An Indian Curse Upon the Land
Mount Chocorua is one the most striking of all the peaks within the White Mountains. Although it is the 100th highest peak in the range, its large bare summit is visible from all compass points. One would not hesitate to say the hill is magical and they would be right, for the mountain has a legend attached to it that has been recounted through the ages. Here now is the legend of Chocorua.
Originally, the Pegwagget Indians lived in the region now known as Tamworth. They had sided with the French against British colonies in 1703 during Queen Anne’s War and remained loyal to their new allies. In 1724 the Pegwagget attacked several British colonies thus creating a bounty for every Pegwagget scalp collected. In 1725, Captain Lovewell and his men set out to remove the tribe from the area. Although they were not entirely successful, the Pegwagget people got the message, packed up their tepees and headed north. All but one trekked to safer grounds. Chief Chocorua stayed behind with his son, Taumba. He taught his son that the land belonged to the Pegwagget and no White Man would drive him off. He eventually befriended a white man by the name of Cornelius Campbell. Taumba enjoyed the company of Campbell’s children and they often visited each other.
One day, the chief was called away to a meeting with other tribal chiefs. Fearing the long journey would be too much for young Taumba, he left his son to the care of the Campbell family. During this time, Mr. Campbell mixed some savory poison to rid his farm of the wolves and fox that had been stealing his livestock, Taumba, thinking it was a new fare for human consumption, ate the poison and died.
When Chocorua returned, Campbell delivered the sad news of the boy’s passing. Chocorua went into a fit of rage and vowed revenge. Not long after, Mr. Campbell returned from his hunting to find that his wife and children had been slain. He knew too well who the culprit was and set out for Chocorua. A lengthy pursuit led him up to the top of the mountain that now bears his name. Campbell raised his musket but Chocorua with nowhere to run raised his arms to the sky and yelled out a curse. The exact words are lost to antiquity but it went something to the effect, “May the Great Spirit curse you when he speaks in the clouds and his words are fire. Lightning blast your crops and wind and fire destroy your homes. The Evil One breathe death upon your cattle. Panthers and wolves howl and fatten upon your bones. Chocorua goes to the Great Spirit but his curse stays with the White Man.” He then leaped over the edge of the cliff to his death. Another version relates that a band of men chased Chocorua up the mountain until they could follow no further. From there, they set the trees aflame, scorching the whole top of the mountain. As the fire consumed the apex, Chocorua yelled his curse and jumped off the edge of the cliff. Either way, the end result remains the same.
Cornelius Campbell was found dead near his cabin almost two years later, his body partially eaten by wolves. Many believed in the powerful curse the chief had put upon the area and refused to settle there for fear of losing their cattle, or more. Some time later, a strange malady killed scores of cattle in the region. Although experts concluded it was mud lime in the water that was killing the cows, mountain folk believed it was Chocorua’s curse being fulfilled. Even today, the people of the mountains take stock in the words that once echoed across the mountaintops in the land of the Pegwagget still letting the White Man know that the Great Spirits are watching over the Indians' land.