Exploring Dorchester NH on the 1860 Map of Grafton County

Smarts Mountain and the Source of the Mighty Mascoma River.

Dorchester New Hampshire, lies just east of Lyme, New Hampshire, and just north of Canaan NH.  John House and others, were successful in fulfilling the settlement obligations of the charter for Dorchester, dated May 1st, 1772, though the township was originally granted in 1761.

Village area of Dorchester

In 1860, the village area of Dorchester included two Blacksmith Shops,  a Townhouse, and a Post Office.  Prominent names shown are Colburn, Blodgett, Bridgman, Norris, Sanborn, Smith and Powers, Weeks, and Winslow, 

Close up of village center

Sometimes termed as a rugged wilderness, Dorchester has water that flows into both the Merrimack River Valley, and the Connecticut River Valley.  The South Branch of  Baker River flows through eastern Dorchester, eventually to the  Merrimack River valley, while the Mascoma River flows from its source in northwestern Dorchester, to the Connecticut River.

North Dorchester

Northeastern Dorchester

As we can see on the map, Dorchester had a fair amount of homes and activity 159 years ago.

North-central Dorchester Township

In the photo above, of North Dorchester, we see "W. Robbins P.O.", School number 7, and a couple of Saw Mills.  Notable names include Cogswell, Clement, Davis, Dustin, Leavitt, Merrill, Philprick, and Read.

Line Pond on the norther Dorchester border with Wentworth NH

Smart's Mountain, in the northwest corner of Dorchester NH

Smart's Mountain lies in the northwest corner of Dorchester, bordering with Lyme.  Personally, I never really knew much about Dorchester, except that when I lived in Lyme Center, back in 1984, I was told it was east on the Dorchester road, but "You can't get there from here".  As I understood it, the road had once gone  through to Dorchester, back in the old days of subsistence farming, but as the area became less and less populated, the road had mostly grown back into brush, woods, and/or bog.

Smarts Pond and Norris Pond at the southern base of Smart's Mountain


In northwest Dorchester, near the Lyme border, we see the two ponds near the base of the southern slope of Smart's Mountain.  One is called "Smarts Pd" and the other one is called Norris Pond.  The outlets of these two ponds converge and form the Mascoma,  or "Mascomy" River.  Today those ponds are known as Reservoir Pond, and Cummins Pond.

The Source of the Mascoma River.

As we can see on the map above, there were a couple of Saw Mills at the outlets of Smarts and Norris Ponds, near the source of the Mascoma River.

Mascoma River flowing south in western Dorchester

Pollard Hill and Southwestern Dorchester bordering Canaan

The population of Dorchester in 1880 was 586.  By 2010 it had been reduced to  355.  Dorchester is about as rural a town you can find in the Upper Valley.  If you like peace and solitude, and a beautiful place to live, you'll probably love Dorchester.

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By 2005 I had lived in the Upper Valley almost 20 years, and I don't think I had ever set foot in Dorchester.  I may have driven through on Route 118 at some point, but I don't think I had ever visited the town.  That changed when the Upper Valley Community Band played a summer concert there for a local celebration.  I was playing trumpet, and went along to have some fun and play in the big brass band.  I was immediately impressed with the amount of people in attendance, and the community spirit that was displayed by them.  There was a great barbecue with great desserts, festive music, and lots of genuinely friendly, happy people. 

Dorchester Road:  The old route from Lyme to Dorchester

 A fellow band member, who lived in Hanover, decided he would ride his bike to the Upper Valley Community Band concert in Dorchester.  He headed north to Lyme, and then east to Lyme Center.  He then attempted to ride his bike along the Dorchester Road, into Dorchester.  I don't think he even brought a map...  We started the concert without him, as he hadn't shown up in time.  It turns out he made it to North Dorchester, but did not know how to find the concert location from there.  A local person went out and found him and brought him to the concert, in spite of his ragged appearance after all he had been through.  He mentioned climbing over old fences in swampy areas, and eventually finding civilization once again!

Southeast Dorchester.  Bryant Pond in bottom corner.

Bucks Corner, southeastern Dorchester

Bucks Corner lies in southeastern Dorchester.  It is not listed on this map, but I believe it is generally where the "S.P. Wright Hotel" is located on the 1860 map.

All in all, Dorchester probably hasn't changed all that much in 250 years.  The population is still small, and it is still a bit out of the way for most people, considering the commute to work locations from there.  If you travel north from Canaan on 118, you will go through Dorchester...  Just don't expect to find any  traffic signals!

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I always appreciate hearing from readers about the maps and local history.

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