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The White Mountains






Category: TALES OF PURITAN LAND

Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

From times of old these noble hills have been the scenes of supernatural
visitations and mysterious occurrences. The tallest peak of the
Agiochooks--as they were, in Indian naming--was the seat of God himself,
and the encroachment there of the white man was little liked. Near
Fabyan's was once a mound, since levelled by pick and spade, that was
known as the Giant's Grave. Ethan Allen Crawford, a skilful hunter,
daring explorer, and man of herculean frame, lived, died, and is buried
here, and near the ancient hillock he built one of the first public
houses in the mountains. It was burned. Another, and yet another hostelry
was builded on the site, but they likewise were destroyed by fire. Then
the enterprise was abandoned, for it was remembered that an Indian once
mounted this grave, waved a torch from its top, and cried in a loud
voice, No pale-face shall take root on this spot. This has the Great
Spirit whispered in my ear.

Governor Wentworth, while on a lonely tour through his province, found
this cabin of Crawford's and passed a night there, tendering many
compliments to the austere graces of the lady of the house and drinking
himself into the favor of the husband, who proclaimed him the prince of
good fellows. On leaving, the guest exacted of Crawford a visit to
Wolfeborough, where he was to inquire for Old Wentworth. This visit was
undertaken soon after, and the sturdy frontiersman was dismayed at
finding himself in the house of the royal governor; but his reception was
hearty enough to put him at his ease, and when he returned to the
mountains he carried in his pocket a deed of a thousand acres of forest
about his little farm. The family that he founded became wealthy and
increased, by many an acre, the measure of that royal grant.

Not far below this spot, in the wildest part of the Notch, shut in by
walls of rock thousands of feet high, is the old Willey House, and this,
too, was the scene of a tragedy, for in 1826 a storm loosened the soil on
Mount Willey and an enormous landslide occurred. The people in the house
rushed forth on hearing the approach of the slide and met death almost at
their door. Had they remained within they would have been unharmed, for
the avalanche was divided by a wedge of rock behind the house, and the
little inn was saved. Seven people are known to have been killed, and it
was rumored that there was another victim in a young man whose name was
unknown and who was walking through the mountains to enjoy their beauty.
The messenger who bore the tidings of the destruction of the family was
barred from reaching North Conway by the flood in the Saco, so he stood
at the brink of the foaming river and rang a peal on a trumpet. This
blast echoing around the hills in the middle of the night roused several
men from their beds to know its meaning. The dog belonging to the inn is
said to have given first notice to people below the Notch that something
was wrong, but his moaning and barking were misunderstood, and after
running back and forth, as if to summon help, he disappeared. At the hour
of the accident James Willey, of Conway, had a dream in which he saw his
dead brother standing by him. He related the story of the catastrophe to
the sleeping man and said that when the world's last knell sounded they
were going for safety to the foot of the steep mountain, for the Saco had
risen twenty-four feet in seven hours and threatened to ingulf them in
front.

Another spot of interest in the Notch is Nancy's Brook. It was at the
point where this stream comes foaming from Mount Nancy into the great
ravine that the girl whose name is given to it was found frozen to death
in a shroud of snow in the fall of 1788. She had set out alone from
Jefferson in search of a young farmer who was to have married her, and
walked thirty miles through trackless snow between sunset and dawn. Then
her strength gave out and she sank beside the road never to rise again.
Her recreant lover went mad with remorse when he learned the manner of
her death and did not long survive her, and men who have traversed the
savage passes of the Notch on chill nights in October have fancied that
they heard, above the clash of the stream and whispering of the woods,
long, shuddering groans mingled with despairing cries and gibbering
laughter.

The birth of Peabody River came about from a cataclysm of less violent
nature than some of the avalanches that have so scarred the mountains. In
White's History of New England, Mr. Peabody, for whom the stream is
named, is reported as having taken shelter in an Indian cabin on the
heights where the river has its source. During the night a loud roaring
waked the occupants of the hut and they sprang forth, barely in time to
save their lives; for, hardly had they gained the open ground before a
cavern burst open in the hill and a flood of water gushed out, sweeping
away the shelter and cutting a broad swath through the forest.

Although the Pilot Mountains are supposed to have taken their name from
the fact that they served as landmarks to hunters who were seeking the
Connecticut River from the Lancaster district, an old story is still told
of one Willard, who was lost amid the defiles of this range, and nearly
perished with hunger. While lying exhausted on the mountainside his dog
would leave him every now and then and return after a couple of hours.
Though Willard was half dead, he determined to use his last strength in
following the animal, and as a result was led by a short cut to his own
camp, where provisions were plenty, and where the intelligent creature
had been going for food. The dog was christened Pilot, in honor of this
service, and the whole range is thought by many to be named in his honor.

Waternomee Falls, on Hurricane Creek, at Warren, are bordered with rich
moss where fairies used to dance and sing in the moonlight. These sprites
were the reputed children of Indians that had been stolen from their
wigwams and given to eat of fairy bread, that dwarfed and changed them in
a moment. Barring their kidnapping practices the elves were an innocent
and joyous people, and they sought more distant hiding-places in the
wilderness when the stern churchmen and cruel rangers penetrated their
sylvan precincts.

An old barrack story has it that Lieutenant Chamberlain, who fought under
Lovewell, was pursued along the base of Melvin Peak by Indians and was
almost in their grasp when he reached Ossipee Falls. It seemed as if
there were no alternative between death by the tomahawk and death by a
fall to the rocks below, for the chasm here is eighteen feet wide; but
without stopping to reckon chances he put his strength into a running
jump, and to the amazement of those in pursuit and perhaps to his own
surprise he cleared the gap and escaped into the woods. The foremost of
the Indians attempted the leap, but plunged to his death in the ravine.

The Eagle Range was said to be the abode, two hundred years ago, of a man
of strange and venerable appearance, whom the Indians regarded with
superstitious awe and never tried to molest. He slept in a cave on the
south slope and ranged the forest in search of game, muttering and
gesturing to himself. He is thought to be identified with Thomas Crager,
whose wife had been hanged in Salem as a witch, and whose only child had
been stolen by Indians. After a long, vain search for the little one he
gave way to a bitter moroseness, and avoided the habitations of civilized
man and savages alike. It is a satisfaction to know that before he died
he found his daughter, though she was the squaw of an Indian hunter and
was living with his tribe on the shore of the St. Lawrence.





Next: The Vision On Mount Adams

Previous: The Ball Game By The Saco



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