A Dinner and its Consequences
by Charles M. Skinner
The Nipmucks were populous at Thompson, Connecticut, where they skilfully
tilled the fields, and where their earthworks, on Fort Hill, provided
them with a refuge in case of invasion. Their chief, Quinatisset, had his
lodge on the site of the Congregational church in Thompson. They believed
that Chargoggagmanchogagog Pond was paradise—the home of the Great
Spirit and departed souls—and that it would always yield fish to them,
as the hills did game. They were fond of fish, and would barter deer-meat
and corn for it, occasionally, with the Narragansetts.
Now, these last-named Indians were a waterloving people, and to this day
their "fishing fire"—a column of pale flame—rises out of Quinebaug Lake
once in seven years, as those say who have watched beside its waters
through the night. Knowing their fondness for blue-fish and clams, the
Narragansetts asked the Nipmucks to dine with them on one occasion, and
this courtesy was eagerly accepted, the up-country people distinguishing
themselves by valiant trencher deeds; but, alas, that it should be so!
they disgraced themselves when, soon after, they invited the
Narragansetts to a feast of venison at Killingly, and quarrelled with
their guests over the dressing of the food. This rumpus grew into a
battle in which all but two of the invites were slain. Their hosts buried
them decently, but grass would never grow above their graves.
This treachery the Great Spirit avenged soon after, when the Nipmucks had
assembled for a powwow, with accessory enjoyments, in the grassy vale
where Mashapaug Lake now reflects the charming landscape, and where,
until lately, the remains of a forest could be seen below the surface. In
the height of the revel the god struck away the foundations of the hills,
and as the earth sank, bearing the offending men and women, waters rushed
in and filled the chasm, so that every person was drowned, save one good
old woman beneath whose feet the ground held firm. Loon Island, where she
stood, remains in sight to-day.