Metal on Stone on Dirt on Blood
The Hassell Massacre marker
I’m always telling people that they don’t have to travel to faraway lands to be mind-boggled by history, nature or culture. I tell them to drive a few hours in any direction from their own house. But sometimes it’s even easier. Like walk a mile from your house.
If you do, you might come across something like the Hassel Massacre marker.
It sits on a tiny blank plot of grass between Hassell Brook Road and Almont Street in Nashua. It’s a metal plaque inset into a small rock and surrounded by a short metal guardrail. It looks like a memorial in miniature. And it tells the story of blood on that land.
In the late 17th century, the spot the memorial marks was the homestead of the Hassell family: Joseph, his wife Anna and their son Benjamin. The plaque explains one shared moment of these settlers’ lives — the end it of it. On September 2, 1691, they and a visitor — their neighbor Mary Marks — were all killed and scalped by Native Americans during a terrible time in our history. The house was burned down to its rock cellar and the Hassells were buried on the site, somewhere near where that plaque is.
A brook that winds through the site bears their family name as well, and the cellar and their gravestones stuck around through at least the mid-19th century before disappearing. The current plaque bears an installation date of 1965.
And, just like that, a brisk walk and a short read later, you find yourself time-traveling. “On this spot” or, in the case of the Hassell Massacre marker, “marks the spot” become the words of a magic spell that transforms that plain bit of residential grass into a wild frontier land, back when Nashua was a part of Dunstable, Massachusetts.
And, sure, if you could time travel, you wouldn’t pick a massacre to visit. But, who knows? Maybe the historical plaque within walking distance of you is a happier one. Send me an email if you find any.
J.W. Ocker lives in Nashua and writes spooky novels and travelogues. His newest book, “Cursed Objects,” is out now. Visit him at oddthingsiveseen.com or send him New Hampshire oddities that he should visit at firstname.lastname@example.org.