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Fall 2019

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The Voyage of Archangell

In THE VOYAGE OF ARCHANGELL, by David Morey, four hundred years ago, Captain George Waymouth sailed from England to the coast of Maine in search of a suitable site for an English colony. He and his crew spent twenty-nine days in May and June of 1605 sounding and exploring a very small area of the coast, which included an anchorage at the Georges Islands and the discovery of a “great river.” Which river? This question has been an ongoing controversy, even to the present day. Our best information comes from James Rosier, who was aboard the ship Archangell as a “gentleman” employed to document the voyage. His narrative, A True Relation, gives us one of the earliest written accounts of the natural resources of northern New England and the Native people who resided here. But because Waymouth hoped to return with financial backing to establish a new colony, Rosier’s glowing account is cagey about certain geographic specifics–obviously, they didn’t want someone else to act on their information. Did they venture up the St. George River? Or was it the Kennebec? The Penobscot? Morey makes a convincing case for the Penobscot River and offers some interesting thoughts on how different history might have been had the English, rather than the French, claimed land this far to the north. Equally fascinating is Rosier’s description and Morey’s analysis of interaction with the Native Americans they met. Waymouth and his crew visited and traded with the local Indians to varying degrees of success, but then before leaving the coast, they kidnapped five Natives and took them back to England, ostensibly to glean more local knowledge from them. Their story, which Morey details separately, is still of great interest.

 

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