Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



The Center for Cultural and Environmental History conducted a Phase I archaeological intensive survey of the Hassanamesitt Woods property in Grafton, Massachusetts from October 2004 through January 2005. Documentary evidence has suggested that the property may contain remains of the church for the Praying Indian village of Hassanamisco, established by John Eliot in 1660. Historical deed research has also placed several Nipmuc families on the property in the early 18th century, suggesting the area was resettled by the original inhabitants of Hassanimisco in the aftermath of King Philip's War. Throughout the course of the 18th and 19th centuries the property was subsequently parceled out for agricultural purposes to white landowners. Nipmuc presence on the property however endured until the end of the 19th century. During the 20th century the property was utilized predominantly for orchards before reverting to its current state of woodland.

The survey of the 203+ acre property on the southern slope of Keith Hill consisted of shovel testing and a GPS survey of above ground features in order to identify historic and prehistoric resources and make recommendations for the future management of the property. A total of 386 test pits were excavated on 10m and 20m intervals covering approximately 74 acres and identifying six historic sites and one prehistoric site. The prehistoric site is composed of a well-defined lithic quarry, while the historic sites consist of the remains of 18th, 19th, and 20th century residential, agricultural, and low level industrial activities. The highest concentration of residential material has been identified as the remains of 18th and 19th century Nipmuc settlement. No 17th century component related to John Eliot's church or meeting house was recovered. Several aboveground features were located, including cellar holes, wens, extensive stone walls, stone retaining walls, and cobbled terraces.

Because the property is not slated for large-scale development it is recommended that no further immediate archaeological testing is needed. However, the archaeological remains related to 18th and 19th century Nipmuc settlement offer an opportunity to investigate Native American resettlement after the abandonment of Hassanamisco. Future archaeology may also help with public interpretation of the property within the context of long term land use from the Prehistoric Archaic period through the Early Modem period. Data gathered during this Phase I survey provides a starting point for the public interpretation of the Hassanamesitt Woods property and allows for the proper management of the property in terms of trail placement and low impact construction.


Submitted to the Town of Grafton, the Grafton Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Nipmuc Tribal Office, and Massachusetts Historical Commission by the Center for Cultural and Environmental History at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Cultural Resources Management Study No. 14[a].