Manitou Hassannash Preserve

by HHA Member Tom Helmer

People gather for the dedication of Manitou Hassannash Preserve
Dawn Dove speaking to the respectful listeners at the on site dedication.

On October 7, 2017, the unique Manitou Hassannash (man’-it-two has’-san-nash) Preserve, part of the Hopkinton Land Trust, was dedicated in a tribal ceremony conducted entirely by indigenous people in accord with their beliefs and traditions. Officiating were: Doug Harris, Elaine Thomas and Dawn Dove with her three grandsons, Sherenté 17, Nkéke 14, and Yoyatche 6.

One hundred people visited the Ceremonial Stone Landscape Day display area during the six hours the event was on. Many of those came to witness the ceremony, hiking the 1 mile round trip to observe the talks, prayers and songs in this solemn occasion.

Dawn Dove speaking to the respectful listeners at the “on site” dedication

But what is so special about this newest addition to the superb assortment of trails on the Hopkinton Land Trust properties?

The one word answer is “history”. The longer answer is Manitou Hassannash Preserve protects 14 acres of land where there is an intermingling of colonial/settler/indigenous archaeology remaining on Brightman Hill. The centerpiece of the colonial/settler archaeology is the family cemetery of colonist Thomas Brightman, who fought in the Revolutionary War. The centerpiece of the indigenous archaeology is the “wander zone”, an extremely dense area of spirit stone groupings, known in the Algonquin language as manitou hassannash.

I used the word unique at the beginning of this page for a reason. It is my belief that while this preserve has already been researched for four years already, with 1,100 manitou hassannash already GPSed and on file with the state of Rhode Island, and one archaeology book completely dedicated to this area alone, (Land of a Thousand Cairns by Mary Gage and James Gage). That is a lot of attention to a small space, but possibly the densest ceremonial stone landscape site in all of Rhode Island.

However, in my opinion, it is likely to be the site of intensifying research for years to come, because of its density, the intermingling of european and indigenous eras, and the intriguing theories presented to describe how/why this site is of such significance to the indigenous culture and our understanding of Hopkinton’s history.

Much of this research is intended to further the application of Manitou Hassannash Preserve for recognition as a national historic place. Currently there are no ceremonial stone landscapes so honored located east of the Mississippi River. The nomination process takes time, and copious documentation, but that process is already well on its way.

But with the attention Manitou Hassannash Preserve will draw in the years to come, archaeological features are fragile, even if made of stone. Accordingly, there is no trail planned for Manitou Hassannash Preserve to reduce traffic. To compensate for this difficulty, there are two narrated video tours of Manitou Hassannash Preserve on line at YouTube, as well as complete video coverage of all Ceremonial Stone Landscape Day events: The dedication, as described above, and all five educational talks as described below.

Tom Helmer: 53 minutes “Video Walking Tour of Manitou Hassannash Preserve”

Tom Helmer: 10 minute excerpt from above video tour

Dedication: 41 Minutes

Tom Helmer: 12 Minutes, “How we preserved the site”

Steve DiMarzo: 15 Minutes,”Why and how to document Manitou Hassannash”

Marilyn Grant: 5 ½ Minutes, “The enduring value of a Land Trust”

James Gage: 13 ¼ Minutes, “Research in Hopkinton”

Doug Harris: 43 ¼ Minutes, “Let the landscape speak for itself”

FIXING THE STONE & CHAIN FENCE

A year ago last spring one of the stone posts across from Town Hall was accidentally broken. HHA members made a temporary repair with masonry adhesive, but that gave way this spring. A few weeks ago we received some grant money from the state and began the repair process. We took the broken post and several wrought iron straps that had come off other posts to the Comolli Granite Co. to see  if repairs could be made. Richard Comolli assured us that the repairs were possible and gave us a reasonable estimate of the cost. On August 23rd, the repaired post was reset into the ground and straps were replaced on the posts from which they had come. Now all the stone posts are whole and in place and each post has a wrought iron strap to hold the chain. Over the coming year we hope to be able to to replace the chain to match the original that was strung between the posts way back in 1861!

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The Benjamin Taylor House

450 Woodville Road

Taylor House
Taylor House c. 2014

In the 1700’s the Hill family owned much of the land that was to become the village of Hopkinton City. In May of 1789 Major Benjamin Taylor bought a small house lot from Josiah Hill. The lot was only 13 sq. rods and was on the north side of the road going from Hopkinton City to Woodville. Benjamin Taylor had married Mary Thurston, the daughter of General George Thurston and Dolly (Cottrell) Thurston. Their property abutted Taylor’s new lot to the west. The Thurston’s large house is now 496 Main Street. Mary’s father had served in the local militia during Revolutionary War. After the war he was appointed General of Washington County’s militia. Benjamin had also served in the militia during the war, earning the rank of Major.

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Along Lawton Foster Road

A history of the area’s farms and families
By Richard G. Prescott

“Narragansett Country” at one time covered nearly all of what became Hopkinton, R.I. including the land along Lawton Foster Road #1. Narragansett tribal members have said that before colonial contact the Canonchet area of Hopkinton had been a valuable hunting resource and an area of spiritual importance to the tribe #2. Despite the passage of time, stone structures or cairns, thought to have been built in pre-colonial times, still remain in the woods along Lawton Foster Road near the village of Canonchet #3. Mary and James Gage describe a cairn as “An intentionally built compact and carefully constructed mound, heap, or pile of stones consisting of one of more stones. It is either (1) placed on the ground, or (2) placed on top of a boulder, or (3) placed on the exposed bedrock, or any combination thereof” #4.
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Walking Together In Tomaquag Valley

By HHA Member Thomas A Helmer

Two years ago, when I completed the first edition of “Walking Together”, I knew the best Stewards of this book would be the Hopkinton Historical Association. This Non Profit organization has, for 57 years, been a true friend for the Town of Hopkinton, keeping who we were, and what we did over the past 257 years from being forgotten in the present. Your local Historical Association is doing the same thing in your town.

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