Unincorporated Places Count, even if no People Live there

This article first appeared in the June 27, 2004 edition of the New Hampshire Sunday News.

Amid the towns and cities of New Hampshire are the places that are not.
They are areas of the state that are both rugged and barren and they have names that include the words “purchase” and “grant” within their titles.

They are called unincorporated places and there are 23 of them in Coos County; one in Grafton County and one in Carroll County. They are not towns. Most have absolutely no human inhabitants, never mind a town hall or a cannon-studded town common.

“Most were basically owned by commercial landowners,” says Fred King of Colebrook, a longtime member of the planning board that oversees these unincorporated places.

Grafton County’s only unincorporated place is Livermore. Travelers over the Kancamagus Highway drive through Livermore at the height of land.

Those landowners are mostly timber companies. Some of these areas are a part of the White Mountain National Forest.

Some places have never been inhabited. Places like Sargent’s Purchase and Cutt’s Grant are in the environs of Mount Washington. No phone, no lights, no motor cars – not a single luxury.

The U.S. Census Bureau lists no population there.

Go up on a map of New Hampshire and find Odell and Dix’s Grant and Erving’s Location.

The U.S. Census Bureau figures show that five people live in Odell and that one person each lives in Erving’s Grant and Bean’s Purchase. Erving’s Location is a rectangle of land between Columbia and Millsfield. Bean’s Purchase is between Green’s Grant, Martin’s Location and the state of Maine.

Suzanne Collins, the Coos County administrator who oversees all but one of the state’s unincorporated places, begs to differ.

“The only taxable property in Erving’s Location are power poles for Public Service (of New Hampshire),” Collins said. “The only taxable property in Bean’s Purchase are the chairlift towers for Wildcat (ski area). The rest is all White Mountain National Forest.”

Collins finds other interesting data in the census report, like the five people claiming Odell, in the Nash Stream area between Stark and Erving’s Location, as their residence.

“There are not five permanent residents in Odell,” she said. “We’re required to do an inventory of property lists and there isn’t anyone who is a registered resident. I don’t know how the Census picks this up.”

People live in the unincorporated place of Wentworth’s Location. She doesn’t count.

She tried to dispute the figures when the 2000 census was issued.

“I thought, ‘where did they get this?'” she said. “When we noticed some of this, I called the Office of State Planning and asked how we could get this corrected.”

It turned out that there was, as she described it, “such a morass” of paperwork involved it correcting the numbers, that the county didn’t have the time to tackle.

Up until this year, Coos County extended the courtesy to Grafton and Carroll Counties of acting as administrator to their unincorporated places. Earlier this year, Carroll County took over tending to the necessary affairs of Hale’s Location, outside of Conway, which basically consists of a golf course and an exclusive development of condominiums around it.

The population there, according to census figures, is 59. Residents briefly considered incorporating last year, but decided to keep things they way they are.

Grafton County’s only unincorporated place is Livermore, which is located between Lincoln and Hart’s Location. Travelers over the Kancamagus Highway drive through Livermore at the height of land.

It was not always, however, just a spot on a map. Livermore had been a thriving community, incorporated in 1876. It had been a lumber town, which had several hundred people living there, with stores and lumber mills.

But within less than a century, the population dwindled to zero and its incorporation was revoked in 1951.

There is a generation that remembers Livermore and a later one that recalls seeing the abandoned buildings. Reminders of the town are visible in old foundations.

The U.S. Census Bureau finds the population to be one. That may be.
Collins said that Livermore is entirely a part of the White Mountain National Forest, except for one parcel of land.

“There is one little camp there and maybe one person is living there, but I can’t imagine that,” she said.

There are a couple of unincorporated places in Coos County that are inhabited. Wentworth’s Location, hard by Errol and Lake Umbagog, has 43 residents, a bed and breakfast and even a small store.

Dixville, between Colebrook and Wentworth’s Location, has a population of 74.

“Those people are associated with the Balsams (Hotel),” King said.

Dix’s Grant, sandwiched between Dixville and Second College Grant, has a population of one, according to the census. According to Collins, there are a number of camps back there, but again, she doubts there is anyone living there on a permanent basis.

According to Coos County’s masterplan for its 23 unincorporated places, these areas account for 30 percent of the land area in that northernmost county and contain “some of New Hampshire’s most spectacular mountains, forests, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds of all sizes.”

Within their borders are rugged and untouched lands, with landmarks of places with names like Hell Gate in Atkinson and Gilmanton Academy Grant; the Dead Diamond River, which flows through Second College Grant; Sanguinary Mountain in Dixville; Cranberry Bog Notch in Odell and Squeeze Hole Brook in Dix’s Grant.

“These areas are not overrun with people,” King said.

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