Hidden History – Naumkeag (Salem, MA)

Date Of Visit: February 2, 2019

Location: Salem, MA (formerly Naumkeag)

Summary: The area now known as Salem, MA, was once known for so much more than the venue of the witch hysteria.

Although much is made of the Salem witch trials, there is much more to Salem’s history than this dark spot on the city’s past.

Long before Roger Conant settled in what is now Salem, MA, in the 1620s, the Naumkeag tribe had settled in what is now considered Essex County, comprising essentially the northeast corner of MA.  Although the area originally kept the name Naumkeag, the settlers would decide to change the name.  Naumkeag would eventually become known by its current name of Salem, a name derived from the Hebrew word for peace.

What is interesting is Salem is not the only area which bears the name Naumkeag.  Some areas of western Massachusetts, specifically an estate in Stockbridge bears this name.  If it is named after the same tribe that would be quite a distance to travel (well over 100 miles).  It’s not clear if the same tribe once lived there.  But, it’s more likely the name was derived from the Algonkian name for “fish” which I will touch on later in this post.

Salem keeps ties to the Naumkeag name with some businesses bearing the name and this building on Essex St that some people may never have noticed also bears the name of the area.  Most prominently, the building houses the liquor store Pamplemousse (185 Essex St) in addition to other shops.

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The name is not listed prominently.  So it could be easy to miss.  But, if you look up you can’t miss it.

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The name Naumkeag is most likely derived from the Algonkian root “Namas” meaning “fish.”  As the waterways of Salem were once plentiful with fish and fish was such a major food source this is a logical conclusion. In fact, after a quick search of restaurants in Salem it is evident it still relies on fish and other seafood for its economy.

The native Naumkeag was settled some 4,000 years ago as a seasonal fishing settlement.  Eventually, it became part of  a colonial settlement, as was the case with many former Native American settlements.  Roger Conant would settle that area and a much larger area in 1629.  Now, it is a mere footprint on a city which is rich in many aspects of American history.  In fact, it is plausible to write more hidden histories on Salem as it has played an essential role in many historical events other than the witch trials.  And it all started in a place called Naumkeag.

So, the next time you’re shopping on Essex St or photographing the Halloween revelers, take a look up and note that you’re actually at Naumkeag Block.

 

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Author: New England Nomad

Hi I'm Wayne. Welcome to my blog. I am a true New Englander through and through. I love everything about New England. I especially love discovering new places in New England and sharing my experiences with everyone. I tend to focus on the more unique and lesser known places and things in New England on my blog. Oh yeah, and I love dogs. I always try to include at least one dog in each of my blog posts. I discovered my love of photography a couple of years ago. I know, I got a late start. Now, I photograph anything that seems out of the ordinary, interesting, beautiful and/or unique. And I have noticed how every person, place or thing I photograph has a story behind it or him or her. I don't just photograph things or people or animals. I try to get their background, history or as much information as possible to give the subject more context and meaning. It's interesting how one simple photograph can evoke so much. I am currently using a Nikon D3200 "beginner's camera." Even though there are better cameras on the market, and I will upgrade some time, I love how it functions (usually) and it has served me well. The great thing about my blog is you don't have to be from New England, or even like New England to like my blog (although I've never met anyone who doesn't). All you have to like is to see and read about new or interesting places and things. Hopefully, you'll join me on my many adventures in New England!

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