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Document Number: AJ-041
Author: Rosier, James, 1575-1635
Title: True Relation of Waymouth¿s Voyage, 1605
Source: Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 355-394.
Pages/Illustrations: 42 / 2 (tables)
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-041/

Author Note

James Rosier is little known outside the information in this account. In 1605, Thomas Arundell, baron of Warder, hired Rosier as the official chronicler of captain George Waymouth’s voyage to America. The only other details known about Rosier are those included in his True Relation of Waymouth’s Voyage, 1605, presented here. It is possible that the author of the Relation is the same James Rosier who accompanied Bartholomew Gosnold on his voyage to America in 1602, recorded by John Brereton, although this remains unproven.

George Waymouth (c. 1585-c. 1612) was a native of Cockington, Devon, who spent his youth studying shipbuilding and mathematics. He suggested a possible route for the Northwest Passage to Asia and attempted to find it in 1602. Waymouth spent several months exploring Greenland until his crew mutinied and forced his return to England. Waymouth did not return to the New World after a 1607 trip and was granted a pension in 1608, which was last paid in 1612

Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, and Thomas Arundell, baron of Warder, organized and financed this expedition to the “northern coast of Virginia” (present-day New England) in order to assess “the commodities and profits of the countrey, together with the fitnesse of plantation.”

Following publication, this document became an important piece of promotional literature. It helped stir interest in the economic potential of the northern coast of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Virginia, and Rosier’s compilation of four to five hundred Abenaki words undoubtedly proved useful to later traders. Rosier’s Relation provides firsthand descriptions of the region’s geography, plants, animals, and people and documents early English and Native American interactions, as well as including a list of items that would yield profits in Europe.

Waymouth’s 1605 Expedition

Waymouth set out from Ratcliffe on the Thames in March 5, 1605, and left sight of England on March 31, 1605. His single ship manned by twenty-nine crew sailed until reaching Nantucket on May 6, 1605. After freeing the ship from shoals, Waymouth proceeded to Maine and arrived by May 16 when he reported large schools of codfish and observed whales before arriving near the current location of Monhegan, Maine. The crew continued catching fish from the enormous schools of haddock and cod, and made trips ashore to pick gooseberries, strawberries, and wild rose hips.

Upon arrival at Maine’s St. George Islands, they moored at St. George’s harbor and went ashore to explore. The bird life was extensive, the fresh water plentiful, and the seafood abundant in saltwater pools that produced lobster, rockfish, and other unknown, but edible, varieties. Waymouth made an inventory of timber resources, wild plants, and abundant clay for brickmaking for exploitation by future expedition. The shellfish produced large quantities of pearls that Waymouth documented to further accent the rich resources of the region.

Their first encounters with local Native Americans indicated potential trouble, but Waymouth displayed knives and manufactured goods for trade that seemed to impress them. Over the next few weeks Waymouth entertained the local Indians on board his ship and traded English goods for furs. His crew captured five Indians to bring back to England, who remained living there and never returned to Maine. Waymouth developed a dictionary of Abnaki words that was used by subsequent expeditions to Maine. The ship, crew, and captives returned to England on July 18, 1605

Document Note

Rosier’s Relation was first printed in London in 1605. In 1625, Samuel Purchas included it in the fourth volume of his Pilgrimes. The narrative presented here is from a copy of the 1605 edition in the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

For a useful essay on the history of early Maine exploration, including Waymouth’s Voyage, see
http://www.davistownmuseum.org/InfoNorumbegaDeCosta.html

The Davistown Museum website also contains an annotated bibliography at
http://www.davistownmuseum.org/TDMbiblio.htm
http://www.davistownmuseum.org/bibMEprimary.htm#Baker

Axtell, James. Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial America. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) and Baker, Emerson W. et. al. eds. American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994) offer the standard modern treatments of these events.

Special topics related to the voyage are treated in Brown, Kathleen. “The Anglo-Algonquian Gender Frontier,” in Nancy Shoemaker, ed., Negotiators of Change: Historical Perspectives on Native American Women (New York: Routledge, 1995): 26-48; and, Cutler, Charles. Native American Loanwords in Current English. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994).

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