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Wandering Through Sandwich Notch

By Mary Emma Allen - American Roads Travel Magazine

Dodge/NH Division Of Travel & Tourism Development
Travelers, and those who live nearby, find Sandwich Notch a fascinating place to explore in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, particularly if they enjoy the wilderness and would like to recapture the aura of the Granite State’s early days.As my family and I wander along the hilly, winding dirt road through the notch which connects the regions around the village of Sandwich and Waterville Valley, we seem far from civilization and can glimpse the unspoiled natural beauty of our state.

We can hike part of the way and take other trails which branch off this road. Or if we feel energetic, place cars at each end of Sandwich Notch Road and walk the full length...approximately nine miles.

Two books the traveler might want to read before trekking this mountain road are "The Road Through Sandwich Notch" by Elizabeth Yates (relating her hike along this route and her explorations of its history) and the "Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide."

Road Once Heavily Traveled

NH Division Of Travel & Tourism Development

Although Sandwich Notch now seems isolated (there is only one old house left standing at the western end of the road), I discovered that it once was a busy place. More than 300 families lived along its length in the early and middle 1800s; a thriving settlement existed, and the heavily traveled road (for those days) was maintained.

Sandwich Notch Road once was an important commercial roadway over which carts and wagons passed in summer and sleds in winter. During this era, farmers in northern New Hampshire and Vermont brought their produce across the mountain road to markets in the coastal cities of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine.

Settled in the 1700s

Grant NH Division Of Travel & Tourism Development

The town of Sandwich was settled in 1765. By 1795 a widely used cart track had been established through the Notch. Eventually a tax of two cents an acre on all town of Sandwich lands was levied to pay for construction of a road across the Notch to Thornton, near Waterville Valley.

Then settlement of the Notch began in earnest. Land was cleared and eventually 30 to 40 houses built. Three schools, a sawmill, gristmill, and tavern were erected. A minister held church services at Pulpit Rock or in his house.

The farms were fertile in this area and gardens produced well. Cattle and sheep grazed in the pastures. The land along the road wasn't a forest, as it is today, but cleared and open, crisscrossed by stone walls, the remnants of which you see today.

Over this road, farmers drove cattle from the hill country to the seacoast markets, creating a sight which brought children to the roadside to view the event. Farmers who needed money for goods other than what they could grow on their farms, drove their ox carts across the Notch Road as they brought their goods to markets.

Settlers Left the Notch

By the mid-1850s, the climax of life in the Notch was reached. Population began to decline after the Civil War as the young people looked elsewhere to earn a living in the mills of Massachusetts and on the lands of the Mid-West.

As the remaining settlers grew older, they began to cut down on the amount of land they farmed. Gradually the farms were taken over by the forest. The schools were no longer needed, and the saw mills and taverns ceased to exist.

One House Remains

Only one house remains from those built many years ago. The original structure went up in 1826; this later became the wood shed of the larger house erected by Alpheus Munsey Hall in 1877. Moses Hall lived there for most of his 84 years before his death in 1930.

Take time to wander along the Sandwich Notch Road and the adjoining hiking trails. Discover the enchantment of the White Mountains and their history.

Copyright (c) Mary Emma Allen

Photo by Caron Gonthier
Mary Emma Allen, journalist, children’s author, travel writer and columnist has had more than 200 children’s stories published and has written fiction and non-fiction books. She's collecting her travel stories into a book, "Tales From theVagabond Traveler."

Mary Emma also teaches writing workshops in schools, at conferences, at Plymouth State College, and online. Visit her web site:; E-mail:

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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