Smile of the Great Spirit: Lake Winnipesaukee’s Native American Roots

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH
This landmark eight-foot tall replica of “Chief Chocorua” currently graces Indian Island in Meredith Bay, Lake Winnipesaukee.

On the northern shore of the big lake, dwelt the chieftain of the woodlands, Ahanton. He was renowned for his courage, but even more so for the beauty of his daughter, Ellacoya. Many warriors pursued her. Yet all were rejected until one day, Kona, a young chief from a rival tribe to the south, appeared in the village. In response to the legend of Ellacoya’s beauty, he had traveled across the lake in his canoe to win her hand.

Leading an expedition to expel invaders, Chief Ahanton was away when Kona walked into the village arrayed in an eagle-feathered headdress denoting him as chief of the enemy tribe. His fearlessness immediately gained the respect and affection of Ellacoya. It was not long before the entire village was won over by the bravery of the young chief. Before many days passed, Ellacoya and Kona were deeply in love. But their courtship was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Ahanton, back from his expedition. He recognized his enemy and was infuriated that Kona had taken advantage of his absence to pursue Ellacoya. Ahanton rushed at Kona with his tomahawk. Ellacoya leaped in front of her father to plead for the life of her beloved.

Now stand on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, look over the Broads, and hear the end of the story. An assembly of bark canoes made its way across the lake from the north. The canoes reached the middle of the lake. One canoe broke from the cluster. It continued crossing while the others stopped. The lone canoe carried the bride Ellacoya and her husband Chief Kona. Ellacoya had successfully pleaded for his life. Chief Ahantan, impressed by Kona’s bravery, had consented to their marriage. As the couple journeyed to Kona’s tribal territory, Ahantan and his tribe had escorted them to the mid-point of the Broads. Hundreds of eyes watched as threatening storm clouds gathered. Suddenly, the dark clouds parted and a single ray of sunlight shot across the sky illuminating the newlywed’s canoe. “This is a good omen,” shouted Chief Ahantan. “From this time on, these waters will be called Winnipesaukee for the great spirit has smiled upon my daughter’s marriage.”

Who wouldn’t want to live in such a romantic place as the Lakes Region? Part of its beauty is the richness of its history going back hundreds of years. In other places, gray skyscrapers and dark pavement obscure the past. But here, the sites of legends are still discernible.

The heritage of the Native American presence in this area is strongly reflected in the names. Even the legendary figures of our story are immortalized. Ellacoya Beach in Gilford stretches over 600 feet and looks out towards the Sandwich and Ossipee Mountains. In Moultonborough, what is now part of the national award winning community of Windward Harbor was previously a portion of the land that Herbert Dumaresq bought in the early 1900s. Dumaresq named his estate Kona Farm after the hero from the romantic story. The Ossipee Mountains stretching along the northern shore of Winnipesaukee derived their name from the Abenaki language. The Pemigewasset River which runs through many Lakes Region towns including Holderness, Ashland, New Hampton, Bristol, and Sanbornton, got its name from the Abenaki “Pemijijoasek,” which translates to “where side entering current is.” Squam Lake was originally known as Keeseenunknipee, meaning “the goose lake in the highlands.” It was later called another Abenaki name, Asquam, before being shortened to its present version. Lake Winona was named after a Native American princess who could understand the voices of birds. Lake Winnisquam, Opechee, Waukewan, Kanasatka, and Wicwas all derive their names from the Abenaki.

The Weirs is of particular historic interest. It was a gathering site for many New Hampshire tribes. The Abenaki called the spot Aquedoctan, which means “place of good fishing.” Every year tribes would arrive to capture the shad that migrated through the Weirs Channel. This passageway between Winnipesaukee and Paugus Bay provided a shallow natural sluiceway to net fish in baskets called “weirs.” Other major villages in the Lakes Region included Plymouth, Moultonborough (called K’chi-Nayok), and Ossipee. Smaller campsites were known to have existed at Meredith Neck; Bald Peak Colony Club in Melvin Village; Tuftonboro Neck; Clay Point in Alton; and Quannippi (Alton Bay).

A 1956 map entitled “Indian Trails by Chester B. Price” prepared by the State Planning and Development Commission shows many of our main roads were once major trails whose beautiful names have been replaced by the utilitarian. For instance, Route 3 from Lakeport to Northfield and continuing south was once called the Namaskik Trail. Route 11 and 11B from Alton Bay to Weirs Beach was the Winnebisagua Trail. The Co-Joss (Coos) Trail was a major route from southeast NH that passed through what is now Lakeport, along the west side of Paugus Bay through South Down Shores to the Weirs, continued along the west side of Meredith Bay through Grouse Point to Meredith, and north along what is now Route 25. In Center Harbor, the trail diverged due north and continued to Littleton. Route 109 from Wolfeboro to Moultonborough was part of another major trail from the seacoast called the Abenaki Trail. Route 132 from Ashland to Concord was once the Pemigewasset Trail.

When you drive around the Lakes Region, remember the story of Ellacoya and Kona hidden in time. These are the same waters, the same shores, the same trails where the events took place. Scientists say we live in a time-space continuum; that the events in the past are still taking place but we cannot see them as they now exist in another dimension; that time is like a train ride – you only see the scenery you are passing and not what you passed earlier or that which is to come. History calls Ellacoya and Kona’s story a legend. But somehow as you look out over the Broads of Winnipesaukee, you know it is true. Someday you may be able to breach the time-space continuum. The clouds concealing the past will part. A single ray of the sun will illuminate the lake and you will hear the gruff voice of Chief Ahantan shout in his unknown tongue, “Winnipesaukee!” – the smile of the great spirit.

The story of Ellacoya and Kona was recorded in a 1932 book by the New Hampshire Federation of Women’s Clubs entitled New Hampshire Folk Tales

This post was written by Mary O’Neill. 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on google
Share on reddit
Share on pinterest
Kevin Shaw - Roche Realty Group

Kevin Shaw of Roche Realty Group is Top Producer for 2020

LACONIA — Frank Roche, president of Roche Realty Group with offices in Meredith and Laconia, …

Read More →
Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Winnipesaukee, Newfound and Squam Lake Accolades

Winnipesaukee, Newfound and Squam Lake Accolades It’s always fun to read articles where Lake Winnipesaukee …

Read More →
Center Harbor, New Hampshire

Jaw Breaking Price Increase in 2020 vs. 2019

Last week I pulled up comparisons on year to date sales of waterfront homes on …

Read More →
NH Lake Sales Activity - picture of lake with mountains and homes

Lakes Region Waterfront Sales 2020 vs. 2019

We’re getting near the end of the year, and I thought I would pull up …

Read More →
condominiums on lake winnipesaukee nh

No Better Time to Sell Your Home

We’re heading into the holidays, and all the local Realtors® are busy. They are out …

Read More →
Picture of NH condominium home with pool

Affordable Housing is Always in Demand

There’s a lot of talk lately about the lack of affordable housing in the Lakes …

Read More →
Kitchen renovation

Small Improvements Make a Big Difference

During this past spring and summer, a large number of homeowners throughout the Lakes Region …

Read More →
Sales Volume and Prices of Luxury Homes Raising Nationally

Sales Volume and Prices of Luxury Homes Raising Nationally

Many national headlines are talking about the booming high-end vacation home market, in addition to …

Read More →
Support Small Businesses

Are we seeing a retail apocalypse?

During this past summer, I have been talking mainly about the exploding residential real estate …

Read More →
House and cash on a balance scale

Tips for Buyers in a “Seller’s Market”

We are currently experiencing a strong seller’s market here in the Lakes Region. 2020 has …

Read More →
Randy Miller Joins Roche Realty Group

Randy Miller Joins Roche Realty Group

Frank Roche, President of Roche Realty Group, Inc. with offices in Meredith and Laconia, is …

Read More →
Picture of a carpenter working on a floor

Lakes Region Construction Activity Update

It has been a wild summer out here in the Real Estate industry!  I thought …

Read More →
The Opera House in Laconia NH

The Vision behind the “Opera House” Renovation: Revitalization of the Lakeport Area

There is a lot of excitement brewing in the Lakeport area! Previously shuttered for decades, …

Read More →

Roche Realty Group Sells Trustworthy Hardware Building

Laconia – Tom Drouin of Roche Realty Group represented both the Seller and the Buyer of …

Read More →
Highland Ridge

Strong Demand at Highland Ridge With 20 Home Sales.

Sales of newly constructed homes throughout the Lakes Region have been very brisk the past …

Read More →
Hikers overlooking the lake in New Hampshire, voted "Best State to Live in America" in 2020.

New Hampshire Leads the Pack Again!

New Hampshire Leads the Pack Again! A recent article on moneywise by Esther Trattner showed …

Read More →

Hot Markets Around Lake Tahoe and Lake Winnipesaukee

I was reading a recent article on CNBC by Robert Frank the other day where …

Read More →
NH River Kayaking

Rolling down the river

A month and a half ago, we had a fun kayaking trip down the Merrimac …

Read More →

Historic Landmark is a Focal Point of Windward Harbor on Lake Winnipesaukee

Visitors to Lake Winnipesaukee have long recognized the special qualities of Windward Harbor. Its deep …

Read More →
South Down Shores on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

How Did South Down Shores and Long Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee Get Started?

When construction started in 1981, Laconia’s South Down Farm offered an ideal picturesque setting for …

Read More →
Balmoral on Lake Winnipesaukee

Four Season Living at Balmoral on Lake Winnipesaukee

There are so many water-access communities in the Lakes Region that provide great memories. Let’s …

Read More →

An Overview of Governor’s Island on Lake Winnipesaukee

Find Governor’s Island Homes for Sale The Lakes Region is known for its abundance of …

Read More →
Suissevale on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Suissevale: A Desirable Community on Lake Winnipesaukee in Moultonborough

When you navigate the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, there’s 71 square miles of water and 274 …

Read More →
Gunstock Acres in Gilford, NH

Gunstock Acres in Gilford: A Popular Water Access Community

Find homes for sale in Gunstock Acres We have so many interesting communities in the …

Read More →
The docks at South Down Shores in Laconia

The Impact of Second Homes in the Lakes Region

As I drive around the Lakes Region during this period of social distancing, I’ve been …

Read More →
At the top of Piper Mountain, New Hampshire

Hiking in New Hampshire

Hiking is an excellent (and free!) way to stay in shape, and the awesome feeling …

Read More →
Wolfeboro NH

Thankful to be Living in New Hampshire During This Difficult Period

All of us in the Lakes Region have seen a tremendous impact to our lifestyles …

Read More →

How we are embracing technology to continue to serve our clients and customers during this COVID-19 outbreak

The fast-spreading Coronavirus has created an enormous impact on all of us. Draconian measures to …

Read More →
Roche Realty Group Meredith Office

Roche Realty Group Reports Sales of $130.4 Million for 2019

Frank Roche, President of Roche Realty Group, Inc with offices in Meredith and Laconia, has …

Read More →
Kevin Shaw Realtor

Kevin Shaw of Roche Realty Group, Inc. Produces $36.6 Million in Sales for 2019

Laconia, NH – Frank Roche, President of Roche Realty Group with offices in Meredith and Laconia, …

Read More →
Warming feet by a fire at home

Home and Holiday

If you think about it, many classic Christmas songs (and movies) are centered on the …

Read More →
Thanksgiving for NH

Thanksgiving for New Hampshire

We have so many reasons to be thankful to live in New Hampshire. I have …

Read More →

There are many reasons to live in New Hampshire

It is said that the three most important words in real estate are “location, location, …

Read More →

2019 Parade of Homes to be held October 12-14

Get inspired this weekend with the latest in building trends and innovations! The 2019 Parade …

Read More →
White Oak Motel and Lakefront Cottages Sold

White Oak Motel and Lakefront Cottages Sold

Holderness– The White Oak Motel and Lakefront Cottages located on White Oak Pond has recently …

Read More →

Lakes Region real estate activity for the first 8 months has been strong

Article by Frank Roche, President of Roche Realty Group.    Real Estate activity for the …

Read More →

Historic Homes: Buy with Your Head as Well as Your Heart

Historic Homes: Buy with Your Head as Well as Your Heart I’d like to recommend …

Read More →
Northeast Storage has purchased a commercial building located at 57 Reservoir Road.

Northeast Storage purchases unique Reservoir Road building in Meredith

MEREDITH — Northeast Storage has purchased a commercial building located at 57 Reservoir Road. Tom …

Read More →
111 Church Street, Laconia

Former Lakes Region mental health building listed and sold by Roche Realty Group

LACONIA — Rick Hagan of Roche Realty Group in Meredith, NH represented the seller, Lakes …

Read More →

Live where others dream of vacationing

https://youtu.be/7G5Z4QRBzzc Weirs Beach is a recreation destination with something for everyone, including beautiful lake and …

Read More →
Gilford, NH landmark former restaurant sold

Former well-known restaurant in Gilford recently sold

Gilford, NH – A local Gilford landmark built in 1975 and operated as a restaurant …

Read More →
Lakes Region NH

Tips for buying a home in the Lakes Region

New Hampshire’s Lakes Region is an amazing place to own a home, whether it’s your …

Read More →
South Down Shores, a gated community on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Kevin Shaw of Roche Realty Group Inc. Produces Over $20 Million in Sales For 1st Half of 2019

Laconia- Frank Roche, President of Roche Realty Group Inc with offices in Meredith and Laconia, …

Read More →

Lakes Region full throttle during Motorcycle Week

You can already feel the area rumbling with visitors and activity this week as the …

Read More →

Is home ownership right for you?

There are advantages to both buying and renting, depending on your current lifestyle and financial …

Read More →

New Hampshire Ranked #2 Best State in the USA for 2019

The good news is out! New Hampshire as a state performed exceptionally well in a …

Read More →
explore nh lakes

Winnipesaukee Waterfront Sales Activity Spring 2019

The weather is getting warmer, the “Big Lake” is thawing out and the real estate …

Read More →
searching for homes on the internet

The homebuyer’s online search is like online dating

Searching for homes online can be a lot like trying to find love through online …

Read More →

The Importance of Getting Pre-Approved for Your Home Mortgage

If you want to be an attractive buyer in a competitive housing market, you’ll definitely …

Read More →
Lake Winnipesaukee, Moultonborough, NH

Moultonborough homes sold at highest prices, fastest pace ever

It’s a historical time to sell a single-family home in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. Data suggest …

Read More →

1 thought on “Smile of the Great Spirit: Lake Winnipesaukee’s Native American Roots”

Leave a Comment