Step Back in Time as you Travel Sandwich Notch
in New Hampshire's White Mountains
By Mary Emma Allen

Travelers find Sandwich Notch a fascinating place to explore in New
Hampshire's White Mountains
, particularly if they enjoy the wilderness and
would like to recapture the aura of the Granite State's early days.  As you
wander along the hilly, winding dirt road through the notch connecting the
regions around Sandwich and Waterville Valley, you seem far from
civilization and can glimpse the unspoiled natural beauty of the state.

You can hike part of the way and take other trails branching off this road.  If
you're more adventuresome, park cars at each end of Sandwich Notch Road
and walk the full length -- approximately nine miles.

Two books you might want to read before you travel this mountain road are
"The Road Through Sandwich Notch" by Elizabeth Yates (relating her hike
along this route and her explanation of its history) and the "Appalachian
Mountain Club White Mountain Guide" with hiking guidelines and a bit of the
road's background.

Road Once Heavily Traveled

Although Sandwich Notch now seems isolated (there is only one old house left
standing at the western end of the road), it once was a busy place.  More than
300 families lived along its length in the early and middle 1800s.  A thriving
settlement existed, and the heavily traveled road (for those days) was

Sandwich Notch Road once was an important commercial roadway over which
carts and wagons passed in summer (once "mud season" was over) and sleds
in winter.  During this era, farmers in northern New Hampshire and Vermont
brought their produce across the mountain road to markets in the coastal cities
of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine.

Settled in the 1700s

The town of Sandwich was settled in 1765.  By 1795 the pioneers had
established a widely used cart track through the Notch. Eventually a tax of two
cents an acre on all town of Sandwich lands was levied to pay for construction
of a road across the Notch to the township of Thornton, near Waterville Valley.

Then settlement of the Notch began in earnest.  Land was cleared and
eventually 30 to 40 homes built.  Three schools, a sawmill, gristmill, and tavern
were erected.  A minister held church services at Pulpit Rock or in his house.

The farms were fertile in this area and gardens produced well.  Cattle and
sheep grazed in the pastures.  The land along the road wasn't a forest, as it is
today, but cleared and open, crisscrossed by stone walls, the remnants of
which you still see.

Over this road, farmers drove cattle from the northern hill country to the
seacoast markets, a sight which brought children to the roadside to view the
event.  Farmers, who needed money for goods other than what they grew on
their farms, drove their ox carts across the Notch road as they took their goods
to market.

Settlers Left the Notch

By the mid-1850s, the climax of life in the Notch was reached.  Population
began declining after the Civil War as the young people looked elsewhere to
earn a living in the mills of Massachusetts and on the lands of the Mid-West.

As the remaining settlers grew older, they began to cut down on the amount of
land they farmed.  Gradually the forest encroached upon the farms.  The
schools were no longer needed, and the saw mills and taverns ceased to exist.

One House Remains

Only one house remains from those built many years ago.  The original
structure went up in 1826; this later became the wood shed of the larger house
erected by Alpheus Munsey Hall in 1877.  Moses Hall lived there for most of
his 84 years before his death in 1930.

Take time to wander along the Sandwich Notch Road and the adjoining hiking
trails.  Discover the enchantment of the White Mountains and their history.  
Other abandoned "ghost" settlements can be found in these mountains as well.

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen, journalist, children's author, travel writer, and columnist
has had more than 200 children's stories published and has written fiction and
non-fiction books.  She teaches writing workshops in schools and at
conferences.  She's beginning a newsletter, "New Hampshire of Yesteryear," for
those interested in the Granite State's history.  Visit her blog at
Mary Emma Allen, or email her at:
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