Long after sailors, fishermen
and agricultural colonists had domesticated the entire coastline
of New England, the harsh, glacier-scarred interior of NEW
HAMPSHIRE , with its dense forests and forbidding mountains,
remained the exclusive preserve of the Algonquin Indians. Only
the few miles of seashore held sizeable seventeenth-century communities
of European settlers, such as Strawbery Banke at Portsmouth .
Even when the Indians were
finally driven back, following the defeat of their French allies
in Canada, the settlers could make little
agricultural impact on the rocky terrain of this "granite
state." Towns such as Nashua, Manchester and Concord grew up in the fertile Merrimack
Valley, but not until the Industrial Revolution made possible
the development of water-powered textile mills did the economy
take off. For a while, ruthless timber companies looked set to
strip all northern New Hampshire bare - very few of the trees
you see now are original growth - but they were brought under
control when the state recognized that the pristine landscape
of the White Mountains might turn out to be its greatest asset.
Large-scale tourism began towards the end of last century; at
one stage fifty trains daily brought travelers up to Mount Washington.
Ever since becoming the
first American state to declare independence, in January 1776,
New Hampshire has been proud to go its own idiosyncratic way.
The absence of a sales tax, or even a personal income tax, is
seen as a fulfillment of the state motto, "Live Free or
Die." Alternative sources of revenue include state-owned
liquor stores in which, unlike in neighboring states, you are
able to purchase alcohol on Sundays. The stores were set up after
the failure of Prohibition, and have been enthusiastically promoted
ever since: they even have them in freeway rest areas. The state
has long gained inordinate politi cal clout as the venue of the
first primary election of each presidential campaign, with its
villages well used to playing host to would-be world leaders.
One less ideological aspect
of New Hampshire's individualism is the emphasis on a healthy
outdoor lifestyle. Hiking, climbing, cycling and skiing are enjoyed
both by energetic locals and by the many visitors who drive up
from Boston and New York. The major destinations are Lake
Winnipesaukee , and Conway, Lincoln and Franconia in the mountains
further north. Some have grown rather too large and commercial
for their own good, but if you steer clear of the paying "attractions,"
the lakes, islands and snowcapped peaks themselves remain spectacular.
To see the bucolic rural scenery more usually associated with
New England, take a detour off the main roads up the Merrimack
Valley - to Canterbury Shaker Village near Concord, for example.
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