Monday, March 3, 2008

Paddling Back in Time to Musketaquid Village

Yesterday's unlimited sunshine provided all the incentive I needed to embark on another river trash patrol. For the first time in months, there was no ice to deal with at my launch site. At High Noon, I arrived at the Egg Rock time portal where the following is etched in stone:


Before the white men came, say 1634, Egg Rock was here, the rivers were here, Nashawtuck Hill was up behind Egg Rock situated between the two rivers and in that area and along the banks lived the Indian owners of this placed known as Musketaquid (means grass grown river). According to Dr. Lemuel Shattuck's History of Concord written in 1835, the local sachem was a man named Tahattawan and it is said that his lodge was located near the base of Nashawtuck Hill. His people were in an alliance with another group based in Medford. The alliance was ruled over by a woman called Squaw Sachem and she and her present husband Wibbacowet, a pow wow or shaman, also maintained a lodge at Nashawtuck Hill, which they used when in the area. Squaw Sachem was the widow of the great Massachusetts leader Nanepashemet.

Tahattawan had a daughter, Tissansquaw and she was married to a young sagamore named Waban (his name meant The Wind). Other individuals were Tantamous, Nimrod, Nepanet, Natanquatick, and Carte. In reading accounts by Shattuck and also Alfred Sereno Hudson's 1904 History of Concord, the above people are mentioned as living here when the white men came.

From what I have read, they had a fairly nice existence. They grew corn, squash, and beans in large quantities, harvested fish and shellfish from the rivers and ponds, and hunted game. In the spring, they would travel to area waterfalls where large numbers of families would congregate to reap the annual alewife, salmon and shad migrations. Perhaps, they paddled their canoes downriver to Pawtucket Falls in present day Lowell, or perhaps upriver to the falls at what is now Saxonville. I have also read accounts suggesting that they sometimes went overland to the falls at Watertown where tidewater and therefore salt water was reached. Watertown may have been where they spent their summers. After a long cold winter, the people of Musketaquid must have looked forward to these gatherings as a way to celebrate surviving to see another spring, introducing newborns, and remembering those that didn't survive the winter. In John Perdergast's The Bend in the River, the following is mentioned in regards to the spring gatherings at Pawtucket Falls: "Along with the fishing, there were festivities, competitions, marriages and other ceremonies at these sites."

At any rate, I did not encounter any of them on the water yesterday, but they were in my thoughts as I, once again, ascended the Assabet River due to windy conditions. I suspect Waban would have liked the breezy conditions. Dove Rock and Willow Island were still submerged though the river's water level had dropped from what it was two weeks ago. Paddling under the Pine Street bridge, I noted the staff gauge read 3.80. Upon reaching the large blowdown near Westvale Meadow, I found the channel on river left was dry, so there would be no paddling to Damonmill today. I found a calm eddy to take a cocoa/powerbar break before turning around and heading downriver.

Wildlife observed were wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese, a bufflehead, robins, and a cardinal. I'm still waiting to hear my first red-winged blackbird. When I do, I'll know that spring has sprung!

By the time I arrived at my takeout site, my drybag was full and my deck was decorated with assorted pieces of trash. Nearly half of what I recovered was plastic bags stuck on branches. My count for the day was 28 pices/containers. YTD= 310

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