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

Remove 5: Paquaug River crossing

In the fifth remove, Mary Rowlandson described crossing the "Bacquaug" (Paquaug) River, now known as Millers River, where the Native women with whom she traveled "quickly fell to cutting dried trees" to build rafts in order to carry themselves, their children, elders and captives across.[1] In early March, "it being a very cold time," the river would have been rushing, icy cold, but the women protected the most vulnerable among them from the freezing waters, including Mary Rowlandson. They all made it to the other side, and encamped in the Nipmuc town of Paquaug north of the river. There, they rested, then moved on after setting their temporary shelters "on fire." Rowlandson was astounded that, as colonial troops approached "on that very day," with "the smoke of their Wigwams" visible from the bank, the Paquaug "river put a stop to” the English men. The Native women's environmental knowledge gave them the edge they needed to evade capture and they moved further north without detection. 

A likely crossing place is marked on the land by a sign, placed there by the Athol Bicentennial Commission, a stop on the Athol History Trail. How does this sign represent Rowlandson and the women with whom she traveled? What kind of scene does it convey? What does it tell you about this place?

Paquaug was a place that colonists like the trader John Pynchon knew as a Nipmuc village and planting place, the name itself evoking the cleared lands used for horticulture. In August 1676, writing from his trading center of Agawam (Springfield) on the Connecticut River, he noted that he had sent “scouts to discover Paquoag which lies on Millers River above Hadley, who are gone out about 30 and if any corn there to cut it down.”[2] At the same time, he sent soldiers “to cut down the Indians’ corn at Squakeag, etc. which accordingly done and not any Indians seen thereabouts.” This context is important for understanding the motivation of Weetamoo and the women who traveled with her. As John Pynchon knew, places like Paquaug and Sokwakik held the promise of planting, come spring. However, these places, mentioned by Pynchon, were also accessible to colonial scouts. From Paquaug, they moved on, heading north toward a land of corn, which was beyond English settlements and colonial surveillance.

[1] Mary White Rowlandson, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: With Related Documents, ed. Neal Salisbury (Boston: Bedford Books, 1997), 78-80. Henry Nourse, ed., The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (Cambridge: J. Wilson, 1903), 92.
 The Pynchon Papers, ed. Carl Bridenbaugh (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1982),1:167.

Click here to view these locations in the map of Mary Rowlandson's removes or in the interactive story map.

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