The 10th NH Turnpike through Crawford Notch, incorporated by the NH Legislature in December 1803 ran westward from the
the type of bridges used on the Tenth New Hampshire.
Courtesy Mt. Washington Observatory
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The road through Crawford Notch was originally an Indian Path known as the Ammonoosuc Trail, according to Price and supposedly unknown to white settlers until “discovered” by two hunters in 1773. The oft-told story says that the two hunters, Nash and Sawyer, discovered the path through the Notch while hunting moose. When challenged to prove to the Governor that the Notch was passable, they used ropes to pull their horse up over the rocky road. The Royal Governor, John Wentworth, rewarded them with a grant of about 2,000 acres, later known as Nash and Sawyer’s Location. Even at that early date, Wentworth hoped to find a way to encourage residents of the Upper Cohos (Lancaster and the upper
By the end of the 18th century, it was becoming obvious that individual towns, which had the primary responsibility for road building, had neither the expertise nor the funds to build satisfactory roads. Residents from all settled parts of the state submitted numerous petitions to the New Hampshire Legislature, asking for road improvements but the state did not have the funds either. The solution, or so it seemed, was to follow the example set in England and allow private enterprise to do what the state could not. The state chartered corporations to build roads-turnpikes-and allowed the Proprietors to recoup their investments, and a fair profit, by collecting tolls regulated by statute. By 1810, the state had chartered nearly fifty Turnpikes. Three of them concern us.
As we said earlier, in 1804, a year after the incorporation of the Tenth some of the same investors incorporated the Jefferson Turnpike. It was to run from the end of the Tenth over
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
Who were the men that invested in these roads, who were the men that actually built the roads and how did they do it? Were they successful investments for their owners? Did the roads succeed in other ways? Very little has been published that would help answer these questions and most of what has been published simply repeats the statements Lucy Crawford made in her History. However, a fair amount of primary source material recently been uncovered among the Crawford papers at
When I first became interested in
Eleazar Rosebrook contracted to build portions of the Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike, the Jefferson Turnpike and the Littleton Turnpike. His daybook indicates that as early as the 1790s, he was involved in road construction. Little has been written about him, except by Lucy Crawford, and she does not provide much information. He died in 1817 and was the grandfather of Lucy’s husband, Ethan Allen Crawford. Lucy helped her husband-to-be care for his grandfather in the final years of his life. Perhaps she was more interested in telling the story of her husband, Ethan. However, Rosebrook was involved with the commerce through the Notch for over twenty-five years, and appears to be a significant participant.
Rosebrook settled in Nash and Sawyer’s Location, near the Giant’s Grave, in 1792. He bought that property from Abel Crawford, his son-in-law. Abel moved 12 miles east through the Notch and settled near what is today Notchland. Abel’s home was also a tavern, and he also was involved with the turnpikes as a builder, toll collector and stockholder.
Timothy Dwight toured the
Having prospered during years with poor roads, it’s logical to assume that he would consider a turnpike running past his door likely to improve his business. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Rosebrook was an early investor in the turnpike. Documents in the Crawford Collection at
forty-four shares and state that he paid in full the first and second assessments on those shares. The assessment was $550; it would appear that Rosebrook had the cash to pay when it was due.
Rosebrook was also one of the builders of the three turnpikes. The Crawford collection includes three contracts between Rosebrook and the Directors of the 10th for actual construction of portions of the road. The contracts state in detail how he was to build the road and how he was to be paid for the work. The unit of measurement, and payment, was the rod. A rod is 16 1/2 feet and the cost per rod of construction varied by the amount of work required for a particular “job”. On June 25, 1805, Rosebrook contracted for “job” 27 and 28. In Sept., he signed a contract for job #9 and in Oct., he accepted a contract for jobs #24, 25, and 26. Each contract spells out the number of rods. That fact allows us to determine exactly which portion of the turnpike he was to work on. As we said earlier, the road extended from the
The June 1805 contract indicates that job 27 was for 66 rods of road and job 28 was for 72 rods .He was to be paid $10. per rod for job 27 and $7. per rod for job 28. He agreed to take Turnpike shares in payment for this work, as he did for the other two contracts. (This seems to be another indication of Rosebrook’s financial status. He could afford to pay his men in cash-presumably-while accepting shares of stock as his payment.) This contract requires a road 20’ wide and specifies that it is to be raised 18”. Rosebrook agreed that a” hollow would be filled three or four feet to a mark on a beach tree and then level off said hill in a proper manner into the hollow”. The next hollow was to be “filled up in a proper manner with a sluice or water course to carry off the water to the brook. Said brook to be bridged with good abutments and seven stringers not more than 75’ in length, to be covered with good hewed timber 20’ in length, with a good railing on each side.” Note in the next sentence the reference to the “old road” which clearly indicates that portions of the older road were useable. “Thence from said bridge into the old road over the smooth rocks, said rocks to be well covered with gravel and the hollow below said rock to be filled with timbers and well covered with gravel about three feet in depth”. That was for job 27; requirements for job 28 are similarly detailed. Rosebrook agreed to “make the road, in each and every part thereof in a good and workman like manner by leveling down hills and banks and filling up hollows and all to be in the usual manner of turnpiking”. This work was to be “ principally” completed by Nov. 1 and the rest by July 10,1806.
The Sept. contract was for a 120 rod section through lot 9 for which Rosebrook was to be paid $6.75 per rod. In this contract, he agreed build “casways where the road was wet, (places where logs would be placed across the road to provide a travel surface) and the road shall be so graveled that no stone or stub shall be felt or obstruct the passage of a wheel over them.”
The Oct contract for 356 rods again mentions building upon a section of the “now traveled road”. At another point in the road, he agrees to “raise the road and set it high from the present traveled road with logs on the east side to keep the gravel from washing off”. Details of a bridge over “the river” presumably the
These contracts provide a great deal of information about “state of the art” road construction in the early years of the 19th century. It’s interesting to note that these contracts are for relatively short distances-the turnpike was twenty miles long which means the were probably dozens of contracts issued. It is also clear that Rosebrook, or someone, carefully laid out the required work before it was started. His daybook has numerous reference to “looking over the road”. The manuscript Treasurer’s Report for 1813 details the payments to contractors for the building of the road. Between 1805 and 1808, twenty-one men had been paid about $36,000 for construction of the road. Rosebrook received a total of $5,783.92. Only one contractor, Norman Flyer, received more-a total of $7,681.32. Abel Crawford received $2,116. Obed Hall and other Directors apparently also built portions of the road for which they were paid varying amounts of money.
A precise date for the opening of the road is not known. The Treasurer’s Report quoted above informs us that in March 1807, Isaac Stokes of Bartlett, the first toll collector, turned in tolls of $500.06. I would guess this entry indicates that toll collecting began in late 1806 and an entry in Rosebrook’s daybook, may support this. On Dec. 24, 1806, Rosebrook recorded a charge to the Directors of the turnpike for two days work, to “set up gate and look over job”. That may refer to the tollgate. Where that tollgate may have been is not known nor is it known if there was more than one tollgate. It would seem unnecessary-once a traveler entered the turnpike from either end there weren’t any side roads that could have been used to avoid paying a toll. The Treasurer’s Report tells us that Abel Crawford was the toll collector in 1810 and 1811. It would seem logical that Abel would have collected the tolls at his
A contract in the Crawford Collection at
Rosebrook also worked on the Jefferson Turnpike. Numerous entries in his daybook refer to work on “
It’s life span as a toll road, however, was short. The August 1826 storm that killed five members of the Willey family washed out significant portions of the Jefferson Turnpike and the damage was not repaired. The storm also did major damage to the 10th New Hampshire Turnpike. An article in a
Another storm in 1828 did more heavy damage and came even closer to finishing the road. This time the Directors refused to spend the money to repair the road. Ethan Allen Crawford, who had inherited the Rosebrook place in 1817, decided to take action on his own. He was a stockholder in the Turnpike and undoubtedly, traffic on the turnpike was his major source of income. He prepared a “Power of Attorney” and got the signatures of twenty-two other stockholders so when he went to the Turnpike’s Annual Meeting in September he had enough votes to require the Directors repair the road. The work, again, was done it time for the winter traffic. By 1830, the road was in good enough condition that it could accommodate stagecoach travel. Newspaper advertisements indicate that
Were investments in Turnpikes good investments? To rank and file investors, probably not. To original incorporators and Directors, perhaps the answer is yes. These early investors were businessmen whose interests would be served by improved transportation. Obed Hall, amongst his other interests, owned a tavern at one end of the turnpike, in
Turnpike corporations were required by their acts of incorporation to file reports every six years detailing receipts, expenses and dividends paid. The first Treasurer’s Report for the 10th, filed in 1813, lists receipts for the six-year period of less than $3,000. In 1825, the prior six years generated toll income of $5,209 and expenditures of only $2,100. A $2,800 dividend was issued. The next report, in 1831, covered the period that included the repairs needed after the two major storms and the income was $1,518 less than expenses. Both Abel and Ethan Allen Crawford owned several shares. Their financial problems have been written about several times. Abel’s tavern was eventually foreclosed on by Samuel Bemis and Ethan Allen spent some time in jail when he was unable to meet his debts. Joseph Whipple was the third incorporator of the Jefferson Turnpike, along with Hall and Wilson. He apparently had unlimited faith in that turnpike. He died in 1816 and his will directed that much of his land and other assets were to be sold and the proceeds invested in Jefferson Turnpike shares. The will also spelled out charitable contributions and public works that the expected profits were to be used for. Although well intentioned, the good deeds were never completed due to a lack of money.
There’s no question that the three turnpikes helped to increase commercial traffic between the
 Chapter 40, Laws of
 Treasure’s report, Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike, 1813, New Hampshire Historical Soc. Mss.
 Frederic Wood, Turnpikes of New England,
 Chapter 17, Laws of New Hampshire, 1804, pages 330-333
 Chapter 14, ibid
 Lucy Crawford, The History of the
 Crawford Family Papers,
 Timothy Dwight, Travels in New England and
 Frederick W. Kilbourne, Chronicles of the White Mountains,
 Treasurer’s Report 1813, New Hampshire Historical Society
 Collections of New Hampshire Historical Society
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