By Craig McCart
Photos courtesy of the Grantham Historical Society
Tucked away in the remote, northwest corner of Grantham is a beautiful pond – one that few people ever hike out to see. Nearby is a hilltop with an amazing view – one that few people manage to take in. Leavitt Pond and the hilltop called “Little Mt. Washington” are hidden treasures, to be sure.
Leavitt Pond lies at the base of Leavitt Hill, which lured one of Grantham’s first settlers, Nathaniel Leavitt, to move his family here from Exeter in 1769. At one time, as his extended family grew and a community developed, there were said to be 50 Leavitt children attending Leavitt Hill School. By 1870, though, the settlement had become quite depleted, as most left to find better farmland elsewhere or moved downhill to work in the valley mills.
One of Nathaniel’s sons, Jeremiah, moved to Quebec. Jeremiah’s son and grandson, motivated by a newfound faith, made the long journey west from Canada to join the Latter Day Saint movement, Jeremiah II perishing in Illinois, but Jeremiah III making it all the way to Utah.
In 2000, a group from the Western Association of Leavitt Families bussed from Utah to touch base with their eastern roots. One of the stops was in Grantham to visit the old Leavitt Hill Cemetery. Volunteers from the Grantham Historical Society worked for days cleaning up around the grave markers in anticipation of the visit. When the group arrived, it was welcomed by William Ruger, founder of Sturm-Ruger in Newport, who owned the property at that time. The visitors placed plaques commemorating the occasion at the beginning of Leavitt Hill Road, at the cemetery, and at Leavitt Pond.
While there are several ways to reach the pond, let’s choose the most interesting: by beginning from a parking area at the end of Miller Pond Road. Proceeding up the trail from there soon brings us to the former Four Corners settlement at the junction of the old Mountain Road and the Croydon Turnpike. In the early 1800s, a church meeting house and a school served this small community, while a blacksmith shop and two inns catered to travelers on the pike as well. All to be found there now are cellar holes, the Mountain Cemetery, and a Blue Mountain Snow Dusters cabin.
Proceeding north on the old Croydon Turnpike, we presently come to the site where Burr’s Sawmill once stood at the outlet of Chase Pond. Not too far from there, just past the north end of the pond, we slip around a gate on our right and begin a climb on a grassy road.
Soon, a trail branching to the right leads up to Little Mt. Washington for a breathtaking view that stretches from Mt. Sunapee to the Presidentials – that’s if any of us have breath to spare after the climb. The panoramic view from its granite cliff includes Miller Pond and the northern shallows of Eastman Lake. Having recuperated from the climb, we trace back to the grassy road by taking a fork in the path to the right and continue northward to Leavitt Pond. Once there, we’re rewarded with a beautiful view across the water from a bridge at the north end. A short path just past the bridge leads to one of the plaques left by the Western Leavitts group.
Up the hill, the road we have followed intersects a wide, private road, which has been upgraded for logging operations taking place. It comes from the extension of old Route 10 at Exit 14, arriving at Leavitt Pond from the north and then climbing above the pond before dropping down to another bridge at the pond’s outlet. This logging road will extend on through the forest and may eventually provide a loop back to Chase Pond. Instead of turning right to drop to the bridge, however, we can continue straight on what becomes the old Leavitt Hill Road. Within 50 yards, an overgrown path to the left leads 100 yards up to the obscure Leavitt Hill Cemetery and another plaque, which honors Nathaniel Leavitt, his wife, and 12 children.
A third plaque is at the terminus of old Leavitt Hill Road near the Miller Pond Road underpass of I-89. Leaving a second vehicle there and continuing to it on the old road would give us an option to that of retracing our route back for two hours or so. Another option would be to leave a second vehicle by the gate at the end of the logging road, not far from Exit 14. Either way, it’s a splendid, blaze-orange adventure to consider in the fall when the paths are dry and the colors are peaking.
Craig McArt is a former chair of Woodlands & Wildlife and board member of the Grantham Historical Society. He is presently serving on Grantham’s Open Space Committee. He is a retired industrial designer and professor.