Sokwakik, the Change Begins: Whitelaw’s Map of Vermont 1796

whitelaw map 1796 vermont

Title – “A correct map of the state of Vermont, from actual survey :  exhibiting the county and town lines, rivers, lakes, ponds, mountains, meetinghouses, mills, public roads, &c   / by James Whitelaw, Esqr., late surveyor general ; engraved by Amos Doolittle, Newhaven, 1796, and by James Wilson, Vermont, 1810.


An inset detail of Windham County (click to enlarge).


The label for the Kwanitekw/Connecticut River tributary (known today as West River) is given as “Wantastitquck or West River” – very close in pronunciation to both Wantastekw and Wantastegok.


Let’s look at some details for Wantastegok/Brattleboro, at this relatively early date of British settlement. The east-west Turnpike which became the basis for Vt Route 9 has not been built yet (about 1800). The road existing at the time running westward was known as the Great Military Road, or the Albany Post Road, circa 1746. This was the road used for scouting and patrolling by militia between Fort Dummer (in the southeast corner of Brattleboro, not shown here) and Fort Massachusetts (in what is now Williamstown, MA) and onward to Albany, NY. It was a repurposed Native trail, a single-file footpath, as were all of the earliest roads. In fact, there is a good chance most of the roads shown on this map as dotted lines were of the same provenance. The courses of these roads as marked on the map are general and somewhat imprecise, and some are missing. The Great River Road, a major Abenaki trail running parallel to the west side of the Kwanitekw, which is now VT Route 5, was now enjoying benefits of the first bridge at the mouth of the Wantastekw/West River, opened in 1796, the year of this survey.

More to follow…

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4 thoughts on “Sokwakik, the Change Begins: Whitelaw’s Map of Vermont 1796”

  1. I have just found your blog and am really enjoying it. There is a wealth of information in here!

    This post is an excellent taste of a much deeper history. Thank you for sharing the map and the start of your analysis. It is a really nice complement to my understanding of the region, as an environmental scientist who is still relatively new to the area.

    And a detailed question – can you explain the “kw” ending of Kwanitekw and Wantastekw? I’m guessing it means something like “river” … ? I’m also curious how it is pronounced.

    Thanks again for all the great posts. I’m trying to limit myself and not comment everything …


    1. Denise, I welcome you to Wantastegok, an ancient and thriving landscape. Thank you for joining me on these adventures in relearning what it means to be in this place, through the spirits of the people who know it best, the indigenous Abenaki and their ancestors. Your background aligns well here and would bring an insightful perspective – I am interested to hear your observations.

      As for the structure of the river names Kwanitekw and Wantastekw, you are on the right track. Both share the morpheme -tekw, which signifies flowing water, and generally denotes a river, although not all Abenaki river names feature this application. The “w” at the end is voiced as a weak puff of air, an”oo” without much force. So -tekw virtually acts as two syllables.


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