Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stage 1: Wayfarer House to Bellows Falls, VT.

Through Northfield, MA and Hinsdale, NH, this part of the ride follows the Connecticut River for long stretches. This part of New England was settled by the English in the late 17th century, but the territory was fiercely defended by Native Americans for some 80 years after that. English settlements were constantly at risk of raids by “savages”, and colonists were regularly killed or taken north to Quebec (to be held as hostages by the French). This caused settlements such as Northfield to revert to American Indian control on more than one occasion.

In April, 1747, during the French and Indian War, a party of French and Mohawk, having been turned back after a three-day attack on the fort at Charlestown, NH, made their way toward Northfield. A number of their group, lying in ambush at the north part of the town, set upon and killed Nathaniel Dickinson and Asahel Burt, who were driving cows up from the common meadows. This violent and tragic event is marked by a granite monument on the side of routes 5/10, about a mile north of the center of Northfield Village. On one side of the stone is the inscription, "Nathaniel Dickinson was killed and scalped by the Indians at this place, April 15, 1747, aet. 48." On the other it reads, "Asahel, son of Joseph Burt, companion of Dickinson and sharer of his fate, aged about 40." I have ridden by this small monument many times, but only recently stopped to read, and think about, what it said.

It is worth noting that much of the Morrison family, whose reunion I am riding to, is based in the area through which I will be riding on this day. Many live in and around Walpole, NH and across the Connecticut River in Saxtons River, VT. The Kurn Hattin School, in Putney, VT, has been an important part of the lives of several of the Morrison family.

I’ll be staying with Tom and Leanne for the evening at their home in Westminster, VT. Tom is Wifeness’ uncle, and is a master general contractor. He helped me install our dishwasher several years ago, and has graciously offered his expertise in wiring to me when I’ve had to add, remove or change outlets in the house over the years. He’s led a difficult life, but he is a good, good man. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them.

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