On A Clear Day…

September 12, 2009

The remaining forestland owned by the Wright family in rural Lempster includes the open summit of aptly named “Silver Mountain,” elevation 2,160’. The family-owned “Wright’s Silver Polish” of Keene is a product well known to those whose silverware annually graces holiday dinner tables.  The sparkling views from the summit of Silver Mountain remain sterling.

Legend has it that John Wright's first silver polish was developed in 1872 as the result of an accidental encounter with a cow on a muddy back road near Keene. Wright spotted a cow mired in a muddy bog. He enlisted a local farmer to free the hapless heifer. Wright noted how the dark mud on the animal grew lighter as it dried. Wiping the dried mud from the cow’s bell, he discovered the bell was brighter as if polished. Wright had the mud analyzed and discovered it contained “diatomaceous earth” formed from fossilized shells of microscopic, single-celled aquatic algae high in silica.

Wright purchased that land outside Keene containing the "magical mud" and began marketing his metal polish under the brand names "Red Star Cleaning Powder" and "Golden Seal Metal Polish." By 1887, Wright developed the dry powder into a "Silver Cream” and the business prospered.

Today, Silver Mountain overlooks a region of New Hampshire that includes more than 40,000 acres of conservation land. The Wright’s 1,750 acres includes more than a mile of undeveloped frontage on Long Pond and Sand Pond and two more miles of frontage on the upper Ashuelot River very near its forested headwaters. The Wrights’ property is for sale and the Forest Society is the right candidate to buy it.

Conservation of the property will help build regional connections between the sprawling, 11,000-acre Andorra Forest in Stoddard to Pillsbury and Mount Sunapee State Parks in Goshen and Newbury. The Wright property forms a critical link connecting existing conservation land and public land. The famed Monadnock to Sunapee Greenway hiking trail crosses nearby Lovewell Mountain in Washington as it approaches its northern terminus on Sunapee.

The Ashuelot River slakes the thirst of a vast southwest NH watershed encompassing 25 cities and towns stretching from Pillsbury State Park in Goshen and Washington south to Hinsdale at its confluence with the Connecticut River. Route 10 follows the thread of the Ashuelot from Goshen to Keene to Winchester.

Amid the tapestry of distant farm pastures, deep forests and sparkling lakes seen from Silver Mountain, are lowland red spruce forest which comprise islands of northern forest, a thin archipelago of boreal forest stretching south toward the Berkshires. The summit of Silver Mountain is ideal for picking wild blueberries. The quiet lakes feature blue-water paddling opportunities along undeveloped shorelines favored by both loons and common mergansers, exclusively fish-eating ducks.

Backing the shorelines of Sand Pond and Long Pond are forests and wetlands along the upper Ashuelot which provide critical wildlife habitat for moose, black bear, bobcat, otter, owls, hawks, songbirds and smaller creatures including spotted salamanders.

The Forest Society seeks to raise $1.0 million to conserve the dramatic landscape by December, 2009. “Our goal is to establish a permanent Forest Society Reservation,” says Brian Hotz, Forest Society director of land protection. “If we’re successful, the land will remain open to the public for the hiking, blueberry picking, hunting, fishing, and other activities that people have enjoyed on the mountain for generations.” 

The Forest Society will conduct free, guided public hiking tours of the property along South Road in Lempster on Saturday, September 26. Three, two-hour tours begin at 10 am, noon and 2 pm. The 10 am and 2 pm hikes will hike to the summit of Silver Mountain. The noon tour will explore the shorelines of Long Pond and Sand Pond. Space on the hikes is limited and pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, call 224-9945 ext. 313 or email signup @ forestsociety.org. To view a slideshow of images from the Ashuelot Rivers Headwaters, visit www. Forestsociety.org/ashuelot.

Naturalist Dave Anderson is Director of Education and Volunteer Services for The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. His column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. E-mail him at danderson@forestsociety.org or through the Forest Society's Web site: forestsociety.org.