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Canaan, New Hampshire
—  Town  —
Church Street in 1907

Location in Grafton County, New Hampshire
Coordinates: 43°38′48″N 72°00′37″W / 43.64667°N 72.01028°W / 43.64667; -72.01028
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Grafton
Incorporated 1761
 - Board of Selectmen Robert Reagan, Chairman
Scott Borthwick
Tim Lewis
 - Total 55.0 sq mi (142.5 km2)
 - Land 53.2 sq mi (137.8 km2)
 - Water 1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2)  3.31%
Elevation 945 ft (288 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 3,319
 - Density 62.4/sq mi (24.1/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 03741
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-08980
GNIS feature ID 0873557

Canaan is a town in Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 3,319 at the 2000 census. It is the location of Mascoma State Forest. Canaan is home to the Cardigan Mountain School, the town's largest employer.



Chartered in 1761 by Governor Benning Wentworth, the town was named after the hometown of many early settlers, Canaan, Connecticut, which had been named for the biblical land of Canaan. It was settled in the winter of 1766-1767 by John Scofield, who arrived with all his belongings on a hand sled. With an unbroken surface, the town was suited for agriculture. The Northern Railroad (predecessor of the Boston & Maine Railroad) arrived in 1847, spurring development. Water powered mills were built on the streams. By 1859, when the population was 1,682, Canaan had one gristmill, three lath and clapboard mills, and one tannery.[1]

In March 1835, 28 white students and 14 black students commenced classes at the newly established Noyes Academy. On August 10, 1835, white residents of Canaan, with the help of neighboring towns and "nearly 100 yoke of oxen," forcibly removed Noyes Academy from its foundation. Later, the community would be a stop on the Underground Railroad. [2]

Canaan was the site of a famous train wreck on September 15, 1907. Four miles north of Canaan Station, the southbound Quebec to Boston express, heavily loaded with passengers returning from the Sherbrooke Fair, collided head-on with a northbound Boston & Maine freight train. Twenty-five people perished, and an equal number were seriously injured. Cause of the accident was "due to a mistake in train dispatcher's orders." [3]

On June 2, 1923, another disaster destroyed the heart of Canaan Village (East Canaan). The Great Canaan Fire burned 48 homes and businesses.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 55.0 square miles (142 km2), of which 53.2 sq mi (138 km2) is land and 1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2) is water, comprising 3.31% of the town. Canaan is drained by the Indian River and Mascoma River. Canaan Street Lake is in the center, and Goose Pond is in the northwest.

The town center lies in the valley of the Indian River (a tributary of the Mascoma River) at the base of Mount Cardigan, which lies to the east in the neighboring town of Orange. A mountain road leads from Canaan to a trailhead in Cardigan Mountain State Forest, where hiking trails on the west slope of the mountain lead to the bare-rock summit. The highest point in Canaan is the top of an unnamed ridge (approximately 2,270 feet (690 m) above sea level) in the northeast corner of town, overlooking Derby Pond.

Canaan lies almost fully within the Connecticut River watershed except for a tiny part of the northeast of the town, which is in the Merrimack River watershed.[4]

The town is crossed by U.S. Route 4 and New Hampshire Route 118.


1907 Canaan train wreck

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 3,319 people, 1,279 households, and 929 families residing in the town. The population density was 62.4 people per square mile (24.1/km²). There were 1,588 housing units at an average density of 29.8/sq mi (11.5/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.13% White, 0.12% African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.36% Asian, 0.21% from other races, and 1.05% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.51% of the population.

There were 1,279 households out of which 36.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.2% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.3% were non-families. 21.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.00.

View of the Canaan Fair c. 1906

In the town the population was spread out with 27.0% under the age of 18, 5.9% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 26.1% from 45 to 64, and 9.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.8 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $43,220, and the median income for a family was $46,339. Males had a median income of $32,946 versus $25,000 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,515. About 2.9% of families and 6.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 12.4% of those age 65 or over.

Sites of interest

Notable inhabitants


  1. ^ Coolidge, Austin J.; John B. Mansfield (1859). A History and Description of New England. Boston, Massachusetts. p. 432.  
  2. ^ Child, Hamilton (1886). Gazetteer of Grafton County, N. H. 1709-1886. Syracuse, New York. pp. 216-235.  
  3. ^ Canaan, NH Train Wreck of 1907
  4. ^ Foster, Debra H.; Batorfalvy, Tatianna N.; and Medalie, Laura (1995). Water Use in New Hampshire: An Activities Guide for Teachers. U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey.  
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  

External links



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