Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, March 18, 2013

Somethings Are Fine Just The Way They Are

I'm all about history, and I know that it is not black and white.  There are the gray areas, and those can be the most interesting.

I read an article in the Telegram this morning about Walker Pond not really being Walker Pond.  Apparently the name was changed to Lake Tantousque at a town meeting back in April of 1894.

Who knew?

A map from 1895 showed the new name, and that was that.  The new name never caught on, and to this day it is referred to as Walker Pond.  The real story would be to find out why the new name never caught on, but after one hundred more years of being called Walker Pond it really doesn't matter, it's Walker Pond.

The article went on to say that Leadmine Road should be changed to Graphite Mine Road since that is what was mined, graphite, not lead.  The historian was quoted as saying that there is no such thing as a lead mine, and the word graphite is used on the town seal.

First of all, there is such thing as a lead mine, that is where real lead comes from, as well as graphite.  Graphite was the mineral mined here in town; the first recorded mining in the country, but calling it lead was simply a misnomer, nothing more.  A misnomer is a word that is known to be incorrect, and was used before the true nature of the thing was fully know.  Graphite, and a clay mix was called plumbago meaning lead ore in Latin.  Other misnomers are tin cans, steam roller, tin foil, among others.

Graphite was placed on the town seal after it was long known just what the "lead" was.  The mining in Sturbridge was still referred to lead mining just as we still refer to pencils as lead pencils.  Misnomers are like that; they have incredible staying power.

The old term "Lead mine"  is the way our ancestors referred to those cracks in the rock from which they extracted the graphite.  It's a locally historical term.  We need to just leave it as is.

Somethings are worth a whole lot of effort to fix, and somethings don't need fixin'. These are a couple of those things.

The following article is from the

 Article published Mar 18, 2013

Historical pond name urged in Sturbridge

Use of proper name up to selectmen

STURBRIDGE —  Not only does Walker Pond not exist, it hasn't existed for more than 100 years, according to Sturbridge Historical Society President Robert J. Briere.

And Mr. Briere says he has town documents to prove it.

During the annual town meeting on April 2, 1894, residents voted to change Walker Pond's name to Lake Tantousque, which is a phonetic pronunciation of “Tantiusquis,” the town's American Indian name, Mr. Briere said.

“The warrant called it 'to vote for the change of the name of Walker Pond to Lake Tantousque.' Then, on April 2, 1894, they voted to change it,” Mr. Briere said. “So there is no Walker Pond in Sturbridge.”

Most Sturbridge residents are unaware of the vote to change the name and continue to call it Walker Pond, named after the Walker family who were the original settlers there, Mr. Briere said.

Mr. Briere said he doesn't know why the name change was never carried out.

In addition to certified copies of the nearly 120-year-old annual town meeting documents, Mr. Briere has a town map dated 1899 that lists Lake Tantousque instead of Walker Pond. The pond is situated off Route 49 near Wells State Park.

“This year is the 275th celebration of Sturbridge, and I think we need to do be doing things the way they have been voted and the way that our town seal calls things,” Mr. Briere said. “I'm not asking the town to change their mailing address or anything. I just think the town, in the future, when they talk about that area, needs to acknowledge that Walker Pond is Lake Tantousque.”

Mr. Briere is going to address the Board of Selectmen tonight with hopes that the five-member board, and subsequently the town, will acknowledge that Walker Pond should be called Lake Tantousque, which Mr. Briere said loosely translates to mean “valley between breast-shaped hills.”

“The change has always been done. We just need people to acknowledge it,” Mr. Briere said. “And I am not asking them to change Walker Pond Road, although it should be, I suppose.”

And it does not stop at Walker Pond. Pointing out on the town seal a banner that states “DISCOVERY OF GRAPHITE 1633” and under it “FIRST NEW ENGLAND MINING,” Mr. Briere said Leadmine Road should be named Graphite or Graphitemine Road.

“We're saying in our town seal that we are the first that did mining,” Mr. Briere said. “And unless you can find something that I couldn't, that it's the first mining in the country and it was graphite. It was not lead. There is no such thing as a lead mine.”

The local Indians used the mineral for ceremonial face painting, Mr. Briere said.

“Supposedly the mineral itself was called 'black lead' or 'plumbago.' Well 'plumbago' comes from a Latin word, and I am willing to bet the farm the local Indians did not know Latin,” Mr. Brere said. “In 1633, (settler) John Oldham came through and met the Indians. One of the things I read is he saw them wearing black discs. He may have interpreted what they said to be 'black lead.' ”

Mr. Briere said he is not asking the selectmen to change Leadmine Road to Graphite Road (or Leadmine Pond to Graphite Pond). But, he added, if they would like to, it would be fine with him.

“If we're going to have a town seal and this is what it's going to say in big letters, that's what it should be,” Mr. Briere said. “In the future, writings about this property should be talking about the graphite mine, not a lead mine.”

Mr. Briere said it's important for Sturbridge to recognize its Native American roots because it's a vital part of the town's often forgotten history.

“I think the Native Americans have taken a huge bashing to begin with. When you come into Sturbridge, any property that you see was all there,” Mr. Briere said. “We need to recognize it. They were here first.”


  1. What's in a name?Monday, March 18, 2013

    "Native Americans were the first to mine and work the copper of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Peninsula of northern Michigan between 5000 BCE and 1200 BCE. The natives used this copper to produce tools. Archaeological expeditions in the Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale revealed the existence of copper producing pits and hammering stones which were used to work the copper.[2] Fringe writers have suggested that as much as 1.5 billion pounds of copper was extracted during this period, but archaeologists consider such high figures as "ill-constructed estimates" and that the actual figure is unknown.

    The common usage of the words "Leadmine Road" are more "poetic" than the words "Graphite Mine Road," and as you wrote, Wally, we do still buy "leads", not "graphites" for our mechanical pencils.

    Now, as far as the titles of Walker Pond, Walker Mountain, and Walker Road returning to the native name, I'm afraid that in our common language today, they might be known as Cleavage Pond, Cleavage Mountain, and Cleavage Road. Those names alone should bring in the tourists!

  2. "Cleavage"!! LOL! That, of course, would be the proper Sturbridge vernacular. If I hear anymore about this, I promise to keep you abreast.


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