Ashuelot River Mural
The city of Keene was once part of a large glacial lake bed known as Ashuelot Lake. Today, what remains is a 64-mile river spanning through Cheshire County from northeast to southwest and emptying into the Connecticut River at Hinsdale. “Ashuelot” is an Abenaki word meaning “place between” or “collection of many waters” or “place between the waters.” It was an important source for transportation and fishing for thousands of years.
By the early 18th century, the river provided a natural travel route for European settlers. Another reason that the river valleys were settled early was because they offered rich soil for farming and most of the early settlers were farmers. This is especially true in Keene, which was originally named “Upper Ashuelot” for the river. Swanzey, NH, just south of Keene was first named “Lower Ashuelot.”
Towns situated near the Ashuelot river, such as Keene, Swanzey, and Winchester, typically grew into regional hubs of commerce, industry and finance. Many industries of the day were dependent upon the river to power their mills. The Faulkner & Colony textile mill (est. 1815 and depicted in the mural), once situated alongside the river at West Street, became one of the town’s largest employers, for example.
Since the mid-to-late 1800s, the river has been a source of recreational activities for townspeople including swimming, fishing, ice skating, and boating. Marked trails wind their way along the river in Keene and the Ashuelot River Park is a popular spot for visitors.
The river is also an important wildlife habitat. The rare dwarf wedge mussel, blue heron, raptors, bald eagle, blue-gray gnatcatcher, loon, nighthawk, and other birds are all found along the river.
The poem seen off to the side of this mural is one that comes from a former employee of the Faulkner & Colony Mill, a woman who used to write poetry on her lunch breaks sitting out in the park.
In Our Collections
The Historical Society of Cheshire County has an archive and Wright reading room with access to publications, historic photographs, and maps related to the Ashuelot River.
HSCC Hours: Tues 9am-4pm, Wed 9am-9pm, Thurs 9am-4pm, Fri 9am-4pm, 1st & 3rd Saturdays 9am-12pm
- Ashuelot Park, 255 West Street, Keene, NH- 157-acre wooded park features a river & wetlands, plus trails & a paved bike path.
- Sawayer’s Crossing Covered Bridge, 181 Sawyer’s Crossing Road, Swanzey, NH- covered bridge with parking area beside the river.
- Denman Thompson Covered Bridge, 96 Main Street, West Swanzey, NH
- Ashuelot Covered Bridge, 20 Hampshire Court, Winchester, NH
- Pisgah State Park, Ashuelot, NH