See Also: Historical Maps of Sudbury <> Hudson 1889 <> History Books

Who was in Sudbury before the English

This is a gather place for sources and text about who was in Sudbury when the English arrived in 1638. We know for certain that the Nipmuc nation extended into Sudbury becasue Tantamous (Old Jethro) and Netus (William of Sudbury) settled here. And we know the Massachusett were here because Karte (Goodman) as he lived on Goodman's Hill and he is identified as Cato a Massachuset Sachem. Karte signed for the sale of land in Sudbury.

One reason this is interesting to me is the Sudbury Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission (DEI) land acknowledgement. I believe this is a brilliant statment, but, the inclusion of motivated me to gain a better understand of how was here before the English arrived. I especially like this "We are committed to becoming better stewards of the land".

As we gather here this evening to deliberate on issues that impact our community, it is essential that we also look to, and learn from, the lessons of the past. We want to acknowledge that Sudbury is located on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Nipmuc, Pawtucket/Pennacook, and Massachusett. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have taken care of it throughout the generations. We are committed to becoming better stewards of the land we inhabit and learning from the failures of preceding generations in pursuit of a more just and equitable Sudbury. In the spirit of promoting justice and equality, we offer the following reflection.

The inclusion of the Pawtucket is probably true if we stretch the pre-cpntact timeframe out by decades of centuries.

The Sudbury History Center (Loring Parsonage) featured new research done by the Sudbury Historical Society"

The Nipmuc, or "fresh water people" occupied the central portion of what is now Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Their original homelands included all of central Massachusetts from the New Hampshire/Vermont borders and south of the Merrimack Valley southerly to include Tolland and Windham counties in Connecticut, as well as the northwest portion of Rhode Island. To the east, their homelands included the Natick/Sudbury area westward to include the Connecticut River Valley. The people lived in scattered villages throughout the area including Wabaquasset, Quinnebaug, Quaboag, Pocumtuc, Agawam, Squawkeag, and Wachusett. It is estimated that there were 5,000 to 6,000 Nipmucs when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620.

Subury's primary source for pre-1889 history is Hudson's History of Sudbury. Here is a quote from Chapter 2 is titled "Indians of Sudbury".

History of Sudbury, p. 21 "Part of the Indians living in Sudbury, when its territory was transferred to the English, belonged, as it is supposed, to the Massachusetts Indians who lived about Massachusetts Bay, and the remainder to the Nipmucks or Nipnets, who lived in the interior of the State. Those who belonged to the former were probably of the Mystic Indians, the chief of which tribe was in the early part of the seventeenth century Nanapashemit. The home of this chieftain was at Medford, situated on a prominent place which overlooked the Mystic River. He was killed by the Tarrentiues, a tribe of eastern Indians. After his death, his wife reigned under the name of the squaw sachem. She married Wibbacowett, the chief powwow or priest (Shattuck). She also lived near the Mystic. The subjects of this sachem or squaw probably extended nearly or quite to the Nipmuck country, as it embraced Tahattawan and his tribe at Concord.

Tribal relations so extended would probably include some of Sudbury's Indians. Such is supposed to be the case.

It is stated in the Colony Records, that, in 1637, Karte was associated with the squaw sachem at Medford in the sale of a fishing weir at Concord, " and all the planting grounds which hath been planted by the Indians there." Nataous, it is supposed, was of Nipnet origin. If these prominent natives of Sudbury had different tribal relations, so may it liave been with others less prominent ; but whether they belonged to the Nipnet or Massachusetts Indians, they all alike belonged to the great family of Algonquins...”

There are two interesting statements: part of the land belonged to Nanepashemet and that Karte was associated with the Squaw Sachim of Mistick.

This well researched page has lots of references which I hope to quote here: Native American Tribes in Massachusetts. Hodge first. Then Swanton.

Source:Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Government Printing Office, Part II, 1912. From Volume 1 Volume 2

Pennacook ( cognate with Abnaki pcnakuk, or penaflkuk, at the bottom of the hill or highland. Gerard). A confederacy of Algonquian tribes that occu pied the basin of Merrimac r. and the adjacent region in New Hampshire, N. E. Massachusetts, and the extreme s. part of Maine.
Hodge mentions Nipmuc on 13 pages - all referring to towns to the west of Sudbury. Disentangling Massachuset and Massachusetts will take more time.

Source:Swanton, John R., INDIAN TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA, 1952

Meaning "at the range of hills," by which is meant the hills of Milton.

In the region of Massachusetts Bay between Salem on the north and Marshfield and Brockton on the south. Later they claimed lands beyond Brockton as far as the Great Cedar Swamp, territories formerly under the control of the Wampanoag.

(4) Band of Cato, a tract 5 miles square east of Concord River.

From Nipmaug, "fresh water fishing place."

The Nipmuc occupied the central plateau of Massachusetts, particularly the southern part of Worcester County, but they extended into northern Rhode Island and Connecticut. (See also Connecticut and Rhode Island.)



image SwantonMap4.jpg
Swanton Map 4 NE,
image Zoom20220216.jpg
Zoom of, timeframe uncertain
image NativeLandsMA.png
NativeLandsMA - Agawam added in spring 2022
image NinnuockMapFromDan.png
NinnuockMapFromDan.png - 1520x838
image MapSNELisaBrooks.jpg
MapSNELisaBrooks.jpg - 1994x1356
image Lepore1998Map.jpg
Lepore1998Map.jpg - 3443x2471

John Eliot's Brief Narrative (1670)
Nipmuc history at the Hassanamisco Indian Museum (
Petition of the Inhabitants of the Toune of Marlborough
Pakachoag: Where the River Bends A video documentary about Nipmuc land in and around Worcester, Massachusetts, including the campus of the College of the Holy Cross. It covers Nipmuc/settler relations pre-settlement to today.
Ben Franklin's World episodes: Lisa Brooks

Started: 2022-04-30 last update 2022-06-12, jch, aka YON - Jan C. Hardenbergh