“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Prospect in Waldo County, Maine — The American Northeast (New England)


Pemtegwacook Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 23, 2011
1. Pemtegwacook Marker
Native Americans first paddled dug-out canoes up and down the Penobscot River about 8,000 years ago. Seeking rich hunting and fishing grounds, these people had come to live on the wooded shores of the river and bay.

Archaeology has revealed traces of early Native American settlements from Bangor downriver to Penobscot Bay. A site on the bay's North Haven Island is among the most intensely studied. There, between 4,500 and 4,000 years ago, a sizable group of people lived year-round and almost certainly traveled inland seasonally to visit upriver sites along the Penobscot and its tributaries.

So far, archaeologists have uncovered little evidence of early, or Archaic Period, Native American life along the river's shores near Fort Knox except for a few sites in Bucksport. There, in the 1890s, burial sites from the so-called Red Paint people were discovered. Dating from about 4,500 years ago, these sites contained stone tools and other objects stained with red ochre (ground hematite) that was probably added to the burials for ceremonial purposes.

Beginning about 2,500 years ago, in what archaeologists call the Ceramic Period, Native Americans lived and traveled widely along the river. Many innovations distinguished the Ceramic Period culture. Archaeological evidence reveals that ceramic pottery, made from local
Illustration #1 on Pemtegwacook Marker image. Click for full size.
By Charles Willoughby, circa 1890s
2. Illustration #1 on Pemtegwacook Marker
clays and often elaborately decorated, came into wide use. It also shows that a growing population, traveling easily in newly developed, lightweight birch bark canoes, traded with other Native Americans living to the north and west.

In 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed up the Penobscot River, past the future site of Fort Knox. Champlain was not the first or only explorer to travel this far upriver, but his voyage established a sustained French foothold in the area. Champlain ended his upriver journey near present-day Bangor. There, he met Bashabes, a leader of the coastal Etchemins (ancestors of the Penobscot, Passamquoddy [sic], and Malecite Indians), who told him much about the interior lands. Since at least the 1530s, Etchemins had traveled the interior network of rivers and lakes to obtain furs to trade for European goods.

Contact with European newcomers brought some trade advantages to Maine's Native people. But this contact also brought great destruction, first by European diseases and then by wars, in a complex web of events that would change Native American culture forever. Generally, in the conflicts of the 1600s and 1700s, Native American people along the Penobscot and further east allied with the French. In fact, from 1635 to 1759, the Penobscot River and its lands to the east were widely seen, even by the English, as part of French Acadia.
Illustration #2 Detail on Pemtegwacook Marker image. Click for full size.
By Marc Lescarbot, 1609
3. Illustration #2 Detail on Pemtegwacook Marker
Central to this control was a post, Fort Pentagoet, established downriver at Castine in 1635, which served for four years as Acadia's capital.

[Marker illustration captions read]
Archaeologist Charles Willoughby excavated several Red Paint burial sites found in Bucksport. Willoughby made drawings of many of these sites including 1) adze (side view); b) adze; c) projectile point; d) plummet.
From Charles C. Willoughby.
Prehistoric Burial Places in Maine

[2.] In this detail of a map showing lands explored by the French from 1604-1607, the Penobscot River is identified as "Norumbega" (see circled area), a name also used on other maps during early European exploration. Along the coast, the mapmaker, Marc Lescarbot, showed small structures that were apparently the dwellings of the Etchemins, the forebears of today's Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Malecite people.
Figure de la Terre Neuve, grand rivière de Canada, et còtes de l'océan en la Nouvelle France
Marc Lescarbot, 1609
Courtesy of National Archives of Canada

[3.] The word "Penobscot" has its origins in local Native American language. Meaning "the rocky place" or "the descending ledge place," Penobscot originally referred to the ten miles of falls upriver between Bangor and Old Town. The term "Pemtegwacook" (the likely root of "Pentagoet,"
Illustration #3 on Pemtegwacook Marker image. Click for full size.
By Titian Ramsay Peale, 1830
4. Illustration #3 on Pemtegwacook Marker
Champlain's name for the river) means "main river" and was a Native American word for the section from Bangor downriver including the portion defended by Fort Knox.

Sketch of Penobscot Indians paddling a canoe on the Penobscot River
Titian Ramsay Peale, 1830
Courtesty of American Philosophical Society
Erected by Maine Department of Conservation.
Location. 44° 34.025′ N, 68° 48.198′ W. Marker is in Prospect, Maine, in Waldo County. Click for map. Marker is about 50 feet northeast of the Fort Knox State Historic Site Visitor Center. Marker is at or near this postal address: 711 Fort Knox Road (Maine Route 174), Stockton Springs ME 04981, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Conflict and Prosperity on the River (here, next to this marker); Whitcomb-Baker VFW Post 4633 Veterans Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Fort Knox (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Grand Plan (about 400 feet away); A Question of Boundaries (about 400 feet away); The Architecture of Defense (about 400 feet away); Where Did the Soldiers Sleep? (about 400 feet away); The Heart of the Fort (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Prospect.
Also see . . .
Pemtegwacook Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 23, 2011
5. Pemtegwacook Marker
Center marker; Bucksport in distance

1. The Red Paint People. (Submitted on May 6, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
2. Exploration and Early European Settlement of Maine. (Submitted on May 6, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
3. Penobscot River Watershed History. (Submitted on May 6, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. Colonial EraExplorationNative AmericansWar, French and Indian
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 687 times since then and 172 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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