Home Massachusetts The Musketaquid Comes Out of the Cellar

The Musketaquid Comes Out of the Cellar


[jpshare]Henry David Thoreau took his little boat Musketaquid out of the cellar in early March 1855 because the Concord River had iced out and he didn’t want to miss a day on it.

Egg Rock, where the Sudbury and Assabet rivers form the Concord, or Musketaquid, River

Egg Rock, where the Sudbury and Assabet rivers form the Concord, or Musketaquid, River

We know this because he wrote about it in his journal on March 8, 1855:

This morning I got my boat out of the cellar and turned it up in the yard to let the seams open before I calk it. The blue river, now almost completely open (i.e., excepting a little ice in the recesses of the shores and a good deal over the meadows), admonishes me to be swift.

Thoreau and his brother John had built the Musketaquid together, and then taken it on a week-long river voyage in 1839. They rowed and drifted from Concord, Mass., to Concord, N.H., in 1839.

We seemed to be embarked on the placid current of our dreams, floating from the past to future as silently as one awakes to fresh morning or evening thoughts. We glided noiselessly down the stream, he wrote.

Three years later, John died in Henry’s arms. He had developed tetanus after cutting himself shaving.

Henry David Thoreau, 1854

Henry David Thoreau, 1854

From 1845-47, Henry David Thoreau lived at Walden Pond, where he wrote A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers as a tribute to his brother. In it, he described the Concord River and the grassy meadows through which it flowed:

The Musketaquid, or Grass-ground River, though probably as old as the Nile or Euphrates, did not begin to have a place in civilized history, until the fame of its grassy meadows and its fish attracted settlers out of England in 1635, when it received the other but kindred name of CONCORD from the first plantation on its banks, which appears to have been commenced in a spirit of peace and harmony. It will be Grass-ground River as long as grass grows and water runs here; it will be Concord River only while men lead peaceable lives on its banks. …Concord River is remarkable for the gentleness of its current, which is scarcely perceptible, and some have referred to its influence the proverbial moderation of the inhabitants of Concord … it appears to have been properly named Musketaquid, or Meadow River, by the Indians. For the most part, it creeps through broad meadows…


Richard March 9, 2016 - 12:29 am

Sorry but the boat that Thoreau wrote about in 1855 was not the Musketaquid. He sold that to Hawthorne in 1842. Hawthorne then sold the boat to Ellery Channing, who let the boat rot and fall apart.

Richard Smith March 9, 2016 - 1:03 pm

The boat that Thoreau is talkingabout in 1855 is NOT the Musketaquid. That boat was sold to hawthorne in 1842, who, in turn, sold it to Ellery Channing in 1845. Channing let the boat sit in his yaerd and rot away.

The Two Loves of Louisa May Alcott - New England Historical Society November 17, 2019 - 1:51 pm

[…] he took the children on his boat, the Musketaquid, and gave them lessons as they floated down the Sudbury and Assabet rivers. As they passed the […]

Comments are closed.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest artciles from the New England Historical Society

Thanks for Signing Up!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Now and Get The Latest Articles. 

It's Free!

You have Successfully Subscribed!