Category Archives: Columns

Published pieces I’ve written, primarily in The Recorder, Greenfield, Mass.

Great Beaver Tale Evolves

The ancient, indigenous Great Beaver Tale about the origin of Deerfield’s Pocumtuck Range has changed dramatically since 1890, when East Charlemont antiquarian Phinehas Field’s 105-word, 1871 description was published in Volume 1 of History and Proceedings of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (1870-79). Soon after that bare-bones account by a white Christian man of deep Puritan […]

Sugarloaf Beaver Tale All Began In 1871 With Phinehas Field And The PVMA

A venerable, solemn Phinehas Field is displayed in the formal, sketched portrait accompanying his online Find A Grave profile. A man who volunteered for Civil War service after his 60th birthday, Field had, by the time of this formal portrait, served many years as deacon of the Charlemont Congregational Church and lived a distinguished, pious life. Phinehas […]

Mishebeshu In Montague?

An underwater panther in Montague? Well, bear with me. An adventure, indeed. Credit Acton kayaker Al Peirce with the interesting May 20 discovery, made while killing time awaiting takeout following his maiden Deerfield River paddle. Launching from Montague, across from the Deerfield’s dangerous Connecticut River confluence located between the General Pierce and bicycle-path bridges, Peirce had maneuvered […]

What Was Canterbury of Early Hatfield/Whately?

Canterbury came into existence as a place between places in early Hatfield-Deerfield lore, a perilous no-man’s land where only the brave dared linger, even then on high alert.Thus the confusion about the specifics of this place, named in the early days of Hatfield, that ultimately became the northeast corner of Whately. No one is certain […]

Looming Celebrations Stir Memories

Saturday, 6 a.m. Backyard brook rattling. Sparse, wispy-white clouds creeping eastward in the soothing, pale-blue sky. Perfect for pondering, allowing your mind to run free. Heavy overnight winds and rains have passed, leaving in their wake an ebullient-green yard, the rich, verdant base only enhancing ornamental trees and bushes to their happiest springtime splendor. There […]

Family Mattters

As Main Street merchants, vendors, restaurateurs and bar owners count their losses and struggle to stay afloat, the online genealogy companies must be riding high. A right-place, right-time scenario, they are the beneficiaries of a captive audience, housebound and bored silly, that’s searching for anything to break the tedium of COVID-19 quarantine. Count me among […]

Leather-Working Mecca

An old cliché tells us familiarity breeds contempt. So, how about ignorance? Does not familiarity breed that, too? Well, in my case, the answer is an unapologetic yes. Let me explain, focusing on boyhood South Deerfield. At the southwest corner of Pleasant and North Main, a short distance up the road from my earliest home […]

Shad Traps

It’s April, the month that ushers in our annual Connecticut River American shad-spawning run, a natural phenomenon that has for millennia pulled valley people – be they ancient, indigenous villagers, colonial families and commercial fishermen, or contemporary sportfishermen and women – to advantageous May fishing sites. So, what better for a longtime observer of this […]

Was Giles Weaver Really J.D. Salinger?

Who was that mysterious stranger occupying Room 34 of South Deerfield’s “Warren Hotel” in September 1970? His byline appears as Giles Weaver in the Winter 1970 revival edition of The Phoenix, a small literary magazine published after a 40-year hiatus by James Cooney at his West Whately Morning Star Press. Cooney introduces Weaver to his Phoenix readers as […]

Valley Fishing Calendar Has Changed Little Since Colonial Days

Friend Peter Thomas is back at it, nose to the grindstone. The good doctor of anthropology and archaeology is at his core an historian. These days the retired author of In the Maelstrom of Change: The Indian Trade and Cultural Process in the Middle Connecticut River Valley, 1635-1665 is photographically digitizing the Sylvester Judd Manuscripts at Northampton’s Forbes Library […]

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