History of Bethlehem

In the early 1800s Bethlehem was a way station for stage coaches traveling to Crawford Notch and Portland Maine. Taverns and blacksmith shops lined Main Street to accommodate the steady stream of travelers passing through. Before long the beauty of Bethlehem asserted itself and people began to stay. As the number grew several settlers added to their farm incomes by taking in summer boarders and eventually building tourist houses. After the Civil War, Bethlehem emerged as a popular mountain resort. City dwellers suffering from hayfever and the heat, flocked to Bethlehem as it was noted for its pollen-free air. People came and stayed for the entire season, returning to the city as cooler weather arrived. More that 30 luxery hotels catered to summer guests. Palatial private cottages studded the hillsides. Vacationers crowded the wooden sidewalks. In the evenings, a stroll on Main Street was a delight to the senses with tantalizing aromas from the hotel kitchens. Music from dance bands carried through the air. Men and women in formal evening dress filled the streets with color. In the early 1900s Robert Frost spent several summers here. In 1831 Henry David Thoreau spent time in town as did Will Carlton a popular ballad writer at the turn of the century. Helen Hunt Jackson, author of the American classic, Ramona, was also a summer resident. As travel by railroad was replaced by the private automobile, antihistamines created, and air conditioning invented, Bethlehem’s attraction as an escape from the city dwindled and by the early 1970s, Bethlehem’s hotels and cottages were nearly empty or gone. Today, Bethlehem has transformed into a diverse cultural community of activity. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the arts, theatre, unique shopping and eating establishments, and the ever present beauty of the area.

Bethlehem Timeline

The following is a timeline of important moments in the history of Bethlehem, NH

1600 | Native Americans in Bethlehem

The three major Indian nations in northeastern America were divided into three...
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1760-1774 | Early Settlement of Lloyd Hills

From 1623 to 1641 the towns in New Hampshire operated without any provincial...
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1787-1895 | Early History, Settlers & Business

The township of Bethlehem lies in the northern part of Grafton County, bounded on the north and east by...
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1798-1799 | Official Incorporation

In November of 1798 a formal act for the incorporation of Bethlehem was drawn up which read...
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1880-1980 | Mills & Factories

The first grist mill in Bethlehem was located at McGregory Hollow, now known as...
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1800-1931 | Churches

Early history indicates that a Baptist Church was formed in 1800, a Congregational Church in...
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1860-1911 | Stage Coach Days

The long summer days were broken by exciting rides through the countryside. These...
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1863-1996 | Early Fire & Police

Bethlehem, like all other towns, has had its share of fires. Some of the old landmarks that have...
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1867-1935 | Railroads

During the earliest years of Bethlehem settlement, the steam cars came no nearer...
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1873-1974 | Hotel Era

When the Bethlehem boys in blue returned from the savage Civil War they found...
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1873 | Cottage Colony

Bethlehem village owes its development to its tourist business. Situated on a high plateau its invigorating mountain air, pure water and ...
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1874-Present | Jewish Community

The Jewish community in Bethlehem is presently a year-round community. It becomes larger in the summer, from June to...
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1874-Present | Hebrew Hayfever Association

It was August of 1915 in Accord, New York when hay fever and asthma struck my mother, Sarah Herskowitz, full...
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1879-1973 | Mount Agassiz

In the 1880's Mt. Agassiz was under the control of Milo J. Corliss who constructed a carriage road to its summit on which he erected an observatory.
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1885-1931 | Schools

In 1885, Bethlehem had nine school districts, eleven common schools and one...
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1893-1925 | Bethlehem Village District

For many years before the precinct applied for and received its charter in 1893, efforts were made to raise money for...
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1898 | Early Recreations

A hotel by the name of "Bellevue House" was built in 1875 on the site of the present Country Club House. This hotel was opened by Mr. David Phillips and burned in 1900. The new Club House was built on this site
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1898-1980 | Hattie Whitcomb’s Reflections of Life in Bethlehem

Although I was born way back in 1898, my childhood memories are very...
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1909 | Boston Post Cane Tradition

On August 2, 1909, under the savvy ownership of Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, the Boston Post engaged in its most...
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1930-1940 | Tea Houses

The latest word in Tea Rooms as of July 24th 1920 is found in the Virginia Tea House which just opened east of town near Bethlehem Junction by way of Twin Mountain.
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1933-1938 | CCC Camp #2118 at Pierce Bridge

Organization of the 133rd Company, Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), took place at Fort Williams, Maine, May 3, 1933, under the command of C.O. Ashton, 5th Infantry.
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1940-1962 | Francis Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies

It was back in the 1880’s that murder and medicine first came to thrill Frances Glessner.
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Francis Glessner Lee (1878 to 1962) and The Nutshell Studies

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death Bethlehem’s Frances Glessner Lee-(1878-1962), A Pioneer of Modern Criminology “Convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” It was back in the 1880’s that murder and medicine first came to thrill...

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CCC Camp #2118 at Pierce Bridge

History of the CCC Camp, Pierce Bridge, 153rd Company Organization of the 133rd Company, Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), took place at Fort Williams, Maine, May 3, 1933, under the command of C.O. Ashton, 5th Infantry. On May 19, 1933 the company was moved by rail to...

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Tea Houses

Tea House Houses in Bethlehem The latest word in Tea Rooms as of July 24th, 1920 is found in the Virginia Tea House which just opened east of town near Bethlehem Junction by way of Twin Mountain. The building is Colonial in style, with a broad veranda running around...

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Boston Post Cane Tradition

Origins of the Boston Post Cane Tradition On August 2, 1909, under the savvy ownership of Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, the Boston Post engaged in its most famous publicity stunt. The newspaper forwarded to the Board of Selectmen in 700 towns* (no cities included, although...

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Hattie Whitcomb’s Reflections of Life in Bethlehem

Childhood Memories by Hattie Whitcomb Taylor Although I was born way back in 1898, my childhood memories are very clear and dear to me. I was the seventh child of five girls and two boys. My oldest sister was married and had her own family before I came along. She...

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Early Recreations

RECREATIONS A hotel by the name of "Bellevue House" was built in 1875 on the site of the present Country Club House. This hotel was opened by Mr. David Phillips and burned in 1900. The new Club House was built on this site in 1912. Up until this time, the clubhouse...

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Bethlehem Village District

BETHLEHEM VILLAGE PRECINCT 1893-1974 By DORIS STEVENSON, CLERK FROM 1943 to 1972 For many years before the precinct applied for and received its charter in 1893, efforts were made to raise money for sprinkling streets, which at that time were unsurfaced , and for...

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Schools

THE SCHOOLS In 1885, Bethlehem had nine school districts, eleven common schools, and one graded school. There were 329 children attending school, thirty of whom were pursuing the higher grades and were taught during the year by four male and fifteen female teachers....

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Mount Agassiz

MT. AGASSIZ AND ROUND MOUNTAIN In the 1880's Mt. Agassiz was under the control of Milo J. Corliss who constructed a carriage road to its summit on which he erected an observatory. This mountain was formerly known as Peaked Hill, but was later named Mt. Agassiz in...

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Hebrew Hayfever Association

They Came to Breathe By Ruth Pactor Comments by Paul Pactor It was August of 1915 in Accord, New York when hay fever and asthma struck my mother, Sarah Herskowitz, full force. She was confined to her bed from August to November. After seeing many doctors and having...

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Jewish Community

Bethlehem's Jewish Community The Jewish community in Bethlehem is presently a year-round community. It becomes larger in the summer, from June to September when the Hassidic community comes to visit. Jews began arriving in Bethlehem in the early 1900’s. People came...

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Cottage Colony, Past and Present

COTTAGE COLONY Bethlehem village owes its development to its tourist business. Situated on a high plateau its invigorating mountain air, pure water and agreeable summer temperature made it an ideal vacation land. The first to take note of this was Governor Henry...

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Hotel Era

Hotel Era The Sinclair When the Bethlehem boys in blue returned from the savage Civil War they found the town much as they had left it. However, one thing had happened during the war that was to have a drastic effect on the town's development.This event ultimately...

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Railroads

RAILROADS During the earliest years of Bethlehem settlement, the steam cars came no nearer than Concord. Four-and six-horse coaches made daily trips, during the summer, between Crawford and Plymouth. In 1867, the Bethlehem Junction and Fabyans railroad was built and...

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Early Fire and Police Departments

BETHLEHEM FIRE DEPARTMENT Bethlehem, like all other towns, has had its share of fires. Some of the old landmarks that have been destroyed were: the Will Noyes farm buildings on the Austin road in June, 1911; the Fitzgerald cottage on the South road burned in January,...

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Stage Coach Days

STAGE COACH DAYS The long summer days were broken by exciting rides through the countryside. These stagecoach rides were probably the highlight of any visit to the White Mountains. They would leave the hotels in Bethlehem, drastically overcrowded by present standards,...

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Churches

Churches Early history indicates that a Baptist Church was formed in 1800, a Congregational Church in 1802 and a Free Will Baptist Church in 1813. The Free Will Baptist Church was located at the corner of Cherry Valley and Rt. 302. The first edifice devoted to...

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Mills and Factories

MILLS AND FACTORIES The first grist mill in Bethlehem was located at McGregory Hollow, now known as Bethlehem Hollow, with Stephen Houghton as proprietor. In 1868-69, the Waumbec steam saw-mill was erected on the Ammonoosuc River at Pierce Bridge, by the Waumbec...

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Bethlehem’s Official Incorporation

Bethlehem’s Official Incorporation as a Town In November of 1798 a formal act for the incorporation of Bethlehem was drawn up which read: To the Honourable Senate & House of Representatives to be Convened at Concord on the third Wednesday of November A.D. 1798....

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Early Settlers

EARLIEST SETTLERS The township of Bethlehem lies in the northern part of Grafton County, bounded on the north and east by Whitefield, south by Lisbon, Franconia and Livermore, and on the west by Littleton. The township includes, besides Bethlehem, the small...

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Early Settlement of Lloyd Hills

Early Settlement of Lloyd Hills From 1623 to 1641 the towns in New Hampshire operated without any provincial government, but from 1641 to 1679 they were united with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The original practice of self government appealed to residents of the New...

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Native Americans in Bethlehem

THE INDIANS OF BETHLEHEM The three major Indian nations in north­ eastern America were divided into three groups: the Algonquin, the Iroquoian and Siouan. The Siouan lived in the region of Lake Winnebago and Wisconsin, the Iroquois peoples lived to the west of the...

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