Passaconaway’s Realm

Captain John Evans and the Exploration of Mount Washington

Russell M. Lawson

Now that New Hampshire’s dominant White Mountain peak can be climbed relatively easily in a long day, or more comfortably ascended by car or cog railway, it is easy to forget that it was once considered by Native Americans and most European settlers to be too sacred and formidable to attempt. In fact, mountain climbing was relatively rare until recent times, making the fifteen ascents of Mount Washington between 1632 and 1804 all the more remarkable. Passaconaway’s Realm is a concise, historically and scientifically correct, and very dramatic story of Mount Washington’s earliest climbs and the men who made them in pursuit of botanical specimens; meteorologic, geographic, and geological data; and personal adventure. Incorporating sources that have never been utilized, Russell M. Lawson highlights the interaction of the wilderness landscape and the native peoples with such British-American newcomers and invaders as Walter Neale, Darby Field, John Josselyn, Captain Wells, Robert Rogers, Nicholas Austin, Governor John Wentworth, Jeremy Belknap, and Manasseh Cutler. He focuses on rustic frontiersman Captain John Evans, a founder of Fryeburg, Maine, an axe-man and hunter, but also the wilderness guide for the men of science during the 1784 Belknap-Cutler expedition. Lawson describes in close and intriguing detail the personal relations and aspirations, the logistics and difficulties, and the scientific aspirations and outcomes of this key early ascent.

Cover Image of Passaconaway’s Realm: Captain John Evans and the Exploration of Mount Washington
Paper: $15.95
ISBN-13: 9781584653967
Pages: 252 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: April 1, 2004


  • For local history buffs and White Mountain-ophiles who take the venue’s scenic beauty and easy access for granted, the book is fascinating, informative, an eye opener, and, though detailed, the perfect length for a brief respite from today’s frenetic pace.

    Foster’s Daily Democrat
  • Russell Lawson merits praise for his conscientious and detailed scholarship and for a text distinguished by a superb literary style and an intimate knowledge of White Mountain topography, climate, natural life, and history.

    The New England Quarterly
  • ...the historian will find this book pointers to much source material , and the general reader will enjoy a vivid rendering of the story of mountain exploration in the eighteenth century.

    Historical New Hampshire
  • And extraordinary adventurer, writer, and visionary, Captain John Smith deserves an account of his exploits as vivd as this one. Russell Lawson has left his mark with The Sea Mark, and readers of maritime history are the better for it.

    W. Jeffrey Bolster
    author of The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail
  • Lawson's retelling of Smith's New England voyage as a cruise along the coast is simply brilliant. I think this book will have a lasting impact by reinstating Smith's voyage in its rightful place in American exploration. Other people came before him, but his methodical survey was the first and best of its kind for many years.

    Karen Alexander
    University of Massachusetts

About the Author

RUSSELL M. LAWSON has a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. He has taught in higher education for many years and is the author of twenty books on local and regional history, biography, history of science and ideas, and history of exploration. 

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