Discovering Tamworth New Hampshire

I may never be a world traveler because i’m much to busy searching my backyard for the picturesque hamlets, revived industrial towns and quintessential main streets that make up New England.

I relish in the idea of uncovering not only the places, but the stories that piece together time. The stories that define families and generations — the one’s kept secret by those who haven’t yet found an opportunity to share them.

Tamworth New Hampshire is a place where many tales have been told and just as likely kept secret. How many stories have been left to lay with the land, never to be seen by pen and paper or heard by word of mouth? I can only imagine what could be uncovered here with just one summer well spent.

Nestled between the lakes region and the snow-capped white mountains, Tamworth New Hampshire is a little town with a rich history. For over a century it has harbored the imagination of famous artists, writers and public figures such as Henry James, e.e Cummings and even 22nd President Grover Cleveland. There is something to be said about the area attracting the minds of intellectuals and innovators alike.

Listen to the trees whisper! Spring has finally sprung in Tamworth and the warmer temps have coerced the buds to blossom. Like all those who came before us, we too can only stay inside for so long before the outdoors call our spirits to explore.

A restorative hike to the rocky peak of Mt. Chorcorua completes the trip— it’s 360 degree views are comparable to standing on the precipice of time— a gentle reminder of our place in the world. Thousands of feet below a lake mirrors the summit of not just one but hundreds of other peaks—showcasing the beauty of the White Mountains.

Visible below are the villages dotted with historic colonial homes and english barns where for hundreds of years families have farmed the land and raised their kin all while taking great care of the natural landscape. It’s easy to see why people love it here— settlers and weekenders alike.

An intriguing story is the legend of Mt. Chocorua, believed to be named after a Native American who lived in the area. It’s said that Chorcorua was receptive to the influx of English Settlers, and in particularly friendly with Cornelius Campbell and his family who resided in Tamworth. Upon being called away from the area for business of sorts, Chocorua left his young son in the care of the Campbell family.

After some time Chorcorua returned home to find that his son had perished by accidentally ingesting fox poison on the farm. Chocorua was driven mad over the careless loss of his son and plotted revenge against the farmer and his family and murdered Campbell’s wife and children. Campbell then rallied the other townsfolk and chased Chocorua up the a rocky peak, now named in his honor. The farmer took shots at Chocorua with his rifle, but did not injure him before he cursed the town folks as well as their crops and cattle. He then jumping (or fell) from the summit to his imminent death.

“A curse upon you, white men! May the great spirit curse you when he speaks in the clouds, and his words are fire! Chocorua had a son and you killed him while the sky looked bright. Lightning blast your crops! Winds and fire destroy your dwellings! The Evil One breathe death upon your cattle! Your graves lie in the war-path of the Indian! Panthers howl and wolves fatten over your bones! Chocorua goes to the Great Spirit. His curse stays with the white man.”

– New England Folk Lore

Though this legend is ultimately unproven many accounts over the last two century’s have been made in it’s favor such as Jeremy Belkap’s Journal of The White Mountains (1784) and additionally made mention by painter Thomas Cole in 1828.

Undeniably, the grandeur of Mt. Chocorua has made it a pillar in the community —it’s name and legacy is laced into nearly everything that takes place here.

An invitation extended by Tamworth Distilling allowed my best friend Liz and I to experience this incredible place first hand. From our tour of the distillery, lunch at the Lyceum and an overnight stay at a quintessential historic New England B&B — every part of our stay left us wanting more.

Surprisingly, most of the things we experienced in Tamworth are relatively new. It was only a few years ago that this area began to show signs of depression. An old inn across from the Barnstormer’s Theater (the oldest ongoing professional summer theatre in the US) became run down and a general store, now known as the Lyceum was holding on by a thread. There wasn’t anything calling people here besides the natural landscape —so Steve Grasse, a life long summer resident took the opportunity to revive it.

To breathe fresh air into an entire town seems daunting but did not intimidate Steve Grasse; the creator and mastermind behind the popular brands Hendricks’ Gin & Sailor Jerry Rum. Steve knew that Food & Drink would attract people here. His knowledge of distilling and the beverage industry coupled with his background in marketing made him the perfect candidate to restore Tamworth’s town through the opening of a new distillery and rebranding the general store to become the Tamworth Lyceum.

At the start of the project locals feared the distillery would be ill fitting in the small community, so when Grasse named the old general store Lyceum he encouraged it to become a place for locals to meet and discuss their concerns en plein air while the distillery was being built. Grasses’ commitment to the community promised to always keep the distillery small — providing opportunities without creating unrealistic demands —and what we discover is how the seamlessly history has been incorporated into every fiber of Steve’s operation.

The region’s legacy is important to Grasse, who named a Rye Whiskey after Mt. Chocorua. Supporting the local population means the distillery only sources local, hearty New England ingredients.

Liz & I have the pleasure of eating lunch at Lyceum before walking over to the Distillery for a tasting. We luck out with one day of near perfect weather and enjoy sitting on the back patio overlooking the babbling river.

Following our excursions downtown we return to our B&B just up the road. We’re greeted by proprietor Dale Bragdon in the wrap around gravel driveway; situated perfectly alongside a pair of authentic English Barns. Dale, her husband Bruce Lloyd, a poet and canine companion Zoe, an English Springer Spaniel have hosted guests from near and far, in addition to providing the most quintessential barn venue on their property for events, weddings and intimate dinners.

The three story federal period home sits pronounced on the dirt roadway — built in 1790 for George Dodge, a retired Salem Sea Captain. In his retirement Dodge and his son provided spacious room and board in the family home now known as The Highland House.

“The rooms and hospitality brim with charm, warmth and sophistication” Dale says — as if nothing has changed since the Captains time here over 200 years ago. You can tap into open wifi here, but don’t expect a television. Our room features a comfortable queen bed, authentic fireplace, an abundance of windows allowing the natural light to pour in, no matter what hour of the day. Complete with beautiful period furnishings and fixtures, the Highland House offers up the real B&B experience. Follow the wide pine plank floors into the sitting room downstairs; the perfect place to enjoy a night cap after a long day of exploring: and if the weather is too nice to stay inside, sit on the lawn or even in the romantically styled barn where you’ll surely slip into the mindset of a simpler way of life.

Our time here was extraordinary — perhaps the fresh mountain air restored our wanderlust — seeing that upon waking early Sunday morning we “jeep’d” our way around the entire White Mountain National Forest, taking in the sights of Crawford Notch — carefully scanning the perimeter for moose. Sadly, we found the Mount Washington auto road wasn’t yet open for the season but we did discover one of the best breakfast buffets in the northeast at the Red Fox Bar & Grille in Jackson, NH. It was delicious.

Having the opportunity to share the discovery of this area with my best friend is all owed to Tamworth Distillery and this post is sponsored. Though all thoughts and opinions are my own, i’m indebted to them for allowing me this experience and cannot wait for the opportunity to return.

Alexander Von Humboldt once said “What we glean from travelers vivid descriptions has a special charm; whatever is far off and suggestive excites our imagination; such pleasures tempt us far more than anything we may daily experience in the narrow circle of sedentary life.”

This quote describes everything I seek to share with you — and my greatest hope is that you will have the opportunity to experience what I have in Tamworth, New Hampshire.




This trip & post was sponsored by Tamworth Distilling

All photos are original, and my opinions are my own.