15. SAW MILL AND RANGER STATION

According to an 1852 tourist guide quoted by USFS Archaeologist Sarah Jordan, about half way between Gorham and the Glen House “is a deserted house in the midst of a clearing- where, in past time, a man, more bold than wise, tried to support himself and failed.

There is also a venerable saw mill nearby: but the dam has been swept away and the saw hangs idly in its frame (Tripp & Osgood 1852:30-31).”

Jordan's 2004 homestead archaeological report states “The deserted farm and mill described may be the McCarty house and mill, abandoned in 1846 (Coos County Burnt Records Vol. 22, p. 30).

By 1861 a sawmill had been reestablished in Martin’s Location, between the Glen house and the bridge across the Peabody River to the Copp Farm. It appears to have been run as a farm and mill by Stephen Hanscom and William Goodwin, with a sawmill laborer and his family also residing nearby.

According to researcher Jared Apt, an 1853 map of the White Mountains by George Bond drew criticism when T. W. Harris, a contemporary, noted in a letter “I was sorry not to find laid down on Mr. Bond’s map the old road from Bellows saw mill round the north side of Mount Madison to Randolph.”

So here we have another rare reference to the saw mill. But is this mill the one associated with Dolly Copp Campground history or was Bellows Mill associated with the Glen House? To be researched.

Then an 1858 map by Harvey Boardman shows a saw mill north of the old bridge site in what is now the Picnic Area.

But the 1861 Walling map locates it just south of the bridge, downstream from a small pond shown on the Peabody. Which map is the more accurate has not been determined. Casey Hodgdon commented on this issue that “The accuracy of maps in those days leaves a little to be desired.”

Remarking on the 1858 map, asked if the slope of the Peabody was physically sufficient for a mill and pond here, Casey stated that “If there was one there it was probably on the east side of the road next to the brook coming off the Imp, for water power.” Casey continuing:

There were little sawmills everywhere as there was no way to deliver lumber any great distance, so mills were built on the location. I have spent a lifetime reading the old town histories and they are saturated with sawmills. They were located on every brook or stream that would provide water power.

When the Glen House was constructed, the first thing built was – a saw mill. When the Cog Railway was constructed they had a mill at the base station to provide lumber for the buildings to house workers and later the railroad itself. Come to think of it when Hayes Copp built his house he had to get the lumber somewhere, probably at that sawmill.

The 1860 Census records a Stephen Hanscom, 40 year old farmer, living in the Picnic Area vicinity. The value of his real estate was $5,000, much higher than the value of the Copp property at $600, the Culhane property also at $600 and the Barnes property at $700. Could this high value indicate that Mr. Hanscom was the saw mill owner?

USGS archeologist Sarah Jordan leans in this direction. An intriguing contributing clue is found in the adjacent 1860 Census address. Here was Edward Parsons, categorized as “sawmill laborer,” and without ownership of any real estate.

In another reference to the sawmill, the 1887 Ticknor guide book to the White Mountains states that “The road from the Glen House to Jefferson Hill diverges to the left from the Gorham road near the old saw mill, about one and one half miles from the hotel, crosses the Peabody River and its West Branch, and passes the Copp Farm, where the Imp is seen.”

The map in the 1887 guidebook shows the Glen House, then to the north “Copps” on the “Old Notch Road.”

According to the 1951 "Geology of New Hampshire" the State's topography "afforded water power for innumerable sawmills, gristmills, and factories from the earliest settlements down to the 1860's and 1870's, but by now most of the mills and the waterwheels have fallen in ruins and been erased by severe floods. Only a few stone foundations and sluiceways survive."

GLEN COTTAGE - RANGER STATION. While not in the Campground this nearby facility played a role in early campground development. Its location today is a vacant field on the east side of Route 16, one half mile south of the Picnic Ground, just south of the second Imp Trail entrance.

An 1892 map includes the label "Libby" in this location. The 1893 topo map recorded this building in place that year.

In the first decade of the 1900’s the building was known as Glen Cottage, a farmhouse run at that time as a boarding house for loggers. It had a pleasant front porch with pillars and a long ell to the rear.

Resident loggers dressed in Sunday
best at Glen Cottage in the late 1800s.

Owned by the Libby Family, Glen Cottage was likely included in the sale of major Libby timber tracts to the federal government in 1915. Two identical post cards of the building were postmarked 1908 and 1911.

Glen Cottage near 1910.

Fuller view of 1910 scene above.

The 1915 map identifies “Peabody River Ranger Station” as the use for the former Glen Cottage building that year. The 1915 map identifies a path westward from the Station to the Peabody River near Rangers Pool.

This would have been the shortest distance for rangers to reach the Great Gulf Trail as well.

Peabody River Ranger Station in 1915
See above in context of full 1915 map (136 KB).

We can speculate that the Station’s proximity to the informal camping of 1900-1915 would have been a key to formalizing the Campground in 1915 or 1921, for a source of around the clock USFS supervisory staff was close at hand.

The 1935 map verifies continuation of building use as a Ranger Station. The camp rules of 1936 also confirm that at that time the Forest Officer in charge of Dolly Copp was housed here.

This was Ranger Benedict, whose wife and children also lived there (GB). The 1935 map indicates that the southern spur of the Imp Trail once terminated at the Ranger Station, that trail head since relocated slightly north.

Peabody River Ranger Station on 1935 USGS map.

A 1939 Forest Service memo points to the demise of the Station: “Last fall all material and supplies on hand were taken from Peabody Guard Station to Dolly Copp Administration Building for winter storage inasmuch as it was planned to destroy Peabody Guard Station.”

A 1989 USFS archaeological inventory provides some interesting details of early history: “Peabody Guard Station site: This was another early Copp farmstead. It was occupied as early as 1832.” Continuing, “It later became the Bellows Farm and then a ‘Guard Station’ and during the CCC era it was used again.”

The notation "Peabody G. S." had
not yet been removed from this
WMNF map dated 1941.


The USFS archaeological inventory states that “in 1985 test excavations were done on the site by the paraprofessionals. Many 19th century ceramic sherds were uncovered. Some of them were reconstructed and are currently stored at Bartlett. Some of the vessels would be good for display material at Dolly Copp.”

Also, “Just south of the ‘Guard Station’ is the foundation of what may have been a very large barn. Shovel testing has uncovered burned nails and some brick fragments. The site obviously burned.”