While the Natives in Marlborough probably were here for thousands of years, not very much can presently be seen of their presence here. In the colonial era, the Praying Indians co-existed with the English for about 20 years. An amazing thing to me is that the English and native villages were literally blocks apart. I challenge anyone in America to name two villages with such competing cultures that existed in such proximity for so long a period in relative peace. And yet the Indian exile during King Philip’s War was permanent and nearly complete. Only one family continued to live within our boundaries in the time following the war and this was on the land of Thomas Rice on present day Forest St. After a few generations this family, too, had disappeared. There is reputed to be an Indian burial ground near to the road on Forest St that holds the family remains.
Other burial sites are known to exist. The most prominent of these is the area at the intersection of Union St and Prospect St. Multiple graves have been disturbed in this area and it is accepted that it was the Praying Indian burying ground. The village was located just up the hill on Union St. Four graves were disturbed in the early 1950’s and sent to a school for analysis. In the early 1990’s the remains were recovered under a new law and reburied in the Old Common Cemetery behind the Walker Building. The headstone can be seen there just across Prospect St from the Immaculate Conception Church.
Praying Indian Headstone in Old Common Cemetery
The largest burial site was certainly that associated with the village of Whipsuppenicke near to Hosmer St. Neither the village nor its burial site have been discovered, however, so we await the arrival of a cheap technology that might reveal their presence.
As for place names, there are fewer than there were in the past. Most of the maps in the 1800’s contained a few more Indian place names than present maps do. The town was more inclined to name fire stations and civil war encampments after Indian places, and the hill on Prospect St was known as Oockoocangansett Hill for hundreds of years.
Today, there exist only a few place names, enough to list here. The Assabet River, of course, is the primary Indian place name. Just to the west of the Marlborough line in Northborough is Solomon Pond, named after the Praying Indian minister who was reputed to have drowned there. Robin Hill Rd was named after another Praying Indian, and Indian Hill off of the Boston Post Rd East is still so named, though the hill itself was cut in half for some reason.
Former City Engineer and 20th century local historian John Bigelow had an interesting story concerning Spoon Hill. He claimed that he had seen an old map of the town where the hill was labeled as Spoon Hunt. This he presumed was a corruption of the Indian name Aspoonant which was a prominent Indian name in the colonial era.
But by far the most enduring place name in Marlborough associated with the Indians is Fort Meadow. Fort Meadow was a place name even before the English came to this town. The fort was the summer Praying Indian fort which the natives used as a fishing outpost along the falls of Ft Meadow brook. In the winter it would have been used to bury and secure the summer harvest. The method used by the Indians was known to preserve corn supplies for decades. The fort was located above Lakeshore Drive at its eastern end. John Bigelow found the remains of a longhouse in this area in the 1940’s, though it had been erased a few years later by the significant home building that had taken place. Numerous Indian artifacts have been found in the area of the brook as well as near to the village site on Union St.
Algonquian Indian Longhouse
The only other significant place name is Onamog St. at the top of Fairmount Hill. Named after the Praying Indian sachem, it is curiously out of place. I know of no tradition or history that places Onamog on this hill, and would love to know why the city named a street for him here. Far more appropriate would be any street near to the old Howe house on Union St. where the Praying Indian village was located.
This fills my list, though memory might be failing me. If you have any suggestions for other place names or artifacts, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll start a conversation.