A Description of New England.... [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: A Description of New England....

02-13-2011, 08:10 AM
by John Smith, Captain and Admiral:


For curious natives of this region, avid historians, and our English brethren here and back in "the old country". It was not until I came across this (published in 1616, but based on Captain John Smith's exploration of the New England coast in 1614) that I was fully aware of Captain Smith's journey to these shores, and of the fact that this pamphlet is where the name "New England" was first put to print for mass publication. While it is still apparently up for debate as to whether Captain Smith himself coined the phrase (or simply took credit for it), the association between this region and this man (most famous for his reported association with Native American princess Pocahontas during his tenure at the Jamestown settlement in present day Virginia) is quite fascinating. Of particular interest is the list on page 3 (you need to view the pdf file of the pamphlet using Adobe Acrobat Reader), listing the "old" and proposed "new" names of geographical features and towns in the area. Fortunately the "new" name for Cape Cod never took root, as apparently neither did several of the "new" names for locations along the coast of Maine. However, quite a few of the towns along the Massachusetts coast, as well as the Charles River, did acquire the "new" names mentioned in the list.
I came upon this doing some browsing on the net this AM, while watching Terence Malick's film "The New World" (starring Colin Farrell as Captain Smith).

02-13-2011, 06:42 PM
Great stuff Jim and thanks for posting.... yes...the Charles was named after King Charles of England...not Charlie Murphy of D street of Southie.:lildevl: (despite his insisting that it is so)

02-14-2011, 02:45 PM

Good post!! It is normal as far back as Roman times (as far back as I wish to look) for new populations to name newly settled areas for communities in their homeland. It went so far that 2nd generation settlers would name new communities with the preface "New" as in Salem (England), Salem (Ma) and New Salem (central Ma.) or Boston (England), Boston (Ma) and New Boston, NH.

What is interesting to see is how the early settlers, to promote settlement, over promoted the agricultural prospects of New England. They also over promoted the existence of the salmon fishery in Southern New England.


02-15-2011, 11:08 AM
Doc.....thanks for sharing this pamphlet. I enjoyed reading Smith's description of N.E. It is quite the advertisement and he was quite the salesman. Must admit that I haven't brushed up on my 17th century English!! I especially liked the map. Great find!


02-15-2011, 12:16 PM
Glad you enjoyed it. I'm still trying to figure out why most of the Maine locations were able to retain their Native American names. I can't even imagine calling them by those English names they tried to assign them (ie Barties Island for Monhegan). Maybe the Mainiacs can shed some light on the subject:)

02-15-2011, 12:26 PM
I'm framing the map for the Chatham house - thanks Doc