Old Man of the Mountain – RIP 3 May 2003

It was six years ago that the Old Man of the Mountain fell.

His passing is as deeply felt today as when I heard the shocking news in 2003. It came across as a cable news bulletin. Hikers had heard the awful rumble in the early hours while it was still dark and when the sun came up they realized what had happened.

The next morning the quiet phone calls began … to my folks, my brothers – had they heard the news. They had.

We were all born and mostly raised in New Hampshire. Old “Sawyer” prints of the Old Man of the Mountain hang on the wall. He’s on the license plates – the NH edition of the quarter. He was a solid part of our lives. Familiar. Always there. A part of the family, our heritage.

Newspapers have been commenting on the impact of his image for centuries.

Samuel Adams Drake wrote “This gigantic silhouette which has been christened the Old Man of the Mountain is unquestionably the greatest curiosity of this or any other mountain region” (St. Alban’s Messenger (VT) 16 July 1881).

The Old Man was first “discovered” in 1805 by Luke Brooks and Francis Whitcomb who were charged by the town of Franconia, NH to survey the town. See NH Gazette 25 June 1805.

One of the earliest descriptions of the Old Man was published in the Salem Gazette (MA) 22 Nov 1825.

By 1827 a new stage line had “purchased good horses and carriages … and procured a careful driver” and organized the “Plymouth and Franconia” stage line, with runs twice a week past the Old Man – “a very level and pleasant route”. (NH Patriot 15 Jan 1827).

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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3 thoughts on “Old Man of the Mountain – RIP 3 May 2003

  1. What a sad thing to see go. I know that when I think of NH it was always the Old Man of the Mountain and of course Annalee dolls.

    My maternal grandparents were from there. We visited a great aunt several times in Meredith, but we always had to stop at the Old Man.

    Actually I like the trading post with the bear on top of the pole also. I’m sure they don’t do that anymore.

  2. I love the White Mountains and have vacationed there almost every year since 1983. I was saddened to hear the Old Man fell – it is irreplaceable and one the free attractions in that area. It really was, and still is, in pictures – an icon.

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