Strafford County Highpoint Trip Report

liner west of Copple Crown Mtn (1,700 ft)

Dates: September 23, 2001 and June 16, 2004
Author: Gene Daniell

The route to this point has been adequately described in other reports and my hiking partner on this trip, Mohammed Ellozy, will undoubtedly correct any deficiencies that may remain in those descriptions. However, there are some details involved in the location of this high point that raise some interesting philosophical issues concerning the highpoint game.

A little history: Brookfield was originally part of the town of Middleton, but was separated and set off as a town in 1794 after an unsuccessful attempt in 1785. This was undoubtedly the result of the complete division of the original town of Middleton into two parts by the long, high ridge of Moose Mountain, which in that time frame was a serious bar to travel between the villages on opposite sides of the mountain. Town meetings, which traditionally come in the March mud season when farmers had some idle time because it was so difficult to do anything productive in the prevailing weather and ground conditions, would have been particularly difficult to reach for people on the "wrong" side of the mountain. Then, when in 1840 Carroll County was set off from Strafford and established, Brookfield went to Carroll while Middleton remained with Strafford. If the Brookfield-Middleton division had not occurred, it is probable that what is now Brookfield would have remained with Strafford County and Copple Crown Mountain would be Strafford's undisputed high point.

At that time, surveying was difficult, expensive, and not particularly accurate. If you look at a township map of Vermont, you'll see several unincorporated townships with the word "Gore" in their names - Averys Gore, Buels Gore. Gores were formed when survey lines for neighboring towns left triangular pieces of land unaccounted for, and there were several in New Hampshire, though all have now been attached to other towns or given regular names. The small town of Windsor in western Hillsborough County is one of the finest examples - it was originally known as Campbells Gore, and another gore called Wheelers Gore was combined with Campbells to make the present-day township. Alton, in Belknap County just west of the Strafford County high point, was once known as New Durham Gore. But the Middleton/Brookfield line was apparently never officially surveyed - in fact, the latest USGS map shows it as one of the few indefinite boundaries in the state. This jagged and illogical boundary (which places a major pocket of land south of the mountain ridge line in the northern town, Brookfield) was probably the result of the boundary following existing ownership lines and, as the mountain land was almost certainly not settled but kept as high pasture, it was probably regarded as not worth the expense of a precise survey. In theory, each town's selectmen were required to walk the town boundaries with their neighbor selectmen every seven years, but this seems to be another custom honored more in the breach than the observance. (In my peregrinations in the New Hampshire backwoods over the last 30 years, I have encountered serious efforts to maintain town boundary markers in remote woodland areas by only one town - Warner - which, ironically, has perhaps the longest and most difficult boundary in southern New Hampshire, due to remoteness, difficult mountain terrain, dense woods, irregular shape, etc...).

As to the line between New Durham on the west and Brookfield and Middleton on the east - this line on which the Strafford County high point must apparently lie - there is an interesting peculiarity. The USGS map shows not one single boundary monument for the entire length of this line, including the north (Wolfeboro/Brookfield/New Durham) and south (Middleton/New Durham/Farmington) corners - though there is a monument on the Brookfield/Wolfeboro line where it crosses Pleasant Valley Road not far from the north corner. Presumably this marker was occasioned by the existence of a settlement on both sides of the line. That leads to the question of what data the USGS used to establish its version of the line (probably for the 1928 edition of the Wolfeboro quad, as the line appears to be in the same location on that map as where it is shown on the newer map). To understand the complications in this issue, one should go to and search for Knights Bridge, NH, then note that just northeast of this locality there is a significant discrepancy in the Waterville Valley/Livermore town line on the two sides of the quad boundary. I have found about six similar instances of significant town line discrepancies in New Hampshire, all at the boundaries of the old 15-minute sheets, which implies that (at least in many cases) the boundaries were kept where shown on the older maps and not rechecked and therefore not reconciled. (While this north line of Waterville Valley does not affect any county high points, one might make the disquieting observation that the south line of Waterville Valley does define the Carroll County high point and wonder how reliable THAT line may be.) Under the circumstances it might be fair to regard the Strafford County/Carroll County line on the west slope of Copple Crown Mountain as a de facto indefinite boundary.

When Roioli Schweiker and I set out from the summit of Copple Crown in September 2001 to search for the Strafford high point, I observed an apparent line of faint red blazes (presumably those reported by Clifford Young), though I did not try to ascertain whether they were in fact a line because according to my GPS reading I was still approximately 0.05 mile too far east (uphill) according to the coordinates I had taken from my Maptech USGS maps on CD. On my return visit in June 2004 with Mohammed Ellozy we found the probable highest blazed tree on this line helpfully marked with surveyor's tape, but according to the coordinates still approximately 0.05 mile too far east (uphill). On both trips the GPS brought me to the vicinity of an odd rock formation which creates a sort of pit perhaps five feet deep. To make things more confusing, the spot as located by the GPS (both times) according to the coordinates is at the BOTTOM of a short (perhaps 50 feet of elevation) relatively steep section of ridge, while the line on the map apparently runs across the TOP edge of exactly that sort of terrain feature - approximately where the red blazes actually run. In addition, the USGS map shows one house in the Copple Crown Community on the Carroll side of the county line but a copy of the Copple Crown Community subdivision map obtained by Roy Schweiker shows that house on the Strafford side of the line; furthermore, this map shows the county line just about the right distance east of where the USGS shows it so that this line, extended, would run almost precisely where the red-blazed line runs.

We therefore have three possible candidates for the county line -

(1) The line of red blazes, which is in the right place according to the terrain but not according to the coordinates.

(2) The line as shown on the USGS map, about 0.05 mile west of the red-blazed line, which by definition matches the coordinates but does not match the terrain.

(3) A currently nonexistent but potentially different line that might be obtained by researching the legally defined county line as established by the NH legislature.

Many CoHPers would immediately opt for #3 but, while researching the legal definition of the line might be relatively easy, it would undoubtedly require a prohibitively expensive survey by a professional surveying team to locate it on the ground. If in fact it is an indefinite boundary with no established monuments, it's not clear that the line that you might get would have any real meaning, though it might be technically correct. Under normal circumstances most of us would tend to go with #2, but when you look at the discontinuities like the one I cite above, it's hard to have any well-considered belief in the infallibility of the USGS. Alternative #1 is very tempting because it is certainly the easy way and, in addition, if the matter ever came to legal attention, it's almost certain a NH court would recognize the red-blazed line as the county line.

From what I know (and cases of this sort are definitely not common), NH courts would probably rule in favor of the de facto marked line over the theoretical legal line unless there is evidence of fraud. The reason for this is fairly clear if you think of the worst-case scenario - say, a subdivision, one of whose boundaries is based on a town line and, if it were shifted, say 50 feet to the east, would place every house in the subdivision partly on a neighboring lot. Obviously sorting out that sort of mixed-up ownership situation would be a horror. Even in this situation it might be argued that if that one house in the Copple Crown Community is actually in Carroll County, then it might be illegally sited on land owned by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

But here's the rub - even if the red-blazed line would certainly be recognized as the county line in any legal proceeding (which I believe is a fair conclusion), if it hasn't YET been officially recognized then is it - right at this moment - the actual county line? It's a philosophical point but I would say that until it has actually been legally recognized, then we have to accept the line as shown by the USGS as the current official county line. I think we have to establish it by location (i.e., coordinates) rather than by terrain, as the terrain discrepancy can easily be explained as a small error in drawing in the contours.

My belief is that to claim this COHP one ought to visit the high point on the red-blazed line and then continue downhill about 100 yards to the pit-like rock formation I've described, trying to hit as many high points along the ridge crest (which is unfortunately rather poorly-defined) between these points as possible. I think it is pretty clear that the county line can be NO HIGHER than the red-blazed line and NO LOWER than the pit-like formation. (If it were lower, there would be a very real possibility that the east peak of Moose Mtn (1,670 feet) is the Strafford County high point. This fact doesn't bother ME a bit, since I visited that peak in December 1979 in a beautiful trip that included the elegantly named Phebes Nable Mtn. On the other hand, that 1,670-foot stated elevation on East Moose is itself only about 60 yards from the officially indefinite county line!)