Have you ever stumbled upon an old cellar hole while walking in the woods and wondered what building used to stand there? Whose house once stood in that spot? Who were those people? Walking in the woods around the White Mountains, you may come across quite a few of these cellar holes. Small towns and villages that no longer exist once dotted the landscape and have now been swallowed up by time. Many of these “Ghost Towns” came into existence when logging was the main industry in the region and disappeared without a trace once the lumber was gone. Here are five Ghost Towns in the White Mountains that are worth knowing and exploring.
The town of Thornton Gore once was a farming village that also had a logging operation. Development began around 1804 and the town flourished. By the 1860’s the Civil War took many men away from the farms, and many of those who survived, decided to try farming elsewhere and left town. During the industrial revolution many women also left the farm to work in the large textile mills. Overtime, there were fewer people to work the land, and, much of the land was reclaimed by the forest. The town’s sawmill and bobbin mill were built between 1860-1880 and in the early 1900’s, the New Hampshire Land Co. had purchased the bobbin mill as well as acres of family-owned farm land. Once the New Hampshire Land Co. owned much of the land in town, and the logging railroads were built and logging increased, the town of Thornton Gore vanished. All that remains of this ghost town are cellar holes, a cemetery, and the bare remnants of the old saw mill. These sites can be accessed via the Tripoli Road near Russell Pond Campground. A gate prevents vehicles from driving down there, but you can walk down the old road to find these relics.
The town of Woodstock’s original name was Peeling and was first located near Mount Cilley and Elbow Pond in Woodstock. The town was settled in the 1760’s and had a post office, a school of about 40 students, a town doctor, and a sawmill, which was operated by Royal Jackman, whose son (also named Royal) is credited with discovering Lost River Gorge. The town of Peeling was moved to the present location of Woodstock and abandoned by the time the Civil War began and the logging railroads came to town. Today, it is difficult to locate any remnants of the town, as the woods have claimed many of the cellar holes. For those adventurous enough to go searching, take Route 118 to the Elbow Pond Road and you may discover a part of the White Mountains history that is all but lost. (Photo Credit: Dr. Leonard J. Nyberg, Jr.)
Zealand was a large township that was incorporated around 1880 and was built by J.E. Henry, who built and operated many of the logging operations in the White Mountains. Two railroads, the Zealand Valley Railroad and the Boston and Maine Railroad both had tracks in this town. In both 1886 and 1897, forest fires destroyed much of the logging acreage in Zealand and ultimately led to the downfall of this town. J.E. Henry moved the majority of this logging operations to the town of Lincoln. Today, small pieces of this ghost town can be found off of Route 302 in Crawford Notch in the Zealand Campground as you follow the river. Parts of an old railroad bed, the engine house foundation, and remnants of the sawmill can be found if you look close enough.
Livermore-Route 302, Bartlett
Take a short walk up the dirt Sawyer River Road on Route 302 and you will stumble across the remains of a once prosperous logging town. Livermore was a fully incorporated township in 1876 and was named after Samuel Livermore, a former US Senator and was owned by the affluent Saunders Family. At its height in the early 1900’s, the town had a population of about 100 people, a logging railroad, sawmill, blacksmith shop, school, 18 homes, and the Saunders Mansion. As was the case with several other logging towns of the day, fire destroyed much of the town. The sawmill burned three times in the town’s short life, and then torrential rains and floods in 1927 took out a large portion of the railroad and several bridges. The mill closed down for good shortly after that, and the town’s population declined. By 1951, the state legislature revoked the town’s charter, and Livermore became a ghost town. Many cellar holes remain as you walk up the dirt road and you can still see the skeletal remains of some of the large brick walls of the sawmill. (Photo Credit: J.W. Ocker, OddThingsIveSeen.com)
The ghost town of Passaconaway is where Albany, NH is today on the Kancamagus Highway. Amidst the White Mountain National Forest and right before the Bear Notch Road cut-off you will come to the only surviving building of the former town. The Russell-Colbath homestead which was built in 1831, along with the old cemetery nearby are now run as a museum by the Unite States Forest Service. The Russell family were residents and one of the first permanent settlers of the town of Passaconaway. A settled village was formed with a sawmill, schools, homes, and a post office in the 1820’s-1830’s. At the town’s peak in the 1850’s, there were approximately 1,500 people living and working in town. The town didn’t last too long beyond that due to dwindling lumber supply and by 1930, the last of the town’s residents passed away. By 1961, the area where the town had been was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service. Today you can visit the cemetery where several of the town’s residents are buried, and walk the interpretive trail in the woods behind the house to learn more about the town and the area surrounding it. On occasion the Russell-Colbath homestead is open for tours, so you can see artifacts that have been found on property and see how this family, and others like them lived during that time.