© 2001-2011 WREN
Rag Rock
 Rag Rock - Spectacular View of Boston Skyline and Horn Pond
'Rag Rock'

By Marie Coady

(Photo: Spectacular view of Boston skyline and Horn Pond from Rag Rock conservation area)

It took an Arizona girl to teach me to truly appreciate the beauty of my own back yard. That Arizona girl, my niece, Bridget Kathleen Connelly, recently helped me see through her eyes, again and for the first time, the beauty of Rag Rock.

Rag Rock, once known as Mount Mianomo by the Pawtucket Indians, was a vast area that included wooded hills and rocky slopes that spread over much of West Woburn. It was the place the Pawtuckets chose to locate their village.

Today, Rag Rock is a mere 10 acres of Conservation Area located close to Woburn Center between Bacon and Houghton Streets with a rugged promontory that faces Harrison Avenue and rises 246 feet at its highest point, overlooking Horn Pond and the Boston skyline beyond.

On Bridget’s first trip to Rag Rock, as we stood on the edge of the world looking out over Woburn and all the way to the spine of the Boston skyline, Bridget exhaled a satisfying “Wow!”, then stood in awe, looking out over the horizon from the rugged cliff of Mount Mianomo.

Watching her I was transported to that time 400 years ago when Pawtucket sentries kept watch and mystery and legend surrounded them like the winter winds and the clouds before a summer shower.

 View from Rag Rock Conservation Area - Fall Photo
The Rag Rock Conservation area is one of Woburn's best spots to just sit, reflect and take in the surrounding beauty.

Are you interested in coming along with other WREN members for a guided visit of any of Woburn's conservation areas? Send an email to: WRENmail@yahoo.com indicating your area of interest and we will let you know about our upcoming walks.

In addition to nature walks, WREN organizes several Woburn conservation area 'Clean-Up Events' throughout the year and we are allways looking for additional hands to help.

If you want to help, email us at WRENmail@yahoo.com

It was cold and windy when we first arrived at 9:00am.

After unloading the equipment, we started to clean the rock out-cropping near the water tower and places surrounded by trees and more protected from the wind.

As time went on and more “workers” arrived, we quickly spread all over the top of Rag Rock and spent the next three hours picking up the broken glass piece by piece.

 Rag Rock Clean Up - November 15, 2003
On Saturday, November 15, 2003, a group of 30 plus WREN members returned to Rag Rock to continue the Broken Glass Removal Project we started in the fall of 2002.

The group met at the top of Hillside Ave. armed with generators, shop vacs, brooms, brushes, pans and plenty of warm layers of clothing and gloves.

We removed much of the broken glass from the Rag Rock Conservation Area.

Paul Huckfeld and another volunteer
Right to left: Bill Maher, Ed Quinn and his two sons
Tracey Harwood and Roger Wong
Areve Alexander uses a shop vac to remove broken glass.
Photo of Gretchen Long (Rag Rock Steward) and Joel Long.

Gretchen and Joel, who live near the Rag Rock Conservation area, served hot chocolate to the volunteers.

Gerry Kehoe
 The Legend of Rag Rock

by Marie Coady

Mount Mianomo holds many mysteries. In ancient times the summit of Mount Mianomo was shrouded in mist and lightning played along its edges. The shadows of primitive beings skittered along its surface and flashed their spirits over the land in the sparks of lightning that ricocheted off its red rocks. Sometimes the setting sun left a halo of copper that lingered over Mount Mianomo and made it seem part of the sky.

In the Autumn of the time before the white man came, Nansema, or She Who Steals Hearts, lived at the foot of Mount Mianomo. There her tribe of Pawtucket Indians made their home in peace. Her father, Wabanowi, was the great chief of the tribe.

Wabanowi knew Mount Mianomo’s secrets. He alone knew the magic powers of the Glittering Cave that burrowed deep in the recesses of Mount Mianomo. It was where he gathered the wisdom to guide his tribe. There was only one being with whom Wabanowi would share his secret and that was his treasured daughter, Nansema.

A brave chief of the Narragansett tribe made his way north to hunt. When he came to the Pawtucket village, he fell in love with Nansema. His name was Winitihooloo, or Fighting Bear.

At first Winitihooloo was welcomed by Wabanowi. But when Winitihooloo declared his love for Nansema, Wabanowi found reason to deny him the hand of his daughter and sent him away. Winitihooloo left Nansema behind, vowing to return for her.

When Winitihooloo did return, it was a time of great trouble and grief for the Pawtuckets. A great pestilence had spread across the land and the Pawtuckets suffered greatly. Winitihooloo came to take Nansema away to his village. But her father held fast to his decision.

Nansema, having shared the secret of the Glittering Cave with Winitihooloo, sent him one of its gleaming rocks. It was their signal to meet there. But someone evil followed her and discovered the secret.

The cave was filled with gold and the evil one wished to have it for his own.

When Winitihooloo arrived for their meeting, a great battle ensued and the gods shook the mountain and trapped the lovers inside with the evil one. For four hundred years, Winitihooloo and Nansema have waited to be rescued. They have cried out to many throughout the years, but only served to frighten them.

Mount Mianomo is no longer called by that ancient name. Today, it is known as Rag Rock, the name chosen by white settlers who arrived from England in 1640 to make their homes there. Modern technology has cut the mighty Mount Mianomo down to size, and only a small part of its majesty remains. But the secret is still locked inside its reddish-brown core, and the evil one still holds Nansema and Winitihooloo captive inside the Glittering Cave.

Finally, the day has arrived when the perfect two people have come together to fight the battle with the evil one and free Nansema and Winitihooloo without giving away the secret of the Glittering Cave.

But today’s reality is somewhat less romantic. Sad to say, in spite of the spectacular view from that ancient promontory, what was most disappointing was finding that Rag Rock’s landscape is literally paved with broken bottles, trash and the remnants of fires that have left the rock floor of its summit scarred, black and sooty and the pathways rutted with the tracks of motorbikes.

On the way back down the path to Hillside Avenue where I had parked my car, my niece Bridget asked quite candidly if the people of Woburn were aware of this treasure. And why, she wondered, did they not take better care of it? I was hard pressed to come up with an answer.

 Where is the Rag Rock Conservation Area?

Map courtesy of Gene Vogt