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Remove 1: George Hill
Rowlandson's first "Remove" was at George Hill, located in present day Lancaster. The raiding party, led by the Monoco, and their captives, including Rowlandson, climbed about a mile, according to Rowlandson, and spent the first night on this hill above the English settlement.
The abandoned house where they camped was likely the former trading post of Thomas King. The town of Lancaster had its origins in an agreement between King and the leader Showanon to foster trade at Nashway. Showanon was trading pelts at Boston when he first invited the trader to build a post near the Nashaway confluence, a traditional crossroads, which would provide a central location for Nipmuc and Penacook trappers to exchange their beaver and other pelts for English goods, including the guns and ammunition which facilitated hunting for both trade and subsistence.
Although this initial exchange was based in reciprocity, other traders, drawn to the fertile confluence, pulled local Native men into debt, especially as the beaver population declined, the demand in Europe for beaver hats exceeding the supply of pelts. The traders sometimes held local leaders responsible for paying the debts of their kin. For example, Nanacocomuck, a leader at Wachusett, was imprisoned for two years in Boston when some of his kinsmen were unable to pay the debts they had incurred when they leveraged future pelts. Nanacocomuck was released only when his father and brother, the sachems Passaconaway and Wanalancet, agreed to sell their own fertile land at Wicasauke Island, on the river Molôdemak (Merrimack River).
As they left George Hill, Monoco and his company traveled through his home territory of Weshawkim, the town situated between two ponds, where many Nashaway people lived. By the time of the war, Lancaster's settlers and bounds were encroaching upon this territory, impacting the subsistence of the people who lived by the ponds.
Today, there is an orchard at the top of George Hill, and, while doing research, we took advantage of the seasonal blueberry picking opportunity. Blueberries were among the most important summertime foods that the people of Nashaway gathered, not only a delicious staple, which could be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked in stews, but a medicine that increased immunity and supplied vital nutrients.
Click here to view these locations in the map of Mary Rowlandson's removes or in the interactive story map.
Remove 6: Beaver dam crossing and Sokoki Swamp
Heading west, Rowlandson noted, they crossed an icy brook by traversing a beaver dam, which formed a vital bridge. This was likely West Brook, in Orange, Massachusetts, or another tributary of the Paquaug River. Today, evidence of beaver activity is visible from its banks.
Awareness of the location of a beaver dam and where one might safely cross, without falling through thin ice or through the cracks of a weakened structure, requires familiarity with that wetland during the summer and fall seasons, when openings and obstructions are not covered by snow. Some of the members of Weetamoo and Rowlandson's company must have known this place. By building dams and cutting particular trees, beavers foster a resource-rich environment, which draw hunters, fishermen, and plant gatherers, as well as many animals. As a beaver dams its pond, and fells trees in its surrounding “garden,” game animals come into the territory to feast on the succulent plants and drink from the pond. Medicinal and edible plants emerge, which benefit from “wet feet” as well as the sunlight that shines through a more open canopy. These include, in summer, luscious fruit like blueberries and cranberries, as well as many plants that heal. Although these life-giving plants would not have been present in the deep cold of early March, knowledge of this place gained through those summer months would have enabled some of the men and women among them to navigate this territory, to turn what English men might see as an obstruction into a bridge for safe crossing.
From here, Weetamoo and her company traveled west, along the main road now known as "the Mohawk Trail" (a contemporary name that was designed to attract tourists and motorists). However, they diverged northwards, on a lesser known trail, which would help them elude the soldiers that might follow. This trail led them into the great Sokoki swamp, a network of wetlands which might provide shelter and sustenance. Rowlandson only identified it as “a great swamp” amidst the wilderness, but she noted that they encamped in a deep bowl beneath a large hill, which she likened to a "dungeon." Here, she noted, the women took to felling small trees and branches to build their temporary homes. As they crested the hill, she wrote, "I thought we had been come to a great Indian Town (though there were none but our own Company). The Indians were as thick as the trees: it seemed as if there had been a thousand Hatchets going at once." After camping for the night, they moved on, following the trail along a brook toward Squakeag, upon which the colonial settlement of Northfield was built.