20. HOMESTEAD AND MEMORIAL
COPP HOMESTEAD. We have reached Dolly Copp Campground’s most well known historical feature. It is both the physical and emotional heart of the Campground, the original Copp Farm homestead. Hayes Copp first lived here as a bachelor in 1830.
Looking at the lay of the land here today we might assume that young Hayes selected this site because it was at the center of the best land for cultivation. An additional motive may have been the visibility from crop land to the house and vice versa. A small stream was adjacent for water supply.
Artist's rendering of Copp Homestead in its heyday.
Historians record that the first shelter built here by Hayes was a small log cabin, replaced by the Copp house about 1834. We know that the home had a cellar of sorts as it was noted as part of the ruin by travelers back in the teens of the twentieth century.
That original feature was likely a small root cellar, storing potatoes, turnips and other farm produce (CH). Such storage areas were naturally cool in summer and sufficiently above freezing in winter, and typical of farm homes of that era (CH).
An earlier assessment in the 9/12/1953 Lewiston Journal supports Casey's view: “This rocked up cellar hole is what remains of Hayes and Dolly Copp’s root and vegetable cellar. Here they once kept the vegetables raised on their farm in the Glen from the freezing cold of the long winter.”
Cross in 1927 could still observe flowers in the garden remnant of the homesite. But a precise location for this garden is neither identified by Cross nor shown on the 1915 map.
As the barn was to the east, the orchard to the south and the road occupied the west, perhaps the garden was set back from the north side of the house.
Designation of "Old
Orchard" on south side of
An early USFS photo here shows “Dolly's
Butternut Tree” (416k). Historian George Cross
records this historic butternut standing on the north side of
the homestead site in 1927.
A second reference, an old Campers Association item on events in 1932, agrees. It states that "during a terrific wind and rainstorm some years ago the original butternut tree was blown down, but thru an act of God it again sprouted and is now in a healthy growing condition."
In an 1886 letter to a local newspaper recording what Dolly told the writer about her early life, the homestead is mentioned. Dolly says that after their marriage in 1831 they moved into a “small log camp which Mr. Copp had built the year before upon a small clearing which he had also made.“
Also that “Their means were very limited and they both were obliged to go into the clearing and pile logs, clear the land and put in the crops.... In after years they accumulated a comfortable property, built a nice large house and took in summer boarders.”
Author Samuel Adams Drake visited the Copp home about 1876, taking notes for his 1882 book “The Heart of The White Mountains” (see Copp relates excerpt). He recorded a good view up and down the valley from it, as well as of the dramatic Imp Mountain profile to the east. His impression was the Copp home had a rustic look with its “weather stained farm house. He mentioned the barn and barnyard.
Side income from guests in the 1880’s is verified, for the use of the Copp House as an inn is referenced in Ticknor's 1887 guide book. Describing pedestrian routes for tourists, it states that “The following inexpensive inns are within easy marches of each other: “....Jackson (9M), Trickey's Jackson - Falls House; Copp’s farm - house (14M) 3M beyond the Glen House; Gorham, Eagle House....”
There is then a reference in a discussion to how a fortnight’s mixed tour could be arranged. “Twelfth day - Railroad through the White - Mt. Notch to N. Conway; ascent of Mt. Kearsarge. Another route might lead from N. Conway to Jackson Falls (12M) and the ascent of Thorn Mt. (3M); Jackson Falls to the Glen House (13M) or Copp’s (16M).”
The purpose of the 1887 handbook was stated to be “to supply the summer tourist with such information as may render his visit to the White Mountains both pleasant and profitable. The villages and hotels among the mountains have been described with care.” A further reference then describes “Copp’s farm house” as “an inexpensive inn.”
Excerpt from 1891 USGS
A letter to a newspaper dated 2/28/1886 found in the USFS file cites a meeting between Hayes Copp and “a clergyman from Massachusetts, who visited him and found him very sociable.
Among other questions asked by the minister was this: ’Do you have good neighbors?’ ‘Ah yes,’ he said, ‘and I always get along without any trouble, that neighbor,’ pointing to a house near, ‘I have not spoken to for over thirty years, I never have any trouble with him.’”
The Copp parents sold their farm to son Nathaniel Copp in 1884, and he in turn sold it 18 months later in 1885 to the Libby Family who ran a sawmill in Gorham. That company then held the property for 30 years, selling it to the Forest Service on 3/27/1915.
The USFS archive contains a well known Guy Shorey photo of the dilapidated and abandoned Copp dwelling, taken between 1900 and 1915.
But a second Shorey photo of the abandoned Copp home was also taken at the same time. It provides a view from a slightly different angle, and more of the ell to the rear is revealed.
This second photo confirms that the barn must have been directly attached to the ell or house. As the home was only a ruin site on the map of 1915, it must have collapsed or been removed between 1900 and 1915.
Copp homesite site then and now.
This date range is then greatly narrowed by Sarah Jordan, who states: “At the time of the 1914 purchase agreement between E. Libby & Sons Co. and the US Department of Agriculture, the Copp buildings appear to be standing.” But then the home and barn are shown as ruins on the map of 1915.
Cross in his 1927 history of the Copps cites Copp Farm apple trees still present that year. Then the Guide to New Hampshire prepared by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Federal Works Progress Administration, viewing the Copp Memorial area in 1938, found that “the remnants of their apple orchard are visible behind the foundations.”
Author F. A. Burt writing in 1960 documented Dolly's old apple trees surviving until that time. As there are several very old apple trees still here as of 2007, it seems they must be some of those observed by Burt in 1960.
Protected in a little woods on the south side of Site 55 is perhaps the oldest apple tree, multi-trunked and gnarled. A woodsy buffer there follows a little brook, with the roots of this venerable tree anchored aside the watercourse.
Writing in 1996 the Shouldis Family remembers; “We used to pick apples in the Riverside area at Dolly Copp and near the ball field, and then make great apple sauce for us and some of our camper friends.”
MEMORIAL. After 1915 this site was never so overgrown or forgotten as to loose its status as a landmark. As evidence a 1919 reference to old turnpikes recorded the abandoned cellar hole here that year.
Then a Forest Service memo of 1927 makes reference to “the old Dolly Copp place,” and a 1933 news report by R. S. Monahan states that “The Homestead was left to the ravages of time, which reduced it to a dilapidated cellar hole.”
One version of the origins of the Memorial here is recorded in the 1980 short unsigned history;
In 1932 one of the female campers from Massachusetts became upset by the fact that the site of the Copp farmstead was receiving no care or recognition. In addition, the Forest Service had erected latrines in close proximity to the site.
She wrote to the Forest Supervisor concerning the matter and suggested a meeting of interested campers to try and raise money for protecting the site and volunteer labor for stabilizing the cellar hole and landscaping the area.
Her effort was successful and culminated in the Memorial we see today.
Then according to a 9/7/1933 Berlin Reporter article:
One of the first men to start work in rebuilding the cellar walls and cleaning debris from the site was Mr. James A. Howes of Eastondale, Mass. Later the Association was formed to plan the work and assist in grading the lawn, building the rustic fence, planting the pine trees and procuring and placing the boulder.
An archive in the Smithsonian Museum states that "Funds for the memorial were raised by campers at the Dolly Copp Campground, assisted by members of the Gorham Women's Club." Additional perspective is provided by excerpts from an unattributed news article in 1932:
This year the Dolly Copp campers of years standing had a vision of the restoration of the Dolly Copp cellar and of erecting a permanent monument to the now famous woman. All the association had to work on was the portion of the rock wall that was laid by Dolly Copp’s husband “Nat” Copp or Hayes Dodifer Copp.
A crew of men with a leader excavated the old wall and solicitors raised enough money to rebuild the original wall, using the same stone and laying it in the same location.
The work is almost completed. The wall is standing in its old glory. Four corner stones have been placed and chains will be used to mark off the old homestead site. The government has filled and leveled off the remainder of the plot and a boulder from the ground will be hauled in and placed within. A noted sculptor has offered to make a model of the old homestead and this statue will be cast and placed on the boulder.
Dedication of Dolly
Copp Memorial August 30, 1933.
The memorial was formally dedicated on Wednesday, August 30, 1933 at 2 P.M. According to the Berlin Reporter:
There were several hundred people, campers, summer tourists and townspeople, gathered by the site of the old Copp homestead.” An invocation by a minister opened the ceremony. There was singing accompanied by an organ brought in for the occasion.
The speaker of the afternoon was the Reverend H. M. Ogilby of Brookline, Mass., who told events of Dolly's and Hayes’ lives. According to the Berlin Reporter “In the course of his remarks he introduced four of those present who had known Dolly and Hayes personally; Laban Watson of Randolph, A.G. Philbrook of Shelburne, C. C. Libby of Gorham and Mrs. John McLellen of Berlin, all of whom received a hearty hand.”
The monument was unveiled by Glen Franklin Benedict, the three year old son of Forest Guard and Mrs. Earl F. Benedict. We also know from the Berlin Reporter press account that “The tablet was designed by Albert Oertel, Boston Sculptor, and an annual visitor to Dolly Copp for the past 14 years.” Also that ‘the monument is a large boulder from the outlying forest.'
Memorial near 1940.
plaque is registered with the Smithsonian Museum
as a significant example of American outdoor art. The Smithsonian
archive notes inscriptions of sculptor A. Oertel on the bottom
edge and caster T. F. McGann & Sons on the plaque below relief.
The monument and its dignified environs have given the Campground an extra touch of class ever since their construction. See this close up of the monument today.
The next historic tidbit on home site history in the USFS file is dated 1947. That year the Campers Association requested of the Forest Service staff “that a lawn mower be made available in order that they might keep the grounds around the Dolly Copp Memorial in better shape. They also requested permission to trim the trees in that vicinity.”
The paved parking space here today just north of the Memorial exemplify how some parking was arranged in Dolly Copp in early decades; many small multi-car lots rather than today's driveways set aside exclusively for each site.
Into the nineties, at the head of these two parking spaces, was a quaint notice board. It displayed camp rules pleasingly set on natural wood.
Correspondence of 1954 from the Secretary of the Campers Association to the Forest Supervisor reveals that campers communicated with each other by a billboard; She “had a camp site near the Dolly Copp Memorial facing the Imp. Well, this year before camp opened, knowing that I was to have charge of the bulletin board located on the Memorial site, I asked if I could have this location.”
The north side stepping stone at the side door of the rear ell of the Copp home was identifiable as such in 1953. But that year it was removed by staff for use as a curbstone and step to the gate house of that era, in front of today's telephones (CH).
For historical accuracy it was returned in 1998, (at Casey Hodgson's urging, it was he and his USFS crew had removed it in 1953) as near to its original location as possible, which could not be precisely determined due to regrading of the Memorial area in the sixties (CH).
The 1942 photo above shows rows of spruce paralleling
a short walkway easterly from the roadside curbstone to the Memorial
Stone. An old Campers Association document referencing the new
stone and tablet states that "This was done with the authorization
of the U.S. Forest Service, who also planted the evergreens on
either side of the path leading to the memorial as well as fencing
in the area."
After the early sixties the cellar hole for the Copp home was filled in, bringing the grade up to its current level. Presumably this was a precaution for public safety. I can remember climbing down into the hole in 1962, before the fill was added.
To the rear, the barn was removed long ago but a significant remnant is visible. As with many old barns, a ramp from ground level led up to a raised main floor. The ramp is nicely preserved, located between the homestead and Site 155, a tangible link with the labors of Hayes Copp.
Remnant of ramp angled up to the Copp Barn.
In the brush to the rear of the home site are large boulders. According to Casey Hodgdon these are remnants of the barn foundation.
ARCHAEOLOGY. We owe a significant debt to USFS archaeologist Sarah Jordan and her team for their very fine work in 2004 at the homestead site. See the 2004 homesite archaeological report (1.46MB). According to Jordan:
Activities on the farm are documented in the US Census of Agriculture, taken in 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. Throughout this period, the Copp Farm remained the same size: 200 acres, corresponding with the two lots the Copps eventually sold in 1884.
In 1850 and 1860, only 30 of the 200 acres were cleared and farmed. Farms in the Martin's Location area were somewhat larger than other farms in the White Mountains, and 30 acres of cleared farmland was about average for the area in 1860. The legend says that Dolly Copp was an active participant in the clearing of the farm.
Between 1860 and 1870, an additional 20 acres were cleared. The 1880 census- the most detailed- specifies that of the 200 acres, 30 were tilled cropland, 20 were meadow or pasture, and 150 were unimproved woodland.
The primary products produced by the Copps throughout the period covered by the census, as with most farms in the surrounding area, were Irish potatoes and butter.
They also grew hay, oats, and small amounts of wheat and corn. They produced wool, raising 7-11 sheep, and had 9-12 cattle over the span of the four decennial agricultural censuses covering their occupation of the farm. In 1870 and 1880 forest products were quantified in the census, and were a major source of income for the Copps.
The Copp farm appears
to have remained fairly stable in production between 1850 and
1860, a period when the three oldest Copp children, born between
1832 and 1838, were still living at home, though they married
and left the farm by 1860.
Although the Copp farm
produced similar numbers of crops and products in 1870 and 1880,
the estimated value of all farm production fell from $899 to $425.
This drop in prices was a regional trend: 'Prices of many staples, especially grain, were in almost continuous decline from peaks reached at the Civil War’s end, as cheap western grain, helped by railroad rate cuts, flooded in.
The flax that Cross reports Dolly grew 'in the narrow flax field by the river' and spun on her flax wheel is not indicated by the Agriculture Census; the Copps produced no flax or flax seed in any census year (Cross 1927: 14).
New informational boards
were added to the Memorial site in May of 2008.
From the 1830s on, flax growing for home use was on the decline, as linen mills produced by machine the linen that required a labor intensive and time consuming process to produce by hand, and by 1860 home linen production was nearly eradicated as inexpensive mill produced cotton goods became widely available (Russell 1982: 224-226).
Sarah Jordan's analysis also significantly modifies the perception of the Copp home doubling as an inn over the decades. According to her analysis;
The Copp Farm is not mentioned in Tripp & Osgood's 1852 description of the tourist attractions of the Peabody River Valley. Like many families on the White Mountains, the Copps probably took in the occasional traveler, as in Cross's account of Eugene B. Cook, an early president of the Appalachian Mountain Club, as a storm bound guest of the Copps.
However, Hayes Copp was never listed as anything other than ‘farmer’ in the US Census, and Dolly as anything other than ‘keeping house’, suggesting that they did not identify themselves as innkeepers, and their hospitality activities were not a significant source of income from 1850 to 1860 (Cross 1927:13).
Samuel Adams Drake visited the Copps sometime in the 1870’s, and describes the ‘weather stained farm house’ as known to tourists who ‘make a detour as far as Copps, in order to view the Imp to better advantage than can be done from the road [between the Glen House and Gorham],’ some of whom ‘now and then’ knocked at the door asking to have the rock formation on the opposite side of the Peabody River Valley pointed out to them (Drake 1882: 165).
It is clear that the Copp house was known to tourists, but Drake makes no mention of the house functioning as an inn; and far from received as a commonplace occurrence, his appearance at the door seems to have created quite a stir among the family, which at that time included Hayes and Dolly, both in their sixties, and their son Nathaniel, who was in his forties (Drake 1882: 167).
Tourist guidebooks from the period of the Copps’ residence at the farm make no mention of ‘Dolly's good food and comfortable beds,’ which Cross describes as ‘widely known’ (Cross 1927: 12).
The Copp Farm is occasionally mentioned in editions of The White Mountains: A Handbook for Travelers, but usually only as the best viewing point for the Imp (Osgood 1876 and 1882: 108-109, Ticknor 1887: 108-109).
The 1887 version of the Handbook, based on revisions made in 1884, the year the Copps sold the farm, does mention the Copp farm in a list of inexpensive places to stay, which is a change from the 1882 edition.
It is possible that the
Copps began to rely on boarders for income more heavily in their
last year or two on the farm, as it became difficult to make a
profit from their agricultural endeavors.
Cross claims that Dolly was known for her "handicraft" and enterprisingly sold farm products to tourists; however, as the agriculture census indicates, Dolly produced more home manufactured goods in 1850, before the Glen House was built and significant tourist traffic existed, than in any of the following census years (Cross 1927: 18, US Census of Agriculture 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880).
It seems likely that the Copps would have in some way taken advantage of the Glen House tourist market for farm products such as butter and wool. But none of the cheese, flax, or maple products Cross ascribes to her were ever enumerated as products of the Copp farm.