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Explorer Gosnold Names "Cape Cod"

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  • David Sylvester
    http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=144 On This Day... ...in 1602, the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold dropped anchor off the Massachusetts coast.
    Message 1 of 2 , May 15, 2010
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      On This Day...

      ...in 1602, the English explorer
      Bartholomew Gosnold dropped anchor off the
      Massachusetts coast. While he and four others
      went ashore, the rest of the crew pulled in so
      many cod that they "threw numbers of them
      overboard again." When Gosnold returned to the
      ship and saw the abundance of fish, he decided to
      name the place "Cape Cod." Although half of the
      40 men who accompanied Gosnold had planned to
      stay and establish a trading post, in the end,
      they all returned to England. The cargo they
      brought home ­ sassafras, cedar logs, and furs ­
      and their descriptions of a rich land populated
      by friendly natives inspired the next English
      effort at a permanent settlement in the New World ­ Jamestown.


      In March of 1602, a small ship named the Concord
      left Falmouth, England, bound for New England.
      Forty-nine days later, the ship made landfall on
      the southern coast of what is now Maine. The men
      aboard were on an expedition to set up a trading
      post in America. They were led by the explorer
      Bartholomew Gosnold, who has since come to be
      known as the "Columbus of New England."

      The Concord sailed southward until on May 15th it
      reached the tip of a peninsula at the mouth of a
      large bay teeming with cod fish. After only a few
      hours fishing, they concluded that "there is upon
      this coast, better fishing, and in as great
      plentie, as in Newfoundland."

      For the next three weeks, the party explored the
      area they named "Cape Cod," built a fort, traded
      with local Indians, and recorded glowing accounts
      of the land's abundant natural resources. The
      goods and descriptions Gosnold's explorers
      brought home made this part of the New World
      appear attractive to the
      investors and colonists who would follow a few decades later.

      Born around 1572, Bartholomew Gosnold attended
      Cambridge University but did not complete a
      degree. Somewhere along the way he acquired the
      skills of a navigator. Coming of age in the era
      of Sir Walter Raleigh's famed expeditions to the
      Americas, Gosnold used his family connections to
      outfit a ship that he would take across the
      Atlantic. The goal of the voyage was to establish
      a direct route to the "north part of Virginia,"
      as the English then called New England, and
      establish a trading post for Indian furs and other goods.

      Gosnold took with him a skeleton crew of eight
      sailors and 12 explorers; the other 20 men aboard
      the Concord had agreed to be "planters," who
      would remain at a fortified house that the party
      would build and stock before the ship returned to England.

      After exploring the Cape's inner shore as far as
      Wellfleet, the Concord sailed around the ocean
      side. On May 21st, Captain Gosnold and a few of
      his men went ashore on a small chain of islands.
      "We found it to be 4 English miles in compasse,
      without house or inhabitant, saving a little old
      house made of boughes, covered with barke, an old
      piece of [fish weir] of the Indians to catch
      fish, and one or two places where they had made
      fires." The island was covered with the wild
      fruit of raspberries, gooseberries and
      huckleberries. Gosnold named it "Martha's
      Vineyard," in honor of his daughter.

      A few days later, the party explored a nearby
      island with "...many plaine places of grasse,
      abundance of Strawberries & other berries" They
      called this one "Elizabeth's Island," in honor of
      their queen. Today it is called Cuttyhunk.
      Finding the soil fertile, they decided this was
      the place to establish the trading post. The men
      built a strategically located fort and stocked it
      with local food stuffs.

      Gosnold and his men regularly bartered and
      feasted with Indians. The atmosphere was
      friendly; the Indians were helpful in showing the
      Englishman where to find food and other
      resources. The English were impressed with the
      copper adornments worn by the Indians; the
      Natives were fascinated with the metal knives the
      Europeans gave them in trade. At one point, the
      a feast for a large party of 50 or more Indians,
      led by a young Indian who may have been the future Chief Massasoit.

      During their stay, Gosnold and his men collected
      a quantity of sassafras, cedar logs, and furs to
      bring back to England. This cargo would be
      valuable enough to pay for the expense of the
      voyage. As the time came for the explorers and
      crew to return, however, the "planters" ­ those
      who had planned to remain at the trading post
      ­had a change of heart. When the Concord sailed
      for England on June 18th, all 40 men were aboard.

      Although Gosnold failed in his goal of
      establishing a trading post, he succeeded in
      other ways. The goods and, perhaps more
      important, the reports he brought back helped
      fuel the drive to settle the "New World." He was
      fortunate to have in his party two men, lawyer
      Gabriel Archer and clergyman John Brereton, whose
      journals provide rich firsthand accounts of the land and its people.

      Archer and Brereton recorded numerous encounters
      with native people. Although they referred to the
      Indians as "savages," the encounters they
      described were peaceful and friendly. Gosnold's
      party were not the first Europeans these Indians
      had seen; they had already had contact with
      fishermen, traders, and explorers from the "Old
      World. Archer reported that the first group of
      natives they encountered made chalk drawing to
      describe the coast for the explorers. "They spoke
      divers Christian words, and seemed to understand
      much more than we." Throughout Gosnold's
      five-week stay in New England, the native people
      were welcoming, helpful, and appeared interested
      in trading with and learning about the newcomers.
      In return, Gosnold and men were respectful and
      generous, and made a concerted effort to pay homage to Indian leaders.

      In 1608 Bartholomew Gosnold sailed as second in
      command on an expedition to establish the first
      permanent English settlement in Virginia. He died
      of malaria three months after landing in Jamestown.


      Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. IV.

      The Gosnold Discoveries... In the North Part of
      Virginia, 1602; Now Cape Cod and the Islands,
      Massachusetts According to the Relations by
      Gabriel Archer and John Brereton, compiled and
      ed. by Lincoln A. Dexter (Published by the author, 1982).

      Native People of Southern New England, by
      Kathleen Bragdon (University of Oklahoma Press, 1996).

      Program of the "Gosnold 400 Quadricentennial 1602-2002."

      Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History
      and Folklore, 1620-1984, by William Simmons
      (University Press of New England, 1986).


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