English Jack, Hermit of Crawford Notch

Hermit of Crawford Notch (John Vials) gravestone at Straw Road Cemetery in Twin Mountain, New Hampshire USA. He died on April 24, 1912 and was known as "English Jack". He lived in a shack at the "Gate of the Notch"  along the old Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad. History states he was a tourist attraction.
English Jack, Hermit of Crawford Notch – Straw Road Cemetery, Twin Mountain
 

English Jack, Hermit of Crawford Notch – English Jack, known as the "Hermit of Crawford Notch”, died on April 24, 1912. Born in the 1820s in London, and believed to have been orphaned at age 12, his real name was John Vials. He spent years working on ships (England) but ended up coming to Crawford Notch, New Hampshire to help build the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad. The railroad through the notch was completed in 1875 to Fabyans, but he stayed in the area.

Crawford House c. 1906 in the New Hampshire White Mountains by the Detroit Publishing Company. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection,[LC-DIG-det-4a13669].
English Jack's Shack, Crawford Notch, date created: 1858 – 1879 – From The New York Public Library
 

English Jack built and lived in a shack (ramshackle home seems to be the preferred term) he called the "ship". It location along the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad near the "Gate of the Notch" (below). And there was a path from the railroad to his shack. He was known to the locals and tourists. And rumors of homemade beer and of him eating frogs for entertainment purposes made him a popular attraction.

Railroad tracks next to Crawford Train Depot at the start of Crawford Notch State Park in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Gate of the Notch – White Mountains, New Hampshire
 

In 1891, James E. Mitchell wrote about English Jack, The story of Jack: the hermit of the White Mountains. The book is a fascinating read about the life of English Jack. Like many of the early settlers, he had an interesting life. History buffs will enjoy this colorful story of an old sailor.

Hermit of Crawford Notch ( John Vials ) gravestone at Straw Road Cemetery in Twin Mountain, New Hampshire USA. He died on April 24, 1912 and was known as "English Jack". He lived in a shack at the "Gate of the Notch"  along the old Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad. History states he was a tourist attraction.
B & W Version – Straw Road Cemetery, Twin Mountain
 

It has been over one hundred years since English Jack passed on. But the experienced explorer can still find remnants of what is believed to be his shack. And you can visit his headstone at the Straw Road Cemetery in Twin Mountain. You can also read his obituary in the New York Times here.

English Jack is one of the more interesting characters of the White Mountains.

Happy image making..


 

View more images of the old Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad here.

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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