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

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 the banks of both rivers.
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. 

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

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