Home / History / That Old Paskamansett Landing

That Old Paskamansett Landing

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by Joe Silvia

Paskamansett landing is a site that we’ve all driven past a number of times and never realized. As a matter of fact, many of us drive by it every day, some a few times a day. It is a site rich with history and the earliest settled by Europeans in the region. Paskamansett Landing is on 287 State Road across the street from the old Mr. Tux and just before Rose & Vicki’s. There is a small picnic area, canoe launch and memorial that overlooks the Paskamansett “waterfall.” It’s a gorgeous place to listen to the hypnotic, steady stream of water running by and capture some amazing wildlife smack dab in the middle of the busiest part of the town of Dartmouth. Because of this many do not even know it exists!

Immediately after the 115,000 acres of land was purchased by Governor Bradford and the 36 original proprietors from Wasamequin and his son Wamsutta in 1652, Ralph Russell saw an opportunity and left Taunton/Raynham to settle in Dartmouth, or Olde Dartmouth. Russell was originally from Pontipool, Monmouthshire, Wales, and along with brothers (not his) James and Henry Leonard built the first iron-works in North America at Taunton. Waterways are the foundations of civilization since life can’t be sustained without it. Many occupations can’t exist or properly function without water. It’s the first thing pioneers and settlers look for and what Mr. Russell did when he came to Dartmouth. He needed water to run his ironwork, specifically to cool the metal products that he forged.

Paskamansett River Landing

At that time, early in the 17th century he came directly to what was then called the Paskamansett River from the Algonquin language meaning “Fork at the path.” Depending on which part of the river you are on, it is also called Slocum’s River (salt-water portion) named after Anthony Slocum who was contemporaneous with Ralph Russell. Here Russell built the second iron-works in all of North America. This Russell is of course the antecedent of the prominent Russell family that shows up in the region’s history in general and specifically of the Joseph Russell that gave New Bedford its name.

Further down the river from that site is Paskamansett Landing. The river or rivers that pass by the landing originate at Sassaquin or Myle’s Pond before meandering through New Bedford into Dartmouth, by the town’s former dump, under Route 195 and towards Smiths Mills and the landing. Of course, it continues on towards Russells Mills. This river was so healthy at one time that it supported rather large river herring runs. In spite of the march of modern progress, pollution and development, there is still a surprisingly sizable variety of wildlife including Red-winged Blackbirds, Osprey, Warblers, Snapping Turtles, Snowy White Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Bass, Bluefish and even Deer! There is enough wildlife to form a Paskamansett Bird Club.

On the landing site is also the original grist mill grinding stone that George Babcock used back in 1686. You can even still see some of the foundation stones and granite pilings from his original mill. In 1706, Elishib or Elisha Smith purchased the rights to the mill and waterway and dubbed the spot “Smith Mills Village.” By 1792 Benjamin Cummings built his homestead nearby, and opened a grocery store and meat market and owned the property until he passed in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War. In 1938 the Szymanski Family bought the property and a few generations lived on the property, ran an auto parts store, and a Chevrolet Dealership and Garage. The Szymanskis along with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Self-Help Program other contributors, financially funded the project to turn part of the property into a scenic park, historic site and canoe launch which was completed in 1999.

Paskamansett River Landing Sign

The site is the great spot to launch a canoe or kayak even for beginners. It also features a few monuments and dedicatory plaques, benches to rest your weary legs or soul, and even a bird house! If you are on your way to work and have a few minutes to rest or have a 15 minute break or lunch consider stopping by the landing and transport yourself to a nature reserve that is “miles” and years away! It will recharge your soul, re-energize and revitalize you. During warmer weather it’s a great spot to curl up to a good book, take some great shots of the wildlife, or simply sit and imagine what the site was like from the 1650s onward.

Special thanks to the New Bedford Whaling Museum for the use of the old photos.


About Joe Silvia

When Joe isn't writing, he's coaching people to punch each other in the face. He enjoys ancient cultures, dead and living languages, cooking, benching 999#s, and saving the elderly, babies and puppies from burning buildings. While he enjoys long walks on the beach, he will not be your alarm clock, because he's no ding-a-ling.

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16 comments

  1. Thanks for writing this. I appreciate all of the history you have informed us about (and while I have sat at the picnic table behind rose and vickie’s and heard water–I never explored it because I thought it was a water fountain in someone’s yard).

    I’ve added this to my list of places to explore, thanks a lot!

  2. Thanks M! I am always shocked that anyone takes time to read these articles. They certainly can be historically heavy and not the type to read if you are in a rush. I am even more shocked that people take time to share their own anecdotes.

    The landing is a great spot to transport you away, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. That can be just enough to re-energize and head back out into the “world.”

    Kindest regards!
    -Joe

  3. I grew up around Smith Mills in the late 50’s – early 60’s. I knew Mike Szymanski from the Shell station days and often bought parts there to keep our old junkers running. I spent a lot of time at “The Barron”, Bob Grinnell’s garage across the street where we worked on race cars for Seekonk Speedway.

    Pop Paradise had a machine shop in the old mill next door. There were still remnants of the millwheel and spillway in the back.

    We often skated on the river in the winter and complained about the suds and pollution coming from the Dry Cleaners there. I guess dumping crap in the river was just an accepted practice back then.

    While I haven’t lived in the area for many years, it hurts to see the Smith Mills of my youth has completely disappeared.

  4. Love it, love it. Nothing breathes life to these images and stories more than anecdotes that people like yourself share. Thanks!

    -Joe

    • Hello Joe , always like hearing about my river love that picture saw that view alot because I worked there ,at the car lot !!! You probably remember me , know Bob Carney very well , all the old timers of north Dartmouth , miss them all ,the guy who lived in the Mr tux house was Bob Grinell / the Barron , that shows my age huh !!!

  5. Enjoy your articles Joe…keep them coming..

    ~ Bren

  6. Joe,
    I loved your article about Smith Mills and the Russels etc, I also enjoyed your “About Joe Silvia” section below it and especially how you coach people to punch each other in the face. That is an enjoyable thing to be involved in as I have done it myself several times in the past. Keep up the good work.
    Roger

  7. Have drive by there many times and wondered about the site where is there parking or an entrance so one can explore

  8. I grew up near smith mills long befor I-95 and the development of faunce corner road.Bought my first car from mike szmanski for $50 and went to school w/ his youngest son. I also had a friend who lived in the old mr tux house ,name escapes me,albert was the first name Bob carney had a hardware store in the old mill until at least the late 60’s there was a fight to save it but oil money won out.enjoyed your article don’t stop writing ……jim

    • Hello Jim Sears, the guy who lived in Mr tux was Bob Grinell /the baron was his Nick name ,he raced at seaconk speedway ,that was his son you know , I worked at Szymanski’s car lot / Smith mills motors ,the guy with long hair and fisherman’s hat the good old days ! Now living in Florida ,still miss Dartmouth ‘ brings back memories !

  9. My grandfather used to take me here all the time as a little girl! we use to call it the root beer river.it was a place for just me and him to go and we had picnics here all the here. Every time I go there its just a place for me to reflect and remember the good times I had with him thank you for sharing this story!

  10. Jonathan bernier

    i always liked to go to this place, it is def overlooked here is a shot i took years back of it https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1294279715898&set=a.1294271275687.46547.1197461312&type=3&theater

  11. Is the water near the falls clean enough to go in and sit on rocks or such beneath them? I would love to find someplace to swim and sit under a waterfall…..
    Thank you, Nancy

  12. I was one of the last people who went from the landing to 195 by power boat lived on the river all my life,was a active member of the save the paski project , had prisoners help with cleaning along 195 at top of the river and behind STOP AND SHOP which is probably a mess all over again , hope not !!! 195 probably is because dumpster trucks going onto the 195 with their door on top kept open when full let’s a lot just blow out ,that is what we figured out due to scratch tickets that were already cashed in .live in Florida now miss all my friends in Dartmouth .

  13. Carol Carney Veiga

    The hardware store was owned by William Carney not Bob and it was not in the mill but on the corner where the gas station is now.

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