Koivula Family Fire
written by Frans Seastrand
It was a dark, still February evening in 1921 when the Koivula farmhouse caught on fire. All of the Koivulas were
at home except the father, Konsta (Konstantine), who was out in the neighborhood selling Finnish newspapers. My
mother, Sigrid, who was eleven years old at the time, looked out of the window from the house and saw the glow of
the fire reflecting on the winter's snow. She exclaimed to her mother that the house was on fire. Everyone rushed
out of the house and was saved.
The fire apparently started as a classic chimney fire. Creosote probably built up in the chimney and provided the
catalyst for the fire. The mortar in the chimney must have crumbled with age over the years, creating holes in the
chimney for the fire to escape and start to burn the wooden-framed house.
The neighbors saw the fire from
the distance and went to the Koivula home to help put it out. Konsta was at the Kolapakka's house when the fire
began. He saw the flames from afar and said he wondered whose house was on fire. Mr. Kolapakka replied that
he thought that it was Konsta's house, whereupon Konsta raced home to save his family and fight the fire.
The neighbors brought pails of water from the brook near the house and threw the water on the structure fire. The way
the story goes according to my mother is that the barn was saved from being burnt down only because it was a still
night with little wind, and the neighbors threw an iron chain around the wooden beam that was attached from the house
to the barn and pulled the beam down with horses. Otherwise, the flames would have crossed over from the house
to the barn on the wooden beam. However, Uncle Iver said that the house was attached fully to the barn like it is
today (without a beam) and that part of the house was saved from being destroyed by the fire. The part of the house
closest to the road where the kitchen is now located was lost in the fire
The Koivulas lived in a house in town for about one year while their farmhouse was being rebuilt with wood from
another house in New Ipswich. The original Koivula house was considerably larger than the house that now stands
on the farm. It had a foundation that extended almost to the edge of Appleton Road. Part of the original foundation
that was not used when the house was rebuilt could be seen for years after the fire. Eventually, all of the original
foundation that was left unused was completely filled in and covered up.
Kidder Mountain Ski Area By Jane Kincaid and Frans Seastrand
The Koivula family was known for its industrious ingenuity in earning a living in New Ipswich, New Hampshire.The
mainstay of the family business was running a small dairy farm, but the farmland also had abundant natural resources
that the family used and sold as a means of support over the years. The Koivulas cut timber firewood and hay; mined
sand and gravel; and picked blueberries. At one time they even built their own equipment to manufacture and sell
apple crates. In the off season, the Koivula “boys” worked for the town on the roads.
Beginning in the late 1950’s, skiing became very popular throughout New England. In 1960, the Koivula family
decided to construct and operate their own ski area on the mountain joining the farm. The family called it the Kidder
Mountain Ski Area. The Koivula brothers built and installed two rope tows: one of 1,000 feet and the other of 800
feet in length. Rope tows were the primary means of transporting skiers up the mountain in those days. Andrew
Koivula built a two-story “warming hut” as a place for the skiers to rent skis, warm up and purchase refreshments.
The hut had water sewer and wood-burning stoves for heat. The first floor of the warming hut was where the Koivulas
sold refreshments such as coffee, cocoa, hotdogs and hamburgers. The first floor also had a big window overlooking
the picturesque pastures of the Koivula farm. On the second floor, the Koivula boys rented skis and put in wood
burning stoves so that the skiers could come in out of the cold and warm up between ski runs.
The ski mountain was run by three of the Koivula brothers: Andrew, Iver and Leo. Iver sold the rope-tow tickets for
$1.00 each, Leo ran the rope tow, and Andrew was the “all around man.” Other people worked at the ski mountain
as well. Bill Currier and Jeff Gray ran the ski patrol. They had a toboggan in case anyone was injured.
Beginning in the mid 1960’s, the larger ski mountains expanded their facilities and began to replace their rope tows
with chair lifts. Sitting on a chair lift and riding up the mountain is far more comfortable than hanging onto a rope and
being pulled up the mountain. The chair lifts also could also take skiers further distances above longer trails and up
higher mountains. At the larger ski mountains, people skied down the more challenging terrains of higher and steeper
mountains, which is a lot more exhilarating than skiing down the shorter runs of the smaller mountain slopes. The
advent of the development of larger mountain ski centers with more luxurious lodges, facilities and chair lifts proved
to be too much of an advantage over the smaller ski areas with only rope tows. The chair lifts also were simply too
expensive an investment for the smaller mountain owners to install on shorter trails.
As a result of the changing competitive environment in the skiing industry, the smaller ski areas could no longer
compete with the larger ski mountains. In 1968, with the skiing business waning at Kidder Mountain, the Koivulas
decided to close down the ski area. Nevertheless, for a time in the 1960’s, the Koivula family proved its resource-
fulness once again by earning a living from operating a little ski area on a rural farm in New Hampshire.
If you wander up to the warming hut on Kidder Mountain today, you will see a place where time has stood still since
the ski area closed down in 1968. On a wall of the first floor, you will still see a list of prices of the refreshments that
were sold in 1968. The list of refreshments includes coffee, tea and doughnuts (10 cents); hot cocoa and tonic water
(15 cents); pie (20 cents); hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches (25 cents); hamburgers (35 cents) and cheeseburgers
(45 cents). The calendar for 1968 is still on the wall. You will also see four old wood-burning stoves in the warming
hut, pairs of old skis that were rented to the skiers, a log of skiing conditions and a brochure describing the ski area.
In looking around the warming hut, one cannot help but sense the entrepreneurial spirit that was so much apart of
the Koivula family whenbuilding and running the Kidder Mountain Ski Area.