There’s a new “New Hampshire” quarter in circulation, the 16th coin in the new “America the Beautiful Quarters Program” series. It honors the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, a 780,000 acre preserve protected by the Weeks Act in 1911 (a new Visitor Center was one of the results of the 100th anniversary of the Weeks Act celebrated in 2011.)
In this case, the “purple mountain’s majesty’ the coin depicts is Mount Chocorua in the White Mountains chain and it is a much-loved and much-visited mountain in the state, with 10 trails to hike and a lovely lake at its base. Pass by Chocorua on a moonlit night as you travel Route 16 and you’ll see the moon and mountain reflected in that lake, enough to make you consider the mystical.
And for good reason.
By honoring Mount Chocorua, the national coin program also honored the heritage of the First Nations in New Hampshire, they who saw America the Beautiful perhaps at its best, when the land was theirs before we were the land’s – to paraphrase our New Hampshire neighbor Robert Frost and the poem he recited at JFK's Inauguration
Many of the New Hampshire State Highway markers tell a history of the first encounters with the original people from the settlers’ point of view. The marker describing the Legend of Chocorua is a bit more careful.
Chocorua was – perhaps -- a man before he was the mountain. The legend of Chocorua says that after the Abenaki of these forests had been pushed north to Canada in 1725, Chocorua stayed behind in the place he loved and where his ancestors were buried. On one occasion when he traveled to Canada for a meeting with his Nation, he left his small son with a settler named Campbell. The son died accidentally while in the man’s care; but the heartbroken Chocorua took his revenge on Campbell’s family. When Campbell, in turn, killed Chocorua on the peak of the mountain, the sagamore is said to have cursed him. Whether “the Great Spirit curse ye when he speaks from the clouds and his words are fire” or not, Chocorua, his family and his Nation are remembered in the name of Chocorua Village, the mountain and the lake. And they’re now remembered on the new quarter.