Remove 8: Coasset
In early spring, the deep alluvial soils on the banks here at Coasset turn to green (as pictured above), enabling early planting in this northern region. The terraces above the river, at a higher elevation, had long provided an ideal location for homes, the autumn harvest of nut trees, as well as ground for staggered spring and summer plantings. The spring salmon and shad runs, signaled by the blooming of shad bush, came up river every spring, even as stream trout rose from their deep pools to snag the spring hatch. Early spring plants like apenak, the legume Rowlandson called "groundnuts," and wild leeks would also emerge from the banks, providing food. The red clay on the banks provided storage for dried corn and nuts, likely feeding the families who arrived that spring, while also offering the material women needed to make clay pots. As the women and their families moved "up and down" the banks and terraces, they would have found the various foods and material resources they needed to sustain themselves.
Among the people who hosted them may have been the sachem Nawelet, a signatory on a post-war deed that covered the entire area of Coasset, from "Coassock brook" (now Mill brook, in Northfield) to “Wanascatok” (now Broad Brook and Brattleboro, Vermont). Coasset and Coassock are different versions of the same place name, one that occurs frequently in Algonquian New England, referring to a “place of pine.” Note that this particular "Coasset" was distinct from the upriver region or town of Koasek, further north, which also became a refuge during the war. Both "places of pine" were also vital planting grounds and fishing places, which promised to provide for the families who found refuge there in the spring of 1676.
When we visited this place in early spring, we witnessed the green banks, nearby meadows that lay fallow, still the color of straw. Sumac grew beside the meadows, and we wondered if the women then made the same tea that we enjoy in winter, if they welcomed their relatives from the south with this nourishing drink. Evidence of deer near the old encampments at the bend of the river, where the land is most fertile, remind us of winter and fall hunting. The confluence of streams with the river promise good fishing.
Our crew of website creators was able to paddle this same stretch of the river in summer, led by Penobscot master paddlers Mark Ranco and Chip Loring and using Gedakina's war canoe. We put in by the Yankee Nuclear Plant, at the old fishing falls by the Great Bend, and paddled downstream through Hinsdale, New Hampshire, Vernon, Vermont, and Northfield, Massachusetts. Although salmon have made their way back to the river, it is not advisable to eat them. Further downriver, at the Farmington River tributary, the salmon have begun their own process of regeneration, building their redds (nests) and spawning a new generation who will swim south to the Atlantic Ocean, then, next spring, return to the river of their birth.
Click here to view these locations in the map of Mary Rowlandson's removes or in the interactive story map.
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