by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
From Nantasket to Manomet, Cohasset to Monponsett, up the Shumatuscacant River and down Musquashcut Brook, there are places all over the South Shore whose names either derive from, or honor, the Native American tribes that have inhabited our region for centuries. This month’s column puts ten such places in the spotlight. Some are quite large, others very small… but they all offer opportunities to contemplate the stories behind the names, while enjoying a walk in a scenic spot.
Also, don’t miss our 2023 Explore South Shore Challenge, Know Your Local Waters. Each week we feature a river, stream, pond or other waterway, and highlight public places you can visit to experience it first-hand. Watch for daily posts on Facebook and Instagram. The program also includes a weekly trivia question, with a chance to win a custom NSRWA prize package.
Wompatuck State Park, Hingham
Josias Wampatuck (or Wompatuck) became the sachem of the Mattakeeset, a subset of the Massachusett tribe, in 1633. In 1655, he sold a large tract of land on the South Shore to European settlers. This 3500-acre state park is named in his honor. The property, which offers additional access points in Cohasset, Norwell, and elsewhere in Hingham, features 12 miles of paved bike paths, plus off-road trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
Mattakeeset Trail, Hanover
The Mattakeeset band of the Massachusett tribe has lived in the North River watershed for thousands of years. The word “Mattakeeset” means “place of many fish,” and their ancestral village extended through most of Pembroke and Hanson. This 0.26-mile trail borders a quiet stretch of the Indian Head River, from the Hanover Public Launch to Elm Street. Continue your walk on the adjacent Chapman’s Landing/Iron Mine Brook trails, or across the street at Ludden’s Ford Park, where you can access the 4-mile Indian Head River Loop.
Monatiquot River Nature Trail, Braintree
According to John Charles Huden’s “Indian Place Names of New England,” the word Monatiquot is translated as “at the deep tidal stream,” or “lookout place.” The Monatiquot River begins at the confluence of the Farm and Cochato Rivers, within the Braintree Municipal Golf Course. It flows northeast for 4.9 miles before merging with Smelt Brook to form the Fore River, which flows for an additional 5 miles into Hingham Bay. This 0.11-mile trail, accessible behind the Shaw’s supermarket on John Mahar Highway, offers close-up glimpses of the river in a surprisingly scenic spot. Soon there will be a lot more of the Monatiquot to see, with the completion of the Armstrong Dam removal project upstream, next year!
Patuxet Park, Kingston
The Patuxet band of the Wampanoag tribe was well-established in the Plymouth area, long before European settlers arrived. They returned to this spot on Smelt Brook year after year for summer encampments, and also to other properties along the Jones River. This 23-acre parcel is now overseen by Kingston Conservation. A trail extends from the parking area on Basler’s Lane, through wetlands, woodlands and open fields.
Town Brook Patuxet Preserve, Plymouth
A different spot with a similar name. Also honoring the Patuxet, this small grassy park features a short gravel trail on the banks of Town Brook. Prior to European settlement, the Patuxet Wampanoag established a pathway along the brook, which they valued for its abundant fresh water as well as its robust herring run. The Pilgrims chose Town Brook for their settlement for similar reasons. In later years, a series of mills and factories were established here. Thanks to the recent removal of five dams, the brook is now flowing freely again. The park is located at 88 Billington Street.
Comassakumkanit Preserve, Plymouth
The Herring Pond Wampanoag is another band within the Wampanoag nation. For thousands of years, they have inhabited parts of south Plymouth and upper Cape Cod. According to the “Plymouth Trails Guide,” Comassakumkanit is one of the names they use for the area around the south and west of Great Herring Pond. This quiet, 187-acre property features a 0.8-mile trail that extends through a mixed upland forest, and down into a secluded valley. A trail extension is planned for the future. Look for the parking area at 110 Roxy Cahoon Road.
Wessagusset Wetland and Woodland, Weymouth
Visit this small woodland in North Weymouth, and learn about the Neponset band of the Massachusett tribe, who gave the area its name. The Neponset established villages inland and migrated seasonally to the coast to fish, hunt and grow crops. The name Wessagusset is often translated as “place where the rocks meet the water.” The colony of Wessagusset, the second-oldest European settlement in the United States, was formed nearby, on the Fore River, in 1622 by Thomas Weston. Interpretive panels share the history of both the Neponset tribe and Weston’s settlers. There is also a short (0.15-mile) woodland trail.
Hobomock Trails, Pembroke
Right beside the Hobomock Elementary School in Pembroke, and across the street from the high school, you’ll find a 3-mile network of wide, well-maintained woodland trails. Hobomock (also spelled Hobbamock and Hobomok) was a warrior from the Pokanoket band of the Wampanoag, who lived alongside the settlers of Plimoth Colony in the 1620’s. He was well-regarded both by Myles Standish, the colony’s military commander, and Massasoit, the Chief Sachem of the Wampanoag. Look for the trailhead near 81 Learning Lane.
Manomet Recreation Area
Manomet is a village in south Plymouth. Its name has been interpreted to mean “bearing of a burden,” possibly referring to the baskets used by the Wampanoag on trails between their settlements at Patuxet (Plymouth) and Cape Cod. This property features a playground and some athletic fields, but it’s also the access point for Indian Brook Conservation Area. Look for the trailhead behind the playground (1197 State Road). It provides access to a 1-mile out-and-back trail with frontage on Indian Brook, a coastal stream. We’re hoping that the dam on this brook, at State Road, will be removed in the future, permitting the waters to flow freely again.
Scituate Town Forest
The town of Scituate takes its name from Satuit, the term the Native American settlers of the area used for “cold brook”, describing the stream that flows into the harbor. The 18-acre Town Forest, located at 789 Chief Justice Cushing Highway (Route 3A) in North Scituate, across from the Police/Fire headquarters, offers 1.5 miles of meandering trails through pine forest, with lots of holly trees, plus streams that flow to Bound Brook.
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. You will also find 26+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the Explore South Shore 2023 Challenge, visit https://www.nsrwa.org/get-outdoors/2023-explore-south-shore-challenge
Photos by Kezia Bacon.