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Above: The Ark, now a Bible Conference (1808-today)
Monadnock's History of
Pleasure and Protection
First Recorded Ascent
The first recorded ascent of Monadnock was July 31, 1725 by Captain Samuel Willard and his men during the Indian Wars and discovered 26 ponds surrounding the mountain.
The ownership of the land goes back to a John Mason Grant in 1629 which included the southern 2/3's of New Hampshire. In 1746 a syndicate known as the Masonian Proprietors bought out for £1500 the southwestern part of the state. In 1749 the investors opened the Monadnock townships of Dublin and Jaffrey, divided them up into 100+- acre lots for settlement. One of the last remnants of the Masonian proprietorship is the Masonian Reservation in a trail-less valley between Dublin and Pumpelly trails. The Masonian tract was later granted to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to be kept forever for public in a wild and primeval state.
The Halfway House Site
At the present day Halfway House Site, in 1860, Moses Cudworth built a modest house for living quarters, stabling visitor's horses and providing accommodations for a few. The land was sold in 1864 vested to Mrs. Abbie Rice and managed by George Rice. In 1866 George Rice opened a three and a half story hotel modeled from the finest resorts in the day. Known as the Mountain House, the hotel burned down that fall. In 1867 a small successor about the size of an A. M. C. hut was built. The land transferred again and In 1868 a two and a half story hotel opened. The hotel later expanded and became known as the Halfway House. The Halfway House became a center of hiking trails to many scenic places on the mountain. Times changed in the 20th century and the hotel deteriorated and burned down in 1954. A refreshment stand and rest area was at the site but after being vandalized was torn down in 1969.
Above: Point Discovery
Half Way House Trail History
Hotels occupied the Half Way House Site from 1866 to 1954 where guests would stay in the summer. Hotel guests laid out an abundant network of trails that emanated from the hotel to the many vistas and scenic places on the mountain. Since the Halfway House hotel burned in 1954 the state park stopped maintaining a number of paths.
There are some interesting and scenic paths no longer on current maps such as the Smith Marlboro Link or the Muncy Trail. Many trails have faded and are now quite blind for example the Link or the Tenderfoot Trail. Others that are no longer on state park maps are still fairly clear paths such as Paradise Valley Trail. There is still a fine network of maintained paths for peaceful and scenic hiking away from the crowds of the main trails on today’s state park maps without doing any wild exploring.
Printed in 1910 Scott Smith made an early map of the Half Way House trails laid out from 1894-1909. Most of these trails are still on the state park map and most of the network is still clear today. In 1930 Allen Chamberlain laid out a more modern map of the Half Way House network. In 1952 an updated Halfway House Trail map came out but two years later the Hotel burned and a number of paths were not kept on state park maps.
A large farmhouse was built on the southeastern side of the mountain in 1808, known as the Ark, now a bible conference at the bottom of Poole Road. With the popularity of the mountain in summertime, the Ark started taking in guests in the 1870's due to the Ark being located on the southeast side of the mountain. Early trails dating from the Ark are the Pasture Trail in 1897 and another the Red Cross Trail in 1909. The Ark is now a bible conference.
In 1800-1820 a series of uncontrolled fires burned the upper slopes of the mountain bare. The mountain at this time was already an attraction and in 1825 traffic was enough that Dinsmore's Tavern was built high on the mountain to serve spirits to visitors located just north of Bald Rock.
A modest crude stone cabin pre-dating the Halfway House known as Fassett's Mountain House was catering to visitors starting in 1856. Joseph Fassett didn't own the land and squatted the land and died suddenly in 1858. It was reported that the house was open until 1860 but then was abandoned. Remains of Fassett's Mountain House are right by the Fairy Spring Trail.
Thoreau and Emerson made Monadnock famous in the 1850's and 1860's with their poetry and descriptions of the mountain.
Protecting Monadnock in the 19th Century
A hotel on the southern side of the mountain known as the Halfway House nearly legally acquired the land to the summit with a quit-claim deed or squatters title. This land comprised of the summit to the Halfway House Site, Monte Rosa, Bald Rock, Inspiration Rock and the upper part of the White Dot and White Cross Trails. Julius Cutter and the Jaffrey Selectmen were concerned about the land of Mount Monadnock going into private hands, searched records and found the heirs to Reverend Laban Ainsworth who originally owned the tract of land. The heirs of Laban Ainsworth had the tract of land granted, for public pleasure, to the town of Jaffrey in 1884 just prior to the Halfway House quit-claim deed reached 20 years.
Above: Former Hinkley Trail
Monadnock in the 20th Century
In the 20th Century the trails in Monadnock State Park southeast of the mountain have changed quite a bit. Early main trails such as Pasture Trail and Red Cross Trail have been long abandoned and now the White Dot and White Cross Trails are the main trails from the State Park to Monadnock's summit. The network of paths emanating from the Ark to summit was mapped by E. J. Harling in 1916 and is much different than today's State Park trails. Poole Road to the State Park was built over the lower section of the Red Cross Trail around 1920 to where people today park their cars. The trails originally started up from the Ark and now the trails start at the top of Poole Road. The Red Cross Trail was abandoned in 1938 after the hurricane of 1938, and Mead Brook which the trail followed in its middle section was a water source for the Town of Jaffrey. The White Dot Trail was a more direct route to the summit than the Pasture Trail which faded in disuse over the last century. Many of the older routes from the Ark and within the State Park land have long been disused and are lost.
Protecting Monadnock in the 20th Century
The protection of Monadnock has occurred in many ways in the 20th century. In 1904 a Jaffrey landowner who owned land on the southeastern side of the mountain where several popular trails went through started logging the land. The landowner was also interested in selling the stumpage rights. Realizing the devastation that would ensue to that side of the mountain concerned citizens took action to protect the tract of land. Acting through an organization known as the Monadnock Forestry Association with the help of donors and was largely underwritten by the Poole family, raised the money to acquire the land. That summer the petitioners filed an adequate $8000 bond to acquire the land and the State of NH took by eminent domain what is now Monadnock State Park.
Another significant tract of land to the north where the Pumpelly trail crosses was to be developed with a road and houses up the ridge. In 1915 a Judge ruled that the Masonian heirs owned the land on the ridge and the developer the land north of the ridge. Along with a 125 acre tract of land from the Derby family 775 acres of land was transferred in 1916 to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Monadnock's northern slopes were protected from development to be kept forever for the public in a wild state. That is why there are no trails in the large valley between Pumpelly and Dublin Trails.
In the 20th century there were more tracts of land acquired and more efforts to protect the mountain. In 1940 a road to the summit was defeated. Plans for an unsightly radio tower were defeated in 1945. There was a small structure on the summit from 1912 to 1972. Now is a square cut into the rock on the summit. Due to litter problems Monadnock State Park adopted the first carry in carry out philosophy in 1984 and removed trash barrels. Dogs were banned in 1986 due to too many dogs defecating, fighting each other, biting hikers, trampling and harassing wildlife.
Busses were recently banned from the Old Toll Rd. due to lack of facilities for large groups and are diverted to headquarters. Also group hiking is now limited and now 1500 kid days on the mountain are thankfully history. The mountain currently gets over 100,000 visits a year. The first new NH State Park campground in 40 years as of July 2010 is now open over by Gilson Pond.
The protected land has expanded over the years and surrounds much of the mountain except for the start of the Pumpelly Trail which is an area which is in need of protection and permanent trail access. With the generosity of landowners, the Forest Society has acquired and protected open space from development, adding more tracts of land surrounding Mount Monadnock. SPNHF has a map of currently protected lands. Protecting Monadnock and public pleasure has long been a part of Grand Monadnock's history.
Researched and Composed by Frederick Pitcher, 2010 Edition (see contact author)
Annals of Grand Monadnock©1936 (SPNHF) Allen Chamberlain
Monadnock Records of 3 Centuries©1925 (Stratford Press, New York) Helen Cushing Nutting
Monadnock, More than a Mountain©2007 (Surry Cottage Books) Craig Brandon
Monadnock Guide©1970 (SPNHF) Henry I Baldwin
Below: Former Halfway House
Monadnock Trails website: Author, Creator, and photos by Frederick Pitcher 2015
Use of the information on this site is the sole risk of the user. The author is not responsible for the trails or anyone's ability to follow them. In addition to the trails there are certain places in this website described that are off trail. Anyone exploring Monadnock does so at their own risk.
Monadnock Trails, Monadnock Mountain, Monadnock History, New Hampshire Trails, Maps, Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey History, Monadnock, Hiking New Hampshire, Mt Monadnock, NH