Like much of the region, the slopes of Barton Hill were cleared for farm pastures and timber by the mid 1800s. The abandonment of hill farms allowed this land to gradually revert to a forest of poplar, white birch, and pine.
The land is part of the estate that was owned for generations by the Wright family of Keene, which made its fortune in silver polish. Legend has it that John Wright’s first silver polish was developed in the late 1800s as the result of an accidental encounter with a cow on a muddy back road. Finding the cow mired in a bog, he enlisted a local farmer to free the animal. As he wiped dried mud from the cow’s bell, Wright discovered that the bell was brighter, as if it had been polished. He purchased the land containing the mud, part of which became known as Silver Mountain.
The land was first settled as farmland in the 18th century, as evidenced by the cellar holes, cemeteries, cleared fields, and old farm house that was removed from the property. The land also became a source of forest products for much of the last century.
Dame Forest was owned by the same family since the 1840s and was originally part of the Dame Farm. The stone piles within the property and stone walls along the bounds suggest that the land was cleared and used for pastureland. From the hill at the center of the property, livestock most likely looked out over the Great Bay as they grazed. The farm was abandoned the 1950s and returned to the forest we see today. In the mid 1960s, beaver moved in, creating dramatic wetland habitat that includes stretches of open water.
A gift from Virginia S. Champlin of North Andover, Mass., in 2006, the property was named in honor of Mrs. Champlin's late husband, who took an active role and interest in the management of the land for forestry, wildlife, and recreational purposes. He also played a significant role in the current location of Skyhaven Airport, across Route 108 from the reservation.
During the 1930s and 1940s, a substantial part of the northerly portion of Gap Mountain, Carboni Pasture, was owned by a cattle and horse dealer. It was purchased with other adjoining land by investors who eventually incorporated themselves into the Gap Mountain Company.
This generous gift of land ensures the permanent protection of one of the state’s largest mostly undeveloped lakes (234 acres). This reservation surrounding Grafton Pond was the gift of an anonymous donor who wanted to preserve the wilderness pond and its seven miles of shoreline as one of the remaining sanctuaries for nesting loons. An advisory committee was formed that year to raise funds to create an endowment for the management of the property and to offer advice on land use and initial programs.
More than 100 years ago, the rugged natural beauty of Land Sunapee’s shores inspired American author and diplomat John M. Hay to build a summer retreat in Newbury. John Hay had been a private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and secretary of state under two presidents (William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt).