Time outside has positive impacts on mental health, creativity, and work productivity. Everyone feels better with their feet in the water and the sun on their face. So what if access to nature was combined with first-class amenities? How much happier and well would we be? At River Mountain, we think a lot. River Mountain is the first-ever glamping retreat. Personalized outdoors experiences for every level of adventurer combined with first of their kind luxury accommodations, amenities that matter, and modern remote workspaces. Minimalist luxury, stunning landscapes, thoughtful attention to work-life, affordability, and hosts who get it.
We look forward to your stay and connecting with you in the outdoors!
River Mountain Retreat acknowledges Indigenous Peoples as the traditional stewards of the land, and the enduring relationship that exists between them and their traditional territories. The land on which we sit is the traditional unceded territory of the Massawomeck. We acknowledge the painful history and forced occupation of their territory, and we honor and respect the many diverse indigenous people connected to this land on which we gather from time immemorial.
The first time we visited the River Mountain property - at the time Kurt and Christi Bonello’s farm - what stood out the most to our group was the old log cabin. As we drove down the driveway, it stood by itself, perfectly placed at the top of the hill with the valley below. Believed to be constructed by the Wilkinson family in 1807, the log cabin was perfectly situated among good soils and plenty of water. And in a tribute to its craftsmen, its hand-hewn logs, and some original chinking, still stood as they were raised over 200 years ago. Brandon, Meg, and I stood in awe, staring at the structure. 1807?! What must the Wilkinson family have been like? How did they live for generations in such a tiny place? What did they do to earn money? What crops did they plant?
For anyone reading this, I realize this might be the wrong way to start an acknowledgment letter. But I think it’s important to acknowledge those first reactions, because unfortunately they’re common. It’s common to see “history” as beginning with “settlement”, or maybe more simply stated, through the lens of what’s left physically, still standing in front of you.
What’s harder, more rewarding, and more important, is to dig deeper. To take the time to go back another 200 years to the indigenous people who originally called this land home -- the Massawomeck.
Unfortunately, not much is known about the Massowomeck. But this does not make their story any less important than other tribes about which volumes have been written. For me, it actually makes them more interesting because we’re left asking even more questions without answers. What we do know, viewed through the lens of a few, brief English encounters and unverifiable assumptions is this(1):
1. Not much is known about the Massawomeck. No archeological sites have been found that can be attributed to their people.
2. Eyewitness and contemporary accounts of the Massawomeck, which are confined to the period 1607-1634, are closely associated with the founding of the English Jamestown and Maryland colonies in tidewater Virginia.
3. Massawomeck were first identified by the English in 1607 by John Smith, a charter member of the Jamestown Council. He learned of the Massawomeck from Wahunsencawh, principal chief of the Powhatan, in whose territory the English had founded their Jamestown colony. Early publications by Smith and others provided little information about the Massawomeck, and in some cases, erroneous information.
4. Seventeenth-century primary and secondary accounts regarding the Massawomeck indicate that in the period 1607-1634 they occupied two distinct and widely separated territories. Initially ca. 1608, they were located in a lacustrine territory associated with the St Lawrence River, in a manner not yet understood clearly. Later ca. 1632, when they were visited by Edward Fleet, they were located in the Appalachian “hinterland” not far from the Chesapeake Bay.
5. We know they traded furs along the Potomac with early settlers such as Henry Fleet and the newly established Maryland colony. Henry Fleet’s Journal of events on the Potomac from 1627-1632 provides perhaps the most detailed first hand account of the Massawomeck. During this time, Fleet and his brother Edward traded furs with the Massawomeck, visited their homeland, and heard accounts of their exploits from the Potomac River Algonquians.
6. Several early maps, such as Robert Dudley’s derivative map Virginia Vecchio e Nuoua of 1647, show the Massawomeck located in the hinterland west of the Chesapeake Bay.
7. They are believed to be a tribe that was governed by 4 kings, whose villages and possibly kings as well, are identified as Tonhoga, Mosticum, Shaunetowa, and Usserahak. Their villages were believed to be large, with Usserahak possibly having a population as large as 7,000.
8. They are often classified as Iroquois, but this has never been proven. No one can definitively say if they were Iroquois, Erie, Oneida, Pocoughtranacks, Whittlesey, Monongahela, or Seneca.
9. It is not known what language the Massawomeck spoke.
10. The Powhatan, also known historically as Virginia Algonquians, referred to the Massawomeck as ‘Pocaughtawonauk’.
11. Early French settlers in the Lake Erie region referred to the Massawomeck as the ‘Antouhonoron’.
So where does that leave us as we acknowledge and explore the land where the Massawomeck once lived and traveled, but without much understanding of their culture or daily lives? The word that keeps coming to me is responsibility. I believe we’re left with three responsibilities:
1. Love the Land. We know the Massawomeck loved this land and what it provided for them. We should never stop loving the land as they did. The valleys, the creeks, the ridges, the creatures, the sounds -- they remain today as the common thread we share with the Massawomeck. They cared for this land and managed it in their own way. We should do the same.
2. Education. River Mountain will educate guests on what we know about the Massawomeck, being careful not to educate on assumptions or conjecture. Although tipis are not believed to be the Massawomeck’s type of dwelling - some believe they lived in longhouses like the Iroquios, but this has never been confirmed - we believe tipis serve as an entry point to acknowledge the Massawomeck’s history here, as well as all indigenous history in this region, and to educate guests. The experience of sleeping in a tipi generates questions -- who were the indigenous peoples that lived on this land, how did they live, when did they live here? Even if our understanding is limited, we believe passing that along to future generations is important.
3. Give Back. River Mountain is a corporate partner of Ganondagan State Historic Site. The site includes “The Seneca Art & Culture Center which fulfills a vision as a year-round interpretative facility telling the living history of the Seneca & Haudenosaunee.” While this is not a direct donation to a Massawomeck related organization, we strongly believe in the Ganondagan State Historic Site’s mission of educating people about “the culture, art, agriculture, and how the government of the Seneca people influenced our modern understanding of equality, democratic government, women’s rights, ecology and natural foods.”
1) Pendergast, James F. “The Massawomeck: Raiders and Traders into the Chesapeake Bay in the Seventeenth Century.” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 81, no. 2, 1991, pp. i-101. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1006560.