(Colonial Frontier, 1600s – 1760s)
They belonged to both the Algonquian Language Family’s Eastern branch
and the Wabanaki group’s overlapping Abenaki & Pennacook alliances.
They increasingly became connected with both the
Pigwacket / Pequawket Band of the Saco River Indians
(in the Fryeburg ME area), and the
St. Francis / Odanak French Missionary village
(in southern Quebec, on St.Francis River near St.Lawrence River).
Best-known Sagamores / Sakamos / (Chiefs) on the Presumpscot River were
Skedraguscett / Squidrayset / Scitterygusett
- 1623 Cordially welcomed entrepreneur Christopher Levett at his house at First Falls, and soon adopted Levett as his cousin.
- 1657 Signed deed with fisherman Francis Small to (share? or abandon?) a very large tract of land up-river.
Polin / Pooran / Polan
- 1739 Went to Boston to complain to Governor & Council about dams
- blocking fish migrations; he won the case then but lost the cause later.
- 1756 Already had withdrawn to St. Francis when he raided New Marblehead (now Windham) in revenge for lost use of river; he was killed in raid.
What We DO Know
An extremely flexible social organization allowed the Abenaki-Pennacook peoples constantly to move & regroup their communities, both seasonally for sustenance opportunities and whenever under threat from at least three types of invasion. First came Native trade-wars, which brought repeated raids: Micmacs by sea from the eastward; Mohawks by land from the westward. Second came European-disease epidemics, which wiped out some Native communities and decimated others, especially c.1617 and c.1633. Third came European usurpation, which took two forms: the English pushed the Indians off of old lands in New England; the French pulled the Indians into new missionary villages in southern Quebec. A true diaspora resulted, but a cyclical one: even though the English fought the merged Abenaki-Pennacook peoples intermittently in a series of six wars from 1675 to 1763, the Indians ranged widely but returned repeatedly to Maine. The Saco and Androscoggin Rivers allowed easy access between the St.Francis River and the Sebago-Presumpscot region.
What We DON’T Know
Archaeologists have not yet found any Early-Contact Period Indian village sites in the Presumpscot valley, so it seems that the village(s) must have been hidden and off-stream. But it is hard to imagine how a place as big as “Agnagebcoc Towne” (described below) could be so well hidden as to show no trace at all yet. Ethnohistorians are in general agreement that it must be the Presumpscot River which is called the “Ashamahaga River” in an English list of Maine rivers titled The Description of the Countrey of Mawooshen. This document dates from the first decade of the 1600s, and seems most likely to have resulted from debriefing five Indian men who were captured in 1605 from the Maine coast while peacefully parleying with Captain George Waymouth, and taken to England. Ashamahaga River supposedly “runneth into the Land two dayes journey: and on the East side there is one Towne called Agnagebcoc, wherein are seventie houses, and two hundred and fortie men, with two Sagamos, the one called Maurmet, the other Casherokenit.” Even if this old description is grossly exaggerated, A-Towne still seems well worth seeking.
What We SHOULD Know
Nineteenth-century writers popularized a mistake which real-estate developers and sporting clubs still make today: Even though Sokokis might sound like a good name for the Saco River Indians, it was not their name. The real Sokoki Indians lived on the Connecticut River in north-central Massachusetts. Nineteenth-century writers popularized a misleading name which new books and tourist pamphlets today still use unawares: To call Chief Polin and his people Rockameecooks only makes for confusion. If by that name is meant only that they were closely connected to Pigwacket, then it would be far better to call them Pigwackets / Pequawkets. (The Pigwackets had a fort called Narracomecock / Narrackamagog on the Saco River near now-Fryeburg ME.) The real Rocameca Indians were a band of Androscoggin River Indians in the Jay Point & Canton Point area, west of Livermore Falls ME.
(The above is a February 2001 merging & condensation of information from Sebago-Presumpscot Anthropology Project Reports Nos. I-1 — I-6 (dating from 1999-2000), all of which were prepared by Alvin Hamblen Morrison PhD / Ethnohistorical Anthropologist / Mawooshen Research. See those original reports for more details about the topics involved.)