Herbert Welsh: “Save Mount Sunapee for all people to all time!”
Herbert Welsh (1851-1941) was a political reformist, an artist, humanitarian, Indian Rights activist and in many ways the father of land conservation on Mount Sunapee.
In the early 1900s, Welsh led the effort to protect land on Mount Sunapee for public use. At the time, from 1906-1909, extensive clear-cut logging was underway on the mountain’s north face.
Welsh’s first effort — part of his campaign “to save Mount Sunapee for all people to all time” — raised $8,000. Welsh with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests purchased from the paper companies 656 acres of land and timber rights on Mount Sunapee’s north slopes, including the summit and Lake Solitude.
“It seemed clear to Welsh and many of his [Sunapee] neighbors that the beauty of Mt. Sunapee was being ruined and its primeval forest and rare plants were in danger of disappearing…. He was determined to put a stop to the destruction.” – SooNipi Magazine, Summer 2004, “Herbert Welsh: Walking Crusader” by Shelly Candidus.
Download/read: Herbert Welsh: Walking Crusader, SooNipi 2004 (pdf 492KB)
The unspoiled natural environmental inspired and moved Welsh into action.
In 1909, while summering in Sunapee, Welsh became alarmed about what was happening on Mount Sunapee. Paper companies controlled a greater part of the mountain and they were clear-cutting and harvesting lumber leaving a growing bald spot pocked by stumps and slash — destruction that Welsh could observe from his lakeside home. Planned logging would leave the mountain bare.
His passion for protecting the mountain’s natural environment is detailed in his writings including “Redemption of Mount Sunapee” that he penned while at his Sunapee summer home.
The 1911 purchase on Mount Sunapee marked the Forest Society’s first reservation. The campaign to protect Mount Sunapee continued with the acquisition of more conservation land.
From 1922 to 1937, the Forest Society purchased several more parcels on the mountain and in 1948, after acquiring 1,116 acres on Mount Sunapee, transferred their holdings to the state of New Hampshire for a state park.
If we saved Mount Sunapee we would indeed be doing this, but we would also be doing something higher and nobler than acting for our own protection; we would be helping to affect our part of the great national work of forest conservation. — Herbert Welsh in “Redemption of Mount Sunapee”
- 1909 to 1911– Herbert Welsh leads a successful educational and fund-raising campaign to protect Mount Sunapee after he discovers large paper companies intend to clear the mountain’s steep slopes and peak. He enlists the help of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
- 1911 – The Forest Society acquires 656 acres on Mount Sunapee, the Society’s first reservation, which is followed by additional purchases.
- 1915 – The Forest Society’s Sunapee Chapter, under Welsh’s leadership, publishes The Manual of Mount Sunapee that details the mountain’s geological history, flora, birds, and ferns.
- 1930’s – The Newport Ski Club cuts alpine trails on Mount Sunapee.
- 1948 – The Forest Society transfers 1,116 acres on Mount Sunapee to the state of New Hampshire and, in December, the Mount Sunapee Ski Area opens at Mount Sunapee State Park.