The story of Red Hill starts before the North American continent existed as we know it today, and the supercontinent of Pangaea comprised the majority of all landmass on Earth. Massive bodies of magma from the Earth’s mantle started to rise through the crust like oil in a lava lamp, in a process known as magma intrusion. These bodies of what is basically liquid rock slowly rose through the crust, cooling and solidifying on the way and forming solid igneous rocks such as granite.
Around 150 million years ago, these intrusions started to breach the surface of the Earth, continuing to rise until they towered over the landscape as massive mountains akin to those found in the Alps. One such intrusion would later be known as Red Hill, while others would later be known as the Ossipee and Belknap Ranges. One hundred and fifty million years is a very long time, and these mountains were slowly worn down by erosion into the ranges we recognize today. Although they are not as massive as they were eons ago, mountains such as Red Hill amplify the scenery of Moultonborough, while providing a multitude of habitats for a diverse array of wildlife.
The area surrounding Red Hill has seen human activity for thousands of years. The Abenaki tribe of Native Americans inhabited this area, and used Red Hill for hunting grounds. It was not until the 18th century when settlers from Europe established themselves in the area; two of the first being Israel and Abraham Glines, a pair of trappers who established a settlement near the base of Red Hill.
The end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 created a time where families moved onto and around Red Hill, as veterans settled on land plots granted to them by the federal government for their service. The most famous of these was Jonathan Cook, who built homestead with his wife Eliza in 1788. Their property was set among a large grove of blueberries and sugar maples – plants that were (and still are) predominant on this hill, and whose leaves turn a bright red in the fall. This dramatic color change is what inspired Moses Senter to give Red Hill its succinct name in 1790.
Also settled on Red Hill were Ebenezer and Annie, who built their homestead in 1828. Ebenezer, who preferred to go by Eben, was a skilled mathematician famed for solving complex mathematical problems at the schoolhouse without a chalkboard. Their eldest son Charles was especially popular among his classmates, because living on Red Hill gave him the luxury of being able to sled all the way to school in the winter.
Homesteaders were not the only people who came to Red Hill during this time, as the Lakes Region slowly began to gain popularity as a tourist attraction after the turn of the 19th century. Vacationers and summer residents from surrounding states would often travel to New Hampshire to enjoy leisurely days on the water, with some choosing instead to travel up the various mountains in the area to enjoy the views.
By the 1820s, reaching the summit of Red Hill became a must-do for any tourist in the area, either by walking or riding on horseback. Horses were the preferred method of travel, as navigating the sloping hills were impractical for women wearing large hoop dresses and men wearing corsets (as was the fashion of the time). The carriage road that used to run up through open pasturelands and maple groves has long been abandoned, but it allowed tourists to meet the many people who called this mountain their home. During this time the Cook family was especially popular with tourists by offering hospitality and companionship to travelers. For the price of one silver coin visitors could enjoy refreshments such as farm-fresh milk, blueberries, and sugary drinks made from red maple syrup. Eliza Cook would often open up their home to hikers for a night’s stay, while Jonathan Cook would act as a guide, touring people up the summit while naming every peak on the horizon.
The intrepid hikers that made it up to the 2,030’ summit were greeted with a panoramic view of New Hampshire’s lakes to the south, and the White Mountains to the north. Visitors were known to spend hours gazing at the landscape spread out before them, as sunlight danced off of Squam and Winnepesaukee while the Belknap mountains decorated the background. Among these hikers were painters, poets, clergymen, and philosophers who all used the scenery as inspiration for their works. Some of the most notable of these were W. H. Bartlett, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. While most preferred the view of the lakes and lowlands, Thoreau wrote that he was “…much attracted at this hour by the wild mountain view on the northward.”
Moultonborough To The 20th Century. Moultonborough Historical Society. Bicentennial Issue. 1963. Printed by The Meredith New, Publishers and Printers.
History of Red Hill by Jane Rice. Moultonborough Historical Society. Find it online here.