’rous wight; far o’er Siogee’s ice,
With brindled wolves, all harnessed three and three,
High seated on a sledge, made in a trice,
On Mount Ogiocochook, of hickory,
He lashed, and reeled, and sung right jollily.
And once upon a car of flaming fire,
The dreadful Indian shook with fear to see
The king of Penacook, his chief, his sire,
Ride flaming up towards Heaven, — than any
A man bearing the name of Darby Field was the first explorer of this region, and tho first to make the ascent of Mt. Washington. He tried to persuade some of the Indians to accompany him, and give him assistance in the undertaking, but without success. They not only refused outright, but were most earnest in their entreaties that he should not attempt the daring feat, lest he should stir up the wrath of the spirits, whom they so much feared.
Not until the year 1818 did any travelers come into this region for the purpose of climbing this lofty height. Then two gentlemen, one of them from Cambridge, Mass., and the other from Philadelphia, Pa. ascended it under the guidance of Abel Crawford, the father of Ethan Allen Crawford, the famous mountaineer and guide in after years. They prepared, and had engraved upon a date of brass, a Latin inscription, commemorating the event, which they nailed to a rock on the summit. Four years afterward, three young ladies, the Misses Austin from Portsmouth, were the first ladies, who made this ascent. It was not until some time afterward that any road was made to the base of the mountain, and a comfortable footpath prepared. Even then the climb was not safe except under the conduct of experienced guides, and two or three days were occupied in the excursion.
One cannot help thinking what Darby Field, or even David Crawford, would say could they now see what facilities are afforded for making the excursion, which, in their time, was so toilsome, and even perilous. A fine carriage road, eight miles in length, has been constructed from the base of the mountain on the south side, where the Glen House is situated. One can with perfect safety take his own carriage and drive at his leisure to the summit, where he will find every accommodation that he desires for both man and beast. This road is kept in excellent repair, though at great expense, the cost being something like $3,000 a year. To meet this expense every passenger is charged toll, which seems heavy, but is not exorbitant, when the cost of maintaining the road is taken into account. Hundreds make tho ascent by carriage every year. At every turn in the road the excursionist looks upon some scene of indescribable beauty. Below him are cultivated farms, and pretty villages, with here and there large hotels filled with summer visitors. Above him are the dizzy heights which he is fast approaching, without any particular exertion on his part. How great the contrast between that lonely, perilous climb of the pioneer Darby Field, more than two hundred years ago, which he was so earnestly entreated not to make by the friendly Indians, anxious not only for his safety, but for their own as well! How great would be his surprise if he were to return to earth!
If he would be astonished at the carriage road, what would he say to that splendid piece of engineering, which has constructed a railroad up the side of the mountain, over which thousands upon thousands are carried in perfect safety year by year, with all the ease and comfort of railroad travelling anywhere? It is a marvel to look upon, when at a little distance you trace it from base to summit and see train after train, consisting of one engine and passenger car each, mounting up this steep incline. But your wonder grows into amazement when you take your seat in the car and find yourself being pushed upward with slow, yet strong and steady movement, until you reach the summit.
We had one of the finest day’s of the season for our mountain excursion by way of the railroad, and were favored with magnificent views on our way up, and also when we reached the top. We found on inquiry of the conductor that there are portions of the track which have an incline of thirty degrees, or one foot in four. On Jacob’s ladder the grade is thirteen and a half inches in three feet. One experiences a sensation in going up these steep grades which cannot be duplicated in any other railroad travelling. It required an educated faith in the perfection of the mysterious mechanism of which that railroad machinery is composed and in the power to subdue the force of gravitation sufficiently to keep us from going down into the depths beneath us; and a higher faith in a higher power, who holds all the forces of nature subject to His own divine will, to make one quite at ease at such a time. We had opportunity for a great many thoughts, which could never be expressed. On the summit we breathed more freely and walked about in the rarified air with as firm a tread as we could command, over the upturned edges of rocks so innumerable that the fertile soil seemed to be wanting, having been almost entirely transposed into stone. Yet clinging lo the slightest soil were lovely little white blossoms, so delicate that we wondered to find them there; and the lichens beautified the gray rocks with tracings like Hebrew characters on stone, as if to bear witness in mystic language to the wonders of the Creator’s hand.
Of course we visited the ‘Observatory,’ from whence our special observations were rapidly made, as the wind nearly blew us away, and we beat a hurried retreat. We went also to the Signal Service Station, and shall be satisfied to know hereafter, that whether the weather is hot or cold, wet or dry, we have seen the place, where to all intents and purposes it seems to be manufactured. The dinner at the Summit House was well served and might have been one of Aladdin’s feasts, so magical appeared the skill which had been employed to place it before us there among the clouds.
The descent was far more agreeable than the ascent had been, though one could not entirely free himself from the sense of danger. That it rained in torrents when our conveyance met us at the station to take us to our hotel, that night, made but little difference to us, for our trip had been a great success, and we could rest satisfied not to repeat it immediately. The memory of the day will long linger with us.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Fall River Daily Evening News (Fall River, Massachusetts), Correspondence of the News, Friday, August 15, 1884
Relating to the White Mountains.
“Little is known regarding the White mountains before the year 1642, when Darby Field of Portsmouth made the first ascent of Mount Washington. Indian tribes then lived near the mountains, and but few of their traditions have been preserved. Their name for the mountains was Waumbek Methna, and for Mount Washington Agiochook. John Josselyn in his book ‘New England Rarities Discovered,’ published in 1672, gave the first description of the mountains.
‘The White Mountain Notch was discovered by two hunters, Nash and Sawyer, in 1771.’
The first settlements among the mountains were made in the latter half of the last century, Conway being settled in 1763, Franconia in 1774, Bartlett in 1777, Jackson in 1778, and Bethlehem in 1790.
Captain Eleazar Rosebrook made the first settlement at the site of the Fabyan house in 1792. He opened there in 1803 the first house for summer visitors ever kept in the mountains. His son-in-law, Abel Crawford, long known as the ‘Patriarch of the Mountains,’ settled later what is now called Bemis Station in 1793. The latter’s son, Ethan Allen Crawford, the most famous of the mountain pioneers. took Rosebrook’s house in 1817. In 1819 he opened the first footpath up Mount Washington. His brother, Thomas J. Crawford, opened the first bridle-path to the Summit in 1840, and his father, then seventy-five years old, rode the first horse that ever climbed the mountain.
The first hotel on Mount Washington was the old Summit house, built in 1852. The Tip-Top house was built in 1853, and the present Summit house in 1872. The old Summit house was torn down in the spring of 1884 to give place to a new building, used as lodging rooms for the employees of the hotel.
The first winter ascent of Mount Washington was made by the sheriff of Coos county and B. F. Osgood of Gorham December 7, 1858. John H. Spaulding, Franklin White and C. C. Brooks of Lancaster made the ascent February 19, 1862, and were the first to spend the night on the mountain in winter.
The carriage road from the Glen house to the summit of Mount Washington was begun in 1855, under the management of D. O. Matcomber, C. H. V. Cavis being surveyor. The first four miles were finished the next year. Financial troubles stopped the work for a time, but the road was finally opened August 8, 1861.
George W. Lane, now in charge of the Fabyan honse stables, drove the first Concord each that ever ascended Mount Washington, August 8, 1861, on the opening of the carriage road. It contained J. M. Thompson, then proprietor of the Glen House, and his family. The Mount Washington railway was projected by Sylvester Marsh. The building of the road was begun in 1866 and finished in 1869.
The signal station at the Summit was established in 1870. Prof. J. H. Huntington of the state geological survey was at the head of the party that spent the winter, having with him Sergeant Theodore Smith of the signal service and S. A. Nelson of Georgetown, Mass. The building now occupied by the observers was erected in 1873.
The first number of Among the Clouds, which was the first daily newspaper published in the White mountains, and the only one printed on any mountain in the world, was issued July 18, 1877, by Henry M. Burt of Springfield, Mass. Its publication has suggested all the other summer resort papers that have been established.
The destruction of the Willey family by a landslide in the White mountain notch, occurred August 28, 1826.
Frederick Strickland, an Englishman, perished in the Ammonoosue ravine in October, 1851.
Miss Lizzie Bourne of Kennebunk, Me., perished on the Glen bridle path, near the summit, on the night of September 14, 1855.
Dr. B. L. Ball of Boston was lost on Mount Washington in October, 1855, in a snow storm, but rescued after two days’ and nights’ exposure, without food or sleep.
Benjamin Chandler of Delaware, perished near Chandlers Peak, half a mile from the top of Mount Washington, August 7, 1856, in a storm and his remains were not discovered for nearly a year.
Harry W. Hunter of Pittsburg, Pa., perished on the Crawford bridal path September 3, 1874, a mile from the Summit. His remains were found nearly six years later, July 14. 1880.
Sewall E. Faunce, 15 years old, son of Sewall A. Faunce of Boston, was killed in Tuckerman’s ravine, Saturday, July 24, 1885, at 2 p. m., by the falling of the snow arch. His body was recovered and carried to the Summit by a relief party made up of employees of the Summit house, stage office, office of Among the Clouds and the officers of the United States signal station. He was with a party from Grove cottage, near Gorham, who had walked into the ravine from below, and the arch fell while they were near it. Another member of the party, Miss Maggie Pierce of New Bedford, was also partly buried by the falling arch and slightly injured. She was carried down the path to the Glen house.
Lastly, is the case of Ewald Weiss, the musician of New Haven, whose body has not yet been found.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, New Haven Daily Morning Journal-Courier, Tuesday, September 9, 1890
What mean these journeys to Niagara, these pilgrims to the White Hills? by Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The noonday darkness of the American forest, the deep, echoing, aboriginal woods, where the living columns of the oak and fir tower up from the ruins of the trees of the last millennium; where, from year to year, the eagle and the crow see no intruder; the pines, bearded with savage moss, yet touched with grace by the violets at their feet; the broad, cold lowland, which forms its coat of vapour with the stillness of subterranean crystallisation; and where the traveller, amid the repulsive plants that are native in the swamp, thinks with pleasing terror of the distant town; this beauty — haggard and desert beauty, which the sun and the moon, the snow and the rain, re-paint, and vary, has never been recorded by art, yet is not indifferent to any passenger. All men are poets at heart. They serve nature for bread, but her loveliness overcomes them sometimes. What mean these journeys to Niagara, these pilgrims to the White Hills? Men believe in the adaptations of utility, always: in the mountains, they may believe in the adaptations of the eye. Undoubtedly, the changes of geology have a relation to the prosperous sprouting of the corn and peas in my kitchen garden; but not less is there a relation of beauty between my soul and the dim crags of Agiocochook up there in the clouds. Every man, when this is told, hearkens with joy, and yet his own conversation with nature is still unsung.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Internet Archive, University of Toronto, “Works, [Carefully collated and rev. by George Sampson],” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1913-14
Vacation on the White Mountain National Forest
“The White Mountain region is filled with many natural wonders, and the panoramas which present themselves from the various vantage points of the mountains are unlimited. From the summit of Mount Washington the radius of view extends for more than a hundred miles in all directions, and scattered within the range of vision are 23 other peaks whose elevations exceed 4,000 feet. The most impressive wonders are the Notches, four of which are located within the boundaries of the White Mountain National Forest. In Franconia Notch is that great natural curiosity, the ‘Old Man of the Mountains.’ Here also is the ‘Flume,’ a great crevice in solid rock, 900 feet long and from 60 to 70 feet deep. Equally interesting are the ‘Pool’ and ‘Basin,’ both filled with crystal water and surrounded with queer rock formations.
In Pinkham Notch are many beautiful waterfalls; the picturesque ‘Glen Ellis’ and the ‘Crystal Cascades’ are both located in this Notch and are famed for their beauty. Carter Notch, with its twin lakes surrounded by high cliffs and alpine vegetation, now contains a stone hut where the mountain tramper can find food and shelter after a long tramp through the National Forest.
Crawford Notch, which was named after one of the noted pioneer families of the region, is a New Hampshire State Reservation, but is nearly surrounded by the National Forest. The west gate to Crawford Notch is one of the scenic attractions of the White Mountain region.
Located at North Woodstock, adjacent to the National Forest boundary, is the famous Lost River, another curiosity of the Franconia Mountain region. In 1912 the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests opened this wonderful section of the Forest by constructing bridges, ladders, and trails through a series of glacial caverns.
The Lakes of the Clouds, located 5,000 feet above the sea, Echo and Profile Lakes in Franconia, and Echo Lake, with White Horse Ledge in Conway, are all landmarks of beauty and are visited by hundreds of tourists every year.
Tuckerman’s Ravine, with its Snow Arch, King’s Ravine, the Castellated Ridge, and the Giant Stairs are all geological formations of interest, and are accessible by scenic trails through the Forest.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the United States Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Department Circular 100, “Vacation on the White Mountain National Forest,” by the Government Printing Office, 1920
Barefoot Days and Sundown Songs, by Raymond Howard Huse
Souvenir view book of the White Mountains, N.H. — containing the principal views of the Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch, Mt. Washington, Bretton Woods, Conway region and the Lost River, etc.
Earnest Effort to Save Franconia Notch, by Phillip W. Ayrca (Forester of the Society for Protection of New Hampshire Forests)
Hope to Preserve Famous Spot as Nearly as Possible in Original Form
Will Cressy’s History of Connecticut
The Great Stone Face and Other Tales of the White Mountains, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Second Greatest Show on Earth,” Barnum Called New England Range
Prepared by National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C. — WNU Service.
“SINCE 1866 visitors to the White mountains have ascended Mount Washington, New England’s highest eminence, to scan the sea of northern New Hampshire peaks. Soon another grandstand will be available when the new tramway to the top of Cannon mountain which will whisk passengers 2,025 feet above Franconia Notch begins operation.
‘This is the second greatest show on earth,’ P. T. Barnum said when he stood on the summit of Mount Washington and scanned the jumble of peaks and ridges of the White mountains, spreading from the waistline of New Hampshire to Canada and from its Maine border to the Connecticut valley, which separates this Granite state from Vermont.
Many New Englanders, dyed-in-the-wool White mountain fans who insist that nowhere has nature endowed a region with such fascinating heights, on first thought questioned Barnum’s judgment. To them, the White mountains’ show is second to none.
However, when they recalled the showman’s love for his trained animals, gaudy trappings, and strange creations of nature that drew millions into his acres of canvas, they felt that his exclamation was the highest praise.
Origin of the Name a Mystery.
How and when the White mountains got their name is as mysterious as many of their often-told legends. ‘White mountains’ appeared in a manuscript as early as 1672; and even before that time the were called the ‘White hills’ by mariners on the Atlantic, 60 miles away, for whom they formed an important landmark.
To modern eyes, too, the name seems apt, whether it be derived from the white mist that often hangs over the higher peaks, from the whitish-gray effect of the sun upon rocks of the mountain tops above the timberline, or from the snow that normally covers the peaks of the Presidential- range for eight or nine months of the year.
The White mountains are divided into two distinct areas.
Between Plymouth on the south and the vicinity of Gorham on the north is the high mountain region where every year more than two million men and women enjoy testing their leg muscles among New England’s highest peaks, motoring on excellent highways, and utilizing the scores of recreational facilities, or just looking up from spacious hotel verandas toward the lofty eminences sweeping from quiet valleys.
Beyond Gorham is a challenging wilderness with Dixville notch its crowning glory and Berlin its only large population center. Here is the paradise of the sportsman searching streams and lakes for trout, salmon, pickerel, horned pout, perch, and small-mouthed bass. The forests shelter bears, deer, and ruffed grouse.
It is the high mountain area that has been the White mountains’ chief lure to vacationists for more than a century.
Praised by the Great.
‘We know our mountains are not the highest in the East,’ a resident I recently remarked to a visitor. ‘Mount Mitchell in North Carolina and several peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains National park slightly top Mount Washington. But the impressions of Hawthorne, Whittier, General Grant, Webster, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and scores of other men outstanding in politics, literature, and the arts of their day certainly warrant the enthusiasm of those of us who see the White mountains in every mood.
‘But Grant came to the mountains for relief from hay fever,’ said the visitor.
‘That is true, but he, like many others, then and now, came here without knowing the mountains, and left with an indelible impression of their lofty summits, their tree-clad slopes, their cascades, lakes, and scenic curiosities, and their legends that have inspired multitudes of artists, writers, and just plain people.’
Darby Field, a son of Erin, was the first man to conquer the heights of Mount Washington, highest peak in the White mountains. It thrusts its summit 6,288 feet above the sea and a mile above the valleys at its base.
It was just 22 years after the Mayflower had deposited its human cargo on the shores of Massachusetts when Field struck out from the coast on one of his many trips into the unknown wilderness that lay immediately behind colonial villages.
Some settlers feared to wander from their settlements, but Darby Field was one of those bold adventurers for whom even the hard life of the colonist was too tame. He was accompanied by two Indian guides. On a June day in 1642, Field stood on the summit of Mount Washington.
Darby Field’s “Diamonds.”
Chroniclers of events in the White mountains, while praising the spirit of Field, refer to him as a master spinner of yarns. He returned to Portsmouth with his pockets bulging with ‘diamonds’ — but the diamonds turned out to be worthless crystals.
Undaunted, Field insisted that the White mountains were a treasure house of precious stones. Although men braved the wilderness to seek the gems and returned empty-handed, his stories persisted. To his dying day Field was unwilling to admit his tales were untrue.
Could Field return to the White mountains today to see what his adventure started, no doubt he would be overcome, for he would find his name inscribed among those intrepid men and women whose spirit pushed back the boundaries of colonial America and opened up new regions to American life.
As the Colonies grew and demanded wood for building, for paper, and for other manufactures, lumbermen carelessly swung their axes over the White mountain slopes and stripped them of their trees. All but a few thousand acres of primeval forest were cut over.
The forests one sees today are largely second growth, but no longer are they in jeopardy.
“Great Stone Face.”
Mount Washington is admittedly the dominating feature of the White mountains and nearly every visitor to northern New Hampshire hopes to stand on its summit. But if your time it short and storm clouds thwart that hope, there are scores of other features that are well worth a ramble among the heights.
Chief among these is the Profile, popularly known as the ‘Old Man of the Mountain,’ or as Hawthorne’s ‘Great Stone Face,’ peering from the rugged granite ledges of Profile mountain above the highway through Franconia notch.
It was a male’s appetite for partridge for breakfast that led to the discovery of the Profile in 1805. Nathaniel Hall was a member of a road-building crew. Early in the morning he shouldered his gun and left camp.
With only a well-browned partridge on his mind, he silently crept along the shore of a small lake, his eyes penetrating the undergrowth. For some reason unknown to Hall he looked up — and for a moment was stunned by ‘the most wonderful face’ he had ever seen.
News of the discovery spread rapidly over New England. The road Hall was working on was pushed through the notch. Men and women came on horseback, by stage, carriage, and cart. The popularity of the Profile was one of the factors that influenced the building of a railroad into the Franconia region and the erection of the famous Profile house, since destroyed by fire.
The rugged features of the Old Man, formed by five layers of granite ledge, measure 40 feet from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin. Two layers of granite snake up the forehead, and one each the nose, upper lip, and chin.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Plumas Independent (Quincy, California), “‘Second Greatest Show on Earth’ Barnum Called New England Range,” prepared by National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C. — WNU Service, Thursday, June 2, 1938
Local Darby Field Descendant Attends Appalachian Conclave, by Mrs. Richard Field
“Albert E. Field, son of Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Field, was one of two direct descendants of Darby Field invited by the Appalachian Mountain club to take part in the 300th anniversary celebration on Mt. Washington last weekend.
Darby Field, claimed by both Exeter and Durham as pioneer settler of the original Exeter grant which included Oyster river, now Durham, was the first white man to climb to the top of Mt. Washington. Members of the Appalachian club laid plans for a tercentenary celebration to be held this month.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), “Local Darby Field Descendant Attends Appalachian Conclave,” by Mrs. Richard Field, Wednesday, July 1, 1942
Mt. Washington — Home of Great Spirit To the Indians, By F. Allen Burt
“Mt. Olympus has it capricious gods. Mt. Everest its elusive ‘Abominable Snowman.’ And our own Mount Washington has its misty legends.
In fact one Indian tale places the dwelling place of the Great Spirit atop the high summit. It seems an Indian hunter became lost in the frozen wilds of the North Country.
After falling exhausted into the snow ‘the Great Master of Life’ awoke him and gave him a dry coal telling him that he would find fire from the coal.
One night he placed the dry coal on the ground and a great fire broke out and from the smoke a huge jagged pile of rocks began rising skyward and a voice said ‘Here the Great Spirit will dwell and watch over his favorite children.’
That is one Indian version of the creation of Mount Washington, somewhat different from that of modern geologists.
Not too much is known of the Indians who roamed the White Mountain regions before the coming of the white men. From meager records it is established they found abundant game in the forests and fished in the well-stocked streams and lakes.
Their wigwams were pitched in Summer in fertile river bottoms where squaws killed the trees by girdling and cultivated small plots to raise corn and maize.
In Ossipee in a burial mound about 50 feet in diameter and ten feet high, there were found skeletons buried face downward, tomahawks, arrowheads, pipes, and even a stone mortar with a pestle with which they made their cornmeal.
What few White Mountain Indian legends that have come down to us are concerned largely with the lower reaches of the mountain region rather than with the mighty and forbidding Agiocochook (also spelled Agiochook and Agiokochook). The mountain was a dreaded height which no Indian dared to climb.
In some ways this showed more sense than some of the later whites who, completely ignorant of the perils involved, blithely set off to climb the peak, often with fatal results.
Another legend makes Mt Washington almost an Indian version of the biblical Mt. Ararat. The deluge tradition, coming in so many cultures, is repeated again in the Indian version.
John Josselyn, a 17th century writer, recorded the legend of a great flood in the Indian country.
One Indian and his wife accompanied by a hare headed for the mountains and were saved.
When the storm abated the Indian let the hare go free. When it did not return, the couple started to head down the mountain, and, as in all good stories, they lived happily ever after and the country was teeming with their offspring.
Another Indian story, which tells of New England’s highest peak, concerns the Indian chief, Passaconaway. He was the top dog in the Penacook tribe which occupied most of what is now New Hampshire.
This great chief, whose domain included the dread heights of Mount Washington, was described by a 17th century writer thus:
‘His principal qualification was his skill in some of the secret operations of nature, which gave him the reputation of a sorcerer and extended his fame and influence among all the neighboring tribes.’
‘They believed it was in his power to make water burn, and trees dance, and to metamorphose himself into flame; that in Winter he could raise a green leaf from the ashes of a dry one and a living serpent from the skin of one that was dead.’
Once, from the lofty summit of Mount Washington, it was said, the Powerful Passaconaway zoomed skyward for a powwow with the spirits in heaven.
Passaconaway had been a bitter enemy of the English. But in 1660, an old man and near death, he called his leaders together and warned them to stop the quarrel with the English neighbors.
His words of caution apparently had a great affect on his son and successor, Wonolancet. Fifteen years later when the Indian war broke out, the young chief led his people into a remote place where they could not be drawn into the fighting.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts), “The Secrets of Mt. Washington — II. Home of Great Spirit To the Indians,” by F. Allen Burt, Monday, August 4, 1958
The Secrets of Mt. Washington, by F. Allen Burt
The Story of Mt. Washington, by F. Allen Burt
America the Beautiful — White Mountain National Forest
National Historical Mechanical and Civil Engineering Landmark — The Mount Washington Cog Railway
Marking Mt. Washington Ascent, by D. Quincy Whitney
On 350th anniversary, symposium to examine the untold story
“‘One Darby Field, an Irishman, living about Pascataquack, being accompanied by two Indians, went to the top of the white hill.’ — GOV. JOHN WINTHROP’S JOURNAL, 1642
NORTH CONWAY — People live by the stories that they tell. And what is left out can be as important as the details related. In fact, the omissions tell the story that lies between and behind the written words.
In 1642 when Gov. John Winthrop recorded the first known ascent of ‘the white hill’ by a colonist, he identified Darby Field, but not the Indian guides. The governor’s omission is a loud one when, 350 years later, historians, scholars, Native Americans and others examine the earlier encounters between this country’s indigenous cultures and that of incoming Europeans.
DARBY FIELD AND HIS INDIAN GUIDES: NATIVE AMERICANS AND EUROPEAN COLONISTS IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS.
WHERE: Red Jacket Mountain View Motor Inn, North Conway.
WHEN: Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
TICKETS: Symposium free; reservations required.
TELEPHONE: Mount Washington Observatory, North Conway, 466-3388.
On Friday, in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Field’s ascent of Agiocochook or Mount Washington, the Mount Washington Observatory will host a one-day symposium, ‘Darby Field and His Indian Guides: Native Americans and European Colonists in the White Mountains.’
The symposium will encourage people to look at the first, less-celebrated encounters between Native Americans and European colonists, encounters that precede more visible battles, and the present dispossessed status of Native Americans.
Symposium topics will include: a keynote address, ‘Darby Field, His Time, and Our Time,’ by historians Laura and Guy Waterman; ‘The Prehistory of the White Mountains’ by Richard Boisvert, deputy state archeologist; ‘The Western Abenaki: An Introduction’ by anthropologist John Moody; and ‘The Abenakis in the Mountains’ by three Abenakis, Dee Brightstar, Jeanne Brink, and Hilda Robtoy, of the Abenaki Research Project.
Afternoon presentations will include ‘Indian Guides, Mapmakers, and Informants’ by Colin Calloway; ‘Jeremy Belknap and the Exploration of the White Mountains’ by Charles Clark, a history professor at the University of New Hampshire; ‘Alden Partridge: A Transitional Figure in White Mountain Exploration’ by Gary Thomas-Lord, a history professor at Norwich University; and ‘The Study of Land Use History in the White Mountains’ by Karl Roenke, of the US Forest Service.
Calloway, associate professor of history at University of Wyoming, who has his permanent home in Bellows Falls, Vt, obtained his doctorate in Native American history from the University of Leeds in England, where he focused on British-Native American relations from the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812.
Calloway was an expert witness in the 1989 case in which the Vermont Abenaki had their fishing rights on the Missiquoi River recognized. Calloway’s book, ‘The Western Abenaki of Vermont 1600-1800: War, Migration, and the Survival of an Indian People,’ was selected by Choice magazine as one of the outstanding academic books of 1990 and is one of the few written records of Western Abenaki history.
According to Calloway, much of the conflict between Native American and European cultures is rooted in differing philosophies about land use.
‘The Europeans, especially the English, were interested not only in exploring and knowing the land,’ Calloway said, ‘but in getting possession of it because these people came from a land-poor continent. The Indians had a very flexible and diverse use of the land, which in New Hampshire and Vermont relied on the game in the forests, the fish in the rivers, planting crops in the valleys. The problem occurred when the Europeans moved in and pushed the Indians out of the ecosystem.’
‘To the English, the Indians seemed nomadic. It transfers later into American Indian policy. By the 19th century, people like Thomas Jefferson begin to share the rationalization that one of the greatest obstacles to Indians becoming civilized is the fact that they have too much land, so they wander back and forth, and don’t become farmers: ‘We’re going to take the Indians’ land so we can civilize the Indian.’
Moody, who specializes in the study of the western Abenaki of Vermont and New Hampshire, obtained his degree in anthropology and Native American studies at Dartmouth in 1977. Before obtaining his degree, he worked with Michael Dorris, a Native American, Dartmouth professor and author, in researching the western Abenaki.
‘A group of Abenakis came out in 1975 and said, ‘We’re a substantial group of Abenakis; we’ve been here right along and we want recognition. We want fishing and hunting rights.’ People said that it couldn’t be true. I did a three-month study thinking I was going to find some people of some limited Indian ancestry. What I learned was that there was a large integrated community, as large as the reservation in Canada, if not larger, and it had been there right along, just like they had said,’ said Moody.
‘The fact that the Abenakis were devoted enough to the land and to their families to stay is an extraordinary story. It’s not the Stone Age culture thing. There will be Abenakis speaking for themselves at this conference and others in the audience who may or may not speak. I defy you to pick them out of a crowd, according to appearance or clothing; they are regular people. They always have been; that’s the point.’
Moody said the symposium will help to heighten awareness that history needs to be explored, that history changes personal perspectives.
‘There is so much to do in New Hampshire. We have 10,000 years of Native American history here. We’re on the verge of an explosion of knowledge about the depth of the extensiveness of their tradition here, its effect on non-Indian culture, and on the genesis of New Hampshire values, and lifestyle,’ said Moody.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts), “Marking Mt. Washington ascent,” by D. Quincy Whitney, Sunday, June 14, 1992
Darby Field went hiking with Indians
“A New Hampshire man called Darby Field got together with a few friendly Native Americans one day in 1642 and climbed a sizable knoll later named Mount Washington. Because Field was there to carry back the message, that party has been identified in some texts as the country’s ‘first recreational hike.'”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The News-Journal (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), Tuesday, May 10, 1994
Wind, by Jan DeBliue
How the flow of air has shaped life, myth, and the land.
“Near the Northeast edge of the United States is a terrestrial anomaly that squeezes oncoming air like a set of mammoth bellows. As wind drives east over Vermont, it dips to scrape the valley of the Connecticut River and rises abruptly to crest the towering Presidential Range. It pours up the mountainsides, compressed into less and less space. ‘It’s like putting your finger halfway over a water hose. The extra pressure causes the water — or the wind, in this case — to just go shooting out,’ says meteorologist Ken Rancourt. The bottom edge of the flow bumps against the mountains. The top edge hits the dense atmospheric layer known as the tropopause. As the wind rises to 6,288 feet, it passes over the summit of Mount Washington, long the site of the highest recorded wind speed on earth…
With its chill temperatures and desiccating winds, Mount Washington is one of the harshest environs for plants outside the Arctic. At the summit the wind exceeds hurricane force (seventy-four miles an hour) four days out of ten. In winter, rime ice, formed from super-cooled fog, plasters buildings, vehicles, and radio towers with a thick, bumpy coating. Only the hardiest moisture-hoarding plants survive here. As for animals, the most common by far is Homo sapiens, although a few mammals — among them shrews, voles, red foxes, and long-tailed weasels — migrate about the tree line in warmer months. Clouds live at the summit, and rocks, not wild creatures. The Abenaki Indians who ventured up the mountain called it Agiocochook, the place of the storm spirit…
In terms of climate, every 1,000 feet of elevation we gain will have the effect of carrying us 250 miles farther north… deciduous species thin to mountain ash and white birch, and conifers appear. The lush and frail have been weeded out by wind and cold; there is no room on the higher slopes for plants that lose moisture quickly through their leaves. Botanists divide high mountain country into three ecological components: the northern hardwood zone at the base, the spruce-fir zone, and the arctic alpine zone. The plants within the lower two belts arrange themselves by height, growing shorter up in the mountainside as the temperature drops and the speed of wind increases…
Higher, and the trees thin, interspersed with patches of open meadow. The conifers slouch crazily upslope, bent low like soldiers overrunning a hill. Behind isolated boulders they dare to grow a bit taller — perhaps all of four feet — but their top needles are burned brown. This dwarfed, bonsai-like growth is called krummholz, and it colonizes hillsides where snowfall offers an insulating blanket or where uneven terrain provides scattered places of shelter. Krummholz is a German word meaning crooked wood. It becomes established when a seed is blown upslope and finds a niche, say in the lee of a boulder. As it matures, the tree grows bushy and shrub-like. On its lee side new branches sprout and creep uphill until conditions become too harsh for further growth. Lacking the energy to produce seeds, the dwarfed trees spread by sprouting roots wherever their branches curl down to a bit of soil. On Mount Washington, krummholz has been dated to one hundred years. In the less severe conditions of the Rocky Mountains, it may live more than three hundred years and be found as much as 6,000 feet higher.
Tree limit is imposed by a number of factors, including climate, snow cover, soil, and competition from other plants, but perhaps the most important is exposure to wind. In winter, when soils are frozen and water is unavailable, high winds parch trees mercilessly, and blowing snow and ice may damage their needles and bark. Where the flow patterns allow tendrils of cold air to reach far down mountainsides, the tree limit lies at lower elevations. On leeward slopes, though, the trees creep upward, finding small micro-climates where they can survive, if not thrive…
In 1932 the privately run Mount Washington Observatory opened with an anemometer on a cast-iron shaft that could record the gusts in what was already suspected to be one of the windiest locales on earth. The anemometer measured wind speed through a series of clicks that recorded its revolution. On April 12, 1934, a day of unusually strong wind, a technician named Sal Pagliuca ventured outside long enough to chip ice off the anemometer and other instruments. ‘Perhaps a sledge hammer could have done a better job,’ he wrote in a journal, ‘but I doubt if the strength of Polyphemus could move a sledge hammer in a 200 mph breeze.’ Retreating inside, he settled down to count the anemometer’s clicks. He had never heard them coming so fast. Working with a colleague, Pagliuca figured the wind velocity at 231 miles an hour.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Internet Archive, “Wind: how the flow of air has shaped life, myth, and the land,” by Jan DeBliue, 1998
In the Beginning, by Nicholas S. Howe
“Mountains were invented in the 19th century. There had always been high places, of course, but the ancients usually thought that the gods lived there and avoided them for fear of giving offense. More recently, settlers considered mountains to be a piece of bad luck, a barrier to travel, and a hindrance to farming. One of my forebears was named Jemima Tute and she lived on the western frontier when the frontier was at the Connecticut River. There were two mountain ranges within reach, but no one in her family went hiking. If their eyes were open they were working, and they held off all the Indian attacks except the last one.
The high mountains of New England were approached slowly. They were first reported by a coastwise navigator in 1524, and early news was a mixture of wonder, dread, and confusion. One account was ‘A Voyage into New England,’ published in London in 1628: ‘This River (sawco), as I am told by the Savages, cometh from a great mountain called the Cristall hill, being as they say 100 miles in the Country, yet it is to be seene at the sea side, and there is no ship ariuse in NEW ENGLAND, either to the West so farre as Cape Cod,or to the East so farre as Monhiggen, but they see this Mountaine the first land, if the weather be cleere.’
The ecology of the new world was not yet subject to rigorous study and some seaborn observers wrapped themselves in the mantle of what-ever science as was available, so they attributed the brightness of that inland ‘Mountaine’ to white moss. Others heard the optimistic accounts of distant sightings and early speculators, and thought it might be the sheen of precious stones. One gazeteer of 1638 brought less promising news; he pushed northwards from the Massachusetts settlements, but the track became difficult and he reported that the regions ahead were ‘daunting terrible,’ so he turned back.
If he’d persevered, he would have learned that the Cristall hill was Agiocochook, the highest point in the northeastern quarter of the North American continent. This distinction loomed large in the Indian culture of the region, and those natives dared not tread the heights that were reserved for the gods. When the summit was finally reached, the attempt was not inspired by any sense of adventure or scientific inquiry, it was politics.
That climb was made by Darby Field. He’d been living in the Massachusetts colony, then in about 1638 he settled in Dover, near the bustling docks of Portsmouth in New Hampshire’s short coastline. At that time, leaders in Massachusetts were looking northward with a view to extending their realm. Governor John Winthrop and Richard Saltenstall were willing servants of the spirit of expansion that would characterize America, but they had not forgotten the sense of religious propriety that brought them to the New World. This meant that they had to deal with the natives that they found there, but they had to do it properly, with conferences and deeds.
Darby Field was a quick study and he learned several Indian tongues. He also had his eye out for the main chance, and he became a translator for Messrs. Winthrop and Saltonstall in their dealings with the natives. In particular they had to deal with Passaconaway, the principal chief of the Abenaki in the north. It seemed important to impress upon the natives that these European newcomers were not to be trifled with, that they were not afraid of either nature or gods. Darby Field decided that the surest way to do this was to conquer the throne room of their gods. So, in June of 1642 and in the witnessing company of an Abenaki, he found the untrodden top of Agiocochook. The prize was far more valuable than precious stones — this ascent helped convince Passaconaway to treat with the white settlers and trade away his lands.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Google Books, “Not Without Peril: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire,” by Nicholas S. Howe, Appalachian Mountain Club, 2000
The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain, by Denise Ortakales, illustrated by Robert Crawford
The little railroad that could … ski, by M.J. McAteer
“Detachable quad chairs, high-speed triples and famous singles, ho hum. For the upwardly mobile skier, just so much pedestrian transport.
For a real lift, the snow bored should consider poling over to New Hampshire this winter to visit a small, new alpine area where the ride up promises to be more of an adventure than the ski or ride down.
For the first time, anywhere on Earth (weather permitting, of course), skiers can ride a cog railroad to the top of a ski slope. Nonskiers are welcome to go along for the ride too, downloading aboard the train as all but the slowest snowplowers outpace them down slopes bisected by the cog’s track.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s oldest operating cog and a National Historic Landmark, is like the Little Engine That Could. It has been huffing and puffing its way to the 6,288-foot summit of the Northeast’s highest peak since 1869 via a gear system that drags the train upward one tooth at a time. But until now, the steam-powered train largely had suspended commercial operations in winter because the weather atop Mount Washington is brutal — winds clocked at a planetary surface record of 231 mph and an average January temperature of 5 degrees. Hardly tourist temperatures and less than ideal ski conditions, which is why the cog will keep to the lower elevations in its new role as a ski train.
Doug Waites, former sales and marketing manager of the cog railway, thinks the ski train is a novelty that will build up a real head of steam (ba-dum-dump).
‘People always want to ski Mount Washington,’ he says, ‘but it (skiing) has been limited to Tuckerman Ravine.’
For the uninitiated, Tuckerman, to paraphrase the New Hampshire state motto, is a lift-free-and-maybe-die kind of place. The only way to get there is to hike a 412-mile trail to the base followed by another hour-long slog to the top of the ominous headwall.
The slope descending from Tuckerman’s headwall really is a cliff, which is closed to skiing until late spring, until enough snow has accumulated to camouflage that fact. Tuckerman has a grade of 45 degrees; by comparison, most expert ski slopes have a grade of 25 degrees. The extreme difficulty of Tuckerman has, for 70 years, made it a must for the macho.
The slopes at the cog, however, will be no Tuckerman. They will instead be ‘suitable for snow bunnies,’ Waites says cheerfully. ‘Skiers will have an opportunity to experience Mount Washington in the winter — but without the danger.’
The cog is within the federally owned 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, but it predates the government takeover of the land and maintains ownership of 99 feet on either side of its track, which is where it has created four trails with a 1,100-foot vertical drop (by comparison, Bolton Valley’s vertical is 1,625 feet; Stowe Mountain Resort’s is 2,360). The Mount Washington Cog Railway Ski Trains, as the area will be called, will have the usual ski amenities snow-making, grooming, instruction for skiers and snow boarders, a ski shop with rentals and a cafe.
It’s the transportation that will be, in a legitimate use of a brutally overworked word, unique.
The ski trains will run to Waumbek Tank, which at 3,800 feet is about a third of the way to the summit. In good weather, the engines will take on water at the tank before continuing the journey to the peak. The ride up will take about 15 minutes. That translates to about 76 feet per minute because the cog’s method of locomotion is so painstaking.
In the cog system, the outer rails bear only the weight of the train. The power to climb comes from a wheel attached to the engine’s drive shaft. The teeth on this wheel hook over the rungs of a ‘rack,’ or ladder-like device between the tracks.
This meshing of gears is what enables the cog to drag itself up grades that a regular train couldn’t possibly manage. At, one point on the trip to the top of Mount Washington, for example, a grade of more than 37 percent creates a funhouse effect of a 14-foot tilt between the front and the back of the passenger coach.
Cog engines also push rather than pull their loads up the mountain. On the descent, the seats in the heated, 70-passenger coaches are flipped to face downhill, and the engines go first with their weight acting as a brake. A rather unsettling feature of the system is that the engines are not coupled to the passenger coaches. This independent operation is for safety: If an engine or a coach derails, it won’t take the rest of the train with it. The loud, metallic clicking sound that characterizes the cog also is a cause for reassurance: It is created by a device that drags over the rungs of the rack and prevents slippage.
The cog engines including the Ammonoosuc (‘a stony place for fishing’), the Chocorua (named for a Pequawket chief) and the Agiocochook (‘home of the great spirit’) will use a quarter-ton of coal and 300 gallons of water in their round-trip ski runs. In fair weather, cinders from the burning coal can blow in the windows of the hand-painted coaches, but grit shouldn’t be an issue when the windows are shut. The rail company also has been refitting its engines to burn cleaner and eventually will convert them to oil, says Wayne Presby, who has been president of the railroad for 21 years.
The trains will run continuously to produce a lift capacity of 350 passengers an hour. Beginners will be able to debark at a platform partway up the slopes at Cold Spring Hill; more advanced skiers can stay aboard the heated train until Waumbek.
The novelty is quite a lure, as the train’s 136-year history as a tourist attraction attests. Once that excitement wears off, the slopes are unlikely to hold the interest of advanced skiers for more than a few runs.
Not to worry. Bretton Woods, New Hampshire’s largest ski area with 101 trails and 434 acres of terrain, has the same owner as the cog and is just six miles away. The plan is to offer a combination ski pass along with a free shuttle between the two areas.
In keeping with the spirit of the old cog, the adventurous might want to consider chucking those fancy parabolic skis they got for Christmas and strapping on a pair of vintage 77-inch-long wooden ones with leather bindings, something like those worn by the famous Austrian skier Toni Matt when he schussed the headwall at Tuckerman back in 1939. ‘Schussing’ means that Matt went straight down the ravine — no parallel turns and certainly no wimpy stem christie or snowplow turns either. The result was that he reached a speed of 85 mph.
Then again, maybe schussing is best left to the Austrians. Better to stick with the forgiving shaped skis and the equally forgiving slopes at the cog and live to tell about it.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, Vermont), Living Outside, “The Little Railroad that Could… Ski,” by M. J. McAteer, The Washington Post, Friday, December 31, 2004
Ascent of Agiocochook: Home of the Great Spirit, by Arthur and Katharine Mullen
New Hampshire’s Rock Profile: The Watcher aka Old Woman of the Notch, by Janice Brown
“New Hampshire rocks are often like the clouds in its skies — if you stare at them long enough they start to look like something else. She has been known by several names: The Watcher, the Old Woman of the Notch, the Maid of the Mountain, the Old Lady of the Mountain. She was born at the same time as her formerly famous counterpart: The Old Man of the Mountain.
She is smaller, and not quite so easy to see. There is no plaza, no parking lot in her vicinity. No famous statesman has ever uttered a pithy quotation about her. And so the Old Woman of the Notch languishes along with other rare natural rock profiles in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The Old Woman of the Notch, aka The Watcher, is an outcropping of Eagle Cliff (sometimes called Eagle Crag), that is in itself a shoulder of Mt. Lafayette [incorrectly attributed as Mt. Webster in some old books]. A 1955 edition of the Trenton Evening Times newspaper noted ‘she wears tall trees as a frazzled hair-do…’ This rock profile faces east, and seems to be bent and looking down upon approaching visitors. It can be viewed ‘from a small clearing at the south end of Profile Lake’ looking to the highest part of Eagle Cliff.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Cow Hampshire, New Hampshire’s History Blog, “New Hampshire’s Rock Profile: The Watcher aka Old Woman of the Notch,” by Janice Brown, September 21, 2016