The Story of Nolumbeka
Nolumbeka is an Abenaki word which means “a stretch of quiet water between the two rapids”. This word likely is the source of the name Norumbega, used by the early European explorers and appearing on the maps for the area of present day New England from 1529 to the 1580s. For several years after that, the area became considered an extension of the Virginia colony until 1614 when John Smith gave it the name of New England.
Much of the story about a City of Gold in eastern North America was based on reports of English mariner David Ingram who, after being shipwrecked in the Gulf of Mexico in 1568, walked and paddled canoes over three thousand miles along distinct and well-marked trails to the northeast in eleven months. Ingram’s description of Norumbega was narrated about ten years after he returned to England and was published in 1582.
Ingram’s statement about his journey, which follows, was taken by Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State in 1582, in response to questions primarily aimed to gain information which would be useful for colonization of North America and how it pertained to this interest:
*“Certayne questions to be demanded of Davy Ingram sayler dwelling at Barkinge in the countrye of Essex, what be observed in his travel one the North side of the river of May where he remained three month or thereabouts.” (before returning by ship to Europe).
“He hath confessed that country be frutfull and that there is a tre as he called it a plum ten tree wth of the leaves thereof being pressed will come a very excellent lycor as pleasant to drincke and as good as and kinde of winne.”
“He hath confessed, y2 he sawe A Beast in all points like unto a horse savinge he had two longe tusks, of wch he was put in great danger of his lyfe, but he escaped by clyminge a tree. Also that there be wyld horses of goodly shape but the people of the country have not use for them. Ffurther that there be shepe, wch beareth red woole some thinge course there flesh good to eat, but it is very redde.”
“He hath confessed yt farre into the land there be many people , and that he saw a towne half a myle longe, and had many streets far broader than any street in London.”
“Ffurther yet, the men gooe naked savinge only the myddell part of them, covered wth skynnes of beasts and wth leaves. And that generallye all men weare about there arms dyvers hoopes of gold and silver wch are of good thickness and lykewyse they weare the lyke about the smale of there legs wch hoopes are garnished wth pearle dyvers of them as bigg as ones thume.”
“That the womenne of the countrye go appareled wth plates of gold over there body much lyke unto an armor about the middest of there bodye they wear leafes, wch hath growing there one very longe much lyke unto heare, and lykwise about there armes and the smale of there legs they weare hoopes of gold and sylver garnyshed wth fayer pearle.”
“He hath confessed y2 thye buyld there houses round lyke a Dovehouse and hath in like manner a louer on the topps of there howses and that there be many pillars that upholdeth many things of gold and silver very massye and lykewyse many pyllars of Crystall.”
“He hath confessed that there is great aboundances of gold, sylver and pearles and of other jewells in that country. He hath confesses that there is a great aboundance of gold, sylver, and pearle and that he hath seanne at the heads of dyvers springs and in smale rounninge brouks dyvers peaces of gold soume as bigg as his fynger, others as bigge as his fyst and peaces of dyvers bignes. Ffurther that he seanne great aboundance of pearle and dyvers strange stones of what sorte or valewe we knewe not.”
“He hath confessed that there be in that country great aboundances of a kinde of beast almost as bigge agayne as an oxe in shape of body not much differinge from an oxe, savinge that her hath eares of a great bignes, that are in fashione much like unto the eares of a bloodhound having thereon very longe hears, and lykwyse on his breast and other parts of his bodye longe heare. Ffurther he hath reported of dyvers kinds of wyld beasts whose skynnes are very rich rich furres, lykwyse of dyvers kinds of fruts and trees of great eastimatione.”
“That there is a tree wch beareth a frute lyke an aple but is poison to eate for the aple beinge broken there is a blacke lycor in the mydest thereof. Also that there is a tree that the barke thereof tasteth lyke pepper.”
*(from “Simon Ferdinando and John Walker in Maine, 1579-1580”, by the Rev. B. F. DeCosta, D.D., New York City, excerpted from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 44, April 1890, pages 151-153)
This information was gleaned from the over 50,000 pages of research compiled by Howard Clark to be archived by the Nolumbeka Project. Digitizing this archive is an ongoing task and experienced volunteers are very welcome to assist.