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The Yankee Express

Alexander Lake

Jan 30, 2024 09:13AM ● By Thomas D’Agostino

As many know, the Indigenous Peoples were of great assistance to the Pilgrims in their first few years of settling in the new world, and the Pilgrims likewise in many ways. But, there were different tribes who fought each other for various reasons. This next legend tells of how the Great Spirit dealt with one group of natives after an event that was most displeasing to him. It is a story that has been handed down through the centuries about a certain lake in the eastern part of Connecticut.

The word Nipmuck (Nipmuc, Nipmuk) basically translates into “freshwater people.” The tribe, being located near freshwater ponds and streams gained a talent and, fortunately for them, the taste for acquiring and preparing freshwater fish. This fondness for fish outweighed their appetite for meat, and they found themselves trading corn and game with the Narragansetts for their versions of aquatic cuisine. The Narragansetts, aware of the Nipmuck’s flair for shellfish and bluefish, sent forth an invitation for the two to join in a feast. Both parties met and joined in merriment, taking in food and fun with fresh and saltwater seafood abundantly overflowing from the tables.

Not long after the great feast, the Nipmucks returned the invitation to the Narragansetts, and another gathering was scheduled. The Nipmuck tribe prepared freshwater fish, corn, squash, beans and eels, while the guests brought their spread along with one of their own delectable creations; a special bread made from crushed corn and wild strawberries. The bread was presented as a gift, and the feast commenced.

During the feast, the Narragansett sachem noticed that the bread was never put on the table. Over a period of time, he grew irate and felt insulted by their lack of interest in his tribe’s gift. This led to harsh words, and within moments, a battle between the two tribes broke out. The Narragansetts were easily slaughtered as they had come in peace, without weapons. Some escaped back to their village and declared revenge, but most died in the fight and were buried near the waters of the Nipmucks.

The Nipmucks decided to hold a powwow to celebrate their victory over the Narragansetts on the spot where Lake Alexander now sits in Danielson, Connecticut. There they set up camp and began a three-day-long gala where men, women and children played games, ate, and drank without care or reservation. After a few days, the marry makers began to look unfavorable in the Great Spirit’s eye, feeling the occasion lingered on longer than it should have. The Great Spirit, already angered by the bloody squabble and treachery that had prevailed shortly before, decided to end their unruly merriment and mirth.

While the revelers were deep in their celebrating, the earth beneath them began to give way, causing the deep underground streams and rivers to rise and flow until they flooded the whole area where the tribe had been whooping it up. Every man, woman and child were caught in the rushing waters and succumbed to the vengeful hand of the Great Spirit. All but one, that is. The very apex of the hill where an innocent and devout old woman had been resting was spared the wrath of their god. This island is now called Loon’s Island and sits in the center of Lake Alexander. Whether or not the story is told exactly the same way is a matter of little consequence, for there exists below the surface of the lake evidence that lends credence to the legend. When the sun’s rays beam onto the surface, illuminating below the ripples of water, there can be seen the remnants of the tall trees that once stood sovereign on the now sunken hillsides.