The First Tract of Land Acquired for the White Mountain National Forest
By David Govatski
The E. Bertram Pike Tract, US #59, is historically significant as the first tract of land acquired for the future White Mountain National Forest. The tract consists of 7,072 acres in Benton, New Hampshire. The tract was acquired on January 2,1914 at a price of $13.25 per acre. This tract includes Oliverian Pond, portions of the South Peak of Mount Moosilauke, a ridge known as the Hogback, portions of Black Mountain, and the west slope of Hurricane Mountain.
President Woodrow Wilson formally established the White Mountain National Forest on May 16, 1918 after the White Mountain Forest Reserve reached sufficient size to be managed as a national forest. The authorizing legislation was the Weeks Act of March 1, 1911. As a result of the Weeks Act, a National Forest Reservation Commission was created in 1911 to determine the acquisition boundaries. This acquisition boundary was called the Proclamation Boundary and it specifies where land can be acquired without special rules.
Approval of the Proclamation Boundary allowed the US Forest Service to begin acquiring land in 1914, even before the White Mountain National Forest was formally established in 1918. Lands were purchased by a team of foresters led by William Logan Hall who, in a little over a year, purchased a quarter million acres from willing sellers.
The first tract acquired under the authority of the Weeks Act, according to the WMNF land status records, was the E. Bertram Pike Tract, US Tract # 59 and Civil #85, consisting of 7,072 acres in Benton, NH. Pike had purchased the land to provide a supply of timber for his sawmill in Pike, NH. The records indicate that Pike wanted to sell his land to the US Government because he needed money to finance his development of the Lake Tarleton Club in nearby Warren and Piermont.
Karl Woodward and E. D. Fletcher, Forest Examiners for the US Forest Service appraised the property and prepared a report in February of 1912. They determined a valuation of the land with standing timber and that value was $120,078 or $17 per acre. This value reflected the proximity of access roads such as the North-South Road and the nearby Boston and Maine Railroad that could be used to haul the wood to markets elsewhere.
Woodward and Fletcher were experienced forest examiners and appraisers. The procedure to determine a fair market value for a tract of land involved surveying and mapping the parcel and determining the types timber on the land and the current value of each type. Also part of the equation was the accessibility of the timber, how close were access roads or railroads, and how much “non-productive” land was present. The cost of obtaining a clear title was also an important part of the final appraisal process. Attorneys had to obtain quit-claim deeds from scores of people who had a claim or interest on the several parcels of land Pike was selling. This cost was deducted from the final appraised value.
Tract #59 consisted of several parcels in Benton, NH:
59: 6,168 acres.
59 I: 600.45 acres.
59 II: 61.44 acres.
59 III: 101.83 acres.
59 IV: 139.90 acres.
Total acreage: 7,071.62 acres.
The Land Value of Tract #59 was $20,970.
Total Value for Land in the Appraisal: $20,970.
* The amount for Virgin Spruce is in error and should be $534.
The Timber Values of Tract #59 was $99,108:
Total land and timber value was $120,078 or $17 per acre.
The US Government offered Pike $93,705.19 or $13.25 per acre for the 7,072 acres of land. Bertram Pike accepted the offer and the records indicate he and the Pike Woodlands Company were paid on January 2, 1914. Pike sold additional lands to the US Government over the next few years. Pike apparently felt that the government offer was fair market value.
I computed the value of the purchase price and per acre cost in 1914 dollars compared with the value of 2013 dollars. In today’s money the value would be $2,194,097.65 or $310.25 per acre.
A few weeks later, on January 20, 1914, the second acquisition for the future White Mountain National Forest was completed. It was the Berlin Timber Land Company, US #11. This acquisition was for 30,296 acres in the Northern Presidential Range, Wild River and Cherry Mountain regions. Some histories erroneously report this as the first acquisition.
The first WMNF map for the public was issued in 1914 with a title of White Mountain Region instead of National Forest. These maps were then free for the asking. The 1914 map showed the first three large acquisitions including the two mentioned above and a large tract of land in Bethlehem in the headwaters of the Gale River. The map was black and white and used simple hachure lines to denote topography. Later maps used color, contour lines, illustrations or photos, and were printed on both sides.
Today the White Mountain National Forest is nearly 800,000 acres in size. The Pike Tract was the first land acquired and should be recognized. The land is productive and appreciated by many hikers, hunters, anglers and other visitors. The streams run clear, the trees grow tall and the wildlife is abundant.
E. Bertram Pike Background:
E. (Edwin) Bertram Pike was born in Salem, MA on July 24, 1866. He graduated from St Johnsbury Academy with the Class of 1884. He took a commercial course at the New Hampton Commercial College and then entered the family business of the A. F. Pike Manufacturing Company at what was then known as Pike Station near Haverhill, NH. The company, at one time, was the nation’s largest producer of whetstones, used in many sharpening applications.
Pike was a traveling salesman for the family business for several years and after it was incorporated as the Pike Manufacturing Company in 1889 he became superintendent of its factories and quarries.
Pike was a Republican and President of the Haverhill Republican Club for several years. He was a Representative from Haverhill, NH in the NH Legislature serving on the Appropriations and Forestry Committee.
Pike had a strong interest in forestry and was part of the forest conservation movement of that era. Early in 1903, Pike introduced a bill in the NH Legislature appropriating $5,000 for surveying forestry conditions in the White Mountains. The NH Forestry Commission would direct the work, but the federal Bureau of Forestry would do the actual survey work. This report became known as the Chittenden Report, after the name of the author Alfred K. Chittenden, and provided the facts about logging and forest fires that forestry advocates needed. The Chittenden Report was used to demonstrate why a national forest was needed to protect the White Mountain region.
Burton, Nancy. 2008. Haverhill and East Haverhill (Images of America: New Hampshire). Arcadia Publishing. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Granite Monthly. Volume 34, 1903, page 361-362.
Johnson, Christopher and David Govatski. 2013. Forests for the People: The Story of America’s Eastern National Forests. Island Press. Covello, CA.
WhiteMountainHistory.org article on Pike, New Hampshire.