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Jefferson, New Hampshire
Location in Coos County, New Hampshire
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Coos
Incorporated 1796
  • Jefferson
  • Jefferson Highland
  • Baileys
  • Highlands
  • Meadows
  • Riverton
  • Starr King
 • Total 50.32 sq mi (130.34 km2)
 • Land 50.00 sq mi (129.49 km2)
 • Water 0.33 sq mi (0.85 km2)  0.66%
1,381 ft (421 m)
 • Total 1,043
 • Density 21/sq mi (8.1/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-38820
GNIS feature ID 0873634

Jefferson is a town in Coos County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 1,043 at the 2020 census. It is home to parts of the White Mountain National Forest in the south and northeast and to Santa's Village, a Christmas-themed amusement park. There are also several private campgrounds, motels and inns.

Jefferson is part of the Berlin, New Hampshire–Vermont Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Carter's Tower, Jefferson, NH
Carter's Tower in 1906

Colonial Governor Benning Wentworth first made land grants in this area in 1765, but the location was so deep in unexplored territory that few settlers took up their claims. So soon after the French and Indian War, in which certain Native American tribes in New England were allied with the French, English colonists did not want to be exposed on the frontier.

Colonel Joseph Whipple took a grant and cut trails through the forests to build a "manor" house. He named the town "Dartmouth" after William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, the patron of Dartmouth College. Brother to William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Colonel Whipple renamed the town "Jefferson" four years prior to Thomas Jefferson's election as president. The state legislature granted the town a new charter as "Jefferson" in 1796.

In the mid-19th century, the boundary with the adjacent township of Kilkenny was moved so as to include that township's few residents in Jefferson.

The Waumbek Hotel, Jefferson, NH
The Waumbek c. 1905
Cherry Mountain from the Waumbek
Cherry Mountain from the Waumbek Hotel, c. 1910

In 1885, a landslide on the north side of Cherry Mountain demolished the Stanley farm, mortally wounding a worker. Local hotels immediately arranged daily excursions to view the scene, now marked by a roadside historical marker. See New Hampshire Historical Marker 152.

Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, a local farm boy born in 1832, became a world-famous inventor of aerostats (dirigibles) and other devices. Consulting President Abraham Lincoln, he organized a balloon corps during the Civil War, and went on to invent the ice-making machine, and later the water-gas process. For years, the latter was used to fuel gas lights in hundreds of cities. His father, Clovis Lowe, had been part owner in 1832 of nearby Low and Burbank's Grant, which contains much of Mount Adams and Mount Madison. See New Hampshire Historical Marker 19.

During the early 1900s, Jefferson was a popular summer resort, boasting one of the largest "grand hotels" in the White Mountains—the Waumbek, with accommodations for nearly 300 guests. The hotel had its own rail branch, to deliver guests directly to the hotel from Boston and New York without changing trains. It was destroyed by fire on May 9, 1928.

At tourism's peak, Jefferson had over 30 inns and boarding houses, accessible by several mainline depots, including Riverton, Baileys, Meadows, and Highlands. Some of the original station buildings remain, although most have been moved to nearby locations. The tracks were removed in the 1920s. The wider ownership of automobiles gave people more choices for vacation destinations, and the Great Depression reduced vacations for years. By the end of this period, many people sought other venues than grand hotels.

A number of historic, architecturally interesting structures remain from the resort era. The Waumbek Cottages provided a backdrop for the popular White Mountains Festival of the Arts until 1979. In March 2006, the Waumbek Cottages Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1988 and 1989, Jefferson gained national attention when a local volunteer firefighter was charged and tried in connection with dozens of arson fires that had plagued the area. The defendant was acquitted at trial.


Presidential Range, Jefferson, NH
Presidential Range c. 1905

Jefferson is located on U.S. Route 2 between Lancaster and Randolph, near the midpoint between the Vermont and Maine borders. Set astride the broad Israel River valley, the town commands remarkable views of the Presidential Range and other White Mountain summits. Mount Starr King, with an elevation of 3,907 feet (1,191 m) above sea level and named for Thomas Starr King, is the highest point in town, near the town's northern border. It is regularly traversed by hikers scaling nearby 4,006-foot (1,221 m) Mount Waumbek, one of the "four-thousand footers"—the 48 peaks above 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in New Hampshire. Jefferson lies fully within the Connecticut River watershed.

In the past few years, thousands of acres of Jefferson have been sold or donated by private interests to the White Mountain National Forest. These include the Randolph Town Forest, a part of which is within the boundaries of Jefferson, the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and Mount Starr King.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 50.4 square miles (131 km2), of which 50.2 sq mi (130 km2) is land and 0.2 sq mi (0.52 km2) is water, comprising 0.46% of the town.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1800 112
1810 197 75.9%
1820 252 27.9%
1830 492 95.2%
1840 575 16.9%
1850 629 9.4%
1860 700 11.3%
1870 826 18.0%
1880 951 15.1%
1890 1,062 11.7%
1900 1,080 1.7%
1910 1,061 −1.8%
1920 960 −9.5%
1930 771 −19.7%
1940 763 −1.0%
1950 728 −4.6%
1960 600 −17.6%
1970 714 19.0%
1980 803 12.5%
1990 965 20.2%
2000 1,006 4.2%
2010 1,107 10.0%
2020 1,043 −5.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
Highland House, Jefferson, NH
Highland House c. 1910

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,006 people, 407 households, and 295 families residing in the town. The population density was 20.1 people per square mile (7.7/km2). There were 582 housing units at an average density of 11.6 per square mile (4.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 98.31% White, 0.10% Native American, 0.10% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, and 1.39% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.10% of the population.

There were 407 households, out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.4% were married couples living together, 5.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.5% were non-families. 20.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 2.84.

Pliny Range House, Jefferson, NH
Pliny Range House in 1911

In the town, the population was spread out, with 22.0% under the age of 18, 4.5% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 32.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 103.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $41,089, and the median income for a family was $42,067. Males had a median income of $27,130 versus $21,382 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,556. About 4.7% of families and 8.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.0% of those under age 18 and 9.9% of those age 65 or over.

Sites of interest

  • Jefferson Historical Museum, located in the former St. John's Methodist church, on US Route 2, east of village center. From June to October it is open free to the public on Thursday and Sunday afternoons.

Notable people

See also

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