5. HISTORICAL SETTING

Dolly Copp Campground is an important recreational resource in northern New Hampshire's White Mountains, situated within a rugged and inspiring natural setting. The locale is known as Martin’s Location, a 3.8 square mile unincorporated township with no permanent population.


A broad view of the Campground vicinity
(red circle) is shown on the above USGS
map, and in detail at a larger scale (1.43 MB).

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Another USGS view, also available
with more area and detail (1.04 MB).

Much has been written about the lives of pioneers Hayes Copp 1806-1889 and his wife Dolly Emery Copp (1807-1891), the first settlers here. But missing until this research had been the story of the Campground that bears their name.

The purpose of this work is to present that story, the development of Dolly Copp Campground, and thereby increase enjoyment of and respect for this special place. Hopefully future governmental decisions regarding Dolly Copp can take into consideration preserving its distinctive history.

Laid out in the twenties and thirties on old farms including the Dolly Copp home site, the development of the Campground's many scenic lanes is a surprisingly complex story.

Numerous traces of this past remain visible in the landscape today. The overview map below provides the road framework for these changes over time:



Campground development over time.
See larger map of above (261 kb).

The vicinity of Dolly Copp Campground was not yet a tourist area when Hayes Copp was the first to settle here in 1827. As agriculture is less fruitful at higher elevations (1,250 feet here, see colored topographic map 937KB) and in shaded valleys, it was likely one of the last available virgin level sites suitable for farm development.

US Forest Service archaeologist Sarah Jordan's 2004 homesite archaeological report suggests that “although they resided on the property, the Copps did not own it for the entire 50 years. They may have paid rent as tenants, but squatting was common on the undeveloped land of the Pinkham Notch/Gorham area during the early nineteenth century.

The proprietors at this time would allow a man to settle on a lot without paying for it in hope that he would improve the lot and possibly be able to pay for it in the future and take title to it. This arrangement was used to get new settlers.”

The new road built by Daniel Pinkham past the Copp Farm, replacing a crude path, was built to link New Hampshire's Upper Connecticut River Valley towns via Randolph southeasterly to the seacoast. North Country historian Floyd Ramsey says the broadening valley floor here was known early on as Glen Peabody.

Such early roads were usually cut eight feet wide, following a line of trees marked by surveyors. It was possible that cattle drives to the Portland, Maine market passed the early Copp home.

Excerpt from 1910 Cutter Map
showing main road (Pinkham B Road)
passing by landmark "Dolly Copp Farm",
Glen Road following Peabody River at lower right.


An 1861 map assigned the name “Old Pinkham Notch Road”, later maps used “Pinkham B Road” and most recently "Dolly Copp Road." This historic route, until 1951 a state highway, today serves as the now dead ended main campground road. The relocated thru road is now “Dolly Copp Road” at its east end under USFS jurisdiction and "Pinkham B Road" at its west end under Town of Randolph jurisdiction.

The White Mountains themselves had been considered by early Americans to be an unfortunate waste of land. Climbing them for sport back when Hayes settled was then almost unknown.

The nearest peak of the Presidential Range to Dolly Copp, Mount Madison, was not even formally named until 1820. But due to its great height, Mount Washington nearby began to draw scientific and tourist interest early on.

Idealized view of young Hayes and
Dolly from paper jacket of the 1952 book
"The Pilgrim Soul" by Anne Miller Downes.

By 1850 the early negative view of mountains was changing in New Hampshire and across the nation.

According to the Forest Service’s campground brochure “Neighbors were scarce and temporary for the first 20 years in the Glen. The Pinkhams came and left by 1836, followed by the Samuel Copp family and others, all leaving by 1847....“ In the 1840’s the Baker’s developed the farm upon which the Culhanes’ would soon settle.

Continuing, “New neighbors came in the 1850's, families with names left as legacies in the Glen. Thomas and Patrick Culhane (Culhane Brook) and their families settled nearby. Yates and Mary Barnes (Barnes Field Campground and nearby Brook) located farther north along the Randolph Road” (Pinkham B Road - Dolly Copp Road).

Setting of three adjacent farms circa 1870 in relation to today's road
features. Farm era cropland shown in yellow, pasture
in light green, white is surrounding forest. Precise
boundaries between farms indeterminate.
See map above at larger scale.


A major event inducing commerce and travel on what is now adjacent NH Route 16 was the arrival of the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad service to Gorham in 1851.



Railroad from Maine on the
westerly approach to Gorham. Mt. Madison
is at center, then Mt. Washington is to its left.

This rail service to Portland, Maine and then on to Boston arrived from the east via Maine and the Androscoggin River Valley. Now there was pressure for popular Mount Washington to be reached from its until now more remote eastern slope as well as from its already accessible western face.

The late local historian Vina Gorham stated that before 1851 there was at least a horse trail along the Peabody River between Gorham and the Copp Farm but no road.

Then in 1851 it was voted at a Gorham town meeting “to lay out a road up the valley of the Peabody River and raise $100 to be used on said road provided the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad Company would make a passable wheel road up to the south line of Gorham.”

The nearby and very upscale Glen House hotel then opened in 1852. It was at the base of a bridle path up Mount Washington to a second hotel on the summit.

Thus, during the lifetimes of the Copps, the growing draw of the White Mountains was radically transforming the appeal of the area around their pioneer homestead.



The luxurious Glen House near 1866,
2.6 miles south of the bridge from
the Glen Road over to the Copp Farm.

Nearby Mount Washington would become a central focus of regional tourism. The road south to North Conway, today's Route 16, was also becoming more important.

Mount Washington's "Carriage Road,” opened on this east slope in 1861. One of the Copp sons worked on the project. It is believed the Copps sold farm produce to the nearby Glen House.



Early view of the "Carriage Road," now
the "Auto Road," on nearby Mount Washington.

The 1860 census indicates nineteen persons living in Martin’s Location that year. East of the Peabody River on the north-south Glen Road, an 1861 map has a notation of “J. Bellows” to the south of the bridge and perhaps an additional family (structure shown but no name) to the north.

Then crossing the bridge to the west side of the the Peabody River were “H & D. Copp”, P & J Culhane”, then out near the Gorham Town Line “Mrs. Barnes.”

Attracting people in the later decades of the 1800's was the development of hiking trails into the mountains accessed from the Peabody River Valley. The modern hiking motives of sport, adventure and health had their start in the 1870's, as the Copps were getting old.

Drawing from early 1960's or earlier
of the Copp home in its prime.




Artifact from the Copp Homestead. See Dolly Copp's
spinning wheel at the Gorham Historical Society
Museum in the 1907 Gorham Railroad Station.

The Appalachian Mountain Club was organized in 1876, when the first books on “how to camp out” also appeared. Trails into the nearby Great Gulf and across the Carter Range to the east were built in the 1880's.

By 1882 Copp Family lore was already part of the history of the White Mountains. This is evidenced by a delightful excerpt from a book published that year entitled "The Heart of the White Mountains."

Late in the 1800's and into the 1900's the area was also heavily logged. Remnants of logging roads can be traced in and around Dolly Copp today.

The 1880 census identified five dwellings in Martin’s Location, the Copps, Culhanes and three others, all five at that time providing housing for loggers:

There was Edward Hanson and his family with 8 boarders; 1 teamster, 2 wood choppers, 5 who work in the woods, and all 8 from Canada. Then there was Frank Brooks and family with 4 boarders, the boarders all Canadian and all working in the woods. There was also Antoine Fanger (approximate spelling) with his wife and children, with four wood working boarders from Canada.

An article in the Berlin Daily Sun of 8/3/2001 entitled “Trail of the Week, Imp Trail Loop” by Chad Dryden cites a remnant of the logging period; “Twenty-five minutes from the cliff ledge, the trail reaches a junction with the North Carter Trail, and then passes a defunct logging camp and follows and old logging road pretty much the rest of the way back to NH 16.”

An interesting comment on the Copp farm area is found in the 1887 Ticknor Handbook for Travelers in the White Mountains. It states that “of all the highways about the mountains that which leads from Gorham or the Glen House to Jefferson Hill is the most renowned for scenic splendor.”

Hiking trail development continued between 1880 and 1900. Weekend hiking was then greatly facilitated once the automobile arrived. The need for a weekend sleep over site for climbers was one of the pressures leading to the creation of Dolly Copp Campground, located as it is near the highest peaks.

 


A TRIBUTE TO THE
CONTRIBUTIONS OF
GORHAM PHOTOGRAPHER
GUY SHOREY

Source: Scott McClory Collection

 

 

Guy Shorey of Gorham was a famous photographer specializing in scenes of the White Mountains. He lived eighty years, 1881 to 1961. I remember original Shorey post cards were still readily available for ten cents each at Welsh's Restaurant in Gorham in 1962 (JC), all now collectors items.

Mr. Shorey produced post cards for tourists and climbers, also larger framed prints of key landmarks. This history owes a significant debt to this photographer for so much of his now historic photography graces this web site.

Commercially active as a photographer at a young age, Shorey was in business by 1900. He was also a camper at Dolly Copp, a 1936 Forest Service record documenting that fact.

And to this project’s’ great advantage, in his early years Shorey took four priceless photos that are a foundation stone for this history. Estimated to be circa 1910 to 1915, the four show scenes along rustic Pinkham B Road before it became the location of Dolly Copp Campground.

UPPER LEFT: ABANDONED COPP
HOMESTEAD ON PINKHAM B ROAD

LOWER LEFT: PINKHAM B ROAD
WITH CARTER NOTCH TO SOUTH

It has not been finally determined if this view is north or south of the Copp Homestead.
The board bridge over a small stream provides one clue, field evaluation of the
the alignment of minor ridges under Carter Notch will be the other.

UPPER RIGHT: PEABODY RIVER
FROM NEAR END TODAY’S BIRCH
LANE WITH CARTER NOTCH TO SOUTH

Photo courtesy of Scott McClory.

LOWER RIGHT: PINKHAM B ROAD
BRIDGE ACROSS PEABODY RIVER

Photo courtesy of Scott McClory.