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Fri June 8, 2012
Livermore: A Postcard From A Ghost Town
Beginning around 1876 the town of Livermore was a hectic, noisy logging town in Northern Grafton County not far from Bartlett.
NHPR’s Chris Jensen went in search of the town’s history and sends this postcard.
It is a tale of a hard daily life, a flood, smallpox and becoming ghost town.
Sound of walking…
“My name is Peter Crane, I live in Bartlett, New Hampshire, we’re here on the Sawyer Road on the way to into what was once the village of Livermore, New Hampshire.”
Crane knows the town well. Almost 20 years ago he did his doctoral thesis on Livermore. He interviewed former residents and worked his way through records.
About a mile and one-half – steadily uphill - from US Route 302 is what’s left of Livermore.
“At its peak, back around 1900, there would have been 200 people associated with the town probably about half of those living here in the village, working in the mill and related activities and another 100 or so men and now a days we would say boys – very young men – working out in the logging camp, cutting down the trees and sending them to the mill here in Livermore village.
Sounds of birds….
Livermore built up as a logging town and loggers cleared much of the nearby forest.
More than a century later it is the forest’s turn for a little payback.
All that’s left of Livermore are the foundations of some of the buildings and in many places trees are growing up around and through them.
“Here we’re standing at the site of the old school house and looking at a picture of the school house and its students and teachers as once they were. The American flag with a few fewer stars on it flying high above the school house and looking down the street where today we can look down and see nothing but shrubbery and trees we can see a couple of the houses of the folks who lived here in the town.”
Crane says it was not an easy life for the 200 or so people who called this place home.
“Definitely it was hard. There are early stories for instance about a smallpox epidemic that took a number of lives here. If you look at some of the death records for the town which have survived you see indications of disease, including childhood disease, accidental death. One fellow died when a log fell on him. Another person was run over by railroad cars.”
Livermore was a company town owned by the Saunders family. So, people were supposed to spend company wages buying supplies directly from the company.
“In fact there is even a story told – true or not it is a great story that there was a shop keeper in Bartlett and in the evenings he would take his wagon up along the main road and meet people who would come down the little side road from Livermore, to purchase things from him, from his wagon rather than to pay the higher prices from the company store that was actually in the village.”
Walking sounds. Leaves crunching.
Crossing the dirt road and working down an embankment you get to a few walls and the foundation of the powerhouse.
And below it sits what is left of the mill.
“Doubtless it would have been a very noisy place. Back then there would have been the roaring of the mills and the planers as well as the machinery just moving all those logs and then moving the lumber around the mill itself.”
Sound of the river and birds…
Now the past is silent.
There are only river and forest sounds…
Audio of birds and river…
A combination of things did Livermore in.
The logging was prudent – for the times but there was less and less wood.
A flood in 1927 washed out part of the railroad needed to move the lumber out.
Officially the town was dissolved in 1951.
But it died before that.
“No one has lived here since 1946 and probably from the late 1930’s on no more than two people or so would live here at one time.”
Now Livermore is memories and census figures and old photos and the few foundations and walls trying to hold out against the forest.
For NHPR News this is Chris Jensen
To see photos of Livermore's prime time go here.
To read more about Livermore visit White Mountain History.Org.