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French River / Maanexit River name controversy

Posted on January 18, 2018 at 12:55 AM

Here is some information pertaining to the historical and current name of this river.

• 1811 map: French River

• 1831 map: French River

• 1855 map: French River

 

• The Huguenots in the Nipmuck Country or Oxford prior to 1713, by George F. Daniels, 1880

p. 49: "While on the subject of names we would not that there is an obvious impropriety in calling the river running west of the village, the "French river." The tradition alluded to by Dr. Holmes, that part of the settlers located near that stream, is evidently erroneous, as it was outside the village line, and therefore not included in the grant, and if this were not the case it is altogether improbable that the small and comparatively defenceless body of men who came here, would scatter themselves over so large a territory as they must have done, had they settled there. The proper name of this stream is that given to it by the natives -- "Maanexit."

• Oxford History, 1728 (published 1892), p. 115 and 767: Maanexit River

• Knowlton's "Flora of Worcester County", 1900, refers to the Maanexit river.

• 1936, March 19 article, first page of the Lawrence, Kansas Daily Journal mentions dynamiting of a N.H. R.R. embankment to release waters of the 'Maanexit' River (AP story - same in The Tuscaloosa (ALA) News.

• Worcester Telegram & Gazette article, Ed Patenaude, 28 Aug 2008: "Shirley (Savageau) Norcross of Wells, Maine, happened by her parents' home during their absence, and uncovered some old newspapers about the 1936 flood. It lists all the bodies of water in Worcester County that overflowed their banks during the storm, including the French River in Oxford and North Oxford, North Grosvenordale and Putnam. The same river still flows through Webster and Dudley, but it was listed as the Maanexit River in '36, and Irene wanted to know why. The Maanexit was the Webster-Dudley name for the waterway over a great many decades, but that usage was slowly displaced by "French River" after 1936, giving the name continuity, like the river."

• local lore:

Sometime following the incorporation of Webster (1832) as a separate town from Dudley and Oxford there was concern by some citizens of Dudley that the river name Maanexit was being associated with an interest by some Webster citizens who might be interested in annexing Dudley to Webster, and thus the river name, sounding so much like 'may annex it', fell out of favor and the name French River became more popular. (sources: recollections, Ed Patenaude, Stan Kabala)


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