Did We Attend College on the Mohawk Trail?
Either Williamstown is actually located on that part of Route 2 known as the Mohawk Trail, built for pioneering motorists in the early twentieth century, or it isn’t. On the resolution of this question hangs the bragging rights of us and all other Ephs to be sons/daughters of the Mohawk Trail, nor not. Did we care as students? Of course not. But as more mature adults, history begins to matter to us.
It appears that neither the College, the Williamstown Theater Festival, the Clark Museum, nor the town of Williamstown actually claims that it is located on the Mohawk trail. Is this just modesty? A missed promotional opportunity? Recognition that to claim so would be politically incorrect today? Or the reality that an old tourism route is unimportant to the modern prosperity of a town or its institutions?
The original Mohawk Trail was built for the fledgling motorist public back in 1912-14, supposedly along a genuine, native American trail. It was reputedly the first of its kind in the US. The Trail along Route 2 was a byway of great scenic beauty, but it soon attracted sellers of “Indian” souvenirs and other kitsch, innkeepers of tourist cabins, and the like as well.
In answer to the vexing question, “Williamstown: Is it on it, or not?”, the magazine Motor Age, Volume 28, in 1915, defined the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts as extending from North Adams in the west to Millers Falls to the east (not including Williamstown). That noted authority (!) Wikipedia states that North Adams is “the western terminus” of the Mohawk Trail. Elsewhere on the internet there are many articles about the road. Some are by the likes of The New York Times and the Massachusetts tourist board, lumping Williamstown with the other string of towns under the rubric of the Mohawk Trail. Indeed, the State’s tourism website declares: “The Mohawk Trail’s western end is located in Williamstown…“ Purists take note.
To their credit, Williams College students conducted research in 1992 that led to the reclamation of the Mahican-Mohawk Trail, the actual, native American walking path, by volunteers. Tellingly, its western trailhead is North Adams, not Williamstown.