A Problem In Ethnohistory (In Two Parts): PART A



What, who, & where was “K-C-O”? What is simple to answer: K-C-O is only my own acronym for three ways of spelling the name of what was most likely only one Wabanaki sakamo, who died in either 1606 or 1607. Spelled with the first letter K, the name appeared as KASHURAKENY; with the first letter C, CASHEROKENIT; and with the first syllable Omitted, SHUROKINIT. Who he was is more complex to say, and depends upon where his people were when they were seen (or at least heard-about) by members of the short-lived Popham-Sagadahoc Colony (1607-08). Thereby hangs this tale.

Each spelling occurs only once, in a separate primary-source and context. Trying to connect all of the three spellings-sources-contexts into one sakamo apparently has not occured to any other scholar previously, but making that attempt is my major theme in this present report.

All three of these primary-sources (along with many others) are reprinted in David B & Allison M Quinn, editors (1983), The English New England Voyages 1602-1608, London: The Hakluyt Society. Therein, for K, C, & O, respectively, see pages 351, 475, & 311 – but do be wary of some of the editors’ notes, because they have not seen the connections that I have, and accordingly (from my perspective) make some misleading non-sequiturs.

Nonetheless, the Quinns’ 1983 book is truly the very most useful single collection of data available on its topic, and the Quinns themselves are the true deans of the specialty-study of North Atlantic New World European exploration-discovery-colonization. So, it is with great respect that I try here to add-to, certainly not detract-from, their prior major contributions.


Regarding our K-C-O (who died in 1606 or 1607), trying to interpret relevant events on the Maine coast must begin with trying to understand the hopes & plans of the English colonizers back in Great Britain (as the new King James 1’s realm was starting to be called). Collectively naming it Virginia (after their Virgin Queen Elizabeth 1), the English long had claimed North America’s Atlantic coast between Spanish Florida and French Acadie. Therefore, today’s Maine was in North Virginia, which was under the Plymouth branch of the Virginia Company, whose London branch ran the southern end, with the middle part kept neutral for future use by both.

The Virginia Adventure by Ivor Noel Hume (1994), Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, nicely tells about these shared-north-&-south beginnings, before it drops the northern end (eventually called New England) to detail the southern part (which kept the name Virginia).

Centered on the key English port-city in Devon, the Plymouth Company consisted mostly of West-Country investors led by Sir John Popham (Lord-Chief-Justice of England under both Elizabeth 1 and James 1) and Sir Ferdinando Gorges (Commander of Plymouth Fort / Castle). The decision about where to locate their first colony was made on the basis of both exploring the Maine coast and (while there) kidnapping some Wabanakis for debriefing back in England. The captives were to be sent home eventually as guides for later voyages.

So it was that Captain George Waymouth’s 1605 voyage returned to England from Maine with five adult Wabanaki men, who were debriefed by Waymouth’s chronicler James Rosier for the Popham-Gorges colonizing interests. While our K-C-O was not one of Waymouth’s captives, he is mentioned in Samuel Purchas’s later additions to Rosier’s (1605) A True Relation [of Waymouth’s 1605 voyage] as SHUROKINIT.

“The Names of their [Wabanaki] chiefe Gouernours, whom they call Sagomoh.
1.Bashabez. 2.Abatuckquishe. 3.Bdahanedo, one of them we haue [captive]. 4.Abokeesussick. 5.SHUROKINIT. 6.Psaheno. 7.Mentoelmet. 8.Ageemohuck. 9.MAWERMET. 10.Chanacoboin. 11.Amilquin. 12.Muasacoromoneete. These dwell vpon the Maine, and weare an ornament of white bone vpon their head; and Chaines, and Bracelets, and Girdles, and haue their skinne garments laced with them.

The Names of our Virginians [Waymouth’s five Wabanaki captives].
Bdahanedo, Brother to the Bashabes. Amooret, his Brother. Satacomoah. Maneduck. Scikaworrowse.”
—Quoted from Purchas’s additions to Rosier (1605), page 311of Quinn & Quinn (1983)
[EMPHASES added].

NOTE: As I have stated online in MM-N&Q-1, Mysterious Mrs Penobscot was not one of Waymouth’s five captives. Rosier & others spoke openly enough about the five men whom they had kidnapped that they also at least would have mentioned any other(s) if there had been any.

While Rosier’s True Relation was published immediately in 1605 to give quick publicity to the upcoming colonizing venture & the presence in England of the Wabanaki Natives, Rosier’s debriefing results were developed more slowly. Although aspects of the information obtained from the Natives were used much earlier, the account most used by scholars today was not published until 1625, as The Description of the Countrey of Mawooshen, in Samuel Purchas’s Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes. Listed in Description are the attributes of some major Maine rivers, the names of Native Townes & their populations, and the names of their Sagamos or Lords – as of 1605. Our K-C-O (who died in 1606 or 1607) therein is spelled CASHEROKENIT.

“To the Westward of Sagadahoc, foure dayes iourney there is another Riuer called Ashamahaga, which hath at the entrance sixe fathoms water, and is halfe a quarter of a mile broad: it runneth into the Land two dayes iourney: and on the East side there is one Towne called Agnagebcoc, wherein are seuentie houses, and two hundred and fortie men, with two Sagamos, the one called MAURMET, the other CASHEROKENIT.”
—Quoted from Description of Mawooshen (1625), page 475 of Quinn & Quinn (1983)
[EMPHASES added].

Ashamahaga River is believed by modern scholars to be today’s Presumpscot River, draining the Sebago Lake basin into today’s Portland Harbor. The reason for thinking so is that Ashamahaga is the only entry in Description between Sagadahoc River (the known joint-estuary name of today’s Kennebec & Androscoggin Rivers) and Shawakotoc River (which certainly seems by name & attributes to be today’s Saco River). Yet proof is lacking, because modern archaeologists have not yet found evidence of any Early-Historic-Period Native town, let alone a big one like Agnagebcoc, on the Presumpscot or anywhere in the Sebago drainage.


The unfound town of Agnagebcoc is not my direct concern herein, however. Instead, my major question in what follows is Where & when did the first English colonists in Maine see (or hear-about) K-C-O’s people mourning the anniversary of his death? – as an indirect report states that they did. Details appear in context below.

Samuel Purchas, the great traveloguer, published (1614, 2nd ed) a cut-&-paste collection of reported beliefs & customs titled Purchas His Pilgrimage or Relations of the World and the Religions Observed…. In its “Chap.V. Of Virginia”, Purchas starts a section with: “Anno1607. was settled a Plantation in the River Sagadahoc….”. It tells of both English doings there and reported Native lifeways, in very unrelated tight sentences, including this: “When a Sagamo dyeth, they blacke themselues, and at the same time yerely renue their mourning with great howling: as they did for KASHURAKENY who died the yeare before.” — Purchas His Pilgrimage (1614), pages 350-1 of Quinn & Quinn (1983) [EMPHASIS added].

That is all that Purchas wrote there about K-C-O. The sentences before and after are completely unrelated – yet all may be included with others nearby in being sourced to “Ral. Gilbert” (a marginal reference which may be general, as well as specific to the first sentence in that paragraph). Clearly we must look further afield for context, and in the brief chronology of the short-lived Popham-Sagadahoc Colony we can get some useful perspectives. Let’s start with the year 1606, before the Colonists left England for Maine.

Two voyages were sent out with Wabanaki guides in 1606, to choose the Maine colony’s site, but only one voyage arrived; the other was captured by the Spanish. Nonetheless, on 30 May 1607 the actual personnel of the Popham Colony departed England in two ships with a Wabanaki guide. Both of these ships arrived safely off the Maine coast, scouted about awhile, and on 18 August “mad Choise of a place for our plantation…at the very mouth or entry of the Ryver of Sagadehocke on the West Syd” — today’s Sabino Head, just inside the Kennebec River mouth (Quinn & Quinn 1983:431).

Popham-Sagadahoc Colony “President” George Popham (a kinsman of funder Sir John) concerned himself with building their “Fort St George” while, on 28 August 1607, “Admiral” Raleigh Gilbert (the second in command) with 14 other colonists started westward in a shallop from Sagadahoc River mouth to explore into both today’s Casco Bay and Saco Bay and back again. Gilbert’s expedition returned to their new home the night of 30 August, according to the journal of Captain Robert Davies, who was on that trip (Q&Q 1983:433-7;407-8).

If K-C-O had died in 1606, it may have been during that late-August 1607 trip that the Popham Colonists saw (or heard-about) K-C-O’s people mourning, while the Natives were still summering at the coast or on an island. However, Davies’s journal does not mention any such thing, and Davies often did report Indians met or learned-about at other places on other occasions. All that he states about Natives during that three-days’ exploration is that, on 29 August, two Indian canoes passed by the English boat, “but they wold nott Com neare vs” (p 437).

And if the Popham Colonists returned to Casco Bay in fall 1607, there is no account of it in Davies’s journal or in William Strachey’s parallel account. The subsequent very severe winter of 1607-8 and a string of other major problems then & thereafter probably minimized everyone’s record-keeping &/or caused loss of documents. We know only that the Colonists did not explore toward the north & east as much as they had planned to do. So, instead, re-visiting Casco Bay in 1608 is possible, even likely, because it is relatively close-by Fort St George on Sabino Head. If so, K-C-O’s people may have been encountered in Casco Bay then, with no (extant) record.

The Colonists absolutely had to fur-trade with the Wabanakis, but had not yet been able to do so extensively enough to obtain the full quantity of furs they were expected to send back to England, to pay off their debts & create profits for their investors. Indeed, they had lost good opportunities to meet & set up a trade relationship with paramount sakamo Bashaba (far away up Penobscot River), whose influence could have been their very best means of success. Therefore, any nearby Native band, of necessity, might have been approached for furs (including K-C-O’s people, whether on the Presumpscot or in Casco Bay).

Surviving Popham Colony records say very little about the complex intergroup Native warfare going on in the Gulf of Maine throughout summer 1607 and thereafter, which is best known to us from French sources.* K-C-O easily could have been killed in combat then, and thus have been mourned in summer 1608, when the Popham Colony is least known to us because of lack of records. English relationships with the Wabanakis seem to have worsened as the Colony’s own morale decreased considerably.

Eventually all of the surviving members of the Colony abandoned Fort St George in September or October 1608 and returned to England – in both a newly-arrived vessel and their own Maine-made “pretty Pynnace” the Virginia of Sagadahoc.**

The fact that Purchas had the name Kashurakeny to print with the mourning custom that he described indicates to me that he got it from someone’s private journal – someone who most probably had seen the event himself. Raleigh Gilbert’s (alas now-missing) journal seems to me to be the most obvious likely source. Such detail implies both an astute ethnographic eye in general and a specific interest in Kashurakeny’s people for a future fur-trading relationship. Gilbert was the sole leader of the Colony after the death of President George Popham on 5 February 1608; fur-trading responsibility undoubtedly accompanied sole leadership. But where was Chief Kashurakeny’s territory? Or, said another way,…Which Band(s) Played On? (Continued in PART B)

“This bird’s eye view of Fort St George (1607-08) was drawn by Camden artist Sam Manning, based on a map drawn by John Hunt in 1607. The drawing shows a possible location for construction of the pinnace Virginia (lower right). The largest building, right center, is the Storehouse.

(Drawing commissioned by Maine’s First Ship, Phippsburg)”–Maine State Museum “Broadside” Fall 2001

*Complex intergroup Native warfare, resulting from fur-trade rivalries to gain access to European trade-goods, is a topic I have discussed online in SPAP Report No.3 “Hints of the Hinterland & the Triple-Whammy, Part One: NATIVE TRADE WARS”.
In print, I also recommend both a general article and a specific 1607 case-study, as follows

Bruce J Bourque & Ruth H Whitehead (1994): “Trade & Alliances in the Contact Period“, Chapter Six (pages 131-147, 337-340) of American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, & Cartography in the Land of Norumbega, Edited by Emerson W Baker et al (1994), Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press

Alvin H Morrison (1975): “Membertou’s Raid on the Chouacoet ‘Almouchiquois’: The Micmac Sack of Saco in 1607”, pages 141-158; accompanying Thomas H Goetz (1975): “English Translation of Marc Lescarbot”[’s 1618 epic-poem] “The Defeat of the Armouchiquois Savages”, pages 159-179; of Papers of the Sixth Algonquian Conference, 1974, Edited by William Cowan (1975), Ottawa: National Museums of Canada (National Museum of Man, Mercury Series; Canadian Ethnology Service, Paper No.23).
** See pictures of the Virginia of Sagadahoc in Part B.

Although it depicts a rather pompous sakamo, the following passage (written by an Englishman residing in coastal Pennacook country in the early 1630s) is too vivid to ignore. It appears internally in Chapter 5 (titled Of Their Apparel, Ornaments, Paintings, & Other Artificial Deckings) of William Wood’s (1635) NEW ENGLAND’S PROSPECT*. It well exemplifies the genre of biased antique Euramerican accounts from which ethnohistorical anthropology must seek data about Frontier-Encounter-Era Native Americans.

“xxx But a sagamore with a humbird in his ear for a pendant, a black hawk on his occiput for his plume, mowhacheis for his gold chain, good store of wampompeag begirting his loins, his bow in his hand, his quiver at his back, with six naked Indian spatterlashes** at his heels for his guard, thinks himself little inferior to the great Cham. He will not stick to say he is all one with King Charles. He thinks he can blow down castles with his breath and conquer kingdoms with his conceit xxx”

The logo shown at the right and used here for this Sakamo Series of Mawooshen Memos is a silhouette of a 19th-century drawing (probably based on Wood’s 1630s statement, just quoted) supposedly depicting 17th-century Pennacook paramount-sakamo Passaconaway.

*NEW ENGLAND’S PROSPECT. William Wood [1635, 2nd Ed]. Edited by Alden T Vaughan (1977). Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press [1993, 1st Paperback Ed]. Pages 84-85.

** “A variant of ‘spatterdash’—a kind of legging worn to protect trousers from spatter. Here used figuratively.”—p 85 of Vaughan (1977).