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                         Winnipissiogee Turnpike

Winnipissiogee & White Mountain Turnpike

By Karl Roenke

 

There are stories in the mountains of roads that prospered; roads that failed; roads that were proposed, but never built; and roads that were almost unknown that existed only for a short period of time.  This is the story of one of those roads that history almost forgot.  It was to run between Tamworth/Wonalancet and the Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike. It was projected to bring visitors directly to the Crawford Notch region, bypassing Conway, but it was never completed.

 

The survey for the projected turnpike was completed by D. K. Smith, Surveyor, Gilford, NH, between Sept. 21 - 28, 1852.  His report was sent to the Board of Managers of the proposed  “Winnipissioge and White Mountain Turnpike Road”.  The route he selected ran from the “Tenth NH Turnpike Road  near where the Sawyer River empties into the Saco, to Birch Interval, in Tamworth” (2).  The distance was about 32 miles from one end to the other.  The turnpike, as surveyed, would have cost about $7,250.



                              Report of Turnpike Survey

The survey line began at the Tenth NH Turnpike, about two miles below the old Mt.Crawford House, ran along the Sawyer River valley about three miles and then through the Sawyer Brook valley about one and a half miles.  It was to “slab round a spur of Green’s Cliff into the Summit Brook valley to the Summit, thence down upon the west side of the Hurricane Hill to the Swift River”.  It crossed the Swift and went up the Oliverian Brook valley and its tributaries to the Birch Interval Summit.  From there it went down Wild Cat Ravine to Birch Interval.  A portion of the route up the Oliverian brook drainage was along “the old sled path”. (2, 3).

 

Apparently, only a part of the road was built.  On March 3, 1852,   Samuel Bemis received a letter from Nathaniel T. P. Davis, manager of the old Mt.Crawford House  (previously owned and operated by Abel Crawford).  Davis informed Bemis, his neighbor and creditor, that a “new road” had been cut from Swift River to Sandwich and had been in use the past winter for hauling lumber.  Davis told Bemis that “Mr. Charles Church” had drawn 12 masts and 2 spars over this road.  One “stick” was  100 feet long, 20 inches diameter at the top end, weighing over eleven tons.  In addition, four oxen had drawn 1700 feet of boards over the road at one load (1).

 

Davis was a supporter of the projected turnpike as he thought it likely that the new road would bring more trade to the Mt. Crawford House  “.. I. think the height to get over is not so great an obstacle to get over as the opponents of the road have represented it to be.  We are now getting up a subscription to make a through survey from Hart’s Location to Sandwich, and shall make the survey as soon as the traveling will admit, to (be) in season to petition the several courts to send out the road commissioners.  It is said (& I believe it is so), the Montreal Rail Road folks,  the folks owning boats on the Lake, and all the people in that vicinity are willing & even anxious to assist to get it through.  As near as I can ascertain, we are as near Centre Harbor as they are at Conway, saving 20 miles out of 50 which is something of an item to a traveler.” (1). 


The “Winnipisseogee and White Mountain Turnpike Company” was incorporated by the state of NH, on January 7, 1853.  The members of the corporation were: Samuel Emerson, John Coe, C. H. Norton, William Walker, Jr., J. E. Little, Daniel Hoit, Stephen Beede, M. H. Marston, Joseph Wentworth, William M.. Weed, Jeremiah Furber, John Bryant, Curtis S. Coe, and George M. Burleigh (3).While the “Winnepiseogee and White Mountain Turnpike” was chartered, it appears to never have operated as a toll road (4).   


                                    Route of the Proposed Turnpike

Apparently the idea for the road resurfaced nine years later. Interestingly,   Bemis (who now owned the Old Crawford House) received a letter from Dr. William A. Page of North Sandwich, NH, on January 21, 1861, which again addressed the road proposal (5). “... The people here are about making an effort to secure some of the summer travel to this vicinity & for this purpose have put a bridle path onto White Face Mountain & also to a natural flume near the foot of the mountain - also a bridle path to Flat Mountain pond & Greeley’s Mountain house in Waterville.  But we feel it quite important to secure a road direct from here to your Stand at the Old Crawford House & there is no question that it can be done if the public are only informed so as to become interested in it.  It would be a great advantage to this town, Centre Harbor, the Steamboat Co’s., the Cocheco Boston & Maine, Lawrence, Concord, & Nashua & Worcester Railroads, as it would draw the travel from the Grand Trunk road by shortening the Stage routes.  If a Bridle path were made first from Birch interval to your hotel so people could go over the route & see how feasible it is, a carriage road would soon follow from necessity.  The people at Birch Intervale got almost started to make a bridle path to Swift river Intervale (half way to your place) the past season but did not get started to work as the failure of the proposed turnpike road a few years since has made them timid, .....” (5).

 

It would seem that nothing came of this proposal either and no turnpike, or other road, was ever built on this route.

 

 

References:

 

Davis, N. T. P.  1852   Letter from Nathaniel T. P. Davis (Hart’s Location, NH) to Dr. Samuel Bemis (Boston,    MA), dated March 6, 1852.  In the Samuel Bemis Papers at the Conway Public  Library,  Conway, NH. (1).


Smith, D. K.      1852     Survey of the Winnipissiogee and White Mountain Turnpike.  Respectfully  submitted to the Board of Managers of the proposed turnpike by D. K. Smith,                  surveyor, Gilford, October 27, 1852.  In the Samuel Bemis Papers at  the Conway Public Library, Conway, NH. (2).
 

General Laws of the State of New Hampshire 1853     An ACT to incorporate the Winnipiseoge and White Mountain Turnpike Company,  Chapter 1360, page 1282, Private Acts. Approved, Jan. 7, 1853.  On file at the NH State Archives, Concord, NH. (3).

Wood, Frederic J.1997    The Turnpikes of New England.  Branch Line Press. Pepperell, MA.  Originally published by Marshall Jones Co., Boston,  in 1919. (4).    

 

Page, Dr. William A. 1861     Letter from Dr. William A. Page, North Sandwich, NH, to Dr. Samuel Bemis, dated  January 21, 1861.  In the Samuel Bemis Papers at the Conway Public Library,  Conway, NH.  (5).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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