Identifying Artifacts, White Mountains

An axe head, a protected artifact, near logging Camp 2 of the abandoned Sawyer River Railroad (1877-1928) in Livermore, New Hampshire.
Axe Head – Livermore, New Hampshire
 

Identifying Historical Artifacts, White Mountains – If you are picking up trash in the New Hampshire White Mountains during the 2020 human impact issue, please educate yourself about historical artifacts and the laws that protect them. I now know of two instances where do-gooders picking up trash removed artifacts, thinking they were trash, from the White Mountain National Forest.

Many of the metal objects (horseshoes, metal strapping, railroad spikes, stoves, tins, etc.), glass bottles, trestle remains, and numerous other objects along the White Mountains trail system are protected artifacts. These artifacts should be left where you found them; they help tell the story of the early settlers, farming communities, and logging railroads that once were in the White Mountains. The included photos show some of the various artifacts you could come across while out hiking.

Remnants (railroad spike) of the Black Brook siding at logging Camp 16 along the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad (1893-1948) in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of Lincoln, New Hampshire. This railroad spike is considered an artifact. And the removal of historic artifacts from federal lands without a permit is a violation of federal law.
Railroad Spike – East Branch & Lincoln Railroad, New Hampshire
 

The most common artifacts found along the trails in areas where a railroad was are railroad spikes and railroad ties. Some of these old railroad spikes and ties are over one hundred years old. And in some places of the White Mountains, where the railroad ties have rotted away, one railroad spike in the middle of the forest can help identify a railroad right-of-way.

Can dump at possibly the location of the Upper Osceola Camp in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. This area was logged during the Mad River Logging Era. And during this era, logging camps that housed loggers, were scattered throughout the region.
Can Dump – Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
 

Old Can dumps are scattered throughout the White Mountains. These dumps can help identify where dwellings were in the forest. Nature is slowly covering up these can dumps, and because of this, many historic dwelling sites in the mountains are forever lost.

Artifacts (barrel rings) at possibly the P. White Camp in the Champney Brook drainage of Albany, New Hampshire.
Barrel Rings – Albany, New Hampshire
 

Barrel rings can be found throughout the White Mountains. And much like can dumps, they can help identify the location of an abandoned farm, dwelling, or logging camp in the middle of the forest. Barrel rings are nothing more than metal straps. Trees are known to grow up through them.

Tree growing up through a flat steel tire (from a wagon wheel) at an abandoned homestead along an old road in Benton, New Hampshire.
Flat Steel Tire (from a wooden wagon wheel) – Brenton, New Hampshire
 

Flat steel tires from old wooden wagon wheels are another circular object often confused for trash. The one seen above in Benton may date back to the mid-1800s. Like barrel rings, trees can grow up through them.

Artifact (sled runner) at an abandoned logging camp along a tributary of the Wild Ammonoosuc River, on the side of Mt. Blue, in Benton, New Hampshire.
Part of a Sled Runner From a Logging Sled – Benton, New Hampshire
 

Sled runners are another artifact that is often mistaken for trash. These artifacts can be found pretty much throughout the White Mountains. They look like long metal straps, and vary in appearance.

Artifact (this is how it was found) along the abandoned Gordon Pond Railroad in Kinsman Notch of the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. This was a logging railroad in operation from 1907-1916 +/-. This artifact is possibly a โ€œraveโ€, which is part of a logging sleigh.
Logging Sled "Rave" – Kinsman Notch, New Hampshire
 

The artifact above put on display by hikers along the abandoned Gordon Pond Railroad (1907-1916) is possibly a “rave”, which is part of a logging sleigh. Logging sleighs were an important part of early logging in the White Mountains.

Artifact at what is believed to be the site of Greens Cliff Camp of the abandoned Sawyer River Railroad in Livermore, New Hampshire. This railroad was a logging railroad that was in operation from 1877-1928.
Bowl – Livermore, New Hampshire
 

Not all, but many of the old bowls, cooking utensils, dishes, and pans along the trails are also artifacts. These types of artifacts can help identify the location of buildings at historical sites. Plus leaving them where they are found makes it easier for historians to determine the layout of the site.

Remnants (artifact) of an abandoned logging camp in Walker Ravine in Franconia Notch of the New Hampshire White Mountains.
Glass Bottle – Franconia Notch, New Hampshire
 

Before a hiker volunteers to pick up trash in any given area of the White Mountains, they should research the history of that area. Doing this will give the hiker an idea of what types of artifacts they may encounter. That half-buried glass bottle may be over one hundred years old, and if a hiker mistakes it for trash and removes it from the forest, the history of that area is forever lost.

Do-gooders usually have good intentions and mean well, but when unsupervised, they can do more harm than good. So hopefully, some of the above photos of artifacts will help you distinguish the historical artifacts from the hiker trash. And if you know of any hikers removing artifacts, intentionally or unintentionally, from the forest report them to Forest Service. View more photos of artifacts here.

Happy image making..


 

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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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2 Responses to “Identifying Artifacts, White Mountains”

  1. Slow Gin Lizz

    I just love the fact that old trash is now a historic artifact. The same way petroglyphs (essentially old graffit, right?) are now historic. Somehow, old tin cans and metalwork have a lot more charm to them than today's yucky plastic bottles and candy bar wrappers.

    Reply

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