Canaan, New Hampshire

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Canaan is a town in Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 3,319 at the 2000 census. The 2009 population was estimated to be 3,646.[1] It is the location of Mascoma State Forest. Canaan is home to the Cardigan Mountain School, the town's largest employer.



Chartered in 1761 by Governor Benning Wentworth, the town was named after the hometown of many early settlers, Canaan, Connecticut, which had been named for the biblical land of Canaan. It was settled in the winter of 1766-1767 by John Scofield, who arrived with all his belongings on a hand sled. With an unbroken surface, the town was suited for agriculture. The Northern Railroad (predecessor of the Boston & Maine Railroad) arrived in 1847, spurring development. Water powered mills were built on the streams. By 1859, when the population was 1,682, Canaan had one gristmill, three lath and clapboard mills, and one tannery.[2]

In March 1835, 28 white students and 14 black students commenced classes at the newly established Noyes Academy. On August 10, 1835, white residents of Canaan, with the help of neighboring towns and "nearly 100 yoke of oxen," forcibly removed Noyes Academy from its foundation. Later, the community would be a stop on the Underground Railroad. [3]

Canaan was the site of a famous train wreck on September 15, 1907. Four miles north of Canaan Station, the southbound Quebec to Boston express, heavily loaded with passengers returning from the Sherbrooke Fair, collided head-on with a northbound Boston & Maine freight train. Twenty-five people perished, and an equal number were seriously injured. Cause of the accident was "due to a mistake in train dispatcher's orders." [4]

On June 2, 1923, another disaster destroyed the heart of Canaan Village (East Canaan). The Great Canaan Fire burned 48 homes and businesses.

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