The White Mountains

: 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,

xplorer, 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


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


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.