Archaeological Intensive Excavation Hassanamesit Woods Property, The Sarah Boston Farmstead


This final report summarizes the results of archaeological investigations conducted at the Sarah Boston farmstead during the summers of 2006 and 2007. These excavations were carried out in conjunction with the Hassanamesit Woods Management Committee, a collaborative effort between the Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Town of Grafton, Massachusetts, and the Nipmuc Tribal Nation. Designed to provide educational and interpretive information concerning the Nipmuc history of the 203 acre parcel known today as Hassanamesit Woods and cognizant of the fact that the researchers are interpreting the Nipmuc people’s past, the archaeological investigations sought to recover information concerning the lives and history of four historically documented households headed by a succession of Nipmuc women between 1728 and 1860. Previous archaeological and archival research (Bonner and Kiniry 2003, Gary 2005) confirmed that the 203 acre parcel purchased by the Town of Grafton in 2003 included the 1728 farmstead of Peter Muckamaug, so named for the husband of Sarah Robins, the daughter of 17th-century Nipmuc Sachem Petavit, also known as Robin. Petavit led the Nipmuc community of Hassanamesit, the second of John Eliot’s seven “Christian Indian” communities established during the second half of the 17th century. Members of seven families of the Hassanamisco Band of the Nipmuc received parcels as part of the redistribution of Hassanamesit Lands by the English in 1728. One of these was given to Sarah Robins, however given English legal custom the parcel was named for her Narragansett husband Muckamaug.

As the documentary and archaeological results summarized in this report will demonstrate, there are rich material remains of at least two of the four documented households that we believe lived in what is today Hassanamesit Woods. The investigations conducted during the spring and summer of 2006 involved two phases of excavation. The first was supported by funds supplied by the Town of Grafton and administered by the Hassanamesit Woods Committee. The second phase involved an archaeological field school supported by the University of Massachusetts Boston. Combined, these excavations unearthed 17, 2 × 2 meter excavation units, or a total of 68 square meters of site area. All of these units were located within the historic boundaries of the Sarah Boston farmstead in the area where previous investigations had identified the largest concentration of historic period material culture (Gary 2005:38-45). During the summer of 2007, 17 additional 2 × 2 meter excavation units were completed in the same site area doubling the area investigated to 136 square meters. The large-scale, open area excavation employed during the 2006 and 2007 investigations unearthed the remains of what we believe to be the foundation and yard area of the Sarah Boston farmstead. These excavations were aided by a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey of the homestead conducted in June of 2007 by John Steinberg of the Fiske Center. His results (discussed in Chapters 3 and 4) successfully located the remains of a cellar hole and foundation that we believe was either built or substantially renovated by Sarah Phillips during the late 18th century. Recovered artifacts also demonstrate a much longer Native American occupation on the site spanning some 4,000 years. Additional documentary research carried out as part of the project, combined with that conducted by Oakfield Research (Tritsch 2006), has revealed a rich historical context that chronicles the entangled cultural and legal history of Hassanamesit and the four Nipmuc women who lived on the property.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Intensive Excavation Hassanamesit Woods Property, The Sarah Boston Farmstead. Heather Law, Guido Pezzarossi, Stephen Mrozowski. Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research Cultural Resource Management Study ,26. 2008 ( tDAR id: 372295) ; doi:10.6067/XCV81834P5

Spatial Coverage

min long: -71.763; min lat: 42.16 ; max long: -71.616; max lat: 42.251 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Jeanne Johnson

Contributor(s): Jessica Bowes; Tess Ostrowsky; Michelle Rosado; Stephanie Tice; Andrew Wilkins

Principal Investigator(s): Stephen Mrozowski; David Landon


General Note: See related reports, tDAR ID 371578 and 371763

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