Table of Contents
ALBANY (PASSACONAWAY) INTERVALE,
On [Thursday,] November 6, 1766, through the efforts of Governor Benning Wentworth, a charter was obtained from the Crown for the laying out of a township in the bleak, yet beautiful, Swift River Valley and the lands south and east of it.1 The grantees were Clement March, Joseph Senter and fifty-nine others.2 This charter from George III stipulated that not only should a lot of several hundred acres be reserved for the governor, known as the Governor's Right, a lot for church and school privileges, but that also no large pines should be cut if marked with the broad arrow. As a tax, each grantee was to give the king one ear of corn a year.3 However, this last condition never applied to the Swift River Intervale; for, at the time the charter was granted, only wild beasts and Indians inhabited the valley, and white men probably never harvested an ear of corn here until after American Independence was declared.4 Sometimes a white man would extend his hunting-trip and go far up into the wilderness in the "Great Valley," where otter, beaver, and other valuable fur-bearing animals were plentiful,5 and in this manner what is now the beautiful Passaconaway Intervale came to be known, and ultimately was opened up and settled.6
Near the northeast base of Chocorua a settlement very early began to be made, which later was called Burton. It was while this little cluster of cabins was springing up that the death of Chocorua at the hands of Cornelius Campbell (who lived within the limits of what later was the town of Burton) took place.7 According to the well-known tradition, the chieftain, just before his death, cursed the whites, praying that their crops might be blasted and that disease might waste their people and cattle. The cattle did indeed sicken and die, it being impossible to raise a calf.8 And even robust men seemed to waste away. There was something wrong, something that could not be accounted for. Quickly the superstitious fear that the Indian's curse was in effect crept over the minds of these hardy frontiersmen. With such a handicap Burton did not grow as fast as the surrounding towns.9
The proprietors perceived the need of surveying and establishing well-defined boundaries. This project was approved, and so carefully was the work done that the town was forced to surrender to an adjoining town several acres which clearly did not belong to Burton. Yet the surveyors succeeded in annexing to Burton a large amount of ungranted lands which more than compensated for the loss of a few acres. The division of the land into lots was the next step. At length, after many difficulties, it was voted at a proprietors' meeting that, after marking off the Governor's Right lot, the Minister lot, and a lot for school privileges, the right should be given to every settler to pitch and stake off his own bounds. In 1798 a lot of ten thousand acres was sold. The settlers finished their task of parceling out the land in 1804. One man was appointed by the proprietors to make a plan or map of the township, with numbers of lots and names of owners, and this was done. This map has been the foundation of all later plans down to the prcsent.10
According to the terms of the original grant, the boundaries of the new town were as follows:―"Beginning at the middle of the west side line of Conway and from thence to run west until the line so run west shall intersect a line run north from the northeasterly corner of an additional grant to the township of Sandwich, thence by sd last mentioned line to the addition of Sandwich afores'd and thence on to Tamworth, thence easterly by Tamworth to the northeast corner thereof, thence a strait line by the township of Eaton to the northwesterly corner of a tract of land granted to officers late in His Majesty's service, thence by said officers' lands to the southwesterly corner of Conway to the bounds first mentioned."11 The present town of Albany (originally Burton) is bounded thus: On the north, by Livermore, Bartlett and Hale's Location; on the east, by Conway and Madison; on the south, by Madison and Tamworth; on the west, by Sandwich, Waterville and Livermore.12 Its area is 36,700 acres.13
None but hardy laborers would brave the difficulties of settling in such a desolate and distant place, in the very heart of a vast wilderness. Let me narrate an instance, recorded in an old manuscript, which shows the patience, perseverance, ingenuity and enduring courage of these settlers. A farmer, having cleared a lot and built a house, brought his family to Burton, and then prepared his field for planting. But he had no seed. So he saddled his horse (the only means of conveyance, there being no wagon-roads) and canvassed the houses of the adjoining towns in the hope of buying a bushel of seedling potatoes. Not a bushel was for sale, however, so he returned home, but determined to try again. Next morning, throwing his saddle-bags upon his horse, he went again from house to house begging a single potato from each. Those who would not sell a bushel were willing to give one potato and, in some cases, more. For three days he kept up these tactics, riding home at dusk each night, until he was supplied. This man remained in Burton and brought up a large family of children, all of whom are prosperous and respectable.14
Of course the distance from seaport towns made it very difficult to secure certain necessary articles which could not be found in the field or forest, such as iron, salt and lead. These all had to be brought by man or horse. A man would carry a bushel of corn on his shoulder ten miles to the mill and carry back the meal the same way, considering himself fortunate to be able to secure meal on any terms. Many and many a time the community was forced to send deputations as far as sixty miles to buy grain. Once, when a scarcity of salt was producing sickness, a certain man went eighty miles on foot, bought a bushel of that commodity, and returned with it on his shoulder.15 Just as these energetic frontiersmen, by their unremitting toil, seemed to be accumulating and getting ahead a little, bears, wolves, and other wild animals would steal their pigs or calves and do other damage. "Meal and water and dried fish without salt was often their diet for days when game was shy or storms prevented hunting."16
A century ago, wages were extremely low. Measured by modern charges they seem absurdly small. I think that we shall the better appreciate the industry of the hard-working settlers of this time if their incomes are recorded. "Women's labor was fifty cents per week. They spun and wove most of the cloth that was worn. Flannel that was dressed at the mill, for women's wear, was fifty cents a yard; men's wear, one dollar. Farmers hired their help for nine or ten dollars a month-some clothing and the rest cash. Carpenters' wages one dollar a day; journeymen carpenters, fifteen dollars a month; and apprentices to serve six or seven years had ten dollars the first year, twenty the second, and so on until the seventh, receiving seventy dollars, and to clothe themselves."17
But who were some of these pioneers? According to the proprietors' records, which commence in 1780, the first "pitches" were made by Henry Weed for Joshua Weed, Isaac George, Orlando Weed, Ezekiel Gilman, William Page, and Aaron Beede; all in the southern part of the town.18
Colonel Jeremiah Gilman, commander of the second regiment raised in the Granite State for the Revolution, settled here in 1780. A fine specimen of industry and perseverance was the Colonel. He built the first "power" spinning-mill in the United States. At the time of his invention the Saco Valley was producing large quantities of flax which was spun and I woven in the individual homes, the finished cloth being borne on horseback to Dover, Portsmouth, or Portland, where it was bartered for flour, rum, etc.19
Orlando Weed was another sterling and energetic settler in the lower part of the town. Discovering iron ore, he immediately erected a rude smithy, where he forged first his own tools and an anvil. He made a coarse steel for trap springs. Later he forged anchors, large and small; and upon a rigging of his own contrivance, consisting of two poles, he dragged his anchors to Portsmouth where he sold them. Besides being a very hard-working man, he was generous and public-spirited. In 1796 he represented Eaton, Tamworth, and Burton at Concord.20
In 1785 a petition was sent to the legislature praying for authority to call the first legal town meeting. Four years later, the following petition for the appointment of a Justice of the Peace was submitted: "Burton April 1789, recommending Benjamin Weeks for justice of the peace for the town. Orlando Weed, Benjamin Meed, Levi Rundlet, Orlando Weed, Jr., Daniel Head, Ambros Hinds, Nathaniel Head, Nathaniel Hayford, Elisher Weed, Ezekiel Gilman, Theophelus Brown, Caleb Brown, Isaac George, Jeremiah Gilman, Joseph Crosbe."21
The disease from which Burton cattle suffered and which was laid to Chocorua's curse, proved to be not imaginary but real. So serious was it that, in 1821, Professor Dana, of Dartmouth College, was sent by the state to the afflicted town to find out if possible the nature of "the Burton Ail."22 He found the cause to lie in the water, with contained a weak solution of muriate of lime. A remedy was discovered near at hand, however. It was found that a certain kind of meadow mud, when administered in large pills to the cattle, counteracted the disease. Soap-suds acted similarly.23 The town had gained an evil reputation on account of "the Burton Ail," but with the discovery of a remedy, its population and business were stimulated somewhat.24
In the earlier days of the town, warrants were sent out for "May training," according to that ancient New England custom. All the men of military age were assembled and officers chosen. On one occasion, when the men proceeded to form company, it was found that there was only one man, Farnham by name, who ranked as private, all the rest having been chosen officers. "Looking wistfully upon his superiors, standing in terrible array before him, he said, 'Gentlemen, I have only one request to make; that is, as I am the only soldier, I hope your honors will not be too severe in drilling me, but spare me a little as I may be needed another time.' He could form a solid column, he said, 'but it racked him shockingly to display.'"25
This "May training" affair recalls an unhappy incident. A young Mr. Allard lost a hand by the bursting of a gun at one of these musters.26 He was a genuine pioneer and fearless hunter. In his old age he used to delight the younger generation with his quaint stories of exciting experiences. Upon the authority of a veracious old settler of Burton, who used to sit for hours and listen to his droll stories, I will relate this one, told in the old man's own words: "When I was about seventeen years old, brother Jim" (his twin brother) "and I set a trap to catch a bear. We went early one morning and there was a big black bear in the trap. Fearing he would get away I grabbed him and told Jim to run back to the house for an ax to kill him with. When he got there breakfast was all ready, so he stopped and ate breakfast. When he came back I said, 'Well, well,' (an expression often used by the early settlers) 'now you hold him and let me kill him.' So Jim took a firm grip on the bear that he might be sure and hold him. Well, well, now I will go and eat my breakfast! So when I came back we killed the bear."27
Another member of this same family, and equally interesting, was Stephen Allard, known as "Old Uncle Steve Allard." "Steve" was an early pioneer here, and resided in Albany until his death, September 4, 1869, at ninety-nine years of age. "He was a kind, peaceful citizen, and waged war only against wild beasts that infested the neighborhood, and being an athletic man, he usually came out victorious. Mr. Allard could entertain one for hours with stories. He was a man of iron constitution, and, when about ninety-five years old, slipped away from his family and walked six miles, over poorly kept roads, with snow three feet deep, to see an old gentleman, an early settler of Conway."28
One intensely dark night "Steve" Allard was ascending a small hill; which is about two miles from Conway, on the Eaton road, and which rises abruptly from a pond. With bowed head he was toiling up the incline, when suddenly he was none too gently embraced by a big black bear which, standing upon its haunches, with outstretched forelegs, had lovingly received the man into his clasp. Instinctively Steve knew what kind of an antagonist he was grappling with, and, putting forth almost superhuman strength, wrestled with "the bear that walks like a man."29 The brute hugged and tugged, the man pushed and wriggled. At length he tripped up the bear and threw him. Down went bear and man together. Over and over they rolled; first the bear was underneath and then the man. Clutching each other like long-lost friends they rolled down the hill and―"Splash!"―they plunged into the pond. This seemed to dampen the spirits of the ursine wrestler, for he relaxed his hold, crawled out of the pond, and, having no inclination to renew the encounter, without even a last look at his foe made off through the woods.30
With this brief history of the lower part of the town, now known as South Albany, let us now consider those adventurous pioneers who went eight or ten miles farther into the wilderness to settle the "Great Valley." Some time in the eighteenth century two men, from Conway, traveling westward, followed up a swiftrunning stream, as they described it. Having gone a dozen miles, they came into a wide and beautiful valley which they called the "Great Valley"―now the Passaconaway Intervale.31 Being on friendly terms with the Indians, one of these hunters, having set a trap for a wolf, was sorry to find in the trap one morning what he thought was an Indian's dog. Upon releasing the animal, however, he saw that it was a real wolf which he had liberated.32 By hunters this valley came to be looked upon as a paradise.33 The Indians frequented and even lived in it, in spite of their fear of the mountains. Beaver were abundant, and long after the valley had become permanently settled and the Indians had disappeared, trappers would come up from Conway to catch these valuable little creatures.34
In time it was proposed to run a road through to the settlement now known as Waterville. This was approved by the proprietors, and laborers were set to work cutting trees and leaving landmarks. One Saturday night, tired and discouraged, they reached a spot near a brook. With a cold winter fast approaching, these workmen, far from their farms, next morning concluded to hide their tools and return home. It was their intention to resume the work next year. Before leaving, they named this brook the "Sabbaday Brook," because it was on the Sabbath Day, or "Sabbaday" as the old-timers called it, that they ceased their labors and returned to their homes. But the tools rotted and rusted, for neither these workmen nor others, thus far, ever have completed a highway from Albany Intervale to Waterville.35 The proprietors of the town of Burton, in 1790, voted a lot of land, with mill privileges, to any man who would build a saw-mill in this intervale. At length a Mr. Weed came in from South Burton and erected a mill. After a few boards had been sawed, however, Weed tired of the occupation, and, leaving the mill to rot down, he left the valley. Some other settlers came in about this time―perhaps to help build the mill―settling in three or four places, but their courage was short-lived, for they soon quit.36
Shortly after 1790, two Weeks brothers "pitched" north of the river, clearing land on Lots 8 and 9, Range 4 (on the survey made after their departure) , the present Annis Farm. Also the Knox brothers settled on what later became the Burbank and Shackford farms; and another "pitch" was made On Lots 11 and 12, Range 4, which was taken up and left for others.37
November 27, 1800, Burton was taken from Grafton County and annexed to Carroll County.38
During the year 1800, Austin George, with a large family (fourteen children) drove up from Conway and built a large barn, of hewed and split white pine from top to bottom. No labor was wasted, for the timber grew upon the very ground which the settler wished to clear. The men chose rift trees, split the boards, shingles and planks and smoothed them with an adze. A log-house was built and finished in the same way. One or two neighbors came with this family, but made no preparations for permanent settlement, and, after two or three years, went back to Conway. Mr. George's oldest son brought his bride from Conway to live with the family.39 Doubtless owing to the hardship of pioneer life, sickness came to the family. A daughter, nineteen years of age, died of consumption.
The nearest neighbors were ten miles way. The poor mother was forced to make all the funeral preparations with her own hands. Friends arrived later and the customary burial rites were observed. The father, Austin George, was a scholar and a great reader. He taught his children geography, grammar, arithmetic and history, and in later years some of these frontier children became among the best school teachers In the country.40
So cold was the climate that corn and wheat were out of the question; in fact, the only vegetables they could raise were those which frost could not kill, such as cabbages, turnips, onions, and potatoes. Although the soil is unusually fertile and free from stones, so very short is the season between frosts (for ice often forms here in July and August) that only the fast growing vegetables and those that can survive the frosts can be relied upon. The girls and boys reaped abundant crops of hay, while the father cultivated the garden. The mother, by hand, wove the clothes for the numerous members. The entire family had to turn to and toil from daylight to dark in order to eke out their meagre existence. There were no drones in these early families.41
Times grew harder and harder in the George home. The cattle died of the "Burton Ail," no remedy at this time being known. A hurricane swept through the very center of the valley, tearing up trees by the roots. Everything in its path, which was a half mile in width, was laid level with the ground. The hurricane crossed the valley from northwest to southeast. In 1814, the family decided to abandon the place. Two sons had left and enlisted in the war against England, one of whom was killed at the Battle of Bridgewater in July, 1814.42 In October of the same year, the oldest son moved his family away. The now aged father decided to stay long enough to feed his stock the supply of hay on hand, while his family lived on the produce they had raised, as it was impossible to move these supplies through the forest and Mr. George had nothing with which to buy more. Until March, 1815, he remained, when, taking his family, which now consisted of a wife, three sons and three daughters, he moved to Bartlett. Mr. George felt very sad over abandoning his home in the intervale, and, although he lived twenty-four years longer, he never could bring himself to visit the spot again and see the, abandoned home. Thus Mr. George derived no benefit from the years of toil and hardship which he had put in here.43 For ten years the old George homestead was left to transient hunters, trappers and perhaps bandits. Yet its occupancy by the Georges had proved that, despite Chocorua's curse and the rigorous climate, human beings could exist here.
In March, 1824, nine years after Mr. George had left, Mr. Amzi Russell, who had married the granddaughter of Austin George, moved into the old house and the settlement was begun in earnest; and never afterwards, up to the present, although time and again sorely tested, has it been entirely abandoned. The building was in a very dilapidated condition, having been used by rough men from time to time. The beautiful white-pine finishing had been ripped off by these vandals, who used the wood as fuel with which to cook their venison and keep themselves warm. The Russells had every reason to believe that the house had been used as a meeting-place by men who came from different parts of the country and who seemed well acquainted with the place. Evidently it had been a rendezvous for brigands who met here by agreement to divide their plunder or bury their treasure. A horse was discovered in the month of March by some of the Russells who were hunting. The family worked industriously on their farm and existed on what "garden truck" they could raise, which fare was supplemented by a plentiful supply of game. In 1833 the Russell brothers built a mill at the lower end of the intervale. Here they sawed lumber for the valley and made trips to Portland to haul lumber to market. At Portland they could procure supplies for their families. On these trips they would also bring back goods for the traders at Conway, and this helped to pay expenses. They managed to subsist by such activities and by farming. Happily and contentedly they lived, and made what improvements they could in addition to their regular tasks.44
Austin George had fourteen children, the first three of whom are buried in the Russell Cemetery in the Albany Intervale. Daniel George, a son of the pioneer, had a daughter, Eliza Morse George, who married Amzi Russell, son of Thomas Russell. Mrs. Russell lived to be over ninety years old. She kept a manuscript from which were taken not a few of the facts here recorded. The children of Amzi and Eliza Morse (George) Russell were Martha George Russell, who married Celon Russell Swett; Thirza Russell, who married Andrew J. Lord; Mary Russell, who died young; Ruth Priscilla Russell, who married Thomas Alden Colbath and lives in the historic old George homestead, and who for many years was Postmistress; and Flora Emma Russell, who never married. To Mrs. Colbath the present writer is deeply indebted for access to the Russell Manuscript and for letters supplementing the account given in said manuscript. Mrs. Colbath, as her acquaintances can testify, is a woman of superior intellectual ability and moral excellence, and scores of people, in many states, take pride in calling her their friend.
The reason for writing so particularly about the George family is that not only have very reliable records been kept of the hardships endured, which hardships were typical of those necessarily endured by all the early families, but because Mr. George's long stay laid the foundation for a permanent settlement in the Albany Intervale.
Meanwhile, a Mr. Stinson went up the river into the township of Waterville, where at considerable expense he began to erect a large saw-mill. After expending much money and labor on the mill, which was approaching completion, he left laborers to continue the work, went to Boston, and died. The laborers faithfully completed the mill, put it in running order, and proceeded to defray the expenses incurred by putting it up for sale. It was sold at a great sacrifice shortly after, two brothers by the name of Morse being the purchasers.45
The Morse brothers sledded pine logs to the mill during the winter; in the spring they sawed these logs and stuck them up on end to dry; the following winter, as soon as a good snow fell, they hauled their lumber to market. For years the work was carried on in this slow, inconvenient way, until at length a road was constructed suitable for wheeled vehicles. Such primitive methods reveal the difficulty of earning a living in those days. All the lumber, except perhaps a few boards used in the neighborhood, had to be drawn to Portland. Until the lumber could be sold in Portland, the settlers were obliged to depend upon their meagre garden for supplies.46 But the farm offered only a precarious existence. Mr. George and his industrious family had done all in their power, but the valley could not produce a living for them. So the Morse brothers, hard-working and determined men, besides caring for their garden, toiled and toiled at their lumber business, thereby making up for the meagreness of their crops. At daylight these conscientious workers would go into the woods and not return until dark. Meanwhile, all day long, their families cultivated the garden. On returning at night, the brothers would feed their animals and, supper eaten, would bring their shaving-horse into the kitchen and shave a bunch of shingles before bed-time. On Saturday night, however, all work was laid aside, except "the care of their creatures," and they rested until Monday morning, when they would again begin their six long days of hard work. The writer of the manuscript from which these facts are taken says that without this rest on the Sabbath these men could not have stood the awful grind of the week days.47
In those times Sabbath observance was taken seriously. The children were not allowed to whistle or sing any tunes except psalm tunes, or read any books except religious ones.48 During the period which we are now considering, two young brothers went into what was later known as the Church Field after some cherries one Sunday. But the cherries had gone by. One of the boys thereupon said to the other, "Let us go over to the pond and get some berries." No sooner said than off they started. They pushed on through the narrow strip of woods, towards the first Deer Pond, which we now call Church Pond. On coming within sight of the pond, they saw some dark object in the water on the farther side. While they watched it, they saw it begin to come towards them. Without any means of defense, yet having a great curiosity to learn what it was, each took to a tree. Evidently it was the head of some large animal swimming towards them. At first a great fear came over them, for their guilty consciences told them that it might be some monster sent to punish them for their Sabbath-breaking. Slowly the animal continued to swim in their direction until it could touch bottom. Then out came its huge shoulders, and the next moment it waded ashore at their very feet. Here it stood, at the edge of the pond, gazing up at the strange fruit in the trees as curiously as the terrified little fellows stared back at it. Then the huge beast retraced its steps, swam across to the spot where they had first seen it, and majestically stalked off into the woods. It was a moose, and probably had young somewhere near. Scrambling down from their perches, the boys ran home and told the family of having seen a "very ferocious animal, with large, wild-looking eyes and a dangerous countenance."49
In those days beaten paths were found running from the pond in several directions. These were the avenues worn smooth by deer and moose in going to their drinking-place. Some boys thought they would make a snare across one of these paths. Bending down a tree so large that it was all the two could do to bring it down with their weight, they fastened it with a strong rope, in which they rigged a noose. When next they visited the trap, they found a moose caught in it.50
After the first snowfall in the autumn of 1831, a moose crossed the river and passed through the fields to one of the southern mountains, and, shortly after, retraced his steps. He was evidently looking for good winter quarters. Some of the young men followed the trail until they found tracks of different sizes, which showed that there must be a number of moose in the vicinity. The young men walked in a circle, not crossing a track, until they came to their own footprints again. Then they went home to wait for more snow and a good crust. Not until March were they rewarded for their patience. Then these three brothers went to the place where the moose were yarded up and killed four in one day. These were the last moose known to have been killed in the Swift River Valley.51
Becoming dissatisfied with the reputation of the town, due to Chocorua's curse and the "Burton Ail," many of the townspeople thought it might be beneficial to change the name. Some suggested the name "Boston," others various other names. After much discussion, it was decided to call it "Albany," from the capital of New York State.52 In 1832, therefore, the citizens petitioned the legislature, and, on [Tuesday,] July 2, 1833, with that body's sanction, the town of Burton became "Albany,"53 by which name it is known today. Because of the two distinct halves of the town, which are completely shut off from each other by mountains, the lower half is known as South Albany and the upper as Albany Intervale. One can readily appreciate the difficulty under which the town business was and is transacted because of the necessity of traveling around the mountain, twenty miles, to town meeting. The majority of the voters lived in South Albany and held most of the town offices and administered the town's affairs to suit themselves. At present, the town meetings are held alternately in South Albany and Albany Intervale, the meetings being held in the tiny schoolhouses.
But "can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?"54 Even with the name of the town changed, the cattle still persisted in dying of the "Burton Ail" and the troubles of the settlers did not cease. Down from the mountains came wolves, killing or driving away the deer and threatening the lonely and scattered inhabitants. The few families in this desolate intervale, when night came on, could hear the dismal howl of the wolves beginning far off on one of the mountains and gradually increasing in volume until the noise became a blood-curdling chorus.55
In 1834 some of the intervale settlers began to feel the need of religious meetings, especially on the Sabbath. Therefore two aged women, with fear and trembling, went one Sunday morning to a house near the center of the settlement to see what could be done. To their surprise they were met by another on the same mission, who had come from the opposite direction. As neither party had knowledge of the other's intentions, they were greatly encouraged, and appointed a meeting for the following Sunday. Others joined them "to sing, pray, read and exhort." For years these little meetings were kept up, with the occasional help of a minister from South Albany or from some neighboring town. A little society was formed as a branch of the Free Will Baptist Church and ten members joined, while others affiliated with other churches, as they believed right.56 There is no church in the intervale, although meetings have been held in the schoolhouse some summers, when visiting clergymen have preached.
Not until 1837 was the town road laid out. Up to that time inhabitants of the Albany Intervale had to drive from door to door, and through fields, to any place they wished to go. In 1837 they petitioned the selectmen to layout a highway from the Conway line to the Waterville line. The selectmen at that time were Joshua Nickerson, David Allard and Samuel Lawrence, all of whom lived at South Albany. The "town fathers" feared the cost of such a road as was petitioned for. To avoid the expense of bridging the river, they laid out the road "to the river, and from the river, when they came to it."57 Of course by this plan a very long, zig-zag and inconvenient road was the result, but it was some improvement over the old way. Says the author of the Russell Manuscript: "I give this as a fair sample of the way the town business was done until at length the credit of the town was gone."58
During the thirties a great fever of land speculation raged throughout the country, and almost the entire township was lotted off, mountains as well as bog and marsh being sold at fabulous prices to New York and Boston parties.59
In 1840 an interesting experiment was tried. Lumbermen from the Saco came into the valley, bought timber lands and attempted to drive logs down the Swift River. The swiftness of the little river during the spring freshets, its crookedness, and the rockiness of its bed prevented success. Thereupon the men petitioned the legislature for permission to construct a sluiceway. Thus armed, they built side-dams and sluiceways, being obliged to do much blasting. For a few years logs were hauled to the river bank, whence, by the help of the sluiceways, they were driven down the Swift into the Saco. But this operation after a while was suspended, and the river once more "rolled unvexed"60 to its confluence with the Saco.
After narrating this repulse of the attack of the timber-slaughterers, the author of the old manuscript from which I am transcribing data, jubilantly bursts out into poetry thus:
After chronicling this experiment of river-driving, perhaps I may mention here various railroad projects. In 1839 a survey of the intervale was made for a railroad route from Portland to Vermont. No such railroad was built, however.62 On July 9, 1874, a charter was granted to the Swift River Railroad. It was proposed to build this railroad from the height of land in Waterville to Conway, where it was to connect with the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad.63 This railroad never was constructed.
For many years the Bartlett Land and Lumber Company owned and operated a lumber railroad from Upper Bartlett to the Albany Intervale. This road ran through the Bear Mountain Notch. Frank Bolles gives a fascinating description of riding on the engine of the lumber train on this road, late in 1891.64 I think that the road was in operation from the early 1870's until the 1890's. In 1906 or 1907 a lumber railroad from Conway to the Albany Intervale was built by the Conway Lumber Company. Over this road many millions of feet of fine timber have been hauled out of the valley. But while this chapter is being written (in May, 1916), a rumor comes to me that the Company has sold out its lands to the United States Government and that the road will be discontinued and the rails taken up.
Let us glance at some of the settlers who followed the pioneers whom we have already mentioned. Among the early settlers were the Bickford, Broughton, Shackford and Burbank families. Ebenezer Burbank moved into the intervale from Conway about 1830. He owned land on both sides of the Swift River. He found the low, level land on the south side of the river best for raising hay; while the sunny hillside (now known as Birch Ridge) was less frosty, and therefore better for corn and other vegetables. His farm was about one-half mile east of Shackford's. In 1866 Mr. Burbank moved to Madison. He had been Selectman of Albany for nine years.65 His eldest son, Hubbard C. Burbank, succeeded him on the farm in the intervale. Hubbard C. Burbank died in 1885.
Soon afterwards the Burbank farm came into possession of Richard Hill, and to this day it is known as "the Dick Hill Place." After Hill's ownership of the farm it passed into the hands of George B. James, and by him was sold to the Conway Lumber Company. This farm was included in the lands purchased in 1915-1916 by the United States Government to be a portion of the National Forest Reservation.
One of the earlier settlers who, by homestead right, acquired land in the Albany Intervale, was Thomas H. Shackford, a hard-working and prosperous farmer. He succeeded in raising some fine cattle, even when his neighbors failed. He cleared many acres of land, and erected the largest group of buildings in the intervale. Until fire laid flat the Passaconaway House, with its sheds and barns, on February 13, 1916, specimens of the senior Shackford's handiwork could be seen. In the barns, sheds, and in the attic of the house, one could look upon the great oak beams, bearing ax-marks, for they were all hand-hewn. The frames of the buildings were held together with oak pegs. The white pine shingles were riven out by hand, and these original shingles, up to the time the buildings were consumed by flame, seemed to be as sound and serviceable as when first laid. Many were the interesting and sometimes exciting experiences of this settler. His son used to tell of poling about in flat-bottomed boats, near the barn, during spring freshets, when the water came up around the back part of the buildings. The Albany lntervale lost one of the best citizens it ever had when Thomas H. Shackford died in 1864. His body rests in the little Russell Cemetery, adjoining Mrs. Colbath's yard.66
James M. Shackford, son of Thomas H., was born in the Albany lntervale about 1836. After the Civil War, tourists, attracted by the scenery and pure spring water, began to visit the intervale, and "Shackford s soon became a popular summer resort. The rapid increase in the number of summer boarders soon necessitated the enlargement of the house. In the old age and failing health of Mr. and Mrs. Shackford, they sold their farm, in 1907, to Mr. Alfred Povall, of Cambridge, Mass. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Shackford survived the change long. From their new home , in Conway both passed on into the "Great Beyond." "Uncle Jim" and "Aunt Hannah," as we neighbors lovingly called them, were typical, hard-working, and thrifty Yankees. How we children did enjoy listening to Uncle Jim's stories! Our favorite ones were about an "all fired big bear," the burning over of Mount Tremont, and the description of the great Passaconaway slide in the 90's. And when Mr. Shackford went surveying with a certain primitive instrument, one would think that George Washington, the young surveyor, had been re-embodied. Uncle Jim was a man of inflexible honesty, ''as square as a brick," and his "word was as good as his bond." He served in almost every town office and for several terms was sent to Concord by his fellow-citizens as their Representative in the state legislature. To Mr. Shackford, more than to any other one person, is the valley indebted for its development as a summer resort. Fishermen, hunters and mountain-climbers liked the house he kept, and to this day the intervale is more widely known as "Shackford's" than as "Passaconaway."
Charles Church came here from Massachusetts some time between 1840 and 1850. He was engaged in the lumber business and purchased land far up the river, nearly up to Sabbaday Brook. At first he endeavored to run logs down the Swift River, but soon discovered that this was impracticable. He built a mill for manufacturing lumber. He also erected a small house at the extreme upper end of the settlement where a field had formerly been cleared by the Morse family. Here he and his family lived while he superintended his interests. He was unsuccessful in his business venture, and left the valley much poorer in pocket than when he came in. Many years later, his wife and daughter having died meanwhile, he returned to the intervale, probably about 1870. He spent his remaining days with the Shackfords, until his body was laid to rest in the little Russell Cemetery in the valley which he loved dearly.67
Gilbert Chase lived in "the yellow house," near Onslow S. Smith's, from about 1848 to 1855. His wife died in 1855, and the family was scattered, most of the children preferring city life and work in the factories.68
James Mayhew, a veteran of the Civil War and a G. A. R. man, came into Albany Intervale about 1870, and built a small house for summer boarders, which was known as the "Carrigain House," which became popular and which was carried on successfully until its owner's death in 1895. The boarders would get up coaching parties to attend the circus at North Conway. This was their cheer, which they were wont to fling out on such occasions:
They would then flourish their yellow and white streamers. Many were the good times enjoyed in this hospitable mountain hostelry. Frank Bolles used to make the Carrigain House his headquarters when in the Albany Intervale.69 Some time after the death of Mr. Mayhew, the house was temporarily occupied by "Jack" Allen. Later it was used by the Conway Lumber Company to house some of its field officials. Here, too, the Lumber Company erected a store. I am told that, after the Lumber Company finishes lumbering, the house is to be the headquarters of the government Forest Wardens.
Joseph Annis came in 1869 and was the town's representative in the legislature in 1875 and 1877.70 Mr. Annis was a very upright and religious man. He drove the stage from Passaconaway to Conway and carried the mail over this route for years. His farm, the old Weeks clearing, joined the Mayhew farm on the east side of the latter. The large house and barns and broad fields are familiar to all who have any acquaintance with the Albany Intervale. From the lower (eastern) end of his field, near the sharp bend in the Swift River, one can get a view of Mount Washington, through the Bear Mountain Notch.
James Annis succeeded his father as stage-driver and farmer. He is a hard-working man, supplementing his farm work and postal-route activities with teaming. Ever since Joseph Annis settled in the valley, the Annis home has been a favorite boarding-place; hundreds of fishermen, hunters, trampers, summer boarders, and week-enders have enjoyed its bountiful hospitality. James' son, Earl, now grown to manhood's estate, follows along the same lines of activity as his father and grandfather, and is a steady, industrious young man.
Soon after the close of the Civil War, George A. Loring, a Union veteran and a Boston architect, came into this region for his health, and fell in love with the Passaconaway Intervale. After boarding here several summers, he became so much attached to the place that he purchased a lot and built a little bungalow. Here he spent long delightful summers. He had the best garden in the intervale, in which, among other appetizing delicacies, he had a bed of cultivated strawberries. In his cellar was a little spring, the sides of which he boarded up, thus making a natural ice-chest, an original "White Mountain Refrigerator."
Mr. Loring could cook as well as any woman. Nor was he destitute of humor. "Once upon a time" (so all the fairy stories begin, but this is not a fairy tale), a party of his friends came into the intervale and asked him to pilot them into the very heart of the wilderness, where they wished to camp for three weeks. At daylight, next morning, the obliging host mustered the little army of would-be campers, and led the march into the great woods. All day they tramped, up hill and down dale, until, at dusk, the word was given to pitch the tents. This done, Mr. Loring took his farewell, promising to return in a few days, and extracting from the campers a solemn promise that they would keep close to camp, lest they stray off, get lost, and perhaps perish. During the next fortnight, Mr. Loring, as guardian angel, paid four or five visits to the campers, each time repeating his warning to "hug the camp." During the third week, a camper, more adventurous than his fellows, wandered perhaps a full half mile from headquarters. At this terrifying distance from his comrades, Mr. Camper came out upon the highway squarely in front of Mr. Loring's little red bungalow, with its welcoming Santa Claus in the front window. Animated with a love of fun and a desire to make his periodic journeys "to camp as short as possible, Mr. Loring, on the first day, had marched the innocents round and round in great circles until, daylight having worn itself away, camp was pitched within a short distance of the starting-point.
Mr. Loring fondly hoped to end his days in the beautiful intervale, which, for many years, he called "home." But it was not so to be. With the revival of the lumber activities, under the Conway Lumber Company, a lumber-railroad once more penetrated the quiet, peaceful valley. The very thought of such profane intrusion was so repugnant to this lover of solitude and scenery that he sold his cottage and land to A. C. Kennett, of Conway, and returned to Boston in 1906.71 Only a few years after this abandonment of his old familiar and well-beloved mountain home, Mr. Loring died. Was he heart-broken? Who can tell? The little bungalow still stands there, on the bank of the Swift River, between the White Brook and the Olivarian, but its dreamer, its creator, its soul, has departed.
To "Jack" Allen, the intervale's most picturesque inhabitant, I shall devote an entire chapter.
During the periods of lumbering operations, the intervale again and again has teemed with "lumberjacks." Many a French Canadian brought a big family into the valley, living in some of the shanties at the lower (eastern) end of the "Great lntervale," near the Bolles Trail, or in some of the many paper-roofed log "shacks" on the banks of the various streams flowing into the Swift River. Among these numerous French Canadians was a man known among the English-speaking portion of the community as "Bumblebee." Probably his real name was Bodreau.72 He came about 1890, and remained three or four years. He never owned any land, but occupied a little shanty on the south side of the highway, just west of the present Camp Paugus, which is owned by Elijah B. Carlton. Here the remains of an old well may be seen. This was the site of Bumblebee's humble home, immortalized by Frank Bolles in one of his chapters.73 And humble indeed it was. The one-roomed shack was twelve feet long and ten feet wide. The ridge-pole was only twelve feet from the ground. The roof was unshingled. The chimney was a crazy stove-pipe. Of Bumblebee's five children, the oldest was eight years old. The mind of Bumblebee's wife was affected. Who can wonder?
Onslow S. Smith became a resident of the "Great Valley" about 1890. He was the son of Thurston Smith, a prominent citizen of South Albany. From Mr. Shackford he bought a strip of land between the Passaconaway House and what was, at one time, the Tibado place, living in the house which he has since enlarged. Mr. Smith has engaged in lumbering, hunting, fishing, trapping, gumming, farming, etc. He is the best guide in all this region, and repeatedly has served the Appalachian Mountain Club and its individual members in this capacity. He is quick, powerful, resourceful and able. Mr. Smith has held almost every office within the gift of the town. He has served as moderator of town meetings for years, making an admirable presiding officer, because of his familiarity with parliamentary rules and state law, his cool-headedness and fairness. His experiences in the great woods would make an interesting little volume.
In 1902 my father, who had been camping in the Passaconaway Intervale for four summers, bought a small parcel of land from Mr. Shackford, and the following summer built a cottage, which in succeeding summers he repeatedly enlarged. This was the second cottage erected by "summer people" in the valley, Mr. Loring's being the first. Later, Father bought from Elijah Carlton eighty-five or ninety acres, formerly owned by John Tibado.
Mr. Alfred Povall, the last proprietor of the old Passaconaway House, was born in England. Coming to the United States soon after his marriage, he served as chief engineer in various large concerns in Portland, Me., the mining region of Pennsylvania, and in Massachusetts. The Povalls had been our next-door neighbors in Cambridge, Mass. The son, James T. Povall, had passed through a severe sickness. We inveigled him up to "God's Country" in the "Land of the Sky" (Passaconaway). A single summer put him on his feet again. He felt like a new man. He fell in love with the intervale, and, at his suggestion, his father purchased the Passaconaway House from Mr. Shackford in 1907. The old hostelry was practically rebuilt, an automobile was purchased, and telephone connection with the outside world was established. These improvements attracted a new group of patrons, and the little farm-house hotel became a busy place from July to October. The daughter taught at the Passaconaway school. The son (James T.) served the town of Albany in various offices, for one term being Representative in the legislature at Concord. He was also Postmaster of Passaconaway.
On Sunday morning, February 13, 1916, the chimney of the Passaconaway House took fire. Mr. Povall and his son succeeded, as they supposed, in extinguishing the flames. After dinner, while "Father" Povall was taking a nap, "Jim" awakened him with the alarming information that all the upper part of the house, around the chimney, was ablaze. So thick was the smoke that nothing could be rescued from the second or third floors. The nearest fire department was fifteen miles away―at Conway. 'Twas the depth of winter and bitterly cold. Nothing could be done to save the buildings. A strong west wind swept the fire through the house, sheds and barns, in two hours laying them flat; only the laundry, to the windward of the flames, and the garage and Post Office, across the street, escaping. Nothing remained of the historic old buildings except a layer of ashes and black cinders. Only a little of the furniture in the two front rooms on the ground floor was saved. The ruin of the buildings was complete. The neighbors loyally hastened to the burning house and rendered what assistance they could. The horse, the faithful old house-dog, and other animals were saved. For several days the Povalls were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Then they took up temporary quarters in Camp Paugus (the Elijah B. Carlton cottage).
The fire refugees lived in Camp Paugus until May, 1916. 'Twas a frightfully cold winter and an unusually blustering spring. During the more than quarter century of Mr. Smith's residence in the intervale, the wind never blew so hard and so continuously. Some nights, it seemed as if the cottage would be blown over bodily. On one occasion, at least, the family rose at 2 a. m., wrapped blankets around their shivering bodies, and huddled about the red-hot stove, miserably awaiting daylight. One of the minor compensations for this chapter of hardship was a gorgeous display of Northern Lights.
When the family bade their final farewell to the valley on May 6, the mountains were still clothed with snow; indeed the peaks were whiter than they ever had seen them before. On their way down to Conway they overtook a huge bear in the road down Spruce Hill. When his ursine majesty saw the party approaching, he threw up his muzzle and sniffed, then turned, dug his great claws into the snow, and made off in long leaps with the speed of a race-horse.
Miss Povall having married only a few weeks before the fire, the family decided to accompany her to her new home in Spokane, Washington. Having disposed of their property, the Povalls left Portland, Me., in a brand new touring car, armed with a letter of introduction from the Mayor of Portland to the Mayor of Spokane, Wash. We had the pleasure of welcoming them for a few hours in our home in Worcester. While I write this paragraph, they probably are speeding over the roads, up the historic old Mohawk Valley, headed for Niagara Falls, Cleveland, Chicago, Yellowstone Park, and their new home in the great Northwest. The good wishes of hosts of New England friends will accompany the family on their long automobile trip and in their new environment.
My father sold the Tibado farm, which he had bought from Mr. Carlton, to Mrs. Eliza G. (Metcalf) Radeke, of Providence, R. I., a philanthropic woman, of means and unusual ability. For many years she has been the President of the Rhode Island School of Design. This is only one of the many enterprises in which she is interested and to which she gives liberally. Mrs. Radeke built three bungalows, one of which is now the property of Rev. Arthur P. Hunt, a professor in the Episcopal Theological School in New York City. Mrs. Hunt (Mrs. Una A. Hunt) is the well-known author of "Una Mary" and other books. She is the daughter of Professor Frank Wigglesworth Clarke, the renowned chief chemist of the U. S. Geological Survey, a member of innumerable learned societies and the author of many scientific books.
Since the Passaconaway House was burned, Mr. Hunt has purchased from Alfred Povall the old Shackford farm. A new hotel, containing twenty sleeping rooms, will be erected, and this will be run as such a mountain hostelry should be run, so that lovers of the mountains will be attracted here, perhaps as never before. Thus, in coming years, as in the past half-century, this most beautiful valley in all the White Mountains will be able to extend a welcome to those who appreciate and desire unsurpassed scenery and invigorating mountain air.
Thus, although individuals and families and generations come and go, neither time nor tide (to use Mrs. Russell's phraseology) has swept away the mountain wall which surrounds our cloud-land valley; but, "as the mountains are round about Jerusalem,"74 so, on a larger scale, do grander peaks engird and fortify Passaconaway in the White Mountains.75
1. Belknap: Hist. of N. H., vol. III, 241.