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Friday, November 6, 2009

The Shunpike - Charlemont, Mass.

Still lingering in Charlemont, Mass. (see Tuesday’s post on the Bissell Bridge), we come upon this historical marker for the “Shunpike.” You can read for yourself that it marks the spot on the colonial road (now called The Mohawk Trail by the tourism industry and called Rte 2 and Rte. 8A by the mapmakers), where 18th century travelers forded the Deerfield River rather than pay a toll to cross over the bridge.

This boycotting took place in 1797, and the movement it began led to the establishment of toll-free travel in Massachusetts by 1810. The 20th century brought us new tolls on the Mass. Pike, but that’s another story.

This Mohawk Trail was originally a footpath carved out of the woods by the natives, then hacked out into an ox road by the English settlers. While this historical marker might seem to reinforce the legend of Yankee tightfistedness, we might remember that so-called “shunpikes” (because you were shunning the turnpike toll), popped up in various other parts of the U.S. as well. This might have been the first, but was by no means the last.

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