The following description of the Taunton River is from a book called Wapanucket by Maurice Robbins, Ph.D. The book is a report of the archaeological investigations realized by members of the Cohannet Chapter of The Massachusetts Archaeological Society on the north shore of Assawompsett Pond, Middleboro, Massachusetts.

Dr Robbins dedicates this book to Tuspaquin the last Sachem of the Wapanucket area. And to Monamie, his wife the daughter of Osamequin (Massasoit) and sister of Metacomet (Philip). He goes on to say "Tuspaquin and Philip gave their lives in a vain attempt to preserve the Wampanoag Nation. Monamie was captured by the English and her fate is unknown".


Knowing the history of this place, Wapanucket, and the history of the Taunton River itself, it is difficult not to feel an ancient presence along these shores and throughout this watershed. At places such as Wapanucket, Satucket, Titicut and Muttock you can feel the weight of this presence in the mist of an early spring morning. I often wonder with envy what these Wampanoags saw, and curse them for not having had a written language to record it.

 What did they think of the stars in the sky or the sun on the horizon? What were their thoughts when terrible plagues laid waste to their numbers shortly after European contact? What were Tuspaquins thoughts when he heard the news that the English had killed his friend and leader Pometacom (King Philip), and hacked his body into quarters for display around the colony? What were his thoughts moments before the English hacked off his own head, to put on a stake?

Surely like in any other civilization there were many great thinkers among these people, The Wampanoags. Great people who thought great thoughts and said profound things throughout their ten thousand years of habitation here. What they thought in these times of old we will never know for certain, however, as a society we are surely poorer for not knowing.

 

The following is Dr Robbins description of the Taunton Great River, Wapanucket and Assawompsett.

The Wapanucket site is located in Middleboro, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, on the northern shore of Lake Assawompsett. Locally the area is known as Lakeside.

Assawompsett, with its companion lakes, Pocksha, Little and Big Quittacus and Long Pond (Assawompsett, Nanapocksha, Chipipoquet, Wompanquettooquash, Cheksuquetoquash and Apponaquet on the proprietorís record of 1694) form the water supply of the cities of Taunton and New Bedford, and most of the land immediately surrounding them is under control of the water departments of these two communities. Under normal conditions these lakes drain northward through the Nemasket River into the Taunton (Titicut) River to the sea at Mount Hope Bay. However, should the water level rise higher than normal the lakes can drain southward through Snipatuit Pond and the Mattapoisett River into Buzzards Bay. Geographically the lakes are considered as a part of the Taunton River system.

The Taunton River system, with its numerous tributary streams and ponds, is of considerable importance in the economic geography of southeastern Massachusetts. This seems to be have been especially true in prehistoric times. The source of the Taunton River is lake Nippinicket which lies within the basin of the great swamp called Hockomock to the northwest of the town called Bridgewater. A small stream flows out of the northeastern tip of Nippinicket which is called Town River. Flowing in an easterly direction, and enlarged by the waters from Meadow Brook, it describes a great curve, east and south, about the town. Nearly seven miles from its course it receives the input of the Matfield River and the expanded stream is known as the Taunton River. A few miles further on, it absorbs the waters of the Winnituxet River and turns to the east and south to meet the Nemasket River flowing north from Assawompsett. Just south of its junction with the Nemasket the great river turns west to flow past the wading place in North Middleboro and the ancient village of Titicut were it makes an abrupt turn south to meet the Cotley River, and its first bitter taste of the sea. The waters of the Cotley River, rushing in from the south, seems to force the larger stream to turn northwards against its will, but, as soon as this force is spent, it turns again to the westward until, on the outskirts of Taunton it finally makes up its mind and begins its journey south to the sea at Mount Hope Bay. Receiving tributaries, first from the east and then from the west, the rapidly growing river flows between Dighton and Berkeley and, joining at last with its greatest tributary the Assonet River, it separates Swansea and Freetown to empty its already brackish waters into the Bay.

In this long, meandering course, the Taunton River, with its many tributaries, drains approximately three hundred square miles of southeastern Massachusetts, from Attleboro on the west to Plympton and Carver on the east, and from Brockton south to Fall River. Obviously this is an ancient stream, its gradient is low and its flow, except in early spring, is sluggish. The country through which it passes is of low relief, rare is the hill that rises to more than a hundred feet above the surrounding plane. The valley of the river is wide and many swamps and marshes have developed along its sinuous course. The entire area is so studded with small ponds and lakes that it is often referred to in colonial literature as The Pond Country.

The river system which we have just described flows far above its pre-glacial bed, except for a small stretch in Bridgewater where it flows over bedrock. As a result of glacial action the surface of southern New England has been greatly altered. Valleys have been deepened and hills have been rounded by the scouring action of the continental ice sheet. Till was deposited in sheets, known as ground moraine or as recessional moraines. The deposition of glacio-fluvial sediments accounts for conspicuous alteration of the original landscape. Less known and more subtle changes in the land surface have been produced by an upward movement following the removal of the weight imposed by the ice. Notable changes in the drainage pattern took place when the surface was uplifted and the lakes and seas drained away. In some cases rivers formed where no rivers flowed before. As the gradient of still other rivers was reduced, swamps and ponds were formed and, in extreme cases, the tilting of the river valleys caused them to flow in an opposite direction. In the region of southern New England the uplift was the greatest to the north and consequently the valleys or rivers that drain northward have had their gradient greatly decreased. Valleys that held lakes have been emptied and are today drained by southern flowing streams.

In the Acushnet Lowland a pond behind a moraine and fan was emptied, and a channel was cut through the obstruction as the gradient of the river was increased by the uplift of the land. As with all southward sloping valleys this valley is well drained today and lacks the swamps and ponds, except where man- made, so characteristic of southeastern Massachusetts. After glacial lake Assawompsett was drained, the silts and clays which had settled to the bottom of the lake, were exposed to the air and dried. Powerful periglacial winds from the southwest piled up these fine sediments in huge dunes on the northern and northeastern perimeter of the old lake bed. One of these dunes, now known as Lakeside, stands some thirty feet above the valley floor and is over a mile in width. It is composed of sandy material intermixed with redeposited lake bottom sediments. After Hubbard Uplift the land was tilted and the northward draining lakes lowland lost gradient until their headwaters were filled up with water so that the Assawompsett Lakes are now separated by swamps from the Middleboro Moraine, whereas they originally extended the moraine. In the northern part of the lowland, peat as deep as twenty eight feet has been exposed during recent road construction. Under ordinary circumstances the Nemasket River would have eroded back to its head waters and drained the lakes but for the fact, at one point, it crosses a conglomerate outcrop east of Middleboro. On this local base level the Nemasket River has balanced as the land was uplifted differentially. Tilting has raised the lakes to the lowest passes in the morainal watershed, Lakeville moraine, so that the lakes can actually drain both to the south and the north, in times of high water. As peat filled in the northern part of the originally larger lake, the outlet river became longer and now meanders in and out of swamp deposits and has a very gentle gradient. This filling of the pond with peat, and the meandering river, have caused the lake level to be raised to a normal elevation of fifty-four feet above sea level at New Bedford. When the Leverett Sea was eliminated by the Hubbard Uplift a new drainage system was created and rivers flowed across sands and clays of the south Bridgewater plains. The new river system became the north branch of the Taunton River or Town River. The river intrenched itself in these sands and clays and now flows west and then south to Mount Hope Bay. In passing through the moraines the river has made use of earlier melt-water channels and has obviously deepened those channels. Northwest of Bridgewater there is a very large area of swamp almost filled with alluvium and peat deposits except for one shallow depression in which lies Lake Nippinicket, the present source of the Taunton River. Similarly in the area north of Middleboro Moraine, a small post-glacial lake existed, temporarily closed to the moraine, that has been filled and replaced by Merrymeeting Swamp.

We thank the Robbins Museum of Archaeology for allowing us to use Dr Robbins description of the Taunton Great River. We have provided a link to there website under good eggs on our home page.

 

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