Before Ludlow

Before the English came to what is now known as Ludlow, the Native Americans that inhabited the area called it Minnechaug, meaning "Berry Land." The name Minnechaug was used for what is the eastern part of Ludlow and Wilbraham. When the English did come to Western Massachusetts, the area known as Ludlow did not see any activity for quite some time as the settlers were preoccupied with other matters. The area now known as Ludlow was seen by many for a long time as wild, remote, and dangerous.

The Beginnings of Springfield

As more and more people came to Massachusetts in the 1600s, people started to push westward into the wilderness. In 1631 the settlers started to hear of a great river in the west and so in the early fall of 1633 John Oldham, Samuel Hall, and two others ventured westward. These men were most likely the first Englishmen to ever stand at the banks of what is now known as the Connecticut River. The men noticed that the area had many natural resources and friendly natives. In 1635, a man named William Pynchon also journeyed to the Connecticut River and decided that he could set up a profitable fur trading station there. On May 14, 1636 the first settlement was formed on the Connecticut River and was named Springfield. For over 100 years the area of land now known as Ludlow would be a part of the town of Springfield, referred to as Stony Hill.

A Generation of War

As Springfield began to grow, new towns began to form on the Connecticut River as well. Northampton and Hadley were born and later Deerfield and Hatfield. In many areas, relations with some groups of natives deteriorated and subsequently led to war. In 1675 King Philip's War began. Although it was illegal to sell muskets to the natives, some settlers were willing to sell them illegally so most natives had the same weapons that the settlers had. As the war grew more bloody and violent, settling new lands became more and more dangerous. Many natives waited for the settlers to leave the protection of their towns and would kill and kidnap those that did. It was also during this war on October 6, 1675, the town of Springfield was destroyed by the natives, who had burned most of the buildings and houses. Most of the people survived by hiding out in one of the fortified houses constructed in the town but they had lost all that they had. This proved to be a major setback for the settlement of the area and raised questions as to whether or not the people should abandon the area entirely. Obviously this did not happen and the town was rebuilt. It was at this time that an old Ludlow legend takes place. After the burning of Springfield, the military discovered that the natives had gone to an area that today sits on the Chicopee River in Ludlow not far from the bridge into Indian Orchard. Although all that was reported was the discovery of some campfires, the legend states that there were also natives there, and being surprised by the English forces and fearing capture, they jumped off of the cliff into the Chicopee River below. Although the campfires were definitely at the site now called "Indian Leap" this story most likely is a myth. Perhaps it was made to comfort those in Springfield who lost their homes. (I intend to add three accounts written in the 1800s to this page at a later time.)

A False Peace

In 1678 King Philip's War had ended and all conflict seemed to be over for the settlers. Although it first seemed as though there would be peace along the Connecticut River Valley, this turned out to be not true. Bands of natives continued to attack the settlers, now supplied by the French in Canada and not long after King Philip's War ended, King William's War began, followed by Queen Anne's War and then the French and Indian War. It is during this time that another old story takes place in Ludlow regarding Native Americans. According to the story, there were two women who were part of a family that settled near the Chicopee River. While the men were working, one of these women was captured by natives, the other managing to hide under a tub in the basement of the house. Once the settlers became aware of what happened, they chased the natives to a point now in Northern Ludlow called "Facing Rocks" where the natives "put the victim out of misery by a tragic death," as Alfred Noon writes in his book. Noon also believed that this took place on July 16, 1708 as the story has similarities with another story written in Josiah Gilbert Holland's book, "The History of Western Mass" on page 158 of Volume 1. (Both Noon's book and Holland's book are online and available free via Google. See the "Links" section of this site to find them.)

Peace at Last

It was not until these conflicts ended and the natives were no longer a threat to those living in the Connecticut Valley that progress could be made towards inhabiting the area around Springfield, which would include Ludlow. The Connecticut River Valley has had a long and violent history that many today are not aware of. Although going into details about the conflicts of the entire area is beyond the scope of this website, there are good books written on the subject. One such book is Holland's that was mentioned in the paragraph above. I also believe that Holland sums up the end of the conflicts with the natives best:

This closed the long and terrible tragedy of the Indian, and French and Indian, wars. From the first settlement at Springfield, until the conquest of Canada in 1760, a series of one hundred and twenty-four years had passed away, and by far the larger part of this time the inhabitants of the territory embraced in old Hampshire had been exposed to the dangers, the fears, the toils and trials of Indian wars, or border depredations. Children had been born, had grown up to manhood, and descended to old age, knowing little or nothing of peace and tranquillity. Hundreds had been killed, and large numbers carried into captivity. Men, women and children had been butchered by scores. There is hardly a square acre, certainly not a square mile, in the Connecticut Valley, that has not been tracked by the flying feet of fear, resounded with the groan of the dying, drunk the blood of the dead, or served as the scene of toils made doubly toilsome by an apprehension of danger that never slept. It was among such scenes and such trials as these that the settlements of Western Massachusetts were planted. It was by these scenes and trials that their sinews were knit to that degree of strength that, when the incubus of war and fear was lifted, they sprang to those enterprises of peace, which in less than one century, have transformed the Valley and the Berkshire hills into a garden of beauty, a home of luxury and refinement, an abode of plenty, and a seat of free education and free religion. The joy of victory that spread everywhere over the colonies was great, but the joy of peace was greater. The relief felt on every hand can hardly be imagined now. The long clogged wheels of enterprise moved again, and settlements that had been forsaken were reclaimed, while new ones were commenced. The ax resounded in the forests, and smiling harvests returned once more to be gathered rejoicingly beneath the reign of peace.