Chief Passaconaway

The inspiration for creating the Passaconaway Wildlife Refuge is embodied by the life of Chief Passaconaway, who lived in central and southern New Hampshire from as early as 1555 until his death in 1679. In all accounts of written history by white settlers, the Chief was considered to be a genius and wise leader. During his lifetime, Chief Passaconaway consolidated at least a dozen local tribes under Penacook leadership.


Despite many failed promises and personal attacks by the new settlers, including the arrest of his sons and daughter-in-law on false charges, Passaconaway consistenly urged his tribe to maintain peace with European settlers. Both action-hero and diplomat, he was known by his people as Papisse Conewa, translated to mean "Child of the Bear." 


Among some native Americans, Passaconaway was thought of as a holy many with supernatural powers. William Wood, in his New-England Prospect of 1639 wrote: The Indians report of one Passaconnaw, that hee can make the water burne, the rocks move, the trees dance, metamorphise himself into a flaming man. Hee will do more; for in winter, when there are  no green leaves to be got, he will burne an old one to ashes, and putting those into the water, produce a new green leaf, which you shall not only see, but substantially handle and carrie away; and make of a dead snake’s skin a living snake, both to be seen, felt and heard.”


According to one legend, upon his death, Chief Passaconaway was carried away to live with the Great Spirit on a sled pulled by two dozen wolves. Atop Agiocochook, his body burst into flames. 


Until now, Passaconaway's legacy, named in his honor, includes a single peak in the New Hampshire mountains. It is our hope that the Passaconaway Wildlife Refuge will honor a great leader who once walked the land, by maintaining a peaceful co-existence with the people and wildlife who call this area their home.






Visiting the Refuge

Advanced appointments are required to visit the Refuge. Visitors are welcome except when active research studies are being conducted. Activities include hiking, picnicing, swimming, overnight camping, and informational tours of the Refuge. Visiting is free of charge.


To schedule an appointment


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