Capt. John Smith’s Exploration of the head of Chesapeake Bay in 1608—“Tuckogh” interpreters sent to invite the “Susquesahanockes” to an interview, of whom he learns of other Indian Nations—Early publications referring to the country and Tribe—First map of the country—Location and identification of the head towns—New chapters in Susquehanna History—Appearance of the Susquehannocks—Their fort, dress, gigantic size, numerical strength—Their language, not Algonquin but Iroquois—Origin, use and signification of their name.  Based on rare and original documents, and accompanied with a copy of Capt. Smith’s wonderful map.









Secretary Logan and Surveyor Eastburn testified that the map “is the most correct of any first description of a new country” that they had ever seen.  A copy of the date of 1624 was produced during this trial.  It was claimed that in the Maryland charter the lands granted Lord Baltimore “were so bounded by the help of Capt. Smith’s said book and map of Virginia, and no other, for that map only, and no other then extant, has all the names agreeable to those mentioned and used in said patent.”  Hence, Smith’s map helped to cradle Delaware, and played its part in determining the famous “Mason and Dixon’s Line.”  It was certainly the first effort to map any part of our present State, (Penn’s Arch., N.S., vol. Vii, 315, 322, and 340.)

It is proper here also to mention the other publications of Smith and his contemporaries, which in any way bear upon the Susquehanna exploration.  The “True Relation,” etc., London, 1608, has nineteen unpaged leaves and gives an account of the colony covering the first thirteen months from April 26, 1607.  This has been printed with notes by Charles Deane, Boston, 1864.  The vessel that took the manuscript to England left the same day that Smith started on his first voyage up the bay, and hence it contains nothing about that discovery.

As early as 1612, there was also published at Oxford a tract called “A Map of Virginia,” etc., with a description of the country by Smith, 48 pages, and an appendix by other writers, 110 pages.  The map and that part of this Oxford tract which was written by Smith himself, was republished, with but few variations, in the “Generall Historie,” pages 21 to 96; but the part written by the others was much changed and amplified.  The “True Relation” is not thus used in making up the “Generall Historie,” because, as some suppose, it could not be made to fit the story of Pocahontas saving his brains from the murderous club of Powhatan, which first appeared in that book.  What Smith has told us of the Susquehannocks, was, therefore, substantially written and mapped in the Oxford tract.  It appears that this map, and the “annexed relation of the countries and nations,” was sent home by Smith soon after his return from the Susquehanna explorations in 1608, but was not printed until 1612, which was a couple of years after his return to England, and its publication must have passed under his eye.  What changes he made in supervising the printing no one can tell.  Purchas, in his “Pilgrimage,” 1613, published an abstract of the Oxford tract, and gives a brief sketch of the Susquehannocks.  It seems that while preparing this work, a year or two previous, he had been “courteously” allowed to see “Smith’s Mappe,” which “may somewhat satisfy the desirous and his book when it shall be printed, further.”  Purchas, in his “Pilgrimes,” 1625, pages 1691 to 1738, republishes Smith’s map and his Oxford tract descriptions almost literally; but the appended portions correspond more with the “Generall Historie,” and the changes it introduced.  The beautiful photo-lithographic copy of Smith’s map, which we have the pleasure of presenting herewith to the subscribers of the HISTORICAL REGISTER, contains the figures 41 on the lower left corner, indicating the page of Smith’s book the map was to face; and at the top, 1690 and 1691, denote the pages in the “Pilgrimes,” between which the map was to be placed.

 With Smith’s writings, there should be mentioned, also, the “Historie of Travaile into Virginia,” etc., by William Strachey, Secretary of the Colony, 1609-1612, first printed from his manuscript, by the Hakluyt Society of London, in 1849.  It has a vocabulary of Indian words, and was probably written prior to 1616 from notes taken in Virginia, though many pages of it are identical with Smith’s Map and description of 1612.


Capt. Smith passed up the Susquehanna to the falls.  He says; “Though canoes may go a day’s journey or two up it, we could not get two miles up it with our boat for rocks.”

The first rocks, however, we know, are at Port Deposit, at the head of tide water, and this point is four miles from the bay.  It is very probable, also, that Smith was up still higher either on land or in an Indian canoe.  The number of islands in the river, which he has marked on his map, and the cross mark denoting the highest point reached by him on the river, being by the scale at least fifteen miles, seem to require that Capt. Smith was actually up as far as the State line.  On the Potomac and other rivers it is clear he went beyond the “rocks.”  He may have been the first white man that ever trod the soil of Pennsylvania.  At all events, so far as we have any definite account, he was the first white man that met Indians who resided within the limits of Pennsylvania.

While among the Tockwocks “so it chanced one of them could speak the language of Powhatan,” and having learned of a mighty nation living on a large river, “we prevailed with the interpreter to take with him another interpreter, to persuade the Sasquesahanocks to come to visit us” at a place near the mouth of the river, where Smith awaited them.  These natives Smith has designated in his book as Sasquesahanocks, and laid down on his map as Sasquesahanoughs.  Smith’s companions say: “Three or four days we expect their return, than sixty of those giant-like people came down with presents of venison, tobacco, pipes three feet long, baskets, targets, bows, and arrows.”  They lived on the “chief spring” coming in at the head of the bay from “the north-west from among the mountains”—an interesting statement, proving that Smith learned something of the existence of the mountains on the upper parts of the river.  He even ascertained the trend, for he says: “From the head of the bay to the north-west the land is mountainous, and so in a manner from thence by a south-west line, so that the more southward the farther off from the bay are those mountains.”  That portion of the map beyond the rocks or highest point reached by the explorers, was, of course, constructed by Smith upon information derived from these Indians during this single interview.  As it is not explained in the book, its interpretation has given rise to very divergent opinions.


The principal town, Sasquesahanough, is laid down on the map, by the scale, about twenty-two miles from the bay, but the book speaks of them being located “two days’ journey higher than our barge could pass for the rocks,” which would place them much higher up the river.  Certainly, a two days’ journey was more than twenty-two miles, and as they awaited the return of the interpreters “three or four days,” they probably may have gone forty or fifty miles.  It is claimed that this chief town was always near the mouth of the Conestoga creek.  As we know that the location of such Indian towns was often changed on account of cleanliness, convenience of wood, and for other considerations; and as we know there was a “Sasquehannocks new town” where “some falls below hinder navigation,” about 1648; and that “the present Sasquahana Fort,” in 1670, was on the south side of the river below “the greatest fal,” now known as the Conewago falls; and as they had a fort at the mouth of the Octoraro, perhaps as early as 1662, it is impossible to exactly locate the town designated by Smith.  Though nothing is stated in the narrative of other towns, yet Smith must, at this interview, have learned of five others given on the map, all evidently belonging to the same nation, or to confederate allies, for the general title covers all of them.  Positive proof that Cepowig was one of their towns is found in the general recapitulation of the names and locations of the tribes by an early writer, who says “the Sasquesahonoes are on the Balua River”—there being no other town to which it could refer, for no natives were found along the upper part of the western shore.  What information he had, beyond Smith’s exploration, we are not informed.  The Bolus is now known as the Patapsco, entering the bay at Baltimore.  The map, however, gives Cepowig on another stream—Willowbye’s river—which seems to be an elongation of our Bush river.  In either case, the town may have been in the direction of Westminster, Md.  Attaock is at the head of stream emptying into the Susquehanna on the west side below the chief town, apparently forty miles from the bay, which may indicate the region of York.  About twenty miles above the chief town on the east side of the river is Quadroque.  Just above this the river forks, and it is impossible to tell by the map which is the main branch of the stream.  Tesinigh is on a branch coming from the north-west.  Utchowig is a town on the other branch coming from the west.  Both these towns, seemingly by the scale, are about sixty miles from the bay.  This may indicate that Quadroque was about Middletown, Tesinigh about Lebanon, and Utchowig about opposite Harrisburg.  It must be borne in mind, however, that these towns are named and located entirely from descriptions given by these Indians after their peculiar fashion and through a double translation, and that they may have been, and in all probability were much further up the river.  No dependence can be placed upon the scale of leagues, for points, beyond the limits of Smith’s explorations.  “The rest was had by information of the savages, and set down according to their instructions.”  Even if Smith had an idea of those distances, they may have been forgotten in after years before the map was made, and this part may have been contracted by the engraver to suit the space left on the border of the map.  In his Oxford Tract, 1612, Smith says the river “cometh three or four days’ journey from the head of the bay.”  One of Smith’s principal motives in making this exploration was the hope of discovering the supposed, and much sought for, passage to the “South Sea” or Pacific Ocean, and thus opening a near way to China.  It will be remembered, he was sailing up the “Chickahomania” creek, at the time he was captured, a year prior to this, on what seems to us this same comic errand.  It is natural, therefore, to suppose that he inquired diligently concerning the upper parts of the river, its branches, and the towns located upon it.  In reply, only the larger branches and the principal towns would be given.  As he learned that the river came “from among the mountains,” it would be a queer thing if he inquired nothing as to what tribes were among those mountains, and with what tribes they had alliances; as we find he did in the friendly conferences he had on other rivers.  All things considered, it is not, therefore, an improbable interpretation to locate Attock on the Juniata, Quadroque at the forks at Northumberland, Tesinigh on the North Branch towards Wyoming, and Utehowig on the West Branch towards Lock Haven.  As such, they may have denoted the head towns of allied tribes.  The map shows the towns have “kings’ houses.”


This position seems to be demonstrated by the identification of Utchowig at the head of the upper West Branch, with the Eries, or Nation of the Chat, as the French called them.  Smith, in speaking of the Virginia animals, says:  “Utchunquoyes is like a wild-cat.  Purchas, in his “Pilgrimes,” says: “There is also a beast they call Vetchunquoyes, in the form of a wild cat.”  Strachey says the Utchoonggwai is a wild beast bigger than a cat and spotted black under the belly as a lynx.  Ut-chun-quoy, or, perhaps, -quog, which equals –wog or –wig, is near enough Ut-cho-wig to be regarded as almost certainly the same word.  They are much more early alike than many other spellings now regarded as identical.  Gen. John S. Clark maintains that the word “Chat,” as applied by Canadian traders and missionaries, did not refer to the wild-cat, but to the raccoon, and that there are reasons for believing that this Erie, or Cat, or Raccoon nation, which the armed Five Nations obliterated in 1655, at one time came from the Susquehanna, and probably even from the Chesapeake bay, and were even then known as the Raccoon People.  The early Virginia writers, however, seem to distinguish between the wild-cats and what they variously term—rahaugheums, raugroughcuns, (True Relation,) arocouns, (True Declaration, 1610,) arougheuns, (Pilgrimage,) raroweums, (Gen. His.,) rakowns, (Whittaker,) racones, (Humor,) arrahcounes, and which are said to be “much like a badger, but living on trees like a squirrel.”  On the other hand, Father Sagard describes the chat in a manner that leaves little doubt that the Erie chat was a raccoon, and that is the animal after whom they were named.  He says; “Nation of the Chat, * * * and it is my opinion that this name has been given them on account of these chats, small wolves or leopards, which are found in their country, of which they make clothing, trimmed and ornamented with the animals’ tails sewed around the edges and on the back.”  In Montanus, 1671, p. 130, we have an illustration of this tail ornamentation.  It is not material to our argument as to whether eragah, jegosasa, chat, are to be translated raccoon or wild-cat.  It would be perfectly natural, even if the Susquehannocks describes the distant town by an Iroquois term, that the two Tockwock interpreters would give it to Smith in Nanticoke or Powhatan; and, considering the adverse circumstances of the conference and the dialectical variations, Smith did well in giving Ut-cho-wig for Raccoon or Chat town; and there can be no reasonable doubt that they are “the Nation du Chat or Eriech-ronons” of the Jesuit Relations of 1641, and whose habitations may well be inferred, in 1646, by the statement that in approaching the Erie country from the east “there is a thick, oily, stagnant water, which takes fire like brandy.”  In Smith’s day it would seem that they were yet upon the heads of the West Branch.  That Smith’s towns are not to be confined by the scale to the narrow limits of the lower river, as has been hitherto supposed, is greatly strengthened by the manner in which he has laid down on his map the three towns of the Atquanachukes from information gained at this same interview, which name is, no doubt, a descriptive title of the Delawares.  “Chickahokin” is certainly Chikohoacki or Chihokies, one of the name of the Unamis or Turtle tribe, and their locations is properly in the State of Delaware.  The Macocks may be the Minsis—the location, on the west side of a river, which, as Smith heard it spoken of, he has no doubt intended for the Delaware River, points clearly to the Minnisinks, above the Delaware Water Gap, as the council-house of that tribe.  The word is given by Smith as meaning a “Pompeon like a muske millen.”  Heckewelder also gives it as meaning boxes made of the inner bark of elm and birch, used to pack maple sugar for transportation.  The title of “pumpkin eaters” may have been a Tockwock term of derision.  In a Dutch reproduction of Smith’s map, in Montanus, 1671, this Delaware River is more distinctly marked, and the bay, at its mouth, is clearly delineated.  There can be no question as to the river and location here intended.  Beyond this river, and near the unexplored ocean, is the Atquanachuk town itself, and we find this name given on several Dutch maps for many subsequent years.  They are located well up in New Jersey, near New York, and were evidently Delawares.  DeLaet, in 1624, says: “The people who dwell about this bay [New York] are called Aquamachugues.”  The Italian map of 1632 gives them as “Aguana Chugues.”  William Strachey, in his book, calls them the Ac-quan-ac-huks.  Smith expressly says of the Susquehannocks: “Many descriptions and discourses they made us of Atquanachuk,” signifying that they “are on the ocean sea.”  Here we see how he got his information by which he located these distant people, and by analogy we must place the other towns far up the Susquehanna.  Hence we cannot agree that most of Smith’s towns “were in the present Lancaster County.”  Nothing, in a manner, is further known of these towns—at least not under these names.  It has been claimed that all these names of Susquehanna towns are Iroquois, of the Susquehannock dialect, but those making this claim have not deciphered their significations, and it seems most natural and probable that they came to Smith translated into Powhatan or Tockwock.  Names which the interpreters understood they would be as likely to translate as any other words; and they did understand those names as well as any other words they translated.  The Atquanachuk names were received at the same time, through the same medium, from the same natives, and they are not Iroquois.  We have, therefore, clear proof that they did translate these, and why not, then, the others?  Again, the Algonquin word for place, region land, country, is ohke, auke, in Delaware hacki, in Smith’s book and map ocke, ock, ack, etc.  This terminal evidently closes most of the names in both lists.  Some, or all, of Smith’s names are given on other maps, for more than half a century, but only as copied after Smith.  On subsequent maps, such as the Popple, where many undoubted Susquehanna Iroquois names do occur, none of Smith’s names are given.

We regret that we must leave much of interest connected with this subject in the uncertainly which surrounds it, provoked at the great loss of that information which an intelligent pen, at that period, might have given us in a few minutes.  We will pay our respects hereafter to the interior defunct tribes, and to the chief town, Connadago or Fort, which Smith says they had palisaded to defend themselves against their mortal enemies, the Massawomakes.


Before leaving this subject, we call attention to a matter which has hitherto not been understood.  The “True Relations,” written by Smith in Virginia, and sent home with Capt. Nelson’s ship, which sailed on the very day Smith set out on his first trip up the bay, was published that same year, 1608, and, of course, contains no information of what was learned during the two Chesapeake exploring voyages; yet it contains a passage of great interest pertaining to Susquehanna Indian affairs, as given by Powhatan a year previous.  As before stated, nothing contained in the “True Relation” was ever incorporated into any of Smith’s later writings, though it is, perhaps, the most reliable of all the historical matter published over Smith’s name.  Perhaps its very truth unfitted it for revamping into the romance that was woven into the “Generall Historie.”  It tells the story of the Chickahominy voyage, and his capture by “Opeckakenough,” to whom he showed his compass, and with whom he held a scientific conversation on astronomy and the shape of the earth, which he related to his brother Powhatan when he delivered Smith to that emperor.  “He, much delighted in Opechan Canough’s relation of what I had described to him, oft examined me upon the same.  He asked me the cause of our coming.”  Smith replied that they had had a disastrous encounter with a Spanish ship, and came up the river for fresh water while repairing the vessel.  Then Powhatan “demanded why we went farther with our boat.”  Smith seems to have been afraid to admit that they were settlers, and told him that his father had a child slain, as they supposed by the Monacans, whom Smith shrewdly reminded him were also his enemies, and that he wished to revenge the death.  Smith said this happened on the “back sea, on the other side of the maine, where there was salt water.”  This was Smith’s trick to divert the sly emperor and get information of the South sea, supposed to be not far distant.  Powhatan had been out of school for some time, and this talk was somewhat confusing to his geography.  However, “after good deliberation,” he “began to describe the countries beyond the falls, with many of the rest,” that is, we presume, other countries.  Smith represents him to have said that the “said water dashed amongst many stones and rocks each storm, which caused oft times the heads of the river to be brackish.”  The King’s Council had ordered the colonists to explore the rivers, and especially the north-west branches, for the near route to China’ and Smith, having his eyes on the South sea, understood Powhatan to refer to it.  It has been hitherto supposed that Powhatan was trying to deceive Smith, and that he adopted his tactics in telling about the sea-water during storms dashing over into the heads of the river.  It is clear, however, that Smith did not comprehend the great chief’s geographical description, for the answer does not relate to the region hitherto supposed, but opens up a glimpse into the state of affairs in altogether another section, as is evident from Powhatan’s discourse as given in the “True Relation.”  It says: “Anchanachuck he described to be the people that had slain my brother, whose death he would revenge.  He described, also, upon the same sea, a mighty nation called Pocoughtronack, a fierce nation that did eat men, and warred with the people of Moyaoncer and Pataromerke, nations upon the top of the heads of the bay, under his territories, where the year before they had slain an hundred.  He signified their crowns were shaven, long hair in the neck tied on a knot, swords like pole-axes.  Beyond them he described people with short coats and sleeves to their elbows that passed that way in ships like ours.  Many kingdoms he described me to the head of the bay, which seemed to be a mighty river, issuing from mighty mountains betwixt the two seas.”  It must be conceded that Powhatan had considerable knowledge of the country, more or less definite, and extending several hundred miles.  Such information was obtained through hunting and war parties, and from captives.  He could not see where Smith’s brother could have been killed, except by a tribe adjoining the sea, where white men had landed.  Hence, we may rest assured that the An-chan-ac-huck are the At-quin-ac-huck, that is, the Delawares, of whom the Susquehannocks told Smith, a year later, that they were “on the ocean sea.”  The words are practically identical, and the map gives their location, and this rationally interprets the supposition of Powhatan.  Two of the names we may safely regard as misprints, of which the tract is full, for Moyaonces and Patawomeake.  The Moyaons, whom Purchas calls Moyowances, are on the map on the north side of the Potomac, at about the place afterwards famous as the home of the Piscataways.  Patawomek is given on the south side of the river, on a point of Potomac creek, where New Marlborough, Stafford County, Va., now is.  From this tribe the river received its name.

Now, Powhatan describes a people that had been waging war on these two tribes, who belonged to his territories, and of whom they had killed one hundred the previous year.  He describes their name, character, location, and manner of wearing their hair, the fact that they were in possession of hatchets, as also a vivid picture of the Susquehanna River.  Everything here points to and fits the Susquehannocks, visited by Smith the next year, but at this time yet entirely unknown.  They were a mighty and fierce nation with wide-spread fame, and reported to be cannibals, which is a charge often made against them in common with the other Iroquois tribes in after years.  Alsop, 1666, charges the Susquehannocks with eating portions of the prisoners which they burned at the stake.  The very word, Mohawk, meant man eaters, as applied to them by the Hudson River Indians.  The manner of wearing the hair is clearly intended to describe just what Smith saw the next year, and has so well pictured in his map.  The iron hatchets which Smith found in possession of the Tockwocks, they informed him they had received from the Susquehannocks; and they in turn, Smith says, informed him that “from the French they had their hatchets,” and Purchas says the same thing.  Swords like Pole-axes are evidently hatchets; and though we cannot, at this date, fix the time and place “on the same sea,” adjoining the Delawares and the Susquehannocks were the French traded with the natives, yet the fact that they had these goods seems to be undeniable.  It must have, at that date, seemed quite probable.  It was possibly at the New York Bay, as the Susquehannocks were one of the Minqua tribes, one of whom was at this period at this busy point, as given on old maps, and as appears from Dutch historians, and from the sale of Staten Island, the deed of which contains the signature of a “Minqua Sachemack.”  After 1603, we know the French were very active in the fur trade about the St. Lawrence, “and it is notorious that Sieur Champlain did for many years prosecute the fur trade at a place where Boston now stands,” and other places, “during more than ten years before any English or Dutch inhabited that quarter,”—Penna. Arch. N. S. vol. Vi: p. 38 also 4 and 34, and Champlain’s map in vol. III. Doc. His. N. Y. and p. 35 where the Dutch, in 1623, “convoyed the Frenchman out of the river,” and the Dutch tell us the natives came thirty days’ journey from the interior to trace.  The Susquehannocks were a ruling tribe, and enforced trade privileges.  The name Powhatan gave this fierce and mighty nation is Pocoughtronack, or, as elsewhere more correctly spelled in the same tract, Pocoughtaonack.  William Strachey, Hakluyt Soc., vol. VI, 27, calls them “Bocootawwonaukes.”  There can scarcely be any doubt of the identity of the people Po-cough-ta-on-ack, Bo-coo-taw-won-auk, and the Sasque-sa-han-ock.  We shall refer to these words hereafter.  The historical student will notice, also, that the wars which the fierce nation on the heads of the bay were waging upon the Potomac tribes, is precisely the same picture presented when Lord Baltimore, twenty-five years later, made his first settlement in Maryland and for many years later.  As Lake Erie was, in fact, the only “back sea” of which Powhatan knew anything, his description of the Susquehanna is most admirable as “a mighty river issuing from mighty mountains betwixt the two seas.”  The statement about the storms washing the salt water among the rockshad, of course, reference to the action of the tides on the same river.  The reference to clothing and “ships like ours” plainly refers to Europeans.

Finally, if anything further to be needed to prove the correctness of our position in regard to the identity and location of the Anchanachuckes mentioned by Powhatan in 1607, it is demonstrated by Powhatan himself a year or two subsequently.  In the fall after Smith returned from the Susquehanna, Captain Newport arrived from England with a copper crown for Powhatan.  He sent Smith over to invite the Chief to Jamestown to the coronation.  The haughty chief refused to come; and among other things said, as we find in the “Map of Virginia,” etc., 1612: “As for the Monacans, I can revenge my own injuries; and as for Atquanuchuck, [the Barrens, New Jersey,] where you say your brother was slain, it is in the contrary way from those parts you suppose it.  But for any salt water beyond the mountains, the relations you have had from my people are false; whereupon he began to draw plots upon the ground of all those regions.”  This settles it.

The testimony of Strachey is no less clear as to the other word.  He says: “The low land of Virginia borders west and north-west upon the Falls and the country of the Monacans, and north upon the Bocootawwanaukes, east upon the sea, and south upon Florida.”  Again, “to the northward of the Falls [at Richmond] and bending to the north-east lieth the skirt of the high land country, from whence the aforesaid five navigable rivers take their heads, which run through the low land into the Chesapeake bay; this quarter is altogether unknown to us as yet, only herein are seated, say the Indians, those people whom Powhatan calls Boccootawwonaukes.”  And again, “the great emperor * * we commonly call Powhatan, * * * the greatness and bounds of whose empire, by reason of his power and ambition in his youth, has larger limits than eve before had any of his predecessors in former times, for he seems to command south and north from Mangoages and Chawonaks * * to Tockwogh, a town palisaded standing at the north end of the bay; * * south-west to Anoeg, (not on the map,) ten days distant from us; west * * to the foot of the mountains; north-west to the borders of Massawomeck and Bocootawwonough, his enemies; north-east and by east to Accohanock, Accowmack, and some other petty nations laying on the east side of our bay.”  This unquestionably identifies the “Bocootawwanaukes: with the Susquehannocks; and Powhatan well knew where they and the Delawares were located.  A most singular repetition of the relations between these Indians, as described by Powhatan, will be found, in 1644, [Bozman’s His. Of Md., vol. Ii, 27-9,] when the Marylanders were anxious to make peace between the Susquehannocks and the Piscataways, and especially to include the Patomecks, though they were south of the river.



Smith places the Susquehannocks far above the Powhatan tribes in every respect, and this conforms to the general established superiority of the Iroquois tribes over the more feeble Algonquins.  They covered Smith with “a great plaited bear skin,” put around his neck “a great chain of white beads weighing six or seven pounds,” and they laid at his feet “eighteen mantles, made of divers sorts of skins sewed together,” and kept “stroking their ceremonious hands about his neck, for his creation to be their governor and protector,” promising aid, and food, and all they had, if he would stay with them to defend and revenge them of their mortal enemies, the Massawomakes.  They seem to have had a manly confidence in the white strangers, which contrasts strongly with the low cunning and suspicion so often characteristic of the Algonquin tribes, as is finely illustrated, for example, in Smith’s reception on the Potomac, where they came, “shouting, yelling, and crying, as so many spirits from hell.”  Five of the Susquehannock chiefs, after the “talk,” came boldly aboard the barge, and crossed with the pale faces over the head of the bay to the Tockwocks, “leaving their men and canoes, the wind being so high they durst not pass.”  Like the Mohawks, they seem to have passed among the coast tribes whenever they pleased.

Captain Smith’s description of these muscular sons of the forest is so charming that this sketch would be incomplete without giving it.  He says; “Such great and well proportioned men are seldom seen, for they seemed like giants to the English, yes, and to their neighbors, yet seemed of an honest and simple disposition, with much ado restrained from adoring us as gods.  These are the strangest people in all those countries, both in language and attire, for their language may well beseem their proportions, sounding from them as a voice in a vault.  Their attire is the skins of bears and wolves.  Some have cloaks made of bears’ heads and skins, that a men’s head goes into the skin’s neck, and the ears of the bear fastened to his shoulders, the nose and teeth hanging down his breast; another bear’s face, split behind him, and at the end of his nose hung a paw; the half sleeves coming to the elbows were the necks of bears, and the arms through the mouth, with paws hanging at their noses.  One had the head of a wolf, hanging in a chain, for a jewel; his tobacco pipe, three quarters of a yard long, prettily carved with a bird, a deer, or some such devise, at the great end sufficient to beat out one’s brains, with bows, and arrows, and clubs suitable to their greatness.”



While crossing the bay to Tockwock, with the five chiefs aboard, Smith drew a pen-picture of one of them, of which he says: “The picture of the greatest of them is signified in the map.  The calf of his leg was three quarters of a yard about, and all the rest of his limbs so answerable to that proportion, that he seemed the goodliest man we ever beheld.  His hair, the one side was long, the other side shore close, with a ridge over his crown like a cock’s comb.  His arrows were five quarters long, headed with splinters of white crystal-like stone, in the form of a heart, an inch broad, and an inch and a half, or more, long.  These he wore in a wolf’s skin at his back for a quiver, his bow in one hand, and his club in the other, as described.”  See the picture in the map.  The style of wearing the hair, here described and pictured, will be recognized as somewhat Huronian in fashion, and, as Powhatan would say, there is crown shaving and long hair in the neck.  Smith closes this first and most interesting interview with these confiding giants, with the pathetic statement that he left them “at Tockwogh sorrowing for our departure, yet we promised the next year to again to visit them.” 



Captain Smith has been severely criticized for his description of the size of the Susquehannocks, and from it discredit has been attempted to be thrown on all he has written. Though his late writings seem to have a degree of egotistical and marvelous coloring, his general accuracy and truthfulness are pretty well vindicated.—See address of William Wirt Henry, Richmond, Va., 1882.  Smith says; “Such great and well-proportioned men are seldom seen, for they seemed like giants to the English, yea, and to their neighbors.”  Of the one of whom he made the sketch, he says, “he seemed the goodliest man we ever saw.”  There is nothing improbable in this; he does not say they were “the sons of Anak, which come of the giants,” in whose sight the white men “were as grasshoppers.”  The only thing Smith has said that seems hyperbolical is that the calf of this man’s leg, whom he has pictured, “was three quarters of a yard about, and all the rest of his limbs answerable to that proportion.”  This may be a little over-drawn; but there are instances even among us of large persons of whom it could be truthfully affirmed.  The truth is some of the critics have themselves exaggerated, for they talk almost as if Smith’s giants were described as equal to the fabulous giants who walked about with pine trees for staves.  Alsop, who published a history of Maryland in 1666, knew and visited these natives, and his testimony is to the point.  He says they were “a people cast in the mould of a most large and war-like deportment, the men being for the most part seven feet high in altitude, and in magnitude the bulk suitable to so high a pitch, their voice large and hollow as ascending out of a cave, their gait and behavior straight, stately, and majestic, treading the earth with so much pride, contempt, and disdain to so sordid a center, as can be imagined from a creature derived from the same mould and earth.”



As to the numerical strength of these Indians, we are told “they can make near six hundred able men.”  This estimate can properly only be made to apply to the town Sasquesahanough, from which the delegation came of which Smith is speaking.  If the other towns were as numerous, there were three thousand six hundred men; and if only half as numerous, there were two thousand one hundred men, a number equal to that of the Five Nations.  There an be given no good reason or proof why the natives in Pennsylvania, from the dividing waters of the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers westward, my not have been originally thus numerous.  There is abundant evidence on the ground to prove that the regions of the Susquehanna and its branches were once well peopled with tribes of which history has almost lost sight.

It has become fashionable of late years to belittle the number of natives originally in the eastern part of the United States.  No doubt many early accounts exaggerated, because they were made by unobserving men, and through ignorance, love of the marvelous, or for some sinister purpose; but such articles as that of Mr. G. Mallory go more than to the opposite extreme in claiming that the Indians are as numerous in the United States now as they were at the period of the first settlement.  The number destroyed by the introduction of small-pox and other diseases, and the deadly fire-arms, and the equally fatal firewater, is simply incalculable; and their miserable remnants are no criterion by which to judge of their numbers, condition and power, in the days of their pristine glory.  Nor is it true that we can look for a surviving remnant of all the old tribes, for many have entirely parished, their language and all, while other remnants of mixed blood have long been kept up only for the purpose of securing the Government annuities.



The language spoken by the Susquehannocks is a matter of great interest.  Language changes so slowly as to be more enduring than physical peculiarities, or all the light which traditions can afford.  It may demonstrate a common origin long after the fact of a separation has ceased to be rehearsed in the tribal councils.  On language the ethnologist bases his Indian classification, for history affords no light beyond its lessons.  Were the Susquehannocks Algonquins or Iroquois?  Many writers have classed them with the former; and even Pennsylvania historians have gone so far as to boldly assert that they were a branch of the Delawares.  Even Gallatin was much misled by the omission of the little word “to” in a land grant—“As far as to the bounds and limits of the Minquas land.”

From a careful reading of our Archives and Colonial Records, the writer of this article years ago pronounced them of Iroquois stock; and this was before he had seen any of the writings of Dr. Shea, or knew that any modern writer had advanced the same opinion.  The question has an important bearing upon their conquest and the subsequent history of the remnant; for many absurd things have been stated in consequence of following a wrong theory.  All the ethnological map-makers, to this day, color this territory, as well as all the interior of the State, as having belonged to Algonquin tribes.  To know that language of these interior tribes is to know at least one step in their origin, and it is a key that will unlock much of the early Susquehanna history; for the policy of the Five Nations in their wars with cognate tribes seems to have differed from their conquests of Algonquins.  In the old days the conquered remnants of the former were incorporated into their cantons in New York; but they seem to have been satisfied to force Algonquins to pay tribute, or if greatly exasperated, to reduce them to the condition of women, and force them to wear the typical petticoat.  The adoption of Algonquin captives and tribes in later times was a prime cause of their degeneracy.

Only such thoughts on their language will be here presented as grow out of what is related in Smith’s history.  What was subsequently learned we leave to be subsequently related.  It will be remembered that Smith found one Indian who could translate Susquehannock into Tockwock, and another who could translate Tockwock into Powhatan, while Smith himself was left to wrestle with the Powhatan and turn it into English.  He gives as a reason for this device, to induce the Susquehannocks to come down, that “their languages are different.”  Again, he says, “for their language may well beseem their proportions, sounding form them as a voice in a vault.”  His companions, also, notice this sonorous peculiarity, for they relate that the Indians began an oration “with a most strange, furious action and a hellish voice.”  Purchas, in his “Pilgrimage” in 1613, p. 640, says: “The Sasquesahanockes are a gyantly people, strange in proportion, behavior, and attire, their voice sounding from them as out of a cave.”  Purchas, in his Pilgrimes,” 1625, vol. IV, 1695, says the same as Smith, with this variation: that the voice came “sounding from them as it were a great voice in a vault or cave as an echo.”  These, however, are the exact words used my Smith in his Oxford tract in 1612.  Strachey also follows this original description, calling them the “Sasquesahanougs.”  These words were not used without cause, and can only be reconciled on the hypothesis that they spoke a dialect of the Iroquois stock of languages.  We have but to recall the fact that the Iroquois had no labials in their language; that it consisted of a succession of open, hollow-throat sounds, well calculated to impress strangers with the idea of coming from a vault, and differing so much from the sounds of any other tongue as to seem to be an infernal noise, especially when accompanied, as it was in this instance, with violent gesticulation.  The fact that they did speak a dialect of the same language as the Five Nations is clearly established by the testimony of later acquaintance, and it fully explains and justifies these early and exceedingly interesting observations.



The name given these Indians is a matter of very considerable interest.  It has provided the title of our great interior river; and were the State named after the manner of Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, or Arkansas, it would be the Commonwealth of Susquehanna; and few people are aware of how near the King, in 1687, came granting a charter for a province comprising twelve leagues on each side of the river, from the bay “to the head of said river to the Grand Lake of Canada,” and known as “The Susquehannocks’ Country.”  It is a home word, and ignorance of its origin, meaning and use is not complimentary to ourselves.  Let us look at it.

The reader must be cautioned not to confound the word used by Smith and later English writers with the “Sasquehannagh Indians,” with whom William Penn made a treaty in 1700 and in 1701, for it then denoted the several tribes or bands who lived on or near the lower part of the river, of whom the remnant of those that Smith met was only one, the Shawanese and Ganawese bands being included in the term.  After their conquest the Susquehannocks disappeared as a nation, the name in its original sense died out, but was used to denote any and all Indians on that stream.  In the meantime the remnant of survivors took the name of Conestogas from the creek on which they were located. 

The term must also be distinguished from the “Susquehanna Indians” of the period of the “the French and Indian War,” when it denoted those living upon the upper branches of the river, without regard to tribe, but mostly Delawares and Shawanese in contradistinction to those of the same tribes who had removed to the Ohio, and who, with others living there, were often termed the “Ohio Indians.”  Great changes often occur in the application of terms after the lapse of fifty or a hundred years; and great errors are committed by writers who have failed to observe these changes.  The spelling Sasquesahanoughs, or more properly, Sasquesahanocks, given by Smith, soon ripened into Susquehannocks, Susquehannas, and a great many other forms found in old authors.  In fact, Smith’s books and map are not uniform, but give four variations, and other writers furnish many other forms, and this diversity often occurs in the same author.  Many old writers almost seem to have tried not to spell an Indian name twice in the same way.  It is clear that this variously spelled term for these Indians and their river, as long used by the people of Virginia and Maryland, and as it has come down to us in periodical modifications, grew out of the word first used by Smith.  His name never died, though it has been variously spelled and applied.  But where did he get it?  If he got it from the Susquehannocks, and if it was their own name, then it is of the Susquehanna dialect of the Iroquois language.  If he got it from the Tockwocks, we must seek the meaning in Algonquin dialects.


Pehaps no word has had so many divergent interpretations.  This will, we hope, excuse us if we enter into an examination of the word at length.  Some of these versions are only fit to laugh at.  An eminent teacher used to say it meant “long crooked river.”  For this we know of no authority.  Some classic scholar derives it from the Latin sus, Swine; que, and; Hannah, a woman who lived at the river at an early date: the river of Hannah and her hogs.  A Shawanese origin has been suggested and defined as “the river with rocks.”  To this it is a fatal objection that it was near a century after Smith before the Shawanese first began to settle on its banks.  A certain Rev. N. W. Jones, in what he calls his “Indian Bulletin for 1868,” published in New York, says: “Susquehanna—smooth river; from sooskwa, it is smooth, and anna, a stream.”  This explanation would be very smooth indeed, if he had shown us that sooskwa was a word for smooth in any language or dialect spoken where Smith originally got the name.  Indian names always meant something, but thee is nothing distinctively smooth about this river to contrast it with others.  John Heckewelder was long a missionary among the Delawares.  He was so prejudiced in their favor that he could “Delawareize” almost any word.  In looking through his Delaware spectacles, he says that Quenischaschacki is the “name given by the Delawares to the long reach in the West Branch of the Susquehanna in Lycoming county.  Hence they call the West Branch Quenischachachgek-hanne, [quin, long: schaschack-ki, straight,] which word has been corrupted into Susquehanna.”  Considering that the word was in use near a century before the Delawares were on the West Branch, and that it belonged to the lower part of the river, the absurdity will appear as great a the sounds are in themselves utterly dissimilar.  It is, indeed, a very long reach and to much corruption to torture a derivation from this source.


Hon. Horatio Hale, a distinguished Indianologist, of Clinton, Ontario, Canada, says: “Sasquesahanough” is of Iroquois origin, meaning “the falls People:” that “its correct form would be Sosko-sa-hano”, or in the Mohawk dialect, Soskonsaronon, the n having the French nasal sound.  It is derived from Oskonsa, the falls of a river, and hanon, honon or ronon, people.”  Gen. John S. Clark, of Auburn, N. Y., is of the same opinion; that it “describes exactly the great Susquehanna town, as they who live at the falls;” that “Smith apparently attempted to represent the nasal sound by nough; and that any modern Iroquois with a good ear will recognize it and give its meaning.  In Seneca, Falls is ga-sko-sa-da; and ga-sko-sa-go, at the falls.  The word for people, ronon, in the western dialects becomes hanon or henon, which compounded with ga-sko-sa, becomes ga-sko-sa-ha-non, a near approach to the Sasquesahanough of Smith.  The significance of changing “G” to “S” in the initial I am unable to account for, and I never found an Iroquois scholar that could.”  It would be a profound pleasure to agree with these eminent scholars in this ingenious and rather laborious and far-fetched interpretation, if the known facts and probabilities were in its favor.  There are a number of things about it, however, besides the initial, that no Iroquois scholar can explain, one of which is the change of hanne into ronon through “the Mohawk dialect,” and the change of ronon into hanne through “the western dialects.”


There can be no question that Smith heard of the Susquehannocks before he saw them, and that he must have heard a descriptive name for them before he communicated with them.  When their neighbors, the Tockwocks, told Smith of them, they designated them by their own Tockwock descriptive term, and when Smith did meet them, he had but a single interview, and labored under great difficulties in having what they said understood, having to resort, as already shown, to a triple translation.  What he gives us is his own rendering of a version into Powhatan—itself, perhaps imperfect.  In the absence of any information we cannot suppose that he abandoned a word already somewhat familiar without saying a word about it.  It would be unnatural and contrary to the analogy of similar cases.  The Hudson River Indians told the Dutch that the Indians west of Albany were Maquas, and that those west of the Delaware were Minquas; the Powhatans told Smith of the Monacans and Chawanocks; and so with numerous other tribes, none of whom called themselves by these names; and yet these first-heard terms were seldom abandoned, even when the true name was discovered.  Those terms, given by adjoining tribes, were often nick-names, and had, as with us now, often a most surprising durability.  We can rest assured, therefore, that Sasquesahanocks is a Tockwock or Nanticoke term, and not the name that those “gyants” applied to themselves.  There is no subsequent evidence that they called themselves by any such name as “Sasquesahanocks,” or that they were so-called by any other Iroquois tribe, unless it was after they got it from the English.  They were never so-called by the French, Dutch, Swedes, or even by the English to the northwards, except as they got the word from Smith or the English of Virginia and Maryland.  It is absurd to suppose that during these many years of intercourse and trade, none of the Swedes, Dutch, French, or English should have learned what they called themselves.  To the French, they were known as one of the Andasta tribes; to the Dutch and Swedes, as Minquas; and to the English at New York and on the Delaware, at first largely by the same name; and they only began to use the name Suaquehannocks after they came in contact with Maryland settlements.  Even if the word did mean “they who live at the falls,” it is not a term appropriate to be applied by the Susquehannocks to themselves, but such as another tribe would designate them by, especially such a tribe as the Tockwocks, on the Eastern Shore, who lived on more sluggish streams; and in this case, even the word could, therefore, not be Iroquois.  The conclusion must be that the word, having been received from the Tockwocks, was the name in use among them, and must have its peculiar signification and applicability from that standpoint.  Unless we look through these spectacles, we will fail to see why they were so-called.


In dissecting the word Sasquesa-han-ock-s, we commence with the ending.  The final letter belongs to one of our terminal forms for gentile words.  We say Briton-s, Delaware-s, America-us, Europe-ans, Egypt-ians; also, New York-ers, Maryland-ers.  The –er is a derived form from the Teutonic wer, which comes form the Latin vir, a man.  In like manner, -an or –n, is derived directly from man.  An American-n is an America-man.  The s denotes the plural number.  Brazil-ians are Brazil-men.  Euphony has worn away the first letter, leaving –er and –an or –n.  Many words ending in a, e, c, k, gh, etc., receive the plural –s even without the –n, as Oneida-s, Cree-s, and as in the case before us.  This –s is more than a mere plural, for it has the force of –ers or -ans.  In the expression, “the Carolinians of the two Carolinas,” were distinguished between the gentile noun and the territorial plural.  Some of these words may take the older form, as Montanus gives us Sasquesahanock-ers.  In all the forms, the ending means men, people of the country or region, to the name of which the suffix is added.  Now, our Indians used a suffix for the very same purpose.  The Hurons used –ronon, the Mohawks used –hagaAlgonquins sometimes used ape or abe, as in Assinabions, the stone-people or stone tribe.  The Delaware word for man was lenni, and they called themselves Lenni-Lenape, true men, manly men, or original men; but this seems to have been used to denote themselves as the first and greatest among other inferior people rather than to designate themselves in a tribal capacity.  There does not seem to be any such Indian suffix or word in the name given us by Smith.

There is a peculiarity in Algonquin nouns by which they are divided into animate, lying things; and inanimate, lifeless things.  The plural of the animate nouns has its own form, being an affix, which, when appended to inanimate names, gives them the force of living beings.  This, in Delaware, is ak, but it varies in the different dialects, the Otchipwe having seven forms of this animate plural.  Take achsin, stone, achsinall, stones; but Achsinak, those of the stone, or stone-ones, or the stone tribe.  To the north-west, the corresponding ending often used is –nek, -ek, -uouk, -ouk, etc., and these are often found ground down as badly as their English equivalents.  If Susquehannock was the word used to describe the people, as well as the country where they lived, we have perhaps more reason to look for this animate plural than for a suffix word.  But we do not find it, for the –ocke, -ock, -ough, cannot be regarded as intended for a word for people or the animate plural.  If they were so intended, it would follow that the final “s” is a reduplication of the same idea, and it would be like saying “Americans men.”  Indeed, we may well infer that if any such word or ending for people was used by the Tockwock interpreters, its place was intentionally supplied in the use of the combined plural and derivative gentile noun ending, “s,” which Smith recognized as its equivalent, for if he by this time had acquired enough of the Powhatan to translate into English what he was here told, he certainly knew enough not to duplicate the idea of people.  So we need not look for any word or ending meaning people in the name used by Smith, beyond what is implied in the closing letter.


There is another ending often appended to Algonquin nouns when used as names of places.  In New England it took the form of –ut, -it, -et, etc., and in some other dialects, -k, -g, etc., with a connecting vowel.  Among the Delawares, it generally took the form of –unk, sometimes –ank, -onk, -ink, but often changed to –ing.  Thus, Kittanning, from keht, greatest, hanne, stream, and ing, at; meaning at the principal stream; Mahoning, at the lick; Mahonink, Licking Creek, where there is a lick; Saukunk, at the mouth; Paxtang, Peshtank, Peekstang, corrupted into Paxton and corrupted from tu-peek and –ank, at the standing water; Muncy, corrupted from Mins-ink, where there are Minsies; Manyunk, where we go to drink; Mauch Chunk, at the bear mountain.  This is what the grammarians call the “locative case.”  It does not locate the object, to the name of which it is a part, but something else connected with it, of which location can be affirmed.  We cannot say “at the bear,” but we can say “at the rocks,” that is, something is described as belonging to the place or region where the rocks are located.  The question is, have we this suffix of place in Smith’s word for the Susquehannock?  We think clearly it is not; but there are some derivative forms, as we shall see, that do seem to have this ending.  We labor under this great difficulty—we have no grammar of the Powhatan nor of the Nanticoke dialects, and the vocabularies which have been preserved are so exceedingly meager that while showing a common origin and dialectical divergence, they give us provokingly little light on the questions before us.  The locative case and the animate plural, in some of the dialectical forms, as written by careless writers, come so near the suffix word for land, country, or region that we cannot be sure always that as words are now spelled they may not run into each other and become indistinguishable.


This leads us then, to examine the Algonquin word for place, land, region, country, often used as a suffix.  This is given in Narragansett, auke; Massachusetts, ohke; Abeneki, ‘ki; Otchipwe, ahke or aki; and in Delaware, hacki; and our geographies furnish other variations such as oki, ook, aug, oag, aque, augua, etc.  If the reader will now glance at Smith’s map and writings, he will be surprised at the number of the names of tribes and clans occupying towns, which end in –ock, -eck, -uck, -cgh, -ough, -ok, -oc, etc.  An examination of Smith’s books, and the writings of others in his day, will show instances where a number of these names are spelled with an additional “e” after the “k.”  As this necessitates an extra syllable in the pronunciation, it cannot be regarded as a mere orthographical freak.  As it produces the most common sound among the Algonquin dialects for the word meaning land, place, country, etc., it seems certain that it was intended for that word; and that the absence of the “e” in other instances and in other words is owing to carelessness, euphony, or a tendency in these Indian dialects to cut off this syllabic sound, evidences of all of which we see in the use of the word in kindred dialects.  Smith gives us Patawom-ek-s, Massawom-ecke-s, Atquinac-huke-s, Kusharanaocke, Nantaqu-ake, Quadr-opue.  Then we have Tappahan-oke, and Coracohan-auke as equivalent to Quiyougheohan-ock.  Purchas, who says he had access to Smith’s manuscripts prior to their publication, found and gives us the very form Sasquesa-han-ocke-s, and this form is also found in Smith’s Oxford tract of 1612.  We have the use of this suffix finely illustrated in Smith’s spelling Chawwon-ock and Chawon-ocke, from sowan-ocke, the south-country, applied to a region south of Jamestown on what is still known as the Chowan River in North Carolina.  The Chowans or Chawons were simply “Southerners;” the Chawanockes were strictly the “South-lan-ers.”  Compare wa”pan-auke, the east-land; by the Dutch, Wapenokis; by the English, Wampanoags, which ending is like Smith’s Mangoags elsewhere spelled Mangoacks, but by Strachey Mangoangs.  There can be no reasonable doubt that the ocke, ock, ecke, eck, ough, oug, ox, etc., used by Smith and others, were intended to represent the sound of the Indian word meaning land, place, region, country.  The Sasquesahan-ockes were the Great-water-region-people.  So; Milwaukee is the rich-land.  Tulpehocken, from tulpewi-hacki-ing, is at the turtle land, a region noted for turtles, the turtle country.  From Tockawho-ughe, flag-root-land, we have the Tockwhoughs, or the Tuckahoe, lander-ers.  Tesinigh seems to come from tessinan, I spread out, and an obscured form of ake or ing, and meaning the Flats—the same idea that is still in the word which we have corrupted into Wyoming.  The force of the affix is very apparent.  In some cases it may be disguised or unobserved, as in Accomac, the Other-side-land-ers; or other form may be mistaken for it.  As we do not know the Powhatan or Nanticoke idioms, we cannot reject this word because of the presence or absence of a letter or sound.  There was, moreover, no Indian standard, but an almost unending variation.  Half a dozen, or, for that matter, one man might write a word in half a dozen different ways, as they or he heard it from the lips of that number of Indians even of the same tribe, and each one may be correctly written, all the sounds may have been in use, and in the absence of any established criterion, one may be as good as the other.  As the Delawares seem to have been peculiar in using an aspirate at the beginning of the word, making it hacki, it is not a little singular to notice on Smith’s map Chicka-hokin and Atquinachuke; in Smith’s book of 1612, Atquana-hucke, which, as already shown, is the same as Powhatan’s Anchanac-huck, and derived, possibly, from aquacken-hake, barren-land, referring to the sandy and swampy lands of New Jersey.  Here it will be of interest to recur again to Pocoughtaon-acks, Powhatan’s name for the Susquehannocks, which Strachey produces in five variations as follows: Bocootawwon-auke-s, Bocootowwon-ock-s, Bocootauwan-auke-s, Bocootawwan-aukes-s, and Bocootawon-ough, the country.  Here we have conclusive proof of the sameness of the forms auke, ock, and ough.  The force of the wan or won is undetermined, though it is like one of the forms of –han.  The first part seems to be the word for fire, which strachey gives as boketawh and bocutlaw; also, bocutoah, bocataw, boketaw, boketan, bocata.  Lightning is more likely to strike twice in the same spot than this classically educated man was to spell a word twice in the same way.  He describes their country as having hills abounding in copper, and that these Indians “are said to part the solid metal from the stone without fire, bellows, or additament and beat it into plates, the like whereof is hardly found in any other part of the world.”  We see no reason why fire should be associated with the land occupied by these natives, though we read of a Fire-nation to the north-west.


We come now to notice the next component part of this word.  We have here most certainly and clearly the Algonquin inseparable generie noun affix: -hanne, huan, han, sometimes even contracted to –an or –wan, which means flowing water, rapid river, like the Latin Fluvins, that is, a stream, as distinguished from -tuk or ittuk, tide or wave-moved water.  There are many –hanne streams in Virginia and Pennsylvania.  It is in Tunkhannock, Alleghany, Loyal Hanna, Kittanning, Moshannon, Lackawanna, Neshannock, Tobyhanna, Tohickon from tohick-han.  We find it in Rappahanock, Toppabanock, Accohanock, etc., on Smith’s map; and it is partly disguised in Powhatan, which was the name of the river and not of the chief.  It is derived from Paut-hanne, the falls on a stream, the “t” and “h” changing places by metathesis, for Smith himself informs us, in speaking of the falls at Richmond, that it is “the place of which their Emperor taketh his name.”  As Indian names are generally accented on the penult, the elision of the final “e” accounts for the accent on the last syllable of Powhatan.  The word –hanne is well known to the Delawares and others now living and speaking languages nearly related to the Powhattan.  It could not stand alone for the reason that the Indian did not speak of a stream except as a certain kind of running water, and the qualifying word preceded it.  It is impossible to explain it away, known and familiar, as it must have been already to Smith, on the ground that he tried to imitate another sound by the spelling –hanough.  Unfortunately for General Clark’s argument, in the test of the original editions of Smith’s History, the word occurs ten times, and is always Sasquesa-hanocks.  The –hanough never occurs, save in the map, once in the margin and once in the table of contents of the book, all of which may possibly have been the work of another hand.  The same facts are found in the endings in his Oxford tract of 1612.  Smith was a smart man, but he was no expert in nasal sounds.  There are several other names of tribes or clans on the map and a number in his book that terminate in –ough.  If the argument is good in this case, it would make out all these to be Iroquois words.  The fact is, Smith was in no ways particular as to his spellings, as we can see in the terminations of his name for the Tockwocks, which are –woghs, -waghes; -whoghs, -woughs, and he speaks of the Tockawhoughe roots.  Many other words as they are repeated show the same lack of uniformity.  And, again, we have the conclusive evidence of the Delaware “Bark Records,” presently to be quoted, that –han in this very word does mean stream.  The conclusion we have now reached is that these Indians were called the “Sasquesa-stream-land-ers,” or inhabitants of a country known by a certain kind of a stream as they were looked upon through the eyes of the Tuckahoe-land-ers.


We come now to sasquesa, the first portion of this name.  Our Iroquois friends to the northward, and, so far as we know, all others, in attempting to analyze this word, seem to take it for granted that they must account for three syllables, for they divide the word thus, sas-que-sa.  We formerly also fell into the same error.  It seems never to have occurred to these writers that it is a common thing in our language for “que” to be equivalent to “k.”  Smith certainly was familiar with such words as casque, mosque, burlesque, antique.  Strachey also uses this form, and even the single “q,” for the sound of “k.”  The presumption is entirely against an intention to say, sas-que-sa or sa-eque-sa; but it is in favor of sasque-sa, that is, sask-sa or sasks-a.  As proof of this we have the fact that it soon took forms necessarily of two syllables, such as sasque, susque, sackwe, susco, etc.  Only those who copied Smith’s text afterwards use his spelling.  Those who tried to imitate the sound follow the various two-syllable forms.  In Maryland, prior to their subjugation, we find Sasquehannocks, Sasquehannoughs, Sasquehanowes, Susquehanoughs, etc., in common use.  After the English superseded the Dutch on the Delaware, we find such forms as Huskehanoes, Susequehanoes, Suscohanes, and Governor Lovelace, in 1671, calls them “Susconk Indians,” an interesting form, which probably purposely dispensed with the parts for river and country. There are, perhaps, fifty or more different spellings to be found in the old records, but they would illustrate nothing beyond what we have already given.

Smith himself, in his brief list of words, gives suckahanna as the Powhatan word for “water.”  Strachey gives suckquohana and secqwahan as meaning “water,” and mammahe sucqwaham, for “give me some water.”  Beverly gives suckahana for “water.”  These slight modifications evidently all aim at the same sound, and all the forms, and the names above given, clearly show the intent to use but two syllables; and in the brief definition, water, as we shall see, there is comprehended the meaning of both words as here compounded.  There remains yet another spelling, accompanied with an interpretation of the word, that is of much more importance than any that has been given.  In the “Walum Olum,” Painted Sticks or Bark Records of the Lenni-Lenape, published in “Beach’s Indian Miscellany,” the manuscript of which was obtained from some Indians in Indiana in 1822, we have the traditions of the Delaware reduced to writing by some unknown educated native.  There is in it, among many other interesting things, a list of 97 chieftains, in order of succession prior to the advent of the white man.  In this recital we find: “And Hanaholend (Stream-lover) [ruled] at the branching stream (Saskwihanang or Susquehanna).”  Here we have most excellent and conclusive authority for pronouncing Smith’s sasquesa in two syllables, sask-sa or sask-we.  In the little collections of native Virginia words preserved by Smith, Strachey, and Beverly we have the several forms already given as meaning simply “water,” seeming almost as if the first part had no meaning.  They were not critical nor philosophical, and they fail to inform us what kind of water is intended.  Still it is evident that the kind of water intended was not sea, salty, or tidal water; not sepu, sipe, river; not nipi, nebi, m’bi, broad water: not pog, bog, paug, water at rest, a pond; not gami, gomi, omi, oma, lake, large water.  What was meant among white men in every-day life by water without any other qualifying words was water fit to drink, or fresh or spring water.  This kind of wate was to the Indian to be found in rills which we in the United States expressively call runs.  It is not the fountain, but that which flows from it—not the spring, but the spring let.  It is not salt, tidal, standing, stagnant, rapid, falling, broad, massive, but running fresh water.  This is the kind of water termed sasque-sa, suck-quo, suck-a, secq-wa, sask-we, etc.  That this is the sense of the prefix to –han in Smith’s and Stachey’s vocabularies cannot be doubted; and that it is the same word that enters into the composition of the name of the tribe under discussion is equally clear.  As applied to –hanna, stream, it referred to the numerous and wide-spread springs, or rather, runs and creeks belonging to that river.  The translation, “branching,” from the Walum Olum, above given, is in strict accordance with this idea, provided we do not construe “branching” to be synonymous with dividing or forked stream, but as having numerous branches, distinguished for its wide-spread affluents of palatable spring-waters.  We do not have any single English word that exactly expresses this idea, for in common parlance we call it simply water.  The idea of a forked stream is in Lackawanna, from Lechan-hanna.  The old Lechay, the forks, now Lehigh, may be a shortening of Lechauwekink, where there are forks; Lackawannock, the place where the river forks.  The stream is forked if it divides into two nearly equal branches; but it is not “branching” unless it has a multiplicity of affluents.  The root of susk-we is no doubt found in a word meaning that which is fresh, new, recent, young, etc.  In Cree this word is woski; in Otchipwe, oshki (as Ottawa in Cree becomes Watawa); and in Delaware, wuski, and wuskiyeyn, it is new or fresh.  Beverly gives husckaw for “young men’s trials” in Powhatan.  It could be applied to the new moon as seen in Strachey’s suckimma.  Adjectives proper are almost unknown in these languages, as such words assume the form of verbs and are conjugated through the various persons, moods and tenses, and in their synthetic system of word building there is room for a great variety of prefixes and affixes in expressing fine shades of meaning.  In the various spellings now given, observe that the initial “s” may give way to “w,” or even disappear; that the “k” sound properly belongs to the first syllable, but has a tendency to reduplication at the beginning of the second syllable, where it often assumes the form of “qu” or “w,” which, in Smith, is again interchanged for “s;” and hence, that our Sus-que-hanna is a corruption in so far as it has entirely omitted the “k” sound in closing the first syllable.

The word sharply qualifies the kind of water composing the stream.  The scope of the idea conveyed is that the river was distinguished for its numerous fresh-water branches, as seen through the eyes of those who resided on the Eastern Shore.  To them this land was an Aenon, “because there was much water there.”  Not that other streams had no such branches, but as we would say, in their eyes, it was the branching stream, the great spring-fed river.  To them this idea was true, natural, forcible, for their country of tidal waters and small streams on the coast were not thus remarkable.  The form Saskwihan-ang is in the locative case, and means at the stream of numerous brooks, or where there are many spring runs.  The spelling “Sasquesahanonges: in the margin of Strachey suggests the idea that his form ending in ougs may be a mistake for ongs, the locative case, equivalent to unk or ing, that is “Susquehanings,” and meaning “those at the Sasque-sa-Han-ne.”  The Sasque-sa-han-ocke-s were, therefore, the Brook-stream-land-ers, or the Spring-water-Stream-Region-People.  Whether the people were called after the country previously so named, or whether the region took its name from a people already so called is unimportant, but in this case, as it generally is the case, the people were so termed because they lived in a region which had a name given it entirely independent of its inhabitants.


We have already mentioned that the Dutch and Swedes called these Indians Minquaas or Minquas.  When we come to look at them through the Dutch and Swedish Archives, we will find that this name also means nothing more nor less than the Springs-people, thus confirming the conclusion here reached.  The tribes of the Minquas occupied the region of the Susquehanna and its branches.  To the Algonquins occupying the low lands and sandy coast where springs are less numerous and good water often scarce, it was an expressive title to call them the People of the Spring-water country, literally Brook-stream-land-ers.  These Algonquins were fishers and hunters, and loved the sea-coast and its tidal waters.  The various Iroquois tribes having advanced a step in civilization, lived more by hunting and agriculture, and preferred the land of forests and brooks and the rich interior valleys.  Governor Lovelace’s “Susconks” is not a senseless contraction, but is entirely correct, the equivalent of Minquas, and means those at the springwaters.  It is probable that the name “Sabsqungs,” for a river running southward, east of Lake Erie, on the Senex map of 1719, is intended for this word.  The name which Smith has given us for the Susquehannocks tells a long historical story, and when given him by the Tockwock interpreters, described the relative situation of the parties with all it previously implied.  This solution of the word is modestly submitted as the first and only true interpretation of the origin, use and signification of the name which Captain John Smith has handed to us for “the goodliest” men he had ever seen.

Contributed by Renee Waring for use by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/~clearfield/)

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