River Walk – Westenhuc

(Great Barrington, Massachusetts)

Main attributes of this Native American place: Travel route; Marker; In historic document; Falsehood correction opportunity.

A formal public pathway along the west bank of the Housatonic River in Great Barrington enables visitors to view the flowing waters. A stone marker is located at the southern end of the river walk, next to Bridge Street. It commemorates an “Old Indian Fordway”, which was purportedly the scene of a massacre of Indians who were heading westward out of southern New England during the conflict known as King Philip’s War, or Metacom’s Rebellion, in 1676. The Upper Housatonic area was uncharted territory for English colonial forces at that time, but they were able to overtake the group of fugitive Indians, and a massacre ensured. The event was one of the first documented incursions by colonial forces into the Upper Housatonic Valley. The precise location of the massacre is disputed – some sources place it as far south as Sheffield, Massachusetts or Salisbury, Connecticut — so the monument should not be considered authoritative on this point. The marker also commemorates central Great Barrington as having been the site of Chief Umpachenee’s “Great Wigwam” prior to the establishment of the Indian town in Stockbridge in 1736. Recent documentary research has revealed that Umpachenee and his community actually lived two miles to the south, at Scatekook (or the Green River). His counterpart, Chief Konkapot, lived eight miles to the north, at Wnahktukook (Stockbridge).

Thoughts to consider as you stand upon this place: The river walk’s surroundings are somewhat developed with buildings and houses, as this is quite close to the center of Great Barrington, but visitors can follow the path along the river, read historic interpretive signs, and consider the significance of the
river in the Native American heritage.

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. [See thesis page 22.]

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

Schultz, Eric B. and Michael J. Tougias 1999 King Philip’s War, The History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict. The Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vermont. Pp. 66, 232-233.

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