350th Anniversary of Quaboag Plantation
Early Indian Paths
The most important and most heavily traveled paths in this area prior to the arrival of the white interlopers, were the Nipmuc Path and the Old Bay Path. Over these trails passed most of the natives traveling east and south and to the Connecticut River. In peace or war, these were the routes depended upon to provide convenient and direct travel ways.
The Nipmuc Path ran through Sturbridge, Brimfield, and on to the Connecticut River. This path extended from Norwich, Connecticut, through Woodstock (Webaquasset Tribe), Southbridge, and Sturbridge where it crossed the Quinebaug River and divided into two branches. One, to Springfield, via the lead mines (Tantiusques) and the other, to the Great Falls at Holyoke via Brimfield and Steerage Rock. As it passed through the Quaboag area, it coursed east and west.
The second of these most important arteries of communication within the Quaboag area, the Old Bay Path, entered the territory of the Quaboags from the North in South Barre, and extended into New Braintree, along the present West Road until reaching the small hill just North of the junction of West Road and Padre Road. At this point, the path went around the western slope of the hill and over the present Padre Road. It crossed the New Braintree/West Brookfield line at the beginning of Wickaboag Valley Road to reach the shores of Wickaboag Pond. It followed the latter through “Council Grove,” around Bradish Brook Swamp, and entered present Cottage Street near the Public beach. It then passed the old cemetery and followed a more or less straight line to Milk Street, crossing the Quaboag River near the present Long Hill Road bridge. It went around Long Hill along the banks of the Quaboag River into Warren, around Bare Knoll Hill, then probably along the present Bemis and Little Rest Roads. It crossed into Brimfield just above Tower Hill, then along present Warren Road to join the Nipmuc Path just northeast of Steerage Rock.
This well worn Indian pathway connecting the more important Quaboag villages from Menameset to Ashquoash was to eventually become part of the main traffic artery for travelers from Massachusetts Bay to the Connecticut River settlements.
Early Paths & Trails
The route of travel to the settlement was the Old Bay Path, and approached the hill along the northern boundary of the Great Field, crossed Coy’s Brook, and ascended the gradual northern slope of the hill, until joining with the Town Street, as it bent to the east just below the Prichard Homestead. The Town Street did not cross Coy’s Brook at the western extremity of the hill as does the present road, but began at the farm of Richard Coy, ran through the center of the village, passed the neat row of dwelling houses and the meeting house, and then turned northerly between Ayres Tavern and the Pritchard homestead, proceeded downhill for a short distance, turned easterly through the common lands, and on to the home lots of James Travis, Judah Trumble, and Deacon Hovey, where it ended.
The Bay Path, constructed in 1673, followed approximately the same route through the town, crossing the brook on a stone bridge, coursing along the northern slopes of the hill until reaching the Town Street, and continuing on the latter (present Devil’s Elbow Road) to its end, then on into Worcester and the other eastern towns. In a westerly direction, the Bay Path followed the course of the old Indian trail crossing the Quaboag River approximately at the site of the present Long Hill Bridge, but then ran over Long Hill to a farm, rather than around the hill as did the Old Bay Path, into Warren, Brimfield, and on into Springfield.
The Hadley Path, also built in 1673, left the Bay Path at the present corner of Milk and Ware Streets in West Brookfield, bisected the Wekabaug Indian Village, crossed the Lashaway River just below the southern extremity of Wickaboag Pond, continued westerly along the present Cutler Road and parts of Ware Road, until it negotiated the hill over the abandoned portion of Coy Hill Road down into Ware, and on into Hadley. Much of this road is still in existence today, and can be easily traced. Many parts of it still bear the name of Hadley Path in the proximity of West Brookfield and Ware, and Bay Path or Bay Road as one travels through Belchertown and approaches Hadley.