Brush Mountain

About Brush Mountain Conservation Area

Brush Mountain Conservation Area is a 46 acre town-owned historical and recreation area with a trail to the top of the mountain. The trailhead shared with the Town Forest and Bald Hills Trails, and is located on the east side of Gulf Road, just after the powerlines as you drive south.

The trail is a small section of the New England Trail (NET) and is blazed white. After a fairly level beginning as it passes the Calvin Swan Homestead Site, it turns left rather than crossing the powerlines into the town forest. The last quarter-mile is a steeper gradient to the top of Brush Mountain.

The top of Brush Mountain is a rocky outcropping, reached after approximately 0.6 miles. At the property boundary, the trail continues southwest on a newly opened section of the NET, which crosses over the ridge and connects to Old Wendell Road.

Calvin Swan Homestead

Calvin Swan (1799-1875), a free black man, and his family had a homestead and sawmill here. You can see cellar holes and a spring not far from the trailhead. Calvin was a well-respected man at a time when African Americans were not well integrated into white society. Here he purchased land, served on the school board, and helped found the mountain chapter of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Swan helped build some of the homes on Main Street Northfield, and was able to establish his own sawmill and carpentry business.

Native American History

On the shore of the glacial Lake Hitchcock (12,000 BP), these hills are part of a larger sacred landscape that was especially significant to Native Americans as the home of  Hobomok (Hobomac), a giant spirit-being who slept under the hills and when called upon slew the giant beaver whose body became Wequamps (Mt. Sugarloaf).

Established Native paths, including part of the Gulf Road, led colonists to Squakheag. Later called Northfield, this area was long the northernmost outpost of European colonization (1673-1775), and at the southernmost range of the Abenaki.

Normally uplands are used by Native Americans for hunting and as a source of quartz; however, the presence of Hobomac may have curtailed some of these activities on Brush Mountain. His presence under the mountain was indicated by his breath coming out of the ground, melting snow even in the dead of winter. These deep holes were also hibernacula for rattlesnakes at that time, although they have been eradicated since.

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