In the moneth of Aprill, 1614, with two Ships from London, of a few Marchants, I chanced to arriue in New-England, a parte of Ameryca, at the Ile of Monahiggan, in 43½ of northerly latitude: our plot was there to take Whales and make tryalls, of a Myne of Gold and Copper. If those failed, Fish and Furres was then our refuge, to make our selues sauers, howsoeuer: we found this Whale-fishing a costly conclusion: we saw many, and spent much time in chasing them; but could not kill any: They beeing a kinde of Iubartes, and not the Whale that yeeldes Finnes and Oyle as wee expected. For our Golde, it was rather the Masters deuice to get a voyage that proiected it, then any knowledge hee had at all of any such matter. Fish & Furres was now our guard: & by our late arriual, and long lingring about the Whale, the prime of both those seasons were past ere wee perceiued it; we thinking that their seasons serued at all times: but wee found it otherwise; for, by the midst of Iune, the fishing failed.
Yet in Iuly and August some was taken, but not sufficient to defray so great a charge as our stay required. Of dry fish we made about 40000. of Cor fish about 7000.
Whilest the sailers fished, my selfe with eight or nine others of them might best bee spared; Ranging the coast in a small boat. wee got for trifles neer 1100 Beuer skinnes, 100 Martins, and neer as many Otters; and the most of them within the distance of twenty leagues. We ranged the Coast both East and West much furder; but Eastwards our commodities were not esteemed & they were so neare the French who affords them better: and right against vs in the Main was a Ship of Sir Frances Popphames, that had there such acquaintance, hauing many years vsed onely that porte, that the most parte there was had by him. And 40 leagues westwards were two French Ships, that had made there a great voyage by trade, during the time wee tryed those conclusions, not knowing the Coast, nor Saluages habitation. With these Furres, the Traine, and Corfish I returned for England in the Bark: Where within six monthes after our departure from the Downes, we safe arriued back. The best of this fish was solde for fiue pound the hundreth, the rest by ill vsage betwixt three pound and fifty shillings. The other Ship staied to fit herselfe for Spaine with the dry fish which was sould, by the Sailers reporte that returned, at forty ryalls the quintall, each hundred weighing two quintalls and a halfe.
New England is that part of America in the Ocean Sea opposite to Noua Albyon in the South Sea; discouered by the most memorable Sir Francis Drake in his voyage about the worlde. In regarde whereto this is stiled New England, beeing in the same latitude. New France, off it, is Northward: Southwardes is Virginia, and all the adioyning Continent, with New Grenada, New Spain, New Andolosia and the West Indies. Now because I haue beene so oft asked such strange questions, of the goodnesse and greatnesse of those spatious Tracts of land, how they can bee thus long vnknown, or not possessed by the Spaniard, and many such like demands; I intreat your pardons, if I chance to be too plaine, or tedious in relating my knowledge for plaine mens satisfaction.
That part wee call New England is betwixt the degrees of 41. and 45: but that parte this discourse speaketh of, stretcheth but from Penobscot to Cape Cod, some 75 leagues by a right line distant each from other: within which bounds I haue seene at least 40. seuerall habitations vpon the Sea Coast, and sounded about 25 excellent good Harbours; In many whereof there is ancorage for 500 sayle of ships of any burthen; in some of them for 5000: And more than 200 Iles ouergrowne with good timber, of diuers sorts of wood, which doe make so many harbours as requireth a longer time then I had, to be well discouered. . . .
And surely by reason of those sandy cliffes and cliffes of rocks, both which we saw so planted with Gardens and Corne fields, and so well inhabited with a goodly, strong and well proportioned people, besides the greatnesse of the Timber growing on them, the greatnesse of the fish and the moderate temper of the ayre (for of twentie fiue, not any was sicke, but two that were many yeares diseased before they went, notwithstanding our bad lodging and accidentall diet) who can but approue this a most excellent place, both for health & fertility? And of all the foure parts of the world that I haue yet seene not inhabited, could I haue but means to transport a Colonie, I would rather liue here than any where: and if it did not maintaine it selfe, were wee but once indifferently well fitted, let vs starue.
The maine Staple, from hence to bee extracted for the present to produce the rest, is fish; which howeuer it may seeme a mean and a base commoditie: yet who will but truely take the pains and consider the sequell, I thinke will allow it well worth the labour. . . .
First, the ground is so fertill, that questionless it is capable of producing any Grain, Fruits, or Seeds you will sow or plant, growing in the Regions afore named: But it may be, not euery kinde to that perfection of delicacy; or some tender plants may miscarie, because the Summer is not so hot, and the winter is more colde in those parts wee haue yet tryed neere the Sea side, then we finde in the same height in Europe or Asia; Yet I made a Garden vpon the top of a Rockie Ile in 43½, 4 leagues from the Main, in May, that grew so well & as it serued vs for sallets in Iune and Iuly. All sorts of cattell may here be bred and fed in the Iles, or Peninsulaes, securely for nothing. In the Interim till they encrease if need be (obseruing the seasons) I durst vndertake to haue corne enough from the Saluages for 300 men, for a few trifles; and if they should bee vntoward (as it is most certaine they are) thirty or forty good men will be sufficient to bring them all in subiection, and make this prouision; if they vnderstand what they doe: 200 whereof may nine monethes in the yeare be imployed in making marchandable fish, till the rest prouide other necessaries, fit to furnish vs with other commodities. . . .
But, to returne a little more to the particulars of this Countrey, which I intermingle thus with my proiects and reasons, not being so sufficiently yet acquainted in those parts, to write fully the estate of the Sea, the Ayre, the Land, the Fruites, the Rocks, the People, the Gouernment, Religion, Territories, and Limitations, Friends, and Foes: but, as I gathered from the niggardly relations in a broken language to my vnderstanding, during the time I ranged those Countries &c. The most Northern part I was at, was the Bay of Penobscot, which is East and West, North and South, more than ten leagues; but such were my occasions, I was constrained to be satisfied of them I found in the Bay, that the Riuer ranne farre vp into the Land, and was well inhabited with many people, but they were from their habitations, either fishing among the Iles, or hunting the Lakes and Woods, for Deer and Beuers. The Bay is full of great Ilands, of one, two, six, eight, or ten miles in length, which diuides it into many faire and excellent good harbours. On the East of it, are the Tarrantines, their mortall enemies, where inhabit the French, as they report that liue with those people, as one nation or family. And Northwest of Pennobscot is Mecaddacut, at the foot of a high mountaine, a kinde of fortresse against the Tarrantines adioyning to the high mountaines of Pennobscot, against whose feet doth beat the Sea.
But ouer all the Land, Iles, or other impediments, you may well see them sixteene or eighteene leagues from their situation. Segocket is the next; then Nufconcus, Pemmaquid, and Sagadahock. Vp this Riuer where was the Westerne plantation are Aumuckcawgen, Kinnebeck, and diuers others, where there is planted some corne fields. Along this Riuer 40 or 50 miles, I saw nothing but great high cliffes of barren Rocks, ouergrowne with wood: but where the Saluages dwelt there the ground is exceeding fat & fertill. Westward of this Riuer, is the Countrey of Aucocisco, in the bottome of a large deepe Bay, full of many great Iles, which diuides it into many good harbours. Sowocotuck is the next, in the edge of a large sandy Bay, which hath many Rocks and Iles, but few good harbours, but for Barks, I yet know. But all this Coast to Pennobscot, and as farre I could see Eastward of it is nothing but such high craggy Cliffy Rocks & stony Iles that I wondered such great trees could growe vpon so hard foundations. It is a Countrie rather to affright, then delight one. And how to describe a more plaine spectacle of desolation or more barren I knowe not. Yet the Sea there is the strangest fish-pond I euer saw; and those barren Iles so furnished with good woods, springs, fruits, fish, and foule, that it makes mee thinke though the Coast be rockie, and thus affrightable; the Vallies, Plaines, and interior parts, may well, (notwithstanding) be verie fertile.
But there is no kingdome so fertile hath not some part barren: and New England is great enough, to make many Kingdomes and Countries, were it all inhabited. As you passe the Coast still Westward, Accominticus and Passataquack are two conuenient harbors for small barks; and a good Countrie, within their craggie cliffs. Angoam is the next; This place might content a right curious iudgement: 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 groues. On the East, is an Ile of two or three leagues in length; the one halfe, plaine morish grasse fit for pasture, with many faire high groues of mulberrie trees gardens: and there is also Okes, Pines, and other woods to make this place an excellent habitation, beeing a good and safe harbor.
Naimkeck though it be more rockie ground (for Angoam is sandie) not much inferior; neither for the harbor, nor any thing I could perceiue, but the multitude of people. From hence doth stretch into the sea the faire headland Tragabigzanda, fronted with three Iles called the three Turks heads: to the North of this, doth enter a great Bay, where wee founde some habitations and corne fields: they report a great Riuer2, and at least thirtie habitations, doo possesse this Countrie. But because the French had got their Trade, I had no leasure to discouer it.
The Iles of Mattahunts are on the West side of this Bay, where are many Iles, and questionlesse good harbors: and then the Countrie of the Massachusets, which is the Paradise of all those parts: for, heere are many Iles all planted with corne; groues, mulberries, saluage gardens, and good harbors: the Coast is for the most part, high clayie sandie cliffs. The Sea Coast as you passe, shewes you all along large corne fields, and great troupes of well proportioned people: but the French hauing remained heere neere sixe weekes, left nothing, for vs to take occasion to examine the inhabitants relations, viz, if there be neer three thousand people vpon these Iles; and that the Riuer doth Pearce many daies iourneies the intralles of that Countrey. We found the people in those parts verie kinde; but in their furie no lesse valiant. For, vpon a quarrell wee had with one of them, hee onely with three others crossed the harbor of Quonahassit to certaine rocks whereby wee must passe; and there let flie their arrowes for our shot, till we were out of danger.
Then come you to Accomack, an excellent good harbor, good land; and no want of any thing, but industrious people. After much kindnesse, vpon a small occasion, wee fought also with fortie or fiftie of those: though some were hurt, and some slaine; yet within an houre after they became friendes. Cape Cod is the next presents it selfe; which is onely a headland of high hils of sand, ouergrowne with shrubbie Pines, hurts, and such trash; but an excellent harbor for all weathers. This Cape is made by the maine Sea on the one side, and a great Bay on the other in forme of a sickle: on it doth inhabit the people of Pawmet: and in the bottome of the Bay, the people of Chawum.
1From Smith's "Description of New England," published in London in 1616. Smith's exploration of New England was made after he had become separated from the Jamestown colony, of which in 1608, he had been president. He went there under an engagement with London merchants to fish for cod, barter for furs and explore the country for settlement. it was he who at the request of Prince Charles named the country New England.
2Probably the Merrimac.