Volume 24, No. 1 (2000)
Members of the Peabody family assemble
at the Peabody Tavern (1799) at Gilead, Maine
Photo taken 1895; courtesy of
Joanne Peabody Stewart
[Editor's Note: This circa 1884 account by Daisy Peabody of Gilead,
Maine, was provided to the Bethel
Historical Society by Joanne Peabody Stewart of Portland, Maine, and
her brother, John M. Peabody, of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Much
gratitude is expressed for their willingness to share this document
with readers of The Courier.]
Late August days, calm, blue skies overhung with a haze, mildly hinting
fall. Still, idle days among the hills, and a party of vacation
friends, meeting in this gem of Maine towns, friends of fleeting
days—we can scarce say weeks, set about to storm Mt. Washington.
By twos and threes we planned the trip. We carried it out, and
through the weeks that have since followed, whenever from the busy
present I catch a backward glance, it and the pleasant and trifling
incidents connected with it, stand clear-cut, a bright summer picture.
Like the family of that other little maiden, ours was seven. Mrs.
Trowbridge, by right of her quiet dignity and her years, was, from the
first, our acknowledged head. Mr. Walter Trowbridge, Mr. Mark
Pierce, Mrs. Lovie Burnham, Miss Emma Burnham, Miss May Peabody, and
Miss Daisy Peabody—these were the seven.
Yes, the weather was warm and
most deliciously indolent. Wednesday, the day before, was a
melting day. In the morning we searched out the coolest places,
and tried in vain to keep cool.
Late that afternoon, Emma and her sister drove into the yard on the way
to Gorham, for it had been decided that they go up the night before,
and the rest of us following in the morning. We wished them the
luck, and remarking for the hundredth time on the prospect of the
weather, said good-bye and saw them go, and we, the remaining five,
were to start from Gilead at 5:30 Thursday morning. Trowbridge
friend went to Bethel, got a double carriage, and somewhere found "Old
Half past four the next morning found the Peabody household an anxious
throng, peering through heavy, misty, moisty atmosphere, trying to
prove to each other that it would burn away with the sun. The
bright stars in last night's sky had been misleading. The
said: "It will rain, no mountains for us today." Not so said we
all. Numbers prevailed, and in the early morning they packed the
baskets full of tempting eatables. The boys were a little late,
clock was fast; that was it, and we were on the point of going to them;
but with the brave, white charger, whose acquaintance we were yet to
make, they dashed up to the door in grand shape. Even
then, just a little indecision would have been
enough to stay the trip then and there, for the sky wore a dark and
threatening face toward us, as pleasure seekers. There was one
that was bound to go—and, do you all remember, was sure it was going to
The drive to Gorham seemed unusually long, owing, no doubt, to the
weather, not to speak of the speed of George. We stopped at some
hills and walked up, at one time Trowbridge and Pierce united their
strength with that of George's and actually got him into a run.
Trowbridge went rolling off in a royal state, leaving us far in the
Places of some local fame we passed, among them the White Mountain
Stock Farm, belonging to Col. Burbank—fine buildings, cottages, and
neatly kept barns and stables. We drove over the two miles of
built under the oversight and by the generosity of a certain Mr.
Endicott, for many seasons a summer boarder in Shelburne, and now
building a fine house for a summer home, the walls of which are made of
common road stones. A crew of men were working on and around it
Arrived at Gorham, the owner of the mountain team told us at once that
he could not drive on to the mountain in such a morning, but would be
pleased to take us for a day, to any of the many places of interest
hereabout. We held a consultation and agreed upon a drive to
Falls, and the Alpine Cascades.
A busy little village is Berlin Falls, its one long street populous
with infants and small children gave evidence of foreign
population. But in the upper end of the village were many
cottages modern and tasty in their construction. Brown, a
was working at Berlin, and I proposed calling to see him. Mr.
Stiles drove on to Berlin Mills—there he watered the horses. A
shower was doing its best to brighten up the village. Heavy drops
splashed down on the top of the coach, but the fire inside was not
quenched. Despite the rain and the black clouds we were in the
spirits. Brown was not to be found. He was away "logging"
so they told
us at the store. Mr. Trowbridge thought my endeavors ought not to
wholly fruitless, and we left a hastily written name on the back of a
blue envelope, then turned the horses' heads towards Berlin Falls.
Here we left the carriage, crossed a bridge, wandered over the rocks
and gathered asters "to keep"—I lost mine—did the others? Again
settled ourselves in the carriage, driving on two miles to the Alpine
From the road we struck into a foot-path, and in a twinkling were on a
tiny suspension bridge that swayed and tipped at angles hardly
appreciable; then a little rocky pathway and another suspension bridge;
next our way led up—89 steps—to a toll-house. Here we
picnic table was spread in a grove farther on. With a delicious
did the contents of those baskets disappear.
By chance we came upon the real glory of the place, the cascades.
There are in all eleven sets of falls. We went to the top of
them, and rain hindered our going higher. The first two were
long flights of steps, 89 we counted in each. The third, up which
Mrs. Burnham, Trowbridge, Pierce, and I climbed, was over the solid
rock. We drew ourselves up by taking hold of iron cables,
An open pavilion, used for both dancing and skating is back a little
way from the water. The skates were much too large, the smallest
girl's skate being 9 ½. The proprietor seriously remarked
the people of Berlin Falls had big feet, which no one of us
We all skated, Pierce taking his first lesson. Trowbridge, Emma,
skated three abreast, till the mandate came from Mrs. Trowbridge, only
once more around. Then we packed up the remnants of the dinner
and bade good-bye to the Alpine Cascades.
The drive down to Gorham was delightful; the clouds had cleared, and
for the first time in the day the sun did really shine. Now it
had our first view of the presidential group. Monroe, Adams,
Jefferson, Madison, and Washington in their nearness. Arrived at
Gorham, we again held close council in Mrs. Stiles'
sitting-room, and came to resolution as follows: Remain over another
day; go on to Mr. Washington; telegraph to friends in Gilead.
Forthwith, dispatched Trowbridge and Pierce to railway station, while
we girls went down in the village, and Mrs. Trowbridge rested.
In the village we were caught in a shower and lodged under a grocer's
awning, till Frank Adams came to the rescue with umbrellas. We
over to the piazzas of the Alpine House, had a chat with the boys, then
separated and went our several ways for the night. Mrs.
Trowbridge, Emma, and her sister at Mrs. Stiles'; the boys at the
Alpine House; May and I at Thomas Adams'.
The day was not yet full—Trowbridge and Pierce testified to spending
the evening at the skating rink. Emma and Mrs. B. made vigorous
toward refurnishing the lunch baskets, and of their experience with
grocers and provision dealers, the soda crackers, pickles, cheese, and
deviled turkey, that formed a part of the summit dinner, next day, gave
ample proof. May and I, tired children that we were, accepted the
invitation of our host and went to the entertainment. 'Twas a
of cornet solo, Hiawathan babyhood, and ice-cream, but out of the chaos
of the evening I cannot recall any special feature; May might.
The end came, and two much confused heads rested, at length, on the
soft pillows of Mrs. Adams' spare bed.
At 6:30 next morning, the mountain team stopped for us, and with a fair
sky, a shining sun, and exultant hopes, we were in reality off for Mt.
Washington. From Gorham to the Glen House the road is through the
woods, winding up by a gradual ascent, for eight miles. The Glen
buildings, stables, and pavilion attached, are immense, representing
over $200,000. Here is the toll-house; paying our toll and
against the cold by a few more blankets, we pass through the gates and
begin the ascent proper.
The way to the Half-Way House was not unlike many of the wooded drives
abounding everywhere in this section, except that it was more up.
At times we came to places where dark ravines showed that we were on
the heights, for in these openings we had glimpses of lands below; but
for the most part, the road stretched uneventfully away ahead of us.
By the roadside, at distances sometimes only a few rods apart, were
little piles of rocks in semi-circles. We thought at first it
so, but finally agreed that they had been built as protection for the
road during fall rains and spring freshets. A line of telegraph poles
seemed out of place, as if infringing on some undefined rights.
At the Half-Way House we had an intimation that the wind might be
blowing on top, by the abruptness with which Trowbridge's hat went
flying off into space. Emma caught it before it made its final
over the brink. Here Mr. Stiles lashed the carriage to the axles
ropes, and rolled the curtains to the very top, as precautions against
a strong wind. We looked up and drew long breaths at the thought
road to be traversed. At this point the woods cease, and the road
strikes out upon the bare rocks. It takes on a steeper grade and looks
rather uninviting. We were not faint-hearted enough to say it;
inspired with the wildness and daring of the thing were the more eager
Rounding the first corner, at a height above us, we saw two foot-men
coming down. They waited for our team to come up, and stopped to
speak with us. They were English, and the cold and wind proving
much for them, they had turned back without reaching the summit.
older of the two men, a portly old fellow, with eye-glasses and silk
hat, somewhat on a side, said: "O, its all very well for you young
people, but as for me I won't risk my life"; and the younger man said:
"you'll be blown to bits." We smiled incredulously. Far up
mountain, looking down on the long, perilous road we had climbed, I saw
them, two motes in the distance.
What to us had seemed mountains, as we stood in the valley, now looking
down upon them were but little hills. Watching the shadows of the
clouds on the forest, we mistook a growth of wood as that of another
species, when it was but the reflection of a cloud. The driver
pointed out to us Kearsarge, towering to blueness above the hills
around it. Between it and a cluster of smaller mountains,
Pond formed a basin of shining water. Down at the base of Mt.
Washington the huge Glen House looked like a Noah's Ark cottage.
It was all below us, a picture to the eye such as a bird might take in
As the grandeur of the outlook grew upon us, the coldness began to make
itself felt. So long as we had sunshine, the side of the mountain
to our right was a shelter, but the road changed, coming out upon a
place where the wind had full sweep—and behold—the sun was gone.
We were in the midst of a cold, heavy fog that, forced along by the
wind, cut with wintry keenness. In quite the coldest place we met
coaches coming back. We knew them
not from Egypt's children. But meeting them in that
land, they uncovered their faces from double shawls and rubber capes,
and with pitying glances and sympathetic voices, said: "We pity you so;
you'll freeze to death." We had ourselves found out that it was
cold, but with Spartan grit, we wrapped the shawls tighter about our
heads, turned our backs to the wind and took it as it came. All
party had not the same amount of endurance. About two miles' ride
through this terrific cold, when "Here we are!" came from the driver
and we tumbled, numb with cold, and the long ride. One more
little climb, this time up a flight of stairs and we are on the summit,
in eager haste to get inside the railway station. Here is warmth
we indulge in to its fullness, for nearly an hour.
A quiet, solemn looking party of five, taking lunch as we came in, eyed
us with cool, polite glances, evidently regarding us and our
demonstrative manner, boorish. There were two others in the room
to our taste, for their naturalness, if nothing more. Mr.
Trowbridge knew they were on the honeymoon trip, though they both
looked every day of forty. He gave as argument for this belief
that he chanced to overhear this same man settling his bill at the
Alpine House, the night before, and that he noticed whenever expense
was mentioned the chivalric bridegroom every time stoutly affirmed that
he would go the best way—money was of no account; their dress and
general appearance not bespeaking exactly wealth, he had formed the
sage conclusion that these two were bride and bridegroom, the groom
bound for once, at least, to show himself generous. They too,
were cold and he produced from some pocket a bottle; mixed a beverage
of something hot and gave to his wife; then offered it to us, but we
declined. It proved to be Perry Davis' Pain Killer. We
looked out the
windows of the railroad station, watched the people come and go; the
brakeman with business-like bluster, rushed in with time tables, rubbed
his hands before the hot stove and was gone: a man who "spoke as one
having authority," said the thermometer was 1 [degree] above freezing;
that the night before, the wind was blowing at the rate of seventy
miles an hour; today it was growing stronger. He too, hurried off
we, warm and bundled up to the chin, stepped into the fog.
The Summit House was larger than I imagined. We found a city in
clouds, and under one roof. Finely dressed people going here and
there through the halls; old men and young men, women and
a counter, young ladies were selling mountain souvenirs. On the
above, are sleeping apartments furnished with all the modern
conveniences that made us wish to sleep for the night rocked by the
winds. The drawing room was as good and nice as could be found in
any lower lands. Soft, rich carpets on the floors, easy chairs
sofas, paintings on the walls, a square piano; all these make up the
hotel parlor—not exactly a home room.
May and I, standing alone together, looked up to the office of "Among
the Clouds," and wished to go to it, but the whistling wind and icy
rocks were uninviting. An elderly looking man near us, read the
thought, on our faces, for he said: "Would you like to go up, girls?"
"Yes," –and we went. He took us through the building. It
original Summit House [actually, the Tip-Top House], built in 1853;
what changes have the years
witnessed here, even, we are strikingly reminded when we compare the
two houses—the old, and the new. Of the paper, there are two
published daily, through the season. The editor's brain must be a
fertile one if he fills each edition with anything like news
set up my name in type, and as I finished throwing it back into the
case, Trowbridge and Pierce came in. Amidst the commotion
the gust the boys brought in with them, we lost sight of our newly made
acquaintance, and we regret that we did not even thank him.
The descent from the office to the railway station is steep, and some
of us were taken off our feet. But at the bottom we all came
again; collected our baskets, shawls, and veils, and down the steps the
whole battalion moved with sure, slow pace, our backs turned on Mt.
Washington and faces resolutely set toward the valley.
A bright, intelligent looking, young fellow occupied the one
vacant seat, on the return trip, as far as the Glen. We did not
learn his name. When at last we got down below the coldness, Mrs.
Emma, Pierce, and this stranger, warmed themselves up by a brisk run of
half a mile down the mountain.
We had made the drive up in the morning, in some over five hours, and
we came down in much less time. In counting up the number of
miles traveled in two days, we found it to be seventy-four, and during
the time nearly all our food was taken from the lunch baskets.
But little more of this merry outing—let's see, we are at Gorham
We left that village about dusk, at a greater speed than on the day
coming up. Emma passed us and George's spirit of emulation seemed
wholly dead. From time to time we hailed the girls through the
darkness, and knew that they were there by the flutter of a white
The pangs of hunger led us once more to the baskets, and we found them
holding out miraculously well. The way seemed long for we were
and cold. The tongues, ceaseless for the last two days, lagged,
and we beguiled ourselves the last miles of the drive with humming and
whistling, and some one even ventured to sing, "Things are seldom what
they seem." The Gilead lights came in view and our faces and
brightened. We said good-bye to the Burnhams and good night to
who promised to see us before train time in the morning.
Within doors, we caught sight of a rousing wood fire, and the light
thrown out from its open mouth filled the room with warmth and
cheer. They brought in steaming bowls of savory herb tea, and
stood around and gazed upon us as on heroes from the Arctic regions,
while we talked long and loud of the pleasures and perils, haps and
mishaps of the two days. The fire burned down to red coals, and
reluctantly broke the circle—leaving rest and quiet to reign for the