Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History
                      1784 Jeremy Belknap

Jeremy Belknap. A Rough Sketch of the Country near the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Manuscript in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1784. Scale 1 inch = 2 miles. 34 x 37.5 cm.

           Courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society

This is the earliest surviving topographical map of the White Mountains. (The earliest map to survive into the modern era, which now exists only in facsimile,  was engraved on a powderhorn and dated 1771.) The Reverend Jeremy Belknap (1744-1798), author and founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society, resided in Dover at the time he undertook his expedition to the White Mountains.  He mailed this map to his friend Ebenezer Hazard with a letter, dated August 19, 1784, in which he gives an account of his recent visit to the region. He writes to Hazard:


For your farther gratification, I have copied a plan which I took from one in Mr. Whipple’s possession, shewing the course of the rivers and the situation of the part of the Mountains…I have added the sketches of the appearance of the Mountains on the E. and the N.W., and marked their area as nearly as I could. The roads in which we travelled are marked with a pricked line.


North is at the top. The map features mountains, ponds, and rivers, a couple of human habitations, roads, which run along two of the rivers, and one political boundary. It does not represent the main peaks in their position relative to the rivers and other features, and instead, there is a broad white space, labeled “Area of the White mountains.”  As Belknap says, the map does include two views of the mountains, labeled “The appearance of the White mountains on the East side from the meadow,” where the peaks are highly exaggerated, and “The appearance of the White mountains on the North west side from Dartmouth [now Jefferson],” where there is less exaggeration. Several peaks away from the main range are identified: Pondicherry Mountain (now Cherry), Mitten Hill, Moat Mountain, Doublehead, Kyasarge (Kearsarge), Mount Royse, Sloop Mountain (Slope), Crotch Mountain (Thorn), and East Mountains (probably the Carter Range). Crawford Notch is identified as “Western Notch,” and south of it, on either side of the Saco River, are “high inaccessible Rocks” (Webster Cliffs) and “high rocky mountains.”


States and editions:

A facsimile of this map was issued concurrently in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Fifth Series, vol. III. Boston, 1877, and in Jeremy Belknap, Journal of a Tour to the White Mountains in July, 1784, ed. Charles Deane. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1876).

Click here for a PDF version of this map that will allow you to zoom in study of details

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