Hopedale History
    May 1, 2010
    No. 155
    Indian Names

    Hopedale in April   

    Battery operated trolleys, Milford, Hopedale   

    The Country Club fire.   Photos from the day after the fire.

    The Bancroft Library is in need of a 1993 copy of the Hopedale town report. If you have one that
    you could donate, you can call the library at 508 634 2209.

    I’ve made several additions recently to Now and Then at the Chapel Street School Block.

    First Communion, Sacred Heart Church, 1958 – I had a link to this last time, but I’m including it
    again because many names have been added since then.


    Nipmuc - a familiar name. Maspenock - another that’s heard from time to time. Magomiscock? I
    doubt that one has been used much in the last century. If you live, or once lived around here
    though, you’ve gone over Magomiscock Hill many times. Here’s Adin Ballou to tell you more about
    these three names.

                                                            Indian Names

    Of these, only two survive, and they have become almost obsolete. I should never have come to
    the knowledge of them but by search of the old land records. One of these is Maspenock, the
    aboriginal name of North Pond, of which I have said a mere fraction is properly ours. (That is, in
    Milford.)  This name appears in the deed of North Purchase, as presented in Chapter I. It would
    almost seem that our Mill River, issuing from Maspenock Pond, must have been called by the
    Indians Maspenock River, but, as yet, I have found no proof of it. I should be glad to do so, as I
    take a liking to the name. Having some curiosity to ascertain its original signification, I carefully
    examined the Indian vocabularies, reprinted from ancient editions for preservation. One of these
    was made by Roger Williams, with reference to the language of the Narragansetts and kindred
    tribes; the other by Josiah Cotton, chiefly with reference to the Nipmuck language, into which the
    great Indian apostle, Eliot, translated the Bible. If I have interpreted the Indian etymology correctly,
    Maspenock literally means choice fishing-place, or excellent fish-pond: from namas, fish, or
    relating to fish; pepenam, to choose; and ohke (pronounced gutturally, ooke, avg. auke, ock. uck,
    etc.), which signifies earth, land, ground, place, or some substantial object belonging to the earth.
    Thus I deduce Maspenock, choice or excellent fishing-place.

    The other name is that of the highland which extends southwardly from the Cleveland place,
    through the Scammell place, east of Hopedale, to the new highway called Adin Street, etc. (The
    ridge along which runs much of the Hopedale-Milford border, a bit uphill from Route 140.) The
    Indians named this highland Magomiscock. As nearly as I can deduce its meaning from the lingual
    roots, it may be rendered, ground affording a grand show, or prospective view. Its components
    appear to come from, or be, magko, to afford, give, or grant; misse, swollen, large, showy, grand,
    etc.; and ohke, earth, ground, or place: literally, a high swell of land affording a grand prospect of
    the surrounding country. And such it really is. The Rev. Peter Whitney, in his History of Worcester
    County. 1793, says, "From the highest places there is a large and variegated prospect. From
    these heights may be seen the Wachusett and Monadnock Mountains, and also the hill south of
    Boston" (Milton Blue Hill). Whoever will visit these easily accessible heights, and survey the vast
    landscapes, can hardly fail thenceforth to admire the aboriginal name, Magomiscock. The old
    records spell this name rather barbarously in half a dozen different ways, but I believe I have given
    its best orthography.

    Whether the name of our prominent eminence, called Bear Hill, is of Indian or English origin, is
    uncertain. It obviously indicates a haunt for bears in olden times. Though I have found nothing in
    the records relating to the derivation of the name, it seems probable to me that it originated with
    the Indians. They called the bear, in their language, moshq. Therefore, if they gave name to this
    hill, it would be Moshcock. This would not be a bad exchange to make, if our people so choose.
    What other Indian names might be framed or conjectured, as applicable to natural objects within
    our territorial limits, I will not trouble myself to surmise. Having been misled by the gazetteers to
    assume that Wapowage was the Indian name of our township. I took considerable pains to
    ascertain its signification. In doing so, I at length got the information stated in Chapter I., that it
    belonged to Milford, Conn. So that matter ended. I have since directed my attention to the
    meaning of Nipmuck, alias Nipmook, etc. I find that the Narragansett language, and perhaps, with
    some variation, that of the Nipmucks, gives nips for ponds. I infer that it may denote not only
    ponds, but other collections of water, including moving streams. Hence the Nipmuck name would
    signify a country abounding with ponds and streams of water, — a remarkably well-watered
    country or land. This agrees aptly with the geographical facts. Hence, also, the name would fitly
    apply to the inhabitants, or tribe of people, dwelling on such general territory. The Blackstone
    River was originally called the Nipmuck River, because it arose in and flowed through the Nipmuck
    country. So the Nipmuck Pond in Mendon got its name from its aboriginal owners, who long held it
    in high estimation. Here I must close this chapter. That it will be as interesting to general readers
    as the collection and arrangement of its particulars have been to me. perhaps is more than I ought
    to expect. I have taken much pains to render it valuable to posterity, and can only hope that it will
    in some way repay its cost. At least, I seem to myself to have fairly prepared the way for a
    narration of the facts next in order. Adin Ballou, History of Milford, pp. 29 – 30.


    Recent death:

    Jean Mary (Young) Biggs, 82, Agawam, April 16, 2010, HHS 1946.

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The Country Club remains after the fire.