Algonquian Indians lived in the area of a glacial lake now Cedar Swamp in Westboro over eight thousand years ago as recorded by archeologist Curtis Hoffman. Cedar Swamp is located just north of Upton. Cultural activities were seasonal in nature and were sustained over thousands of years. In the 1600’s much of central Massachusetts, including lands which became Upton State Forest, was inhabited by the Nipmuck tribe.
Seasonal activities included ocean fish runs up the rivers every spring, and eels catches every fall. The anadromous fish came from the ocean to spawn in the fresh waters and the fresh water eel swam down the rivers in the fall to spawn in the warm ocean waters. Both of these essential fish were dried and used to sustain the people over the year’s time.
Planting time commenced after the spring fishing and green corn festivals were celebrated mid August. The three sister crops of corn, beans, and squash were planted together and sustained people through the winter months. Berries were gathered in the summer, nuts gathered every fall and maple syrup was tapped late winter. The life style was sustainable.
People walked everywhere. Trails followed level ground and crossed rivers carefully in specific places. The Old Connecticut Path is within Upton and one branch of the path probably passed through Upton State Forest.
Heritage Park owned by the Town of Upton, has a stone chamber that is part of a cultural landscape connected to Pratt Hill that has been determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Although not part of Upton State Forest this is an important piece to understand the pre-contact activities in this area. You can find more information about the Chamber and testing done to determine its age at this link.
In the 2013 DCR Cultural Resource Management Plan for Upton State Forest in a section titled ‘Ceremonial Stone Landscapes and Archeological Perspectives’ recommendations include: Additional research, including cataloging regional ethnography, analyzing regional topographic, aquatic and tribal historic relationships, cataloging structure types, soils analysis, and examining solar and other celestial alignments is warranted. Recording, listening and making connections to oral historic, mapping ceremonial sites, researching early colonial historic and land deeds, and developing an on‐going communication with federally recognized and local tribes can also inform DCR management of these resources.
More information about the Upton Chamber and Heritage Park is available on the Town of Upton website.