The Prehistory of Winchester

The Squaw Sachem and Her Red Men

The Squaw Sachem Sells Her Land to John Winthrop
From the Mural Painting by Aiden L. Ripley, a Lexingtom artist, in the Winchester Public Library. Painted in 1924, the mural was funded by the U.S. governments's Public Works of Art project during the Great Depression.

The town of Winchester lies within a pleasant valley at the head of the Mystic Lakes. The eastern wall of this valley is formed by the rocky ridge of the Middlesex Fells, still largely covered by forest growth, and now one of the most picturesque parts of the beautiful Metropolitan Park system. To the southwest and west the valley is enclosed by the tumbled cluster of hills, which, under various names-Myopia Hill, Andrews Hill, Turkey Hill, Indian Hill and Zion's Hill-stretch in the direction of Arlington Heights and Lexington; by the rounded summit of Horn Pond Mountain and the ledges of Blueberry Hill in Woburn. Northward the floor of the valley slopes gradually upward to the higher ground on which Woburn stands. Southward it is prolonged toward the sea by the trough in which lie the Mystic Lakes and the course of the Mystic River.

Properly speaking, this is a part of the Mystic Valley, though the narrow and placid stream that winds through it, to fall into the twin lakes, bears in Winchester the name not of the Mystic but of the Aberjona River. A characteristic and very charming feature of the region is the number of attractive bodies of water that lie in and around it. Besides the Mystic Lakes, the natural beauty of which is comparable to that of many famous lakes that Americans travel far to admire, there are Horn Pond, Wedge Pond, Winter Pond and Black Ball Pond, all on the valley floor, while on the heights above the town and in the Middlesex Fells are Long Pond and the three artificially created reservoirs that supply Winchester with water. It is no wonder that the first white men who visited the spot, and saw the gleam of water on every side shining through the trees of the primeval forest, gave it the lovely name of Waterfield, which might well have been preserved as the name of the town that grew up there.

(Note: This is a copy of Chapter 1 of the first volume of Henry Smith Chapman's, History of Winchester Massachusetts, published by the Town of Winchester in 1975. The material which appears in the first volume is substantially the same as that which originally appeared in the 1936 edition by Henry Smith Chapman, a work commissioned and funded by the Town of Winchester.

History of Winchester, vol. 1, Henry Smith Chapman,
Published by the Town of Winchester (Original edition: 1936).
History of Winchester, vol. 2, Bruce Winchester Stone, Published by the Town of Winchester, 1975.
These two volumes are available at the Winchester Public Library or at local bookstores.

The webmaster has added links to further explanatory material, especially the definitions of "squaw" and "sachem", because of the recent (1999-2000) controversy in the Town of Winchester over the public use of these words.)

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