Before Pawtuckaway’s woods belonged to the state park, the lands were privately owned by families who hoped to make a prosperous life. Living in the mountains is not an easy feat, and many of the families struggled immensely. The soil of New England is very rocky and acidic which is not ideal for growing crops. Farmers would joke darkly that their hard work brought a great “crop of rocks” to their land. Times were tough and many families started to abandon their homes in the late 1800s to pursue the promising lands of the west. This abandonment is evidenced by old cellars and graveyards tucked away throughout Pawtuckaway’s woods. If you know where to look, these old homesteads can be easily found along some of our hiking trails. One of the families, the Goodriches, stuck around longer than most and had a prominent role in the history of Pawtuckaway.
Take a quick drive to the Tower Road parking area (near the outhouse) and you’ll find some fascinating evidence of this family’s home. Sally and her husband Barnard Goodrich moved to this area from Massachusetts with their seven children in 1790. Sadly, hard times fell upon the family and six out of seven of the children died young. In the year of 1834 Sally’s husband and two of her sons died. The one surviving son, Nathan, died in the same year as his 101 year-old mother. Most of the Goodrich family is buried in a graveyard directly behind the massive Black Walnut tree on Tower Road. While this seems like a sad end to a long struggle, all was not lost for the Goodrich family. Nathan’s surviving son, George Goodrich, became a wildly popular and influential person in the Pawtuckaway region.
Known as “The Barefoot Farmer”, George Goodrich stayed on his grandmother’s land for years and continue to farm. He would go into the town of Raymond to sell goods from his farm. Many people were shocked or amused by his appearance; he only ever wore ragged clothing and never wore shoes. George was one of the wealthiest people in the Pawtuckaway region, but he never felt it necessary to dress up. George’s father left the farm to George in the hopes that it would eventually be taken over by the state, and his hopes were realized when George’s widow sold the land to the state in 1920s.
Sometimes I like to visit the old Goodrich homestead and imagine what it must have been like during George’s time. You can check out remnants of the family’s house in the stone cellar. Hop in the cellar and walk around barefoot in memory of George, and imagine what this area looked like in the past.
While you’re in the area, I highly recommend taking a quick detour to the Fire Tower. This tower was erected in 1915 to help prevent wildfires in the New Hampshire forests. From the Tower Trail trailhead, it is a quick 0.4 mile uphill hike. Plenty of roots and rocks make great natural steps on the way up.