Historical Commission removes problematic wording from sign

Sep 17, 2019

The Dartmouth Historical Commission has removed problematic wording from a sign on a historic site in Padanaram, following a decision on September 9 to set up a subcommittee tasked with writing a new description.

The sign for the Russell Garrison on Fort Street was put up in 2018 and announces the site’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, briefly describing what occurred there in Dartmouth’s early days.

But controversial language describing a historic conflict known as King Philip’s War has now been removed from the sign after public outcry.

“On this site inside the home outlined by its remaining foundation, local citizens sheltered in 1675 as they sought safety from attacking Native Americans,” the sign used to read.

At a public hearing on September 9, residents took issue with the language, stating that it was too simplistic for the complex history and that it appeared to be written from the point of view of the colonists.

“We listened, and we removed what was considered controversial wording,” said Commission Chair Judith Lund. “I went over and edited the sign to make it less of an issue.” She added that the words were “easy to remove.”

At the end of the hearing the Historical Commission voted to set up a subcommittee to work on the language for a new sign. 

Lund stated the subcommittee’s first meeting will take place next week.

The garrison site was built by John Russell and was used as a refuge for settlers during the conflict in 1675. Although the structure itself is gone, the stone foundation can still be seen from the street.

According to archaeologist Holly Herbster ⁠— who has extensively researched historical accounts of the garrison ⁠— in July 1675, a group of Native Americans surrendered their weapons and sought refuge at the site. But they were later taken to Plymouth, where they were sold into slavery.