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Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History

Fabyan Guard Cabin

   Link to photo album with additional photos at bottom of page.


                           The Fabyan Guard Cabin, 2011



          Fabyan Guard Station on the White Mountain  
                             National Forest

                          A Weeks Act Legacy

                               By David Govatski

 

“The cabin near the junction of the old Cherry Mountain Road in Twin Mountain is one of those things that was “always there’. I have a dim recollection of C. L. Graham and some of his associates depriving me of a small amount of money in that vicinity some considerable years ago. How I was gullible enough to fall into that kind of trap I never figured out except they were a wily bunch of back woodsmen intent upon taking into camp their unsuspecting customers, often to later disaster.”

Sherman Adams (NH Governor and Statesman in a 1979 letter).


The old log cabin in Bretton Woods on the Cherry Mountain Road  is what Sherman Adams was remembering.  There is no sign that mentions the name or the significance of this building as one drives along the Cherry Mountain Road. The cabin, dating back to 1923, is the oldest structure built by the Forest Service on the White Mountain National Forest and is the last remaining example of a Guard Station on the forest. The story behind this log cabin helps explain the early history of the national forest. 
 


                Interior of the cabin, 2011


The White Mountain National Forest was created as a result of the Weeks Act of March 1, 1911. One of the purposes of the law was to protect the headwater forests of the four great rivers (Saco, Merrimack, Androscoggin and Connecticut) that originate in the White Mountains. The law allowed the Federal Government to purchase privately owned lands and resulted in the creation of National Forests, east of the Mississippi River.  The devastation brought about by massive logging of the steep slopes, and later forest fires, caused a public outcry that led to congressional action. The entire forest was initially managed from an office in Gorham, New Hampshire but this became increasingly difficult as more land was acquired.

 

Managing these lands from Gorham, NH was impractical in those early years. Travel was largely by train and then by foot or horse. Road travel was not easy in the winter with many roads unplowed. The Forest Service lacked vehicles in those days. To cut down on travel time the Forest Service stationed employees whose job was to protect the forest in remote cabins that were strategically located. These employees were called Forest Guards and the cabins they worked out of were called Guard Stations. The Guard Stations were located in areas that had close access to the newly acquired lands. 


One of the first Guard Stations to be constructed was the Fabyan Guard Station built by the legendary Forest Supervisor, Clifford L. Graham, near Bretton Woods.  The site is along the old Cherry Mountain Road near the Fabyan train station. Graham built the cabin in 1923 using native red spruce logs cut on the site. The walls were chinked with oakum and fitted with scribed wood slats between the logs. The one room log cabin is 16’ by 20’ in size, had two bunks and was heated by a wood cook stove.  Water came from an unnamed stream out behind the cabin and there was a rustic outhouse nearby that still remains. A horse corral and barn were on the opposite side of the Cherry Mountain Road. The cost of building the cabin in 1923 was $75. 
 

The duties of Forest Guards were numerous and varied. In the spring, summer and autumn the guards would work on trails and campgrounds; build and maintain phone lines to the fire lookout towers, fight forest fires, assist the public and protect the forest resources. In the winter, the Forest Guards would often work scaling timber to determine how much a logger would have to pay for logs being cut on the Forest. These Guard Stations served a very practical need in providing local lodging and a work place to manage and protect the forest.

 

In the 1930’s there were at least 13 Guard Stations in operation. Most were of framed wood construction but only the Fabyan Guard Station remains today. Following World War II, motorized vehicles became more widely available and travel to remote sites was no longer difficult. Employees wanted to live with their families and because of this, by the 1960s many of the guard stations had been torn down. The last known regular use of the Fabyan Guard Station was in the late 1960’s by staff coming from the Supervisors Office in Laconia, NH.   


The Fabyan Guard Station is the last of its kind on the White Mountain National Forest. It is one of the oldest remaining guard station in the eastern United States. It is an outstanding example of a modest but well crafted structure showing the skills of early Forest Service personnel. The close association of Governor Sherman Adams with this location is another important aspect of its history.  The structure is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
 


WhiteMountainHistory.org is working with the White Mountain National Forest to preserve this important structure. The cabin is in relatively good shape for its age. Repairs are needed to its foundation, roof, door and seven windows to allow it to survive another century.   The original cook stove is in storage and aside from some rust is all in one piece. The site is a stop on the Weeks Act Legacy Trail and plans are being made to allow the public to enjoy this historic building in the future. If you are interested in helping preserve and interpret this White Mountain landmark, please let us know. 
              Short Audio Narrative About The Cabin

                            Additional Photos

         "Ranger and Guard with 6-man rations, cooking outfit and tent,  
                                       Fabyan Guard Quarters." 

 Some items in the picture standout. One is the double phone line entering below the eaves and a single line lower and entering the back of the cabin. The door does not have the characteristic diamond shaped window that was added sometime after 1936 nor the gable windows that were added in 1941. The sign in front calls this the Fabyan "Guard Quarters" and this term differs from the standard "Guard Station" terminology normally used. A campfire appears on the left of the cabin and it is highly likely that the guards used this instead of the wood cook stove in the summer months. The two men are walking towards the Cherry Mountain Road (ca. 1811) and in the direction of the Dartmouth Range which had a network of trails that today no longer exist. USFS negative number 211956 by photographer E. S. Shipp in August 1926.


                    "Fabyan Ranger Station on Cherry Mountain."

This winter picture shows a forest guard, probably working as a log scaler based on the scaling tool that he has in his hand. It has a caliper to measure the diameter of the logs and a wheel to measure the length of the log. In those days the Forest Service measured each log that was cut by loggers who paid for the amount and quality of the logs. Today the process of selling timber is different and uses a bidding process. The telephone lines are shown coming in under the eaves. Note the cross-country skis and poles next to the cabin. An axe and a crosscut saw designed for cutting hardwood logs is also shown. It appears that there is smoke coming from the stove pipe. The Forest Service sign in front now says "Fabyan Ranger Station" although the actual administrative ranger station was in Twin Mountain,  later  in Littleton and finally in Bethlehem.  USFS negative number 300142 by photographer Paul S. Carter in January 1935

        "Guard mowing weeds along trail near Fabyan Guard Quarters."

This summer picture may have been taken in August 1926 by forest service photographer E. S. Shipp as in the first photo. The guard in the picture looks like the person carrying the tent and cooking outfit. He is using a scythe to clear vegetation from a trail. The white birch trees in the background are quite small indicating this was a former clear-cut area before the forest service acquired it in 1914. The forest service maintained a network of trails on the Dartmouth Range including trails Little Mount Deception and Mount Deception that were abandoned in the 1950's, casualties of the devastating 1938 Hurricane and the loss of manpower during World War II. The network of trails in the adjacent Rosebrook Range were also abandoned at same time. Today both the Dartmouth and Rosebrook Ranges lack hiking trails which is unfortunate because of their size and scenic beauty. USFS negative number 211957 by an unidentified photographer in the 1920's
      

Photo album with additional photos of the Cabin 

  David Govatski is a forest historian and is retired from the US Forest Service. He is a member of the board of directors of WhiteMountainHistory.org and is working with the Forest Service to rehabilitate this structure.  His previous articles on this website were on the Weeks Act and Fire Towers of the White Mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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