Turners battle study on hold

TURNERS FALLS — It seems the circumstances surrounding the bloody 1676 episode that gave the village its name will remain unstudied for the moment, and the possible tourism benefit out of reach.

Montague had sought a $40,000 federal battlefield preservation grant to commission a study of the battle, a colonial attack on a Native American fishing encampment during King Phillip’s War that ended badly for both sides. Proponents hold that the history of the battle is insufficiently documented, and had presented the study as a first step toward making the town a historical tourism destination.

The town has received the news that it was not among the National Park Service’s selections for the grants, Town Planner Walter Ramsey announced last week. The grant program is designed to protect historic battle sites. This year’s awards included money for preservation plans, public education, documentation of unexplored battlefields and location of lost historic sites.

Montague’s most populous village owes its name to Capt. William Turner, who led what was for the English settlers and soldiers a successful attack and a disastrous retreat. Turner and his men killed between 200 and 300 people, and he and an inexactly recorded number of his men were pursued and killed. Turner himself made it as far as the area of what is now the Greenfield swimming pool, after an attack that took place on the Gill bank of the Connecticut River, then part of Deerfield.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the town had letters of support from all of these towns in applying for the grant, as well as Historic Deerfield and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, and the active support of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Doug Harris, the tribe’s preservationist for ceremonial landscapes and former Rhode Island state archeologist Paul Robinson brought the proposal to the Board of Selectmen in September, winning 2-1 endorsement for their plan to apply in the town’s name.

The idea behind the proposal is not new and neither is it dead.

Harris brought forward the idea of making the town and region a tourism destination with a focus on American Indian heritage and preservation in 2008, and a Native American exhibit hall was contemplated for the former Cumberland Farms building on Avenue A in 2011.

Ramsey said he is not aware of any other avenues for funding the battlefield study, but the grants are annual.

“We’ll look into applying again next year,” Ramsey said. “We just barely didn’t make the cut.”

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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