Field research for Battle of Great Falls/Wissantinnewag-Peskeomskut continues

  • From left, Kevin McBride, Howard Clark, David Brule and David Tall Pine White, who is of the Nipmuc tribe, examine a map of the area during a walk of key battle sites in 2015. STAFF File PHOTO/AVIVA LUTTRELL

  • This aerial view shows the village of Turners Falls, in the foreground, and the Riverside section of Gill. FILE PHOTO

  • This marker — located near the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area and clearly visible along Nash’s Mill Road in Greenfield — identifies the area as where Capt. William Turner likely died during the colonists’ retreat from the Battle of Great Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2019 10:46:13 PM

GREENFIELD — Do you want to help make history?

Last year, the National Park Service battlefield study at Peskeompskut-Wissatinnewag did extensive field research on the battlefield terrain stretching from Riverside through Factory Hollow and into the Nash’s Mills area of Greenfield. This year, the field research is resuming where the team left off.

Archaeological work specifically looking for metal objects will be done using metal detectors.

David Brule, project coordinator of the National Park Service battlefield study at Peskeompskut-Wissatinnewag, said researchers are looking at a seven-mile stretch of land from the Nash’s Mill area down toward Deerfield.

“We want to ask landowners along this route if we can check their properties to see if anything is there,” Brule said.

Members of the grant advisory board will go door to door to ask permission from private property owners along Colrain Road, downstream to about the North Meadows area.

He said researchers will be using metal detectors in the areas where confrontations may have taken place, and if they find something, they will use a shovel to dig a hole “the size of a flower pot,” find the object and log it in a GPS.

“The process would take an hour,” Brule said. “People would be informed if something was found on their property. If they did, the item would be taken and brought to a lab to be analyzed.”

Thus far, objects found include musket balls, lead beads and buttons out of a total of 375 objects reported in the Phase 2 technical report.

The field work will be wrapped up by the end of the summer. Then a report on the findings will be presented to the public in late winter or early spring.

This year is the fifth year, and third phase, of the grant, which has studied the event of May 19, 1676, the Battle of Great Falls/Wissantinnewag-Peskeomskut that took place during King Philip’s War.

The Battlefield Grant Advisory Board — composed of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, the Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuck Indians, the Elnu Abenaki and the Narragansett Indian Tribe, as well as historical commissioners from Montague, Greenfield, Gill, Northfield and Deerfield — have been meeting monthly over the past five years, coordinating this battlefield study of the complex massacre and counter-attack in 1676 that has marked the region over the subsequent centuries.

This program is sponsored by the Montague Planning Department and the National Park Service Battlefield Protection Program while hosted by the advisory board.

Montague Town Planner Walter Ramsey said one of the unique aspects of this study is the involvement of Native Americans.

“We have a balanced approach to our research. We are working with different tribes of Native Americans that can inform history,” Ramsey said. “Because previously, all we had was the history written by the colonists.”

Brule added that by working with many people on the study, it’s enriched with more perspectives.

“We’ve had one perspective for so long. Now this study is overseen and monitored by tribes that have a voice,” Brule said. “They are also being compensated for their expertise.”

The research being done traces the routes to spots where action took place and routes of attack or retreat.

“We used military historians where contact was made (between the Native Americans and colonists) based on the landscape,” Ramsey said. “The rivers are big spots where actions took place.”

Ramsey said the hope is to determine the boundaries of the battle and get it registered as a historical district.

“It’s primarily a symbolic designation, which may require some additional review with projects,” Ramsey said. “Then research will be done with how the story will be told.”

Brule said with each phase of the study, there is more and more information.

“Each time,” he said, “we tell the story with more detail from these discoveries and archeology as new artifacts are found.”


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