Housatonic River Road

(Salisbury, Connecticut)

Main attributes of this Native American place: Archaeological; Travel route; Landscape; In historic document.

The River Road is an unpaved thoroughfare that trends northward along the west side of the Housatonic River, upstream from Pawachtuek (the Great Falls). The River Road features woodland, quiet farms, and hillside meadows dotted with cedars. Along both sides of the Housatonic are broad riverside flats. The Algonquin names of these open spaces are known from a 1685 deed, which was signed by several Mohicans and was later declared null and void. The deed confirms that the Mohican people of the Upper Hudson were intimately familiar with the landscapes of their Housatonic homelands. Heading north from the falls on the west side of the river (along the River Road and Weatogue Road in Salisbury), the riverside flats were called Kenachkehantic, Achneganick, Awaankaniss, and Taashammik. Heading north from the falls on the east (Canaan) side of the river, the flats were called Pacachkook, Soquawaen, Nanachquak, Taasham, and Machemene Pakak.

Thoughts to consider as you stand upon this place: Throughout southern New England, Native people gave their Algonguin place-names to all major landforms, landmarks, and rivers, in the many centuries prior to European contact. Ironically, many of these place-names are only known today because they were recorded in deeds when the lands were “sold” to English colonists or to representatives of the English colonies of Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts Bay. The flatlands that flank the Housatonic River upstream from the Great Falls provide one example of a deed preserving place-names that might otherwise have been lost to history.

Contributor: Timothy Binzen

SOURCES

Binzen, Timothy L. 1997. Mohican Lands and Colonial Corners: Weataug, Wechquadnach and the Connecticut Colony 1675-1750. M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs. Pp. 106-107.

Dunn, Shirley W. 1994. The Mohicans and Their Land, 1609-1730. Fleischmanns, New York: Purple Mountain Press Ltd. (Page 298)

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