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Mount Washington Summit Road Company Records, 1796-1967, undated

Identifier: MSS 911

Scope and Content Note

The Mount Washington Summit Road Company Records largely contain the correspondence and papers of E. S. Coe as they relate to the ownership, business, and legal proceedings of the company. There are significant papers and correspondence revolving around the legal battle between the Estate of David Pingree and the Mount Washington Railway Company and other defendants.

In an attempt to respect the original order of the collection, many papers that were bundled together by the creators were kept together, even if they intellectually belonged with other papers. Therefore, a researcher will find some correspondence interspersed with the financial records and with some of the surveying records, as well as in the correspondence series.

Series I. Land Records has been separated into three subseries. Subseries A. Deeds and Abstracts of Title is comprised of legal documents, notes taken from documents at the registry of deeds, and other documents that outline the history of ownership of a tract of land. Subseries B. Surveys includes surveyor notebooks and loose memos created while surveying the various grants in the White Mountains. This subseries also includes surveys of logs on various tracts and calculations of trespasses, which refers to the unpermitted cutting of logs on private property. Subseries C. Maps and Plans are mostly oversized documents that represent to scale the areas surveyed. This subseries includes mainly copies of plans and surveys, prepared for trial and dating from the early 1890s.

Series II. Corporation and Legal Records consists of two subseries. Subseries A. Incorporation Papers and Corporate Records includes a copy of the charter, leases and agreements, stock certificates, meeting minutes, insurance policies all relating to the business of the summit road. It also contains documents regarding the businesses of various railroads. Subseries B. Lawsuits is comprised not only of the papers revolving around the lawsuit between the trustees and the Railway Company, but also copies of speeches given to the legislature and courts, records of documents turned over to lawyers and the courts, briefs, and loose memos and notes.

Series III. Financial Records has been organized into three subseries. Subseries A. Account Books includes financial records in bound volumes. Subseries B. Accounts, Vouchers and Receipts are represented by reimbursements for employees, supply purchases, tolls collected, accounts with the estate of David Pingree, and costs for stabling and caring for horses. It also includes labor bills for "services on the road" for various contractors, most paid at a rate of $1.00 per day. There are a few tax receipts found amongst the bills, but not consistently for each year. Finally, this series includes a statement of tolls taken over the season and an inventory of items left in the various buildings on the property at the end of each season, usually dated in early October. Subseries C. Taxes include tax bills, circulars from the IRS, and memos of taxes paid by the company.

Series IV. Correspondence is mainly made up of letters received by E. S. Coe and some copies of the letters he sent in reply. There are large amounts of correspondence with Silas F. Peaslee, Henry Heywood, David Pingree, Israel Ham, and Harry Sargent. This series also includes correspondence with George H. Moses, the secretary of the New Hampshire Forestry Commissioners, from 1894 to 1896. Correspondence is grouped chronologically by topic. It can be assumed that the correspondence is that received by E. S. Coe unless otherwise noted.

Series V. Newspaper Clippings is made up of clippings from various newspapers dating from 1853 to 1893. The identified papers mainly include the Concord Evening Monitor, People and Patriot, and Foster's Daily Democrat. Most of the clippings are brief articles summarizing the day's progress in the legislature as it relates to the Mt. Washington Summit Road Company and various railroad bills. As the newspapers are quite fragile, use copies were made for researchers and the originals restricted. There are also several full issues of Among the Clouds, the paper printed by Henry M. Burt, from the top of Mount Washington, dating from 1887 to 1899 [incomplete run]. The newspapers are organized chronologically.

Series VI. Post 1906 Papers includes newspaper clippings, information about the Weeks Act, and other ephemeral items from after the Pingree family sold the Summit Road to the Libby family in 1906. This series contains a small amount of correspondence between Stephen Wheatland and Robert S. Monahan of Dartmouth College, and the college itself dating from 1956 and 1962.

Series VI. Miscellaneous includes scraps of paper and envelopes with notes as well as an inventory of papers in this collection. The inventory was prepared prior to transfer to the Phillips Library.


  • Creation: 1796-1967, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use. Box 18, folders 1-5 are restricted due to fragility, copies have been made.

Historical Sketch

The Mount Washington Summit Road Company was chartered by the State of New Hampshire in 1859 to continue the efforts of the Mount Washington Road Company in building a carriage road to the summit of Mount Washington.

In the early 19th century, paths were blazed into the White Mountains to help bring adventurers to Mount Washington. The Alpine House and the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad's extension into Gorham enticed mountain climbing tourists to the north side of the mountain. Further increases of visitors prompted the construction of the Glen House (a hotel destroyed by fire in 1893 and never rebuilt) and development of bridle paths to the summit.

In June 1853 the State of New Hampshire chartered the Mount Washington Road Company. The company planned to build a "carriage road," sixteen feet wide, on the east side of the mountain, from Thompson's Glen House to the summit. By the fall of 1856 the company was bankrupt, with the road approximately half completed. The Mount Washington Summit Road Company took up where its predecessor left off in 1859. The carriage road was completed and an opening gala was held on August 8, 1861.

The ownership of the summit and condemnation of land for turnpikes and railroads on and around Mount Washington prompted many legal battles. J. M. Thompson, the proprietor of the Glen House, argued "that the granting of a charter for a road purely for pleasure purposes was unconstitutional." The Supreme Court upheld the condemnation, and also ruled that the payment to Thompson should only include damages for condemned property and not for conjecture of damages his business would experience due to the competition. Title to the summit was disputed by the owners of Thompson and Meserve's Purchase in Wells v. Jackson Iron Co. The suit was filed in 1860 and settled in 1872 when both parties, tired of litigation, settled out of court with the Pingree heirs purchasing Henry Wells interest in the property.

During the same period, Sylvester Marsh was granted a charter to build a cog railway on the western slope of the mountain in 1858. Largely because of the Civil War, the Mount Washington Railway Company's cog rail was not completed or operational until the summer of 1869. The land for the railroad was "taken for its track up the Mountain [in] a strip 99 feet wide excepting the last 100 feet, to the terminus on the Summit, which is 75 feet wide."

In the spring of 1872, the Railway Company wanted to build a hotel at the summit, but their land taken by condemnation was too narrow to support a hotel and the various other buildings, such as a turntable, necessary to their business. Negotiations with the owners of the land, the Jackson Iron Manufacturing Company (MSS 910) were made. Not wanting to sell, the owners leased a circular plot of land close to the summit to the Mt. Washington Railway Company. The lease stated the railway could build a hotel and other buildings necessary for their business. The five-year lease allowed the lessors to purchase buildings and improvements except those needed for operations of the railway company, at cost. Prior to the end of the lease, title of the leased land was transferred to E. S. Coe and David Pingree as trustees. At the end of the lease, the cost quoted by the railway to build and furnish the hotel was too high, and the trustees instead renewed the lease for another five-year term, with the same stipulations. Similar events in 1882 prompted a third lease with the same provisions for buying out the buildings at the end of the five-year lease.

After the end of the third lease, the trustees gave formal notice that they wanted to purchase all the buildings available to them within the terms of the lease. The railroad responded that there were no buildings that were not a necessary part of their operation, and therefore, none were for sale. The railroad then filed with the Secretary of State its intention to take more land at the summit. An appeal on the Commissioners' award was filed by the owners, as well as an equity suit in the New Hampshire Supreme Court. This suit was later dropped by the trustees and refiled in federal court.

The decision for Coe et al. v. Aiken et al. was delivered April 2, 1894. Later that month, the Summit Road Company sold to the Railway Company a 49-acre tract of land for $56,000. For a timeline of important events in the history of the Mount Washington, see Appendix I.


21 linear feet (23 boxes; 17 oversized folders)

Language of Materials



The Mount Washington Summit Road Company Records largely contain the correspondence and papers of E. S. Coe as they relate to the ownership, business, and legal proceedings of the company.

Series List

SERIES I. Land Records

  • A. Deeds and Abstracts of Title
  • B. Surveys
    • 1. Survey and Exploration Field Books
    • 2. Log Surveys and Trespasses
  • C. Maps and Plans
SERIES II. Corporation and Legal Records
  • A. Incorporation Papers and Corporate Records
  • B. Lawsuits
SERIES III. Financial Records
  • A. Account Books
  • B. Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipts
  • C. Taxes
SERIES IV. Correspondence

SERIES V. Newspaper Clippings

SERIES VI. Post 1906 Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The Pingree family heirs donated fourteen boxes of materials including correspondence, surveys and maps, deeds, leases, lawsuit papers, and vouchers in 1962, as part of larger deposit #2. Susan W. Stauffer donated one box of papers relating to the Mount Washington summit court case on May 3, 1977.

Bibliography and Related Material

Burt, F. Allen. The story of Mount Washington. Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth Publications, 1960.

Leich, Jeffrey. "Possession of the Summit 'A Prolific Subject of Contention'" Mount Washington Observatory News Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 2, Summer 1990, p 31-38.

Wood, Frederic J. The turnpikes of New England. Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1919.

"Coe et al. v. Aiken et al." The Federal Reporter: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeal and Circuit and District Courts of the United States. Vol. 50. St. Paul, MN: West, 1892. 640-643.

"Coe et al. v. Aiken et al." The Federal Reporter: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeals and Circuit and District Courts of the United States. Vol. 61. St. Paul, MN: West, 1894. 24-38.

"Mt. Washington Ry. Co. v. Coe et al." The Federal Reporter: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeal and Circuit and District Courts of the United States. Vol. 50. St. Paul, MN: West, 1892. 637-640.

David Pingree (1795-1863) Papers, MSS 901

David Pingree (1841-1932) Papers, MSS 905

Jackson Iron Manufacturing Company Records, MSS 910

For additional Pingree family businesses and other related material, please visit Philcat, our online catalog.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Jennifer Hornsby, February 2015.


Processed by: Jennifer Hornsby; machine-readable finding aid created by: Casey Cheney.
Language of description
Script of description
The processing of this collection was funded by a gift from the Pingree heirs.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA