Samuel de Champlain
Explores
Massachusetts' North Shore


On the 15th of the month [July, 1605] we made twelve leagues. Coasting along, we perceived a smoke on the shore, which we approached as near as possible, but saw no savages, which led us to believe that they had fled. The sun set, and we could find no harbor for that night, since the coast was flat and sandy. Keeping off, and heading south, in order to find an anchorage, after proceeding about two leagues, we observed a cape [Cape Ann] on the main land south a quarter southeast of us, some six leagues distant. Two leagues to the east we saw three or four rather high islands [Isles of Shoals], and on the west a large bay. The coast of this bay, reaching as far as the cape, extends inland from where we were perhaps four leagues. It has a breadth of two leagues from north to south, and three at its entrance. Not observing any place favorable for putting in, we resolved to go to the cape above mentioned with short sail, which occupied a portion of the night. Approaching to where there were sixteen fathoms of water, we anchored until daybreak.

On the next day we went to the above-mentioned cape, where there are three islands near the main land, full of wood of different kinds, as at Chouacoet and all along the coast; and still another flat one, where there are breakers, and which extends a little farther out to sea than the others, on which there is no wood at all. We named this place Island Cape, near which we saw a canoe containing five or six savages, who came out near our barque, and then went back and danced on the beach. Sieur de Monts sent me on shore to observe them, and to give each one of them a knife and some biscuit, which caused them to dance again better than before. This over, I made them understand, as well as I could, that I desired them to show me the course of the shore. After I had drawn with crayon the bay, and the Island Cape, where we were, with the same crayon they drew the outline of another bay, which they represented as very large; here they placed six pebbles at equal distances apart, giving me to understand by this that these signs represented as many chiefs and tribes. Then they drew within the first mentioned bay a river [Merrimack River] which we had passed, which has shoals and is very long. We found in this place a great many vines, the green grapes on which were a little larger than peas, also many nut-trees, the nuts on which were no larger than musket-balls. The savages told us that those inhabiting this country cultivated the land and sowed seeds like the others, who we had before seen. The latitude of this place is 43 degrees and some minutes. Sailing half a league farther, we observed several savages on a rocky point, who ran along the shore dancing as they went, to their companions to inform them of our coming. After pointing out to us the direction of their abode, they made a signal with smoke to show us the place of their settlement. We anchored near a little island [Thatchers Island], and sent our canoe with knives and cakes for the savages. From the large number of those we saw, we concluded that these places were better inhabited than the others we had seen.

After a stay of some two hours for the sake of observing these people, whose canoes are made of birch bark, like those of the Canadians, Souriquois, and Etechemins, we weighed anchor and set sail with a promise of fine weather. Continuing our course to the west-south-west, we saw numerous islands on one side and the other. Having sailed seven or eight leagues, we anchored near an island [in Boston Harbor], whence we observed many smokes along the shore, and many savages running up to see us. Sieur de Monts sent two or three men in a canoe to them, to whom he gave some knives and paternosters to present to them; with which they were greatly pleased, and danced several times in acknowledgment. We could not ascertain the name of their chief, as we did not know their language. All along the shore there is a great deal of land cleared up and planted with Indian corn. The country is very pleasant and agreeable, and there is no lack of fine trees. The canoes of those who live there are made of a single piece, and are very liable to turn over if one is not skillful in managing them. We had not before seen any of this kind. They are made in the following manner. After cutting down, at a cost of much labor and time, the largest and tallest tree they can find, by means of stone hatchets (for they have no others except some few which they received from the savages on the coasts of La Cadie, who obtained them in exchange for furs), they remove the bark, and round off the tree except on one side, where they apply fire gradually along its entire length; and sometimes they put red-hot pebble-stones on top. When the fire is too fierce, they extinguish it with a little water, not entirely, but so that the edge of the boat may not be burnt. It being hollowed out as much as they wish, they scrape it all over with stones, which they use instead of knives. These stones resemble our musket flints.

[September, 1606]

Continuing our course, we proceeded to the Island Cape [Cape Ann], where we encountered rather bad weather and fogs, and saw little prospect of being able to spend the night under shelter, since the locality was not favorable for this. While we were thus in perplexity, it occurred to me that, while coasting along with Sieur de Monts, I had noted on my map, at a distance of a league from here, a place which seemed suitable for vessels [Gloucester harbor], but which we did not enter, because, when we passed it, the wind was favorable for continuing on our course. This place we had already passed, which led me to suggest to Sieur de Poutrincourt that we should stand in for a point in sight, where the place in question was, which seemed to me favorable for passing the night. We proceeded to anchor at the mouth, and went in the next day.

Sieur de Poutrincourt landed with eight or ten of our company. We saw some very fine grapes just ripe, Brazilian peas, pumpkins, squashes, and very good roots, which the savages cultivated, having a taste similar to that of chards. They made us presents of some of these, in exchange for little trifles which we gave them. They had already finished their harvest. We saw two hundred savages in this very pleasant place; and there are here a large number of very fine walnut trees, cypresses, sassafras, oaks, ashes, and beeches. The chief of this place is named Quiouhamenec, who came to see us with a neighbor of his, named Cohouepech, whom we entertained sumptuously. Onemechin, chief of Chouacoet, came also to see us, to whom we gave a coat, which he, however, did not keep a long time, but made a present of it to another, since he was uneasy in it, and could not adapt himself to it. We saw also a savage here, who had so wounded himself in the foot, and lost so much blood, that he fell down in a swoon. Many others surrounded him, and sang some time before touching him. Afterwards, they made some motions with their feet and hands, shook his head and breathed upon him, when he came to himself. Our surgeon dressed his wounds, when he went off in good spirits.

The next day, as we were caulking our shallop, Sieur de Poutrincourt in the woods noticed a number of savages who were going, with the intention of doing us some mischief, to a little stream, where a neck connects with the mainland, at which our party were doing their washing. As I was walking along this neck, these savages noticed me; and, in order to put a good face upon it, since they saw I had discovered them thus seasonably, they began to shout and dance, and then came towards me with their bows, arrows, quivers, and other arms. And, inasmuch as there was a meadow between them and myself, I made a sign to them to dance again. This they did in a circle, putting all their arms in the middle, But they had hardly commenced, when they observed Sieur de Poutrincourt in the wood with eight musketeers, which frightened them. Yet they did not stop until they had finished their dance, when they withdrew in all directions, fearing lest some unpleasant turn might be served them. We said nothing to them, however, and showed them on demonstrations of gladness. Then we returned to launch our shallop, and take our departure. They entreated us to wait a day, saying that more than two thousand of them would come to see us. But, unable to lose any time, we were unwilling to stay here longer. I am of the opinion that their object was to surprise us. Some of the land was already cleared up, and they were constantly making clearings. Their mode of doing it as follows; after cutting down the trees at a distance of three feet from the ground, they burn the branches upon the trunk, and then plant their corn between these stumps, in course of time tearing up also the roots. There are likewise fine meadows here, capable of supporting a large number of cattle. This Harbor is very fine, containing water enough for vessels, and affording a shelter from the weather behind the islands. It is in latitude 43 degrees, and we gave it the name of Le Beauport [Gloucester].

Adapted from The Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, translated from the French, and published by the Prince Society, Boston, in 1880. The original work was printed in Paris in 1613. Reprinted in: Dow, George Francis (1921). Two Centuries of Travel in Essex County Massachusetts: A Collection of Narratives and Observations Made by Travelers 1605-1799. The Perkins Press, Topsfield.