The White Mountains of New Hampshire were not settled until the late 18th century, long after the sea-coast and most other parts of New England. It was not until the end of the French and Indian War, in 1763, that towns were granted and settlers arrived. Most arrived with few possessions; many arrived on foot, and most had little, if any, extra cash.
They found rugged mountains, many rivers, lakes and streams, and virgin forest covering nearly the entire area. The mountains made travel difficult; there were only a few ways through. The first European settlers had to clear land for homes and farming, build rough homes, build mills to grind their grain and saw lumber for their buildings, and build roads.
By the first quarter of the 19th century, many prosperous, but small, towns existed and the population was rapidly expanding. Much of the prosperity came from utilizing the abundant forest resources.
Over the next 100 years, enormous changes took place. The Industrial Revolution forever changed the rural nature of the area. Tourism developed into a major industry.
1838 Bartlett Print of the Willey House (Courtesy of
Douglas Philbrook Collection, colored by Andrea Philbrook.)
Today's visitors to the White Mountains, and the White Mountain National Forest, see a healthy, green forest. But where today we just see trees, there used to be whole towns that are now abandoned, there were hundreds of old mills, dozens of mines, miles of logging railroads, granite quarries, charcoal kilns, lime kilns, early hiking trails and shelters, early roads and turnpikes, and much, much more.
Visitors interested in exploring, first-hand, some of this history have much to choose from. They can walk the streets of abandoned towns, examine cellar holes and wonder about who once lived there; they can find numerous mill sites and dams; they can climb Mt. Washington on the oldest, continuously maintained hiking trail in the Untied States, built by the Crawford family in 1819; they can walk for miles along old railroad lines, they can ride tourist railroads that still travel on some of the old track; they can ride the Cog Railway-or as it's sometimes called-the Railway to the Moon; they can drive on a long section of an early 19th century turnpike; they can visit sites where Grand Hotels once stood and they can visit three that survive; they can drive the Auto Road to the Summit of Mt. Washington; they can visit a unique granite mansion, and, if they'd like, they can visit the quarry in the woods where the granite was cut; they can visit one of the few horse cemeteries in the country, they can visit a Pet cemetery on the grounds of one of the Grand Hotels of yesterday; they can visit the graves of the Crawford family, they can visit the site of the Willey family tragedy. And this is just the beginning. And if visitors might worry about the amount of traveling seeing all this would entail, they might be surprised to learn that all the above, and more, is within a twenty mile radius of the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, and most of the sites are within Crawford Notch.
This website will tell the story of many of these sites, along with dozens more. We'll tell visitors where many of these sites are and we'll tell the stories of some of the men and women who made legend and history.
As you drive through the White Mountain Region, or look at photographs, consider that much of what you see is land that was once heavily logged, or burned over, or both. Over 800,000 acres are now managed by the Unites States Forest Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture.
There are many vintage photos on these pages.
Please read the Using This Site Page for hints on
SUGGESTED READING :
Throughout this site you'll find lists appropriate to the subject under discussion.
When asked to recommend one book on White Mountain History in general, nearly all interested
in the subject have the same answer:
"CHRONICLES OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS"
by Frederick Kilbourne.
The book was originally published in 1916 and has
been reprinted a number of times. Although almost
100 years old, it remains the most comprehensive
and accurate single volume on White Mountain History.
Also very important for research into early White Mountain history are the numerous Travel Guides, published from about 1828 on.