Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Mohawk Trail

"Hail to the Sunrise"
Mohawk Park
Charlemont, Mass.

Historically the Mohawks were one of the five original Native American tribes who made up the Iroquois Confederacy or Nation. The Mohawks were the eastern most of the Iroquois tribes living in what was to become upstate New York.

Over the thousands of years that Native Americans resided in what is now New England and New York numerous hunting and trading trails were made through this largely forested region. Europeans naturally made use of these trials when they first started exploring and then establishing their own settlements.

The original Mohawk Trail was a well established trail that led from the lands of the Mohawk to the banks of the Connecticut River has it passed through Massachusetts. This footpath was used for access to the hunting and fishing grounds and for the trading and warfare that went on between the five tribes that lived in the area. With the mass migrations of Europeans into New York and Massachusetts in the 1600's the tribal lands of the Native Americans shrank. More and more European settlements were established which led to the building of roads that often built over and followed the old Native American trails.

With the advent of the automobile in the early 1900's, America began its love affair with the car and the roadway. One of the earliest major highways built for the automobile in Massachusetts was Route 2 which stretches east to west from Cambridge to the New York border. The westernmost portion of the state highway covers some of the same ground as the old Mohawk Trail.

On October 22, 1914 the Massachusetts legislature designated that portion of Route 2 that runs from the Connecticut river to the New York border, a 63 mile section, to be a "scenic tourist route". Commonly referred to as the Mohawk Trail, it continues to be a popular tourist route and attraction, especially in the foliage season.

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