Sunday, September 14, 2014

Paddling Menameset Waters

Yesterday's paddle had to fit the bill.  To do so it needed to be a 3 mile stretch of flat water with as few signs of civilization as possible, and ideally have some historical significance.
 
After moving my cursor around the Google map screen, more than a little like using a ouija board, the cursor ended up on the location of Menameset in the towns of Barre and Hardwick, MA.

Menameset is a Native American (Nipmuc) word and refers to an area where 3 Nipmuc (Quabaug) villages were located alongside what is presently called the Ware River.  At one point during King Philip's War (1676), these 3 villages housed an estimated 2,000 Native Americans (Nipmucs, Wampanoags, and Narragansetts)

I'd paddled the same stretch once before, back on 3/28/2012, and hoped to take another, hopefully closer, look at some possible village locations.  Clues to these locations were taken from Josiah Howard Temple's History of North Brookfield, MA: Preceded by an Account of Old Quabaug.

Starting at Wheelwright Road (Rt. 32) in Barre Plains, I paddled down to the Wheelwright Dam and back.  This map shows the area (click to enlarge). 

This tree near the put-in was a favorite for mushrooms...


The first, or most upriver village is believed to be about half a mile below the present MassCentral Railroad bridge(formerly Boston & Albany branch) and on the river's east side...

There is a slough there between areas of high ground...

At the upstream end of the slough, where there's a steep slope, is this stone structure...

...probably just the remains of an old stonewall, but to me it looked like a stone path and I used it as such to get up and down the slope.  The stone structure actually started under the riverbank...

Heading further downriver I encountered several turkey vultures wiling away the day in the same tree.  They seemed to take turns drying their wings...

Better seen from afar...

...and hopefully never circling above me.
Additionally a hawk, osprey, blue heron, belted kingfisher, and numerous wood ducks were seen.

A meadow between the villages filled with goldenrod...
...and these strange blue flowers which I'd never seen before...
...I've since learned they're "Blind Gentian" also called "Bitter Root" for the medicinal values of the root.

What looks to be an old abandoned railroad (perhaps the Central Mass) grade runs parallel to the river's east side...
Part of this grade passes through a small airport and perhaps was incorporated into its runway.  The middle Manemeset village is believed to have been located between the river and said runway.

The lower Manemeset village is believed to have been just a little ways downstream of the dam at Wheelwright...

The mill, formerly the Ware River Paper Co., was built in 1866 and operated until 1973.  What's left of it is in a sad state.  This small shack is typical...


This turtle probably had some stories, but he wasn't talking...

 Today's trash haul...
There were 43 recyclable containers (16 redeemable) and 14 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as an old white-wall tire and the plastic tub.
But wait, there's more...
The 3 jugs were attached to fishing line and a hook.
YTD total = 4320

Other than a small plane towing an even smaller plane into the skies above the airport, I saw not another soul.  The only dwellings seen were right at the launch site and some at the small village in Wheelwright.  It was an ideal spot for my down and back paddle.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've always been intrigued by the history of the Barre/Hardwick area with regard to it's involvement in Metacomet's War. I grew up in the area and learned of the war only briefly in elementary school (which is a shame, history could be taught so much better than it is). I've recently found myself reading and researching everything I can get my hands on about the subject. It's an incredible story, with an amazing cast of characters. Certainly a tragedy that more aren't aware of it.

I want to thank you for your blog and the obvious investment in time you put into it. My grandparents owned a house about 100 feet from the dam in wheelwright. As kids we boated and explored the river endlessly. It's incredible to have learned, from your description of the village locations, I was walking on top of a village that could have been the launching point for the liberation of the natives in 1675.

Keep up the good work, and thanks again.

Jhan LaTulippe
jlatulippe@charter.net

Trashpaddler said...

You're welcome Jhan. Glad you enjoyed the post. It must have been something to have seen Wheelwright back when the paper mill was still in operation.

Big Ben said...

"At the upstream end of the slough, where there's a steep slope, is this stone structure..."

I've seen these in my neck of the woods here on the Parker river,newbury. I don't, as yet, know of any name for them, but appear to be a form of hillside water control;water from uphill side travels beneath/thru wall, if working properly.

Great work here.

Trashpaddler said...

Thanks Big Ben, Interesting to hear of similar stone work on the Parker River.