New Hampshire: How the "Granite State" Got Its Name

Back in the 1820s New Hampshire residents were coasting along, not even realizing that our state needed a nickname.  [If you want a simple explanation, skip to the end of this story].

Out of the mass of humanity arose an unlikely hero–an attorney named Philip Carrigain (Col. Carrigain for short).   General Lafayette, the hero of the American Revolution was visiting our fine state. Bands were practicing, cannons were being cleaned and primed, and the masses were warming up their tonsils in preparation for lots of shouting and cheering.

The following story about Lafayette’s visit is taken from “History of Concord, New Hampshire, Rumford Press, 1903:
Great preparations were made for General LaFayette’s reception. He was met on the town-line, between Concord and Pembroke, and was addressed by Hon. William A. Kent, chairman of the committee of arrangements… They arrived at the State House Yard, an immense number of people, gathered from the town and from every part of the State, welcomed him with enthusiastic and prolonged cheering. In the hall of the House of Representatives he was welcomed and addressed by His Excellency the Governor, David L. Morril, and introduced to each of the members.  Next, the General was introduced to the Revolutionary soldiers to the number of two hundred and ten, who had come to pay their respect. He was addressed in their behalf by Gen. Benjamin Pierce.

At three o’clock in the afternoon he was conducted by the Governor, amid the cheerings of the assembled multitude, to the dinner-table, in front of the capitol, where, with about six hundred others–including more than two hundred Revolutionary officers and  soldiers–he partook of a sumptuous entertainment, provided by Mr. John P. Gass, of the Columbian Hotel.

After dinner toasts were drank, accompanied with the discharge of cannon, and  interspersed with songs. During his sojourn in town the General was the guest of Hon. William A. Kent, at whose house a great number of ladies and gentlemen had the pleasures of a private introduction to him.

He left at seven o’clock on Thursday morning, for Dover and other places eastward. He again returned to Concord on the 27th of June, and took his final leave, for Windsor, Vermont, by way of Hopkinton, Warner, Newport and Claremont. On passing the house of the late Daniel Clark, of Concord, Miss Mary Clark stepped out of the door and presented to Gen. LaFayette a beautiful bouquet of flowers, for which he politely thanked her.

So how does Lafayette fit into our state’s moniker? It is said that the name “Granite State,” was first applied to New Hampshire in a song composed by Colonel Carrigain, that was sung [by Maj. J.D. Abbot] at the public Lafayette dinner, on June 22, 1825,  the first stanza of which was–
North, and South, and East, and West,
   Grateful homage have express’d,
   Greeting loud the Nation’s Guest:
         Son of Liberty;
   Whom Tyrants curs’d–when Heav’n approv’d,
   And millions long have mourn’d and lov’d;
   He comes by fond entreaties mov’d,
         The GRANITE STATE to see.”

One history book indicates the poem was first published in the Concord Register on June 25, 1825.  I found that this poem was published in the newspaper, The New Hampshire Patriot & State Gazette, published in Concord New Hampshire on June 27, 1825.  In 1842 this poem in its entirety was additionally published in “The New Hampshire Book: Being specimens of the literature of the Granite state, by Samuel Osgood, J. Munroe and Company: 1842.

I agree with Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, by James Grant Wilson and John Fiske; published 1888, D. Appleton and company that says of Philip Carrigain: “He was the first to apply to New Hampshire the name of the “granite state.”  He not only applied it once, but he applied the term in other instances. On October 8, 1825, the Haverhill [MA] Gazette & Patriot reported, “We have a letter from Col. Carrigain, dated at Barnet, Sept. 25, in which he informs, that Col. Clinton will accompany him across the country to Concord, making such reconnaissance by the way on the Pemigewasset, &c. as may be most advantageous to the Granite State, lookout out (the best place for a water communication between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers).

The name started to catch on quickly, and it appears that some were developing “granite envy.” On October 11, 1825, only a few days later, the New Hampshire Gazette, page 3, vol LXX, issue 47, wrote: “If New-Hampshire is called a Granite State, Boston may be called a Granite City–for Art makes as great a display of this beautiful and durable material here, as nature does there.–Best. Pal.

After this date I find the use of “Granite State” increasing in popularity, and in a variety of publications.  But who was Philip Carrigain, and why does his name seem familiar?

Philip Carrigain, was the son of Philip Carrigain (Sr.) a Scottish physician (who d. in New York). Dr. Carrigain was born in New York State in NY 1746, and died in Concord New Hampshire in August 1806. He was a physician and surgeon of eminence in Concord. [Possibly he was the brother of Gilbert Carrigain/Cargain of Putnam Co NY]. Elizabeth
Carrigain, wife of Dr. Philip C. Carrigain, died 21 Dec 1805 at Concord NH, aged 55
[recorded Providence, R.I. “Phenix” newspaper].

Colonel Philip Carrigain, of “Granite State” fame was their son. Philip (Jr.) was born in Concord New Hampshire on 20 February 1772. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1794 and studied law with Arthur Livermore, Esq. and settled in practice in his native town. He was chosen Secretary of State by the New Hampshire Legislature in June 1805, and sustained that office four years.

In 1806 he was employed by the State government [and paid five thousand dollars] to prepare a Map of New-Hampshire, which he published in 1816 [or 1819]. In order to accomplish this, in 1816 Philip Carrigain arranged for surveys of much of the state. This new map included many new location names, such as Mounts Stinson, Eastman, Willard, and Kinsman.

According to “Mount Washington in Winter,” by Charles Henry Hitchcock, 1871, Chick and Andrews: In July of 1820 a part of engineers [sometimes called the Weeks-Brackett party] and others visited the Presidential Peaks of the Mount Washington range to measure their altitudes. The first party included Philip Carrigain. E.A. Crawford was the pilot and baggage carrier. This group gave names (and sometimes new names) to Mounts Pleasant, Franklin, Monroe, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, and called the Lake of the Clouds “Blue Pond.” In August of the same year another group returned, and continued their work.  Mount Clinton had previously been called Bald Hill (by Abel Crawford before 1837), Mounts Clay and Jackson were named by Mr. Oakes. Mount Willard was named by Mr. Sidney Willard of Boston, and it is probable that the name of Mount Webster was for a peak earlier known as Notch Mountain.  Mounts Crawford and Resolution, as well as the Giant’s Stairs received names from Dr. S.A. Bemis. The names of Tuckerman’s Ravine, Oakes’s Gulf and Bigelow’s Lawn, were given in honor of three eminent botanists who had distinguished themselves in the White Mountains with the study of flora and plants.

It is probably fitting then, that several features [i.e. Carrigain Brook, Notch, Pond, Mount] in the White Mountains bear Philip Carrigain’s surname.

Mr. Carrigain was also several years clerk of the Senate, and was often employed in public business. He was for some years in the practice of law at Epsom and Chichester: but subsequently came to Concord, where he died, in very reduced circumstances. I was unable to discover why he had the prefix Colonel, except that perhaps he was a member of a local militia group.

According to the History of Concord, New Hampshire: A writer in one of the public journals thus speaks of him. “The late Philip Carrigain, Esq. of Concord–a quick witted, genial personage…He wrote a beautiful hand, and wielded a pen with the skill and dexterity of a writing-master. The flourish beneath his name is well remembered by multitudes of people–flourishes representing a plain oblong circle, with accompany scrolls; or the head, beak, and neck of an eagle; or the head of a lion, or the figure of the quill with which he wrote… A friend who knew him well says…He was a gentleman in his manners–and although he suffered himself to become and to remain a bachelor, even to three score years and ten, was always a great admirer and flatterer of the fair sex… Mr. Carrigain about 1799 built the house at the North End of Concord NH [later owned by Robert E. Pecker and Jonathan E. Lang].

His remains are interred in the old burying-ground, [note: the Old North Cemetery, in Concord, Merrimack Co. NH] and remained several years without a monument; when, by means of a subscription by friends, a handsome white marble one was erected, bearing the
simple inscription:
  Hon. Philip Carrigain
  Formerly Secretary of State
  Author of the Map of New-Hampshire
  Died March 15, 1842
  Aet 70.

In addition to “Granite State” fame, Philip Carrigain also learned about the discovery of the then-lost, but now-famous “Endicott Rock” and brought it to the attention of Mr. John Farmer, who widely publicized it.

I suppose by now you are wondering why Philip Carrigain gave our state this peculiar name?  It is because much of New Hampshire bedrock is granite, and during its long history, many granite quarries have supplied rock for buildings, curbs, walls and bridges. Buildings made from New Hampshire granite include the Jefferson Memorial and the Library of Congress in Washington DC, along with the United Nations building in New York City. 


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5 Responses to New Hampshire: How the "Granite State" Got Its Name

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  2. Bonnie says:

    Can you confirm that Tiffany’s ediface in NYC was constructed with Granite from NH

    • Janice Brown says:

      Bonnie, it seems yes, the granite at Tiffany’s may have been from NH, based on the following newspaper article. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn NY) 31 Dec 1939 page 37. Award Contracts For Tiffany Building. “The John Swenson Granite Company of Concord, N.H. has been awarded the contract for exterior granite to cover the first and second floors of the new Tiffany & Co. Building in course of construction at the southeast corner of 5th Ave. and 57th St. Manhattan. It is announced by Eliot Cross of Cross & Cross, architects. The Turner Construction Company is the general contractor. Select buff limestone will feature facade treatment of the upper six floors of the new building, the contract for which has been awarded to James Gillies & Sons of Long Island City.” The store opened in 1940. You might want to contact the Swenson Granite Company in Concord NH to see specifically if the granite they used came from New Hampshire. I’m sure they would know.

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