Harford County has a rich Indian legacy

History: Early European explorers encountered several tribes when they made their way into the Upper Chesapeake.

October 26, 2003|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

THE HARFORD County area was familiar to several tribes of Indians before the arrival of European colonists in Maryland.

The first written account of these tribes was the report of Captain John Smith, who explored the Upper Chesapeake Bay with 12 companions, setting out July 24, 1608.

In Chapter 6 of his General History of Virginia, published in 1629, Smith wrote, "The first night we anchored at Stingray isle. The next day crossed Patawomecks [Potomac] River and hastened to the river Bolus [Patapsco]. We went not much further before we might see the bay divide into two heads, and arriving there, we found it divided into four, all of which we searched so far as we could sail them.

"Two of them we found inhabited, but in crossing the bay we encountered seven or eight canoes full of Massawomecks; we seeing them prepare to assault us, left our oars and made way with out sail to encounter them; yet we were but few with our captain that could stand, for within two days after we left Kecoughtan [Hampton, Va.], the rest were sick almost to death, until they were seasoned to the country.

"Having shut them under our tarpaulin, we put their hats upon sticks by the barge's side, and betwixt two hats a man with two pieces, to make us seem many, and so we think the Indians supposed these hats to be men, for they fled with all possible speed to the shore, and there stayed, staring at the sailing of our barge till we anchored right against them.

"Long it was before we could draw them to come to us. At last they sent two of their company unarmed in a canoe; the rest all followed to second them if need required. These two being but each presented with a bell, brought aboard all their fellows, presenting our captain with venison, bears' flesh, fish, bows, arrows, clubs, targets and bears' skins. We understood them nothing at all, but by signs, whereby they signified to us they had been at war with the Tockwoghes, the which they confirmed by showing us their green wounds, but the night parting us, we imagined they appointed the next morning to meet, but after that we never saw them."

In addition to the warring Massawomecks and Tockwoghes, Smith describes his party's encounter with the Indians of the Susquehanna River: "Entering the river of Tockwogh [Sassafras], the savages all armed, in a fleet of boats, after their barbarous manner, round environed us; so it chanced that one of them could speak the language of Powhatan, who persuaded the rest to a friendly parley. ... They conducted us to their palisaded town, manteled with the bark of trees, with scaffolds like mounts, breasted about with breasts very formally. ...

"Many hatchets, knives, pieces of iron and brass we saw among them [the Tockwoghes], which they reported to have from the Sasquesahanocks, a mighty people and mortal enemies of the Massawomecks. The Sasquesahanocks inhabit upon the chief spring of these four branches of the bay's head, two days' journey higher than our barge would pass for rocks, yet we prevailed with the interpreter to take with him another interpreter to persuade the Sasquesahanocks to come visit us, for their languages are different.

"Three or four days we expected their return. Then 60 of those giant-like people came down, with presents of venison, tobacco pipes 3 feet in length, baskets, targets, bows and arrows."

Smith says the Sasquesahanocks, who could muster about 600 warriors, performed a great ceremony and asked him "To defend and revenge them of the Massawomecks. ... Many descriptions and discourse they made us, of Atquanachuke, Massawomeck, and other people, signifying they inhabit upon a great water beyond the mountains, which we understood to be some great lake or the river of Canada, and from the French to have their hatchets and commodities by trade."

Next to the Tockwoghes, Smith wrote, are the "Ozinies, with 60 men. ... [then] the Chowanocks, the Mangoags, the Monacans, the Mannahokes, the Massawomecks, the Powhatans, the Susquesahanocks, the Atquanachukes, the Tockwoghes, and the Kuscarawaocks. All these not any one understand another but by interpreters."


Since Smith's time, scholars have been trying to identify who these indigenous peoples in the northern Chesapeake were.

The easiest group to identify is the Sasquesahanocks, known to Colonial Maryland as the Susquehannocks, the dominant tribe in the Harford region.

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