Friday, December 18, 2020

On the Road from Goshen to Buttermilk Hollow. Toponymy and Topography.

Goshen is an old local name for what is now known as South Conway, New Hampshire. Goshen is relatively easy to find out about, but for years I wondered where in the world is (or was) Buttermilk Hollow? 

It is not on any current maps nor is it easy to find in a regular internet search. The few references I could find about it were not exactly clear about it's location.

However, I did find it recently on a relatively unknown relief map made by a famous 19th century geologist, Charles Thomas Hitchcock (1805-1880). Now you can find it with your cell phone (more on that later). 

My search began with a reference to a painting titled Buttermilk Hollow in a book by Charles Vogel about the Boston Art Club (p. 284) by the artist Joseph Aaron Nesmith who summered near Conway Lake (identified on old maps and in historic paintings as Walker's Pond).  That painting is also referenced in Nellie Carver's book Goshen, p.  89. You can read more about the Goshen summer people in our previous blog here.

I did a toponymic search in Google books for Buttermilk Hollow and found a reference in Osgood's White Mountains published in 1876 for tourists (page 93). 


You can read the entire book online here.We also have a copy in the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

This guidebook was one of a series of so called "red books." You can read more about them in our previous blog here. Unfortunately, the book does not tell you in what direction you go from Conway to reach Buttermilk Hollow and there are a number of lakes at that distance in many directions. 

I thought I caught a break when I noticed the library copy of the book came with a map folded in the back cover pocket so I did a topographic search.

However, to make the search more confounding, the map, made by geologist Charles Hitchcock does not show the location of any Buttermilk Hollow.

A few years later I did a blog on a poster that was displayed at one of the old hotels (probably the Intervale House) to promote excursions to tourist attractions and it listed Buttermilk Hollow as being 12 miles away. So with a bit of math, I figured that Buttermilk Hollow must be south of Conway Village.

The puzzle was finally solved with another map made by Hitchcock, now in the collection of the Conway Historical Society, that was displayed in a different hotel, the Kearsarge House.

Here is a detail of one of the labels on the relief map.

So on the relief map you can leave Conway Corner (the old name for Conway Village, also known earlier as Chatoque). For more on that see our previous blogs here and here

Follow Buttermilk Hollow Road south roughly parallel to Walker's Pond (the old name for Conway Lake).  Click on images to enlarge them.

 Here is a comparison of that area with today's Google maps.

The Buttermilk Hollow Road seen on the Hitchcock relief map on the right roughly follows Route 153 seen on the Google map on the left. Notice the other two bodies of water on the left of each map, Pequawket Pond at the top and Pea Porridge Pond towards the bottom. These features help frame the map locations.

The road to the left of Buttermilk Hollow Road but right/east of Pea Porridge Pond with a distinctive curve is Tasker Hill Road that changes to Allard Hill Road. The next section of the relief map finally reveals the label for "Buttermilk Hollow" at the top of and Robertson's Pond (now Crystal Lake). 


Here is a side by side comparison of the relief map on the right with a Google map on the left.

A quick zoom in and switch to satellite view shows us that Buttermilk Hollow's current name is Eaton Center.

Hitchcock is known to have made at least four other, much larger, relief maps. You can read about them here

You can read more about White Mountain relief maps here and here

The July/August 2020 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine argues that maps are humankind's greatest tool, and I tend to agree. I read maps like other people read novels. I propose that you can not really do a good exhibit of art or history without a map on display. I also see maps as works of art in themselves. 

Today most people carry maps around with them all the time through their cell phone. To find more about finding the Redstone Quarry or Cathedral Ledge with your cell phone go to this website:  If you enable your gps location you should be able to see entries for historic sites around you all around the country. We have eight sites listed in the Mount Washington Valley and are planning to add many more so stay tuned!

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