Resources for local Native American history and dialects

(The following information is provided by Mary Ellen Lepionka of Gloucester.

Read: Who Were the Agawam Indians Really?

Mary Ellen Lepionka’s Sources

Sources for Algonquian place names include

  • William Bright’s Native American Place Names of the United States (2004, see especially pp. 32, 41, 554, and 571);
  • R. Douglas-Lithgow’s Native American Place Names of Massachusetts and his Native American Place Names of New Hampshire and Maine (2000);
  • the chapter on Geographical Names in H. L. Mencken’s classic The American Language (1921, available at;
  • Edward Gray and Norman Fiering, The Language Encounter in the Americas 1492-1800: A Collection of Essays (2000);
  • John Huden’s chapter on Indian Place Names of New England in Volume 18 of Contributions from the New York Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (1962, available at;
  • and J. Hammond Trumbull’s vintage work, The Composition of Indian Geographical Names, Illustrated from the Algonkin (1870, available at

Other sources of information about place names:

  • Lyle Campbell’s 1997 American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America (see pp. 156-168);
  • a 1904 article by William Tooker, Algonquian Names of Some Mountains and Hills, in The Journal of American Folklore 17 (66):
  • 171-179; Myron Sleeper’s 1949 article, Indian place names in New England, in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society 10 (4): 89-93;
  • C. Lawrence Bond’s 3rd edition of Native Names of New England Towns and Villages (2000);
  • Alexander Chamberlain’s 1902 article, Algonkian Words in American English: A Study in the Contact of the White Man and the Indian, in The Journal of American Folklore 15 (59): 240–267.

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft set forth his linguistic theories in his 1839 Algic Researches.
The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs published his summary with Seth Eastman of Algonquian languages in Volume 5 (pp. 221-224) of Historical and statistical Information, respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States (1847; 1855).

Information about Masconomet

  • Volume 5 of the Winthrop Papers (1628), published by the Massachusetts Historical Society
  • John Winthop’s History of New England 1630-1649 (1649).
  • Ipswich histories, especially Joseph Felt’s, including his 1862 paper, Indian Inhabitants of Agawam (read at a Meeting of the Essex Institute on August 21 of that year, in Essex Institute Historical Collections 4: 225-228).
  • Masconomet also appears in Native American Deeds in Essex County at the web site of the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds (
  • Sidney Perley’s The Indian Land Titles of Essex County, Massachusetts (1912).

See also

  • Dennis Connole’s Indians of the Nipmuck Country in Southern New England 1630-1750 (2007);
  • Samuel Gardner Drake’s 1834 Biography and history of the Indians of North America: comprising a general account of them, and details in the lives of all the most distinguished chiefs, and others who have been noted, among the various Indian nations;
  • Robert Grumet’s Northeastern Indian Lives, 1632-1816 (1996); and Ellen Knight’s article on Nanepashemet’s Family Tree in the February 2006 Wiser Newsletter 11/2 (Nanepashemet.pdf).

Primary source accounts of Agawam

  • Papers in the Essex Institute Historical Collections by Robert Rantoul (19: B126)
  • Herbert Adams (19:153),
  • George Phippen (1: 97, 145, 185),
  • Joseph Felt (4: 225), in addition to Joseph Felt’s history of Ipswich, which is based on colonial accounts.

English colonial observers in New England who recorded observations of Algonquian languages or names in southern New England

  • William Bradford (History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647);
  • Edward Winslow (Mourt’s Relation, 1622, and Good Newes from New England, 1624);
  • Roger Williams (A Key into the Language of America, 1643);
  • John Winthrop (A journal of the transactions and occurrences in the settlement of Massachusett… from the year 1630 to 1644, published in 1853 as History of New England 1630-1649);
  • John Winthrop Jr., who established Ipswich (The Winthrop Papers, 1628);
  • Francis Higginson, who settled in Beverly-Salem (New England’s Plantation, 1630); William Wood (New England’s Prospect, 1634);
  • Thomas Lechford (Plain Dealing: Or News from New England, 1637);
  • Thomas Morton (The New English Canaan, 1637);
  • Edward Johnson (Wonder-Working Providence, 1654),
  • Samuel Maverick (A Briefe Description of New England and the Severall Townes Therein, 1660);
  • John Josselyn (An Account of Two Voyages to New-England, 1674);
  • John Eliot (A Brief Narrative of the Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, in the Year 1670); and
  • Daniel Gookin, the first Indian Agent for the government of Massachusetts Bay (Collections of the Indians in New England, 1792).

Some early English explorers who recorded Algonquian words and names included

  • James Rosier (in Henry Burrage’s 1887 Rosier’s Relation of Weymouth’s Voyage to the Coast of Maine, 1605);
  • James Davies (Relation of a voyage to Sagadahoc, 1607-1608); It is from Davies, for example, that we first learn that the language of the coastal Indians in Essex County, New Hampshire, and southern Maine and the language of the Indians of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay were mutually intelligible only through the aid of interpreters.
  • John Smith (The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer Isles, 1624);
  • Christopher Leverett (A Voyage into New England Begun in 1623 and Ended in 1624);
  • Samuel Purchas (Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes, Volume 4, 1625).

French sources for Algonquian vocabulary

  • Samuel de Champlain, Father Sebastien Rale, Father Jean de Brebeuf, and other Catholic missionaries posted to northern New England and Canada. For example, Jesuit missionary texts collected by Eugene Vetromille, published in 1857 as the Indian Good Book, include a Roman Catholic prayer book written in two Abenaki dialects. Comparisons of word meanings from the different sources help in getting closer to accurate translations. For example, the Pilgrim Roger Williams, the Puritan John Cotton, the Jesuit Father Rale, the modern linguist R. Douglas-Lithgow, and others have provided alternative etymologies for Massachusetts (see

Dutch sources

Arnoldus Montanus’ 1671 map, New and Unknown World (De Nieuwe en Onbekende Weereld), based on a 1616 Dutch map and copied in Ogilby’s America. This is the map that notoriously has Wyngaerts hoek (meaning “grapevine cape”) in the ocean off Cape Cod, causing some to claim that this is the origin of Wingaersheek. It is far more likely, however, that the latter is a corruption of an Algonquian name (Wingawecheek) by an English speaker, perhaps one familiar with the Dutch maps or simply inclined to add an r sound after the long vowel, as older Yankees still tend to do (e.g., when Anner has a good idear).

Pawtucket seasonal migration between Wamesit in the vicinity of Lowell and the Essex County coasts is attested in the accounts of John Winthrop Jr., Daniel Gookin, Joseph Felt, and the earliest histories of Lowell, Chelmsford, Billerica, and Dracut, including Charles Cowley’s 1862 Memories of the Indians…. The prejudicial view that New England Algonquians were inconsequential because they “wandered” and did not build cities or monuments was first expressed by early archaeologists of the post-Civil War era, such as F. W. Putnam, and has tended to persist to the present day.

For archaeologists’ perspectives on Algonquian farming

  • Elizabeth Chilton (2010) Mobile farmers and sedentary models: Horticulture and cultural transitions in Late Woodland and contact period New England, in Susan Alt, ed., Ancient Complexities: New Perspectives in Precolumbian North America: 96-103.
  • Robert Hasenstab (1999), Fishing, Farming, and Finding the Village Sites: Centering Late Woodland New England Algonquians, in The Archaeological Northeast: 139-153,
  • Barbara Luedtke (1988), Where are the late woodland villages in eastern Massachusetts? Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society. 49 (2) 58-65.

Pawtucket roots among the Pennacook of the Merrimack Valley in New Hampshires

  • attested in letters of Daniel Gookin and John Eliot and is explained in ethnographic works by Gordon Day (In search of New England’s Native Past, 1998) and
  • David Stewart-Smith (The Pennacook Lands and Relations: An Ethnography (1994) in The New Hampshire Archaeologist: 33/34; Pennacook Indians and
  • The New England Frontier circa 1604-1733 (1998);
  • Fall 1999. Indians of the Merrimack Valley: An Introduction (Fall 1999) in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society 60 (2): 57.
  • David Stewart-Smith’s and Frank Speck’s ethnographies were my principal sources for understanding Pawtucket-Pennacook political organization and kinship.

Early sources for Wamesit, Pawtucket, and Pennacook include

  • Eliot and Gookin, cited above; Charles Cowley’s 1862 Memories of the Indians and Pioneers of the Region of Lowell, Vol I. and his 1886 History of Lowell;
  • Abiel Abbott’s History of Andover From Its Settlement to 1829;
  • Wilson Waters’ History of Chelmsford (1917); Frederick Coburn’s History of Lowell and Its People (1920);
  • Silas Coburn’s History of Dracut, Massachusetts, called by the Indians Augumtoocooke….(1922);
  • Nathaniel Bouton’s 1856. The History of Concord: From Its First Grant in 1725, to the Organization of the City Government in 1853, with a History of the Ancient Penacooks.
  • Colin Calloway’s The Western Abenakis of Vermont 1600-1800 (1990)
  • Dawnland Encounters: Indians and Europeans in northern New England (1991);
  • Thadeuz Pietrrowski, The Indian Heritage of New Hampshire and Northern New England (2002).
  • See also Peter Leavenworth’s article, “The Best Title That Indians Can Claime”: National Agency and Consent in the Transferal of Penacook-Pawtucket Land in the 17th Century (June 1999) in the New England Quarterly Vol. 72, No. 2: 275-300.

For additional information about the Tarrantines:

  • Tarrentines and the Introduction of European Trade Goods in the Gulf of Maine (1985) by Bruce Bourke and Ruth Holmes Whitehead, in Ethnohistory 32 (4): 327-341
  • Remembering the Tarratines and Nanepashemet: Exploring 1605-1635 Tarratine War Sites in Eastern Massachusetts (2008) by John Goff, in The New England Antiquities Research Association Journal 39 (2).

Local town histories, all of which repeat old misunderstandings about the Indians, if they mention them at all, include

  • John Wingate Thornton’s 1854 The Landing at Cape Ann;
  • John Babson’s 1860 History of the Town of Gloucester, Cape Ann: Including the Town of Rockport and the Notes and Additions to the History of Gloucester published in 1990;
  • Herbert Adams’ 1882 The Fisher Plantation of Cape Anne, Part I of The Village Communities of Cape Ann and Salem, and
  • James Pringle’s 1892 History of the Town and City of Gloucester, Cape Ann, Massachusetts. (See pp. 16-18 for Pringle’s affirmation of incorrect traditional interpretations of Algonquian place names.)

Other town histories I consulted include

  • Edward Stone’s 1843 History of Beverly, Civil and Ecclesiastical, from its Settlement in 1630 to 1842;
  • Joshua Coffin’s A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845;
  • Robert Crowell’s 1853 History of the Town of Essex, 1634-1700; Old Naumkeag: An Historical Sketch of the City of Salem, and the Towns of Marblehead, Peabody, Danvers, Wenham, Manchester, Topsfield, and Middleton by Carl Webber and Winfield Nevins (1877);
  • D. F. Lamson’s 1895 History of the Town of Manchester, Essex County, Massachusetts 1645-1895;
  • Joseph Felt’s Annals of Salem from Its first Settlement, Volume I (1845) and his History of Ipswich, Essex, and Manchester (1966);
  • the History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts, including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscott, and Nahant, 1628-1893, by Alonzo Lewis and James R. Newhall (1844);
  • Sidney Perley’s The History of Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts, from the Earliest Settlement Known to the Present Time (1880);
  • John Currier’s 1902 History of Newbury, Mass. 1635-1902;
  • Thomas Waters’ 1905 Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony; and
  • Gordon Abbott’s 2003 Jeffrey’s Creek: A Story of People, Places and Events in the Town That Came to Be Known as Manchester-By-The-Sea.

Good general sources for the history of Essex County include

  • Hurd’s History of Essex County (1888); Part I, Volume 2 of Walter Hough’s History of Essex County, Massachusetts (1888);
  • Benjamin Arrington’s Municipal history of Essex County in Massachusetts (1922); and
  • Laude Feuss’ The Story of Essex County (1935).
  • John Smith’s 1624 version of his map of New England incorporates Algonquian place names he learned from an Abenaki sagamore in Maine while summering on the Kennebec, which he describes in A Description of New England (1616), published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 3rd Series (1837) 6:103-140.
  • William Wood’s map. “The South part of New England as it is Planted this yeare, 1634S in Google Images
  • or in Fite and Freeman, A Book of Old Maps Delineating American History, pp. 136-139.
  • Robert Raymond has an enlarged detail of Wood’s map at
  • John Seller’s A Mapp of New England is at
  • The document “The Names of the Rivers” was found in the British Library in the Egerton Manuscripts, “Papers Relating to the English Colonies in America and the West Indies, 1627-1699”, in British Records Relating to American History in Microform (BRRAM) Series (1974). It was among the papers of Thomas Povey (1613-1705) who was a secretary of Charles II. See “Thomas Povey Papers and Letters”, Egerton Mss #2395 Folio 412-213. The full title is “Names of the Rivers and the names of ye cheife Sagamores yt inhabit upon Them from the River of Quibequissue to the River of Wenesquawam.” [i.e., from the Penobscot River to the Annisquam River”]. See also an article by Mary Beth Norton and Emerson Baker, The Names of the Rivers: A new look at an old document, in New England Quarterly 80/3: 459-487 (September 2007).

Beginning soon after the Civil War, generations of archaeologists and collectors have unearthed evidence of many seasonal camps and villages throughout eastern Essex County—in Ipswich and Essex especially—dating from PaleoIndian times 11,500 years ago to the Contact Period. Sites on Cape Ann are equally plentiful, but have received little attention from professional archaeologists. Evidence for villages at Wingaersheek and Riverview in Gloucester comes from sites surveyed after World War I by Frank Speck and Frederick Johnson for the R. S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and the Museum of the American Indian (Heye Foundation) in New York. Those and other sites were excavated between 1930 and 1940 by amateur archaeologist N. Carleton Phillips, whose collections are stored in the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester and the Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleborough. Discoveries at Wingaersheek in 1965 are preserved as the Matz Collection in the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Cambridge. More recent Cultural Resource Management projects, such as Savulis et al. (1979), Archaeological Survey of Ipswich, Massachusetts (MHC#25-246), have been conducted under the aegis of the Massachusetts Historical Commission in Boston.

See also my article, Unpublished Papers on Cape Ann Prehistory, in the Spring 2013 issue of the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society 74 (2): 45-92 (along with the Society’s errata sheet in the following issue).

Documentary evidence for a large village in Riverview is sparse but includes, aside from the Egerton Ms., Ebenezer Pool’s handwritten record of his grandfather’s testimony, in Pool Papers, Vol. I (1823) in the Sandy Bay Historical Society (with a typescript in the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester), and a letter written by John Dunton in 1686 (Letters Written from New England, Prince Society Publications Issue 4, 1966). See also the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1846), John Dunton’s Journal: 121-122).

For help with pronouncing Algonquian names and place names see Dr. Frank Waabu O’Brien’s appendix at In addition to the web site, O’Brien has published Understanding Indian Place Names in Southern New England (2010) and Guide to Historical Spellings and Sounds in New England Algonquian Language (2012), based on the research of colonial missionaries J. Eliot, J. Cotton, and R. Williams. These works are part of The Massachusett-Narragansett Revival Program of the Aquidneck Indian Council (see the web site for details) but often include Abenaki cognates. For examples of Native American, English, and French exonyms for tribes and nations, see

In reconstructing Pawtucket place names from the Abenaki I had help from Laura Redish, co-editor with Orrin Lewis of Native Languages of the Americas (2012) at; the Western Abenaki Dictionary and Radio Online at; and the Cowasuck [Kowasek] Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People (the People of the White Pines) at A valuable historical source is Joseph Laurent’s 1884 New familiar Abenakis and English dialogues at

My definition of Pennacook (referring to groundnuts rather than foothills) comes from Gordon Day in In Search of New England’s Native Past: Selected Essays from Gordon M. Day (1998), M. K. Foster and W. Cowan, eds.

Gloucester (actually West Gloucester) as Agamenticus appears on the website of the Massachusetts Citizen Information Service on the list of “Archaic Community, District, Neighborhood, Section, and Village Names in Massachusetts” (see

In addition to the ancient “Names of the Rivers” document in the Egerton Manuscripts, an account of Quascacunquen comes from Currier’s 1902 History of Newbury, which cites the Massachusetts Colony Records (Vol. 1: 146); Winthrop’s History of New England, p. 30; and Wood’s 1634 map of New England. These sources give Wessacucon or Wessacumcon as the original Indian name. In either form, however, the name was a corruption of the native name for the Parker River and their village upon it. As shown, the name did not mean anything relating to the falls in Newbury in the Byfield parish, as claimed in all contemporary sources. The root words for water, falls, or river are not present in the word in any form.

Naumkeag (along with other villages, such as Mathabequa on the Forest River in Salem) is attested in the accounts of

  • Edward Winslow in 1624;
  • members of Roger Conant’s party traveling from Fishermen’s Field in Gloucester to Salem Village (Beverly) in 1626;
  • Francis Higginson’s account of 1629; and the 1680 testimonies of William Dixy and Humphrey Woodbury, who described native farming settlements on the rivers running into Beverly and Salem harbors.
  • See Edward Stone’s History of Beverly, Civil and Ecclesiastical, from its Settlement in 1630 to 1842) and
  • George Dow’s Two centuries of travel in Essex County, Massachusetts, a collection of narratives and observations made by travelers, 1605-1799 (1921). Algonquian appreciation of eels as a delicacy was remarked upon by several early observers, including Champlain, Wood, and Josselyn.

My proposed reconstruction of Wingaersheek as Wingawecheek is based on a word meaning for winga- (plural winka-), “snail/whelk”, proposed by Carol Dana of the Department of Cultural and Historic Preservation of the Penobscot (Penawahpskewi) Indian Nation on Indian Island, Maine, in 2011, based on her participation in a Western Abenaki language revival program. I combined this with the Abenaki wechee for “ocean/sea”, adding the locative ending, and so far as I know this is an original interpretation.

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