By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | July 21, 2019
In 1909, New Hampshire’s governor and his council chose the routes through which proposed (and legislatively-authorized) western, middle, and eastern state highways would run.
The news articles quoted here identify forthrightly the motivations of those making the choices. Their objects were more political than strictly economic or geographic ones: providing road access for less-developed low-population northern areas of the state, at the expense of taxpayers in the remainder of the state.
That the final selections addressed primarily political purposes, rather than purely engineering ones, was evidenced by the large attendance of the “prominent men” of the affected areas, and the “considerable pressure” that they brought to bear. The opinions of accomplished engineers were not mentioned as being relevant at all.
The prominent men of the northern logging industry and the Boston & Maine railroad would have had their “say” also. (The Conway branch of the B&M railroad aligned more closely with the route ultimately chosen). A cynic might suppose that it was their say that was dispositive.
The various possible Eastern route alternatives, which must have concerned Milton most nearly, ran largely over existing roads, at least so far as the mountain “notches.” As such, the choices were mostly a question of State officials “claiming” or “designating” particular existing roads as being henceforth “their” own state highway.
The routes passed over at this time would become state highways eventually. The chosen Eastern route took on the name “White Mountain Highway” at the Rochester-Milton town line.
In late July 1909, the governor and his council had not yet decided whether or not the Eastern route would run from Rochester through Milton, Wakefield, Ossipee, Tamworth, and Albany to Conway, as it does now. It might have run instead from Rochester through Farmington, New Durham, to Alton (as NH Route 11 runs now), then to Wolfeboro, Tamworth, Albany, and Madison to Conway.
GOVERNOR AND COUNSEL LISTEN TO ARGUMENTS FOR ROAD LOCATION. Governor Henry B. Quinby and the members of his council were in Concord Wednesday and gave up most of their time to a hearing of all parties interested in lay-out of the boulevard on the east side of the state authorized by the highway bill passed the last session of the legislature. There are to be three of these trunk lines, the east side, the central and the west side, and to date the route of the former seems to be the most seriously in dispute. From the coast the location of the road to Rochester is agreed upon. On leaving Rochester, however, the question is how shall it reach the mountains, the objective point of all the highways. There are two routes suggested, one through Milton Mills, Wakefield and Ossipee, and the other through Farmington, New Durham, Alton and Wolfboro, and then via Tamworth and Albany to Conway, or via Ossipee and Chocorua to Conway; or through Ossipee and Madison to Conway. The great interest in the proposition was shown by the large attendance of prominent men representing the towns through which it is desired the road should pass, which compelled the use of the supreme court room in the state library building. The hearing opened at 11:00 o’clock with the governor and the advisers occupying the bench and working under the notice that ten minutes would be given to the claims of each town interested. It took until nearly two o’clock before the final word had been said and an adjournment taken (Portsmouth Herald, July 22, 1909).
By mid-September 1909, the governor and his council made up their minds to continue the Eastern route from Rochester through Milton, rather than through Farmington. Milton was not specifically mentioned in the article, although it is what lies between the mentioned locations of Rochester and Wakefield.
ROUTES FOR THE STATE HIGHWAYS. The Big Undertaking of the State of New Hampshire. CONCORD, Sept. 18. – The governor and council at their meeting on Friday took up the location of the West Side road and, after considerable discussion, established the route, thereby completing the designation of the three trunk lines, as provided by act of the last legislature, and for the construction of which $1,000,000 was appropriated.
The road, as determined by them begins at the state line between Northfield, Mass., and Hinsdale, N.H., passes through Hinsdale, Winchester and West Swanzey to Keene; thence through Gilsum, Lempster and Goshen to Newport; thence through Croyden and Grantham to Hanover; thence following the Connecticut river, passes through the villages of Lyme and Orford, Piermont, Haverhill to Woodsville; thence through Bath and Lisbon villages lo Littleton; thence from Littleton over the hill by the Glessner estate to Bethlehem street; from Bethlehem street to the Twin Mountain House; thence from the Twin Mountain House to Whitefield, continuing through Lancaster, Northumberland, Groveton, Stratford and Columbia to the northerly terminus of the line at Colebrook.
There has been much pressure brought to bear upon the governor and council for other routes as well as for the route selected by them, and particularly from the vicinity of Rindge and Fitzwilliam, as well from Claremont and Newport. The route from Keene to Newport is through many small towns and over a country that has no means of transportation except over the highway. Besides furnishing better transportation facilities for the towns, this road it is believed, will open for development the territory that has previously been little known. There are no forbidding grades on the route, and there is plenty of material along the entire route for construction.
The middle road, previously selected, will enter the state at Nashua and have its northern terminal in a junction with the west side road at Twin Mountain, its route taking it through Manchester, Concord, Franklin, Laconia, Plymouth, Woodstock and other towns.
The East side road, also previously selected, will follow the ocean boulevard to Portsmouth, thence via Dover, the edge of Somersworth, Rochester, Wakefield, Conway, Pinkham Notch, Berlin, Errol and Dixville Notch, to Colebrook, which will be the terminal of both the Eastern and the Western roads.
The Crawford Notch road between Glen and Twin Mountain will afford a route through the heart of the mountains from the East road to the junction of the middle and West roads (Portsmouth Herald, September 9, 1909).
All of this was mirrored at the Town level. Historically, most New England roads have been privately built, for their owners’ purposes, and then, at some point, “accepted” by their respective Towns as being Town roads.
If we didn’t have state coercion, the argument runs, there would be no roads. There’d be a Sears store over there, and your house over here, and everyone involved would be standing there scratching their heads. – Thomas Woods
Wikipedia. (2019, January 24). Henry B. Quinby. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_B._Quinby
Wikipedia. (2019, July 14). Logrolling. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logrolling
Wikipedia. (2019, June 25). New Hampshire Route 16. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Route_16