Originally published October 2011. I was hoping this one would make the cut when I started counting, and was surprised that it has nearly 5,000 hits. I suppose when people are putting a Bing or a Duck on "Lost Nation," they want to learn more than what's on the map. This attracted good comments over the years from people who were from there.***
But Lost Nation, I eventually decided, had to have acquired that name in its early days. A small settlement might have gone for a decade without naming in the 18th or 19th C, but not much longer. The town histories of Lancaster and Northumberland offer suggestions for the origin - the settlement straddles that border - but neither source seems quite certain. Both explanations connect it to some vaguely religious idea, but frame it in the negative - that some visiting preacher or local wag called them that because of remoteness or poor church attendance. I think that's close, but not in the money. The time of settlement was very early 19th C, a time when British Israelism was a popular idea, especially in the more exotic sects that struck out to settle new areas. The idea of the Lost Tribes of Israel was still much in the air not long after that when Joseph Smith received his revelations which assured him that there had been great cities and civilizations on the North American continent. To be a member of a Lost Tribe was not a bad thing, but a good one. People would take that idea about themselves as a connection to Bible times, and some hope that they might be favored or important.
I have no evidence from any document, yet find it the more persuasive idea that Lost Nation named itself with no irony or humor intended. Yes, the place is out of the way, but so is everything else up there, frankly. Even the big places are small and hard to get to. Things are different Above The Notch.
I went up to find it last Friday. It didn't look too hard on the map, just a longer distance than one might ordinarily travel for such a small errand. I have been to the area a fair number of times over my lifetime, but not this specific place. I was always going somewhere for work or a high school game, and had no time.
It didn't look too hard on the map. The name of the place is Lost Nation. Isn't it fairly obvious what's going to happen next? Sigh. When will I learn?
The map said to take North Rd out of Lancaster, then take a left on Lost Nation Rd. Many things are left unmentioned in that description. It's not called North Road until it's well out of town. Before that it's called Middle St (or Mechanic St). These signs do not suggest anything to do with North or Middle anything, do they? (click for the amusing embiggen.)
So after three passes to figure that out, I learned that Lost Nation Rd is called Grange Rd where it meets North Rd. And it's only marked from one direction. So that took three passes. But small problem, really. Just irritating. No question when you get there, though. There's a small church that says Lost Nation on it, only used occasionally now. The border between the towns is well-marked. One little interesting bit there. Town lines nationwide are now marked for drivers, going by quickly, and show the name of the place you are about to enter. But the old line markers reversed this: Lancaster was written on the Lancaster side, and Northumberland (or North'd) on its side. The trend is returning in fashionable places, with engraved initials on stone posts. Goffstown and Bedford now have them.
Why move so far up into the mountains to try and scratch out a living? Well, there's paranoia, of course, but I suspect the real reason is that it is so flat. Once you get above the notch, there actually are nice wide patches of farmland. From Ashland to Franconia, not so much. Here and there. If you are worried about the cold, you really should start looking about 200 miles of here.