Our Beloved Kin: Remapping A New History of King Philip's War

Remove 4: Nichewaug

After scouts reported to the people gathered at Menimesit that colonial troops were launching a raid on their sanctuary, Weetamoo and other leaders led their relations and their captives away from Menimesit and toward the Connecticut River valley. By the time colonial troops accessed Menimesit, traveling north from Quaboag, all the Native people had left, the three towns emptied. The troops attempted to pursue them, but the people were already far ahead, and they sent "their stoutest men...back to hold the English army at bay." Weetamoo's company stopped to rest and refresh at a place called Nichewaug, which Rowlandson described as “a desolate place in the Wilderness, where there were no Wigwams or Inhabitants before.”

However, Nichewaug was at the crossroads of trails, a vital "between place" for subsistence between major Indigenous towns, on the routes from Nipmuc territory to Pocumtuck and Sokoki territories in the Kwinitekw valley. It was certainly an apt stopping place for Weetamoo's company as they traveled from Menimesit to “Squakeag.” Nichewaug's wetlands and trails are in modern-day Petersham, along the east branch of the Swift River, still a significant waterway for fishing. Parts of Nichewaug, however, are now submerged beneath the Quabbin Reservoir, which was created in the 1930s to provide a water supply for Boston.

Although Rowlandson bemoaned that the conditions were "cold and wet, and snowy, and hungry," the people could have found ample sustenance there, including snaring the snowshoe hare that still can be found on its woodland trails. When we traveled through Nichewaug at the same time of year (early March), we saw a bobcat hunting its prey, a red squirrel. We also saw the tracks and den of a porcupine and the tracks of its predator, the fisher, who has returned with reforestation. These relationships between predators and prey help the forest ecosystem to maintain balance and are key to the revitalization of the land.

Rowlandson wrote that her company camped at Nichewaug for four days, leaving “this place,” she believed, only when they discerned that “the English Army” was “near."


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