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IN 1614 BY








at the Unveiling of a Memorial
July 4, 1914

commemorating the

Discovery of Cohasset

in 1614 by

Captain John Smith

« »

Cohasset, Mass.

Published by the Town






March 9, 1914

Under Article 70 of the warrant it was

"Voted that the Town appropriate the sum of five
hundred dollars for the purpose of erecting a boulder
and tablet to commemorate the discovery of Cohasset
in 1614 by Captain John Smith, said sum to be taken
from Corporation tax."

Lawrence Wharf, the location of the memorial,
was purchased by the Town for a public landing in
1907. Float stages, an ornamental shelter with seats,
a drinking fountain and other facilities have been added
and the locality beautified with lawns and shrubs.

01 >


We are assembled here this morning for the purpose
of carrying out the feature of our Fourth of July celebra-
tion, namely, the unveiling of the tablet to commemorate
the discovery of Cohasset by Captain John Smith three
centuries ago. I had prepared an elaborate and lengthy
speech at this time, but after viewing the parade this
morning, I have mixed Captain John Smith up with the
fire department, Indians, pretty girls, etc., to such an
extent that I think I had better leave the historical and
commemorative address to other gentlemen. In bringing
about this event, one of your citizens has been very in-
strumental. He has worked very hard to bring this about
and he deserves great credit for the success, and it gives
me great pleasure to introduce to you Dr. Oliver H. Howe.


Mr. Chairman, Honorable Board of Selectmen, Ladies and
The occasion of this memorial recalls one of the most
picturesque and interesting characters in our early colonial
history. Captain John Smith. Captain Smith was born
at Willoughby, Lincolnshire, England, in 1579. Early
in life he entered military service in the Netherlands,
fighting for the independence of the Dutch. Later, in
Hungary and Transylvania, he fought against the Turks
and was captured and sold into slavery. Making his
escape, he reached England in time to join the expedi-
tion under command of Christopher Newport to estab-
lish the colony in Virginia which settled at Jamestown
in 1607. As a member of this colony his explorations
of Chesapeake Bay and adjacent waters were notable
geographic achievements, but the genius and energy
with which he obtained supplies for the starving colony
and provided for its defense, saved it more than once
from extinction and earned for him the election of

president of the colony in 1608. His adventures, includ-
ing the incident in which his life was saved by Pocahontas,
were of a most thrilling nature.

Returning to England, he was chosen, in 1614, by a
company of London merchants to command an expedition
to the coast of New England. They arrived in two ships
upon the coast of Maine, near the island of Monhegan,
hoping to engage in whaling or to discover mines of gold
or copper. Failing in both these pursuits, they naturally
turned to fishing and fur trading. The fur season had
gone by and fishing was only moderately successful.
Leaving his ships and their crews to continue the fishing,
Captain Smith, with eight men in a small boat, proceeded
to explore the coast southward and to make a detailed
examination of all the shores and islands between the
mouth of the Penobscot and Cape Cod. Since he was in
a small boat, he could readily enter harbors and the mouths
of rivers. Carefully observing the nature of the country,
its people and products, and trading with the Indians, he
wrote a detailed account of the whole, in which he men-
tioned the names of forty Indian villages. He also made
a map of the coast, which was wonderfully accurate, con-
sidering the meagre facilities at his command.

When he reached Boston, then known to the Indians
by the name "Massachusits," Captain Smith declared it
to be "the paradise of all those parts, for here are many
isles planted with Come, Groves, Mulberies, salvage
gardens and good harbours."

Following a little farther southward, he writes : *' We
found the people in those parts very kinde, but in their
fury no lesse valiant . . . and at Quonahasit falling out
there but with one of them, he with three others crossed
the Harbour in a Canow to certaine rockes whereby wee
must passe, and there let flie their arrowes for our shot,
till we were out of danger, yet one of them was slaine and
another shot through his thigh."

Smith's mention of Quonahasit in the narrative oc-
curs midway between the localities now known as Boston
and Plymouth. A search of all the Indian names con-
nected with the New England coast fails to show any other
that bears any resemblance to Quonahasit or with which
it may have been confused. These facts, taken in con-


nection with the appearance of the name " Conyhassett "
in its proper place upon the Winthrop map of 1633, show
that it was our Cohasset harbor into which this party of
explorers came. We do not know the day, or even the
month, but it was in the summer of 1614. Captain Smith
was then thirty-four years of age, although his previous
travels and exploits might easily have filled a long life-

His account clearly states that he entered the harbor
and he evidently landed, for there was time for a quarrel
to occur and for the Indians to plan an ambush and reach
it by crossing the harbor in a canoe.

So far as we know, these were the first white men to
set foot in Cohasset. Others, notably Verazzano in 1524,
Stephen Pring in 1603 and Samuel de Champlain in 1605,
had sailed by this coast in their ships, and, provided wea-
ther conditions and daylight were favorable, these voyag-
ers, and perhaps others, may have gotten glimpses of our
shores from a distance. We have no knowledge, however,
that any of these entered our harbor or mentioned the
locality by name.

Some writers are disposed to throw doubt upon the
writings of Captain Smith, regarding them as exaggerated
and boastful. The eminent historian, John Fiske, how-
ever, after most careful research, considers these doubts
unsupported, and adduces the accuracy of Smith's maps,
declaring his maps of Virginia to be "a living refutation
of John Smith's detractors." He instances also his truth-
ful portrayal of the life and character of the American
Indian. He commends Smith's keenness of observation
and his rare sagacity and leadership and reminds us that
"in general, his comrades spoke of him in terms of strong
admiration and devotion." The story of Pocahontas was
never doubted during Smith's lifetime nor for more than
two centuries afterward. Fiske regards it as "precisely
in accordance with Indian usage" and further says that
"without it the subsequent relations of the Indian girl
with the English colony become incomprehensible."

It was, therefore, no ordinary leader who piloted his
boat's crew into this harbor three hundred years ago.
We might picture the scene as follows: The same surf
broke in spray upon the rocks, but the shores presented a


far different aspect from that with which we are familiar.
The forest, massive in its continuity and its primeval
growth, was broken at rare intervals by Indian cornfields
or an occasional wigwam, while here and there a thin
column of smoke arose from a smouldering camp fire.
No craft were visible except a few canoes drawn up on a
beach near the head of the cove. As the white men
entered the harbor, timid groups of Indians viewed their
approach with the greatest wonder. The Englishmen
stepped firmly upon the shore, feeling a sovereign right,
which was instinctive rather than actual. Displaying
glass beads and other bright trinkets, the Indians readily
exchanged for them glossy skins of beaver, fox and mar-
ten, as well as fruits and other products of their agriculture.

All went well until a sailor offered some insult or at-
tempted some rascality. No blows were struck, but the
sullen look upon the Indian's face foreboded trouble. He
disappeared from the group and with three other Indians,
entered a canoe and silently paddled to Hominy Point,
where, concealed among the rocks, they awaited Smith's
party as they sailed out of the harbor, attacking them with
a shower of arrows. The white men had more formidable
weapons and replied with powder and ball. The foremost
Indian swayed, staggered and fell to the ground dead,
while another uttered a piercing yell of pain. The con-
flict of races had begun. The Indian hunting grounds
had been disturbed ; this was the first blood shed by white
men in Cohasset.

This incident, besides being the first page of our
history, represents the first contact between the pri-
meval people and civilization. It is a type of what had
been going on for more than a century, all the way from
Labrador to Cape Horn. We may bewail the fate of the
red man who was gradually pushed out of and away from
his possessions, until now his whole race is threatened with
loss of identity if not extinction. We cannot condone his
treatment by the enlightened races; it is a long record of
deceit, injustice and cruelty. Nevertheless, it is plain
that Divine Providence did not intend these spacious
continents to remain for all time mere forest hunting
grounds penetrated by a few slender trails and echoing
only to the shrill cries of birds and the war-whoop of the


Indian. Barbarism was to be replaced by civilization.
The treasures of the earth were to be brought out and
everything put to enlightened uses. The lesser must give
place to the greater, so that the land should serve the
greatest number and fulfil the highest purposes. It
meant giving a whole hemisphere to civilization. Here
was the greatest process of development in the history
of the world.

It is fitting, therefore, that we should erect this
memorial to the first event of our history in this three
hundredth anniversary year. While we realize the mo-
mentous significance of what it typifies, let us remember
the cost of the struggle, which meant the driving out of
the red man. It is incumbent on us, therefore, to use
these great resources so honestly and so wisely as to
justify the dispensation secured at such a cost.

Careful search among historical sources reveals the
fact that Captain John Smith was a man of whom we
may well be proud. His genius, his resourcefulness under
difficulties, his indomitable will, entitle him to our ad-
miration. Parkman calls him a hero. Fiske further con-
siders him a man essentially noble and of heroic mould.
The same testimony is given by members of the starving
Jamestown colony, who write as follows: " That in all his
proceedings, he made justice his first guide and experience
his second, ever hating baseness, sloth, pride and indignity
more than any dangers; that never allowed more for
himself than for his soldiers with him : that upon no danger
would send them where he would not lead himself; that
would never see us want what he either had, or could by
any means get us; that would rather want than borrow
or starve than not pay; that loved actions more than
words and hated falsehood and cozenage more than death;
whose adventures were our lives and whose loss, our

The treasures of our continent were sought by men
of three principal nations — Spanish, French and English.
Each had opportunity to display its methods, and each
underwent a test of its national character in the presence
of prosperity. The general result of the colonial history
in North America has shown the Englishman best fitted
to occupy and to govern. It was an Englishman who

entered this harbor three hundred years ago. His race
was not dismayed by the hostility of the Indians. He
carried back no untrue or unfavorable report of this land
of promise, but wrote with such courage and enthusiasm
that his early accounts published in 1616 undoubtedly
bore fruit in encouraging the settlement of Plymouth, of
Salem, of Boston and of our own Hingham. We may well
rejoice, then, that so early in colonial history our harbor
and our rocky shore bore a part, and it is proper that we
should commemorate an early link in the chain of these
events — events that in time have produced the greatest
nation the world has ever seen.


The fact that Captain John Smith discovered Coh as-
set being established beyond doubt, your committee con-
sidered it proper that the man who discovered John Smith
should address you today. This discovery was made
when writing up your town history, which undoubtedly
the majority of you have in your homes, and as further
remarks from me are unnecessary, it gives me great pleas-
ure to introduce to you Rev. E. Victor Bigelow, of An-
dover, formerly of Cohasset.


Author of a Narrative History of Cohasset, 1898

I am very glad to be here today as your speaker,
though it may be as a sort of accident. Having acci-
dentally discovered that Captain John Smith discovered
Cohasset, it is necessary for me to be here today to make
good for that discovery.

It is a pleasure to observe how much Cohasset has
improved since I got out of it. These people continue
the good traditions of days gone by and carry forward
the promise of an immeasurable future when I see
these beautified estates, this pretty harbor recently dredged
and studded with channel lights, these uniformed police
and well-equipped firemen, I am convinced that Cohasset
is in the forefront now, as it has been in the past and as we
hope it always will be.


It is a mark of conscious achievement for any com-
munity to lay emphasis upon its origin. The discovery of
a place can be of no concern until that place has come to
mean something either to itself or to some wider area of
life. On both of these counts the town of Cohasset is
amply justified in emphasizing its first appearance upon
the map. As a self-sustaining and competent municipality
it guards the happiness of its several thousand citizens
and vindicates the admiration of those men who first
viewed its fair harbor three hundred years ago.

In the second place, its influence upon the larger area
of life in this commonwealth and nation heaps up its
ground of self respect to a measure unusual for towns of
its size. That influence is impossible to identify in recent
years because its life is so inextricably interwoven with
that of the metropolis of Boston ; but in the years gone by
there were generations of sea captains and sailors who
made this harbor known up and down the mackerel and
cod banks of America, and who bore our flag from this
port of entry into the harbors of the world. I fancy I
can hear now the chopping of broad axes and the sharp
echo of their calking mallets as the ancestors of our Bates,
Towers, Pratts, Stoddards and other families built and
launched into these waters their worthy quota of the
world's commerce.

There is one contribution of this town to the political
development of our nation which has fascinated me since
first I found it. Our harbor lay just on the border be-
tween the Plymouth colony and the Massachusetts
colony; and in the disputes that raged for many years
over the ownership of the marsh hay at the mouth of the
Conohasset River, these sturdy colonists settled their
dispute, not by appealing to the King nor to any other
authority beyond the sea, but by appointing a joint com-
mission of the two colonies to adjust their differences.
This joint commission may be fairly considered the fore-
runner of the later colonial commissions that settled their
larger disputes, and the forerunner of our Colonial Con-
gress that was followed by the Congress of the United

The interest of this occasion is also enhanced by the
historical significance of the man whose discovery we are


now commemorating. Captain John Smith is probably
the most famous of all the men concerned in the settle-
ment of the Atlantic coast. It has been said that no
man can reach distinction who bears the name of Smith
— he is doomed to be one of an innumerable and
indistinguishable mass; but our work this day is to
change that doom of the Smiths by giving distinction
to one of them who well deserves it. I remember
with what a thrill of delight I discovered eighteen
years ago when writing the history of this town that
Captain Jolm Smith came into this harbor six years be-
fore our Pilgrim forefathers landed in Plymouth. His
adventure with Pocahontas has identified him so much
with Virginia that people are usually surprised to be told
that he was also the chief patron and promoter of New
England. But such he was. In the year 1614, five years
after his exasperating misfortunes in Virginia, he came
with two ships for some London merchants to the Island
of Monhiggan on the coast of Maine with a plan to capture
whales and to seek for gold or copper mines. The whales
gave them a jolly chase, but wouldn't be caught. The
gold and copper were also as shy that year as now; so the
sailors were put to the task of catching cod and pollock
for a salable cargo. But Captain Smith was not merely
a fisherman, he had the instincts of an explorer and a

With eight men, therefore, he set out, leaving thirty-
seven to fish the bay, while he and his picked crew in a
small boat scrutinized carefully the shore for many days
from Maine to Cape Cod. Twenty -five harbors he
sounded, and thirty Indian settlements, averaging about
one hundred savages he saw. He bartered many trinkets
for eleven hundred beaver skins, one hundred martens
and the same number of otter skins.

But the most valuable product of this trip was the
remarkably accurate map he made of our Massachusetts
Bay. It was the first good chart in existence; and what
appeals to us is the fact that Cohasset harbor was on that
map, emerging for the first time out of the unknown into
sight of civilized men. In his description of New Eng-
land he gave the name of this Indian settlement as
Quonahasit and told how one of the savages angered


in a quarrel crossed the harbor in a canoe with three
companions and from their ambush of rocks shot their
arrows at Smith and his men. Although we have no
definite date, it seems probable that this event took
place in the month of July, for Smith sailed for Eng-
land on the eighteenth of August. With wise forethought
to perpetuate his worthy effort, Captain Smith submitted
his map to Prince Charles, afterwards Charles First,
King of England, but then a lad of fifteen years. He
asked the Prince to replace the barbarous Indian names
for their villages by more f amiUar English words in order
that in time to come the people who might live here
should know Prince Charles as their godfather.

Thus from the Penobscot River to Cape Cod the
cities of England and Scotland were placed by the boyish
fancies of Prince Charles. I have to congratulate you
that Cohasset received for its name the greatest appella-
tion of all. "London" was the name given to this village
and "Point Murry" to the tip of the Glades. Perhaps the
famous Murray, the "Good Regent of Scotland," was thus
commemorated. But why should our Indian village be
called "London' .'' Was it because there were many Indians
here? Was it because Captain Smith told the Prince such a
vivid story of his visit with the Quonahasits that the place
was most deeply impressed upon the Prince's mind? What-
ever reason or psychological cause may be assigned, we
are privileged to take the big name as a compliment and
we will respond this day by magnifying the name of our

About two generations ago there was a spasm of
historical scholarship that prided itself on smashing popu-
lar idols. The story of Captain John Smith and Poca-
hontas was such a romantic darling from our pioneer days
that it fell victim readily to the Scholar's Inquisition.
In scrutinizing Smith's various accounts, there were found
earlier ones without the story of Pocahontas and several
apparent discrepancies. The story itself is full of mysteri-
ous, savage incidents and it is found in company with
Smith's other stories of adventure with Turks and pirates
in which there are so many marvelous escapes that the
reader's credulity is considerably taxed. But to turn
skeptic because of marvels is no credit to scholarship.


Our own New England historian, John Fiske, has sturdily
led out the forces of recovery until we can read once more
without blind prejudice Captain Smith's simple accounts of
his own adventures. "There is no trace of boastfulness,"
says Fiske, "in freedom from egotistic self consciousness,
Smith's writings remind one strongly of such books as
the 'Memoirs of General Grant.' "

Our hero was of the common stock of English yeomen
from Lincolnshire, the home of the people who came to
settle this region afterwards in the year 1633 at Bare
Cove, now Hingham. He was left an orphan in his early
teens and soon rebelled against the humdrum life of an
apprentice. His eager and irrepressible vitality pushing
him into a life of adventure, he became a soldier of fortune,
a knight errant, in Holland, France, Italy and Hungary.
Captured by the Turks, he was sold into slavery with his
head shaved and an iron collar locked upon his neck.
Here he was treated worse than a dog until he turned in
rage one day and killed his master, the Pasha of Nalbrits.
Dressing hastily in the Turkish costume and mounting
the horse of his dead persecutor, he rode sixteen days to
safety among the Russians, and, there relieved of his iron
collar, he returned a free man, sobered, but not broken in
spirit, to the land of his birth. He was barely twenty-
three years of age, but had been drenched by the bloodiest
experiences of a soldier on land and of a pirate on the
seas. Smith had nothing more to learn of the deviltry
of his age and its violence. But his ambition found soon
a new sphere.

The intrepid Captain Gosnold had just returned in 1602
from explorations of the new continent across the Atlantic
and his account fascinated Smith with a new sort of enter-
prise. Our hero conceived the scheme of establishing a new
realm to the credit of the English nation. He rose out
of the class of adventurers into the higher enterprise of a
colonizer. Simultaneously with certain other sturdy
Englishmen, he felt the fascination of settling the strange
new continent with stock that might be loyal to the King
of England. The Virginia enterprise was started and
Smith with his friends ardently espoused it, becoming
exiled upon these savage shores to make good their pur*-
pose of carving out a new realm for the King of England,


Two terrible years at Jamestown showed the untiring
energy and sagacity of Captain Smith. His genius in
deahng with the strange red men of the forest, as well as
his tact in controlling the unruly spirits of lawless English
adventurers, made him unquestionably the founder of
that colony. He was governor of Virginia at a time of
greater perplexity and of more desperate problems than
ever have confronted a governor of Virginia. He was not
fully appreciated by the authorities in England and was
returned under serious criticism. But critics or no critics,
his passion to colonize was irrepressible.

The new project of settling northern Virginia was
eagerly espoused, and although without means to equip
his vessels, he still toiled as a promoter. He conceived
and pushed the scheme of the two promoting companies
for settlement of the region now called New England.
The London company and the Plymouth company both
were fired with ambition to exploit the new shore for gain.
But Captain Smith held out no expectations of gold or
silver mines. He was a sober colonizer, advocating sub-
stantial industries and not tempting those adventurers
who might come to plunder the natives as Spaniards had
done in Mexico and Peru for a whole century. Our hero
pleaded for men and women who would settle with cattle
and with seeds to stock the soil. He advocated catching
and drying fish, cutting timber, quarrying useful rock, and
sober farming. In dealing with the Indians, his plan was
to cultivate friendly relations that a long and profitable
intercourse might be developed. He surveyed and mapped


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