New Hampshire

John Coffin Nazro – The Man Who Owned Mount Washington

[jpshare]In 1851, John Coffin Nazro announced that God would be appearing at the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which he was renaming Temple Heights to signify its role as home to a new religious movement.

John Coffin Nazro

By Albert Bierstadt -, Public Domain

Nazro -- a devout (some would say fanatical or delusional) Christian -- was hardly the first to believe that the peak of Mount Washington was a suitable home for God.

The Abenaki Indians also believed that the top of the mountain was a holy site. They declined to climb it in the belief that they would be punished with death if they did.

In 1642, an Irishman named Darby Field summited the mountain, both to record what was there and to gain influence over the Indians by proving he was not subject to the power of their God.

By the time John Coffin Nazro made his announcement, the summit had been reached many times. The Crawford family of innkeepers who settled the White Mountains was busy building paths to the summit to enhance its following among artists, campers and those seeking fresh air and inspiration.

Nazro was a hired man working with Thomas Crawford at his inn. Crawford, as a joke, gave Nazro a "free soil deed" to the top of the mountain.

Nazro, after weighing his position and praying for guidance, decided to establish tolls on some of the bridle paths leading to the top of the mountain.

Some climbers visiting the area for recreation apparently paid the tolls, and Nazro became further convinced of the divine inspiration of his plans.

In 1851, he published the following notice in the newspapers:


Fourth of July on the White Mountains

There will be a solemn congregation upon Trinity Height, or Summit of Mount Washington, on the Fourth Day of July, A.D. 1851, and First year of the Theocracy, or Jewish Christianity, to dedicate to the coming of the Ancient of Days, in his Glory of His Kingdom, and to the marriage of the Lamb: and the literal organization in this generation of the Christian or purple and royal Democracy (let no man profane that name!), or the thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand of the people of the Saints of the most high God of every nation and Denomination into the greatness of God's Kingdom and dominion under the whole heavens; and there will be a contribution for this purpose from all who are willing, in the beauty of holiness, from the dawn of that day.

John Coffin Nazro

Israel of Jerusalem

A group of curious people came to witness the events Nazro had in mind, perhaps expecting some sort of transcendent experience. What they got was wet. Rain poured down in buckets all day and unhappy tourists told John Coffin Nazro exactly what they thought of his new temple.

Chastened, Nazro gave up on his toll-collecting schemes and left the area to join the Navy. The first summit house on Mount Washington was erected the following year, offering guests shelter, bed and board but no miracles.

Thanks to: Historical Relics of the White Mountains: Also, a Concise White Mountain Guide, by John H. Spaulding

By Albert Bierstadt -, Public Domain



  1. Jane Anderson Vercelli

    January 26, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    I like that opening paragraph. Can’t wait to read the rest.

  2. David DeZan

    January 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    A lot of people have been “punished with death” for climbing mount Washington.

    • David DeZan

      January 26, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Mount Washington, 135
      Mount Everest, 240
      But Everest is nearly five times higher.

    • New England Historical Society

      January 27, 2016 at 9:22 am

      How interesting! Excellent point!

    • Carolyn Bigelow Nadeau

      January 31, 2016 at 4:33 am

      I’ve lived a good many years a few miles from the Mtn and I’ve never heard any of this history. The history we hear is of the Native American legend. People think the mtn is part of the National Forest. The front side view is. The Crawford’s settled the area where the Cog Railway is (on the backside) -Crawford Notch where Bretton Woods ski area is and where the UN held their 1943 convention- 1st event to be held at Bretton Woods Convention Cntr. The terrain is still privately owned, known as Thompson & Meserve. – If you brush your mouse over a Google Map it will tell you this. The mtn’s highest peak was known as Mt Pleasant, but there was another Mt. Pleasant and Eisenhower who was a friend of local forester and husband of long time NH Senator Hilda Brungot, lived as somewhat of a hermit on Mt. Pleasant and Signal Mtn.area, near Errol, NH and Eisenhower renamed it (late 1940’s?). – But yes, be it a hiker or auto we have some very unexplained deaths through out a couple of areas there. The most tragic I recall was in the 80s of an overloaded Ford Bronco with unseatbelted children who went off the Auto Road. – The stagecoach service is worth the money. The vans are well maintained and the drivers know the road professionally. No, I don’t work for them, lol. – But know many who do.

    • Carolyn Bigelow Nadeau

      January 31, 2016 at 4:35 am

      Wiki covers the story of the transfer of name and Presidential Range history. – Very nice article.

  3. Pingback: The Journeys of English Jack: From London Slums to the Top of the White Mountains - New England Historical Society

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