"Monadnock" meant "solitary mountain" to the native Abenakis, and it still does to modern geologists. ”Mt. Monadnock" would be redundant. The Grand Monadnock, at 3165' above sea level, is the tallest peak in southern New Hampshire.
The mountain was originally densely forested all the way to the summit except for Bald Rock. The first recorded ascent was in 1725 when the whole region was still wild land. The first settlers, the Masonian Proprietors, arrived around 1746. Towns were laid out in 1749. Settlers carved farms and pastures first out of the valleys, then up the slopes starting around 1770.
Fires set to clear lower slopes and kill wolves in the early 1800s ran out of control and burned much of the upper mountain. The soil washed away before the trees had a chance to re-grow. This is responsible for the bald summit and large open areas of rock ledge that make Monadnock such a popular climbing destination. Many believe that this is the most frequently climbed mountain in America.
The first major turnpike was built in 1801 to carry farm produce to Boston, and the railroad came through in 1847. This spawned a wave of visitors and trail builders, and mountain hotels sprung up starting in 1823 to serve them. The largest hotel, the Halfway House, was built in 1860 and was the mountain's main climbing base for nearly a century until it burned down in 1954. Hotel guests were responsible for the intricate network of trails in the Halfway House region. Emerson and Thoreau visited the mountain often in the mid-1800s.
The Town of Jaffrey led in land protection by purchasing 200 acres of the mountain in 1885. Monadnock State Park was founded in 1904 to save another part of the mountain from logging. Poor land management practices by early loggers led to huge forest fires statewide starting in the late 1800s, and fire wardens were placed on the mountain from 1912-1948. The Forest Society, formed in 1901, purchased the Monadnock Reservation in 1915.
The Park Headquarters area was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. It became the main focus for climbers after the demise of the Halfway House. In 1979 the State Park took over operation of the entire area, and now manages land owned by the State, the Town of Jaffrey, and the Forest Society.
About our Cartographer:
Mike Bromberg has been hiking, counting, and mapping the New Hampshire mountains for forty years. As a peakbagger, he has climbed each of the 48 NH 4000-Footers in every month of the year – and has also summitted each one at midnight, and again at midnight in winter. He has climbed the 100 Highest Peaks of New Hampshire, New England, Colorado, and the contiguous USA. As Cartographer, he has produced six trail maps in New Hampshire, including the Wonalancet Out Door Club Trail Map and Guide to the Sandwich Range Wilderness (www.wodc.org/map.htm).
He is a Registered Professional Electronic Engineer with four patents, and a lighting equipment rental agent and Stage Lighting Designer who has designed the lighting for over 75 opera, musical, and ballet productions.