Monument Mountain

(Great Barrington, Massachusetts)

Main attributes of this Native American place: In Tribal history; Landmark; Folklore; Falsehood correction opportunity.

Monument Mountain is a famous landmark that looms over the Housatonic River Valley on the north side of Great Barrington. The geology of the mountain is erosion-resistant quartzite. The rock cliffs, steep boulder slopes, and tall pines give the mountain a very distinctive appearance. The Indians considered the mountaintop a sacred place. At the southern foot of the mountain, English colonists discovered a very large mound of stones that the Indians had created. The Indians told them that for many generations, they had a custom of adding stones to the mound whenever they visited, as a tribute to their ancestors. The stone mound bore the Mohican name “Wawanaquasick.” By 1762, the colonists removed all the stones to use as building material for chimneys. Recent research has corrected some factual errors about the stone feature that were presented in Charles J. Taylor’s authoritative “History of Great Barrington” (1882).

Today’s descendants of the Indians of colonial Great Barrington are the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation, a federally recognized Tribe who live in Wisconsin. Members of the Tribe still consider Monument Mountain to be a significant place in their culture and history. The mountain is open to the public as a 503-acre property of the Trustees of Reservations. Hiking trails lead to the summit, where there are excellent views of the Upper Housatonic River Valley, the Berkshires, the Taconic Mountains, and the Catskill Mountains of New York.

Monument Mountain was the subject of a well-known, romantic nineteenth century poem by William Cullen Bryant. The poem has contributed to local folklore; it tells the fictional story of a lovelorn Indian maiden who leapt to her death from the summit. Thoughts to consider as you stand upon this place: Monument Mountain was a crucial landmark for the Native peoples of the Upper Housatonic Valley over thousands of years, a place where someone could climb to the exposed rocky peak and view the length and breadth of the Housatonic homeland.

Contributor: Timothy Binzen

SOURCES

Bryant, William Cullen The poem “Monument Mountain”.

Miles, Lion G. 2006 “The Mystery of the Monument Mountain Stone Heap.” Advocate Weekly, April 6, 2006.

The Trustees of Reservations 2016 Webpage for Monument Mountain.

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