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Canaan, New Hampshire
Church Street in 1907
Church Street in 1907
Official seal of Canaan, New Hampshire
"Land of Milk and Honey"
Location in Grafton County, New Hampshire
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Grafton
Incorporated 1761
Villages Canaan
Canaan Center
Canaan Street
West Canaan
 • Total 55.1 sq mi (142.8 km2)
 • Land 53.4 sq mi (138.2 km2)
 • Water 1.8 sq mi (4.6 km2)  3.20%
945 ft (288 m)
 • Total 3,794
 • Density 71/sq mi (27.5/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-08980
GNIS feature ID 0873557

Canaan is a town in Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 3,794 at the 2020 census. It is the location of Mascoma State Forest. Canaan is home to the Cardigan Mountain School, the town's largest employer.

The main village of the town, where 442 people resided at the 2020 census, is defined as the Canaan census-designated place (CDP), and is located at the junction of U.S. Route 4 with New Hampshire Route 118.


Chartered in 1761 by Governor Benning Wentworth, the town was named after the hometown of many early settlers, Canaan, Connecticut, which had been named by Puritans 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. The land was filled with rocks, making agriculture difficult. The town constructed a broad road for its main street on a stretch of level land.

In 1828 attorney George Kimball helped organize building the town's Congregational church. He was among the New England abolitionists who founded the Noyes Academy in March 1835, one of the first in the region to admit students of all races. It opened with 28 white students, drawn largely from local families, and 17 black students; most of the latter came from outside the town and across the Northeast. Many local residents opposed bringing blacks into the town. On August 10, 1835, five hundred white men from Canaan and nearby towns used "nearly 100 yoke of oxen" to pull the building off its foundation, then burned it. Fearing for their safety, the black students left town, as did Kimball, who moved to Alton, Illinois.

The Canaan Union Academy was built on the site. Limited to white students, it operated for about 20 years. Later residents sympathetic to fugitive slaves operated a station of the Underground Railroad to help the people reach Canada or settle in New England.

The Northern Railroad (predecessor of the Boston & Maine Railroad) was constructed to the town in 1847, spurring development. Water powered mills were built on the streams. By 1859, the population had reached 1,682, and Canaan had one gristmill, three lath and clapboard mills, and one tannery.

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

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


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 55.0 square miles (142 km2), of which 53.2 sq mi (138 km2) is land and 1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2) is water, comprising 3.31% of the town. Canaan is drained by the Indian River and Mascoma River. Canaan Street Lake is in the center, and Goose Pond is in the northwest.

The town center lies in the valley of the Indian River (a tributary of the Mascoma River) at the base of Mount Cardigan, which lies to the east in the neighboring town of Orange. A mountain road leads from Canaan to a trailhead in Cardigan Mountain State Forest, where hiking trails on the west slope of the mountain lead to the bare-rock summit. The highest point in Canaan is the top of an unnamed ridge (approximately 2,270 feet (690 m) above sea level) in the northeast corner of town, overlooking Derby Pond.

Canaan lies almost fully within the Connecticut River watershed, except for a tiny part of the northeast of the town, which is in the Merrimack River watershed.

The town is crossed by U.S. Route 4 and New Hampshire Route 118.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 483
1800 835 72.9%
1810 1,094 31.0%
1820 1,198 9.5%
1830 1,428 19.2%
1840 1,576 10.4%
1850 1,682 6.7%
1860 1,762 4.8%
1870 1,877 6.5%
1880 1,762 −6.1%
1890 1,417 −19.6%
1900 1,444 1.9%
1910 1,408 −2.5%
1920 1,236 −12.2%
1930 1,301 5.3%
1940 1,377 5.8%
1950 1,465 6.4%
1960 1,507 2.9%
1970 1,923 27.6%
1980 2,456 27.7%
1990 3,045 24.0%
2000 3,319 9.0%
2010 3,909 17.8%
2020 3,794 −2.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
Train Wreck of 1907, Canaan, NH
1907 Canaan train wreck

As of the census of 2010, there were 3,909 people, 1,588 households, and 1,105 families residing in the town. The population density was 73.5 people per square mile (28.4/km2). There were 1,930 housing units at an average density of 36.3 per square mile (14.0/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.1% White, 0.1% African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.0% Asian, 0.2% some other race, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.8% of the population.

There were 1,588 households, of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.0% were headed by married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.4% were non-families. 23.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.6% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42, and the average family size was 2.81.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 20.9% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 33.7% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.3 males.

For the period 2007–2011, the estimated median annual income for a household in the town was $62,226, and the median income for a family was $63,930. Male full-time workers had a median income of $46,250 versus $37,287 for females. The per capita income for the town was $26,964. About 4.5% of families and 6.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.7% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.

In 2014 the largest ancestry groups reported in Canaan were English (17.8%), "American" (17.4%), French or French Canadian (14.2%), and Irish (12.6%).

Sites of interest

Notable people

  • Gavin Bayreuther (born 1994), NHL player
  • Daniel Blaisdell (1762–1833), US congressman
  • Henry G. Burleigh (1832–1900), US congressman from New York
  • Frank Dunklee Currier (1853–1921), US congressman
  • Joshua Smith (1760–1795), author (Divine Hymns, or Spiritual Songs)
  • Anna Augusta Truitt (1837–1920), philanthropist, temperance reformer, essayist

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Canaan (Nuevo Hampshire) para niños

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