Chapter 4 Who Else Came Here and What Did They Find?


It seems a simple enough question: Who else came here prior to settlement and what did they discover? Other than Champlain, I expected to confirm the landfalls of Columbus in the Caribbean, Ponce de Leon in Florida, Cartier in Newfoundland, Cabot in the Maritimes, Hudson in New York, and Smith in New England before getting to Bradford in Plymouth and the Dorchester Company, but instead I found a whole roster of complete unknowns (to me)—those who never made the history textbooks for undergraduates back in the day. For history is nothing if not selective. Those who may have seen the Algonquians of New England and Cape Ann prior to settlement included fleets of fishermen, fur traders, and slavers along with empire builders and those seeking gold, passages to the Orient, and eternal youth.

It’s perhaps easier to start with who did not come to Cape Ann, and that would include the Vikings. I found no evidence, not even a shred of circumstantial evidence, that Leif Ericson’s brother Thorvald was buried on Cape Ann in 1004 AD or even that Vikings actually set foot here. The surname actually was Eirikssen, and the father of Leif, Thorvald, and Thorstein Eirikssen was Erik Thorvaldson, or Erik the Red, the developer, if not discoverer, of Greenland.1

Robert Pringle, citing the 11th century Icelandic sagas in his 1895 history of Gloucester, says the Vikings named New England Vinland in 1007, but candidates for that name range from L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland to sites in New Brunswick; Newport, Rhode Island; Martha’s Vinyard; as far south as Virginia; and as far west as Minnesota. In Old Norse, vinland apparently could have meant “pastureland” or “meadowland” or “land of grapes” depending on how the word was pronounced. Those features of terrain would have been characteristic of New England, but hardly diagnostic of Norse exploration on Cape Ann. Algonquians created meadowland or parkland all along the Atlantic seaboard through their methods of land use, and wild grapevines grew on trees all up and down the coast between Newfoundland and New Jersey. The Sagas, meanwhile, refer to a heavily forested cape, not a parkland with vines, facing an elbow-shaped north-facing cape to its south, which Pringle and others took to mean Cape Cod.2

Confirmed Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland

Surviving Viking maps of the North Atlantic rim extend no further south than 50 degrees north latitude, supporting the conclusion that the lands and peoples the Norse described may have included Algonquians but were all north of Cape Ann, which lies below the 43rd parallel. Even assuming the explorers sailed farther south than their maps record, the problem remains of a lack of accepted or substantiated evidence.3

Ancient Viking Map of the North Atlantic Rim

Ortelius’s Map of the Scandinavian World in 1573

According to the Icelandic sagas and the 15th century Skalholtsbok manuscript, Thorwald—fatally wounded by natives he had attacked—requested to be buried at Krossanes, “Cape of the Crosses”, a mistranslation of Krossarnes, “Crossness”. This burial site has been claimed by Hampton, NH (which has a rock with rune-like scratchings claimed to be Thorvald’s headstone); as well as by Cape Neddick, ME; Gloucester, MA; Boston; Nahant; Lynn; and Duxbury. Duxbury even named a promontory Krossanes, quoting the same words other towns use to justify their claims. Other supposed runestones in New England, such as Dighton Rock in Berkeley, MA on the Taunton River, have not been authenticated despite perennial speculation. In Massachusetts, artifacts or sites of proposed but disputed Norse origin have also been found in Cambridge, Hingham, Medford, and a number of spots on Cape Cod.4

Thorvald’s Alleged Gravestone in Hampton, NH


 Dighton Rock in an 1853 Daguerreotype

In 1874 an influential book by Rasmus Anderson broke the news that the Norse and not Columbus had discovered America. Anti-Catholic and nativist Scandinavian groups promoted the claim, and soon there were new Viking archaeological finds from Wisconsin to Boston, where E. N. Horsford “discovered” that Norembega was really a Viking settlement on the Charles River. Victorian enthusiasm for the newfound historical significance of the Vikings was honored in the Columbian Exposition (or Chicago World’s Fair) of 1893, where a replica of a Viking ship was displayed along with replicas of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.5

The Viking en Route the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

 The exhibit of this replica of Leif Erikson’s Viking ship created a sensation at the Columbian Exposition and sparked a flurry of local efforts to “correct” their historical records. Historians of Cape Ann in the 1890s were not immune to the excitement. At that time, for the first time, the Vikings were added to local history. (James Robert Pringle, a journalist, publicist, and amateur historian living in Gloucester at the time, likely was influenced by the Viking craze.)

A postage stamp issued in the U.S. in 1925 commemorates the Viking ship featured in the Columbian Exposition. In 1919, the Scandinavian Fraternity of America petitioned Congress to declare officially that Leif Erikson discovered North America. Ultimately, in1964, October 9 became Leif Erikson Day as an optional holiday and alternative to Columbus Day on the national calendar. A Leif Erikson postage stamp was issued in 1968. Appropriation of the Vikings as a cultural icon includes statues and sports teams in communities as near as Rockport, MA and as far away as New Zealand with historically high populations of Scandinavian immigrants.6

            Viking Stamps

In his 1892 self-published History of Gloucester and Cape Ann, Pringle wrote that Thorwald was buried in Gloucester somewhere along the Back Shore. Earlier historians Adams, Babson, and Thornton had somehow failed to mention this. Norse literature states that Thorwald, sailing south in 1004 AD, had been going east around a rocky north-facing cape when he put ashore to mend a damaged rudder, found six Skraelings [natives] hiding under their beached canoes, killed them, except for one escapee, and was soon after mortally wounded in a retaliatory attack. It is written that he requested to be taken to a preferred spot to be buried and that the place be called Krossanes. According to Pringle, Krossanes was at Bass Rocks. There was even a Hotel Thorwald at Bass Rocks between 1899 and 1965, when it burned down. In 1909 it had 175 Rooms for Summer Tourists at $17.50 to $35 a Week.7

Hotel Thorwald in 1909

Norse literature also states that Thorvald’s burial site lay between two fjords, evidence of which neither Bass Rocks nor Cape Ann in general can provide. Pringle’s claim that Krossanes was on Cape Ann nevertheless persists as a part of our official history. A Krossanes does exist as a village in Iceland, Thorvald’s original homeland. Vikings are said to have gone to great lengths to have their bodies buried at home in Christian consecrated ground. Wherever in Vinland Thorvald was buried, his brother Thorstein later attempted unsuccessfully to retrieve the body in a subsequent expedition, most likely to rebury him in consecrated ground.8

That so many different towns wanted to be the home of the Vikings in America testifies to the enormous romance and caché the 19th century imagination attached to the drama of discovery. That was also the time when, in another great feat of imagination, a particular boulder on the beach became immortalized as Plymouth Rock. The boulder apparently had been identified in 1741, a hundred and twenty-one years after the Mayflower landing, by a 92-year-old church elder whose father had pointed it out to him on the beach (and who had not wanted a wharf to be built there).9

Plymouth Rock in the Victorian era (Hammett Billings, 1867)

But so much for who did not come to Cape Ann. Other than the Vikings at Vinland a thousand years ago, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Basque, Breton, Dutch, and French explorations and settlements all predated the English by as much as a hundred years. Among the many explorers who visited New England shores prior to the first attempted settlements were, as expected, Giovanni Caboto (known as John Cabot) and his sons, starting in 1497, and John Smith, starting in a 1607 sail-by on his way to Virginia, less than a year after Champlain had come ashore in Gloucester Harbor. Most history texts fail to mention other early discoveries, however, such as the Portuguese Diogo Ribeiro’s 1529 sightings of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which have seven peaks above 5,000 feet and can be seen far out to sea.10

Textual and archaeological evidence shows that as early as the late 14th century Basque and Breton fleets fished the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, Georges Bank in the Gulf of Maine and Tillies Bank, Jeffrey’s Ledge, and Stellwagen Bank off the Massachusetts coast. Later English chroniclers, such as John Brereton, on a 1602 Sir Walter Raleigh-sponsored voyage with Bartholomew Gosnold and Bartholomew Gilbert, reported how they saw Indians rowing Basque barques and wearing Basque jackets and leggings. Martin Pring, sailing up the Penobscot River in 1603, also saw evidence of Basque contact. In 1604, Champlain encountered Basques fishing near Sable Island off Nova Scotia who told him that Basques had been fishing there for more than a hundred and fifty years.11

Cosa’s Basque World Map of 1505 with Sites in North America

Basque seasonal fishing stations were clustered along the coast of Labrador, such as at Red Bay, and at sites such as Port aux Basques and St. Anthony in Newfoundland. Newfoundland was the Antarctica of the 16th century (until 1583 when Humphrey Gilbert claimed it for Queen Elizabeth and England). Different European nations claimed different portions of the coastline to establish fishing stations and processing centers for their fishing fleets. In this way countries shared the great bounty of codfish and whales, driving bowhead and right whales to near extinction within a hundred years.12

The Basques exported fish and whale oil to Europe and imported glass beads to trade with the Inuit. The Bretons (from Brittany, geographically the French equivalent of England’s Cornwall) fished off Nova Scotia and in the Gulf of Maine and claimed to have explored the entire coast of North America prior to Spanish claims to Florida in 1513. Native Americans living on the coasts, the first to become acculturated and bilingual in contact situations, became important middlemen in the European trade.13

Breton Fishing Stations on the Coast of Nova Scotia and Maine


Fifteenth and sixteenth-century mapmakers did not have the benefit of the modern science of geodesy or global positioning systems based on satellite technologies. They did not even have the advantage of the sextant, a device invented in the late 17th century that used mirrors to measure the altitude of any object above the horizon line. Latitudes were well known, but longitude was a complex measurement and completely relative in the absence of a standard prime meridian. In addition to technical distortions, explorers’ interests, loyalties, and employers influenced what mapmakers portrayed on maps. Giovanni di Verrazano’s map of 1525, for example, reflected his desire to find silver in a city paradise the natives purportedly called Norumbega (or Norembega) and to discover a Northwest Passage to China through the Parte Incognita of the Americas. In 1542 Jacques Cartier, Jean Allefonsce, and other French explorers also described the fabulous Indian “kingdom” known as Norumbega. Maps claiming to show the location of Norumbega are as diverse as maps to El Dorado.14

Verrazano’s 1525 Map with Terra de Nurumbega in Southern New England


Mercator’s 1569 Map with Norombega on the Kennebec River

Ortelius’s 1570 Map with Norembega in Acadia

L’Escarbot’s 1606 Map with Norumbega on the Penobscot River

Like the cities of gold sought by the Spanish, Norumbega may have been a mythical place. It seems to have been somewhere in the homelands of the Abenaki, who might have been able to lead explorers to copper but not gold or silver. The “city” of Norumbega may have referred to the historically powerful Penobscot chiefdom called Norridgewock at the junction of the Kennebec and Sandy rivers in Maine. Later American maps show Norembega on the Charles River. In the 1800s Dorchester, Charlestown, Watertown, Newton, and Cambridge all claimed to be the site of the fabled city. From 1897 until 1963 a beautiful amusement park operated in Newton-Auburndale called Norembega Park (and I was among the last to go dancing there to big band music in the famed Totem Pole Ballroom).15

The Totem Pole

Other than silver, gold, the Northwest Passage, and Norumbega, old maps of the Northeast reveal early explorers’ hopes of finding copper on Maine’s coastal islands, sassafras on Cape Cod, peltry (furs) from Canada’s First Peoples, and Christian converts from wherever they could be found. Illustrated maps were used as advertisements for attracting investors in the fur trade, missionaries, and sponsors for exploration.16


Bressani’s 1657 Map of Jesuit Missions and Converts

Early explorers recorded their observations and experiences with Native Americans, starting with Columbus and the Spanish missionaries. Initial impressions seem remarkably the same. Columbus wrote in his letter book:17

As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk’s bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black…; others with white, others with red….Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the [cause] of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language.

Columbus Fleet Meets the Arawakan Taino, 1492

Verrazano’s description of Native Americans of the Carolina coast, who were Algonquians, offers similar details:18

…Many people who were seen coming to the sea-side fled at our approach, but occasionally stopping, they looked back upon us with astonishment, and some were at length induced, by various friendly signs, to come to us. These showed the greatest delight on beholding us, wondering at our dress, countenances and complexion. They then showed us by signs where we could more conveniently secure our boat, and offered us some of their provisions. That your Majesty may know all that we learned, while on shore, of their manners and customs of life, I will relate what we saw as briefly as possible. They go entirely naked, except that about the loins their wear skins of small animals like martens fastened by a girdle of plaited grass, to which they tie, all round the body, the tails of other animals hanging down to the knees; all other parts of the body and the head are naked. Some wear garlands similar to birds’ feathers…. The complexion of these people is black, not much different from that of the Ethiopians; their hair is black and thick, and not very long, it is worn tied back upon the head in the form of a little tail. In person they are of good proportions, of middle stature, a little above our own, broad across the breast, strong in the arms, and well formed in the legs and other parts of the body….

A hundred years after Columbus and Verrazano and before Champlain came to Le Beauport (roughly between 1540 and 1605), other explorers visited the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. For example, in 1579 John Walker sailed with Simon Ferdinando for Sir Humphrey Gilbert to anchor in Penobscot Bay and met with Abenaki aboard his flagship. He is alleged to have taken 200 dried moose hides from an unattended storage site, suggesting that the Abenaki were already heavily involved in the fur trade by that time. Henry Hudson and Samuel Argall further explored the Penobscot River in 1609 and 1610 respectively.19

In 1583 Edward Hayes sailed to St. Johns with Humphrey Gilbert to claim Newfoundland for England. They discovered already well-established entrepreneurial French, Basque, Portuguese, and English fishing stations and sheep farms. Hayes’s account describes how they attempted to extend English sovereignty (e.g., you could get your ears cut off if you bad-mouthed Queen Elizabeth) and how on the return voyage Hayes’s ship the Golden Hind became the sole surviving vessel in a fleet of seven. Hayes wrote:20

We were in number in all about 260 men; among whom we had of every faculty good choice, as shipwrights, masons, carpenters, smiths, and such like, requisite to such an action; also mineral men and refiners. Besides, for solace of our people, and allurement of the savages, we were provided of music in good variety; not omitting the least toys, as morris-dancers, hobby-horse, and May-like conceits to delight the savage people, whom we intended to win by all fair means possible. And to that end we were indifferently furnished of all petty haberdashery wares to barter with those simple people.

In 1534 Cartier met the Beothuk of Labrador and Newfoundland, now said to be extinct. The Beothuk were non-agricultural, predated Algonquian occupation, did not speak an Algonquian language, and were seacoast-specialized. They were also noted for their ferocity and their extensive use of red ochre. Europeans were impressed with Beothuk stature and their ocean-going canoes, adapted for the sea with high gunwales, and with their ability to hunt marine mammals, including seals and porpoises. After a brief encounter, however, the Beothuk attacked to expel the Europeans, whom they saw, rightly, as invaders.21

Cartier Fleet Makes Contact with Beothuk in Newfoundland

The Beothuk

Cartier described the Beothuk as “red men” because of the red ochre they used as a protective coating on their skin. It’s claimed that’s how the term “redskins” subsequently got applied to all Native Americans. In his account of his voyage of 1534, Cartier describes how the Beothuk rubbed red ochre on everything—their bodies, hair, shelters, clothing, and implements. French contact was limited, however, because of Beothuk hostility and complete disinterest in the fur trade.22

Vikings may have had a similar experience with the Beothuk more than 500 years earlier. The skraelings (“false friends”, pronounced skray lingz), described in the Norse Sagas, attacked the Eriksons’ attempted settlements in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. Skraelings may have included the Beothuk as well as the Innu and the Thule, ancestors of the present-day Naskapi and Inuit peoples respectively.

Over the next three hundred years, as their cod fisheries, colonies, and slave trade grew, the Europeans and their Indian allies brought the surviving Beothuk of Newfoundland to near extinction. The English recorded the last-known individuals as the captive women Demasduit and Shanawdithit, their stories all the more tragic because they could not have been returned to their people. The fierce Beothuk reportedly sacrificially killed all individuals who had any, even unwilling, contact with their enemies.23

Demasduit (Mary March) was kidnapped by John Peyton Jr. in 1819 in an ambush that killed her husband and led to the death of her infant son. Lady Henrietta Hamilton painted a portrait of her before the Beothuk woman died of tuberculosis the following year. In 1823 Demasduit’s niece, Shanawdithit, and Shanawdithit’s sister and mother, all their kin gone, came out of hiding for protection, surrendering to an English trapper living nearby. Shanawdithit died of tuberculosis in 1829 as “the last” recorded Beothuk. In 1841 William Gosse made a posthumous painting of Shanawdithit (Nancy April), which clearly borrows from the earlier portrait.24

Demasduit and Shanawdithit


Although these women were memorialized as the last of their people, other Beothuk no doubt had survived by joining Mi’Kmaq settlements or marrying into other groups during the 17th and 18th centuries. Maybe Beothuk warriors were among the Mi’Kmaq whom the Penobscot, Pawtucket, Pennacook, and Massachuset later feared as the dreaded Tarrantines. Cartier refers to helping the Almouchiquois (Algonquians) against their enemy “the Terentynes”.

Martin Pring in the Speedwell; Robert Salterne in the Explorer; and Gabriel Archer, John Brereton and Bartholomew Gosnold in the Concord all wrote accounts of their New World encounters. Like other explorers before them, they sailed on several voyages in mix-and-match fleets under noble or royal or merchant sponsorship on missions of discovery, procurement of commodities, or colonization. Pring, for example, was in New England in 1602 looking for a site for a colony, again in 1603 looking for sassafras for Bristol merchants, and again in 1606 looking to establish fur trading posts on the Saco and Penobscot rivers.25

 History tends to oversimplify or condense such voyages, conflating ships’ captains with the explorers and their supercargo: companions, navigators, mapmakers, patent holders, sponsors, or monarchs. Historical statements such as “Gosnold landed on the coast of Maine” elevates the individual man and the achievement of landfall, obscuring the fact that several ships with hundreds of men on several voyages with several landfalls were involved and that Gosnold was not acting alone or even necessarily on his own initiative. Perhaps this is a human thing—how heroes and legends are cut away from the solid mountain of facts of the past and are carved and polished into the stand-alone monuments we like to celebrate.

In 1602, Gosnold got travel directions from Native Americans at a place he called “Savage’s Rock”, which, contrary to local speculation, probably was not on Cape Ann. The landing site is believed to have been Cape Neddick at York Beach, Maine, or Cape Porpoise at Kennebunkport, based on the Concord’s nautical data. They reported reaching Savage’s Rock at a little over 43 degrees north latitude, and that when they left they reached Cape Cod after fourteen or fifteen hours of sailing on a fresh breeze. Even by conservative estimates, they apparently would have overshot Cape Cod in that time if they had left from Cape Ann. So, the desire to have Gosnold here must, like the Vikings, be denied, though it should not matter. The Pennacook Gosnold parlayed with no doubt fished here.26

 Gosnold Fleet Meets Pennacook Near Agawam in 1602

 The Indians whom Gosnold, Brereton, and Archer encountered in Maine (and whom others encountered on the Piscataqua, Saco, Kennebec, and Penobscot rivers) undoubtedly were Pennacook or other Abenaki involved in trade with the French. With a piece of chalk Gosnold gave them, on the bedrock the Abenaki drew a map of the Massachusetts coast, including Cape Cod and the islands, which Gosnold reported to be completely accurate. Likewise the Pawtucket at Le Beauport later drew an accurate map for Champlain, including the islands of Boston Harbor and the six Massachuset chiefdoms, as described in Chapter 3.27

From Brereton’s report:28

[On] Friday, the fourteenth of May [May 24, 1602, New Style], early in the morning, we made the land, being full of fair trees, the land somewhat low, certain hummocks or hills lying into the land, the shore full of white sand, but very stony or rocky. And standing fair alongst by the shore, about twelve of the clock the same day, we came to an anchor, where eight Indians, in a Basque shallop with mast and sail, an iron grapple, and a kettle of Copper, came boldly aboard us, one of them appareled with a waistcoat and breeches of black serge, made after our sea-fashion, hose and shoes on his feet; all the rest (saving one that had a pair of breeches of blue cloth) were naked….These people are of tall stature, broad and grim visage, of a black swart complexion, their eyebrows painted white; their weapons are bows and arrows. It seemed by some words and signs they made, that some Basques, or of Saint John de Luz [Basques of Spain or France], have fished or traded in this place, being in the latitude of 43 Degrees (p. 2)…. [We] saw many Indians, which are tall big boned men, all naked, saving they cover their privy parts with a black tewed [tanned] skin, much like a Blacksmiths apron, tied about the middle and between their legs behind: they gave us of their fish ready boiled…whereof we did eat…they gave us also of their Tobacco….( p. 4). These people, as they are exceeding courteous, gentle of disposition, and well conditioned, excelling all others that we have seen; so for shape of body and lovely favor, I think they excel all the people of America; of stature much higher than we; of complexion or color, much like a dark Olive; their eyebrows and hair black, which they wear long, tied up behind in knots, whereon they prick feathers of fowls, in fashion of a crownet: some of them are black thin bearded; they make beards of the hair of beasts: and one of them offered a beard of their making to one of our sailors, for this that grew on his face, which because it was of a red color, they judged it to be none of his own. They are quick eyed, and steadfast in the looks, fearless of others harms, as intending none themselves; some of the meaner sort given to filching, which the very name of Savages (not weighing their ignorance in good or evil) may easily excuse: their garments are of Deer skins, and some of them wear Furs round and close about their necks…. Their women (such as we saw) which were but three in all, were but low of stature, their eyebrows, hair, apparel, and manner of wearing, like to the men, fat, and well favored, and much delighted in our company; the men are dutiful towards them  (p. 8).

Gosnold wrote in a letter to his father:29

We cannot gather, by anything we could observe in the people, or by any trial we had thereof ourselves, but that it is as healthful a climate as any can be. The inhabitants there, as I wrote before, being of tall stature, comely proportion, strong, active, and some of good years, and as it should seem very healthful, are sufficient proof of the healthfulness of the place.

Gosnold and his gentlemen adventurers wrote glowing accounts of good relations with the Algonquian peoples they encountered. Unlike the voyagers searching for treasure or a Northwest Passage, they were en route to try to establish a plantation on Cape Cod. Others were less respectful. In his 1603 voyage, Pring kidnapped some Abenaki on the Saco and Penobscot rivers to bring home to his sponsors. In his 1606 voyage, sailing for Sir Ferdinando Gorges, he reported that villages along the Piscataqua (Portsmouth, NH) had been abandoned. George Waymouth (Weymouth), sailing for Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1605 to find a site for a plantation on the southern coast of Maine, had also kidnapped Abenaki to bring home. On subsequent voyages Pring and other explorers carried a captive native with them to serve as an interpreter and guide. Champlain, too, was a beneficiary of this practice.30

Looking for sassafras to treat a growing number of syphilis cases back home, Pring explored the New England coast in 1603 and made landfall at Plymouth Harbor. As described to Richard Hakluyt in an account preserved by Samuel Purchas:31

During our abode on the shore, the people of the Countrey came to our men sometimes ten, twentie, fortie, or threescore, and at one time one hundred and twentie at once. We used them kindly, and gave them divers sorts of our meanest Merchandise. They did eat Pease and Beanes with our men. Their owne victuals were most of fish….These people in colour are inclined to a swart, tawnie, or Chestnut colour, not by nature but accidentally, and doe weare their haire brayded in foure parts, and trussed up about their heads with a small knot behind: in which haire of theirs they sticke many feathers and toyes for braverie and pleasure. They cover their privities only with a piece of leather drawne betwixt their twists and fastened to their Girdles behind and before: whereunto they hang their bags of Tobacco. They seeme to bee somewhat jealous of their women, for we saw not past two of them, who weare Aprons of Leather skins before them downe to the knees, and a Beares skinne like an Irish Mantle over one shoulder. The men are of stature somewhat taller than our ordinary people, strong, swift, well proportioned, and given to treacherie, as in the end we perceived….

 James Rosier wrote an account of his 1605 voyage on the Archangell with George Weymouth to Monhegan Island and the coast of Maine, which they called “the northern part of Virginia”. They were looking for a site for a fishing plantation and opportunities to trade for furs. According to Rosier’s description of their first contact with Native Americans:32

On May 30…about five a clocke in the afternoone, we in the shippe espied three Canoas [canoes] comming towards us, which went to the island adjoining, where they went a shore, and very quickly had made a fire, about which they stood beholding our ship: to whom we made signes with our hands and hats, weffing unto them to come unto vs, because we had not seene any of the people yet. They sent one Canoa with three men, one of which, when they came neere unto us, spake in his language very lowd and very boldly: seeming as though he would know why we were there, and by pointing with his oare towards the sea, we conjectured he meant we should be gone. But when we shewed them knives and their use, by cutting of stickes and other trifles, as combs and glasses, they came close aboard our ship, as desirous to entertaine our friendship. To these we gave such things as we perceived they liked, when wee shewed them the use: bracelets, rings, peacocke feathers, which they stucke in their haire, and Tabacco pipes. After their departure to their company on the shore, presently came foure other in another Canoa: to whom we gave as to the former, using them with as much kindnes as we could….The shape of their body is very proportionable, they are wel countenanced, not very tal nor big, but in stature like to us: they paint their bodies with blacke, their faces, some with red, some with blacke, and some with blew [blue]…. Their clothing is Beavers skins, or Deares skins, cast over them like a mantle, and hanging downe to their knees, made fast together upon the shoulder with leather; some of them had sleeves, most had none; some had buskins of such leather tewed: they have besides a peece of Beauers skin betweene their legs, made fast about their waste, to cover their privities….They suffer no haire to grow on their faces, but on their head very long and very blacke, which those that have wives, binde up behinde with a leather string, in a long round knot. They seemed all very civill and merrie: shewing tokens of much thankefulnesse, for those things we gave them. We found them then (as after) a people of exceeding good invention, quicke understanding and readie capacitie….

Then the next day:

[We] saw foure of their women, who stood behind them, as desirous to see us, but not willing to be seene; for before, whensoever we came on shore, they retired into the woods, whether it were in regard of their owne naturall modestie, being covered only as the men with the foresaid Beavers skins, or by the commanding jealousy of their husbands, which we rather suspected, because it is an inclination much noted to be in Salvages; wherefore we would by no meanes seeme to take any speciall notice of them. They were very well fauoured in proportion of countenance, though coloured blacke, low of stature, and fat, bare headed as the men, wearing their haire long: they had two little male children of a yeere and a half old, as we judged, very fat and of good countenances, which they love tenderly, all naked, except their legs, which were covered with thin leather buskins tewed, fastened with strops to a girdle about their waste, which they girde very straight, and is decked round about with little round peeces of red Copper; to these I gave chaines and bracelets, glasses, and other trifles, which the Salvages seemed to accept in great kindnesse.

Rosier goes on to describe how they then tricked and captured the five Abenaki at Pemaquid for Weymouth to bring back to England to his sponsors. Afterwards, Rosier observes:33

First, although at the time when we surprised them, they made their best resistance, not knowing our purpose, nor what we were, nor how we meant to use them; yet after perceiving by their kinde usage we intended them no harme, they have never since seemed discontented with us, but very tractable, loving, & willing by their best meanes to satisfie us in any thing we demand of them, by words or signes for their understanding: neither have they at any time beene at the least discord among themselves; insomuch as we have not seene them angry but merry; and so kinde, as if you give any thing to one of them, he will distribute part to every one of the rest.

 The Archangell in Penobscot Bay in 1605

Others followed, such as George Popham and Ralegh Gilbert, who sailed in two ships (Gift of God and Mary and John) with 120 people, including Skidwares, one of Weymouth’s Pemaquid captives. According to the chronicler, Skidwares promptly escaped upon repatriation to remain with his chief, Nahanada (or Dahanada), another captive who had previously been repatriated. In any case, Popham, sailing for the Virginia Company, carried a native captive as a guide. Encouraged by Pring’s findings the year before, Popham’s company was to found a fishing colony, fur trading post, and a fort on the Kennebec River. This was in 1607, the same year that Jamestown was founded in Virginia. Popham Colony, also known as Sagadahoc, like Roanoke, was, however, short lived.34

1606 Newport, Smith, and the Jamestown Fleet Meet Powhatan in Virginia

Popham’s company built Fort St. George on the Kennebec but abandoned it after a year, mainly because of problems with sponsorship and authorization back home. A first-hand account describes the Popham fleet’s contact with Native Americans at Pemaquid to the north:35

About midnight Captain Gilbert caused his ship’s boat to be manned with 14 persons and the Indian called Skidwares (brought into England by Captain Waymouth) and rowed to the westward, from their ship to the River of Pemaquid which they found to be 4 leagues distant from their ship where she rode. The Indian brought them to the savage’s houses, where they found 100 men, women, and children and their chief commander or sagamo, amongst them named Nahanada, who had been brought likewise into England by Captain Waymouth and returned thither by Captain Hanam setting forth for these parts, and some part of Canada the year before. At their first coming the Indians betook them to their arms, their bows and arrows, but after Nahanada had talked to Skidwares and perceived that they were Englishmen, he caused them to lay aside their bows and arrows, and he himself came unto them and embraced them and made them much welcome, and after 2 hours interchangeably thus spent, they returned aboard again. Captain Popham manned his shallop and Captain Gilbert his ship’s boat with 50 persons in both and departed for the River of Pemaquid, carrying with them Skidwares.  Being arrived in the mouth of the river there came forth Nahanada with all his company of Indians with their bows and arrows in their hands, they being before his dwelling houses would not willingly have all our people come on shore, being fearful of us. To give them satisfaction the captains with some 8 or 10 of the chiefest landed, but after a little parley together they suffered all to come ashore using them in all kind sort after their manner. Nevertheless after one hour they all suddenly withdrew themselves into the woods, nor was Skidwares desirous to return with us any more aboard.  Our people loath to offer any violence unto him by drawing him by force, suffered him to stay behind, promising to return unto them the day following, but he did not.

The writer of the account seems insensitive to the idea that the Abenaki chieftain and his warriors may have felt they had good reason to avoid further risk of abduction!

Popham observed French influence among the Eastern Abenaki and the Mi’Kmaq, their fierce leader Messamoet, and the Abenaki fear of them and other Tarrantines, such as those led by the dreaded Membertou of Nova Scotia. Henry Hudson, in Penobscot Bay in 1609, also remarked on French hegemony on trade in Maine and the Maritimes. By Hudson’s account:36

The seventeenth, all was mystie, so that we could not get into the harbor. At ten of the clocke two boats came off to us, with sixe of the savages of the countrey, seeming glad of our coming. We gave them trifles, and they eate and dranke with us; and told us that there were gold, silver and copper mynes hard by us; and that the Frenchmen doe trade with them; which is very likely, for one of them spake some words of French. So wee rode still all day and all night, the weather continuing mystie.

Captain John Smith seems to have had ambiguous or mixed reactions to the native peoples he encountered. His accounts express both admiration and contempt. He claimed friendship with an Abenaki chieftain in Maine but advertised New England to merchant investors as a place well stocked with natives as a ready supply of forced labor, who were otherwise easily vanquished. Between 1607 and 1609, his militancy in helping to establish the Jamestown Colony caused enduring enmity between the English and the Algonquian people living there (the Pocahontas story notwithstanding).37

Smith mapped New England in 1614 when in the employ of the Plymouth Company to explore the coast for a possible fishing colony. Smith named Cape Ann Tragabigzanda and the Three Turks’ Heads (presumably the Thatcher, Straitsmouth, and Milk islands), based on his previous adventures in the Ottoman Empire. He was captured as a mercenary in the Austrian army, enslaved, and bought by a Turkish nobleman. The nobleman gave Smith to his mistress, a Greek girl. Her name means “Girl of Trebizond” and she was not a Turkish princess, nor Smith’s mistress, although she apparently showed him kindness. Smith eventually managed to escape by decapitating three Turks, hence the Turks’ Head islands. James I of England, allowed his son, the future Charles I, to rename Tragabigzanda Capa Anna (soon shortened to Cape Ann on most maps) in honor of his mother, Queen Anne of Denmark.38

John Smith and Detail from his 1616 Map of New England


In A Description of New England (1616), Smith credits the discovery of New England to Sir Francis Drake (who, however, only saw the coast from Virginia to the Caribbean). Smith also credits the previous voyages of Gosnold, Weymouth, Popham, and Hudson.  These explorers did not set foot on Cape Ann, however, and I have not been able to confirm any actual landings here prior to 1623 other than Champlain’s.39

According to Smith’s A Description of New England (1616):40

As you pass the Coast still Westward, Accominticus [Agamenticus, e.g., Rye and York, ME, explored by Bartholemew Gosnold in 1602] and Passataquack [Piscataqua River at Portsmouth, NH, explored by Martin Pring in 1603] are two convenient harbors for small barks; and a good Countrie, within their craggie cliffs. Angoam [Ipswich-Essex] is next; This place might content a right curious judgement: but there are many sands at the entrance of the harbor: and the worst is, it is inbayed too farre from the deepe Sea. Heere are many rising hilles, and on their tops and descents many corne fields, and delightfull groves. On the East, is an Ile of two or three leagues in length [Plum Island]; the one halfe, plaine morish grasse fit for pasture, with many faire high groves of mulberrie trees gardens: and there is also Okes, Pines, and other woods to make this place an excellent habitation, being a good and safe harbor. Naimkeck [Naumkeag, probably incorporating Cape Ann] though it be more rockie ground (for Angoam is sandie) not much inferior; neither for the harbor [Gloucester Harbor], nor any thing I could perceive, but the multitude of people. From hence doth stretch into the Sea the faire headland Tragabigzanda [Rockport], front with three Iles called the three Turks heads: to the North of this doth enter a great bay [?Sandy Bay or Ipswich Bay], where wee founde some habitations and corne fields: they report a great River [?the Merrimack], and at least thirtie habitations do possesse the Countrie. But because the French had got their trade, I had no leasure to discover it. The Iles of Mattahunts [Nahant] are on the West side of this Bay [Salem Sound to Nahant Bay], where are many Iles, and questionlesse good harbors: and then the Countrie of the Massachusets, which is the Paradise of all these parts: for here are many Iles all planted with corne; groves, mulberries, salvage [savage] gardens, and good harbors; the Coast is for the most part, high clayie sandie cliffs. The Sea Coast as you pass, shewes you all along large corne fields, and great troupes of well proportioned people: but the French having remained here neere sixe weekes, left nothing for us to take occasion to examine the inhabitants relations, viz. if there be neer three thousand people upon these Iles; and that the River doth pearce many daies journeys the intralles of that Countrey.

Smith’s use of local Algonquian place names in his account include Angoam, Aggawom (Agawam), and Naimineck (Naumkeag). These names do not appear in any of his predecessors’ accounts, and Smith reports explicitly that he did not go ashore to investigate Cape Ann. Thus they had to be names that Smith learned from his Abenaki host on his visit to Maine in 1614, when he stayed ashore on the Kennebec River long enough to plant and grow a garden. His informant must have been Dohannida (whose name Weymouth’s Rosier wrote as Nahanada and Popham’s chronicler as Tahaneda), the Abenaki sagamore whom Weymouth kidnapped at Pemaquid and brought to England in 1605 and whom Thomas Hanam returned to Maine in 1606. Smith claims to have befriended Dohannida during his stay in Maine, and the sagamore certainly would have been familiar with the names of Algonquian territories and sagamoreships to his south.41

Interestingly, Angoam (or Aggowam), Naimkeck, and other names in Smith’s account are not shown on his 1614 map of New England. However, one version of this map shows places that had not yet been found or named by 1616 when the map was first published, such as Salem, Ipswich, and Plimoth. The explanation may be that the map was edited for new editions or others of his works, such as his Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles, published in 1624. Smith‘s writings apparently were enormously influential; after 1616, most voyagers, including the Mayflower fleet, used his map for navigation.42

 Smith’s A Description of New England, 1616  and Generall Historie,1624


 1624 Version of Smith’s Map

 The Dry Salvages

Smith’s names for Cape Ann sites include the Dry Salvages (the last syllables rhyme with wages), islets off Straitsmouth. The meaning is unclear except that part of the rock outcrop is above the tide line and therefore dry, while another part (Little Salvages) is submerged at high tide. Smith wrote salvages for “savages”, from the French sauvage. Since he tended to see islands as heads or caps, with his mordant sense of humor perhaps he meant the heads of Algonquian swimmers, some wet or drowned and some dry. He bragged about shooting Indians as they swam. In any case, the Dry Salvages were the inspiration for a poem by T. S. Eliot, who sailed from Gloucester in his youth. At risk of digression, here is an excerpt from “The Dry Salvages,” the 3rd Poem of Eliot’s Quartets, 1941:43

 The river is within us, the sea is all about us;

The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite

Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses

Its hints of earlier and other creation:

The starfish, the hermit crab, the whale’s backbone;

The pools where it offers to our curiosity

The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.

It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,

The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar

And the gear of foreign dead men.

The sea has many voices,

Many gods and many voices.

The salt is on the briar rose,

The fog is in the fir trees.

The sea howl

And the sea yelp, are different voices

Often together heard; the whine in the rigging,

The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,

The distant rote in the granite teeth,

And the wailing warning from the approaching headland

Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner

Rounded homewards, and the seagull:

And under the oppression of the silent fog

The tolling bell

Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried

Ground swell, a time

Older than the time of chronometers, older

Than time counted by anxious worried women

Lying awake, calculating the future,

Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel

And piece together the past and the future,

Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,

The future futureless, before the morning watch

When time stops and time is never ending;

And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,

the bell.

Aground on the Dry Salvages

Studying history, it does seem sometimes that “the past is all deception”.

 So, this is all who came here, to answer this chapter’s question. What they all saw in the Algonquians and other natives, to put it bluntly, was primitive people of imposing stature and physique and some admirable qualities who nevertheless were racially, morally, and technologically inferior and therefore easily exploitable for goods and services or as commodities themselves. And now we must ask, what about those people? Especially: who, exactly, were the Pawtucket of Cape Ann?


Chapter 4 Notes and References

  1. That Vikings were very likely the first European discoverers of North America is well established. Claims about Vikings on Cape Ann, however, are not, although they are repeated in The Gloucester Massachusetts Historical Time-Line 1000-1999 compiled by Mary Ray and edited by Sarah Dunlap, published locally in 2000. The claims are referenced to a 19th century local publicist and amateur historian, Robert Pringle, and to a secondary source that cites Cape Cod as the Viking landing site in New England, not Cape Ann. Historians of Cape Ann writing prior to 1892 do not mention Vikings here. The translations of the Icelandic Sagas that I consulted for this chapter include the 3rd edition of B. F. DeCosta’s 1901 The Pre-Columbian Discovery of America by the Northmen: Translations from the Icelandic Sagas, and the Rasmus B. Anderson translation of The Younger Edda (also Snorre’s Edda, The Prose Edda) by Snorre Snorri Sturluson, written in 1220. See A classic secondary (although not necessarily authoritative) source is Samuel Eliot Morison’s The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages.
  2. Pringle’s Souvenir History of Gloucester Mass 1623-1892, or History of the Town and City of Gloucester, Cape Ann, Massachusetts contains unverified information on Vikings and other subjects. For more information on interpreting the meanings of Old Norse and Old Icelandic words and on determining the location of places described in the language of the Vikings, see and Read about the confirmed Viking UNESCO World Heritage Site in Newfoundland, L’Anse aux Meadows, at For a review of all the candidates for Thorvald’s (Leif’s bother’s) burial place, see Graeme Davis’s 2009 book, Vikings in America.
  3. See, for example, Abraham Ortelius’s 1570 Map of the Americas on the Wikipedia Commons:
  4. Krossanes (more properly Krossarnes) means “Cross Point” and refers to the point of land between two fjords where their waters cross as they meet the sea. Sites on the New England coast do not meet this criterion. The Hampton NH claim is debunked on several grounds, for example, in David Craig’s article, Thorwald’s Grave: Fact or Legend? in New Hampshire Profiles 23 (1), 1974. Alleged runestones in New England also have not been substantiated. “Runes” such as some that appear on Dighton Rock in Massachusetts are Native American petroglyphs, while others, such as the Kensington Stone in Minnesota, have been proven to be frauds. Likewise, claims that Algonquians were incapable of building Celt-like megalithic structures or stone structures employing lintels are demonstrably false. Read a critical review of other Viking site claims in Viking America: the First Millennium (2001) by Geraldine Barnes. In contrast, a popularization of the “mystery” of Vikings on Cape Cod is perpetuated in Robert Cahill’s New England’s Viking and Indian Wars (1986).
  5. Rasmus Anderson, son of Norwegian immigrants, popularized the idea of a Leif Erikson Day commemorating Vikings in America in his influential 1877 book, America Not Discovered by Columbus. Another great enthusiast was Bostonian Eben Norton Horsford. On October 29, 1887, at Faneuil Hall Horsford gave an address, “The Discovery of America by Northmen”, at the dedication of a statue of Leif Erikson. For more information about the Chicago’s World Fair and the ship The Viking, see The Book of the Fair: World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in the Paul V. Galvin Library Digital History Collection at
  6. The Scandinavian Fraternity of America (1915-1992) was a consolidation of previously founded organizations during the heyday of ethnic/immigrant fraternal associations in America, including the Scandinavian-American Fraternity (1893-1918) and others established in the 1870s.
  7. The story of Thorvald’s death and burial is told in the Groenlendiga Saga (Greenlander’s Saga) from the Flateyjarbók (Flat-Island Book), written about 1387. Contrary to Robert Pringle’s imagination, the Thorvald Hotel on Bass Rocks in Gloucester almost certainly did not mark the spot. In Einar Haugen’s 1942 translation (Voyages to Vinland: The First American Saga), Thorvald and a crew of 40 men set out in 1004 to further explore Vinland. The first summer they sail west from Leif’s camp in Vinland and discover “a lovely, wooded country” in which “the woods ran almost down to the sea, with a white, sandy beach. The sea was full of islands and great shallows.” Then, in the second summer they sail eastward from Leif’s camp and “along the coast to the north. As they were rounding “a certain cape”, a stiff storm fell upon them and drove them on shore, so that their keel was broken and they had to stay there a long time while they repaired the ship. Then Thorvald said to his men, ‘I wish we might raise up the keel on this cape and call the cape Keelness (Kjalarnes), and so they did. Then they sailed along the coast to the east, into some nearby fjord mouths, and headed for a jutting cape that rose high out of the sea and was all covered with woods. Here they anchored the ship and laid down a gangplank to the shore. Thorvald went ashore with all his company. Then he said, ‘This is beautiful, and here I should like to build me a home.’ After a time they went back to the ship. Then they caught sight of three little mounds on the sand farther in on the cape. When they got closer to them, they saw three skin-covered boats, with three men under each. They split up their force and seized all the men but one, who escaped in his boat. They killed all eight of them, and then returned to the cape. …” The men sleep after the killing spree and then on a premonition run to their ship. They discover they are under attack from “a host of boats…heading towards them from the inner end of the fjord.” A battle ensues and Thorvald is wounded in the armpit by an arrow. He says to his men, “This will be the last of me. Now I advise you to make ready for your return as quickly as possible. But me you shall take back to that cape which I found so inviting. It looks as if I spoke the truth without knowing it when I said that I might live there some day! Bury me there with a cross at my head and another at my feet, and ever after you shall call it Crossness (Krossarnes)”. And on this thread hangs the tale of a Viking grave in Gloucester. The reference to crosses may have been added to this saga at a later time. Thorvald’s was the first generation of Erikisens to fully embrace Christianity.
  8. As the Saga continues, in his attempt to retrieve his brother Thorvald’s body, Thorstein can’t locate Vinland. Thorfinn Karlsnefni, referenced on page 1 of the Gloucester Historical Time-Line, was not Thorstein’s, Leif’s, and Thorvald’s brother, as stated, but was the husband of Thorstein’s widow. He established trade with the skraelings as far south as Keelness, which was nevertheless well north of Cape Ann, and he is not known to have explored the coast as far as Virginia.
  9. Read the real story of Plymouth Rock at the History Channel:
  10. The explorers John and Sebastian Cabot, father and son, were among the famous merchant adventurers from Bristol, England. Both appear in a 1930 group portrait by Ernest Board (“Some Who Have Made Bristol Famous”) along with Martin Pring and Ferdinando Gorges. See P. L. Firstbook, The Voyage of the Matthew: John Cabot and the Discovery of America (1997) and Evan T. Jones, Alwyn Ruddock: John Cabot and the Discovery of America. Institute of Historical Research Volume 81, Issue 212 (May 2008): 224-254 (first published online: 5 APR 2007). Diogo Ribeiro’s map is reproduced on page 22 of Moses Sweetser’s 1882 book, The White Mountains: A Handbook for Travellers (see A classic primary source for early voyages is Samuel Purchas’s 1625 Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes Contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and lande Travells by Englishmen and others. A convenient collection of primary source accounts from Hakluyt is in Burrage’s 1906 Original narratives of early English and French voyages 1534-1608, reprinted in 1930 as Early English and French voyages, chiefly from Haklyyt, 1534-1608. A classic secondary source is Synge’s 1939. A Book of Discovery: the History of the World’s Exploration, from the earliest times to the finding of the south pole (see
  11. Jaime O’Leary describes Basque whaling ports in Labrador in the 17th Century (see John Brereton’s 1602 account of Bartholomew Gosnold’s voyage of discovery to New England, A brief and true relation of the discovery of the North Virginia, edited by Karle Schlieff, may be read at Read The Voyage of Martin Pring, 1603 at and Alfred Dennis’s 1903 interpretation of Pring’s first voyage at Juan de la Cosa’s circa 1500 Mappa Mundi, is described at For Champlain references, please see Chapter 3 of this book.
  12. Edward Hayes’ account of the Voyage of Sir Humfrey Gilbert, Knight, 1585 is in Henry S. Burrage’s 1908, Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Haklyut, 1534-1608: 177-222.
  13. Jacques Cartier’s 1543 “dauphin’s map” of North America shows Breton fishing posts on the coast of the Gulf of Maine as far as the Kennebec River.
  14. For early explorers’ maps see Terra Incognita. Early Accounts, the DeBry Collection of “Great and Small Voyages” at See also the Perry-Castañeda Library
Map Collection (Maps of North American discovery and expansion) at For a summary of Verazzano’s voyage along the North American coast in 1534 see William Hobbs article in Isis 41 (3/4, December 1950): 268-277. Sources for Norumbega include Emerson Baker et al., American beginnings: Exploration, culture, and cartography in the land of Norumbega (1994); Sigmund Diamond, April 1951. Norumbega: New England Xanadu. In The American Neptune Vol. 11: 95–107. An alternative history is offered in H. G. Brack’s 2006 Norumbega Reconsidered: Mawooshen and the Wawenoc Diaspora: The Indigenous Communities of the Central Maine Coast in Protohistory 1535-1620 (Davistown Museum Publication Series Volume 4). Marc Lescarbot’s 1609 map of Acadia is in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University in Providence, RI. Lescarbot was on one of Sieur de Poutrincourt’s voyages of discovery, sponsored by Sieur de Monts (Pierre Dugua du Mons), a French Huguenot, who also sponsored Samuel de Champlain. For Jean Alfonse (Allefonsce) and others, see the Hakluyt. The detail of Norombega on the Kennebec is from Gerardus Mercator’s 1569 world map, Nova et Aucta Orbis Terrae Descriptio ad Usum Navigantium Emendate Accommodata, which has copies in Paris, Breslau, Basel, and Rotterdam and can be readily viewed online. A source on Norridgewock is J. W. Hanson, History of the Old Towns Norridgewock and Canaan, Starks, Skowhegan, and Bloomfield… (1849) at
  15. The idea that Norumbega was on the Charles River in Cambridge or Watertown was promoted by Eben Norton Horsford in 1886 and 1889 in letters to the president of the American Geographical Society (“John Cabot’s Landfall in 1497 and the site of Norumbega” and “The discovery of the ancient city of Norumbega”). Cartographer Andy Woodruff considers this idea and presents Horsford’s and others’ maps at An article on Norumbega Park and the Totem Pole appears in a 1910 article by Charles Rockwood, “At the Gateway of Boston Harbor”, in The New England Magazine (42).
  16. Francesco-Giuseppe Bressani’s 1657 map, Novae Franciae Accurata Delineatio is in the National Archives of Canada.
  17. The quote from Columbus’s letter book comes from Christopher Columbus Log Excerpts, 1492 A.D. in The Franciscan Archive: The 1594 engraving of Columbus meeting the Taino is by Theordore de Brys, also the depictions in this chapter of Gosnold meeting the Pennacook and Newport meeting the Powhatan in what would become Jamestown.
  18. The quote from Verrazano’s account is in H. C. Murphy’s 1916 translation of Verrazano’s Voyage along the North American Coast in 1524.
  19. See, for example, B. F. DeCosta’s 1890. Ancient Norumbega, or the voyages of Simon Ferdinando and John Walker to the Penobscot River, 1579-1580.
  20. The quote from Edward Hayes’ account and other relevant excerpts are from George Parker Winship’s Sailors narratives of voyages along the New England coast, 1524-1624 (1905). See also Gillian Cell’s English enterprise in Newfoundland 1577-1660 (1969).
  21. See the 1906 edition by James Phinney Baxter of Jean Alfonce’s account of Cartier’s voyages: A Memoir of Jacques Cartier: Sieur de Limoilou, His Voyages to the St. Lawrence, a Bibliography and a Facsimile of the Manuscript of 1534. Note that Cartier’s chronicler Jean Alfonce, also spelled Allefonsce, was also known as Jean Fonteneau dit Alfonse de Saintonge, and he included the exploits of Cartier’s colleague in exploration, Jean François de sieur de La Roque Roberval. The image of Cartier meeting the Beothuk (the Red Men) is a 1915 copy by James P. Howley of an 1808 painting commissioned by the governor of Newfoundland as a kind of public relations outreach to the remaining Beothuk.
  22. See Note 21. Also see pages 55-70 in Frank Speck’s Beothuk and Micmac (1922).
  23. A definitive work is Ingeborg Marshall’s 1998 History and Ethnography of the Beothuk. (McGill-Queen’s University Press).
  24. Read more about Demasduit and Shanawdithit in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  25. See The Voyage of Martin Pring, 1603 and Brereton’s account of Gosnold’s discovery, referenced in Note 12.
  26. The story of Gosnold getting directions from the Abenakis at Savage’s Rock is told in A chronological history of New-England: in the form of annals, being a summary and exact account of the most material transactions and occurrences relating to this country, in the order of time wherein they happened, from the discovery of Capt. Gosnold, in 1602, to the arrival of Governor Belcher, in 1730…by Thomas Prince and Nathan Hale (1826).
  27. Compare this chalk on bedrock story with the six pebbles story in Chapter 3.
  28. This quote comes from Brereton’s account.
  29. The quote from Gosnold’s letter to his father is in “Master Bartholomew Gosnold’s Letter to his Father, touching his first voyage to Virginia, 1602,” Old South Leaflets 5 (120) and may be read at Virtual Jamestown:
  30. The practice of kidnapping Indians to be displayed in Europe and returned as translators and guides is described in more detail in Chapter 14. See George Prince’s 1857 account, “The voyage of Capt. Geo. Weymouth to the coast of Maine in 1605” in Maine Historical Society Collections VI: 291-306. See also Henry Burrage’s 1887 Rosier’s relation of Weymouth’s voyage to the coast of Maine, 1605, published by the Gorges Society. This practice of abduction was established early. In 1534, for example, Cartier took Donnacona (chieftain at what would become Quebec City) and several others to France and returned with those who survived on his second voyage to North America. Donnacona, although treated well, died soon after being taken to France a second time.
  31. Richard Hakluyt’s account is in Samuel Purchas. Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). The Hakluyt detail is from a larger engraving entitled “England’s Famous Discoverers” in the National Maritime Museum, London.
  32. The quote is from James Rosier’ account, who was with Weymouth on the Archangel. See A True Relation of Captaine George Weymouth his Voyage. Made this Present Yeere 1605, pages 125-127 in the 1843 reprint by the Massachusetts Historical Society. The quote also appears in Burrage’s Early English and French voyages chiefly from Hakluyt 1534-1608 (1930).
  33. See Rosier’s account in Note 32.
  34. For the story of George Popham’s colony at Sagadahoc, see John Wingate Thornton’s August 29, 1862, speech at Fort Popham: Colonial Schemes of Popham and Gorges (Maine Historical Society). See also James Davies’ account. He was the navigator of Raleigh Gilbert’s vessel in Popham’s fleet. His Relation of a voyage to Sagadahoc, 1607-1608 was reprinted by the Hakluyt Society in 1849 and the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1880. The roles of Popham’s native guides, including Skidwares and Nahanada (who figures later as Captain John Smith’s informant at Pemaquid known as Dohannida) are taken up again in this chapter and in Chapter 14.
  35. This quote about Popham at Pemaquid is from A History of Pemaquid with sketches of Monhegan, Popham, Castine by Arlita Parker (1925).
  36. Messamoet and Membertou are in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. See, for example, The quote from Henry Hudson’s account is taken from the Hakluyt and also appears in the Burrage.


  1. Smith’s views on Native Americans, including their proposed use as forced labor and suppression during the founding of Jamestown, are abundantly evident in his 1608 account, A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Hapned in Virginia Since the First Planting of that Colony, which is now resident in the South part thereof, till the last returne from thence. Written by Captaine Smith one of the said Collony, to a worshipfull friend of his in England (1608). See See also William Strachey’s 1612 account, The Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania, published by the Hakluyt Society (Volume 133) in 1953.
  2. See Smith’s Map of New England [in 1605], published in 1614, at, and compare this with his map of New England published ten years later in 1624 in Volume II of The generall historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer Isles: together with The true travels, adventures and observations, and A sea grammar.
  3. Smith credits earlier discoverers of New England in his 1608 account, cited in Note 37. See also his 1616 account, A Description of New England: Or the observations, and discoueries of Captain John Smith (Admirall of the Country) in the north or America, in the year of our Lord 1614: With the success of sixe ships, that went the next yeare 1615; and the accidents befell him among the French men of warre: With the proofe of the present benefit this country affords: Whither this present yeare, 1616, eight voluntary ships are gone to make further tryall. This was published in 1837 in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 3rd series. 6: 103-140.
  4. This quote is from Smith’s Description of New England, cited in Note 39.
  5. Smith has little to say about Dohannida (Nahanada), except that befriending the chieftain gave him credit among the natives and some power over them. Smith’s summer in Maine with Dohannida is described in William Baker’s A maritime history of Bath, Maine and the Kennebec River region. (Marine Research Society of Bath, 1973). It seems likely that during that time Smith learned from Dohannida the Algonquian place names for coastal villages on the Gulf of Maine, including Cape Ann, that appeared on his 1616 and 1624 maps of New England.
  6. See Note 38. Smith’s 1624 map also includes the first colonies established by the Pilgrims. The most complete map appears in his 1630 account, The True Travels, Adventures and Observations of 
Captain John Smith in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, published by The Winthrop Society. Smith died in 1631.
  7. The Dry Salvages is the third poem of T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”, first published in February 1941 in the New English Weekly.
















Chapter 3 What did Champlain see in the “Cape of Islands”?

Chapter 3 What Did Champlain See in the “Cape of Islands”?

That the Pawtucket actually lived here is evidenced in Samuel de Champlain’s 1606 map of Gloucester Harbor (Le beau port) in what he called Cap aux Iles—“Islands Cape”. His map shows Pawtucket wigwams, gardens, and woodlots in parkland. The English later extended Native stages for drying fish on the southwest-facing slopes of the harbor where they first attempted to settle and built a fort (today known as Stage Fort).1

Champlain’s voyages to America started in 1603, when he first served as a mapmaker on French expeditions, and ended with his death in Quebec, New France, in 1635. He sailed along the northern New England coast to Cape Ann in 1604 and came ashore here in 1605 and 1606. His accounts of meeting the Pawtucket in Whale Cove and Gloucester Harbor indicate friendly, though increasingly wary, encounters.2

The Pawtucket signaled Champlain’s barque from Emerson Point after it rounded the cape in 1605. The French were skirting the offshore islands, not sure where to go. The Pawtucket sent up smoke signals at Emerson Point, which the French saw. The intent was for them to come ashore in Sandy Bay, where archaeological remains suggest a village was located, but after hemming and hawing they anchored eventually in Whale Cove when they got up the nerve to make contact. There was mutual ambivalence about making contact. Mariners had been attacked, and Indians had been abducted. The Algonquians had already had Europeans on their coasts for a hundred years or more. Shakespeare’s16th century play Henry IV makes reference to Indians from Maine on display in Queen Elizabeth’s court. As a public entertainment they were made to paddle their canoes on the Thames.3

Cap aux Iles (Cape Ann)


Sandy Bay

Whale Cove

Emerson Point

Gloucester Harbor


This is Whale Cove today, looking toward Straitsmouth Island. It’s on this expedition that the French gave the name Cap aux Iles, Islands Cape.



De Monts sent Champlain ashore to try to find out where they were. A whole train of navigators, explorers, merchantmen, and fishermen—some we’ve never heard of—had passed along the coast of New England prior to Champlain: Viking exiles, Diogo Ribeiro, Giovanni di Verrazano, Sebastian Caboto, Estévan Gomez, Jean Alfonse, André Thevet, John Hawkins, Bartholomew Gosnold, Martin Pring, George Weymouth, Henry Hudson, and John Smith, not to mention a host of nameless Basque and Breton entrepreneurs in the fishing industry. By all available evidence, however, Champlain was the first European ever to set foot on the Cape of Islands.4

Champlain’s map from Les Voyages shows Cap aux Iles and the coastline to the south that the Pawtucket obligingly drew for him. Champlain wrote in his diary:

We named this place Islands Cape, near which we saw a canoe containing five or six savages, who came out near our barque, and then went back and danced on the beach. Sieur de Monts sent me on shore to observe them, and to give each one of them a knife and some biscuit, which caused them to dance again better than before. This over, I made them understand, as well as I could, that I desired them to show me the course of the shore. After I had drawn with a crayon [chalk] the bay and the Islands Cape, where we were, with the same crayon they drew the outline of another bay, which they represented as very large; here they placed six pebbles at equal distances apart, giving me to understand by this that these signs represented as many chiefs and tribes.5

To Champlain’s sketch the Pawtucket had added the coast of Massachusetts Bay on the south side of Cape Ann, including Gloucester Harbor, Boston Harbor with all its Islands, and the shoreline as far Cape Cod. Then they placed six pebbles on the map to show the locations of the seats of the six powerful Massachuset sachemships to their south in the Charles River drainage area. They also added the Merrimack River, which the French had not noticed because Plum Island blocks its entrance.6








The six sachemships of the Charles River Valley included Weechaguskas (Wessagusset in Weymouth, near Quincy); Neponset (with Shawmut, near Canton); Ponkapoag (south of the Blue Hills in Milton and Dedham); Nonantum (Newton and Brookline), Nashaway (with Wachuset, around Leominster), and Nipmuc (Framingham to Worcester). These were Massachuset and Nipmuc groups. The Neponset and Ponkapoag later joined the Wampanoag further to the south, while the people at Nashua and Wachuset became more closely allied with the Pennacook to the north. The Pawtucket were friendly with the Nipmuc and the Massachuset.7



Nipmuc        Massachuset


Narraganset      Nauset

Niantic         Nantucket


Armed with his new map, De Monts sailed away from Whale Cove and went to Boston Harbor. His ship’s log noted missing Gloucester Harbor that year because the wind and tide at the time favored keeping on their tack toward the south. Navigation on the rocky New England coast was truly treacherous in the age of sail. Champlain returned the following year under his own command with Sieur de Poutrincourt and went into Gloucester Harbor. He anchored his barque on the leaward side of Ten Pound Island and went ashore at Rocky Neck to make repairs to their shallop. His map of Gloucester Harbor identifies Ten Pound Island, where they anchored; Rocky Neck, where they repaired their shallop; and a creek nearby where they washed their clothes.8

Shallop: From the French chaloupe, derived from the Dutch, sloep (sloop). The shallop was a heavy boat with both sails and oars and a shallow draft for navigating shallow waters, such as shoals and sand bars at river mouths. Variations on the shallop were indispensable for all the early explorers of the New England coast.9

Champlain’s Map of Le Beau port (Gloucester Harbor) includes a key for identifying the lettered sites on the map. Here is my version of his key, based on three different translations from the French and combining my notes with those from other sources.10

A. Place where our barque was (Gloucester’s Western Harbor to the lee of Rocky Neck)
B. Meadows
(Salt marshes)
C. Small island (Ten Pound Island; in the 1800s it was “forty rods long and thirty feet high with a lighthouse fifty feet above sea level” [a rod is 16.5 feet or 5.0292 meters]. Gloucester was sold for 7 pounds, not 10; Babson’s claim that the island’s name comes from an impoundment quota of ten rams is correct.)
D. Rocky cape
(Brace Rock and Bemo Ledge)
E. Place where we had our shallop caulked. (Rocky Neck, with Native-made causeway)
F. Little rocky islet, very high on the coast. (Salt Island)
G. Cabins of the savages and where they till the soil (Wigwams of the Pawtucket)
H. Little river where there are meadows. (Brook with marsh flowing into Fresh-Water Cove beside Dolliver Neck)
I. Brook
 (Emptying beside Cressey Beach, not Pavilion Beach per one source)
L. Tongue of land covered with trees, including a large number of sassafras, walnut-trees, and vines. (Eastern Point; in the 1800s it was three quarters of a mile long and about half a mile at its widest point, with a lighthouse sixty feet above sea level at the end to which Dogbar Breakwater was later added. Sassafras was a medicinal root in great demand in Europe as a cure for scurvy and syphilus. The cluster of rocks Champlain drew near L were later called Black Bess—possibly after the horse of Dick Turpin, an infamous 18th century outlaw who led the Essex Gang in England. In any case the name would not have been in reference to Queen Elizabeth.)
M. Arm of the sea on the other side of the Island Cape (The creek in the drowned marsh at Little Good Harbor Beach; probably not ‘Squam River flowing into Annisquam Harbor’, as another source suggests)
N. Small River (Brook near Clay Cove on the eastern branch of the inner harbor, today identified as Wonson’s Cove; another source says Cripple Cove nearby.)
O. Small brook coming from the meadows (Branch of the Little River, running through the Cherry Hill Marsh and the Train Bridge Marsh, joining the Annisquam near Gloucester Harbor above the Blynman Canal. Further to the north, Mill River and Jones River flow into the Annisquam River from opposite sides, which empties into Ipswich Bay.)
P. Another little brook where we did our washing (At Oakes’ Cove in the southwestern tip of Rocky Neck)
Q. Troop of savages coming to surprise us (On the eastern bank of Smith’s Cove, but Champlain probably misread their intentions.)
R. Sandy strand (Niles Beach; Interestingly, Champlain omitted Niles Pond and possibly did not see it or thought it was part of the ocean because of its unique proximity; the fresh water pond is separated from the sea only by a narrow natural dike that residents have reinforced over the generations.)
S. Sea-coast
(Bass Rocks and the back shore along Atlantic Ave.)
T. Sieur de Poutrincourt in ambuscade with some seven or eight arquebusiers
(Champlain’s detachment of marines)
V. Sieur de Champlain discovering the savages (Champlain’s caricature of himself freaking out highlights his sense of humor.)

Champlain’s map also shows our familiar harbor seals and a swordfish in what is now the head of the harbor! But we are left with so many questions! Why was Champlain here? What did he think of the Pawtucket and how and why did his views change? What kind of clothes were they wearing that they washed at Rocky Neck? And what’s all this about arquebusiers and an ambush?

In his first encounters with Native Americans, Champlain seems awe-struck and admiring. Though he called them sauvages (a term synonymous with “primitives” or “pagans”), Champlain described the Indians as tall—even some of their children were taller than the French—handsome, muscular, graceful, and playful. Champlain made drawings of the Indians he encountered, including this Pawtucket couple on Cape Ann, including symbols of their practice of agriculture. The woman is holding an ear of corn and a summer squash. The man sports hunting gear, and the plant growing between them looks like Jerusalem Artichoke. Champlain wrote that of the foods he sampled, the tuber of a plant with yellow flowers was delicious and tasted like artichoke.11

Other drawings Champlain and his mapmaker-artist Marc Lescarbot made show Algonquian men and women hunting and fishing and going to war. The legend for the etchings on the right identify women dancing at a harvest celebration, a woman on Cap aux Iles pounding dried corn in a log mortar, and a Saco warrior in basketry armor.12


Champlain also describes the plants and animals and the Algonquian’s corn plantations on cleared land; hillsides covered with currants and grapes; stands of hickory, beechnut, and walnut trees; feasts of passenger pigeons (which flocked in the millions and are now extinct); and useful communications with the natives of Cape Ann.

We saw some very fine grapes just ripe, Brazilian peas [beans], pumpkins, squashes, and very good roots, which the savages cultivate, having a taste similar to that of chards. They made us presents of some of these, in exchange for little trifles which we gave them. They had already finished their harvest. We saw two hundred savages in this very pleasant place; and there are here a large number of very fine walnut-trees, cypresses, sassafras, oaks, ashes, and beeches.13

In his earlier career Champlain had witnessed and recorded Spanish atrocities in Santo Domingo, in which everyone who refused to convert to Christianity was burned alive. The experience shaped his resolve to inflict no harm on the Native people he encountered unless attacked.14





His later encounters with the Pawtucket, however, were fraught with misunderstandings and suspicions. Champlain’s map of Le Beauport immortalizes an incident in which he discovers a suspected Indian ambush and his lieutenant Poutrincourt and their arquebusiers (marines with front-loading, smooth-bore, matchlock guns) form a defense. What really happened, and why? We need to know more to answer this question, but based on their meddling in Native politics and mishaps on Cape Cod, the Frenchmen may not have been overreacting!

According to Champlain’s account:

The next day, as we were caulking our shallop, Sieur de Poutrincourt in the woods noticed a number of savages who were going, with the intention of doing us some mischief, to a little stream…at which our party were doing their washing. As I was walking along this neck, these savages noticed me; and, in order to put a good face upon it, since they saw that I had discovered them…they began to shout and dance, and then came towards me with their bows, arrows, quivers, and other arms…. I made a sign to them to dance again. This they did in a circle, putting all their arms in the middle. But they had hardly commenced, when they observed Sieur de Poutrincourt in the wood with eight musketeers, which frightened them. Yet they did not stop until they had finished their dance, when they withdrew in all directions, fearing lest some unpleasant turn might be served them….15

Detail of “Ambush” from Champlain’s Map

A central figure near “V” waving his arms is Champlain as he portrayed himself. The “savages” are shown dancing in a circle to the right, and the “musketeers” (arquebusiers) are in formation at “T” at the bottom of the inset.

The arquebus was a matchlock gun, a simple machine in which a burning wick was let down on an opened flash pan containing gunpower. To be sure of having a flame to ignite the gunpowder when needed, arquebusiers often lit both ends of the wick, which risked burning up the wick prematurely and then not having a flame when you really needed it. This is how “burning your candle at both ends” came to mean dangerously overdoing things.16

What the Well-Dressed Arquebusier Wore in the first half of the 17th Century

Early arquebuses were too heavy to hold, load, and fire from the shoulder and had to be propped with a monopod. Later versions were lighter-weight muskets with various improvements to the firing mechanism.17 Imagine the Pawtucket hearing a round from an arquebus and watching the Frenchmen wash these clothes.

Under the auspices of Pierre de Mont and inspired by the exploits of the earlier French explorer, Jacques Cartier, Champlain was searching for a good site for the capitol of a French colony to be called New France. As a result of perceived Pawtucket hostility in the 1606 Rocky Neck ambush incident, he decided the Islands Cape was not the right place. Another reason was his observation that the Pawtucket were too preoccupied with fishing and farming to devote much time to hunting and trapping for furs, and that Cape Ann was somewhat scant in fur-bearing animals compared to Canada. The colony of New France was to be financed through the fur trade, making the hunting and foraging people to the north and along the St. Lawrence a more attractive prospect. The final deciding factor was that when not planning ambushes the Pawtucket seemed altogether too happy to see him. They undoubtedly wanted the guns and knives that the French were handing out to Pawtucket enemies to the north, especially the dreaded Tarrantines.18

It’s interesting to speculate what Gloucester would have been like as the capital of Henry IV’s or Louis XIII’s French-American colonial empire. As it happened, after considering Acadia and Port Royal in Nova Scotia, Cape Ann, and Cape Cod, Champlain and his patrons chose Quebec, founded as the capital of New France in 1608. In the Canadian Maritimes, French attempts at diplomacy exacerbated enmity among Native Americans at a time when they were not yet united against a common foe. An example is Champlain’s naïve interference in relations between the Micmac and their southern neighbors. In 1605 Messamouet, a Micmac (Mi’Kmaq) chieftain serving as a guide to the French in their quest to find a copper mine, and his lieutenant, Secoudon, traveled south with Champlain to Maine to visit Onemechin, a Saco (Choüacoet) sachem, and his second in command, Marchin. The goal was to enlist the Saco and their allies in the fur trade with the Micmac as middlemen. They did not realize that an alliance between “Almouchiquois” and “Souriquois” would be impossible.19

Messamouet led Champlain to the copper mine at E on this map of Port aux mines in Maine.




The many names for Native Americans given by discoverers can be confusing when reading primary source documents. In general, the French called the hunter-gatherer Native Americans of the St. Lawrence Valley the Montagnais (in the east) and the Algonquins (or Algonkins, in the west). Native Americans of the Canadian Maritimes and Nova Scotia, including the Micmac, they called the Souriquois (“agreeable people” in French), and the Abenaki people of the Maine coast, including the Penobscot, they called the Etchemins (“canoe men”). To the agricultural Algonquians of New England, including the Saco of southern Maine and the Pawtucket of Cape Ann, they gave the name Almouchiquois (or Armouchequois, meaning unknown). To the Algonquians, the Souriquois, and sometimes also the Etchemins, were their traditional mortal enemies, the Tarrantines.20

France’s “New World” in 1600

Red = Algonkins and Montagnais  Brown = Souriquois                                       Light orange = Etchemins                         Dark orange = Almouchiquois




Ostensibly, the purpose of Champlain’s trip was to establish a Micmac-Saco alliance in aid of the fur trade, but the Saco (an Almouchiquois people) were holding a Souriquois as a POW from a military campaign against the Micmac the previous year. Unbeknownst to Champlain and his men, the POW was a relative of Messamouet. Messamouet paid a rich ransom for his return, which Champlain refers to as a gift exchange, but Onemechin perversely handed over the POW to Sieur de Poutrincourt instead of returning him to Messamouet. Onemechin also returned “lesser gifts”—filling a canoe with corn, squash and beans in exchange for steel knives and copper pots. Meanwhile, Poutrincourt assumed he was being given the POW as a personal slave. Messamouet was outraged and humiliated, leading to a series of wars that continued over the next 30 years.21

These wars pitted Micmac and others of the Canadian Maritimes, armed with guns, against coastal Algonquians to the south, armed with bows and arrows. Tarrantines (pronounced Tar ran teens) was not an ethnic or tribal name but might have been a corruption of 17th century French slang for “the terrorists” or “terrible ones”. They were coastal Souriquois and Etchemins of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and northern Maine, and may have included fierce Beothuk exiles from Newfoundland with whom they had intermarried. The French epithet “The Tarrantines” may have stuck through pure fame, much as the Mongols became “The Golden Horde”.22

According to Champlain’s account of the Micmac-Saco falling out between Messamouet and Onemechin:

Sieur de Poutrincourt secured a prisoner that Onemechin had, to whom Messamouët made presents of kettles, hatchets, knives, and other things. Onemechin reciprocated the same with Indian corn, squashes, and Brazilian beans [kidney beans]; which was not very satisfactory to Messamouët, who went away very ill-disposed towards them for not properly recognizing his presents, and with the intention of making war upon them in a short time. For these nations give only in exchange for something in return, except to those who have done them a special service, as by assisting them in their wars.23

Champlain did not connect this situation in Maine in 1605 to the Pawtucket “hostility” and suspected ambush he perceived in Gloucester Harbor in 1606. If there was hostility, it most likely was a direct consequence of the French role in Tarrantine aggression against the Saco in Maine the previous year in Messamoet’s revenge. The Saco were Pawtucket allies against the Tarrantines. The Tarrantines for generations had paddled down from the north to make deadly raids on the coastal peoples of Casco Bay, Ipswich Bay, and Massachusetts Bay. Throughout the Northeast, raids and counter-raids were traditional and retaliatory. Other than getting revenge, Tarrantine goals were to steal corn, which would not grow well in the Maritimes or anywhere above the 50th parallel, to capture women, and to collect coups (scalps). In traditional warfare forces were evenly matched, attacks were low-tech and relied on surprise, and casualties were minimized to reduce retaliatory risks. That all changed, however, when the Tarrantines got French trade goods. With iron kettles, steel knives, and guns, the value of corn and other crops as spoils of war decreased, warfare became more deadly, and force of arms dictated outcomes.24

Taking Scalps


Traditionally, wearing a scalplock signaled manhood and warriorship. It was a long decorated hank of hair that your enemy would take, along with its patch of scalp, if he killed you in battle. Warriors counted and compared their coups, collected them on special poles, and decorated them and wore them as personal adornment. Collecting coups as an expression of a warrior culture later became a form of vengeful mutilation practiced on women and children as well as on male combatants and was practiced by the English colonists and militias as well as by the Native Americans.25

Between 1605 and 1635 the Tarrantines devastated coastal populations, including the Saco in Maine, the Pawtucket on Cape Ann, and the Massachuset to the south. The northern raiders always had superior force, because the French were trading guns for furs at Tadoussac, the center of the fur trade on the St. Lawrence, down-river from Quebec.

The Pawtucket sagamore who met Champlain at Gloucester Harbor in 1606 was Quiouhamenec (pronounced Kwee oh ham en ek), who probably had just received the news of the French-abetted Tarrantine attack against their allies the Saco the previous year. Things started well. Champlain then reports an odd occurrence in which a Saco sachem (Onemechin on a surprise visit, no doubt arriving to confront Quiouhamenec about his dealings with Champlain), refuses Champlain’s gift of a jacket. Onemechin tries on the jacket, takes it off, puts it on, takes it off, indicating discomfort, and finally hands it over to a subordinate.

The chief of this place is named Quiouhamenec, who came to see us with a neighbor [cousin] of his, named Cohoüepech, whom we entertained sumptuously. Onemechin, chief of Choüacoet [Saco], came also to see us, to whom we gave a coat, which he, however, did not keep a long time, but made a present of it to another, since he was uneasy in it, and could not adapt himself to it.26

Here is what the Saco sachem may have meant (of which Champlain had not a clue):

“You aided our enemies and we are angry about it. We would retaliate, but you are involved with our ally the Pawtucket. I’m very uncomfortable with this conflict of interest. What can I do? If I refuse the jacket it means a declaration of war against you and my ally. If I accept the jacket it means the Saco accept defeat and subordination to the Pawtucket and the French. I hereby defer judgment by bestowing the gift on my subordinate.”

By neither accepting nor rejecting the gift, Onemechin creatively avoids the twin catastrophes. Champlain surmises only that savages are not used to wearing clothing. Whether or not this interpretation is correct, relations between the “Indians” and the Europeans undoubtedly were studded with many such communication errors and misunderstandings throughout the contact period. Cross-cultural miscommunication is a whole field of study, and gift giving and reciprocity universally play important and complex roles in human relations. In any case, the alleged “ambush” incident at Rocky Neck happened the very next day, and Champlain sailed away, never to return.

In his memoirs Champlain gives no evidence of having understood his role or the role of the French fur trade in the ensuing conflicts among the Indians. In 1607 Onemechin and his lieutenants and a hundred warriors were killed in an attack led by the famous Micmac chieftain Membertou, and in 1608 Quiohamanek and his lieutenants and many warriors were killed during their attempted retaliation against Membertou and the Tarrantines.27

Nevertheless, Champlain had put Le Beau Port on the map of northeastern North America. By 1612 Le Beauport appeared on French maps. Two years later Captain John Smith bestowed the moniker Cape Tragabigzanda, after the name of the Greek girl to whom he was allegedly enslaved during an earlier misadventure in Turkey. This extravagant label appeared briefly on English maps when Charles I, heir to the English throne, renamed it Capa Anna after his mother.28

Champlain’s maps are surprisingly accurate for his day. He adapted his tools for ocean navigation (the quadrant and the astrolabe—simple machines) for use on land, and he had his men pace out distances as they walked the Cape Ann shoreline. Their unit of measure on land was the toise, equal to 1.94 meters or 6.4 feet. They plumbed harbor depths in fathoms. In the 17th century one French fathom was approximately 5.5 feet (or alternatively the arm span of the tallest sailor on board—to ensure a generous measure of depth in unknown waters). One English fathom was 6 feet, today’s international standard. Champlain’s harbor depths in French fathoms show that his ship—a small, three-masted, ocean-going 80-ton barque with a 35-foot keel, 14-foot breadth, and 6-foot hold—was anchored at Rocky Neck in only around 24 feet of water at mean tide. Oddly, with all the transformations the harbor has seen, the depth there is roughly the same today.29

Replica of the Don de Dieu during the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City in 1908. The barque that Champlain sailed into Gloucester Harbor in 1606 was a different ship of the same size and design.


Nautical Map of Present-Day Gloucester Harbor







Throughout his tenure in New France, Champlain mapped every coastal settlement, river mouth, and harbor he came upon, including distances and depths in fathoms. He also drew illustrations of events he saw, such as celebrations, parleys, and battles. His shipmate Marc Lescarbot and the Jesuit missionaries who accompanied the explorers to New France also drew explanatory maps and illustrations. Comparing and interpreting such a wealth of visual evidence has proven a wonderful challenge.30

Champlain’s map of the St. Lawrence River system and the Maritimes, for example, shows wigwams as hills representing Native American settlements of different sizes.

Champlain’s route to the Massachusetts coast took him from Port Royal in Nova Scotia, past Acadia toward Casco Bay. He stopped in Penobscot harbor and made this map. There is Indian Island in the river, showing the layout of the village in Old Town, Maine, at that time.

His map of the estuary of the Saco River in Maine shows the Abenaki corn plantations and flake yards of Onemechin’s people, and some warriors, as well as a grampus (a kind of North Atlantic porpoise) and a whale in the bay.

                              Champlain’s Map of the Saco River Estuary

Champlain’s map of Plymouth harbor more than a decade before the English pilgrims came in the Mayflower shows the characteristic Indian corn plantations, plus a powwow in progress on a spit of land at the mouth of the harbor. The friendship that William Bradford’s party enjoyed initially was extended though exceptional individuals, such as Samoset (a visiting Abenaki), Squanto (Tisquantum, an escaped Patuxet ex-slave), and of course Massasoit. In general, however, the Wampanoags at Plymouth and the Nauset on Cape Cod did not extend friendship to the English Pilgrims because of prior negative experiences with Champlain and the French mariners.31

Edward Winslow’s Copy of Champlain’s Map of Plymouth Harbor

Those prior experiences included murder and mayhem. Champlain gave Nauset Harbor the name of Malle Barre (Bad Closing Off) because of its shallow access afforded by a sandbar at the harbor entrance and perhaps also because one of his men was killed there by the Nauset when he attempted to prevent what he saw as a theft—at “B” on Champlain’s map (foreground to the right). The cook was washing pots in a stream when a “savage” took one. This conflict may have stemmed from mutual ignorance of cultural values regarding private vs. communal property and theft vs. borrowing. Despite this encounter, between 1620 and 1675, around 500 Nauset cohabited with the English at this site.32

Champlain’s Map of Nauset Harbor

Champlain’s map keys often described specific events at the harbors he drew. For example here is a map of Stage Harbor in Chatham, or Monomoit, which Champlain called Port Misfortune. It traces an event in 1606 after leaving Cape Ann that contributed to Champlain’s decision to take Cape Cod, as well as Cape Ann, out of the running for the capital of New France. Here the French put ashore to explore and some men are left behind to bake bread. People who later became known as the Wampanoag attacked by surprise. They had gotten word of events at Mallebarre. There at Nauset the French had killed some Indians as a result of a misunderstanding over a copper pot that had left one Frenchman dead.

At Chatham the warriors at Monomoit killed a few of the men on kitchen duty and burned the bodies beside the cross the French had erected, which they tore down and broke. We see survivors fleeing, stuck with arrows, and they are briefly defended by Native converts, guides and interpreters who had accompanied Champlain. The French come to the rescue in a shallop that is beseiged by the Indians as it nears shore. The Indians are beaten back but not before more Frenchmen fall and die in the harbor. Sieur de Poitrincourt arrives in his boat to pick up the pieces, after which the French make sail. They follow the coast southward, stopping at Providence, Martha’s Vinyard, and Narragansett, then rounding Nantucket to sail home to France, never again to return to New England.33

Returning to Canada in 1608 to continue his explorations, Champlain dutifully illustrated the battles in which he aided the Almouchiquois (the agricultural Algonquians of New England) against their western enemy, the Mohawk or Kanien’kehaka (Maqui to the Algonquians), members of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy. While their eastern enemies the Tarrantines wanted corn, the Mohawks wanted access to the coast and a greater share in the lucrative French fur trade. In these battles as few as three or four musketeers turned the tide against the Iroquois. The Iroquois later avenged these attacks with devastating defeats for the Pawtucket, Pennacook, Nipmuck, Mahican, Sokoki, Missisquoi, and other New Englanders.34

Here is Champlain in the center of this battle scene. He’s firing his arquebus at Mohawk warriors, who are shooting arrows at him in their first experience with guns in a joint Algonquian-French raid against the Mohawks. This took place in 1609 on the shores of what became Lake Champlain. No actual portrait of Champlain exists, but some of his maps may include “Where’s Waldo”-style self-portraits such as this one.35

Now we can answer the question that opens this chapter. All of Champlain’s maps from Quebec to Cape Cod show that he saw heavily populated harbors and river mouths. They prove without a doubt that Native Americans in considerable numbers (between 200 and 2,000 at any given site) were living in coastal and interior New England prior to colonial settlement, and from southern Maine southward they were practicing agriculture. Now a new question: Who else came here before the Friendship landed Dorchester Company fishermen at Gloucester’s Fishermen’s Field in 1623, and what did they see?



1. Of the translations of Champlain’s diary and account in Voyages, I relied most on the original 1878 translation by Charles Pomeroy Otis: Memoir of Samuel de Champlain, Volume II
1604-1610, especially for his descriptions of Le Beauport and encounters with the Indians. See’s_Voyages,_Translated_by_Charles_Otis,_Vol._II_1604-1608#cite_note-230 . See also Langdon and Ganong’s 1922 edition of The Works of Samuel de Champlain, published by the Champlain Society ( ), and Henry Biggar’s six volumes, The Works of Samuel de Champlain, prepared between 1922 and 1936 and reprinted in 1971 by the Toronto University Press. In these editions, Champlain writes volume 1 in 1599, volume II in 1603, volume III in 1613, and the last three volumes in 1632.
The original of Champlain’s map of Gloucester Harbor is in the Archive of Early American Images and Maps Collection at the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, Providence, RI, and versions of it can be readily found in Google Images.

2. Champlain anchored in what would become Boston Harbor but did not go ashore there. He sailed to Plymouth Harbor, then skipped Cape Cod Bay entirely and ended his New England landings at Nauset Beach. The map shows seven of his voyages of discovery between 1603 and 1624. See the Prince Society 1878 edition of Otis’s translation of Volume I of Voyages, edited by Edmund Slafter (available at and ), which includes maps and illustrations. An accessible French source is Des Sauvages: ou voyage de Samuel Champlain, de Brouages, faite en la France nouvelle l’an 1603 (“Concerning the Savages: or travels of Samuel Champlain of Brouages, made in New France in the year 1603”), which describes Champlain’s first voyage to Canada as the guest of François Gravé du Pont, who was in search of the Northwest Passage.

3. The stories of Epenow and other Native abductees from the New England coast are told in Chapter 22.

4. Other voyages of discovery to New England and the Northeast are the subject of Chapter 4.

5. From Part IX of Volume II of the Otis edition of Champlain’s Voyages.

6. The same six chiefdoms of the Massachuset were later identified in other contexts by Edward Winslow (Mourt’s Relation 1622), Thomas Morton (New English Canaan 1632), Roger Williams (A Key into the Language of America 1643), Samuel Maverick (A Briefe Description of New England 1660), and Daniel Gookin (Historical Collections of the Indians of New England 1674). These are all available online.

7. The principal primary source for the ethnography of the Indians of New England, other than the first governors of the first colonies, is Daniel Gookin, the first Indian agent of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. See his 1674 account (Published in 1692, reprinted in 1792 and 1806), Historical collections of the Indians of New England and their several nations, numbers, customs, manners, religion, and government before the English planted there (Massachusetts Historical Society Collections): . See also the early historian William Hubbard’s 1801 work, A Narrative of the Indian Wars in New England 1607-1677 (Greenleaf) and Wendell Hadlock’s 1947 article, War among the northeastern Woodland Indians, American Anthropologist 49 (2).

8. Biographies of Champlain I consulted included Samuel Eliot Morison’s 1972 classic, Samuel de Champlain: Father of New France (Little Brown) available at and David Fischer’s 2008 tome, Champlain’s Dream (Simon & Schuster), although I found the latter too hagiographic to my taste.

9. For information on shallops, pinnaces, and other types of colonial and early American vessels, see, for example, Howard Chapelle’s 1951 article and others in American Small Sailing Craft: Their Design, Development, and Construction (W. W. Norton). The 2006 illustration of a shallop under sail is by Duane A. Cline. and the 1633 illustration of “mosquetero, piquero, and arcabucero” attire is in the Digital Gallery of the New York Public Library.

10. The interpretation of Champlain’s map key in this book is my own. Interpretations by editors of Champlain’s Voyages tend to suffer from unfamiliarity with Gloucester’s landmarks. A more accurate local interpretation is offered in Marshall Saville’s 1934 Champlain and His Landings at Cape Ann, 1605, 1606 (American Antiquarian Society). There is a copy in Rockport at the Sandy Bay Historical Society, which Saville founded to house his collection of Native American artifacts found on Cape Ann. Another intimate source, The Fishermen’s Own Book, published in Gloucester in 1882, offers the following interpretation Champlain’s Le Beau Port map key:
A, The place where our bark was anchored. B, Meadows. C, Little Island. (Ten Pound Island.) D, Rocky Point. (Eastern Point.) E, The place where we caulked our boat. (Rocky Neck.) F, Little Rocky Island.(Salt Island.) G, Wigwams of the savages, where they cultivate the earth. H, Little river, where there are meadows. (Brook and marsh at Fresh Water Cove.) I, Brook. (Brook which enters the sea at Pavilion Beach.) L, Tongue of plain ground, where there are saffrons, nut-trees and vines.(On Eastern Point.) M, The salt water from a place where the Cape of Islands turns. (The creek in the marsh at little good harbor.) N, Little river. (Brook near Clay Cove.) O, Little Brook coming from meadows. (This brook cannot now be exactly located.) P, A little brook where they washed their linen. (At Oakes’ Cove, Rocky Neck.) Q, Troop of savages coming to surprise them. (At Rocky Neck.) R, Sand beach. (Niles’ Beach, at Eastern Point.) S, The sea-coast. (Back side of Eastern Point.) T, The Sieur de Poutrincourt in ambuscade with seven or eight arquebusiers. V, The Sieur de Champlain perceiving the savages.

11. Champlain’s sketches of Indians along with his descriptive keys may be seen at from Volume 4 of G. -E. Desbarats’ 1870 work, Oeuvres de Champlain (2nd ed., Archives of Ontario Library), facing page 81.

12. See Marc Lescarbot. 1606 (2013). Nova Francia: A Description of Acadia, 1606. New York: Routledge.

13. From Part XIII of Otis’s translation of Champlain’s Voyages.

14. Champlain’s observations of Spanish colonialism in the 16th century are in Slafter, Rev. Edmund F. 1878. Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, Volume I: 1567-1635.

15. From Part VII of Volume II of the Otis edition of Champlain’s Voyages.

16. See an online video of the matchlock firing mechanism, From Matchlock to Flintlock, by the Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center in Williamsburg, VA: . See also an expert’s blog on
Sellswords, mercenaries, and condotierri, They Shot at the Skies: Soldiers and Firearms of 16th Century at .

17. An authoritative source on early firearms is Charles Black’s translation of Auguste Demmin’s 1877 An illustrated history of arms and armour (a free read in Google Books). The 1633 illustration of “mosquetero, piquero, and arcabucero” attire is in the Digital Gallery of the New York Public Library.

18. Events surrounding Champlain’s departure from Cape Ann are described in Part XIII of Volume II of Otis’s translation of Champlain’s Voyages. In a letter to his monarch, also in Voyages, Champlain cites unpredictable natives and relative scarcity of fur-bearing animals as his reasons for seeking elsewhere to plant New France. A historical marker near the entrance to Gloucester’s Rocky Neck commemorates his visit to Le beau port.

19. Champlain describes the quest for American copper mines in Part III of the Prince Society edition of Voyages. Sources of metals and minerals, along with an abundant supply of furs, dictated the location of a capital for New France and at the same time muddied inter-tribal relations among native Americans. Sources on the French fur trade and its impacts on Native Americans of North America include Dean Snow’s 1976 article, The Abenaki fur trade in the sixteenth century in The Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology 6 (1); Colin Calloway’s 1991 Dawnland Encounters: Indians and Europeans in northern New England; Robert Grumet’s 1995 Historic contact: Indian People and Colonists in Today’s Northeastern United States in the Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries; and Thomas Nixon’s 2011dissertation, The North American Fur Trade and its Effects on the Native American Population and the Environment in North America (see ).

20. See David Allen’s 2005 French Mapping of New York and New England 1604-1760 at . And Bernard Hoffman’s 1955 Map of Native Territories in 1700, in Souriquois, Etechemin, and Kwedech–A Lost Chapter in American Ethnography, in Ethnohistory 2 (1). For a perspective on ethnicity in the Northeast, see Bruce Bourke’s 1989 Ethnicity on the Maritime Peninsula 1600-1759, in Ethnohistory 36 (3) and Olive Dickason’s 2009 general reference, Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times (Oxford University Press).

21. A more complete account of this interaction and its potential for cross-cultural misunderstanding is given in Marc Lescarbot’s 1607 account, Defeat of the Armouchiquois Savages by Chief Membertou and his savage allies (translated by Thomas Goetz), in Papers of the sixth Algonquian conference, William Cowan, ed. (Carleton University, 1974).

22. For a perspective on conflict between Northeastern hunter-gatherers and New England horticulturalists, see Bruce Bourke and Ruth Whitehead’s 1985 article, Tarrentines and the Introduction of European Trade Goods in the Gulf of Maine, in Ethnohistory 32 (4).

23. The quotation is in Part XIII of Vol. II of Otis’s translations of Voyages and also on pages 6 and 7 of Morris Bishop’s Samuel de Champlain: The Life of Fortitude (Knopf, 1948).

24. Primary source accounts of Tarrantine raids on New England are in the papers of John Winthrop and John Winthrop Jr. Tarrantine raids on Cape Ann are also referenced in John Goff’s 2008 article, Remembering the Tarratines (sic) and Nanepashemet: Exploring 1605-1635 Tarratine War Sites in Eastern Massachusetts, in The New England Antiquities Research Association Journal, 39 (2). See also William Haviland’s 2010 Canoe Indians of Down East Maine (The History Press).

25. Scalping and scalp collecting were practiced in North and South America in pre-Columbian times in highly ritualized cultural contexts as an expression of a warrior code of conduct, including the scalplock hairstyle and collection of coups, during raids on other native people. The practice was transformed following European contact into acts of retribution performed by both Indians and colonists on combatants and non-combatants alike, often for bounty money. Popular present-day interpretation has it that colonists taught scalping to the Indians, but this simply is not true. Sound sources on this subject include James Axtell’s 1982 The European and the Indian: Essays on the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America (Oxford University Press); John Grenier’s 2005 The first way of war: American war making on the frontier, 1607-1814 (Cambridge University Press); and Richard Burton’s 1864 ethnographic “Notes on Scalping” in Anthropological Review ( ).

26. See Note 23.

27. For a perspective on unintended impacts of French contact on relations among the Indians, see Champlain’s Legacy: The Transformation of Seventeenth-Century North America, in The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000, by Fred Anderson and Andrew Clayton (2005) and Colin Calloway’s 2013 New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America (Johns Hopkins Press).

28. Champlain’s map of Gloucester Harbor is surprisingly accurate, based only on his astrolabe readings and pacing off of the land. Captain John Smith’s mapping of Cape Ann is described in more detail in Chapter 4 of this book. The original of Champlain’s 1607 map of the Northeast from Cape Sable to Cape Cod is in the Library of Congress.

29. French and other historical units of measure are explained in Measure for Measure by R. A. Young and T. J. Glover (Blue Willow, 1996). The vessel that Champlain moored in Gloucester Harbor may have been the Don de Dieu, described in William Wood’s 1915 All Afloat: A Chronicle of Craft and Waterways, or possibly a smaller barque built on the St. Lawrence specifically for exploring the northeastern coast, with an even smaller oared vessel in tow—a shallop or pinnace—for exploring up rivers en route. The contemporary map of Gloucester Harbor is a detail from the NOAA Nautical Chart for Ipswich Bay to Gloucester Harbor. The history of Gloucester Harbor, a fascinating study in itself, is found in publications of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, including a 2000 report, Review of Depth to Bedrock in Gloucester Inner Harbor and The Environmental History and Current Characteristics of Gloucester Harbor by Anthony Wilbur and Fara Courtney (2001): .

30. Champlain’s maps have been gathered in the Osher Map Library, including engravings of his maps of the St. Lawrence and the Saco River. : .

31. Champlain’s 1605 map of Plymouth Harbor, which he named Port St. Louis, may be seen on the web site of the Plymouth Colony Archive Project at See also a description of his visit there at

32. Champlain’s experience at Nauset and his map of Malle Barre are from Part XIV of Volume II of Otis’s translation of Champlain’s Voyages.

33. Champlain named Stage Harbor in Chatham Port Fortune and later Port Misfortune. See There are different stories about Champlain’s misadventure there, including an “official” local history that attributes loss of life to the theft of a knife. I have relied on Champlain’s account of what happened there, in which there is an unprovoked Wampanoag attack on men put ashore to bake bread and see to the provisioning of their vessel. The map story of this attack is Marc Lescarbot’s elaboration of Champlain’s original chart of the harbor.

34. For information on the founding of New France, I relied on Canadian sources, especially W. R. Wilson (2010) Eastern Woodland Indians & the Coming of the Europeans and New France, in Early Canada Historical Narratives at ; D. Garneau’s History of New France, in Canadian History Timelines ( ); and the Canadian History Directory (2009), Timelines for the History of New France 1385-1900: ( ). See also Francis Parkman’s 1983. Pioneers of France in the New World: the Jesuits in North American in the Seventeenth Century, in Volume I of France and England in North America (Library of America).

35. Champlain’s sketch of himself firing his arquebus at an Iroquois war party in 1609 is reproduced in the Otis edition of Voyages and elsewhere. No authentic portrait of Champlain is known to exist. The painting most commonly used shows Champlain as a d’Artagnan-like figure by Theophile Hamel (1870) after one by Ducornet (d. 1856), based on an earlier portrait of someone else entirely by Balthasar Moncornet (d. 1668).