The specific purpose of this project is to bring focus to the subject of the Native American Deeds as recorded in Essex County and also to the Native American population, which was living here in the 17th Century. Whereas these recorded instruments cover the geography, now known as Essex County, these Deeds are offered as an “historic collection”. Between the earliest Indian conveyance (of Nahant, circa 1630) and the last recorded Indian Deed (second Boxford Deed, circa October 1701) we encounter names of a number of important people representative of the resident Indian population during this period. To look at the Deeds without looking at the people is only half of the story. The Deeds and related material offered here places the curious at the threshold of a history of our Native Americans who “treated”(i.e., traded, negotiated and co-habitated) with the English settlers. Many questions and answers emerge regarding this relationship.

The Native American Deeds (the documents) are the heart of this project and are offered in two formats: a facsimile of the original recording and a verbatim printed translation. From these documents, we can further explore to learn more about the location of ancient Indian villages, their migratory life styles and how they interacted with the English until the land they owned was no longer their land. To stimulate additional interest we have cited early maps, taken abstracts from well-written local histories and well preserved town records and noted archeological surveys to provide more details to this story.

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It has been said by Will LaMoy, former Curator at the James Phillips Library in Salem, “Essex County is, if not the most, one of the most historically documented places in the United States”. To offer a complete collection required locating all Indian Deeds in the ancient records at the Registry of Deeds. They then needed to be translated to understand the context in which they were written and recorded at that point in time. A review of histories written for Essex County and for each town had to be completed to glean many scattered facts about our Native Americans. Review of other contemporary documents written by specialists subscribing to a variety of disciplines including archeology, anthropology, and ethno-history rounded out the research for this project.

As one reads the “Native American Deeds” it is very clear that the English parties wanted desperately to place in a public record (namely, the Colonial Court system) written evidence of a transaction with a Native American(s) whereby, for certain consideration, there was a land deal consummated and property rights were transferred. Some of these deeds included language that, as a result of this transaction, the Indians would bring no harm to the English. This written evidence was to secure the legal interest in such property for the purchaser. Both parties dated and signed the document with their respective signature, seal or mark. The legal description of the property was vague at first, then later more detailed in its description. There was no repository to record the information in the Indian world. Later in this project focused attention is given to how the Native Americans understood what land they owned and the extent of the boundaries. From the beginning of the Mass. Bay Colony any disputes of legal interests in the land would be resolved in the English Court system regardless of whether the plaintiff was native or non-native.

New found information associated with this project has created a solid foundation to raise these documents to new heights of historical importance and educational value. Simultaneously, the research also generated a strong footing to base a new cultural context for our Native Americans, living in the 17th century, because it geographically located the villages on lands in Essex County they claimed as theirs. The Native American Deeds are just the beginning of a fascination with the intriguing individuals who shaped our earliest history. As we look deeper into the social structure of that Native American society, as it evolved to 1600, and then as it virtually disappeared by 1700, we find real evidence of the interaction between two very different cultures and which resulted in a drastically changed landscape.

An additional bonus coming out of the research was the discovery of an ancient map/survey of Merrimack River by John Gardner, reputed to be drawn between 1639 and 1655. There will be further discussion about the importance of this map later in this book. It was one of several 17th Century iterations of the Merrimack River geography resulting from an edict by Governor John Winthrop and the General Court “ to survey the Merrimack River to determine the northern most reach of the Colony’s patent” (and to using Indian guides to determine an alternate water transportation route for the fur trade, diverting southward the trapped furs of Northern New England, away from the French trading posts in Maine to the East. A special dissertation on this subject can be found in Appendix.

Ironically, a new mapping technology used at the Registry of Deeds, (referred to as “GIS” Geographic Information Systems, links computer graphics to multiple databases) has provided us with a special opportunity to create a view of history and to show the spatial relationships between the landscapes of yesterday with their respective landscapes of today. It is hoped that by combining this technology with that of the Internet and the information contained herein, it will used as a teachers resource guide to supplement “Middle School” local history (and Native American studies) curriculums. It should also significantly help close the factual gaps in typical history textbooks, which can’t relate to every town’s early history.

It was decided that by using authentic Native American Deeds, an unusual opportunity is created to learn more about the Indian names and place names that we still use today such as Cochickiewick, Masconomet, Merrimack, Pentucket, Annisquam, Saugus, Nahant, Swampscott, Chebacco, Agawam. In addition, the “Native American Deeds”, pulls together facts about a lost culture in a focused manner, which up to now has been dispersed in libraries throughout the County. By linking this hard to find information to the “collection” to the Registry of Deeds Website ( it can be easily shared with all who have interest in this subject. By increasing public access to the “Indian Deeds” also places these documents on a much higher historically important plane.

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The Process: To accomplish these expressed purposes required assembling as much related material as possible and then to establish some synergy among all pieces of primary
importance in telling this story. To facilitate this process, very specific objectives had to be determined, then applied as a “sorting tool” for what should be included and what should be “referenced” for additional study. (This was not an easy task.) A narrative could then be shaped to increase the understanding of the “connectivity” between each community in Essex County and their Native American Indian heritage. The following objectives had to be met:

(1) The information contained in this project had to be prepared in hard copy and converted for publishing on the Registry’s website: www.
(2) Target audience selected was “middle school” students and the actual “Deeds” had to be offered in two formats: “ as recorded” format and “verbatim translations”
(3) Discussion had to focus on the concept of land “ownership” as perceived by the Native people system, -Focus Point #1 then contrasted with that view held by the English - Focus point #3
(4) Since there was no system for recording property rights, a discussion of how that evolved also had to be included
(5) Readers had to be introduced to the Sachem/Sagamore signatories to the “Deeds”
And their descendents and with the aid of graphic sand site links illustrate their lifestyles and village locations. - Focus Point #2
(6) To manage all the data, four parallel timelines from 1600 to 1700 had to be created to illustrate the evolution of Essex Count. Settlement patterns, noting establishment and town incorporations was spread out over three different growth periods. Focus Point #4
(7) A Summary Outline and Maps were used to show the territorial bounds of the Indian Deeds in order for Essex County residents to identify which Indian Deed is historically linked to their home city or home town.
(8) The project would present an ancient map (17th century survey) of the Merrimack River
(9) The project addressed many myths linked to Indian Raids and engagement of the Colonial Militia during this period- Focus Point #5
(10) Additional references and Internet linkages to related materials and
Teacher resource guides had to be offered for further research.

It is the intent of this project to encourage reading and understanding of all these documents in order to gain a better understanding of the events and the people, both here and abroad, that shaped our history and established the land recording system in America. Substantial historical credibility can be garnered by having increased access to the original source documents which until now has been very limited and little pursued

It should be noted that this is a living document designed to be added to as new pertinent information becomes available. While the material considered in the preparation of this document is comprehensive, it is not exhaustive and we welcome new material.

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Sequence: It is important to keep in mind that the English did not land in Salem or Essex County, but landed in an Indian territory at places they called “Naumkeag” and “Agawam”. How do we now present this subject material in a logical order and make judgment about what amount of background material (“stage setting”) should be necessary to prepare a reader for the best possible understanding of the content of the Native American Deeds? The following topical questions were selected toward that end and serves to outline the series of “Focus Points” discussed in the “Narrative” section of the Home Page. These can also serve as a theme or stimulus for teacher’s lesson plans.

• What was this “primitive society” of New England Natives like?
How many were there, where and how did they live, were there tribal boundaries, how did they travel, and communicate?
• What is known about the men and women Indians who signed the Indian Deeds with these settlers?
• How did the Indian understanding of property “ownership” differ from that of the Colonists?
• Did the Indians understand the terms of the “title to the land” deeds, which they “agreed” to sign? Was there “consent”, or were they tricked into selling their lands?
• There appears to be inconsistencies in historical accounts regarding Native Americans; whom do you believe? Did the English settle a “virgin” land or a “widowed” land?
• Did Native Americans of Essex County fight with Metacomet (King Philip) against the colonists, and what about those terrible Indian attacks throughout Essex County between 1676 and 1725?
• What can be learned from a review of early, then later, maps regarding “possession of the land” and how it changes over time?

This project attempts to create synergies among the reference subject material and at the same time allow for a smooth flow between sections of the book. To accomplish it a series of “Focus Points” are presented as recommended reading before considering the significance of the collection. These separate sections include the following topics:

Focus Point 1- Three Indian Landscapes: Pre contact, Contact and Post-Contact Periods
Focus point 2- Historical Evidence found in the Indian Deeds
Focus point 3- Indian versus English Views Regarding Rights to the Land
Focus Point 4- English Settlement Patterns in Essex County
Focus Point 5- Indian Raids on English settlers in Essex County

These “Focus Points” take the reader through a 17th century timeline of parallel dynamic elements of two different cultures – one which will dominate the other in the end

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