Joshua Winer's mural depicts Massachusett women and men engaged in seasonal encampment activities during the pre-Colonial era.

Transformed Land

The First People lived in this region for thousands of years. Their descendants, the Massachusett, named what we now call Charlestown, Mishawum—"Great Springs." They gathered here and at other harbor locations seasonally, to farm and hunt for food.

The English purchased Mishawum from the principal sac'hem, the "Queen of the Massachusett." They renamed the peninsula and built homes around City Square. This part of Charlestown remained as farm land until 1801, when the federal government bought it to establish the Charlestown Navy Yard.

The Navy soon filled mudflats and marsh, making land for wharves and ship building. In the 1830s, seawalls were constructed along the outer edges of the mudflats. This marked the end of made land in this section of the Navy Yard; the seawall remains in place today, to your right.

The land, however, would undergo yet another transformation after the Navy Yard closed in 1974. In the decades since, housing has sprung up along the waterfront, where the Massachusett people once fished, harvested shellfish, and launched canoes.

More...

How did the Harborwalk come to exist? [expand]

How did Colonial laws help create today's Harborwalk? [expand]

What is known about Native people's lives in the Boston area before European contact? [expand]

Where were the Massachusett people when English colonists landed in what is now Charlestown in 1630? [expand]

Who was the “Queen of Massachusett”? [expand]

What happened to the region’s Native people during the Colonial era? [expand]

How have the Native people of New England fared since 1800? [expand]

Where are the Massachusett today? [expand]

How did artist Joshua Winer create his mural? [expand]

Resources

For an excellent overview of Native American history in the Boston area: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcarchexhibitsonline/massachusettsbay.htm

For an overview of archaeological finds from the Big Dig project: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcpdf/Big_Dig_book.pdf

Additional resources:

Credits

Banner image: With permission of artist Joshua Winer

Fish fry: 1585 Illustration by John White of Native Americans living in present-day North Carolina. Published by Theodor de Bry in Americae pars decima.

Charlestown peninsula, detail from Sir Thomas Page map, 1775. Courtesy of Norman Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library

Navy yard plan: From Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Boston. Courtesy of author Nancy S. Seasholes

Translation and recording thanks to the generosity of the Boston Marine Society

Our gratitude to the Perkins School for the Blind and David W. Cook for their partnership in creating the audio files.

About us

The Friends of the Boston Harborwalk is a group of volunteers, affiliated with Boston Harbor Now, dedicated to enhancing enjoyment of Boston's 43-mile Harborwalk. The Friends meet monthly to plan and coordinate our three main priorities.

1. Host monthly two-hour long tours connected to the Harborwalk or Boston Harbor;

2. Facilitate waterfront clean-up days to ensure that the full length of the Harborwalk is clean, safe, and inviting;

3. Create engaging interpretive signs to help people learn about and enjoy the rich stories connected to Boston's waterfront.

For more information and to join the Friends, contact Mike Manning, Chair, mmanning@bostonharbornow.org .