by Rick Russack          


Livermore, a few miles west of Bartlett, has a longer history than most of the other lumbering communities, and more details about this town have survived. We’re able to see, that although it was a company town, life for the residents was very similar to life in other New Hampshire towns of the period.  Babies were born, men and women married, elections were held for town officers, children went to school, and some residents died. Most residents were French-Canadian Catholics and a Catholic priest visited occasionally.[1]

                                                                             Double clicking these images will allow you to enlarge them. 

                                                                    A link at he bottom of the page will take you to a video of the town

                                      Detail map of Livermore Village prepared by Bill Gove for his article on the Sawyer River Railroad.  


Its story begins in 1874, when the New Hampshire Legislature approved the incorporation of the company that would operate the mills, the Grafton County Lumber Company. Three members of the Saunders family, along with two others, were the incorporators.  When construction work in Livermore actually commenced is unclear.  However, 1875 was an important year in the development of the town.  In that year, the same five men incorporated the Sawyer River Railroad. (The page on the railroad includes additional maps.)  Also in that year, a journal of a trip to Mt. Carrigain, notes that "a road and a path for a mile or two" into the woods starts at the Sawyer River station on the  Portland and Railroad (P&O). A later court case includes testimony from surveyor G.W. Pitman that the mill was under construction in 1875.  In 1876, the town of Livermore was officially incorporated by the state and the inhabitants were instructed to hold their first town meeting. The first mill, completed in 1876, burned the same year and it was replaced in 1877.[2] Also in 1877, construction of the logging railroad began and  it extended from the mainline of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad to the town, a distance of about 2 miles.   An 1878 account, says that there were two mills and the cleared area of the town was about a half a square mile.[3]  The tracks of the Sawyer River Railroad would eventually extend about 8 miles into the forest.

                                                                     Saunder's Family Mansion, beside the railroad track.                                                     

   The Saunders family owned everything in the town. The 1880 census provides some details on the town. There were 18 separate dwellings and 103 inhabitants: 20-25 worked in the mill. Skilled laborers earned $1.75 a day while the less skilled earned $1.25.     The mill was powered by a 150 horsepower steam engine.  Five boilers were at work in the steam plant. The total value of the lumber, lathes and shingles sold in that year was $44,000.  The Saunders family had invested $150,000 in the village and mill.  The census figures also give us a sense of the fact that Livermore truly was a village; 14 of the 18 residences had children.  One family had six children. Five families took in boarders.  Occupations listed for the residents included two who were "coal dealers”, Frank and Alonzo WilloughbyA charcoal kiln was located below the village and shows in early photographs.


Livermore's Main Street.  Saunder's Mansion in rear.                                         School House. The foundation remains today

 Town records include references to births, deaths, and marriages, much as any town of the period would.  In Sept. 1878, the daughter of a Livermore woodsman, Julia Lucy, was married to Eldon Boynton, a carpenter. On June 20, 1877, Daniel Huntley was born-his father was a blacksmith.  Other babies were born in the following years.  Infants died in Livermore, as they did elsewhere.  George Smart, 5 months old, died of a bowel complaint on July 5, 1878 and Albert Smart, 22, died of consumption in the same year.[4]  Not all deaths were from natural causes: in 1882, Richard Whitty, a brakeman on the railroad died when he was run over by his train and in 1886 a falling tree killed Michael Guinan, a 30-year-old Irishman. [5] 

 A post office opened in Livermore in 1881, and it operated until 1931.  The first Postmaster was William Hull.  In 1885, the town had a town clerk, selectmen, justices, a treasurer and a tax collector.   The Grafton County Lumber Co.(operated by the Saunders family) employed nearly all the residents of the town.  There was also a schoolhouse with 28 students.  The schoolhouse and furnishings were valued at $150, according to Child’s 1886 “Gazetteer of Grafton County”.  The school’s two teachers were each paid $26.00 and the town expended a total of $130.00  for the school.  The village continued to prosper, but by the early years of the 20th century, many changes were taking place.  The census for 1900 shows that, at 101, the population of the town was essentially unchanged.   But the make-up of the town had changed.  Only 11 households remained and there were only 13 children in five families.  Eight homes now took in boarders; five of these homes had more than four unrelated men living there. One home had 20 boarders.  Livermore was no longer the family oriented town it had been 20 years earlier. [6]  The 1895 Rand McNally Atlas indicates there were 39 residents in that year, but that number probably excludes the men working in the woods. 

The 1914 census lists some of the structures in the town.  In addition to the mill, there was an icehouse, an engine house, a blacksmith shop, store and storehouse, winter boarding house, and a large barn, 11 homes and a schoolhouse.  We know there was also the large Saunders family mansion and a powerhouse.  This census also tells us that there were 3 cows, 2 hogs and 48 horses. [7]

James F. Morrow, Jr. loaned an interesting document concerning the school in Livermore to the author. Mr. Morrow’s father worked in Livermore in 1922-3, his family lived in the town, and James, Jr. attended school there.  The document lists the books in the Livermore School as of June 4, 1925.  The number and variety of books is surprising: there were   408 volumes and  88 different titles.  Some were only single copies, most were multiple copies. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic books, there were copies of “Robinson Crusoe”, “The Song of Hiawatha”, “Tom Brown’s School Days”, and others.[8]

 As was often the case, fires destroyed significant parts of the town.  In 1876, fire destroyed the first mill and it would burn twice more: in 1909 and 1918.  The Saunders mansion was partially destroyed by fire in 1909.  While fire damage was repaired, an event occurred in 1927 that would eventually spell the end of Livermore.  In November, massive rain and flooding occurred throughout the region.  Much of the logging railroad, along with several bridges, was destroyed.  The mill closed for good the next year, in 1928, but the town survived for a few more years. In 1929, the first discussions were held about selling the town and woodland to the federal government. (Then, as now, dealing with the government was not a quick process.)  In 1933, final negotiations were begun with the Forest Service    In Sept. 1934, the Forest Service and the Saunders heirs agreed upon a price of $9.00 an acre. Four or five families remained.  Finally, in Dec. 1936, title changed hands.  The heirs had reserved to themselves, for use as long as they might live, their mansion and about an acre around it. (Their mansion was finally destroyed by fire in 1965.)  In 1944, the government auctioned off some of the equipment, which had remained in the mill and boarding house.[9]  Finally, in 1951, the state legislature revoked the town’s charter.  Livermore was no more.


Today, what remains of Livermore can be reached by taking the Sawyer River Road from Rt. 302, west of Bartlett.  About two miles up this road, portions of which were originally part of the logging railroad, on the left will be seen the remnants of the last sawmill and power house.  The main street is clearly visible and part of the foundation of the mansion remains. The large cast-iron safe is still in the cellar hole of the store, and the foundation of the schoolhouse is still to be seen.  Two large concrete pillars look oddly out of place.  They were part of a water system, which supplied the mansion and other homes.   

[1]  Peter Crane Glimpses of Livermore: Life and Lore of an Abandoned White Mountains Woods Community, unpublished dissertation, 1993

[2]     Peter Crane Glimpses of Livermore: Life and Lore of an Abandoned White Mountains Woods Community, unpublished dissertation, 1993

[3]    Peter Crane Glimpses of Livermore: Life and Lore of an Abandoned White Mountains Woods Community, unpublished dissertation, 1993 

[4]  Peter Crane Glimpses of Livermore: Life and Lore of an Abandoned White Mountains Woods Community, unpublished dissertation, 1993 

[5]  Charles E. Fay, Mount Carrigain, in Appalachia

[6] Peter Crane, Glimpses of Livermore: Life and Lore of an Abandoned White Mountains Woods Community, unpublished dissertation, 1993

[7] Peter Crane, Glimpses of Livermore: Life and Lore of an Abandoned White Mountains Woods Community, unpublished dissertation, 1993

[8] James F. Morrow, Yankee Magazine, April, 1964.  There were 10 copies of “Good Health” by Gulick and Jewitt, 8 copies of “Graded Lessons” by Nichols and 13 copies of  “The Palmer Method of Business Practice”.

[9]  Peter Crane, Glimpses of Livermore: Life and Lore of an Abandoned White Mountains Woods Community, unpublished dissertation, 1993


Suggested Reading:

As of yet, there is no reference book solely devoted to Abandoned Towns.

"Logging Railroads of the White Mountains" by C. Frances Belcher, includes information on the towns associated with the logging railroads.

As noted earlier, "Chronicles of the White Mountains" by Frederick Kilbourne is excellent and also has information on some of the towns.

Dr. Peter Crane wrote his doctoral dissertation on Livermore.  It's the most comprehensive  work on the subject. It may be hard to find but well worth the effort.


Historic and archaeological  sites are special places that tell the story of our past.  Leave artifacts as you find them.  Rearranging them limits their scientific value and the experience of future visitors.

Visitors are reminded that Federal law prohibits disturbing these sites or removing any artifacts.

                            You can view a video by copying this link to your browser

Overview of the village

Oxen on Main Street

Loaded train

The town's general store

The store's safe remains

A winter view of the village

The Saunders mansion after the fire

The power plant today

Another view of the village

Mill workers

Sawyer River RR Locomotive

Sledding on Main Street