"Winnacunnet" or Winnicunnet"

An Editorial

Hampton Union

Ca: 1958

The completely friendly discussion over the correct spelling of the name for the new regional high school continues and, as yet, seems to have produced no conclusive answer.

The spelling adopted by the first Cooperative School District meeting in March was "Winnacunnet" as found in Dow's History of Hampton and in most of the histories of that period and later.

However, since that time at least two interested parties have suggested that the proper Indian spelling would have probably been "Winnicunnet".

Checking many historical volumes and gazetteers of local, county and state coverage, we find the following spellings:

Dow's History of Hampton -- 1893 -- "Winnacunnet".

History of Rockingham County by Charles A. Hazlett of Portsmouth -- 1915 -- "Winnacunnet".

History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties by D. Hamilton Hurd -- 1882 -- "Winnacunnet".

History of New Hampshire by Everett S. Stackpole -- 1916 -- "Wenicunnett", then "Winnacunnet".

The Granite State of the United States by James Duane Squires -- 1956 -- "Winnacunnet".

Reference is also made in Dow's History to a Dr. Belknap who spelled it "Winicumet" and also to Gov. Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and "Winicowett".

A fellow townsman and member of the Regional School Board, Carl M. Lougee, has produced two very old histories -- Statistics and Gazetteer of New Hampshire, compiled by Alonzo J. Fogg and published at Concord in 1874 in which it is written, "Winnicummet".

Also -- New Hampshire As It Is by Edwin Charlton, published at Claremont in 1855, where the spelling "Winnicummet" also appears.

All of which seems to prove nothing except that there are many ways of spelling the original Indian name to this section of the seacoast of New Hampshire.

Although the Dow spelling of "Winnacunnet" may well be the perpetuation of an error by an ignorant clerk back in the early days of the Massachusetts General Court (as it has been alleged) we are inclined to agree with the notation in Dow's History of Hampton that "the name was probably written according as the sound struck the ear of the persons attempting to give it a visible form".

Certainly the numerous and varied manners of spelling the Indian name would bear out such a statement.

Although not desiring to pose as an authority on Indian lore, we would hazard a guess that in view of the many histories employing the spelling, "Winnacunnet". (however vulnerable to criticism for inaccuracies as they may well be) this would seem to be just as valid as "Winnicunnet".

Since the writer of this column is more than a little involved in this controversy, having proposed the name at the regional school district meeting, we have told all interested parties to date, that a change from an "a" to an "i" would not bother us or, we believe, any other citizen of the cooperative district.

To our mind the people voted for an idea, not a certain spelling. The Indian name, whether spelled with an "a" or an "i", is a beautiful melodic word and lends itself well to modern day adaptations for student usage.

Originally it referred to the very area which the cooperative district now covers, designated in Stackpole's History of New Hampshire is the "towns stretched along the coast from Colchester, the earliest name of Salisbury, to the souther part of Pascataqua, now known as Rye."

It also serves to remind all of us, and more importantly our high school students, of the rich heritage and historical background of tradition which is unique to those of us fortunate enough to live in New England.

As stated above, we consider "Winnacunnet" a beautiful and well adapted name for the new regional high school, whether spelled with an "a" or an "i".

One thing is certain, however, the regional school board should make every effort to adjudicate the proper spelling before the name is carved in granite and made a permanent part of our ever developing tradition.

If the spelling is to be changed, it would appear the time is now -- otherwise, "Let's Go -- Winnacunnet High".

The Sad Error in "Winnacunnett"

Some Account of the History of Earlier Hampton and its Daughter and Neighbor Towns

by Rev. Roland D. Sawyer, Kensington

Hampton Union, February 14, 1957

To spell the Indian name of one of the four original little republics which made up the state of New Hampshire as above is a very sad error.

The mistake came about because Mr. Dow in writing his history of the town, chose to use the spelling where the name first occurs in Massachusetts archives.

As such the spelling continues because it was put into the town seal and has been put on town guides of roads and streets, etc.

Surely a town as large and as proud of its history as is Hampton could spare the few dollars of a new seal and new signs.

Charles H. Batchelder, a Portsmouth lawyer and educated man and a careful student of his family and town history, and who in 1889 visited England to check up, in 1907 when he was County Solicitor on one of his Exeter visits, came over to Kensington to Mr. Osgood and myself and check up on some Kensington families.

He expressed himself as very sad at the Dow error, and said Mr. Dow had written to him, stating his own sorrow in the error he had made in the history.

I checked in Boston the archives at the State House and found, the first mention of the name was spelled "winacummet" or "winacunnet", the "m"s and "n" are not easily discipliners. The clerk that year was not a good penman and probably not a well educated man.

All later mentions are "Wennecunnet" or "Winnicunnett".

All early writings show that Indians, who had a vocabulary of only 600 words, always used a uniform vowel sound in various of their short words they joined together as did the Greeks and as do the Germans, instead of using several short words as a sentence as do we English.

Thus is would be "wennne" or "Winni", the later being the most generally used. It would never be WENA -- see the uniform use of "Winni" in "Winnicut", "Winnipesauka"; here there is uniformity in the first two "Win-ni" and "Au-ka".

Mr. Dow's writings on Hampton History covered many years, his daughter Lucy spent years of hardest work re-writing and adjusting and correcting the same. Page 6 of Vol. One of the History shows this item got by Lucy.

Also the some-what loose way of Mr. Dow often shows is found on page 14 where Mr. Dow discussed the same thing, quoting a letter from Mr. Batchelder of Portsmouth, to whom he gives the name Charles E. when it was Charles H.

Its a sad error to for the great town of Hampton to perpetuate the error of Winnacunnet as its ancient Indian name when it should be Winnicunnett.

[Editor's note: Grammatical errors are retained from the original]