New Hampshire’s White Mountains carry many household names. But tucked among the familiar sounding Jefferson Notch and Mount Dartmouth is the oddly named Mount Mitten. You might think it’s so named because it’s shaped like a mitten. But you’d be wrong.
Mount Mitten’s name is intertwined with the very earliest history of American colonists’ exploration and development of the White Mountains. It was named by two pioneers, Timothy Nash and Benjamin Sawyer.
The Sawyer and Nash names appear on many geographic features in Northern New Hampshire, Sawyer’s Rock, Nash Stream, Sawyer Pond, and the settlement they established, Nash & Sawyer Location.
But Mount Mitten got its name because Nash, hunting in the area, lost a mitten there. And why was that mitten so significant? Because in losing it he became a very wealthy man.
Nash was hunting in the mountains in 1771, tracking a moose, when he got disoriented. To get his bearings he climbed high up in a tree. In the process, he lost his mitten. But up in that tree he also caught sight of Crawford Notch, the passage that would allow for easier access to northern lands in Coos County.
The notch was known to settlers, since Indians had spoken of it. But no one could find it until Nash.
The young pioneer traveled to Portsmouth for a meeting with royal Governor John Wentworth. The governor was skeptical, but he made a deal with Nash. If the young man could get a horse through the forest from Lancaster, N.H. Wentworth would give him a large parcel of land at the top of the notch.
Nash and his friend Benjamin Sawyer accepted the challenge. They obtained a horse in Lancaster and brought him to the governor, but not without some difficulty. At some points the horse had to be loaded into a sling and lowered over boulders as the pair made their way through Crawford Notch.
Nevertheless, the governor kept his deal and gave Nash his land. But he included a provision that he construct a road through the north and bring families to live in the area. Nash did just that. And because of his good fortune he gave Mount Mitten, the 3058-foot peak in the Dartmouth Range, its name.
Thanks to The History of the White Mountains by Lucy Crawford, Henry Wheelock Ripley. This story updated in 2022.