The illustration above is an interpretation of a road from Woodstock to Hartford as indicated on A Map of the Mohegan Sachems Hereditary Country, Plotted Aug. 1st, 1705, By John Chandler, Surveyor. (Click the illustration then Actions and choose See All Sizes to view a larger version.)

A Road from Woodstock

The Chandler map was apparently intended as an exhibit to show the extent of the country that Major John Mason, the trustee of Mohegan reserved lands, transferred to the government of Connecticut. The Mohegan and heirs of Major Mason sued the Colony of Connecticut to allow the Mohegan to retain their agreed to rights to the reserved lands. The case was heard by the Dudley Commission which sided with the Mohegan in 1705. The ruling was appealed by the government of Connecticut and the appeal was eventually decided by the Privy Council in favor of Connecticut in 1772 and confirmed by the Crown in 1773.

There is an extensive body of work covering the Mason Case as it is sometimes referred to. The works cover both the legal and ethical issues and ramifications of the court and commission proceedings. The case set a precedence for the legal standing of Native American rights to land that was reserved for them under the English legal system. One excellent overview of the proceedings is Mark Walters article, Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut. Some current background work on Colonial English relationships with the people they lived amongst can be found in John Strong’s works relating to the Montaukett, Unkechaug communities of Long Island.

A copy of John Chandler's 1705 Map of the Mohegan Sachems Hereditary Country (Bowen, 26). Note that north is at the bottom.

One of the details on Chandler’s 1705 map is a line drawn indicating a “road from Woodstock to Hartford” running southwesterly, apparently from Woodstock (Plaine Hill, most likely), crossing the Willimantic River above or upstream of where a line drawn from Moshenupsuck, the outlet of Moshenups pond (present day Shenipsit lake ) to a place called Ap-paquag (Trumbull, 1). From the crossing of the Willimantic River, the line of the road continues southwesterly to a place called Wi-ash-qua-giran-suk, perhaps the outlet of the present day Bolton lakes, previously referred to as the Cedar Swamp. Trumbull notes:

“Wiashquagwwnsuck (Moh.) : one of the w. bounds of the Mohegan territory, ‘s. about 10 w. from Moshenups [the so. end of Snipsic pond] ; where the Hartford road goes (through the notch in the mountain) to the Cedar swamp.’ Chandler's Survey, 1705, in Moh. Case, 49. At or near Bolton Notch.” (Trumbull, 87)

Chandler’s road would run in reverse from Hartford northeast to Woodstock, beginning near Bolton Notch or the outlet of present day Bolton lakes. From there the road would then head northeasterly into Tolland towards the Green, crossing the Willimantic River and continue northeasterly and then easterly to Woodstock. It is a line drawn point to point indicating a direction with some landmarks noted. It is not an actual road survey line.

Connecticut circa 1630 as illustrated in The Boundary Disputes of Connecticut (Bowen, 16)

Through the Hills of Eastern Connecticut

In this country between the Shetucket River on the south and the Quinebaug River on the north, the hills and streams between them run mostly north-south. Bolton Notch is one of several natural east-west passes through the hills of eastern Connecticut. There are places where routes through the hills follow natural passes or take relatively gradual grades that could readily draw foot, horse or ox cart traffic. These natural routes might have been preferable, for moving goods for example, to routes over more challenging terrain. By some indications, Native American paths throughout southern New England followed routes over both easy and difficult terrain.

Close to, but perhaps not related to, Chandler's line pointing to Bolton Notch, routes through the Tolland hills might include Valley Falls Road to Hatch Hill Road terminating at Cedar Swamp Road. However this route has a relatively steep grade to negotiate. Further north is a route comprising Cider Mill Road, Grahaber Road, Browns Bridge Road and Peter Green Road to the old Burbank Road. Of these possible routes, Bolton Notch via Tolland Road and Cedar Swamp Road would provide a more direct route to Hartford for a 1705 cart path heading southwesterly, a route that would be less arduous to negotiate than the other two mentioned. That there might have been multiple paths in use, say one path preferred by cart drivers and another by those on horseback is a distinct consideration.

Using Chandler’s indication of a “hock-kan-num” path from Hockanum (East Hartford) to Colchester as a reference, one can postulate that a road from Woodstock to Hartford would traverse the terrain in a similar manner through the hills. Old Route 2 or the old New London Turnpike takes the path of least resistance through the hills of Glastonbury and Marlborough to Colchester and points southeast along streams and through cuts or notches in the hills, much as the route still does from Hartford through Bolton Notch to Coventry and Mansfield along the old Boston Turnpike.

The cut through the hills where Fawn Brook and the Blackledge River join in Marlborough on the “hock-kan-num” path is a similar route through a hilly topography to, for example, the Roaring Brook to Moose Meadow to Boston Hollow route might be for a road east from the Willimantic River. And as with the Woodstock to Hartford road, the “hock-kan-num” path is drawn on the 1705 map as a simple direct line. It is not a survey line but a line of direction like the Woodstock road indicates. Driving the old New London Turnpike today shows it to be anything but a simple straight line.

The Grant Hill area of Tolland with a route illustrated based on the USGS edition of 1892.

Grant Hill

Early Tolland records point to the Cedar Swamp Road, Gehring Road and Grant Hill Road area as that first settled circa 1715, with the initial property lots set out on Grant Hill. The hill at that time was referred to as Meeting House Hill. Old Kent Road which once connected with Old Post Road to the north would have pointed to connecting paths from the Grant Hill area through the hills leading to Windsor. It joins Cedar Swamp Road just west of the intersection of Gehring Road and Grant Hill Road. A route to Hartford would continue south on Cedar Swamp Road towards Bolton.

Meeting House Hill would appear to be a good centrally located site circa 1715. One that would provide access to routes west to Windsor, southwest to Hartford, south to Coventry, Windham and Norwich. A route through the area in 1705 could have helped identify the benefits of the site. One could imagine travelers to and from Woodstock making note of the upland prospects for future settlement or land speculation.

What lends credence to the Tolland Road, Cedar Swamp Road, Gehring Road, Grant Hill Road and Cider Mill Road route being a primary candidate for Chandler's 1705 Woodstock to Hartford Road is both the route direction and road grade. Driving the roads today shows the route to be an easy climb to Tolland Green.

A 1705 route over Grant Hill is a plausible alternative but would have a steeper grade and would not be as direct a route to the Notch. A path over Grant Hill would connect to Coventry, not to Hartford and Chandler’s annotation is the Woodstock – Hartford connection. If Chandler’s line can be taken at face value it is not a line south to Coventry over Grant Hill.

Also, if Chandler’s route was used primarily as an ox cart and bridle path for pack horses, the lesser grades would be a draw. It is possible that a different foot or bridle path was in use contemporaneously and one could draw a route over Walbridge Hill via Gehring, Grant Hill, Metcalf, Anderson and Anthony Road. The Cedar Swamp Road and Anthony Road routes both fit path branching and intersection patterns.

Further along Chandler's road line drawn from the Bolton Notch area, the route from Tolland Green east to the Willimantic River has a couple of potential candidates. The stronger being the route that was the precursor to present day North River Road and Connecticut Route 74, this is in part the road that became Center Turnpike. The Chandler road from Woodstock is shown crossing the Willimantic above or upstream from what is labeled Ow-wae-nung-gan-nunck, the salmon fishing place on the Willimantic River; as Trumbull notes:

“Ow-wee-on-huny-ya-nuch' (Moh.): a place ‘where the people go to catch salmon’ on Willimantic river, ‘half a mile below the road from Hartford to Woodstock.’ Chandler's Survey, 1705 : Owwaenunggannunck, ibid. (Map). Between Willington and Tolland.” (Trumbull, 41)

Various interpretations of Chandler's map have placed both the road and the "place where the people go to catch salmon” anywhere along the stretch of the Willimantic River from the junction with Roaring Brook south to Conant Brook. The location of the road being one either leading to South Willington, West Willington or the location of the Center Turnpike bridge. The least likely route might be in the Conant Brook area since that is south of the line drawn between Moshenupsuck and Ap-paquag on Chandler’s map. From Tolland Green, the only route that runs northeasterly however is the route up the Roaring Brook valley to Moose Meadow and Boston Hollow.

Like Bolton Notch, Boston Hollow is another natural pass through the hills of eastern Connecticut. A look at a USGS Topographical map would clearly show why early travelers would consider this route desirable, similar to that of the route through Bolton Notch. However the first consideration would be locating where a traditional fording place might be that would connect a path across the Willimantic River for this route northeasterly.

Landowners along the east side of the Willimantic River circa 1730

Land Transactions and Surveys

In 1729, one Daniel Eaton of Windsor conveyed to his brother Peter Emons of Tolland a parcel of land abutting the north line of land he owned, bounded on the west by the Willimantic River. A year later in 1730 Daniel Eaton for thirty six pounds sold Moses Rowley of East Haddam some forty acres, just to the north of the land conveyed to Peter Emons. With the Willimantic River on the west and Peter Emons land on the south, Rowley's land was laid out thus, the transaction reading:

“…beginning at a stake which is the Southwest corner thence running easterly by Peter Emons land to a stake which is the Norwest corner of William Curteses land thence Easterly bounding by sd Curteses Land to a stone set up which is the South East corner thence running northerly to a stake & stones standing two rods west of a path which comes from Stafford four rods South of a pine swamp thence running westerly to a maple stump standing by the fordway over Willimantic River thence by sd river to the first mentioned boundary…”

Without knowing where the Peter Emons parcel was located or its size or where the William Curtis parcel was located, it would be a challenge to figure out where the Moses Rowley parcel with the mention of a fordway was situated and how this ford over the Willimantic ran. However, from this land record and later land transaction records it is possible to place the area where Moses Rowley’s northwest bound on the east side of the Willimantic River would be located and at least the approximate location of the fordway.

There is no explicit record in the Willington Land Records of who Daniel Eaton purchased the land on the east side of the Willimantic River from. Eaton was not one of the original Willington proprietors. There is reference in other transactions to land Daniel Eaton purchased from Jonathan Ellsworth et al that was part of a Land Grant given by the General Assembly. The land grant as such does not appear on the proprietors plot drawn circa 1726 by Josiah Conant from a survey done by Conant and Major Roger Wolcott (later to become Governor).

Proprietors plot by Josiah Conant, 1726. (Willington Maps)

A Town

In 1720 a patent was issued by the Connecticut General Assembly for a new town. The original eight patentees bought 16,000 acres, minus a number of land grants and farms or some 800 acres for 510 pounds. It worked out to a cost of about 64 pounds for each proprietor. The group was comprised of mostly General Assembly delegates, other government officials or people with connections.

The new proprietors were not required to pay for the 16,000 acres up front. From 1720 to incorporation in 1727 parcels changed hands and 1/64th parts or lots of roughly 250 acres were sold without surveys. Given this environment, the bounds of parcels could be a little vague at times and according to the land records, unsurveyed parcels changed hands often, especially between those living in other towns or even other colonies. In this Colonial era, parcels of land might be used as collateral on loans, sometimes changing hand back and forth several times. As with other land owners at the time, reading the description of the parcel in the deed suggests that someone like Daniel Eaton never set foot on the land he was selling. One could assume the same about Moses Rowley.

First part of a 1746 deed from Thomas Acley of East Haddam to Thos Lampkin of Willington. (Willington Land Records)

On April 7, 1732, Moses Roulee now of Middletown sold Thomas Acley of “Haddom Est” his 40 acre parcel for 40 pounds. The second to last bound moved and was now noted as five rods from a path from Stafford. On May 12, 1746, Thomas Acley of East Haddam sold the 40 acres to Thos. Lampkin of Willington for 60 pounds and notes the ford way as the “path over Willimantic River.”

Second part of a 1746 deed from Thomas Acley of East Haddam to Thos Lampkin of Willington. (Willington Land Records)

Identifying this section of Chandler’s 1705 Road from Woodstock relative to “a path which comes from Stafford” as noted in Moses Rowley's first deed fits with other descriptions circa 1730 – 1750. There are several “Stafford” roads in the books as well as roads to Union and roads from Mansfield to Stafford or simply roads to or from Mansfield or Stafford. The land that William Curtis purchased from Amos Richardson, which parcel Richardson purchased from Jonathan Ellsworth in 1723 mentions a bound “…to a stone set up about two rods west of ye path that leads from Staford to Mansfield.” After Mansfield, Tolland and Stafford were created, the focus of travel for this area had changed from Chandler’s Woodstock in 1705 to the three abutting towns fifteen to twenty five years later.

That Chandler was a Woodstock and Ashford land speculator circa 1705 might have some bearing on the inclusion of a “road” from Woodstock to Hartford on his map. The word “road” might make this part of Connecticut sound more accessible than the word “path.” The machinations of land speculation involving Major James Fitch and a competing group connected to the Governor, Assistants and members of the General Assembly is amply outlined in Colonial records and is easily worth a detailed look, however that is beyond the scope of this effort.

In 1705 there was Woodstock and the east line of Hartford, a mile or so to the west of Bolton Notch with not much else worth mentioning in between except perhaps for Mohegan Reserved land and “the Wabbequasset Country” held by Major James Fitch. This perhaps according to Chandler's perspective or perhaps all that was needed for details for the Dudley Commission exhibit.

Chandler's Woodstock Road, heading easterly from the Willimantic River, would find the path from this ford way mentioned in the 1730 deed branching or dividing. One branch heads north toward the Mineral Springs and another northeasterly up along the Roaring Brook valley or gulf. At the top of the Roaring Brook gulf there are another series of branches, northerly to Stafford Green and northeasterly to Boston Hollow. There are always path branches, junctions and joins.

What makes the Rowley fordway appealing is the northeasterly route up Roaring Brook. However, this is not the only crossing place for this stretch of the Willimantic River. There are two other likely ford ways within a short distance of Moses Rowley’s fordway, one three quarters of a mile upstream and one a mile downstream. Neither of these other two river crossing is specifically mentioned in land records circa 1730 but the crossings are implied. Later, in the 1750s when connections to Tolland become more prominent these two other crossings begin to enter the record. Both became bridge locations.

Paths and Fords

A Look at these other two likely fording places begins with the Turnpike era. The start of the Turnpike era on this stretch of the Willimantic River began after May 1809 with a bridge across the river for the Tolland County Turnpike, approximately where the current bridge for Connecticut Route 74 crosses the Willimantic now. Upstream after May 1826, Center Turnpike crossed the river off of present day North River Road in Tolland. The Center Turnpike bridge abutments are still there and the site is a state Trout fishing location.

Abutments for the Center Turnpike Bridge

Continuing upstream, still on North River Road to just above the confluence of Roaring Brook a bridge called the Scripture Bridge crossed the river. This connected with a road to Eldredge Mills located upstream on Roaring Brook. The Eldredge Mills road ran on the north bank of Roaring Brook, parallel to Center Turnpike which was on the south side of Roaring Brook. A second branch went up the hill northerly on what was called the road to Tolland, present day Schofield Road. This last road runs northerly toward Stafford Green. There was a connection at Stafford Green in the Turnpike era with the Windham and Mansfield Turnpike or what was referred to locally as the Norwich Turnpike. In one land record, mentioned as a boundary line, it is identified as the “noridge” road. In Colonial descriptions, a road was often referred to by its destination or connection, at least from the immediate local perspective at the time.

The Scripture Bridge area speaks to the likelihood of a ford at nearby. Without an early mention in the records of one, speculation could place a ford probably just downstream of the bridge location. The site has some similarities to the Tolland County Turnpike bridge location on Route 74 further downstream; both have high banks on one side.

Upstream of a possible ford site, above the Tolland County Turnpike bridge.

One aspect for locating a ford might be a good grade down to and up from a stable low-water crossing spot. In contrast, a bridge needs to be raised sufficiently above a general high water line with as short a span as possible. Bridges need abutments to lift them; fords need grades down to the stream bed and then up. There are references in early colonial records to siting early bridges “where it is most convenient” or advantageous. In other words, siting a bridge upstream or downstream from the old ford way to a better place for abutments.

Ebenezer Nye of Tollon

A good example of opportune bridge placement is the Connecticut Route 74 bridge over the Willimantic River. As recorded on December 22, 1730 the town agreed to pay Ebenezer Nye “of Tollon ye sum of three pounds currant money of New England” for alterations of Wolcott’s Road “for the damage that the sd Nye doth or may sustain by the means of a high way laid out in sd Nys land as doth or may appear upon record and that sd Nye shall have liberty to keep good gates in said high way until there shall be a cart bridge erected over willamantick river in said road or high way…” (Willington, A – 97, 98). Since both Ebenezer Nye and Daniel Eaton are “of Tolland” one would assume they were voted inhabitants of Tolland, even though Nye apparently lived on the east side of the Willimantic River before and after Willington was incorporated.

There appears to be no mention in town records (as of this writing) of a ford related to the road across Nye's farm at this location. However, from the directions of the road in subsequent road surveys it is possible to surmise a location of the ford. Both Nye and Eaton apparently purchased land associated with a Land Grant “formerly laid out to Mr. Jonathan Elsworth & Mathew Grant & Mr. Rockwell & sundree others belonging to Windsor…” (Willington, C – 299). The extent of this land grant is not in the town records or noted on the 1726 proprietors plot hence the bounds of the Nye and Eaton parcels must be inferred from later land transaction deeds.

Since the land grant was not indicated on the 1726 Proprietors plot and from the descriptions contained in other grant surveys, it is unlikely much detail would be available to locate additional features relevant to this discussion. There is nothing in Willington or Tolland town records pointing to the location of a ford related to Nye’s farm. However, we know a road survey was made from the river, before a bridge was built. A search of State Archives for possibly relevant documentation is somewhat beyond the scope of this present effort but there might be more information there. The 1726 proprietors plot suggests where the crossing point should be which is possibly corroborated by a later survey that includes present day Phelps Crossing Road. Both lines come together about where a cut in the west bank is suggested upstream of the current bridge. It could be a manageable place for a ford.

A bridge appears in town records in 1759 (Willington, C – 402) when Ebenezer Nye deeds fifty acres to his son Benjamin. From available evidence the cart bridge was likely near the current bridge location which is on a bench or shelf above the Willimantic, an elevated part of the flood plain that the river cuts through.

A question to be considered is how stable the flood plain has been over the past centuries. Does the present state of this section of the river reflect the same state of centuries past? Does this represent the conditions in 1630 or earlier? A certain degree of stability is assumed in this speculation. The river as it now runs, narrows as it passes through this part of the flood plain. There is ample flat land extending on both banks along the river in the area. A beaver dam is noted on the Willimantic upstream in 1759 (Willington, C – 402). Looking at it today, it is easy to see the appeal to an English yeoman circa1730.

Just upstream of the present bridge location is the cut mentioned on the west bank that drops to where the river is shallow. The land on the east bank however is low and wet. The opposite is true downstream, south from the cut in the flood plain at the current bridge location the east bank is high and steep, without a visible cut to the stream bed. The likelihood of a fording place at the Nye site would seem to be upstream. Recorded in December 1738 is another alteration “of the high way a gainst the lands of the above sd Ebenezer Nye and David Tyler in two places by reason of a swamp and a bad hill” (Willington, A – 108). There is no mention of a bridge. The bad hill is apparently the steep hill to the east that Route 74 climbs. In all, there appear to be three attempts to lay out the road through or past Ebenezer Nye’s farm on the east side of the Willimantic River. Nye also owned land on the west side, in part the present day Nye Holman State Forest, Trout Management Area.

Three Ford Ways

The three bridge locations noted above and associated fords inferred each point to different destinations from the Willimantic River, heading north, northeasterly easterly and southeasterly. Of these three bridge routes, one is likely the more plausible Woodstock to Hartford Road given the notations on Chandler’s map. However, that plausibility rests with the best likely direction that would be had from each river crossing. Taking each in turn, starting with the most northerly,

The Scripture bridge points to a route up a steep hill to Stafford Meeting House Green and points to another route that skirts the north side of Roaring Brook, to a mill site, and a connection to another route to Stafford Meeting House.

The Center Turnpike bridge points to a route up the Roaring Brook valley, with a branch to Stafford Meeting House and a route continuing northeasterly to Boston Hollow.

The Tolland County Turnpike or Nye farm bridge points to a route that first intersects with a route north to the Stafford Meeting House and south, both running parallel to the Willimantic River. The route then points southeasterly up a steep hill.

Continuing with the Nye farm bridge route, if one were to take the Nye farm cart bridge east up the “bad” hill and continue on, one would eventually join the Hartford to Boston path to Ashford Meeting House Hill coming from Bolton Notch past the outlet of the Cedar Swamp. This route is the present day Connecticut Route 74 to Route 44 (Boston Turnpike). It is likely that Boston Turnpike is in part, at least to Meeting House Hill in Ashford, the 1724 road the Connecticut General Assembly directed to be “laid out” from Hartford to the Massachusetts line which at that time was the south line of Woodstock.

Since John Chandler’s Woodstock road starts, heading northeasterly at or near Bolton Notch on the Boston Turnpike, there seems little reason to take a circuitous route northeasterly through Tolland to a crossing at Nye’s farm only to return southeasterly to Route 44 and then northeasterly again to Woodstock. It would be easier to simply continue easterly from the Notch along Boston Turnpike to Meeting House Hill in Ashford.

Looking at connections via the northernmost Scripture bridge location, there is no plausible direct route to Woodstock from that site. However, a route could indirectly connect with a path up the north side of Roaring Brook that intersects present day Village Hill Road. One could cross from Village Hill Road to the old Norwich Turnpike (Lohse Road) and then pick up the old Center Turnpike near where Moose Meadow Brook (“Ruby Brook”) joins Roaring Brook. Traveling the Eldredge Mills Road to Village Hill Road to Kucko and to Lohse Roads would be a plausible alternative to the route up Roaring Brook gulf if it was in flood. Another Roaring Brook bypass could have been a branch along present day Hancock Road. This Village Hill to Kucko to Lohse Road route is a plausible alternative to the route up along Roaring Brook, with steeper grades however.

From the Scripture Bridge one could look still further north with possible routes from Stafford Green to Woodstock but again, it would be a rather circuitous route northerly then easterly coming from Bolton Notch or the outlet of the Cedar Swamp.

Of the three locations the route across the ford upstream of the Center Turnpike Bridge is the one with a moderate grade and a direct northeasterly route up along the Roaring Brook valley or gulf to or from Woodstock. The Roaring Brook gulf route became the future route of choice for Connecticut highways heading through the eastern hills to Boston, first with Center Turnpike then most notably the 1940s Wilber Cross Parkway. The grades alone tell most of the story.

A place where the people go to catch Salmon

If the Bolton Notch or outlet to Cedar Swamp to Tolland Road to Grant Hill Road to Tolland Green and east along what became in part Center Turnpike and later North River Road is a likely route of John Chandler’s road then Ow-wae-nung-gan-nunck, the place where the people went to catch salmon, could help identify it as such. So is there a plausible location for the place where the people go to catch salmon relative to Chandler's road? And a secondary question, why is this particular place noted?

While beyond the immediate scope of this exercise, there is ample record from Dutch and English sources relating to seasonal gatherings. Traditional fishing and gathering places such as the Pawtucket Falls at Lowell or the falls at Chicopee apparently attracted large numbers of families and kin. Daniel Gookin relates “And at such dancings, and feastings, and revellings, which are used mostly after the ingathering of their havests, all their neighbours , kindred, and friends, meet together, and much impiety is committed at such times.” (Gookin, 13).

A place to gather family and friends together for the spring or fall fish runs might have been retained in the oral tradition of those Shetucket or Wabaquasett living in Woodstock in 1705. From the Colonial Records and anecdotal sources there is reference to them specifically and perhaps to related Mohegan, Pequot, Nipmuck and Quinebuag still working the Reserve Lands that were a part of Wabaquasett Country well into 1723 and beyond. If the place is worth noting on an English map of 1705 delineating Mohegan country it was apparently an important traditional gathering place, perhaps a natural weir site. In other words, to Chandler, it was perhaps a Mohegan landmark.

Such a traditional gathering place might have path signatures that are associated with it and conversely such places might identify possible path route signatures. Trumbull’s “half a mile below the road from Hartford to Woodstock” suggests such a place.

An interpretation of the location of Chandler's Ow-wae-nung-gan-nunck

Connected Signatures

If Chandler’s Woodstock to Hartford Road came down along Roaring Brook, crossing the Willimantic River near the northwest corner of Moses Rowley’s 40 acres, then about a half mile below this road, Ebenezer Nye bought some land. This land had a path to a ford running through it. Ebenezer Nye apparently saw the potential of the area on both sides of the river for a farm. There is ample level floodplain below the hillsides along both banks. Today it is a State Forest and Trout fishing area.

There are perhaps a half dozen possible routes that converge, intersect or pass in relation to the Nye farm location and the ford way there. These routes come from all directions. The routes running up and down the Willimantic River valley are generally above a 400 foot elevation on both banks. One would suspect well above 100 year flood levels as well. In other words, one could use this site as a crossing place or travel the valley for a better place if the water was too high. And, it is a place where people could gather and camp in season.

One can speculate that this arrangement of routes constitutes a pattern or signature. In this case, multiple routes joining together leading to a stream or river crossing with routes running parallel to the river along the valley. This type of pattern or structure can be found in other places. A similar structure is upstream on the Willimantic River at the Scripture Bridge site on the east bank. Routes converge on a crossing place and routes traverse the river valley at a good elevation. In contrast, the Rowley fordway location has a slightly different configuration.

Another arrangement similar to the Nye farm ford, according to historical records, was on the south bank of Roaring Brook at the crossing of the Norwich Turnpike. Other comparisons are the Mineral Springs area of Stafford Springs upstream on the Willimantic and the Stafford area on Furnace Brook further north. Both have similar patterns. Other sites nearby might be the one implied at the falls on the Willimantic at Eagleville, or the Stonemill Road area on the Fenton River below Gurleyville. There is also the Elizabeth Road area above Atwoodville, these last examples in Mansfield. The State Avenue, Williamsville Road area in Dayville on the Quinebaug River and North Windham on the Natchaug River work with a similar pattern.

In terms of assigning weight to this kind of route arrangement with the site examples mentioned, some are a better match than others. These examples follow a pattern to a greater and a lesser degree but there is a commonality. There is a consistency to the arrangement found across the region. Since there appears to be little written documentation to work from on the subject, the speculation here is on that commonality. If Ebenezer Nye's farm, a half mile below Chandler's 1705 “road to Hartford” was at or near a traditional communal fishing site, is there any comparison to other sites?

Connected Communities

In Danielson Connecticut near the falls on the Quinebaug River is an arrangement of routes which is a likely signature of paths joining together at a river crossing place. The crossing place was plausibly an important one for this section of the Quinebaug River. The suggested path arrangement is on a slightly larger scale than that found with the previous examples mentioned. There are over a half dozen possible routes converging and intersecting. Related routes run parallel to the river, up and down the valley. The Stonemill Road crossing on the Fenton River in Mansfield presents an example of the basic parts of the structure, on a very small scale.

Below the falls at Danielson, at a well-documented site about three-quarters of a mile downstream, the LeBeau Fishing Camp and Weir perhaps implies the kind of communal place Trumbull identifies at Ow-wae-nung-gan-nunck. It might have been a kind of gathering site that Roger Williams alluded to with his observation, “When a field is to be broken up, they have a very loving sociable speedy way to dispatch it: All the neighbours men and Women forty, fifty, a hundred, &c, joyne, and come in to help freely. With friendly joyning they breake up their fields, build their Forts, hunt the woods, stop and kill fish in the Rivers,” (Williams, 99).

Such sites as the LeBeau Fishing Camp and Ow-wae-nung-gan-nunck help place ancillary locations possibly related to nearby town sites or additional traditional gathering places. As one might pull off the road today and park to take in some Trout fishing at the abutment for the old Center Turnpike Bridge on North River Road, we can speculate that people were making their way to various places on the Willimantic River to catch fish over the past millennia. There are economic and customary needs that paths can connect. In a larger context, the social and economic fabric of a travel network or body of communication routes needs to be considered when looking at how communities interacted and were sited. Repeated use of a number of routes over a long period of time is suggested anecdotally by period source documents such as Chandler’s map.

The reason for placing some importance on this road from Woodstock drawn by John Chandler in 1705 and of the area it goes through is that this route was apparently part of several travel routes through the hills of eastern Connecticut in the 1600s. For John Chandler, by 1705 it was a road to Hartford. Whether these lines of travel can be extrapolated to earlier times might depend on whatever supporting practical evidence is or becomes available. One could plausibly speculate that if there was a historical place on the Willimantic River where people gathered to catch salmon, then there were communities nearby that had good access to that site, and to each other. The question perhaps would be whether the present day indications of earlier path structures support that speculation. Are there narratives brought forward to contemporary Native American communities in the region that support the speculation as well.

As it might relate to the historical record, one can hypothesize that the Dorchester party of 1635 traveled through Boston Hollow crossing the Willimantic River above the salmon fishing place, continuing on to Moshenupsuck and then to Windsor. One can speculate that hired guides would have known the best way and the state of the way during the journey. If there was a traditional place to catch salmon on the Willimantic then there might have been traditional routes to and past it. And one could speculate that these routes were well known and well-traveled back and forth long before a larger party attempted to negotiate them, and probably long after. Certainly the communities were still using the paths seventy years later if by 1705 the place was still known as “where the people went to catch salmon.”

One can look at Chandler’s road and speculate that highway engineers plotting the Wilber Cross Parkway would have looked at the terrain through the hills of eastern Connecticut with the same considerations as the surveyors who laid out Center Turnpike and those of a group of English driving their cows and swine along Wabaquasett paths in 1635 to Windsor. One constant might be to follow the path already laid out.

One could in turn speculate that Wabaquasett communities used those same paths to and from a historically documented traditional gathering place to catch salmon, as well as travel to and from each other’s neighboring communities along paths used by those people of the Shetucket communities before them. And we know from anecdotal records that there were Shetucket still living in Woodstock into 1724 and beyond. The key question might be, how far back did the tradition go? The historical legacy of use goes from the 1940s to the 1830s to 1705 plausibly. If anything, there seems to be a consistency to the use of this route.

Mark A. Palmer
Wabaquasett Country

05/25/14, Updated 08/14/15, 01/30/17

References & Resources:

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Barrows, Charles H., An Historical Address, Delivered before the citizens of Springfield in Massachusetts at the public celebration May 26 1911 of the Two Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Settlement With Five Appendices, Springfield, 1916. Web.

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Town of Mansfield, Connecticut, Mansfield Land Records. Print.

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