Chester Price and Indigenous New Hampshire Trails

In 1958, historian and archaeologist Chester Price wrote an article called “Historic Indian Trails of New Hampshire,” which was published in The New Hampshire Archeologist. This article was later revised and included a map, which was published in 1967.

Price described dozens of trails made and used by Indigenous peoples across what is now called New England. These trails include the Merrimack-Winnipesaukee Trail, the Connecticut Trail, the Newichwannock-Sokoki Trail, the Androscoggin, the Ammonoosuc, the Pemigewasset, the Asquamchumaukee, the Ossipee, the Chenayok or Sobagwa, the Contoocook, the Souhegan, the Coos, the Ashuelot, the Piscataquog, the Mascoma-Aquadoctan, the Quannippi, the Pentucket Trails, the Squamanagonek, the Cocheco-Wimminanebiskek, the Abenaki, the Suncook, the Sunapee, and the Massabesic Trail.

Figure shows Price’s map on the left, with trails drawn in ArcGIS; and on the right, labelled trails over USGS aerial imagery.

Price wrote that the trails created by Indigenous peoples were later used by colonial settlers and claims that these trails were vital to the survival and well-being of these early colonists; the trails enabled the colonists to navigate the unfamiliar landscape in a way they likely couldn’t have without this Indigenous knowledge and shaping of the landscape. Many of these trails would later become roadways further developed by settlers for their own transportation; some of which are the highways that still follow these early routes and can be traveled today (Price 1967, 2). In addition to trails crossing the land, waterways were also an integral aspect of Indigenous transportation and included lakes and rivers such as Lake Winnipesaukee, Oyster River, and the Connecticut River. Waterways allowed for quick and efficient transportation, especially to areas like camps used for seasonal fishing and occupation (Price 1967, 4).

According to Price’s narrative, these trails were the sites of rich history, both of Indigenous peoples and the interactions and conflicts between Indigenous groups and colonial settlers. One of such trails was the Abenaki Trail. This trail connected what is now Ipswich, Massachusetts, and what is now Maine through what is now New Hampshire’s towns of Hampton, Rye, and Portsmouth. Price wrote that this trail was used by Squanto, largely remembered today in American public education system as a friend of the Pilgrims who would later die of a disease brought by the new settlers, and by Samoset to travel between Massachusetts and Maine.

The Merrimack-Winnipesaukee Trail was another important trail that Price highlighted. This trail connected Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and led to the Amoskeag Falls, an Indigenous gathering place for the fishing of salmon, sturgeon, and shad (Price 1967, 7). The Merrimack Trail ended at the junction of two other trails, one of which was the Winnipesaukee Trail. The Winnipesaukee Trail traveled past Lake Winnisquam, Round Bay, and Wicwas Lake. Several settler forts were built along this trail by the colonial militia, one of which, Fort Clough, was used during the French and Indian War (Price 1967, 8).

While Price gave detailed and informative accounts of the trails he has researched, and credited the prosperity of colonial settlers to the presence of Indigenous trails, his writing was not free of colonialist language and ideas. For instance, he refers to Indigenous people as “savages” throughout his writing (Price 1967, 7). His work, while useful for learning about the Indigenous landscape of New Hampshire, must still be looked at through a critical lens.

Visit our Story Map to explore these trails!

If you are interested in learning more about the Chester Price article and map, consider reading “Georeferencing and Analyzing the Chester Price Map: A New Hampshire Native American Trails Mapping Study” by Tanya E. Krajcik, published in Volume 58 Number 1 of The New Hampshire Archaeologist.

Source: Price, Chester B. 1967. “Historic Indian Trails of New Hampshire.” The New Hampshire Archeologist, 14: 1-33

Map: Historic Indian trails of New Hampshire by Chester B. Price (image courtesy of Dartmouth Digital Library Collections)