4 New Hampshire towns that no longer exist

Gosport on Star Island. Image via Stacy Milbouer

By Stacy Milbouer

November 15, 2023

Nothing is forever, and that goes for towns and townships in New Hampshire that once thrived and are now just dots on old maps. Here are four towns that haven’t had residents for a long time but are open to exploration.

Monson

4 New Hampshire towns that no longer exist

Image courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests

Once upon a time–1746 to be specific–the town of Monson, on the borders of what’s now Hollis and Milford, was incorporated, and at its peak had 15 families calling it home. A mere 27 years later, the place was abandoned.

Research into the reasons why are ongoing, but some have speculated bad farmland, harsh living conditions, politics, and perhaps tensions with Native Americans might have led to the abandonment, according to the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests, the steward of Monson Center.

For centuries the town was forgotten until a few curious hikers found stone foundations, cellar holes, and a town animal pound. In the late 1990s, the remains of Monson were saved from developers by local activists and the former town is considered by archeologists to be one of the most significant sites in New England. Many of the original foundations of the homes that were built in the late 1700s village are preserved, and the 200-acre site is now open to visitors who can hike trails, search for cellar holes, and visit the 1756 Gould House, once a home and clock shop which was restored and turned into a museum 25 years ago by one of the original Monson settlers’ descendants.  

Zealand

The village of Zealand was created in 1875, popping up in the White Mountains, as so many did, because of the fast-growing logging industry. It was a lively little place–with a school, post office, shop, two railroad stations, and housing for logging workers and their families–between 80 and 250 families during the logging peak, according to an article in Only in Your State by Ken MacGray.

But all that was over by 1897 when most of the timber had been clear-cut and the post office left town. Pretty much nothing of the village remains, but visitors can hike and camp in the clearing where the town once stood. And the former Zealand Valley Railroad in Bethlehem is now the 2.5-mile Zealand Trail, overseen by the National Forest Service.

Gosport

4 New Hampshire towns that no longer exist

Image via Stacy Milbouer

Located on the 46-acre Star Island in the Isles of Shoals, Gosport became a township in 1715. The island community thrived as a cod-fishing village until 1778 when, because of the Revolutionary War, residents were evacuated to the mainland in Rye, according to the Historic New England Project.

While a few stalwart islanders stayed behind, Gosport was pretty much abandoned by the mid-1800s but came back to life in 1916 when the non-profit Star Island Corporation built the Oceanic Hotel, which remains today as a conference center and retreat.

You can get to Star Island today by ferry–a short but exquisite ride from Portsmouth–to catch a sunset from the old hotel’s porch, take a class at the conference center, or kayak around Gosport Harbor.

Kilkenny

Lying within the White Mountain National Forest and named for the county in Ireland, Kilkenny was land granted in 1774 and became a township 56 years later, according to the 1888 “History of Coos County” by George Drew Merrill. The book described the village as having “very few inhabitants,” who are “very poor, and for aught that appears to the contrary, they must remain so, as they are actual trespassers on that part of God’s heritage which he designed for the residence of bears, wolves, moose and other animals.”

At one time there was a plan for a lumber company in town, but that didn’t happen. In 1856 the population of Kilkenny dropped to 19 and never recovered. Technically speaking it still exists, but Kilkenny has had a population of zero in the last three censuses.

READ MORE: 4 favorite Granite State sites to show your out-of-town guests

 

Author

  • Stacy Milbouer

    Stacy Milbouer is an award-winning journalist and has covered New Hampshire for many publications including the Boston Globe, New Hampshire Magazine, and the Nashua Telegraph.

CATEGORIES: COMMUNITY | LOCAL HISTORY

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