Saturday July 27th Mr Ballou of Stoughton preached to day
Two young men natives of Nova Scotia were drowned
last night in the Hockemock Meadow They were […]
working for brother Alson and at night went to the
river to bathe and it is supposed got into deep water
and could not swim Oliver went to Stoughton for Mr Whitwell
to be in season for the funeral at 5 Oclock We all went
to the funeral and carried Mr Whitwell
The Hockomock Swamp is a vital wetland of some 17,000 acres in southeastern Massachusetts, a minor portion of which occupies a southernmost section of land in Easton – land not far from the Gilmore farm. It’s an ill-omened, storied spot, known today as part of the”Bridgewater Triangle,” so-named in the 20th century as a location for UFO sightings, ghost lights, foxfire, animal mutilations and the like. A “place where spirits dwell,” the Wampanoag Indians called it, and they would know. Much of King Philip’s War, in the late 17th century, was fought in the environs of the Hockomock. Metacomet hid there.
In the late 18th and 19th century, when it was known by many as The Great Cedar Swamp, some people were less superstitious about the area, eyeing it for its potential as arable land. The towns of Raynham and Easton butted heads over the construction of a road through it. According to historian William Chaffin, Evelina’s own father, Joshua Gilmore, “was going on a footpath through the swamp one day with his wife, carrying a little child in his arms[.] Mrs Gilmore was speaking of the difficulty of the passage, and her husband replied that some day the child would ride through the swamp in a carriage; and the idea struck her as so essentially preposterous that she had a hearty laugh over it.”** (It would be wonderful if the child in the story were Evelina, but the likelihood is that the child was an older sibling.)
It’s ironic that in 1851, two young farm hands who were working for Evelina’s own brother, Alson Gilmore, went for a swim in the “Hockemok Meadow” after work and drowned, adding their tragic story to the swamp’s paranormal reputation.
* Engraving of the Great Swamp Fight in 1675, the colonists versus the Narragansett Indians
** William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1866, pp. 454-455.
3 thoughts on “July 27, 1851”
Eventually, the swamp had not only roads through it, but also a railroad, which may, or may not be put back in use over the next decade. Opponents have environmental concerns, but the railroad bed is already running through the swamp. It is the train running THROUGH the center of North Easton again with all the accompanying noise, traffic delay, and possible menace that are more substantial concerns. By the way, there are also more swamps that King Phillip – Metacomet is alleged to have skulked in, not to mention rocks and caves, that he allegedly frequented, than there are taverns, allegedly visited or slept in by George Washington. 😉 Nippenicket Pond, where the south flowing Queeset, which powered Old Oliver’s works in North Easton meets or becomes the easterly flowing Town River, which flows through West Bridgewater on its way to the Taunton River and trunks of which were used to power Capt John Ames blacksmith and shovel works when Old Oliver was a child. Oliver moved upstream to find his water power, and then branched out to a couple other places.
Thank you, Dwight. Regarding the railroad running through the swamp, Oliver Jr.’s diary from 1864 or so carries running commentary about the clearing of the swamp for the railroad. Much “muck” had to be dug up.
It would be interesting to know if any muck got taken out to use on fields and replaced by gravel. Did Oliver Jr. have any official role, or was he just an interested observer? Once that line was completed down to the south coast, I assume that it gave the Ames a new route by which to bring raw materials in and send shovels out. So one way or another, I sure that he was paying attention and getting some practice for the later construction of the transcontinental RR, which brought so much triumph, and eventually, so much pain to the family.