Posts Tagged Nacotchtanke

View of Old Anacostia (neighborhood) from the west side of the old Eastern Branch

View of Old Anacostia (neighborhood) from the west side of the old Eastern BranchThe site of the “old Indian fort” as reflected in the early records of the Maryland General Assembly and the focus of subsequent scholarship and archaeological investigations was likely within this panorama.

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Father Andrew White converts “Anacostan Indian”

2010-March-3800-img-1“An Anacostan Indian fell into a Sesquehanna ambush, and pierced from side to side with the keen spear, lay weltering in his blood. His friends recalled by his cry bore him to Piscataway and laid him on a mat before his door. Here Father White found him chanting in his dying voice the never-forgotten death song, while his friends join in, the Christians invoking the aid of heaven in his behalf. He too was a Christian, and Father White, seeing his perilous state, renewed his faith and heard his confession. Then reading a gospel and the Litany of Loretto over him, he urged him to commend himself to Jesus and Mary. After applying to his wounds a relic of the Holy Cross he directed the attendants to bring his corpse to the chapel for burial, and then launched his canoe to visit a dying catechumen. As he was returning the next day, to his amazement he beheld the same Indian approaching him in a canoe, paddling with as vigorous a stroke as his his comrade. Still greater was Father White’s surprise when the Indian, stepping into his boat, threw off his blanket and showed a red line, the only trace of his deadly wound. Glorifying God for so signal a favor, the good missionary admonished the happy man never to be ungrateful to god…”


Shea, John Gilmary. History of the Catholic Missions Among the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1529-1854, Edward Dunigan & Bro., 1854, p. 493.

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“Rambler Finds a Story on Origin of Good Hope” [Evening Star, June 29, 1924]

Good Hope Road SE“The road leads to Good Hope, but before answering its call let me sit in the shade of a pine tree and tell you a story about an old friend of mine. His name is Herman Davis – Herman W. Davis is the full name. I think that everybody in Southeast Washington knows Herman. He has lived there long enough to get acquainted. He was born there seventy-nine years ago and he has stuck pretty close to the land of his birth. There are many interesting things about Herman, and one of them is that he has a good story about the origin of the name “Good Hope.” Herman’s father, Addison L. Davis, was born at Fredericksburg in 1814 and was married there to Miss Anne Dorothy Farrish, a beautiful girl of that ancient city and of a family whose family bore a brave part in the American revolution.

Addison Davis was graduated by the University of Virginia and was skillful in the arts or construing Latin and speaking French. He has, as Herman told me, learned something of the language of the Indians of this region. He came to Washington in 1840. And here we will let Herman take his place on this page in quote marks: “When I was quite a small boy my father took me walking to Good Hope, and on the Ridge road we came to a place where the woods had been cut away and where we got a fine view of the Eastern Branch. My father stopped and told me that the chief of the Anacostia Indians had stood there many years before and said in the Anacostia language: ‘Hope! Hope! Good Hope! This is Good Hope!’ He used the words the Indian has used, but if I ever knew them I have forgotten them.”

It is an interesting story. That savage did not not, of course say “Good Hope” in the way we say it. He did not even say “spe anomoque impletus,” nor even “bonne esperance,” but what he said sounded like “Ojibewaxon.” The Indian stood there, pointed to the shining, shimmering Eastern Branch, then raised his arms as though he would [shake] hands with heaven and said “Ojibewaxon.” Perhaps it was classic Anacostian for “Good Hope.”


Evening Star, “Rambler Finds a Story on Origin of Good Hope.” June 29, 1924, pg. 77

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“Indian Fort of the Anacostia River and Review of Anacostin Tribal History in the District of Columbia” by Louis Dow Scisco (1955)

Nova Virginia TabulaINTRODUCTORY

The old Indian fort at the Eastern Branch is not important historically, but its former existence lends a touch of glamour to the vague picture that we have of the District of Columbia in the early colonial period. It is natural that one should become curious about the position where the old fort once stood as a remaining relic of the Indian life that was here. In his research on the question of location the writer was fortunate in being able to reach the Poplar Point section before the destruction wrought by modern engineering. He came in time to see the old vestigial ridge, to trace the former shore line of the estuary, to wander over the ancient hillside of the valley slope, and to look down on Stickfoot Creek in its narrow ravine. He can. therefore, write of these features with knowledge. although they no longer exist at this later day.

L. D. S.

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“The Aborigines of the District of Columbia and the Lower Potomac” [American Anthropologist, Vol. 2, No. 3 (July 1889), pp. 225-268]

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

“Their houses are in the midst of their fields or gardens, which are small plots of ground, some 20 (acres), some 40, some Ioo, some more, some lesse: sometimes from 2 to Ioo of these houses togither, or but little separated by groves of trees. Neare their habitations is but little small wood or old trees on the ground, by reason of their burning of them for fire.” [John Smith] A community of this character occupied the eastern bank of the Anacostia, from Giesboro’ Point on the south to within a short distance of Bladensburg on the north; not a continuous line of houses, but a succession of them at short intervals and at points convenient for the river.

The Anacostia has at this place, on its eastern shore, low-lying banks that stretch out into a comparatively level plain. The western shore line is for the greater part swampy in character, and offers but little inducement to a permanent occupation by either fishermen or farmers, and the ancient people of Nacotchtanke were both, as well as hunters and warriors. Quoting again from [John] Smith: “And, lastly, Nacotchtanke, with 80 able men. The river, 10 miles above this place, maketh his passage down a low, pleasant valley, overshadowed in manie places with high, rocky mountains, from whence distil innumerable sweet and pleasant springs.”

The principal part of Nacotchtanke seems to have been about due east of the Capitol, for the fields at this point give greater evidence of occupation than at most others, though indications of Indian occupation are to be found at nearly all points of the valley. It should be noted that the dwellings were in most cases close to the bank of the stream. A line drawn parallel with the shore and three hundred feet distant would include the greater part of the houses.

The history of the Nacochtanks and Tauxenents is lost in that of their more powerful neighbors. After Smith’s voyage up the Potomac, in 1608, we hear no more of them until 1622, when a party from Jamestown, ascending the river in quest of supplies, stopped at a settlement on the south bank, at the mouth of Potomac creek. The chief here had no corn to spare, but said that “his mortal enemies,” the Nacochtanks and Moyaones, on the other side of the river, had plenty, and offered the services of fifty warriors to go and help the English take it. The offer was accepted. The white and red raiders attacked Nacochtank, and after a stubborn fight eighteen of the Nacochtanks were killed and the remainder driven from their cabins, which were then plundered and burned.t This battle was probably fought on the slopes just across the navy-yard bridge. Passing over minor occurrences, the next important event in the history of these tribes was the arrival of Lord Baltimore’s colony on the Potomac in 1634. The Catholic missionaries who accompanied the expedition soon won the hearts of the simple-minded natives, who gladly accepted their teachings, and the chief of the Nacochtanks-called by the missionaries Anacostans–even expressed his desire to live among the whites and become one of them; but this lasted not long. The cupidity of the traders and the encroachments of the settlers led to reprisals, resulting finally in a condition of chronic warfare, in which, as usual, the Indians were the greater sufferers.

On the arrival of the English in 1634 they found the tribes along the whole Lower Potomac and Patuxent living in constant dread of the Susquesahanocs at the head of the Bay, whose incursions had become so frequent and destructive that the weaker tribes had already begun to abandon their settlements for a more secure position farther up the Potomac. The Susquesahanocs continued their inroads upon Indians and whites alike until 1652, in which year a treaty was made, only to be broken again in 1676, when the pressure of the terrible Iroquois on the north drove the Susquesahanocs themselves from their ancient homes and forced them down upon the frontiers of Maryland and Virginia, which they ravaged from the Patuxent to the James, until defeated and almost exterminated by Nathaniel Bacon in a decisive battle at the present site of Richmond. The result was a treaty of peace in 1677, by which all the Indians as far as the head of Chesapeake bay were brought under tribute to the whites.

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