History 2129/EnvS 2449 Reading Guide

The coast of Maine:  Native Americans and early English settlements

  • Emerson Baker, “Finding the Almouchiquois:  Native American Families, Territories, and Land Sales in Southern Maine, Ethnohistory 51.1 (2004), 73-100.  (ProQuest) pdf
  • E.A. Churchill, “A Most Ordinary Lot of Men:  The Fishermen at Richmond Island, Maine, in the Early Seventeenth Century,” New England Quarterly 57 (1984), 184-204.  (JSTOR)
  • Alaric Faulkner, “Archaeology of the Cod Fishery:  Damariscove Island,” Historical Archaeology 19.2 (1985), 57-86.  (JSTOR)
  • Richard Wescott, A History of Harpswell, Maine (2010), skim Foreword, Preface, Introduction, vii-xii; read Ch.1, “The Environment and the Native Americans,” Ch.2, “Exploration and Early Settlement,” 2-16


  • According to Baker, why have scholars had such difficulty coming to agreement about the tribal or group identities of the native coastal peoples west and south of the Kennebec?  What does Baker’s discussion about nomenclature and tribal divisions suggest about how “observers,” both in the past and the present, distinguished between groups?  Did native peoples use the same measures to determine allies and enemies?
  • What analysis does Baker offer about the consequences of tribal alliances and divisions in the early seventeenth century (the years preceding and contemporaneous with early settlement in northern New England)?
  • What conclusions about band identity, territory, and links between peoples does Baker draw from his analysis of the land transactions of Naguasqua’s children?  How does his discussion of the peoples south of Casco Bay further enrich his understanding and conclusions about territoriality and alliances?
  • How did the coming of Europeans and especially the English affect the economy, society, and polity of the Almouchiquois?  In what ways did King Philip’s War exacerbate those changes?  How did the Almouchiquois respond to the disruptions?
  • How do Almouchiquois family and tribal practices compare and contrast with English and European assumptions about family and community?
  • The articles about early Maine settlements discuss the kinds of economically-oriented communities that early settlers established in these coastal environments, and suggest (whether explicitly or implicitly) the interplay between community and environment. The evidence these scholars present supports the argument that the Massachusetts Bay “Puritan” model of colonization and community development does not characterize the motives and settlement patterns of many emigrants to northern New England.
  • What influences and motives shaped the early settlements, both temporary and permanent, on the coast of Maine in the seventeenth century?
  • How did the motives of both the sponsors (whether companies, councils, or individuals) and the settlers shape the way that early settlers viewed and used the environment?
  • To what extent did the environment seem to affect or influence Euro-American visions of colonization in the New World?
  • How did Harpswell’s geologic past set the stage for Native Americans who used Merriconeag Neck, Sebascodegan Island, and the surrounding islands in Casco Bay as part of their seasonal subsistence practices?
  • How would that geologic past shape opportunities for Europeans when they began to settle the area in the mid seventeenth century?
  • To what extent did the neck and islands play a role in the early explorations?
  • How did the various grants made by London Councils, the Crown, Massachusetts Bay and the land sales by local tribes shape and influence the settlement of the Harpswell and the surrounding areas?
  • What does Westbrook’s account suggest about the motives and concerns of the earliest settlers on Sebascodegan Island and Merriconeag Neck?
  • Note: these are dense readings. Consider the specific evidence [sources] and the interpretations [methodological perspectives] that each scholar presents. But also keep in mind the larger, comparative questions that we will be discussing in class.