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Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History

                  Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike
                        And The Crawford Family

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     THE TENTH NEW HAMPSHIRE AND ITS BUILDERS

                                 Rick Russack

 

The 10th NH Turnpike through Crawford Notch, incorporated by the NH Legislature in December 1803 ran westward from the Bartlett / Hart’s Location town line for a distance of 20 miles[1].  In today’s terminology, that would be from about Sawyer’s Rock to the intersection of the Cog Railway Base Station Road with Route 302.   It cost a little over $35,000[2] to build and it was functioning by late 1806. A year after incorporating the 10th, the legislature incorporated the Jefferson Turnpike and the Littleton Turnpike. The eastern end of the 10th NH was to connect with an existing road in Bartlett running to Conway and Fryeburg and then on to Portland.   Its western end adds interest to the story. The builders of the 10th planned it to connect with the Jefferson Turnpike and the Littleton Turnpike, thereby creating a good road system from Vermont to Portland. The intent of these roads, firstly, was to earn a profit for those who invested in their construction. It was the belief of the investors  that that the traffic generated by enabling trade between the Upper Connecticut Valley, Western Vermont, and Portland  would be sufficient to generate a reasonable profit for them.  As we will see, this may not have been the case, although the road certainly did succeed in opening the area for commerce and later, for the tourist industry.


          1838 Engraving by W.H. Bartlett of  Crawford Notch and

              the type of bridges used on the Tenth New Hampshire.
                         Courtesy Mt. Washington Observatory
                          Click on the image for a larger version

The road through Crawford Notch was originally an Indian Path known as the Ammonoosuc Trail, according to Price
[3] 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 Connecticut River Valley)   to trade with Portsmouth merchants.  Although there was an attempt to build a road through the Notch after the grant to Nash and Sawyer, it was a very poor road and improvements were repeatedly petitioned for and attempted.  In 1776, Colonel Joseph Whipple, who a few years earlier settled in Jefferson, complained about the poor condition of the road in a petition to the legislature. He said in part, that a storm the previous year had washed out bridges on the road from the Upper Cohos to Conway and that “many windfalls made the road impracticable for horses and totally so for carriages”.  In 1777, the legislature authorized repairs, but apparently accomplished little.  In 1786, after the Revolution, another petition to the legislature requested they appoint a committee to sell lands confiscated from British loyalists in the area and use the money for improving the road.  Confiscated land was sold but again, there was little improvement in the road.

 

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.[4]  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 Cherry Mountain through Jefferson to Lancaster.[5] Also in 1804, the legislature incorporated the Littleton Turnpike.  It was to run from from the end of the Tenth to a bridge in Littleton crossing the Connecticut River[6].  The traffic on this road system would go to Portland, not Portsmouth, as Governor Wentworth had hoped twenty years earlier..  As a result, businessmen in Portland invested in these roads and solicited state support for their upkeep.  When this network was completed, it would be possible for farm products from Vermont and the Upper Connecticut River valley to be sold in Portland and for “store bought” goods to be transported back.  The three turnpikes, not coincidentally, terminated at just about the same place-the home and farm of Eleazar Rosebrook, later owned by his grandson, Ethan Allen Crawford.  Three generations of the Rosebrook/Crawford family, Eleazar Rosebrook, his son-in-law Abel Crawford, and Abel’s son, Ethan Allen Crawford, were deeply involved with the roads as directors, builders, stockholders, and toll collectors.  All three owned taverns along the road, catering first to teamsters and later to tourists.


          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[7].  However, a fair amount of primary source material   recently been uncovered among the Crawford papers at Dartmouth College.  These daybooks and contracts help answer some of these questions and provide details about Turnpike building in the early years of the 18th century.

 

When I first became interested in White Mountain roads and commerce, I was curious about how business connections were established in the early years of the 19th century. How did men in distant cities know each other and how did they develop the trust necessary for business relationships? The answer for the turnpikes we’re considering turned out to be quite simple. There were five incorporators of the Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike: Obed Hall, from Bartlett; Stephen Wilson, from Lancaster; David Goodall, from Littleton;   Colman Colby, from Burton (now Albany); and Nathan Barlow, from Northumberland. With the exception of Wilson, who was a prominent merchant in Lancaster, all were members of the New Hampshire Legislature in 1803.  Obed Hall was the first Treasurer of the 10th New Hampshire Turnpike.  He was an attorney, a judge, a selectman, a member of the NH House, and a Congressman.  He also kept a tavern   in Bartlett.  Hall handled some legal affairs for Abel Crawford, as his name is on Rosebrook family deeds.  Hall and   Wilson were incorporators of both the Jefferson Turnpike and the Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike. Five hundred shares of stock were issued for the turnpike.  Sixty-five names appear as stockholders, directors, or builders of the road.  Many probably lived in the immediate area. Contemporary newspaper advertisements demonstrate that there was an active market in the turnpike shares.  Shares of delinquent stockholders were regularly advertised for sale and shares were listed in several estate sales.   Several ads concerning the Tenth NH Turnpike appear in Portland newspapers, clearly indicating that Portland residents had interests in the road.

 

 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.[8]

 

 Timothy Dwight toured the White Mountains in 1797 and 1803, staying at Rosebrook’s both times.[9]  Dwight appears to be a reliable source for details about Rosebrook’s enterprises and wrote positively of both visits.  On the first visit, he said that he found a “log hut”.  Writing after the second visit, Dwight said, “he (Rosebrook) has entertained most of the persons traveling in this road over the last eight years.  The number of these is very great.”  Between the first and second visits, Dwight said that Rosebrook had cleared a farm of 150 acres and built two large barns.  Dwight also said that at the time of the 1803 visit, Rosebrook was “preparing to erect a saw-mill; and after that a grist-mill; and when these are finished he proposes to build himself a house.”  Kilbourne says that in 1803 “Rosebrook built a large and convenient two-story dwelling on the high mound afterwards called the Giant’s Grave.” [10]  It appears, from these two writers that Rosebrook prospered between 1797 and 1803.  The latter year, was the year of incorporation of the Tenth NH Turnpike.  Planning was also underway for the building of the Jefferson Turnpike.

 

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 Dartmouth identify Rosebrook as the “Original Proprietor” of

 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 Bartlett town line for 20 miles.  That takes it through Hart’s Location.   In 1797, Nathaniel Merrill surveyed Hart’s Location.  His survey map, to scale, shows the individual lots in Hart’s Location and each lot is numbered.  By comparing the width of the lots, in rods, as shown on the Merrill map, to the contracts, one can see that, for example, job #27 refers to lot #27.

 

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 Saco, are specified and he agreed  to provide “wharfing” where the road ran close to the river. 

 

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[11] 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 Mt. Crawford Tavern, near Notchland but no records have yet been found to confirm that.

 

A contract in the Crawford Collection at Dartmouth shows that Rosebrook built portions of the Littleton Turnpike.  Apparently, this construction did not require as much labor as the price per rod was as low as $1.75.  This logical; the section of road from the end of the 10th to Littleton is relatively flat.

Rosebrook also worked on the Jefferson Turnpike.  Numerous entries in his daybook refer to work on “Cherry Mountain” or the “Mountain” or for the “Directors of the Jefferson Turnpike”.  On June 1, 1811, Rosebrook recorded a charge of $2.00 for “fixing the Jefferson Turnpike Road in to the 10th Turnpike”.  The Jefferson  was 14 miles long and   cost  $14,000.  The unpaved road still exists today, known as The Cherry Mountain Road.  It runs from Rt. 302, about a 1/2 mile west of the Base Station Road, over Cherry Mountain to Jefferson.  It’s part of the White Mountain National Forest and the Forest Service maintains it as a seasonal road..  It may very well be the longest, most original section of an early 19th century turnpike that survives today.

 

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 Maine newspaper stated that the storm washed away 21 of the 22 bridges.  The article said that hundreds of tons of rock covered the road and that some were as large as five tons[12].  Others said the road was blocked by thousands of trees and stumps.  Many doubted that the road could be repaired.  However, Portland merchants, recognizing their business interests, contributed to the repair cost.      A public meeting in Portland on Sept. 12 appointed a committee to survey the damage. On the 26th,  the committee reported that the damage would cost about $5-6000.  Portland contributed $1,500 and the Directors declared a $1,000 special assessment on stockholders. Some Vermont merchants  may also have contributed to the repairs. The November 10 issue of Portland’s Eastern Argus reported that “150 men and half that number of oxen” were at” work repairing the road with the object of making is passable for sleighs in the coming winter”.  The same paper reported on Nov. 28,  “the road was in a good state of repair for a winter road and even wagons have been through”.

 

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 Vermont stage lines connected in Littleton with service two or three times a week through the Notch to Portland, Maine. The White Mountain Stage Company, operated by Thom and Abbot, of Conway, also provided service through the Notch, from Conway to Fabyans.  It’s not certain when this service began but an  1834 ledger for the stage line, in a private collection, shows that service ran two or three days a week.

 

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 Bartlett.  Eleazar Rosebrook owned a tavern at the other end of the turnpike. Rosebrook’s’ son in-law, Abel Crawford owned a tavern along the turnpike.   Stephen Wilson was a prosperous merchant in Lancaster.  If their businesses prospered, their investments might be considered profitable.  If dividends paid were the measure, then it would seem that turnpikes were not profitable investments.

 

 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[13] 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 Connecticut River Valley and Portland, as it’s builders hoped. Travel time was reduced from as long as three weeks to only seven or eight days. Tourism eventually increased as artists and writers had easier access to the region and described their experiences to the public. The Crawford family owned three early taverns that accommodated teamsters and tourists.  They were not the only ones.  The story of the growth of the Grand hotels has been well researched and won’t be repeated here but there can be no doubt that the turnpikes  were instrumental in attracting  visitors.  There’s much information in the Crawford Family papers. 



[1] Chapter 40, Laws of  New Hampshire, 1803 pages 220-223

[2] Treasure’s report, Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike, 1813, New Hampshire Historical Soc.  Mss.

[3]Chester Price,  Indian Trails of New Hampshire, 1958, New Durham, NH

[4] Frederic Wood, Turnpikes of  New England, Boston, 1919

[5] Chapter 17, Laws of New Hampshire, 1804, pages 330-333

[6] Chapter 14,  ibid

[7] Lucy Crawford, The History of the White Mountains From the First Settlement, 1846, White Hills

[8] Crawford Family Papers, Dartmouth College

[9] Timothy Dwight, Travels in New England and New York,  New Haven, 1822

[10] Frederick W. Kilbourne, Chronicles of the White Mountains,  Boston, 1916

[11] Treasurer’s Report 1813, New Hampshire Historical Society

[12] Portland Advertiser, Sept. 15, 1826

[13] Collections of New Hampshire Historical Society

             Click here for photos relating to the Tenth NH Turnpike

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