Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Monumental Winter's Tale

Not far from the Conway Public Library there is a remarkable, surprising and enigmatic granite column on top of a small hill called Jockey Cap in the town of Fryeburg, Maine.

This monument and others like it connects the Mount Washington Valley to two places on earth where it's like winter all year round. It also connects two heroic men and two dogs to the north and south pole.

To help unravel the story, let's look a post card version of the scene.

The caption explains that this is a monument to Robert E. Peary. On top of the monument is a bronze plaque (click on image to enlarge it).

It reads "From the original profile survey made by Robert Edwin Peary, discoverer of the north pole, made during his residence in Fryeburg 1878 - 1879, erected to his memory by the Peary family in 1938 at the suggestion of his boyhood friend Alfred E. Burton"

This monument is decorative and symbolic. It is also functional. Around the ring is a series of mountain profiles that line up with the actual mountains allowing the viewer to identify local landscape features.

Not far from Jockey Cap on Fryeburg's Main Street is Robert E. Peary Park.

A small quartz boulder points to another set of stones that again are both symbolic and functional.

The bronze plaque reads "Fifty and four hundred feet north lie stones erected in 1883 by Admiral Robert E. Peary discoverer of the north pole, a former Fryeburg resident. These two meridian stones indicate the true north and thus enable surveyors to obtain the magnetic variation"

Now what about the two dogs I mentioned? Well they are connected to the Chinook Trail that leads from Tamworth Village to the village of Wonalancet.

The Chinook is New Hampshire's state dog breed. The original great Chinook was a lead dog during Admiral Byrd's expeditions to the south pole. His mother, Ningo was descended from Admiral Peary's lead dog on his expeditions to the north pole, so together their tale (or tail) encompasses the entire earth.

There are a number of monuments at the Chinook Kennels in Tamworth.

Here they are from left to right,

The first reads "Admiral Byrd Memorial to all noble dogs whose lives were given on dog treks during the two expeditions to Little America, Antarctica to further science and discover 1928 - 1930 (and) 1933 - 1935, dedicated October 8, 1938"

Other monuments honor Dick Moulton, Milton and Eva Seeley and Arthur Walden among others with ties to the Mount Washington Valley who were involved in polar exploration.

These monuments can help us trace the Mount Washington Valley's contributions to polar exploration. They are also featured in a new outreach program that is offered to local schools and community groups for free. For more information on these or other local history sites, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

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