Folktale Friday: “The Legend Of Lake Hoccomocca” (Westborough Historical Society Third Grade Program)

Judge W. Trowbridge Forbes and his four children in a boat on Hoccomocco Pond, ca. 1890.

Lake Hoccomocco was one of the places used by early Native Americans for hunting, fishing, and making tools.  According to Indian legend, the Evil Spirit or Hobomoc, hides beneath the dark surface of Lake Hoccomocco.  The legend starts with the story of the beautiful maiden Iano.

Many young Indians wanted to marry the beautiful Iano. She chose the young chief, Sassacus.  One brave, Wequoash, was angry at not being chosen. He wanted to get revenge.  On the eve of the wedding, Wequoash went off into the woods to go hunting for a mountain lion.  He found a mountain lion and killed it. 

On his way back to the village, Wequoash saw Iano out in a canoe on the lake.  He swam underwater to her canoe. As she leaned over the side, he grabbed her hair and pulled her into the water. He used a rock to sink the canoe and Iano’s body to the bottom of the lake.

Sassacus and his men were searching for Iano by moonlight when the chief saw his bride and her canoe disappear mysteriously into the dark waters.  He was convinced that the Evil Spirit Hobomoc had killed her.

When Wequoash returned a few days later with the mountain lion, he was praised by Chief Sassacus for his bravery. That was not enough for the greedy Wequoash!  He wanted to be the chief. He secretly poisoned Sassacus and killed him.

On a night one year later Wequoash saw a blue flame in the middle of the lake. Then a mysterious canoe floated across the lake. Wequoash got into the canoe. The canoe took him to the flame that turned into Iano’s face!

Another year passed.  Wequoash again saw the blue flame. The mysterious canoe came towards him again.  He boarded the canoe and traveled to the spot of Iano’s murder.  This time the spirit whispered, “Only once more.”

Wequoash became sad during the next year. He gathered his tribe about him on the shores of the lake. He finally confessed to the murders of Iano and Sassacus.  When the ghostly canoe came this time, it took Wequoash to the middle of the lake again. Now he saw the face of Sassacus in the blue flame. Wequoash was frightened.  He wrapped his cloak about himself and disappeared forever.

From that time on, every time the Indians crossed Lake Hoccomocco, they dropped a rock at the spot Iano was drowned. They wanted to please the Evil Spirit.  A pile of rocks was built up in the middle of the lake.  Years later, fishermen would often run into it.  If you stand at the side of the lake, look very hard out into the middle.  See if you can make out a rock pile marking Iano’s resting place.

* * *


Hoccomocco Pond on Otis Street, ca. 1970.

From “A Look at Westborough’s Historic Past,” The Community Advocate, June 27, 1997.

According to Jacqueline Tidman (former historical librarian):

It was said that this pond [Hoccomocco] was where a beautiful Indian maiden was drowned by a spurned lover, and her body and canoe were secreted in its depths. The man went on to poison her soon-to-be bridegroom, and assumed a position of leadership amongst their tribe.

On the anniversary of her death, the maiden’s spirit returned, beckoning the traitorous warrior back to the pond. On the second anniversary of her death, her spirit returned once again, drawing him to paddle out to the spot where he had drowned her.

On the third anniversary, he could contain his secret no longer, and confessed his crime. With the entire village watching, he paddled out to meet the maiden’s spirit. But, instead of the maiden, the spirit of his rival appeared, and amidst thunder and smoke the spirit and the murderer disappeared forever.

It is said that, even into the nineteenth century, people avoided the environs of the haunted pond—especially at night.

***

Click here to read more Westborough Folktales!

Note that various versions of the same folk tale will be published so as to compare how each are told.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: