Early Turnpikes in the White Mountains

                                                                     Early Turnpikes and Roads 

                                                                                                           By Rick Russack


In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, travel in the White Mountain region was difficult, to say the least.  The settlements were spread out and the mountains were a major obstacle to traffic.  Attempts to improve the roads were frequent and usually ineffective.  The state insisted that roads be built and paid for by the individual towns.  The towns had little money and little expertise in road building.  There were many petitions to the legislature for assistance in improving the roads.  The legislature adopted a solution that was in use at the time in England.  They chartered private corporations to build turnpikes and allowed those corporations to collect tolls. 

The geography, to a major extent, defined where roads could be built.  The natural passes were about the only places suitable for major roads of any length.  There were Turnpikes built through Crawford Notch and Franconia Notch as well as along the Baker River valley.  Some of the earliest roads were built along the Connecticut River.  Other early roads were built with the hope of bringing inland produce to the seaport towns-originally it was hoped that Portsmouth would be the terminus of the road system.

                                   Using links at the right, see individual pages for information on three early turnpikes.


                                                    Double clicking these images will allow you to enlarge them.

Black: Tenth NH Turnpike, Red: Jefferson Turnpike, Green:  Littleton Turnpike, Blue: Road existing prior to construction of the
  Tenth.  Shown on portion of 1816 Carrigain Map of NH


Suggested Reading:

Two books deal with early roads in depth.  In addition, nearly all of the individual town histories have chapters on roads.

"On The Road North of Boston" by Donna-Belle Garvin and James Garvin discusses the taverns and travel conditions as well as providing a great deal of information on the roads and turnpikes. 

"The Turnpikes of New England" by Fredric J. Wood contains information on the New Hampshire turnpikes, as well as other New England states.  It's particularly useful in that it makes clear which turnpikes, although chartered, were never actually built.

An informative article from Outlook Magazine:

Turnpikes, Stage Coaches and the White Mountain Express: Transportation in the White Mountains  

by R. Stuart Wallace (click above to read full text)

Other Turnpikes 

The Littleton Turnpike from the end of the 10th New Hampshire to the Connecticut River in Littleton.

Mount Washington Turnpike from the Fabyan House to the Base Station of the Cog Railroad.

The Carriage Road (now the Auto Road) up Mt. Washington.  This is the only private road still collecting tolls in the state.

The Coos Turnpike


           Blue: Existing Road to Conway, Fryeburg and Portland