Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire -



1642 Darby Field is the first person to climb to the top of Mt. Washington.

1825 First logging camp is built in Berlin on the Androscoggin River.

1826 The Willey House landslide sweeps away an entire family and so captures the imagination of the public that it brings fame to the White Mountains.

1847 Metallak, the last of a band of Abnaki Indians, buried in Stewartstown, said to have lived to age of 120.

1865 Gold found in Lisbon. Soon there is a mini-gold rush throughout the "Ammonoosuc gold fields."

1875 First railroad passes through Crawford Notch.

1944 International monetary conference held at Bretton Woods.

1944 New Hampshire's only Prisoner of War camp established in Stark.

1960 The nine residents of Dixville Notch begin their first-in-the-nation voting tradition, an event that continues every four years at midnight in the Ballot Room of The BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel.

Farmers left settled communities in coastal areas to get cheap land in the northern wilderness. Each family would grow, gather or make almost everything it needed, so isolation was not so much of a disadvantage as we might imagine. Starvation was uncommon, but hardship was universal.

In 1816, the "year without a summer," a foot of snow fell in mid-June and there was a hard frost every month. In 1830 Tamworth suffered a "siege of wolves" which was finally routed by the local militia. Although the newly cleared hill farms often produced a bounteous harvest the first year, the deforested land soon began to thrust rocks up into the fields, more every year.

Economics forced the farm families out. Many moved to the Midwest and helped it blossom; many others chose industrial and commercial centers closer to home. Crop land, still laced with stone walls, became woodland once again. Houses disintegrated, leaving only cellar holes. At the time of the Civil War, a quarter of all the land in northern NH was improved farmland; today, just one percent.


In the mid-19th century, the White Mountains became America's most popular natural shrine. Railroads pushed into the mountains, to the very front door of the bigger hotels, carrying tourists on the "Grand Tour" designed to nourish the soul and elevate the mind. Every hotel of that vintage had a veranda with a spectacular view, because sitting comfortably and regarding the mountain scenery from a distance was considered a prescription for spiritual renewal.

During this period artistic appreciation of the mountains reached its apogee. Nature poets such as John Greenleaf Whittier and Lucy Larcom brought forth cascades of verse. Many of 19th century America's best-known landscapists worked in the White Mountains: Albert Bierstadt, George Inness, Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, John Frederick Kensett, Benjamin Champney, Homer Dodge Martin, Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, and photographer William Henry Jackson.

Two of America's first art colonies sprouted in the valleys of West Campton and North Conway. Painters' works drew tourists to the mountains, and souvenir-hungry tourists eventually drew more painters. During this time Mount Chocorua, with its perfect alpine spur and Romantic legend of tragic death and revenge, became the most pictured mountain in the United States – perhaps in the world.
Photo: Crawford Notch


As agriculture declined, farmers heard the winds from the Northern Forest singing a song of profits. By 1880 New Hampshire had over 700 saw mills. The biggest were in the North Country, their million-foota- year appetites fed by logging railroads that crisscrossed the White Mountains. When the sulfite process made it economical to produce paper from local spruce, production of paper quickly overtook lumber.

By the first decade of the 20th century Berlin, NH claimed the largest newsprint plant in the world, serving major East Coast papers such as the Boston Globe, the New York Tribune, and the New York News. In 1900 a team from Berlin sent a message around the world by setting the record for sawing – 221,000 feet of boards in a single shift!

Forest industry workers came to the mountains from many countries. French Canadians were especially prominent, but many other ethnicities were represented. In the 1920s a newspaperman commented that he could walk down a crowded street in Conway and overhear many conversations in many languages – but not one word of English.
Photo: Androscoggin River


By the late 1800s a new generation had taken over the mountains. Not content to absorb mountain vistas from afar, these athletes sought physical – rather than spiritual – closeness to the peaks. They preferred hiking to riding up mountain trails on horseback. Instead of inspirational poetry, they packed accurate guidebooks and good maps. Between 1876 and 1916 they blazed trails to every major waterfall, summit and sight. They initiated the tradition of broad mountain humor, and showed an interest in scientific inquiry. But perhaps their most important contribution was in acting to preserve the natural environment.

Tramping the back country, these activists entered a landscape rapidly being denuded by clear cutting and laid waste by enormous forest fires resulting from slovenly logging practices. Hikers joined forces with innkeepers, editorial writers, urban civic leaders, foresters and manufacturers to bring pressure in Washington, where action was stalled by anti-conservation legislators using procedural tricks, including the filibuster.

Finally, in 1911, Congress passed the Weeks Act, enabling the Federal government to buy land for National Forests. Three years later America breathed a sigh of relief when Mount Washington and the Presidential summits were purchased for $8.50 an acre and protected forever.
Photo: Glen Ellis Falls


The Great North Woods, home to New Hampshire's remotest wilderness, and its greatest logging country, is home also to as many moose and bears as the rest of New Hampshire combined. Pittsburg, spanning from Vermont to Maine at the northernmost tip of the state, has a longer border with Canada than with the rest of New Hampshire. This land was home to the Indian Stream Republic, which for several years in the 1830s operated as an independent nation of 300 people with its own constitution, taxes, president, courts and militia. A century later a New Hampshire historian called the rise and fall of this nation-state "one of the most extraordinary incidents in the history of the western world."


Romantic myth says this great peak was "Agiocochook" to Native Americans. By any name the tall, stunningly white-capped summit has always been the bright beacon of the mountains. Explorers far out at sea saw it 500 years ago. In 1642 Darby Field of Exeter followed its call across 100 miles of wilderness and became the first white man to stand at the summit. Centuries later, hoteliers needed to get tourists up to that summit without overexertion. By Herculean investment and invention they built a Carriage Road (1861) and a Cog Railway (1869) – both still in use. Buildings and utilities soon sprouted on the summit, including the famous weather station where, on April 12, 1934, wind was clocked at 231 mph – a world record that stands today.
Photo: Tip Top House, Mt. Washington


"The rapid extension of the railroads into the mountain-district has substituted for the formerly arduous task of travelling from point to point a luxurious and rapid transit, while by lifting the tourist on higher grades it affords better opportunities for outlooks. The sybaritic traveller now traverses the savage defiles and ascends the rugged valleys while reclining among the cushions of a palace-car, passing thus over ground that was formerly visited only by weary days of horseback-riding on miry and rocky roads. Either of the mountainresorts may be reached by an easy day's journey from Boston; and one may breakfast on Beacon Hill and sup on the summit of Mt. Washington."


As outdoor work gradually disappeared from the lives of most Americans, pursuit of outdoor sports rose. Besides hiking and camping, winter sports became very popular during the 20th century – especially snowshoeing and skiing. In the 1920s the first downhill and the first slalom races in the United States were held here in the North Country. In the 1930s some of the first ski schools were established. In 1939 an instructor in one of these schools, 19-yearold Toni Matt, won the Mount Washington race by accidentally schussing the headwall, thereby slicing the course record time in half.

Arts Alliance
of Northern NH
PO Box 892
Littleton NH 03561
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