Abandoned Dug Wells, White Mountains

Photo of dug wells. Colonel Lewis B. Smith site in Sandwich Notch in Sandwich, New Hampshire USA. This abandoned farmstead was occupied by three generations of the Smith family from the 18th century to the late 19th century.
Dug Well at Colonel Lewis B. Smith Homestead – Sandwich, New Hampshire
 

Abandoned Dug Wells, White Mountains – Today’s blog article focuses on a keyword. I chose one search term, abandoned dug wells, and searched my image archive for imagery that represents this subject matter. These keyword searches help identify the subjects I need more coverage of. As a photographer, creating an image of an abandoned dug well that is visually interesting can be a challenge.

The New Hampshire White Mountains are littered with abandoned eighteenth and nineteenth century homesteads. And many of these homesteads had a water source – the dug well. These wells were dug by hand to just below the water table and were lined with stones or other material to keep it from collapsing. If you find a dug well in the middle of the forest, there is a good chance you are in the area of an old homestead.

Dug well at the Samuel Wallace Farm home site along the abandoned North Road in the Sandwich Range Wilderness of New Hampshire. This 400 acre homestead was part of the early nineteenth century hill farm community (thirty to forty families) in Sandwich Notch. By 1860 only eight families lived in the Notch and by the turn of the twentieth century only one person lived in the Notch year around.
Dug Well at the Samuel Wallace Farm – Sandwich, New Hampshire
 

Above is the dug well at the abandoned 400-acre Samuel Wallace Farm in the Sandwich Range Wilderness. This homestead was part of the early nineteenth century hill farm community, which consisted of thirty to forty families, in Sandwich Notch. By 1860 only eight families lived in the Notch and by the turn of the twentieth century only one person lived in the Notch year around. According to the Sixty-Ninth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society, this well was 18 feet deep back in 1988. It has been naturally filling in since then and isn’t that deep anymore.

Remnants of a dug well at an abandoned 1800s hill farming community along old South Landaff Road in Landaff, New Hampshire.
Dug Well at the Flanders Homestead – Landaff, New Hampshire
 

One of my favorite dug wells is at the abandoned D. Flanders homestead (ref: 1860 map), later becoming the J. Campbell homestead (ref: 1892 map), along old South Landaff Road in Landaff. This forgotten homestead is part of a 1800s hill farming community that was along this road.

Looking down into a dug well at an abandoned homestead at Thornton Gore in Thornton, New Hampshire during the autumn months. Thornton Gore was the site an old hill farming community that was abandoned during the 19th century. Based on an 1860 historical map of Grafton County this is believed to have been the site of the D. Merrill homestead. This well is still about 8 feet deep and holding water.
Dug Well – Thornton Gore, New Hampshire
 

Many of the old dug wells in the forest have naturally filled in over time, but there are still plenty to be found. Some are only eight feet deep, while others are twenty-feet deep. The above dug well is at an abandoned homestead in Thornton Gore. Thornton Gore was the site of an old hill farming community that was abandoned during the 19th century. Based on an 1860 historical map of Grafton County this is believed to have been the site of the D. Merrill homestead. This well is still about 8 feet deep.

When it comes to historical subject matter most wouldn’t consider a dug well to be historically significant. But dug wells were an important part of eighteenth and nineteenth century homesteading. And to top it off they were dug by hand. On a side note, at one of my jobs during my teenage years, I use to have to go down into dug wells (around 25 feet deep) to clean them out. I don't miss those days.

All of the above images can be licensed for publications by clicking on the image you are interested in, and you can view more images of dug wells here.

Happy image making..


 

Please keep in mind the history of the White Mountains is not cut–and–dry subject matter. The information included in this blog article is based on my research and knowledge of the White Mountains.

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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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4 Responses to “Abandoned Dug Wells, White Mountains”

  1. Karl Searl

    Hi Erin,

    This is an awesome post. Like many, I have a passion for White Mountain/New Hampshire history and love finding features in the woods or along a trail that tell stories. You've done a great job in capturing just this. Great photos of the dug wells! I've found a lot of foundations but no dug wells in my travels.

     

    Thanks,

    Karl

    Reply
    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Hi Karl,

      I am glad you enjoyed this. And thank you for your kind words. The history of the White Mountains is amazing. And there is so much of it to enjoy.

      Reply
  2. Steve Alden

    I enjoy your interest in history and the remnants still remaining in New Hampshire's woods.  If you're ever in Lyme or Orford I can point you to lots of interesting old cellar holes, homesteads, mines, limekilns, and even the oldest cement silo (rectangular) in the state.  Some are remarkably well preserved while others leave much to the imagination.  There's still very little on my website, though.

    Reply
    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Hi Steve,

      I am glad you enjoy my work. How can you not love the history of New Hampshire. I find it so interesting.

      Thank you for the offer. I will keep you in mind if I ever am in the Lyme area. And I will take a look at your website.

      Reply

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