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Texts Related to the Works of Sarah Orne Jewett

The history of Manchester, formerly Derryfield, in New Hampshire;
including that of ancient Amoskeag, or the middle Merrimack valley; together with the address, poem, and other proceedings, of the centennial celebration, of the incorporation of Derryfield; at Manchester, October 22, 1851.

By Chandler Eastman Potter (1807 - 1868)
Manchester: C.E. Potter, 1856.



     The voyagers to the coast of New England, in the early part of the 17th century, found the same divided among several tribes of Indians, all speaking radically the same language, -- Algonkin. Capt. John Smith, of these early voyagers, gives the most minute account of these tribes. He says, "The principall habitations I saw at Northward, was Pennobscot, who are in Warres with the Terentines, their next Northerly neighbors. Southerly up the Rivers, and along the Coast, wee found Mecadacut, Segocket, Pemmaquid, Nusconcus, Sagadahock, Satquin, Aumughcawgen, and Kenabeca: to those belong the Countries and people of Segotago, Pauhuntanuck, Pocopassum, Taughtanakagnet, Wabigganus, Nassaque, Mauherosqueck, Warigwick, Moshoquen, Waccogo, Pasharanack, &c. To those are alied in confederacy the Countries of Aucocisco, Accominticus, Passataquak, Augawoam and Naemkeck, all those for any thing I could perceive, differ little in language or any thing, though most of them be Sagamos and Lords of themselves, yet they hold the Bashabes of Pennobscot the chiefe and greatest amongst them. The next is Mattahunt, Totant, Massachuset, Paconekick, then Cape Cod, by which is Pawmet, the Iles Nawset and Capawuck, neere which are the shoules of Rocks and sands that stretch themselves into the maine Sea twenty leagues, and very dangerous, betwixt the degrees of 40 and 41." (1)

     Most of these tribes, named by Smith, occupied the same relative positions for more than a century, after the country was permanently settled by the English.

     West of Cape Cod were the powerful tribes of the Narragansets (2) and Pequots; while in the country, upon the rivers and lakes, were several powerful tribes; the Nipmucks, in the interior of Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and occupying the valley of the Merrimack, in New Hampshire, and Massachusetts; and the Norridgewocks seated upon the branches of the Kennebec, and the Lakes in the northern interior of Maine. This last tribe was called Abnakis by the French, and was principally noted for their adherence to the French interests, and their inroads upon the French settlements, which their connection with the French, led them to undertake.

     East of the Penobscot, were the Scootucks, or Passamaquoddies, inhabiting the Scootuck or St. Croix river and the shore of Passamaquoddy Bay; the Milicetes in the valley of the river St. John; and the Micmacs, occupying the rest of New Brunswick, and the peninsula of Nova Scotia.

     The Micmacs were, and still are, a warlike people. Living mainly upon the sea shore, athletic, of powerful frame, and most expert canoe-men, they were fond of warlike expeditions, and often were a source of fear and anxiety to their western neighbors, under the dreaded name of Tarratines. They even extended their war expeditions against the tribes of Massachusetts, within the knowledge of the English, and in some of the earliest stipulations between the tribes of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and their English neighbors, mention is made of their dread of the Tarratines.

     When Capt. Smith coasted along the shore of New England, in 1614, making the island of Monheagan the centre of his operations, the Penobscot tribe was one of the most powerful in New England. They were under the control of a Bashaba or Chief, who held the tribes of Maine as far west as the Saco, as tributary, or subject to him. He was then at war with the Tarratines, and in 1615, that warlike people sent an expedition against him, with such secrecy and consequent success, as that they took him by surprise, and put him and his family to death.

     Divisions arose as to the succession to the Bashaba, of which the Tarratines taking the advantage, soon overpowered the other tribes of Maine, and extended a war of extermination along the coast of Massachusetts. Hand in hand, as it were, with war, stalked pestilence, so that in 1620, the tribes upon the sea coast, from the St. Croix to Cape Cod, had become greatly depreciated in numbers; and some places had become almost entirely depopulated.

     Speaking of this depopulation, Capt. Smith says, "they had three plagues in three years successively neere two hundred miles along the Sea coast, that in some places there, scarce remained five of a hundred" * * * * "but it is most certaine there was an exceeding great plague amongst them; for where I have seene two or three hundred, within three years after remained scarce thirty."

     Whatever this disease may have been, it seems to have extended little farther south than Cape Cod, and to have been limited in violence, at least, among the tribes of the interior, so that the Pilgrims in 1620, and for many years subsequent, had but little to fear from the once powerful tribes upon the seashore north of Cape Cod; but on the contrary, had to use every precaution, and much vigilance against the power of the southern tribes, and those of the interior, which had been less afflicted by disease and war.

     At this period, the most powerful tribes of the interior, and probably of New England, north of the Pequots, had their residence in the valley of the Merrimack, upon the productive falls, and fertile meadows of that beautiful river. These meadows, or "Intervales," as they are usually called, are basins made up of alluvial and vegetable deposits, and were, doubtless once covered with water, which has gradually passed away through the Merrimack, that continually deepening its channel, has burst the rocky barriers of these Bays, or Lakes, and left their former beds, dry and arable land. That these Intervales were submerged, and at a comparatively late period, hardly admits of a doubt, as the barriers of these ancient bays can be readily traced above Pawtucket, Amoskeag, Hookset, Garvin's and Sewall's falls; and upon most of these basins, or intervales, have been found far below their surface, logs, fresh-water shells, and other unmistakable evidences of submersion.

     The Merrimack then, was a succession of Bays, from Lake Winnepesaukee to the ocean, a part of which now remain at Sanbornton and Meredith, and which add so much of beauty to the scenery of that neighborhood.

     These intervales were of very great fertility, and of such ready productiveness, as to afford an abundant harvest to the scanty husbandry of the Indian. More than two centuries of culture, have hardly decreased their fertility.

     Then the Merrimack afforded other superior advantages for Indian settlements. Rising in the White Mountains, at an altitude of six thousand feet above the level of the ocean, its waters find their way to the Atlantic, through the distance of two hundred and fifty miles; of course there are rapids and falls, through most of its entire length. These afforded the most ample fishing grounds to the natives, whereat to spear, and take with dip-net, and seine, the myriads of alewives, shad, and salmon, that, literally crowded the Merrimack, during certain seasons of the year. Then the woods upon its banks were filled with moose, deer, and bears, -- whilst the ponds and lakes, the sources of its tributaries, were teeming with water fowl.

     In this beautiful " Valley of the Merrimack," with all these attractions of fertile planting grounds, an abundance of fish, and hunting grounds of unlimited extent, -- the first English adventurers found several tribes of Indians, occupying localities, chosen with Indian taste and with special reference to his comfort and his wants. From its mouth far above its affluents, the Winnepesaukee and Pemegewasset, the shores of this "Silver Stream," were dotted with Indian villages.

     It was the very paradise of the Indian imagination. Is it a wonder that the wresting of such a home from "the lords of the soil," should have been accompanied with strife and bloodshed? That the Indian in his ignorance and wildness, when driven from the graves of his fathers, at the hands of strangers, should have left the marks of his vengeance behind him, traced with all the horrors of the scalping-knife and tomahawk? It is not strange; nor is it so singular, or so much a matter of reproach, as that a people, fresh from the lash of oppression, laying claim to much of humanity, and ever bearing upon their arm the shield of morality and religion, -- should have driven the simple hearted natives from their lands without even color of right, except what comes from that precept of barbarism, that, might makes right; without even color of title, when title was pretended, except what was purchased for a few blankets, a trucking coat, a few beads and baubles; -- or, perhaps still worse, -- for a runlet of "occupee," or "fire-water!"

     These tribes upon the Merrimack were the Agawam, Wamesit, or Pawtucket, Nashua, Souhegan, Namaoskeag, Pennacook, and Winnepesaukee. The Agawam tribe occupied the eastern part of what is now Essex county in Massachusetts, extending from tide-water upon the Merrimack, round to Cape Ann. Their territory, skirted upon two sides by the Merrimack and Atlantic, indented by bays, intersected by rivers, and interspersed with ponds, was appropriately called Wonnesquamsauke, meaning literally, the Pleasant Water Place, the word being a compound from Wonne, (pleasant,) Asquam, (water,) and Auke, (a place.) This word was sometimes contracted to Wonnesquam, often to Squamsauke, and still oftener to Squam, or Asquam.

     The deep guttural pronunciation of asquam by the Indians, sounded to the English like agawam and hence the word as applied to the Indians of that locality. Several localities in Essex county, are now known by names contracted and derived from this Indian wordWonnesquamsauke; as " Squam" the name of a pleasant harbor and village upon the north side of Cape Ann, and "Swamscot," the name of a pleasant village in the eastern part of Lynn.

     The Wamesits lived at the forks of the Merrimack and Concord rivers, and upon both sides of the latter river.

     Wamesit, is derived from Wame (all or whole) and Auke (a place) with the letter s thrown in betwixt the two syllables for the sake of the sound. The Indian village at this place, undoubtedly received this name from the fact that it was a large village, the place where all the Indians collected together. This was literally true in the spring and summer, as the Pawtucket falls, near by, were one of the most noted fishing places in New England, where the Indians from far and near, gathered together in April and May, to catch and dry their year's stock of shad and salmon. Wamesit was embraced nearly in the present limits of the city of Lowell, in Middlesex county, Massachusetts.

     The Indians in this neighborhood were sometimes called Pawtuckets, from the falls in the Merrimack, of that name. Pawtucket, means the forks, being derived from the Indian word Pohchatuk (a branch.) Pawtucket seems, however, to have been applied by the English, rather to all the Indians north of the Merrimack, than to the particular tribe at the falls of that name.

     The Nashuas occupied the lands upon the Nashua and the intervales upon the Merrimack, opposite and below the mouth of that river. Nashua means the river with a pebbly bottom -- a name said to have been peculiarly appropriate, before art had deprived it of this distinctive beauty.

     The Souhegans lived upon the Souhegan river, occupying the rich intervales upon both banks of the Merrimack, above and below the mouth of the Souhegan. Souhegan is a contraction of Souheganash, an Indian noun in the plural number, meaning worn-out lands. These Indians were often called Natacooks or Nacooks, from their occupying ground that was free from trees, or cleared land -- Netecook meaning a clearing.

     The Namaoskeags resided at the falls in the Merrimack, known at present by the name of Amoskeag, in Manchester. This word written variously, Namaske, Namaoskeag, Naumkeag, and Naimkeak, means the fishing place, from Namaos (a fish) and Auke (a place.)

     The Pennacooks occupied the rich intervales at Pennacook, now embraced in the towns of Bow, Concord and Boscawen, in the county of Merrimack. They were thus called, from Pennaqui, (crooked) and Auke, (place,) the intervales at Concord, which are extensive, being embraced within the folds of the Merrimack, which winds its way along, in a very crooked manner. (3)

     The Winnepesaukies occupied the lands in the vicinity of the Lake of that name, one of their noted fishing places being at the outlet of the Winnepesaukee, now known as the Weirs, the parts of permanent Indian weirs having remained at that place long after the advent of the whites. Winnepesaukee is derived from Winne (beautiful) nipe (water) kees (high) and Auke (a place,) meaning literally, the beautiful water of the high place.

     Of these several tribes, the Pennacooks were the most powerful; and either from their superiority, arising from a long residence upon a fertile soil, and hence more civilized; or from having been for a long period under the rule of a wise Chief, -- and perhaps from both causes united, -- had become the head, as it were, of a powerful confederacy.

     It is well known that the Winnepesaukee, Amoskeag, Souhegan, and Nashua tribes, were completely subservient to the Pennacooks; while the Wamesits were so intermarried with them, as to be mainly under their control, acknowledged fealty to Passaconaway, and finally, with the other tribes upon the Merrimack, became merged with the Pennacooks, and ceased to be distinct tribes, in fact or name.

     The Agawams, were also intimately connected with the Pennacooks, and acknowledged fealty to them, and doubtless were one of the earliest tribes to become merged with them; but still they ceased to exist as a distinct tribe, at so early a date, that few particulars of their history have been preserved.

     Besides the tribes in the valley of the Merrimack, the Pennacooks had control over the most of the tribes from the Concord river, in Massachusetts, to the sources of the Connecticut, and from the highlands betwixt the Merrimack and Connecticut, to the Kennebec in Maine. It is known that the Wachusetts, from Wadchu, (a mountain) and Auke, (a place,) near Wachusett mountain in Massachusetts; the Coosucks, from Cooash (pines,) upon the sources of the Connecticut river; the Pequaquaukes from Pequaquis (crooked) and Auke (a place) upon the sources of the Saco, in Carroll county, in New Hampshire, and Oxford county in Maine; the Ossipees from Cooash (pines) and Sipe (a river,) upon the Ossipee lake and river in Carroll county, in New Hampshire, and York County in Maine; the Squamscotts, from Winne, (beautiful) Asquam, (water) and Auke, (a place,) upon Exeter river, in Exeter and Stratham, in Rockingham county; the Winnecowetts, from Winne (beautiful,) Cooash, (pines,) and Auke (a place) in the Hamptons in the same county; the Piscataquaukes, from Pos, (great,) Attuck, (a deer,) and Auke, (a place,) upon the Piscataqua river, the boundary betwixt New Hampshire and Maine; the Newichewannocks, from Nee (my,) Week (a contraction of weekwam, a house) and Owannock, (come,) -- upon one of the upper branches of the same river; the Sacos, from Sawa (burnt,) Coo, (pine,) and Auke, (a place,) upon the Saco river, in York county, Maine; and the Amariscoggins, from Namaos, (fish,) kees, (high,) and Auke, (a place) upon the Amariscoggin river, having its source in New Hampshire and emptying its waters into the Kennebec, -- all acknowledged the power and control of the Pennacooks, and were members of the confederacy of which that powerful tribe was the head, and Passaconnaway, the leading Sagamon or Bashaba.

     These Indians from the interior, were known and called among the tribes upon the sea shore, by the general name of Nipmucks -- or Fresh Water Indians. Nipmuck, is derived from Nipe, (still water) and Auke (a place,) with the letter m thrown in for the sake of the euphony. And true to their name, the Nipmucks usually had their residences upon places of still water, the ponds, lakes and rivers of the interior.

     But the Indians in the Merrimack valley, although properly Nipmucks, and living in distinct bands or tribes, were usually called by the English, Pennacooks, from the fact that the tribe at Pennacook was the most powerful one in the valley, and under the rule of Passaconnaway, had become, as has already been seen, the head of a powerful confederacy. This position of that tribe, brought its people in contact with the English on all occasions of moment, such as conferences and negotiations, and hence the English, meeting on such occasions Pennacooks almost exclusively, applied the name of Pennacook to the tribes generally inhabiting the upper Merrimack valley. And in course of time, as the Indians became reduced in numbers by emigration, war, and contact with civilization, the smaller tribes became united with the larger ones, till in 1685, the Pennacooks were the only tribe in, and had exclusive possession of, the Merrimack valley.

     The Merrimack naturally, was but a series of falls, rapids, and ripples, from the Souhegan to the lower Pennacook falls, (now Garvin's.) These afforded the most ample opportunity for fishing, and the name of Namaoskeag, was doubtless applied to that section of the river and the adjacent country around; but in course of time, as fish became more limited, the name of Namaoskeag, became to be applied to the immediate neighborhood of the principal falls, now known as Amoskeag.

     The fish at these falls were most abundant, and the facilities for taking them, superior to those of any other place upon the Merrimack.

     The river below the main fall, in the course of a few miles, is entered by a number of rivers and rivulets, having their sources in lakes at no great distance; and of course, at certain seasons, it was filled with alewives, waiting an opportunity to pass up those small streams; thus both in the Merrimack, and in those streams, affording ready opportunity to take them in any quantity.

     Then at the same season, the great basin or Eddy, at the foot of Merrill's falls, and at the mouth of the Piscataquog river, was literally filled with eels, shad, and salmon, waiting a passage up the falls, occupied by their earlier or more expert companions; over and among which, the Indian in his canoe, could pass, and spear or net, at will.

     Again, at the foot of the main fall, and upon the western bank of the river, here dividing, and passing among, and around certain small islands, was, and is at the present time, a basin or eddy, emptied by a small passage, easily rendered impassable for fish, by a weir, and ever filled with fish, in the season of them, from the falls above, the force of the water rushing over the main pitch of the falls, naturally and inevitably driving into this pool, those fish, that in the rush, did not succeed in passing up the falls. Here they were as secure as in an eel pot, and the Indians could take them at their convenience.

     Then, at the main falls, and at the islands below, the river passes amid rocks in narrow channels, and upon these rocks and channels, the Indian could stand through day and night, if he chose, and throw spear and dip-net, without missing a fish, or fishes, at each "throw." And last, the various fish did not usually arrive at these falls, until after the twentieth of May, when the planting season was over, thus affording the Indians plenty of time to take and cure them, without interruption, from their agricultural pursuits, however scanty. Whereas at Pawtucket, and the rapids in that neighborhood, the fish arrived usually about the first of May and continued through the busiest time of corn-planting.

     These peculiar advantages, pertaining to the fishery at this place, made it par excellence, the fishing-place, hence as before suggested, the Indian name of Namaoskeag.

     These were no ordinary advantages to the Indian, depending as he did for subsistance upon fish, flesh, fowl, and such vegetables as his limited agriculture might produce. Hence we can readily suppose, that where fish were so abundant, and so readily to be taken, that there the Indians would flock together in vast numbers, to supply their future wants; and that the place would be one of great importance. Such was the fact, and Namaoskeag, for a long time, was not only the great point of attraction to all provident Indians, but was the royal residence of the ancient Sagamons of the Merrimack valley.

     At Namaoskeag, upon the bluff immediately east of the falls, was the main village or town occupied by the Indians, as is plainly shown by the abundance of arrow and spear heads, and the debris of stones from which they were manufactured, together with pieces of pottery, and other unmistakable evidences of an ancient Indian town, still to be seen and found; while down the river to the Souhegan, there were smaller settlements, wherever were good fishing or planting grounds. In Bedford, opposite Carthagena Island, on land of Hon. Thomas Chandler, and opposite the mouth of Cohos river, such settlements existed, the vestiges of which still exist at the former place, and did at the latter, till the hand of improvement swept them away.

     But, as before suggested, the main Indian village was at the Falls, called by Mr Eliot, "A great fishing place Namaske upon Merimak," and "which," he says, " belongeth to Papassaconnaway." (4) Here, prior to 1650, Passaconnaway had a principal residence, and was so anxious to have the Rev. Mr. Eliot come here and establish his community of Christian or "Praying Indians," as his proselytes were called, that he offered to furnish him with any amount of land that he might want for that purpose. The old Sagamon held out such inducements, and the place was of so much importance, that Eliot at one time had serious thoughts of establishing himself here; but the distance was so great to transport supplies, and the natives in Massachusetts were so averse to going farther north, that he thought "the Lord by the Eye of Providence seemed not to look thither," (5) and he located himself at Natick. (6)

     There is no doubt that Mr Eliot afterwards found opportunity to visit this place, and to preach and establish a school here, as Gookin in his account of the "Christian Indians," names Naamkeke as one of the "places where they (the Indians) met to worship God and keep the Sabbath; in which places there was at each place a teacher and schools for the youth at most of them." (7) And as no other man established schools or preaching among the Indians of the interior, save Mr. Eliot, it follows conclusively that he both preached and taught at Namaoskeag. So that our ancient town, not only has the honor of having been the scene of the philanthropic efforts and labors of "the Apostle Eliot," but also that of having the first "preaching and school" established within its limits, that was established in the State, north-west of Exeter, however remiss its white inhabitants may have been in these particulars.


     In the preceding chapter, Pawtucket and Namaoskeag have been spoken of as famous fishing places upon the Merrimack; but there was another noted fishing place within the territory of the Pennacooks, where shad alone were caught, and which was almost equally celebrated with those at Namaoskeag and Pawtucket. It was located at the outlet of Lake Winnepesaukee, and was known by the name of Ahquedaukenash, meaning literally stopping places or dams, from Ahque (to stop) and Auke (a place.) This word had for its plural Ahquedaukenash, and again by corruption, Aquedoctan, a name which was extended by the whites to the whole Winnepesaukee river. It is a curious fact in the history of the fisheries upon the Merrimack, that while alewives, shad, and salmon passed up the lower part of Merrimack in company, yet the most of the alewives went up the small rivulets before coming to the forks of the Merrimack at Franklin, while the salmon and shad parted company at the forks, the former going up the Pemegewasset, (8) and the latter passing up the Winnepesaukee. This peculiarity was owing to the natures of those fish. The alewives were a small fish, and sought small lakes or ponds to deposit their "spawn," that were easy of access, warm, and free from large fish, that would destroy them and their progeny. The shad was a much larger fish, and sought large lakes for spawning, where the water was warm and abundant; while the salmon, delighting in cold, swift water, sought alone those waters fed by springs, or formed by rivulets from the ravines and gorges of the mountain sides, which meandering through dense forests, rippling over pebbly bottoms, or rushing over rocks or precipices, formed those ripples, rapids, whirlpools and falls, in which the salmon delights, and those dark, deep, cool basins, or eddies, in which to deposit its spawn. Hence the fact that alewives were seldom found above the forks of the Merrimack, and that the salmon held exclusive possession of the cold, rapid, dark Pemegewasset, while the shad appropriated the warm, clear waters of the Winnepesaukee, neither trespassing upon the domain of the other.

     The Ahquedaukenash then of the Indians, and the Aquedahcan and Aquedoctan of the English, were one and the same name, applied to the fishing place, of the Indians, at the outlet of Lake Winnepesaukee, now known as "The Weirs." This was called Ahquedaukee, or the Weirs, from the fact that the dams or weirs at this place were permanent ones. The Winnepesaukee is not a variable river, and at the outlet of the lake the water for some distance passed over a hard pebbly bottom, and did not average more than two feet in depth. This was an excellent place for ahquedaukenash or dams, and could not fail of being duly improved by the Indians. Accordingly as before suggested, they had here permanent weirs. Not being able to drive stakes or posts into the hard pebbly bottom of the river, they placed large rocks at convenient distances from each other, in a zig-zag line across the river. Against these they interwove their brushwood weirs, or strung their hempen nets, according to their ability. Such weirs were used in the spring and fall, both when the fish went up and down the river. Such ahqueda