Friday, May 07, 2010

What's In a Name? A Catalog of Indian Place Names in Westchester


Indian names are everywhere in these United States. Thirteen of our largest U.S. rivers have Indian names: Mississippi, Ohio, Yukon, Missouri, Tennessee, Mobile, Atchafalaya, Stikine, Susitana, Arkansas, Tanana, Susquehanna and Willamette. Ten of the major U.S. lakes bear Indian names: Michigan, Erie, Ontario, Okeechobee, Winnebago, Tahoe, Upper Klamath, Utah, Tustumena and Winnibigoshish.

Many of this nation's other natural wonders are of Indian origin: The falls of Niagara and Yosemite, the Adirondack, Allegheny and Appalachian mountain chains, and the Denali, Sequoia, and Shenandoah national parks. And two-thirds of the last 36 states to enter the Union since the late 18th century chose Indian names.

William Penn, writing from Pennsylvania in 1683 to the Free Society of Traders, extolled the virtues of the Algonquian language he had learned and understood, "I know not a language spoken in Europe that hath words of more sweetness or greatness, in accent or emphasis, than theirs: Octococken, Rancocas, Oricton, Shak, Marian, Pequesien, all of which are names of places and have grandeur in them."

Early settlers readily accepted Indian names for natural features, and such names are widespread to this day. Thus, the Indian names of many lakes, ponds, brooks and mountains have survived, often in truncated or Anglicized form. Here are the Indian origins of some Westchester place names:

Allapartus. The area between Croton Dam Road and Spring Valley Road was known by the Indians as Allapartus.
Alipkonk. The Indians' encampment at Tarrytown. It means "where the elm trees grow."
Amackassin. A large rock on the shore of the Hudson River. It marked the northern boundary of Van der Donck's purchase. A similar rock, known as Sigghes stands on the Andrus Foundation property and marks the boundary between Greenburgh and Yonkers.
Amawalk. The name of a reservoir and a mountain, this was the Indian name for a small settlement near the junction of Route 35 and Quaker Street. It means "people gathering up on a little hill."
Armonk. An adaptation of the Indian word for the Byram River. Several meanings are offered: "beaver," "fishing place," "fishing place between the hills," or "came out of the bush."
Apawamis. The area known as Rye Neck was called this by the Indians. They sold it to John Budd, and it was later known as Budd's Neck.
Appamaghpogh. The area to the east of Verplanck's Point sold to Stephanus Van Cortlandt in 1683. The mayor of New York from 1677 to 1678, he eagerly began acquiring land in what would become the manor of Cortlandt in 1697. At the time of his death in 1700, the manor comprised some 200 square miles.
Apwonnah. Milton Bay in Rye was called this ("land-locked bay") by the Indians.
Aqueanouncke. The Indians' name ("red cedar trees"?) for the Hutchinson River.
Aquehung. The Bronx River. Its meaning is disputed.
Armenparal. The brook that became known as Sprain Brook in Greenburgh.
Asoquatah. East Long Pond Mountain in Lewisboro was called this (pine tree sap place?") by the Indians.
Aspetong. The hill northeast of Bedford Center ("the high place").
Asumsowis. The land bordering the Lower Harbor in Pelham ("by the straight inlet")
Bisightick. Used in the deed of 1681 to Philipse to describe Sunnyside Brook.
Cahotatea. "River that flows from the mountains," one of the Indian names for the Hudson River.
Canopus. Sprout Brook in Cortlandt, possibly the name of an Indian chieftain.
Cantitoe. The intersection of Cantitoe and Jay streets in Bedford is known locally as "The Corners." Cantitoe is believed to be a version of Katonah.
Caywaywest. "The other side"--the Indian name for Orienta Point in Mamaroneck.
Chappaqua. The area around the Quaker Meeting House here was called Shappequa, "the place where the brush makes a rustling sound when you walk through it."
Chaubunkongamaug. The Byram River. Reliable accounts report that the Indians used to paddle up the river and ask to "buy rum," from which the river takes its present name. Alternate names are Cohamong, Cobamong, the name of a pond north of the intersection of North Post Road and Old Patent Road in North Castle. The name of the Coman Hills between the Mianus River and Byram Lake is a shortening of the same name.
Cisqua. This name for the meadows north of Mount Kisco and the Beaver Dam River means "a muddy place."
Croton. Adapted from the name of a local chief, Kenotin or Knoten, who lived at the mouth of what is now the Croton River.
Gramatan. To prevent the expansion of New Amsterdam eastward, Thomas Pell bought a large tract of land in what is now Pelham from the Siwanoy Indians in 1654. The name of the Siwanoy sachem who sold the land was Gramatan.
Honge. This name for Blind Brook in a 1681 deed from an Indian named Maramaking and may mean "blind" or "concealed." It forms the boundary between Harrison and Rye. Another name for it was Mockquams, meaning "blind cover tree."
Katonah. Named for the Indian sachem Katonah, a shortened form of Ketatonah, meaning "great mountain." He sold the land in 1680.
Keakates. This name for the large lake in Yorktown appears in a 1686 deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt. The Dutch called it Crom Pond ("crooked lake"); it is now two bodies of water, Mohansic Lake and the smaller Crom Pond.
Kensico. In 1849, a post office was established in a hamlet that now lies under the Kensico Reservoir. The name was adapted from that of a Siwanoy chief, Cokenseko.
Keskeskick. The name ("a grown green place") for the area north of the Harlem River sold to the Dutch West India Company in 1639.
Kewightequack. This name ("green place") for a bend in the Croton River now submerged under the New Croton Reservoir is mentioned in the 1699 deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Kightawanck. The Kightawancks, a branch of the Mahicans, lived in the area between the Croton River and Anthony's Nose. The name is in a 1683 deed to Van Cortlandt. A variation of this name appears in the name of the hamlet at Kitchawan and Pines Bridge roads in Yorktown, and in the name of Lake Kitchawan, formerly called Cross Lake, in Lewisboro-Pound Ridge.
Kittateny. This name was once applied to part of Anthony's Nose. It is a variation of Ketatonah, meaning "great mountain."
Laapawachking. An Indian name for Croton Point, "a place of stringing."
Mamanasquag. The area around Peach Lake in North Salem.
Manhattans. De Laet's 1625 name for the Hudson River. The name of the tribe that occupied Manhattan Island and the mainland north to the Saw Mill River and east to the Bronx River.
Manitou. A mountain in the Camp Smith reservation. In Algonquian religious belief, manitou was a supernatural power that permeated the world. The word is from the Ojibway or Chippewa word, manitoo.
Manunketsuck. An Indian word for Long Island Sound, "broad, flowing river."
Mattegticos. This word meaning "clear mud" is found in the 1699 Indian deed selling the Muscoot River to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Meahagh. Meaning "small island," the name of this lake in Cortlandt appears in the 1683 Indian deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Mianus. This river, which rises in Bedford and flows into Connecticut, is named for a sachem ("he who gathers the people") who was killed in 1643. It has been spelled many ways (Maharness, Meyanos, Mayanos).
Miosebassaky. The meadows along the Byram River.
Mohegan. The name of Mohegan Lake, a hamlet in Cortlandt, is also rendered as Mahican and Mohican. The name was given to an Indian confederacy of subtribes that inhabited the Hudson Valley. James Fennimore Cooper's 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans, perpetuated the name.
Mopus. Applied to a brook in North Salem and presumably named for an Indian.
Moshulu. The name for Tibbetts Brook.
Mt. Kisco. See Cisqua.
Mughititicoos. The name for the river now called the Titicus.
Muscoot. Applied to a mountain, park, reservoir and river. The county park was formerly the estate of Ferdinand T. Hopkins, developer of a widely sold early seasick remedy.
Nanahagan. A corruption of Nanageeken, the name for this brook (Nanny Hagen Brook) in Mount Pleasant.
Nanichiestawack. An Indian village destroyed by John Underhill in 1664. The exact location is unknown. It may have been at what is known as Indian Hill in Bedford or in Somers, northeast of Whitehall Corners.
Nappeckamax. The Indian village in Yonkers where the Saw Mill River empties into the Hudson. It means "the place of fish traps."
Narahawmis. The area south of Lake Kitchawan in Lewisboro appears on a 1708 deed.
Navish. The name for Croton Point, used in a 1682 deed to Cornelius Van Burgum.
Nepperhann. Also spelled Neperan, this Indian name for the Saw Mill River means "cold running water."
Oscawana. The name of the island and a county park comes from the name of one of the Indian signers of the 1682 deed to William Teller.
Osceola. A lake in Yorktown. The name is from a former hotel popular around the turn of the last century. Actually, Osceola was a Seminole chief who resisted the removal of his tribe from Florida in the 1830's. He died under suspicious circumstances after having been tricked into surrendering in 1837.
Ossining. This Indian name denotes "a place of stones" and came from the dolomitic limestone outcrops.
Pahotasack. McGregory Brook in Peekskill was so designated in a 1695 deed from McGregor to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Paquintuk. Peekskill Hollow Brook and Annsville Creek were called this in the same deed.
Peespunk. In Lewisboro, this Indian name was applied to a spring near Route 116 and the Connecticut border.
Pehquenakonck. The name ("the nearby hill place") for Peach Lake and the area along Hardscrabble Road in North Salem.
Peningo. The area between Blind Brook and the Byram River in Rye.
Pepemighting. This was the Indian name ("place where people congregate") for the Kisco River.
Peppengheck. Meaning "chosen land," this was the name for Cross Pond and the Cross River.
Pocantico was applied to the river that flows into the Hudson at Kingsland Point. It means "a stream between two hills."
Pockerhoe. The name for what is now Sleepy Hollow, near the mouth of the Pocantico River.
Pockcotessewake. The Beaver Swamp Brook in Rye, used in the 1661 deed for Apawamis.
Punka-Barre. The area east of Broadway in Hastings-on-Hudson, later called Uniontown by developer Samuel Blackwell.
Quaropas. The Indian name ("white marshes") for White Plains. Obviously, the more names change the more they remain the same.
Rippowam. The Stamford Mill River was called the Rippowam by Indians. In the 1800's it was called the Tatomuck River. It retains its Indian name in Connecticut.
Sachera. Before it was known as the "Westchester Path" or the Boston Post Road, this was the Indians' name for their trail that ran along Long Island Sound.
Sackhoes. The Indian name ("near the mouth of the river") for what is now Peekskill. In 1685, Ryck Abrahamse bought the land between Dickey Brook and McGregory's Brook. The name appears in the 1685 deed.
Sagamore Park in Bronxville perpetuates the Algonquian term for a subordinate chief.
Senasqua. An Indian name ("the grassy place") for Croton Point.
Sepackene. The name for André Brook in Tarrytown is mentioned in Philipse's royal charter.
Sepperack. This name ("a rock with water coming out") for a stream on Croton Point appears in the 1682 deed to Cornelius Van Burgum.
Shatemuc. An Indian name for the Hudson River.
Shenorock. This manmade lake in Somers bears the name of a sachem who lived along Long Island Sound.
Shippa. An Indian settlement near where Davenport Park now is located in New Rochelle.
Sing Sing. Named for the Sint Sinks, Indians living at the "place of rocks."
Siscowit. An Indian word ("muddy place") applied by the Stamford Water Company in 1891 when it acquired Mud Pond (also known as Mead Pond) in Pound Ridge.
Tamoesis. Dickey Brook in Peekskill.
Tanracken. A creek at the base of Croton Point referred to in the 1682 deed of Senasqua.
Tappan. The name of this creek in Cortlandt ("cold stream") was used for what is now called Dickey Brook in a 1683 deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
The Toquams. The name of the tract Nathaniel Turner bought in 1640 for the New Haven Colony from Ponus, the Sagamore of Toquams. It ran eight miles along Long Island Sound and extended inland. In 1684, when the boundary between Connecticut and New York was set at eight miles inland, this created the right-angle notch in Westchester's eastern border south of Armonk and resulted in Westchester’s narrowest width at this point.
Tuckahoe. The name means "place of the tuckah," the root of the golden club, an aquatic plant the Indians roasted and ground into flour.
Waccabuc. Developer Frederick B. Studwell used this name for the lake and community on Lewisboro he created in the 1870's. The Indian name for the lake was Wepuc.
Wampus. In 1696, an Indian by this name (it means "opossum") sold land to Caleb Heathcote, Lord of the Manor of Scarsdale. The name is now applied to a brook, pond, reservoir and park.
Weckquaeskeck. The name of the Indian tribe and settlement at Dobbs Ferry has persisted in the anglicized name of a brook, Wickers Creek.
Wescora. An Indian sachem. Scarborough had this name briefly in 1867.
Wickapy. The name ("at the end of the land") of an Indian settlement near Anthony's Nose.
Wishqua. The area west of Annsville Creek was so called in a 1685 deed to Dekay.
Wykagl. The name of the country club, famous for its golf tournaments, was adopted in 1905. This Indian name comes from a 1614 Dutch map in the Royal Archives in The Hague.

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