In 1851, John Coffin Nazro announced that God would be appearing at the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which he was renaming Temple Heights to signify its role as home to a new religious movement.
Nazro — a devout (some would say fanatical or delusional) Christian — was hardly the first to believe that the peak of Mount Washington was a suitable home for God.
The Abenaki Indians also believed that the top of the mountain was a holy site. They declined to climb it in the belief that they would be punished with death if they did.
In 1642, an Irishman named Darby Field summited the mountain, both to record what was there and to gain influence over the Indians by proving he was not subject to the power of their God.
By the time John Coffin Nazro made his announcement, the summit had been reached many times. The Crawford family of innkeepers who settled the White Mountains was busy building paths to the summit to enhance its following among artists, campers and those seeking fresh air and inspiration.
Nazro was a hired man working with Thomas Crawford at his inn. Crawford, as a joke, gave Nazro a “free soil deed” to the top of the mountain.
Nazro, after weighing his position and praying for guidance, decided to establish tolls on some of the bridle paths leading to the top of the mountain.
Some climbers visiting the area for recreation apparently paid the tolls, and Nazro became further convinced of the divine inspiration of his plans.
In 1851, he published the following notice in the newspapers:
Fourth of July on the White Mountains
There will be a solemn congregation upon Trinity Height, or Summit of Mount Washington, on the Fourth Day of July, A.D. 1851, and First year of the Theocracy, or Jewish Christianity, to dedicate to the coming of the Ancient of Days, in his Glory of His Kingdom, and to the marriage of the Lamb: and the literal organization in this generation of the Christian or purple and royal Democracy (let no man profane that name!), or the thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand of the people of the Saints of the most high God of every nation and Denomination into the greatness of God’s Kingdom and dominion under the whole heavens; and there will be a contribution for this purpose from all who are willing, in the beauty of holiness, from the dawn of that day.
John Coffin Nazro
Israel of Jerusalem
A group of curious people came to witness the events Nazro had in mind, perhaps expecting some sort of transcendent experience. What they got was wet. Rain poured down in buckets all day and unhappy tourists told John Coffin Nazro exactly what they thought of his new temple.
Chastened, Nazro gave up on his toll-collecting schemes and left the area to join the Navy. The first summit house on Mount Washington was erected the following year, offering guests shelter, bed and board but no miracles.
Thanks to: Historical Relics of the White Mountains: Also, a Concise White Mountain Guide, by John H. Spaulding
By Albert Bierstadt – the-athenaeum.org, Public Domain