Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where the heck is Zealand, New Hampshire?

I found ancestors in a ghost town! Zealand, New Hampshire exists only on birth and death records. It no longer exists on maps, gazetteers or even on line at places like or Google Earth. Sure, I can find a Zealand River, and Zealand Notch ( a notch is a gap or mountain pass in New England), and there is a Zealand Hut as part of the Appalachian Mountain Club trail system. My daughter hiked the Zealand Trail on snowshoes several years ago and stayed overnight in the Zealand Hut. All are remnants of a once thriving town.

In the Great North Woods there were towns that sprung up overnight as “company towns” for the logging and forestry industries. And so they died as quickly as they sprung up. A large part of the Great North Woods became the White Mountains National Forest in 1918, in three non-contiguous areas. There are more than 780,000 acres of protected land in the National Forest, and a large section of land is also New Hampshire or Maine State parkland. These lands became protected areas due to the horrific clear cutting, erosion, large forest fires, and poor land management that occurred at the end of the nineteenth century- just about the same time someone in my family tree was born in Zealand, New Hampshire.

In 1884 the Zealand Valley Railroad ran into the heart of the White Mountain National Forest area, and suddenly a million acres of virgin forest was available for lumber. Around these lumber areas grew company towns, a paternal system of control similar to the textile mill system seen in the Merrimack River valley. The homes, the stores, hotels, railroads and even the hospitals were run by the lumber company of James E. Henry in Lincoln, Fabyans (another ghost town) and Zealand. There were similar towns in Conway and other parts of the Great North Woods. There were strict rules imposed by the lumber companies such as “Any person found throwing food or making unnecessary and loud talk at the tables will be fined” [The Story of Mount Washington, by F. Allen Burt, Hanover, NH, 1974] .

In its heyday 53 million feet of timber were floated down the Connecticut River. Paper production became a major industry in northern New Hampshire. [New Hampshire: Crosscurrents in its Development, by Nancy Coffey Hefferman and Ann Page Stecker, University Press of New England, Lebanon, NH, 2004, page 162] Unfortunately, the number of paper mills has dwindled in the past dozen years, and now tourism reigns in the Great North Woods as the number one industry. The White Mountains National Forest is now one of the most visited parks in the eastern United States. Only hikers can visit Zealand Notch. There are no longer any roads to Zealand, and the Zealand hiking trail follows the path of the old logging train. An area that had been laid waste by fires in 1888 and 1903 is now again hardwood forest.

Note: One member of my family tree who lived in Zealand, New Hampshire is Mabel Boyle, daughter of James Boyle and Catherine McFarlin, born in Zealand on 22 July 1881, d. 25 March 1975 in Franconia, New Hampshire; married on 3 September 1923 to Oscar Sumner Carroll, son of Leslie Carroll and Elnora Mary Wilkinson. Mr. Boyle was found in the 1880 census record in Carroll, New Hampshire, and it lists him as being born in Canada, with his wife and seven children.
The Zealand Trail
Photo by Mike Kautz, National Geographic Society, 2007

For more information:

The Appalachian Mountain Club

Chronicles of the White Mountains by Frederick Wilkinson Chadbourne, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1916.

J. E. Henry’s Logging Railroads: The History of the East Branch & Lincoln and Zealand Valley Railroads, by Bill Gove, Bondcliff Books, 1998 [I couldn’t locate a copy of this book at a library nor to view at Google books, but it is on as a used book ] Bill Gove’s website (Gove is a retired forester who has written three books on New Hampshire’s logging railroads) see the link for photos and maps of the Zealand logging railroad has a page about J. E. Henry and his company towns.  A guide to NH “Ghost Towns” (most are associated with logging camps and company towns)

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Very interesting post. I too am interested in towns that no longer exist for one reason or another. In Massachusetts, it usually has to do with land being taken for resevoirs/watershed land. For my recent posts on the Naramore family tragedy, I did some reasearch on Coldbrook Springs, MA which was taken for the Barre Dam in 1930.

    I'm also interested in the logging camp aspect of your post. My French-Canadian grand-father spent some time in logging camps up in NH and VT. I've done very little research on that aspect of his life. Now I'm intrigued to do more.

    Thank you for the interesting post!

  2. Love this historical context! I had some Dutch ancestors in Zeeland, New Brunswick, sometimes called Zealand, and wonder if there's a connection.

  3. When I was growing up in Holden, our Girl Scout Troop used to hike around the Quabbin Reservoir. One of our leaders told us ghost stories about the "drowned towns" and once we saw an exhibit on how the graveyards were moved when the towns were moved. Spooky! (when you are 12!) Bill West has posted 3 transcriptions this week of an ancestor who lived in logging camps- check them out!

  4. Isn't it amazing what stories are hidden away now in the woods of New England? In my more active younger days I used to run across stone walls out
    in the woods and wonder why they were there, never realizing that perhaps that what are now
    woods might once have been a cleared area for
    someone's fields and pastures.

    Interesting post, Heather!

  5. Maybe it was never registered as a "real" town...however I did find this.

    1. It was an actual town. But it was not located in the woods of Zealand Notch.The actual village was on RT.302 between the outskirts of present day Twin Mt
      And the Zealand Notch Rd. There is a plaque located in a small picnic area next to the river explaining the village layout. I had three generations of family living there at one time.

  6. Very interesting, Heather! Heading to Maine, with a couple of side trips (including North Conway, NH) in one week. Boston Family History Day, too.

  7. Love this post. This would make great songwriting material!

  8. I love researching ghost towns. Thanks for sharing about Zealand.

  9. my grandmother born in zealand..her parents ran the boarding house...from photos published at something like that)..i have this to say....the photo of the cellar hole captikned 'probably the boarding house'..certainly isnt...if you lkok at the photo .wide view of the train trestke, boarding house, and the mill, with hills in the background...compars to what u can find there now:..remains of the trestke on north bank, the location of the celkar hole pictured..etc..u can triangulate..cleay the cellar hole is of the withe house center background of the photo..way to far away from the river to be the boarding house...from the best triangulatik that i can do..the boarding house site is smack dab in the middle of the current route 302..about 100 yards west of the campground...

  10. Amazing information. A group of friends including my husband & I go to the White Mountains at least 6-7 times every summer, on motorcycle. I've seen many old cellar holes, leading me to believe they must have been a few townships in the 1700's and 1800's, and the names of these townships, only show up on old birth records. There is another abandoned township in NH that has my interest peaked, it's Monson, NH. Between Hollis & Milford, NH off Silver Lake road in Hollis, down Federal Hill(dirt road), and Adams Road(no cars allowed).
    My paternal grandfather is a descendant of Jacob Schoff, He, along with 2 other families(Verbeck & Grapes) settled Morristown, NH. Now called Franconia, NH.
    Franconia, NH was first granted by Colonial Governor Benning Wentworth, as "Franconia". It was regranted in 1772 by his nephew Governor John Wentworth as Morristown. That was the time(1772) when my 6th great grandfather Jacob Schoff settled on land where Coppermine farm, owned by the Hamilton Ford family. He made the first settlement in Franconia Valley along what is now route 16.
    * On a personal note, there is an Isabel Wilkinson (1650-1720), wife of Richard Blood (1617-1683), and mother of Nathaniel Blood (1650-1720) in my Paternal families genealogy. This genealogy is public on my family tree.