George Weymouth

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George Weymouth (Waymouth) (c. 1585 – c. 1612) was an English explorer of the area now occupied by the state of Maine.

Captain Weymouth's expedition in Penobscot Bay in Maine


George Weymouth was a native of Cockington, Devon, who spent his youth studying shipbuilding and mathematics.

In 1602 Weymouth was hired to seek a northwest passage to India by the recently formed East India Company.[1] He sailed the ship Discovery 300 miles into Hudson Strait[2] but turned back on July 26, as the year was far spent and many men were ill. Weymouth reached Dartmouth on September 5, 1602.

1605 expedition[edit]

In March 1605 Thomas Arundell, 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour and Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton sent Captain Weymouth to found a colony in Virginia under the ruse of searching again for a northwest passage.[3] Weymouth sailed from England on March 31, 1605 on the ship Archangel[4] and landed near Monhegan off the coast of Maine on May 17, 1605.

A report of the voyage, written by James Rosier (hired by Arundell to make detailed observations), was published soon after the expedition's return. The pamphlet described the physical resources available to settlers on the islands and coast of Maine (harbors, rivers, soil, trees, wild fruit and vegetables, and so forth). James Rosier, would write that Monhegan was "woody, growen with Firre, Birch, Oke and Beech, as farre as we say along the shore; and so likely to be within. On the verge grow Gooseberries, Strawberries, Wild pease, and Wilde rose bushes."[5]

The compelling part of the story, however, is the crew's encounters with the Natives,[a] which began eleven days after the Archangel first moored among the Georges Islands, on May 30, 1605, as the ship was anchored in Muscongus Bay and the captain and 13 men had gone off in the shallop to explore. The report tells how the remaining crew had a chance encounter that afternoon with a hunting party, developed a sign language with them, and over several days encouraged their trust with gifts and then trade.[b]

Illustration of Captain Weymouth impressing Natives of Pemaquid, Maine with a sword he magnetized by means of a lodestone.

On his return, Weymouth joined in the hospitality, offering the Natives bread and peas which they were unfamiliar with and amazing them with a sword magnetized with a lodestone.[9] After three days of hospitality and trading, Rosier suggested that the crew visit their homes to trade.[c] Rosier wrote that cultivating their trust was part of the plan to colonize once they had decided that the land was prime for European settlement.[d] On June 3, as they themselves had suggested, the English set out to visit their homes. They became skittish when a large assembly came to escort them and decided not to go. Rosier claimed that they then decided to kidnap a number of Natives, from their belief that the Natives intended mischief.[e]

These things considered, we began to joyne them in the ranke of other Salvages, who have beene by travellers in most discoveries found very trecherous [sic]; never attempting mischiefe, until by some remisnesse, fit opportunity affordeth them certain ability to execute the same. Wherefore after good advise taken we determined so soone as we could to take some of them, least (being suspicious we had discovered their plots) they should absent themselves from us.[16]

On the next day, they abducted five Natives, three by duplicity and two by having the crewmen force the Natives onto the lower decks.[f] In discussing the forcible kidnapping of two Natives, Rosier noted that the kidnapping had been long planned, saying that they would have resorted to harsher methods to secure their captives because the capture of Natives was "a matter of great importance for the full accomplement of our voyage".[18] The idea was undoubtedly conceived by the entrepreneurs back in England as a way to become familiar with the land and inhabitants that they intended to colonize.[19] The plan operated, however, at cross-purposes with their attempt to create good will. Weymouth and his crew made no secret of their abductions, though among Native communities they were thought to have killed instead of kidnapped the five Natives; not long after Weymouth's crew had left, French explorer Samuel de Champlain, sailing from the north, met a Native man named Anaffon, a minor trader in furs, at Monhegan Island on July 31. The Native told Champlain of a group of Englishmen who had been fishing there not long before and "under cover of friendship" had killed five Natives of the area.[20]

Weymouth returned to England in mid June.[21] All five of his captives were taken to England. Their names were recorded as Amoret, Tahanedo, sagamore Manedo, Sketwarroes, and Sassacomoit, a servant; Weymouth presented the latter three to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, governor of Plymouth Fort, piquing his interest in exploration.[22][23] Gorges was an investor in the Weymouth voyage and became the chief promoter of the scheme when Arundell withdrew from the project.[24]

In a book published in 1658, a decade after Gorges had died, and presumably written when Gorges was quite old, Gorges wrote of his delight in Weymouth's kidnapping, and named Squanto as one of the three given over to him.

Captain George Weymouth, having failed at finding a Northwest Passage, happened into a River on the Coast of America, called Pemmaquid, from whence he brought five of the Natives, three of whose names were Manida, Sellwarroes, and Tasquantum, whom I seized upon, they were all of one Nation, but of severall parts, and severall Families; This accident must be acknowledged the meanes under God of putting on foote, and giving life to all our Plantations ....[25]

Circumstantial evidence makes nearly impossible the claim that it was Squanto among the three taken by Gorges,[g] and no modern historian entertains this as fact.[h] The abductions were an intentional policy of the English entrepreneurs. Gorges, chief among the entrepreneur in Englands, wanted to both impress on the Natives the superiority of English technology and encourage colonists to emigrate; additionally, colonial entrepreneurs wanted to learn as much as they could from their captives about the lands and peoples of the New World. The entrepreneurs displayed their captives prominently to attract financing and public support for their commercial project.[28] It is more difficult to understand how they continued the policy after the experience with these first captives. Two of the captives, Manedo and Sassacomit, were sent back with Captain Henry Chollons in 1606, but the ship was intercepted by the Spanish. Manedo was lost, but Sassacomit, seriously injured, was lodged in a Spanish prison.[29] Sassacomit was forced to escape his bondage in Spain and make his way to England before he could be returned to his home in what is now Maine.[i] Two other of the kidnapped Abenaki were returned to Maine in connection with Gorges's plan to found a trading colony there. His idea was that the returned Abenaki would act as liaison between the English settlers and the local population. Instead of providing a safe entrée for the English escorting him, however, one of the two, Skidwarres, had to be forced to identify himself so that the Natives would stop the attack they made on the English. Skidwarres once home, did not persuade the Abenaki to trade with the English but instead warned them to be wary of them. The conduct of Skidwarres and fellow abductee Tahanedo, nurtured the mistrust that would eventually lead to the failure of the Sagadahoc colony.[31] This experience did not deter Gorges or other English entrepreneurs from continuing the practice of abducting local men to be transported to England, abducting Natives in the Cape Cod area as well.[citation needed]

Weymouth named the island Saint George after the patron saint of England.[4]

In Britain, the North American tree species Pinus strobus is referred to as the "Weymouth Pine", in honor of George Weymouth.

In July 2005 the Historical Society of Thomaston, Maine celebrated the 400 anniversary of Weymouth's voyage to Maine.[32]


  1. ^ Based on the Native words that Rosier listed in his report, Goddard concluded that the Natives spoke Eastern Abenaki.[6] The speakers, therefore, might have been Penobscot, Passamaquoddy or members of smaller societies like the Micmac or Maliseet.
  2. ^ At about 5:00 p.m. on May 30, the remaining 14 men on board the Archangel spied three canoes of Natives and convinced three individuals to come aboard. The English sailors intrigued them with iron knives, combs, glasses, bracelets, rings and "other triffles". "We found them then (as after) a people of exceeding good intention, quicke understanding and readie capacitie."[7] Having developed a sign language to communicate with them, Rosier persuaded them to spend the night near the ship, and the next day after providing breakfast for them, he made them to understand that if they returned with skins the English would trade knives and other desirable items for them.[8]
  3. ^ Captain Weymouth returned that morning (May 31), and shortly after noon four canoes of Natives returned with items to trade. A rain prevented commerce on land, but after it subsided the Captain invited several on board and even gave one a shirt and the rest gowns to dry in. After treating them to sugar candy and raisins (among other things), the English provided the Natives with bread and fish for their companions.[10] The next morning Rosier and five other Englishmen traded with 28 Natives. The captain and crew entertained them the rest of the day, with Rosier intriguing them by writing down their names for things and the captain slightly alarming them with his magnetized sword. That night several Natives slept aboard the ship while one sailor stayed ashore where he witnessed a two-hour pow-wow.[11] June 2 being Sabbath Rosier "signed they should depart, and at the next Sun rising we would goe along with them to their houses; which they understood (as we thought) and departed …"[12] That evening three canoes came to the vessel bearing tobacco, and another night of amicable hospitality ensued.[13]
  4. ^ "Thus because we found the land a place answereable to the intent of our discovery, viz. fit for any nation to inhabit, we used the people with as great kindness as we could devise, or found them capable of."[14]
  5. ^ Early the next morning the Natives who slept ashore prevailed upon the captain to accompany them to the mainland where they would trade (as Rosier had suggested the day before). Weymouth took 15 men with eight rowers and travelled to the mainland. Instead of disembarking, the English arranged to send a scout (holding a hostage for security). The scout reported that there were 280 men with bows and arrows and tamed wolves, but no merchandise. The English immediately suspected a trap.[15]
  6. ^ On June 3 Natives visited the vessel again, and three went aboard. Rosier and eight other men went on land to pretend to trade with the other three. One took flight, and the ships crew "used little delay, but suddenly laid hands upon them". The two Natives struggled mightily "it was as much as five or sixe of us could doe to get them into the light horsemen" where they were borne to the ship and all five were shunted off to the lower deck, where they remained as Weymouth continued exploring.[17]
  7. ^ Weymouth took the Natives, who were Eastern Abenaki from Maine, whereas Squanto, who was Patuxet, a Southern New England Algonquin, lived in Plymouth, a place, according to Rosier's report, the Archangel neither reached nor planned to. Adams maintains that "it is not supposable that a member of the Pokánoket tribe would be passing the summer of 1605 in a visit among his deadly enemies the Tarratines, whose language was not even intelligible to him … and be captured as one of a party of them in the way described by Rosier… ." Adams 1892, p. 24 n.2 (cont'd). Rosier himself names the five Natives, and while two of them have a similar name to two of the three Gorges names, the other is not Squanto at all. Moreover, much earlier Gorges had in fact written about Squanto—this in connection with Squanto's actual kidnapping later by Thomas Hunt, but he did not note that this Squanto was the same person who had lived in his house years before. Moreover, if Squanto were in England in 1605, he had to return to New England to be kidnapped by Thomas Hunt. But there is no record of any ship sailing to New England with Squanto on board, before the Hunt abduction. Moreover, although John Smith writes disapprovingly of Squanto's abduction by Hunt, he does not mention that this would have been a second abduction of him, if Gorges's much later account were true. Finally, according to an early Plymouth "joiner", when Squanto was asked how he learned English, he related the story of his abduction by Hunt in 1614, his escape from Spain to England and his stay there but not his supposed capture by Weymouth in 1605 and his stay in England with Gorges.[26]
  8. ^ See, e.g., Salisbury 1982, pp. 265–66 n.15; Shuffelton 1976, p. 109; Adolf 1964, p. 247; Adams 1892, p. 24 n. 2 (cont'd) ("there can be no doubt that Gorges was mistaken in his statement, and that the Patuxet savage was not kidnapped at Pemaquid."); Burrage 1906 ("erroneously introduced [in Briefe Narration] by Gorges writing many years afterward."); Deane 1885, p. 37 ("In saying that the name of one of these three natives was "Tasquantum," he errs."). On the other had Kinnicutt sets forth circumstances that he believes gives Gorges's statement some plausibility. Kinnicutt 1914, pp. 109–11. Kinnicut believes that Squanto was the same Native that Smith as the "Tantum" whom Smith writes he ""set on shore at Cape Cod" in 1614. the reference to "Tantum," however, in his accounts of 1616, 1620 or 1622, only his account of 1624. Even so, it would have been odd for Smith to have brought Squanto from England and set him down in Cape Cod when Smith had actually visited Patuxet, Squanto's village, before he reached Cape Cod.[27] "Tantum" is therefore unlikely to be Squanto.
  9. ^ Salisbury suggests that Sassacomit was in fact Samoset, whose later pairing with Squanto in Plymouth might explain Gorges's mistaking him for Squanto.[30] If this is true, and if Samoset travelled with Dermer from Permaquid to the Cape Cod area, Samoset would have been a shipmate of Squanto, and thus the two of them would have had a longer acquaintance than otherwise supposed, as well as shared experiences of Spain and England, and it would explain why the two of them were among the Pokanoket at the same time.


  1. ^ Dunbabin, Thomas "Waymouth, George", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 5, 2015
  2. ^ Glyn Williams,"Arctic Labyrinth",2009, p. 45
  3. ^ Akrigg, G.P.V. (1968)
  4. ^ a b Drake, Samuel Adams. The Pine-tree Coast, (Estes & Lauriat, 1890), 218.
  5. ^ " Rosier's Relation of George Weymouth's 1605 Voyage", in Ronald F. Banks, Ed., 1969, A History of Maine: A Collection of Readings on the History of Maine 1600 - 1974, Third Edition, scanned online by Davistown Museum, accessed 20 Oct 2009
  6. ^ Goddard 1978, p. 71.
  7. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, pp. 367–68.
  8. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, pp. 367–369.
  9. ^ "Stories of Main"
  10. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, pp. 369–71.
  11. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, pp. 371–74.
  12. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, p. 374.
  13. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, pp. 375–76.
  14. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, p. 371.
  15. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, pp. 367–77.
  16. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, p. 377.
  17. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, pp. 377–79.
  18. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, p. 379.
  19. ^ Salisbury 1982, p. 91.
  20. ^ Champlain 1878–82, p. II:92.
  21. ^ "Annual Report of the Director, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, to the Secretary of Commerce", U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1885
  22. ^ "The Plymouth Company", Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and Art, Vol. 14, Devon, England, 1882, pg. 342
  23. ^ Takaki, Ronald (1993). A Different Mirror. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-02236-1.
  24. ^ Rosier 1605 reprinted at Burrage 1906, p. 357.
  25. ^ Gorges 1658 reprinted at Baxter 1890, p. II:8.
  26. ^ Pratt 1858, p. 485.
  27. ^ Salisbury 1982, pp. 265–66 n.15.
  28. ^ Salisbury 1981, p. 233.
  29. ^ Purchas 1625, pp. IV:1832–37 reprinted in Brown 1897, pp. 127–39. See also Burrage 1914, pp. 56–58.
  30. ^ Salisbury 1982, p. 266 n.15.
  31. ^ Salisbury 1982, pp. 92–94.
  32. ^ The Waymouth 400th Anniversary Celebration


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  • Adolf, Leonard A. (Summer 1964). "Squanto's Role in Pilgrim Diplomacy". Ethnohistory. 11 (3): 247–61. doi:10.2307/480471. JSTOR 480471.
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  • Rosier, James (1605). A True Relation of the most prosperous voyage made this present yeere 1605, by Captaine George Waymouth, in the discovery of the land of Virginia. London: Geor. Bishop. The pamphlet was reprinted in an 1877 edition hosted online by HathiTrust. It is reprinted with annotations at Burrage 1906, pp. 357–94.
  • Salisbury, Neal (1981). "Squanto: Last of the Patuxets". In Sweet, David G.; Nash, Gary B. (eds.). Struggle and Survival in Colonial America. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. pp. 228–45. ISBN 0520041100.
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