Railroad Section Houses of the Maine Central and P & O Railroads through Crawford Notch
It is generally known that there were three popularly known Section houses in Crawford Notch. However, when the Portland and Ogdensburg opened the line there were many more houses, often in sight of each other.
The dwelling most remembered is the famed Mt. Willard Section house. This fortress like building could be seen from US Route 302 along with Willey (pronounced willie not wylee) Brook Bridge, a double span deck girder bridge 104 feet long and 90 feet high at its highest point. The west end of the trestle was made of wood from 1875-1888. The entire bridge was replaced in 1905 with both spans of the bridge rolled out and the current new bridge being rolled in and the bridge reopened in 7 minutes!!!! and.......with no interruption in train service!!
This building was located 83.54 miles from Portland, ME. Built in 1888 for the James Mitchell family it boarded section men that would work the most difficult section of the mountain line from Mile 82.5 miles from Portland to just east of Crawford’s Station:
Section 129. In 1898 James Mitchell retired, at which time Joseph Monahan moved in as Section foreman until the summer of 1903, when Loring Evans and his wife Hattie set up housekeeping in the remote mountain dwelling. Loring was killed by accident in 1913 but Hattie stayed and boarded the section men until her retirement in 1941. In 1942 Hattie moved to one of her childrens residences in Maine where she died in 1954 at age 82,
A recent Bartlett History newsletter featured the story of Hattie and the Evans Family. Read it here beginning on page 6.
Researched and written by Scotty Mallett. Some photos on this page courtesy of Robert Girouard
Sawyer River Station and Junction of The Sawyer River Railroad to Livermore.
Sawyer River Station
Section Houses on the way west through Crawford Notch
7 constructed by the P&O RR and 1 by the MEC.
Name and Miles from Portland:
*Sawyers River @ mile 74.8 (P&O)
1888-1891 George Rich
1894-1902 John Stevens
1902-1903 Leslie Smith
1903-1905 George Murch
1905-1911 Merville Murch
1912-1927 John McCann
Carrigain Station and Town. The "dwelling" was about a mile west of this scene.
Carrigain Dwelling @ mile 78.8 (later to become Willey house post office) (P&O)
1894-1896 Fred Pingree
1941-1973 Peter King
1973-1990 Private Dwelling
Avalanche Flag Stop later willey house Flag Stop
Joe & Florence Monahan.
*Avalanche flag stop @ mile 80.8 (P&O)
1875-1887 Anthony Swift
*Willey House flag stop @ mile 80.9 (replaced Avalanche)
1870 - 1883 -Alfred Allen (Foreman, but Lived at Crawford House)
1887-1903 William Burnell
1903-1941 - Joe & Florence Monahan
1953-1965 Cornelius Griffin
1965-1976- Wellman Rowell
Burned by the Railroad 1988
Aldrige House @ mile 82.5(P&O)
1875-1894 Joseph Aldridge
Guay Place @ mile 83 (P&O)
Much has been written about the Evans Family who resided at the Mt Willard Section House yet we don't hear so much about others who raised their families next to the tracks. Joseph and Florence Monahan were one such couple who raised their six daughters at the Willie House Station Flagstop, two miles east of the Evans family.
Joseph Monahan became foreman of Section 129 in 1898 and took up residence at the Mt. Willard Section House upon James Mitchell's retirement. Joe was "filling in" for Loring Evans, who was away for a trackmen's strike.
In 1901, Joe married Florence Crawford Allen, the daughter of Alfred Mingay Allen, who was Section Foreman at Fabyan's (Fourth Division - Section 130). A.M. Allen later owned an Ice Cream Parlor and Gift Shop in Bretton Woods. The Monahans had one child while at Mt. Willard Section House: Gertrude born March 3, 1902. On the day Gertrude was born, it was too stormy to send the doctor to the house on the train, so they bundled Florence up and put her on the train to Fabyans, where Gert was delivered.
In the summer of 1903, the Monahan family was moved to section 128 - Willey House Station, where the family was blessed with five more girls (Ethel, Hazel, Alyce, Doris and Agatha). Joe Monahan dubbed them his "super six"! The girls were very friendly with the Evans children, who now occupied the Mt. Willard Section House, about a mile west of the Monahan residence. Joe built them a playhouse in the backyard where the two Evans girls would visit and play with their dolls and toys in the little house.
The Monahans were of the Catholic faith. There was no church nearby, so the priest would come to their home to perform mass.
The residence was a busy place, housing the Post Office, Telegraph Office and 2 crewmen. Florence was appointed Postmaster in 1903. In addition to cooking and cleaning for the family and crew, she found time to serve on the Hart's Location Board of Education. Meanwhile, Joe served on the Town Board of Health, was a Road Agent, Supervisor of Checklist and was a Town Selectman for 22 years, beginning in 1905. In this remote building (which also served as a dwelling) the people of Hart's Location came here to vote. It was said that from mid-October to early April, the rays of the sun never touched this building.
When the girls were old enough, they attended school at Bemis except during the winter months, when the teacher came to their residence twice a week. Eventually, all the children went to school in Fabyan, with the train serving as their school bus.
Doris (born 1/1/1910), better known as Dot, would be the only child to remain in Hart's Location during her adult years. After Dot completed the sixth grade, she attended school at St. Johnsbury Vermont as a boarder. She was a graduate of Whitefield High School, Class of 1927 and went on to Concord Business School. She worked in Boston until 1928, when health problems forced her to return home.
Dot married Peter King, section foreman at the Carrigain Section House. They had two children (Shirley and William "Bill"). Dot and Pete purchased the Carrigan dwelling in 1941. Dot took after her parents, becoming Postmaster and Town Clerk from 1935 to the 1970's. Many First in the Nation Presidential Election votes were cast around her dining table. Peter King died in 1956, and Dot moved to Bartlett. She married Robert "Bob" Jones (died 1975) and then married Ralph Clemons, who died in 1993. Dot continued to live in their Birch Street home until her death (7/21/2006).
The Carrigain Dwelling remained in the family. Son Bill King purchased the residence from his mother in 1989, with plans to renovate. An inspection showed that the house had to be razed. A new log home was built on the site in 1990, where Bill and wife Carolyn lived comfortably.
The Bartlett Historical Society featured an interview with Bill King in one of the Newsletters; hence, you may read the continuing story at this link: 2020 Newsletter, Go To Page 6.
"Hart's Location in Crawford Notch" -Marion L. Varney, 1997,
Laurie Spackman & Sylvia Pinard: personal recollections. (Laurie is Gertrude's granddaughter; Sylvia is Gerts daughter.) .
Monahan pictures are attributed to the Pinard family collection.
Only two of Joe and Florence's grandchildren survive today (2023) - Bill King and Laurie Spackman's mother, Sylvia Pinard of Lebanon, NH. They are first cousins.
No doubt, some may wonder how Mom, Dad, Six daughters and section crew boarders all fit inside this modestly sized dwelling? Imagine the housekeeping chore with coal burning monsters passing within a few feet, several times a day. This editor has no answer except that life and expectations are now vastly different than 100+ years ago.
The Monahan family - 1915
Back Row: Ethel, Agatha, Florence, Joe
Front Row: Hazel, Alyce, Dot and Gertrude
The Monahan "Super-six".
Gertrude, Ethel, Hazel, Alyce, Doris and Agatha
These are four of the Monahan's Grandchildren
The first four Monahan Grandchildren:
Left: Shirley and Bill King (Dot and Pete's children)
Right: Eleanor and Joanne Pinard (Gertrude and Horace's children)
PLEASE NOTE; THIS WEBSITE IS OPTIMIZED FOR TABLET OR LAPTOPS, Content may be jumbled on a small phone screen...Sorry.
Back Row: Eleanor Pinard, Hazel, Florence, Joe and unknown. Middle Row: Joanne Pinard, Gertrude Pinard, Ethel and Alyce. Front/crouching: Doris King, Shirley King and Agatha. Hazel has her arm around Eleanor (Florence's oldest granddaughter/Hazel's niece/Gert's oldest daughter) Gert is holding her daughter Joanne. Dot is holding her daughter Shirley.
Below are Dick and Brother Joe Monahan at the Willey Residence. Undated photo courtesy of Bill King.
Agatha Monahan Wallace (near age 100? not sure.) She died only 2 days shy of her 103rd birthday on December 31, 2016.
The Youngest Daughter, Agatha, wrote her memories of "Happenings Growing Up By The Railroad Tracks at Willey House"
NOTE TO READER: Agatha was 88 years old when she penned these words in 2001. The story has been typed for ease of reading.
I have taken this from 13 1/2 pages of memories hand -written by Agatha “Babe”
Monahan (then Wallace). I have stayed true to her spelling and grammar.
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these memories; she lived them and this is a record of her
memories and hers alone.
Laurie Hammond Spackman - granddaughter of “Babe’s” eldest sister, Gertrude
Willey House Station and flag stop through the years in various states of condition
Willey House Station also housed the post office and telegraph for Harts Location. Their first early morning Presidential election was held here at 7:a.m. November 2, 1948
The first early morning Presidential election vote for Hart's Location was held here at 7:a.m. November 2, 1948. Left to right, Mrs Macomber, Town Clerk, Douglas Macomber, Joseph Burke, Preston King, Alice Burke and son Merle, Mrs Morey and George Morey. .
Willey House Station in its final years. By 1984, when these pictures were taken, it had declined to an irrecoverable condition. The railroad burned the building in 1988.
A visitor today might still find the concrete foundation walls and bits of iron stuff laying about. The kitchen cook stove was "off in the woods" the last time I was there in 2004. But, since folks can rarely just leave stuff alone, it's probably gone by now. ("now" being 2019)
The Foremans cottage
The Foremans Cottage was located on the big curve that was built of granite blocks on the side of Mt. Willard. James Mitchell, his family and section men were the only inhabitants of this dwelling. It was located at Mile Post 84 just about 1/4 mile west of the Mt.Willard Dwelling.
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchells "cottage" was built under the cliffs of Mt. Willard and on occasion, rock slides came through the house. The P&O tried to solve the rock problem by chaining some rock together. Thus the area became known as "Chained Rock".
In 1887 after a horrifying night of rock slides, thunder, and lighting, Mr. Mitchell tenured his resignation.
The famed Mt. Willard dwelling was built for The Mitchell's so Mr. Mitchell would stay on. He accepted the offer and did not retire until 1899. In 1887 Mr & Mrs Mitchell, two sons and a daughter moved into the Mt Willard House.
The "Foremans Cottage" was torn down in 1888.
The Foremans Cottage in 1875 with James Mitchell and his wife.
Mt Willard Section House
Mt Willard @ 83.5(Maine Central)
1888-1898- James Mitchell
1898-1903-Joe Monahan family
1903-1941- Loring Evans Family
1944-1950-O. Douglas Macomber
Burned by the Railroad 1972
Mitchell Dwelling @ mile 84.0 (P & O)
1875-1888 James Mitchell
** If anyone can offer corrections to the dates and people listed, it would be of great help. All the names and dates above were taken by Scotty Mallett from the book “Harts Location” by Marion Varney
Mt Willard Section House with Hattie Evans and her children. Perhaps 1920. Their homestead was actually a cheerier place than this photo might suggest. Additional photos are up at the top of this page.
One of Our Newsletters includes a detailed article about the Evans Family. You can find it here, on page 6
Editors Note: Complete biographies of all the folks mentioned in this article can be found at Marion L. Varney's book, "Hart's Location in Crawford Notch" - 1997
On August 17, 1888 the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad was leased to the Maine Central Railroad for 999 years. Included in the lease were all section Houses, Stations, Locomotives and Rolling stock as well as personnel.
I thought you might be interested in the value assigned to the buildings and furnishings from Intervale thru Crawford Notch. Remember, these are 1888 prices and 1888 spelling!
Passenger Station $100
Desk, Chair and Baggage Truck $30
Passenger Station and Freight House $500
Assorted Furniture $75
Freight House $150
Engine House (6 pits) $1000
Repair Shop $100
Tank House $200
Furniture, Stoves, desks, Freight truck, Passenger Truck $100
Coal Derrick $50
Station Building $75
Section House $400
Section House $400
Tank House $200
Moor’s Brook (spelled Moor’s)
Old Section House $300
Section House $4000
Furniture, 1 room $50
Ticket case, Desk, Stove and Baggage Barrow $55
Total Intervale to Crawfords $9,385
The lease of the P&O was cancelled some 50 years later when the Maine Central bought the remaining shares.
Editors note: If this $9385 was adjusted for inflation the amount would be $260,000 in 2018 dollars.
1966: "Helper" engines on the Frankenstein Trestle, probably returning to Bartlett Station.
Source Material: Life by the Tracks, Virginia C. Downs - 1983
Hart's Location in Crawford Notch, Marion L. Varney - 1997
Some Photos on this page, and elsewhere on this web-site, are part of the Raymond W. Evans collection now owned by Robert Girouard. We extend our gratitude for his permission to use them as part of this and other stories. - - Dave
Crawford Station: February 22, 1910