This is the story of how Rattlesnake Mountain got its name -- at least, its name among the European settlers. (Archeologists from the Univ. of Massachusetts have dug here. It turns out that people have been coming here at least one or two seasons of the year for the past 6,000 years, most likely to hunt and to gather and boil nuts for their fat.)
As for the legend: my father told me this when I was young; he learned it from an old man in town.
One day in the 1830s, the Palmer boys, who lived nearby, came home late to dinner. They were supposed to be on time for dinner. To be late was naughty; but they had an excuse. They had been exploring the mountain behind the house, and found rattlesnakes! (I should note here that Rattlesnake is more a hill than a mountain; and indeed, old timers still refer to it as Rattlesnake Hill. I don't know how it got to be called a mountain, except that the road is called Rattlesnake Mountain Road.)
The boys said that rattlesnakes were basking in the sun on rocky ledges near the top of the mountain. This was a good excuse, except that next day the whole family climbed the hill to find snakes, but found none.... And as far as I know, no one has seen nor heard a rattlesnake on Rattlesnake Mountain to this day.
However, in defense of the boys, I should say that there might have been rattlesnakes there. I have heard it said that people do find rattlers on mountains just south; and that this is the northern edge of their range. Rattlesnake Mountain has wonderful rock ledges. Snakes would love to sun themselves upon them, except that now the mountain is covered with trees, and the ledges are all in shadow. But 160 years ago, the ledges were sunny. The forest had been cut to make charcoal for the local iron works and for heating people's houses, and it had not yet grown back.
Return to: Rattlesnake Home Page