Benjamin Lincoln Ball, Mount Washington

Named for Benjamin Lincoln Ball. A hiker takes in the view of Mount Washington just after sunset from Ball Crag, along the Nelson Crag Trail, in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Ball Crag is named for Doctor Benjamin Lincoln Ball; in October 1855, he was lost for three days on Mount Washington.
Just After Sunset from Ball Crag – Nelson Crag Trail, Mount Washington

Benjamin Lincoln Ball, Mount Washington – On Mount Washington in New Hampshire, along the Nelson Crag Trail, there is a feature known as “Ball Crag”. It’s named for Doctor Benjamin Lincoln Ball (1820-1859). Born in Northborough, Massachusetts, he was a Harvard graduate, dentist, traveler, and author of two books: Rambles in Eastern Asia (1855) and Three Days on the White Mountains (1856). He was also an experienced mountain climber.

Dr. Ball came to the White Mountains in October 1855 with the intention of climbing Mount Washington. And even though it was recommended that he hire a guide, he attempted to hike Mount Washington alone. Despite the death of Lizzie Bourne one month earlier on Mount Washington, Ball was focused on reaching the summit. Now part of White Mountains history, his adventure is a fascinating story of will and determination.

The summit of Mount Washington from Nelson Crag Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Mount Washington from Ball Crag – Nelson Crag Trail

On October 25, 26, and 27, 1855, Dr. Ball was lost in inclement weather on Mount Washington; his only provisions were a walking cane and an umbrella. Both ended up being beneficial to his survival. He dealt with rain, snow, sleet, strong winds, and poor visibility.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Silver Forrest [sic] and Half-Way House, Mt. Washington, N.H.
Halfway House, Mount Washington From The New York Public Library

Dr. Ball’s hike began at the Glen House in Pinkham Notch. The carriage road, today’s Auto Road, was in the process of being built, and it hadn’t quite reached the Halfway House yet. So he hiked up the carriage road to the Halfway House (called the Camp House at the time), stayed the night there, and then on the morning of October 25, he started climbing the old Glen House Bridle Path with hopes of summiting Mount Washington. The Glen House Bridle Path began at the Glen House and led to the summit, but the construction of the new carriage road (completed in 1861) ruined the lower section of the trail. And at the time of Dr. Ball’s adventure, only the section of trail above the Halfway House existed.

Because the weather was so bad, he ended up roaming around the alpine zone lost for three days and two nights, never reaching the actual summit. The umbrella helped shelter him from the elements during the night, and the cane aided him with walking.

Miraculously, he was still alive when a search party led by Joseph Seavey Hall found him on the 27th; his hands and feet were badly frozen. The rescue party took him down to the Halfway House, where his frozen hands and feet received some medical attention. He was then brought down the mountain to the Glen House, where the hotel staff and doctors took care of him. It would take months for him to recover, but he made a full recovery; he lost no part of his hands or feet.

Benjamin Lincoln Ball explored Devils Den on the cliff of Mount Willard in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Originally this mountain was named Mount Tom for Thomas J. Crawford (Notch House), but the name was changed to Mount Willard; named for Joseph Willard, a hiking companion of Thomas J. Crawford.
Mount Willard – Crawford Notch, New Hampshire

In August 1856, Dr. Ball returned to the White Mountains to explore a cave in Crawford Notch. Using ropes, he was lowered into Devil’s Den on the side of Mount Willard. He found nothing of interest in the cave and described the cave as being “20 ft. wide and deep, and 15 ft. high”. He is likely one of only a handful of people who explored the cave during the 1800s. Abel Crawford, Frank Leavitt (the mapmaker), and an 1870s USGS survey party are also known to have explored it in the 1800s. Doctor Benjamin Lincoln Ball died a few years later at the age of 39 in Chiriquí, Panama.

Written by himself, Doctor Benjamin Lincoln Ball’s adventure on Mount Washington is documented in the book, Three Days on the White Mountains: Being the Perilous Adventure of Dr. B. L. Ball on Mount Washington. The book is an interesting first-hand account of his Mount Washington adventure.

Happy image making..


© Erin Paul Donovan. All rights reserved | Historic Information Disclaimer | Mount Washington Prints
The historic images used on are in the public domain and / or used with permission.

Ball, Benjamin Lincoln. Three Days on the White Mountains: Being the Perilous Adventure of Dr. B. L. Ball on Mount Washington During October 25, 26, and 27, 1855. Boston, MA: Nathaniel Noyes, 1856.

Sweetser, Moses Foster. The White mountains: A Handbook for Travellers. Boston, MA: Ticknor and Company, 1886.

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