The Lodge becomes Camp Moose-Hi

Alan McNutt was a teenager when his Uncle , Bob Jones, bought the Lodge. Alan spent summers in Hanover with his uncle. Bob loved having a willing pair of hands and a strong back to help with all the challenges that faced them to reopen the Lodge after years of neglect and vandalism. Alan has always been a source of information for us since we have owned the Lodge. I am going to include his account of those years here.

“When I returned to the Orford Inn for the summer of 1956 in June I learned that Uncle Bob had bought the Lodge, the house(Huggins) and about ten acres for 10,000 dollars.

The Lodge in 1956 after being empty for five years

(The Leslie brothers had built a cabin up the hill from the Lodge. One of the brothers had married a niece of Nelson Eddy. She was from California and couldn’t stand New Hampshire winters. The marriage didn’t last long, but the cabin remains, now renovated and lived in by Lish and Ann  Huggins.)

Nelson Eddy, Leslie, Huggins house in 1956

” The Lodge was rough inside and out. Porcupines had chewed on the lips of the stairs. In a utility room near the furnace pit there were still canned goods on shelves. There was also a long horizontal freezer with two out of three hatches propped open. The one hatch that was closed had been propped open but a porky had climbed in and knocked out the prop. The hatch slammed down on the porky’s front legs,trapping it. Inside was a thoroughly dried out carcass.

The road was nothing but a rocky mess, more a dried stream bed than a road. Over the summers of 1956,57, and 58, Bob sometimes with my help, worked on the road and plank bridges over Mink Brook,( which originates in the beaver pond.) One morning in the summer of 1958 Uncle Bob and I got up at four a.m. to go get old railroad ties from a farmer up in Warren New Hampshire. Uncle Bob had made cloth bologna, hard cheese and butter on white bread sandwiches for our lunch breaks while he fried up scrambled eggs and shells. We put “Cott” root beer bottles into the mill stream to keep them cool. To this day I love cloth bologna and hard cheese sandwiches made with white bread and plenty of butter, always washed down with root beer!

To get those railroad ties Uncle Bob borrowed a one ton stake body truck and drove to the farm in Warren, about forty five minutes north of Orford. The farm acreage was bisected by the former Boston and Maine, Concord- Woodsville line, now trackless. The ties remained and now belonged to the farmer. The farmer and his sons got right to work pulling up ties with the back hoe and lifting them onto the truck We all worked hard getting the ties loose and ready to load. After we finished the farmer invited us back to the house for breakfast. The farmer and his wife spoke english with a thick German accent. The sons had no accent at all.

We left the farm and drove all the way back to Moose Mountain, unloaded the ties by hand, boy they were heavy, and started repairing the bridges over the Mink Brook. It took us about two weeks to complete the task of repairing three bridges. No wonder I came home each September about twenty pounds lighter than when I went up in June. My Uncle worked me hard!”

When Bob Jones first saw the Lodge it had been empty for about five years. The rope tows still existed with the ropes from each tow house stretching down the unused ski slopes. The lodge had primarily served Dartmouth College, housing guests of the college and date of the students. Back then skiers careened down the west slopes of Moose Mountain on wooden skis with a 100 mile view of of the Upper Connecticut River Valley and Vermont’s Green mountains beyond.

Reportedly the Lodge ceased operations during World War II due to the fact that business was greatly curtailed by gas rationing. People could not travel for pleasure  and gas was not available for running the tow engines. At war’s end the Lodge reopened for the 1945-46 season. Nearby newer more accessible ski areas were opening up and Moose Mountain facing West was not an ideal orientation for keeping good conditions. The newer slopes faced either East or North to avoid being warmed by the afternoon sun. the road up to the Lodge was an adventure in itself.Most of those arriving by car parked at the base of the mountain and summoned the Lodge’s Ford woody station wagon by means of a crank telephone for a ride up the hill. The Lodge continued in operation until the end of the 1948-49 season and then closed. It remained on the market until Bob Jones bought it in 1955.

The Lodge was only suitable for summer occupancy during the days of Camp Moose-Hi as the coal furnace was no longer working. It’s a wonder the Lodge did not burn down during this time. It was a famous destination for young people to hold parties. Everything was left in the Lodge when it closed including beds, bedding and furniture. there was a juke box, player piano and  canned goods all from the Rohr’s ceased operation.

People helped themselves to whatever they could carry off, but the sharp eyes and presence of Elmer Dana and his wife, Davina kept much of the looting at a minimum.

Finally Bob Jones opened the camp.

Brochure for Camp Moose-Hi in 1958-59

There were — campers that first year. Bob Jones had gathered some excellent counselors to help run the camp. Bill Robes was one of the best. He was well acquainted in living outdoors and making do with natural solutions to doing so. He had humor,  loved kids and his wife was the camp nurse.They were quite a pair both with many talents. Bill’s energy was a huge asset to the camp. Bill ran the outdoor program for Kimble Union Academy a boarding school nearby in the winter. He introduced kids from the city to the joys of outdoor adventures and survival. Having Bill at the camp ensured  an exciting summer for the campers.

The lodge now had a workshop downstairs in what had been the barroom when it was a ski lodge. Most of the bedrooms upstairs were bunk rooms with metal bunk beds. Meals were eaten on the screened porch when weather permitted.

Here’s Alan McNutt again ” Elmer Dana maintained a large spring fed pond at the base of the mountain at roughly 1100 feet of elevation just beyond the the base of the ski slope. It was man made, held back by a long earthen dam. Every June, we set in a wood plank pier or dock which was supported by angle iron vertical framing. Since I was good at swimming and staying under water, it became my job to install the bolts securing the upright supports. After installing the bolts I would thread the nuts on by hand before tightening them with a wrench. Since Elmer Dana maintained a working dairy farm, his cows mucked around in the springs feeding the pond and drank from its headwaters. Needless to say there was no sandy bottom; rather it was silted to a depth of a foot or more. As long as you did not go to the bottom when diving from the dock the water stayed relatively clear.

The pond was full of bullfrogs and the biggest crawfish I have ever seen, feeding off other bottom feeders and dead frogs, I suppose. Cow manure provided much nutrition for the pond food chain. We swam in this petri dish of a pond for three years and I never remember anyone getting sick from it. We caught crawfish by the dozens. We would haul our catch back up the mountain where our cook Mrs. Betty Abbott would boil up a gallon or so of heavily salted water for our dining pleasure. In went the crawdads and out came”baby” lobster tails. They weren’t half bad.”

A cookout on Moose Mountain for the campers

The Lodge with the addition of a shed to store food for the camp

The camp ran until 1961 when once again the building was for sale and empty.