The White Mountains in Summer: Maria G. Webber’s Travel Diary, 1837

By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services

“Left Boston at ½ past two in the afternoon in a carry all with Mr. Webber and little Maria, went through Cambridge, Lexington, Concord to Acton, where we arrived about 8 oclock, it rained quite fast most of the way but we wrapt up well and were very comfortable,” wrote Maria G. Webber in her travel journal on 27 June 1837. Accompanied by husband Aaron Webber and their infant daughter, Maria Webber embarked on a journey from Boston, Massachusetts to the White Mountain range in New Hampshire in 1837 via a horse-drawn carriage known as a “carryall”. The White Mountain range begins approximately 140 miles northwest of Boston, by way of modern highways. In 1837, however, the journey was not so direct! Maria Webber recounts many of her stops with her family in the villages and towns along the way from Boston to Crawford Notch near Bartlett, New Hampshire. Over the 16-day trip, the Webbers stopped in 41 different towns and villages and made note of seeing several mountains.

The Webbers crossed the state line — from their last noted location in Pepperell, Massachusetts into New Ipswich, New Hampshire — with little fanfare on 28 June 1837. Along the way, Mr. Webber gathered some wild strawberries. In Jaffrey, NH the couple and child stopped due to the bad road conditions and requested accommodation at the house of Mr. Prescott. They were refused! But Mr. Prescott’s father and brother in the next house down the road took the travelers in for the night. By the next evening, the family entered Bellows Falls, where they shared their strawberries with their host and hotelier, Mr. Hyde.

As the family crosses the state line, Webber notes that “the horses did not prove as good as recommended.” On 1 July 1837 outside Orford, New Hampshire, the horses give out, much to Webber’s dismay. Twice the family had to ask the assistance of locals to let their horses rest. Finally, Aaron Webber left the carryall and horses with local family and borrowed a wagon. The Webbers only traveled four miles in four hours that day. The group did not reach Mr. Morse’s Tavern, their hotel for the evening, until 9 PM. Maria Webber commented that Mr. Morse’s Tavern was about four miles from “home,” as her mother and sister lived in the area. Maria Webber certainly had a superb grasp on the geography of her native state and diligently recorded the locations within her diary.

One of the most remarkable mentions of a landmark in the diary is Webber’s description of the Old Man in the Mountain.On 5 July 1837 she wrote:

Arose quite refreshed, took breakfast, and went down to see the profile of the Old man in the mountain, it was very foggy, and we were obliged to wait a quarter of an hour before we could see it, we were pleased with it and Mr. Webber drew a sketch of it…

Her comments about the Old Man of the Mountain are full of both pleasure and impatience. To the modern reader it is remarkable to think that although Maria Webber’s diary has been preserved for the past 176 years, the Old Man of the Mountain has not. On 3 May 2003, the precariously perched profile of the Old Man collapsed. While it is still a recognizable symbol of the Granite State, one can no longer stand where Webber stood all those years ago to view.

Much like the profile of the Old Man of the Mountain, Maria Webber’s opinion of the horses continued to deteriorate throughout the journey. Not only were the horses exhausted by the road conditions but the carriage fell apart on 11 July 1837. Perhaps best summarizing her thoughts on the journey, the last line in the diary reads, “Had a pleasant journey but should have enjoyed it better if our horses were not such miserable ones, they were so unacquainted with the roads.”

Care to find out the other towns the Webbers visited? You can visit the library and find out more about their visit to the White Mountains in Maria Webber’s travel diary in the Webber Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.