New Hampshire Missing Places: Umbagog House of Errol

Old postcard showing the main street in Errol New Hampshire. The Umbagog House is the flat-roofed building on the left side of the road.

The Umbagog House of Errol, Coös County, New Hampshire is not to be confused with any hotel or inn of a similar name located in the state of Maine.  Lake Umbagog straddles the border of both states and Oxford County, Maine contains much of this vast body of water.  Reportedly the name Umbagog (pronounced um-BAY-gog) is an Abenaki word for shallow water.

According to the book, “History of Coös County, New Hampshire,” by George Drew Merrill, “The UMBAGOG HOUSE, opened in December 1886, is one-half mile from Errol Dam, one mile from Aker’s pond, and on the highway to Colebrook, “twenty miles away.” At this point has been made quite a settlement, as it is the base of supplies for the upper country and the place of departure for Magalloway river and Parmachenee lake, and the depot of the “Errol Dam Company.”

Most people alive today have never seen this hotel in person.  If they have they are mighty old, for it burned down in 1919.   The Boston Herald of August 23, 1919 reported: OLD LANDMARKS GONE. Two historic mountain hotels have been burned to the ground in the last week, the Umbagog House at Errol and the Clement Inn at Chocorua, known to an earlier generation as the Piper House, to which guide boards in that section still point. The Umbagog House was a huge, old-fashioned structure twenty miles north of Berlin and an equal distance east of Colebrook, the Balsams and Dixville Notch. The little village of Errol, where it stood, formed the gateway to the settlements and camps on the upper waters of the Androscoggin and its tributary, the Umbagog.”

Summer hotels are a frequent prey to the flames. The story goes on to explain that these and other old hotels of the New Hampshire wilds often seem to have a fiery end. But lets go back to the hotel’s beginning, shall we?  Eight months after the Umbagog House opened [on 6 August 1887] an advertisement was placed in several newspapers that, lacking photographs of the interior, give a wonderful description of the hotel’s look and internal layout.

From the Boston Globe on page 7: “UMBAGOG HOUSE, Errol, N.H.–This house is situated near the Androscoggin river in Errol, N.H. and was built in 1886; it takes its name from Umbagog lake, which is one of the famous Rangeley lakes; the house has a magnificent location, near Clear stream, at the junction of the Berlin and Colebrook roads; Errol is the centre of a large game section; the brooks abound with trout, and very large ones are taken below the dam in the Androscoggin river; the house and L are three stories in height, with a flat roof; it has a wide verandah around it; the halls and rooms are large; there are four large fireplaces in the office and side rooms; water runs into the house and stable from a pure mountain spring; the drainage is second to none, and, on the whole, for beautiful scenery, brook and lake fishing, and autumn shooting for duck, deer and other game, this section stands at the head of the list as a sporting resort; parties desiring to reach Errol on days other than those on which the stage runs, or by trains with which the stage does not connect, can go directly through by special conveyance from the Alpine House at Gorham, which is under the same management as the Umbagog House; all inquiries promptly answered. Address Umbagog House, Errol, or Alpin House, Gorham NH.

Old postcard of Errol Main Street pre WWI. Property of J.W. Brown.

It was not a simple task to get to Errol, New Hampshire and advertisements provided specific methods of combining stage and trains to arrive there, but promising the destination would be worthy of the travel. The Umbagog House also arranged for “special conveyance” to and from the Alpine House in Gorham, New Hampshire (as the same man owned both). The facilities were well promoted, and included in Farrar’s Illustrated, a well-known travel book, each year.  In 1904 a book, The Gordon Elopement,” used the Umbagog House in Errol as one of its important scenes which drew some curiosity seekers to visit the hotel.

But what of the man who built and ran the hotel for many years? As was common for his day, he abbreviated his name and listed himself as “G.D. Stratton, Proprietor” in his advertising. He was Guilford Dudley Stratton, a self-made business man and a hotel owner since he was in his early twenties.  He was responsible for encouraging tourism in the Errol and North County area for many years.  The obituary that follows explains much of his business dealings.

Boston Globe, 22 Jan 1934 page 13: “GUILFORD STRATTON DIES IN PORTLAND. Well-Known Business Man Retired in 1906. PORTLAND, Me. Jan 22 (A.P.) Guilford Dudley Stratton, 90, who with a brother-in-law established the Lewiston Daily Sun, died here last night at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Nathaniel W. Shaw. He had been sick about eight weeks.  Stratton was born at Chester, and was engaged in the lumber and hotel business in this State until 1881, when he moved to Gorham, N.H. where he was proprietor of the Alpin House for 25 years. He was one of the organizers of the Berlin N.H. Motor Company and the Berlin National Bank, of which he was also a director. He retired form business in 1906 making his home in Laconia NH until coming here to live with his daughter. His wife, the former Eva Louise Wing, died eight years ago. Besides Mrs. Shaw, Stratton is survived by two other daughters, Mrs. Clifton A. Towle of Exeter NH and Mrs. Alpha H. Harriman of Laconia, and by a son Roy H. Stratton of Laconia. Funeral Services will be held Wednesday in Laconia NH.”

— BRIEF GENEALOGY OF THE STRATTON FAMILY —
-OF GORHAM & ERROL NH-

Guilford Dudley Stratton born 22 Nov 1843 Chester, Maine, son of Paul & Sarah Annie (Frazier) Stratton. He died 21 January 1934, aged 90 in Portland Maine. He is buried in Union Cemetery, Laconia NH. He married in 1873 in Maine to Eva Louise Wing. She was born 1851 in Maine, daughter of Henry S. & Hannah Elizabeth (Smith) Wing, and died 1926. Buried with her husband. He was landlord of several hotels, plus president of the Daily Sun Publishing Co. (newspaper). Manager, along with his wife, of the Alpine House (Mount Madison House), Gorham, NH, 1882-1905  and the Umbagog House in Errol, N.H. [see obituary above]. [FOR STRATTON GENEALOGY —See ‘A Book of Strattons‘]
——-
1900 US Census > NH > Coos > Gorham > Alpine Street
Gilford Stratton 56
Eva L Stratton 48
Alice May Stratton 25
Rosa Bell Stratton 24
Roy H Stratton 20
Annie L Stratton 18
————–
Children of Gilford & Eva L. (Wing) Stratton:
1. Alice May Stratton, b. abt 1873-1875 Mattawaumeag, Penobscot Co. Maine, died — Peterborough NH. Kindergarten teacher in Gorham NH. She m. 1904 to Dr. Alpha Haven Harriman at Alpine House, Gorham NH. DAR member. Resided Gorham NH.
2. Rosa/Rose Bell Stratton, b March 1876 Maine; m. 12 June 1906 in Gorham NH to Nathaniel Winslow Shaw, son of Nathaniel L. & Rebecca F. (Hawkes) Shaw. Resided Gorham NH
3. Roy H. Stratton, b. December 1879 Maine, d. 1936; res. Gorham NH
4. Annie L. Stratton, b February 1882 NH. She m. 20 June 1908 in Laconia NH to Clifton A. Towle; res. Gorham NH.

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3 Responses to New Hampshire Missing Places: Umbagog House of Errol

  1. Amy says:

    I checked out Errol on Google Maps—that is far north! I’ve been to Conway and Bartlet back in my early skiing days, but as far as Errol. That must have been quite a trip back then. And those old wooden lodges were something.

  2. billwest says:

    My Dad’s family is from Errol and the surrounding area in both Maine & NH. His sister lived in Milan NH and they grew up in Upton Maine on the other side of the river from Errol. Even in the 1950’s it was a long drive to get there from Boston to visit.

  3. heatherrojo says:

    I remember canoeing down the Androscoggin and across Lake Umbagog. We camped over night in Errol. PS. This was a LONG time ago!

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