Sunday, August 21, 2016

They came to stay

By the 1500’s, many Europeans had come to this area to fish. They set up temporary fishing villages at the Isles of Shoals and along the banks of the Piscataqua River. The fisherman would stay for the season, bringing items from their country to trade with the Natives. At the end of the season, they always went home.

Later in the 16th century another kind of European came. The explorer, the one that took inventory, checked out the natural resources: the timber, game and other items beneficial to life-sustaining activities of little or in no supply in an overcrowded Europe. When in 1602 Captain Gosnold dropped anchor off the coast of what is now the York area, he came across Indians in a shallop. One of the Natives wore a European coat and trousers, stocking and shoes! By using sign language, the Natives told the explorers that other European fisherman had come to fish and trade in the area previously.

The Native people who lived in the Berwick area were as they say ‘one with nature’. They shared an ecological understanding with those around the coast of New Hampshire and coastal Massachusetts. The river they lived on emptied into the sea. This river we know as the Salmon Falls River but was called by the Natives Newichawannock. Living near the “fall line,” the place where waterfalls and increasing altitude prevent salt water from traveling any further into freshwater rivers. These falls were called Quamphegan. 

The climate at this location also allowed them to relied on agriculture. From the 1300’s to the 1400’s, New England saw corn and squash crops which spread from Middle America. The peoples living in this area were hunters, fisherman and farmers. Because of the different weather climate in the northern and eastern parts of Maine, the growing of corn was unpredictable. The eastern Abenakis had to rely on hunting and fishing, and stealing the corn crops of more fortunate Indians.

Water, water, and more water. This life sustaining supplement attracted permanent settlements. The natives settled into the protective slope of Powderhouse Hill. This was a small oval-shaped hill that created fresh water springs from glaciers left behind 10,000 years ago. Its benefits were a supply of endless drinking water and good resources for successful crops. Since this area was located in the apex of two rivers, today’s Salmon Falls (Newichawannock) and Great Works Rivers and with Great Bay and the ocean just downstream, the fishing was bountiful. So with water to grow crops and drink and rivers to fish in and use as their highway, what else could they need to sustain their existence?

The name Newichawannock today is referring to the Salmon Falls River. This is the river that flows from the mountains through Milton Three Ponds in New Hampshire. The translation is literally means “river with many falls.” The river does indeed have numerous waterfalls all along its length. The waterfalls all along the area were important for the natives to catch salmon and other fish that migrated up the river in the spring.

It’s likely that Newichawannock was the Indian name for the extensive falls between today’s South Berwick village and Salmon Falls village, creating the state line between Maine and New Hampshire near Fogarty’s Restaurant.

The English use of the name Newichawannock appears to be as the name of the area. In Ambrose Gibbons’ letters to his employers in London he refers to this area. Gibbons’ trading post was located at Newichawannock in 1631, somewhere in the vicinity of Leigh’s Mills. Other references in historical documentation as late as 1697 when noting that Major Charles Frost and his friends were returning from the meeting house at Newichawannock when ambushed and killed by hostile natives. Similarly, early settlers living on both sides of the river identified themselves as residing at Newichawannock for much of the 17th century.

Once the earlier explorers reported back to their countries, the reports caught the attention of merchant adventurers. They came to the Seacoast with the intentions of staying. They invested their money, came to the region with their families and their employees and in one case, in 1634, Alexander Shapleigh even brought his dissembled house!

Some set up businesses. In 1631, Ambrose Gibbons, his wife and little daughter, Rebecca, settled among the natives at Newichawannock. Gibbons, who was an employee of the Laconia Company, owned by Mason and Gorges, built a trading post buying furs from the natives.

In 1634, William Chadbourne came to Newichawannock. He was preceded by his son Humphrey, both carpenters who John Mason bought to build a gristmill and a saw mill at Asbenbedick (Great Works) Falls.These mills were located on today’s Brattle Street. In 1643 Humphrey Chadbourne, established himself as a permanent settler. He had built a fine house by 1665, complete with diamond-shaped panes of glass for windows, a rare luxury. Chadbourne made barrels for the Caribbean trade, his mills, turning out lumber and shingles for the growing Boston market demanding those famous New England clapboards.

Source: Old Berwick Historical Society written by Norma Keim 26 November 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment