Death on Mt. Washington: The Tale of Lizzie Bourne

A monument of a few rough stones originally lay near the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire where on 14 September 1855, Lizzie Bourne of Kennebunk Maine, died from exposure.

This memorial eventually was replaced by a pyramid of rough stones topped by a slab.

Along with two relatives, her cousin Lucy Bourne, and her uncle George Bourne, Lizzie tried to climb Mount Washington without a guide. They left the Glen House, at the bottom of the mountain at about 2 PM.  About 4 PM they had made it half way to the top.

They walked up the carriage road as far as they could, but because they had started up late, they still were not at their destination when night fell.  Lizzie was wearing the usual apparel for women of her time, which hindered her movement.  They then experienced a violent gale. Quickly becoming cold and confused, she died from exposure about 10 p.m. Note: it is also believed that possibly she also had an unknown heart condition contributing to her death.

When the sun rose, her companions sadly realized they were only a few hundred yards from the summit house. Her family built a monument near the spot where Lizzie perished.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.; "Lizzie Bourne, died Sept. 14, 1855, aged 14 years" on monument; Detroit Publishing Co.Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado; 1949.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.; “Lizzie Bourne, died Sept. 14, 1855, aged 23 years” on monument; Detroit Publishing Co.Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado; 1949.

Rev. Larned L. Eastman was staying at hotel the summit the night that Lizzie died. He wrote in his diary, “Miss Lizzie Bourne, of Kennebunk Me., perished but a short distance from the Tip Top House, where we were comfortably sleeping. How painful the fact was to us, I can never describe. We were the only company present on that beautiful yet very sad morning. I helped to carry in the dead girl. After making every possible effort to revive the dear girl without success, and to comfort and make comfortable the uncle and his daughter who did but just survive the terrible night, our guide having returned, we proposed to descend. The view from the top of the mountain was glorious. The storm had thoroughly cleared the atmosphere. We could distinctly see the sun emerge from the silver bosom of the sea. Then the might mountains, the hills, lakes, rivers, with the milky-white clouds floating far below, here and there giving glimpses of country and village, furnished a scene transcending description….”

And so Lizzie Bourne’s spirit continues to survey a view with a circumference of nearly 1,000 miles, including parts of five states and the province of Quebec. Her monument has changed over time, and has been replaced with a more solidly inscribed one that will better resist the high wind, frost, freezing rain, and snow.

Lizzie C. Bourne herself is buried at Hope Cemetery in Kennebunk, Maine.  The inscription on her tombstone there states: Lizzie C. Bourne, aged 23 yrs., Daughter of Edward E. Bourne of Kennebunk, Maine.  “Here in the twilight cold and gray, Lifeless, but beautiful, she lay, And from the sky serene and far, A voice fell like a falling star,–Excelsior!”  [See a photograph and remainder of the inscription here]

Lizzie was not the first, nor the last to die on Mount Washington. However her gender, and that she succumbed to the element so close to the Summit House, has made her more widely known than the others who also perished.


*Additional Reading*

A White Mountain Ghost Story

-New Hampshire: Some Mount Washington Firsts

Additional Photographs of Lizzie Bourne

-Photographs of the Lizzie Bourne Monument-
Photograph #1. | Photograph #2.


John Bourne, b. abt 1666; d. betw 1712-Feb 1716/17 at Portsmouth, Rockingham Co NH; he m. abt 1695 to Joanna Dore, dau of Richard & Tamsen (Jackson) Dore as her 2nd husband. She b. abt 1671 in Portsmouth NH. She m1) 1692 in Portsmouth NH to David Cane. He d. abt 1695. After John’s death, she m3) 25 Feb 1717 in Portsmouth NH to Stephen Knowles.
Children of John & Joanna (Dore) Bourne:
1. Mary Bourne, b. abt 1695 Portsmouth NH; m. 3 Nov 1715 Portsouth NH to John Gardner
2. +John Bourne, b. abt 1708 possibly at Smuttynose Island, Isles of Shoals NH

John Bourne, son of John & Joanna (Dore) Bourne, b. abt 1708 possibly on Smuttynose Island, Isles of Shoals. He d. 17 July 1788 in Wells, York Co. ME, “lying down merely to rest after dinner and not again awaking.” When Queen Anne’s War ended, he removed from the Isles of Shoals to Kittery ME. He was educated as a mechanic, and was a ship-builder (for over 50 years) and captain. He was also a captain of the local militia, a selectman of the town, and a member of the Congregational Church. He married 8 Nov 1727 in Wells, ME to Mary Cousins, dau of John & Abigail (Cloyes) Cousins. She b. abt 1707 in Wells ME, and d. 12 Aug 1776. He m. Oct 1777 prob in Portsmouth NH to Mrs. Mary Langdon of Portsmouth NH. According to the history of Wells, his second wife was accustomed to luxurious living, and soon spent his assets, and then “she left with her servants and returned to Portsmouth.” John then moved in with his daughter Mary (Bourne) Storer for a time.
Children of John & Mary (Cousins) Bourne:
1. Mary Bourne; m. Abraham Storer
2. John Bourne, b. betw 1729-1730 Wells, York Co ME, died in infancy
3. +Benjamin Bourne, b 3 Nov 1732 in Wells, York Co ME
4. John Bourne, b. abt 1734 Wells ME; m. Mary Cousens
5. Joanna Bourne, b. betw 1736-1740 Wells ME; m1) William Cousins; m2) Hans Patten
6. Samuel Bourne, b. abt 1751 Wells ME; m. Katherine Wheelwright
7. Joseph Bourne, b. 1741 Wells ME
8. Abraham Bourne, b. abt 1745 in Wells ME
9. Abigail Bourne, b. abt 1747 in Wells ME
10. Isaac Bourne b. abt 1753 in Wells ME; m. Susanna Patten
11. Lucy Bourne, b. 1749 in Wells ME; m. Joseph Winn
12. Hepsibah Bourne, b. 30 May 1756 Wells ME; m. George Jacobs

Benjamin Bourne, son of John & Mary (Cousins) Borne, b. 3 Nov 1732/23 or Dec 1733; d. 10 Aug 1777 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a prisoner. He was on a privateer captured during the American Revolution. He m. 11 Dec 1755 at Wells ME to Martha Maxwell, dau of Gershom & Mary (Young) Maxwell. She b. 1 Feb 1734/35, and d. in 1764 in Wells ME. He m2) 12 Jan 1765 to Hannah Sewall of York ME, dau of Samuel & Hannah (Kelly) Sewall.
Children of Benjamin & Martha (Maxwell) Bourne:
1. Martha Bourne, b. 31 May 1757
2. +John Bourne, b. 14 Aug 1759
3. Benjamin Bourne, b. 9 Dec 1761
4. Ebenezer Bourne, b. 14 July 1764
Children of Benjamin & Hannah (Sewall) Bourne:
5. Samuel Bourne, b. 27 Apr 1766
6. Benjamin Bourne, b. 3 June 1768
7. Hannah Bourne, b. 19 Feb 1772
8. Susanna “Susan” Bourne, b. 15/20 Feb 1774; m. Timothy Barker, res. N. Yarmouth ME
9. Mary Bourne, b. 16 Apr 1776

Capt. John Bourne, son of Benjamin & Martha (Maxwell) Bourne, b. 14 Aug 1759, and d. 6 June 1837, aged 78. He m1) 6 Feb 1783 Abigail Hubbard, dau of Capt. James Hubbard. She d. 10 Dec 1787; he m2) 19 June 1788 to Sally Kimball, dau of James Kimball. She d. 29 May 1794. He m3) 10 Sep 1794 to Mrs. Elizabeth “Eliza” “Betsy” (Perkins) Wildes, the widow of Capt. Israel Wildes of Arundel ME. She d. 6 Sep 1844, aged 79. From History of Wells: “when only sixteen years of age enlisted in the Revolutionary War and continued in the service on the borders of Canada one year. In 1780 being then 21 years of age he came to Kennebunk, having been trained by his father as a ship-carpenter. He built and opened a store at the Landing, and erected a house. He became a master-workman of the shipyard and purchased land adjoining the river. He built many vessels for Theodore Lyman, William Gray of Salem and others. He also built vessels for his own use, taking into partnership with him John Low, under the firm of Bourne and Low.
Children of John & Abigail (Hubbard) Bourne:
1. Olive Bourne, b. 10 July 1784, d. Feb 1803 Wells, York Co ME [NEHGS Database]
2. Samuel Bourne, b. 1 Dec 1785
3. Benjamin Bourne, b. 3 Sep 1787
Children of John & Sally (Kimball) Bourne:
4. John Bourne, b. 1 Nov 1789
5. James Bourne, b. 5 Aug 1792
6. Charles Bourne, b. 10 Dec 1793
Children of John & Elizabeth (Perkins-Wildes) Bourne:
7. Israel Wildes Bourne, b. 25 Dec 1795, educated at Bowdoin College
8. +Edward Emerson Bourne, b. 19 March 1797
9. Thomas Bourne, educated at Bowdoin College
10. George W. Bourne
11. Julia Ann Bourne, b. 1803, d Nov 1884 Kennebeunk ME; m. 22 Dec 1825 in Kennebunk ME to  Henry Kingsbury, Esq. of Kennebunk ME. They had four children, George Henry, John, Frank and Edward Lincoln.
12. Olive Bourne, m. Capt. Ivory Lord of Kennebunk ME
Children of Israel & Elizabeth (Perkins) Wildes:
1. Susan Wildes
2. Elizabeth Wildes
3. Abigail Wildes

Judge Edward Emerson Bourne, son of John & Elizabeth (Perkins) Bourne, b. 19 March 1797 in that part of Wells Maine, afterwards incorporated by the name of Kennebunk. He d. 23 Sep 1873. He graduated at Bowdoin College in 1816, studied law at home and in Philadelphia. He was admitted to the bar in 1819. He set up his practice first at Albion ME but returned to Kennebunk. He was selectman of the town from 1828 to 1833 and represented the town in the legislature from 1826 until 1831. He was state’s attorney for York Co in 1838 and 1841, and judge of the probate court from 1857 until 1872. He was a shipbuilder at Kennebunk Maine. He was president of the Maine Historical Society for several years. From 1866 until his death he was a trustee of Bowdoin College. He married 31 October 1822 by the Rev. N.H. Fletcher, to Mary H. Gilpatrick, dau of Richard Gilpatrick of Kennebunk ME. She was b. 1 Nov 1799. She died at her home 23 March 1852. He married 2nd) Mrs. Susan H. Lord  [Memoir of Hon. Edward Emerson Bourne, LLD]
Children of Edward E. & Mary H. (Gilpatrick) Bourne:
1. Julia Maria Bourne, b. 15 June 1825, d. 8 Nov 1851
2. Edward Emerson Bourne, b. 12 July 1832; attorney and partner with Joseph Dane Esq., res. Kennebunk ME; author of “The History of Wells and Kennebunk” published in 1875
3. Lizzie Green Bourne, b. 20 June 1833, died upon Mt. Washington in NH 14 Sep 1855
4. Mary Olivia Bourne, b. 6 July 1842, died September 1843.

Some Sources:
1. Keyes’s Handbook of Northern and Western Pleasure Travel, by George L. Keyes, published 1875.
2. Mount Washington: A Handbook for Travelers, by Frank Hunt Burt, pub 1904; G.H. Ellis Co. [photograph of Lizzie Bourne taken from this publication]
3. Putnam’s Monthly; published 1868, G.P. Putnam & Co., page 18 [source of photograph of original monument]
4. History of Wells and Kennebunk, by Edward E. Bourne, 1875, Portland ME, B. Thurston & Co. page 541
5. The Ancestry of Lydia Harmon, 1755-1836,” by Walter Goodwin Davis, 1924, Boston MA; Stanhope Press, p. 51

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11 Responses to Death on Mt. Washington: The Tale of Lizzie Bourne

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  5. Mary Duplessis says:

    Interesting. My fiance and I were caretakers for the Hartley Lord mansion, just a few miles up the street from the Wedding Cake house. I never knew this tragic story.

  6. Elise Barthalow says:

    I an a descendant of John and Mary Bourne.Their youngest daughter,Hepsibah Bourne was married to George Jacobs,and my great grandmother Myrtie Jacobs Gordon was their daughter.

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  9. Susan Hunt says:

    For a detailed account of this and other deaths and near-deaths, read the late Nicholas S. Howe’s book “Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire.” It’s a great book.

  10. David says:

    >> A monument of a few rough stones originally lay near the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire where on 14 September 1885

    1855, not 1885. Major error right at the start of this post. From 12 years ago!

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