Category Archives: travel

German Shortages of Wireless & Coal in the Pacific

From German Raiders of the South Seas, by Robin Bromby (Highgate, 2012), Kindle Loc. 370-385, 403-409:

The problem facing all the German ships was that their wireless stations had gradually been captured by the Australians and New Zealanders, making it impossible for them to locate any German colliers still in the region. The wireless station in New Guinea had been operating for only a month before the war had begun. The station was erected about fifteen kilometres inland, and in late July the Berlin company building the station had erected a temporary mast so the station could begin operating ahead of schedule. This station, and the one at Apia, were operating just in time to hear the news that they were at war. The Germans on Samoa had already started to wonder: von Spee’s squadron had been due to visit Apia on 27 July and considerable organisation had gone into the welcome celebrations. The failure of the ships to appear off Apia that day had been a great disappointment to the community.

Von Spee had been more concerned with saving his ships. He was not going to provide the British with a sitting target (and he was to learn on 27 August that Japan was in the war, too). At the beginning of August, he had been at Pagan in the Marianas Islands when his tour of the Pacific was interrupted. He had the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau and the collier Titania with him. He immediately ordered the Nurnberg to meet him there instead of in Samoa, and the rest of his fleet to make for that point as quickly as they could. Von Spee was aware of his ability to create havoc amongst British and Empire shipping, but it seems unlikely that he fully appreciated the degree to which uncertainty of his whereabouts in those early days had caused great consternation among British forces. No one was sure where he would turn up, which led to the delay in the departure of Australian and New Zealand troopships across the Indian Ocean for the trenches in France.

One significant problem facing the German Navy was the lack of coal and coaling stations to serve those ships once they had been commissioned. For example, the cruiser Dresden required 170 tons of coal every twenty-four hours in order to maintain a speed of twenty knots. Her total bunker capacity was 850 tons. This rate of consumption could be reduced by lower speeds, and some of the surface raiders frequently kept speed down to four or five knots between periods of action in order to conserve coal, but it was still necessary to have readily available re-coaling ports. To this end, the German navy set out to establish etappendienst, or staging posts, at various points around the world, backed up by orders to all German merchantmen that they must always be ready to take coal and other supplies to warships.

German colonies were the most secure form of etappendienst and, in times of conflict, sanctuary for German ships.

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Filed under Australia, Britain, energy, Germany, Micronesia, New Zealand, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, travel, war

Basque Pioneers in the Philippines

From Basques in the Philippines, by Marciano R. de Borja (U. Nevada Press, 2012), pp. 40-41:

Discussions of the outstanding Basque missionaries in the Philippines commonly start with reference to the apostolic work of Saint Francis Xavier, a Navarrese and a famous Jesuit missionary, on the island of Mindanao. Standard Philippine history books, however, do not contain any reference to Saint Francis Xavier’s exploits, since the veracity of his travel and missionary work in Mindanao has yet to be confirmed.

What is certain is that the first Spanish cleric, Fray Pedro de Valderrama, arrived in the islands during the Magellan expedition in March 1521. (There were supposed to be two clerics, but the other, a Frenchman, was left on the coast of Brazil.) His achievement was obviously limited. Although he celebrated the first Catholic mass and officiated the first baptisms, the seeds of Christianity never took root. The impact of the new religion on the natives probably dissipated right after the departure of the remnants of the Magellan expedition. The same thing happened with following Spanish expeditions.

It was only after the successful expedition of Legazpi and Urdaneta [both Basques] in 1565 that the Catholic Church was permanently established in the archipelago, starting in Cebu. As previously described, Urdaneta brought with him to the Philippines a contingent of fellow Augustinian missionaries, all of whom were Basques. Andrés de Aguirre, Pedro de Gamboa, Diego de Herrera, and Martín de Rada. Actually, Lorenzo Jiménez, a non-Basque, was also enlisted by Urdaneta, but he died in the port of Navidad before the expedition disembarked. Thus the Basques became the real pioneers in preaching the gospel and teaching catechism in the archipelago.

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Antarctic Cuisine: Aerovodka and Gristle

From Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine, by Jason C. Anthony (U. Nebraska Press, 2012), pp. 146-148:

One of the exchange scientists who spent a year on a Soviet base [in Antarctica] was glaciologist Charles Swithinbank. At Novolazarevskaya with the 1963–65 Ninth Soviet Antarctic Expedition, he lived a very different life than he used to in England. As Swithinbank relates in Vodka on Ice, he learned while sailing south on a Soviet ship that his diet would be impoverished in both quality and variety. “Apart from feast days,” he wrote bluntly, “the food was not good.” Cabbage soup (borscht or shchi, depending on the type of cabbage), ragout, and compote (“an insipid rust-colored liquid with a faint taste of boiled apples”) became distressingly familiar. The quality of the beef was quite poor, all gristle and bone. Soviet cattle, he learned, fed on sparse grass.

Although the meat was poor, the butter was excellent. So was the black bread. And those feast days really were exceptional. Swithinbank sobered up after a New Year’s celebration full of black and red caviar, pickled herring, pickled mushrooms, sausage, crabmeat, and more. A May Day feast included roast chicken, crab salad, ham, salmon, smoked salmon and sturgeon caviar, apples, oranges, champagne, brandy, and orange juice stoked with airplane de-icing fluid.

Toasts drunk with de-icing fluid, called “aerovodka” by the Russians, were not restricted to holidays. At Molodezhnaya base, where Swithinbank visited en route to Novolazarevskaya, he noted that there was a more frequent aviator’s tradition: “On landing back at base after a long flight, it was the duty of the navigator to drain a litre of fluid from the aircraft’s de-icing system. Unlike some de-icing fluids, this was pure alcohol (ethanol). Once indoors, it was served to the aircrew and passengers.” One observer of a similar U.S. Antartic Program habit—drinking a rocket fuel known as JATO (jet-fuel assisted take-off)—equated the practice to that of a “warrior culture drinking blood.”

At Novolazarevskaya, the dining room was the community social center. One long table fit them all. Here he spent his year of good company, good science, and terrible food. The cook, Ivan Miximovish Sharikov, had spent over thirteen years in the polar regions as a weather observer. “The oldest, tallest, baldest, and humblest man” on staff, Ivan took on the cook’s role at Novolazerevskaya when no weather job was available. For him, as for all Soviet Antarctic staff, the pay was irresistible, since he earned five times what he might make in Russia. Ivan was not much of a cook, though to be fair he had little to work with—much of the better meat left by the previous year’s crew had gone to rot. Ivan was stuck making borcht, shchi, fish soup with bones, boiled potatoes, and lots of ragout, to Swithinbank’s dismay. Ivan’s ragout, he wrote, consisted “of stewed gristle with chips of bone, generally served with macaroni. Aside from the gristle, far, and bone, the amount of lean meat remaining could be held on a teaspoon.”

Ivan at least made a reliable porridge to swallow with the bread and butter each morning. Occasional treats included caviar, sauerkraut, and cheese. Cucumbers and tomatoes grew in window boxes, and ice cream was made from milk powder and freshly drifted snow. Each Russian expedition member also received a monthly five-hundred-gram chocolate ration but married men saved it for their wives, whom they had left behind for a very long time.

After an end-of-year inventory revealed more than one hundred missing bottles of vodka, champagne, and eau de cologne from Novolazarevskaya’s liquor stock, Ivan the cook confessed. He had a habit of taking walks alone after dinner, but Swithinbank “had assumed that it was to get a breath of fresh air as an antidote to the heat of the kitchen.” The eau de cologne was, for some Russians, an “esteemed substitute” when they ran out of vodka.

When Swithinbank returned to England, he had trouble adjusting back to his old diet. Meat, fish, and cheese made him ill. He eventually found a doctor with a good memory of World War II who diagnosed him with prisoner-of-war syndrome. After a year of high-carb meals garnished with stringy meat, Swithinbank’s body could no longer absorb high-protein English food. “The solution,” he wrote, “was simply to wean me slowly from the Russian diet.”

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Wordcatcher Tales: Japanese nautical terms

I’ve always been fascinated by the great variety and complexity of nautical terminology, especially on sailing ships. I’ve encountered it mostly in my reading. I don’t really have much sailing experience, except as a passenger aboard ferries and ocean liners, plus the occasional opportunity to go aboard a museum ship. The four-masted, sail training ship Nippon Maru, which I explored last month in Yokohama, was a special treat because it offered a glimpse of sailing-ship terminology in two languages, Japanese and English.

rigging-types-signage

Running rigging and standing rigging


Here’s the text of the English translation on an explanatory sign about the rigging on the Nippon Maru. Though phrased rather awkwardly, it is very clear and instructive.

Running Rigging and Standing Rigging
Ropes which are used for moving yards, raising or lowering sails are called running riggings. The ship carries around 1,100 running riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for 14,938m. The number of blocks fixed with running riggings accounts for 854 in total. Running riggings have different kinds: Halyards, Sheets and Tacks to raise the sails and Downhauls, Clewlines, (Clewgarnet), Buntlines, (Leechlines) and Tripping lines to furl the sails. When spreading, it is necessary to loosen the rigging which is hauled for furling. When moving a yard, Braces will be used and to loosen the starboard side of the yard, the port side will be hauled. Wires to secure the mast and the bowsprit are called standing riggings. The ship carries 168 standing riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for about 3,678m. These riggings include the pieces of shrouds which are horizontally tied to ratlines to go aloft. Most of the standing riggings are placed at the back of the mast in order to handle loads induced by the wind pressure coming in from the back.

The Japanese terms for ‘running rigging’ and ‘standing rigging’ are 動索 dousaku ‘moving-rope’ and 静索 seisaku ‘still-rope’, respectively. (The matching Korean terms, dongsaek and jeongsaek, are cognate, and the suo ‘cable, rigging’ in Chinese shengsuo ‘rope-rigging’ is also cognate with J. saku and K. saek.) ‘Starboard’ is 右舷側 u-gen-gawa ‘right-gunwale-side’ and ‘port’ is 左舷側 sa-gen-gawa ‘left-gunwale-side’. (The kanji 舷 gen ‘gunwale’ also occurs in 舷灯 gen-tou ‘gunwale-lamp = running lights’ [on each side of the ship], 舷門 gen-mon ‘gunwale-gate = gangway’, and 舷窓 gen-sou ‘gunwale-window = porthole’.) The bow or fore part of the ship is 船首 sen-shu ‘ship-neck’ and the stern or aft part of the ship is 船尾 sen-bi ‘ship-tail’.

These terms were no doubt in use long before Japanese sailors became familiar with European-style sailing ships (before Date Masamune had his first Spanish galleon built in 1613). The same goes for terms like 帆柱 ho-bashira ‘sail-pillar = mast’ and 帆桁 ho-geta ‘sail-beam = yard(arm)’. Nevertheless, the Japanese text begins with the katakana synonym for ‘yard’ (yaado) followed by its kanji equivalent (帆桁) in parentheses, and employs exclusively katakana terms (borrowed from English) for ‘sail’ (seiru), ‘rope’ (roopu), and ‘mast’ (masuto). Why? Because the names for all the subcategories of nautical masts, sails, and rigging have been imported wholesale from English. At eye-level on each of the four masts is its name in katakana: foamasuto ‘foremast’, meinmasuto ‘mainmast’, mizunmasuto ‘mizzenmast’, and jigaamasuto ‘jiggermast’ (and ‘bowsprit’ is bausupritto). There are ways to write ‘front mast’ and ‘back mast’ in kanji, but it is much harder to differentiate four masts using traditional (Sino-Japanese) terminology.

Similarly, the name for every length of rigging on this modern square-rigged four-master is directly imported from English: ‘halyard’ is hariyaado, ‘sheet’ is shiito, ‘tack’ is takku, ‘downhaul’ is danhooru, ‘clewline’ is kuryuu rain, ‘clewgarnet’ is kuryuu gaanetto, ‘buntline’ is banto rain, ‘leechline’ is riichi rain, ‘tripping line’ is torippingu rain, ‘brace’ is bureesu, ‘ratline’ is rattorain, and ‘shroud’ is shuraudo.

The same goes for the names of every spar among the yards, as the following Yards chart shows. ‘Lower topsail yard’ is rowaa toppuseeru yaado, ‘upper (top)gallant yard’ is appaa geran yaado, ‘royal yard’ is roiyaru yaado, ‘spanker gaff’ is supankaa gafu, ‘spanker boom’ is supankaa buumu, and so on. The Korean translation (yadeu) of the chart title suggests that Koreans have also directly imported this specialized English terminology. (In the Chinese title, ‘yard’ is mistranslated as dui-huo-chang ‘stack-goods-place = freight yard’.)

yards-sign

Names of sailing yards

The last chart included here only confirms the extent to which English modern square-rigged sailing ship terminology has been imported wholesale into Japanese naval usage. Its title in Japanese is Jigaa masuto mawari bireingu pin haichizu ‘jigger mast around belaying pin arrangement-diagram’. The nautical terms of English origin, ‘jiggermast’ and ‘belaying pin’, are written in katakana, the native Japanese word for ‘around’ is written in hiragana, and the Sino-Japanese compound translated ‘arrangement-diagram’ is written in kanji. Although the Korean title is written entirely in the Korean alphabet, the breakdown of word origins is the same (and so is the word order): jigeo maseuteu ‘jiggermast’, jubyeon ‘around’, bireing pin ‘belaying pin’, baechido ‘arrangement diagram’.

In the Chinese translation, ‘jiggermast’ is rendered as 船尾小桅 chuanwei xiaowei ‘ship-tail small-mast’ to distinguish it from 后桅 houwei ‘rear-mast’ (= ‘mizzenmast’, cf. 前桅 ‘fore-mast’, 主桅 zhuwei ‘main-mast’). ‘Belaying pin’ is translated rather directly as 系索桩 jisuozhuang ‘fasten-rope-stake’. These Chinese nautical terms do not render the English sounds, as the Japanese and Korean equivalents do.

By the way, there is a mistake in the English translation of the directions at the top and bottom of the chart. Both directions are labeled ‘sternward’ in English, but in Japanese only the top arrow points sternward (sen-bi-gawa ‘ship-tail-ward’), while the bottom arrow points foreward (船首側 sen-shu-gawa ‘ship-neck-ward’).

belaying-pin-chart

Jiggermast belaying pin chart

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Wordcatcher Tales: kazari moufu, kissuisen

On my most recent trip to Japan, I had the chance to go aboard two museum ships in Yokohama harbor. One was the former Japanese naval sail training ship, the Nippon Maru, a four-masted barque with auxiliary diesel engines. The other was the NYK Hikawa Maru, a former luxury passenger liner built for North Pacific routes between Japan and Seattle/Vancouver. Both ships were built in Kobe and made their maiden voyages in 1930.

kazari moufu

Decorative blanket folding

飾り毛布 kazari-moufu ‘decoration-blanket’ — Last year, when we toured the Hakkoda train ferry museum in Aomori, we noticed some ornamentally folded blankets in some of the ship’s cabins. According to Japanese Wikipedia, the practice of folding blankets into decorative shapes—like origami in wool—originated in 1908 on the ships ferrying passengers across the Seikan Strait between Aomori on Honshu and Hakodate on Hokkaido. (There is no other Wikipedia article in any language on the decorative folding of blankets.) This year I noticed and photographed the same phenomenon in officers’ berths aboard the Nippon Maru and in first-class passengers’ berths aboard the Hikawa Maru. The Japanese Wikipedia article also links to the FAQ page of an OSK passenger liner named Nippon Maru, whose last entry addresses the question of kazari-moufu. The English version of an explanatory sign outside a passenger cabin on the Hikawa Maru follows.

Ornamentally folded blankets, called “decorative blankets (Kazari-mofu)”, were common during the age of passenger ships. The blankets were folded by stewards and placed with care on passengers’ beds. The designs included flowers (Hana-mofu), a sunrise, and even the helmet of a samurai warrior, generating anticipation among many passengers about the day’s creation. The designs of flowers were originally called “floral blankets (Hana-mofu)” but as stewards became more creative with their designs, the name changed to “decorative blankets (Kazari-mofu)” to better reflect their creations.

waterline labels

Waterline inside Hikawa Maru

喫水線 kissuisen ‘waterline’ — On the lowest deck of the engine room, there was a red line just over head-high on the inside of the ship’s hull that marked the normal waterline, labeled in katakana uotaarain (< ‘waterline’) and in kanji as 喫水線 kissuisen, which translates literally as ‘eat/drink-water-line’. The first kanji shows up in compounds such as 喫茶店 kissaten ‘drink-tea-shop (= teahouse, coffee shop)’ and 喫煙室 kitsuenshitsu ‘drink-smoke-room (smoking room)’. But 喫水 kissui also means the ‘draft (of a ship)’, so ‘eat/drink-water’ is probably better glossed here as ‘displace-water’.

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Wordcatcher Tales: heeltap, punkah louvre

You never know where you’ll learn a new English usage while traveling abroad. I came across a couple new ones while on vacation in Japan this month.

heeltap sign

Deposit Heeltap & Ice here

An English usage new to me appeared on a trash and recycling receptacle in Cafe Cuore atop Miraishin no Oka, a hill of white Italian marble imported and sculpted by Kazuto Kuetani on the grounds of the Kosanji Temple Museum. The Japanese sign reads nomi-nokoshi ‘drink-leftovers’ and koori ‘ice’, so the meaning was clear enough, but I had not encountered that use of heeltap before. The Kenkyusha Reader’s Plus dictionary in my little Canon Wordtank, however, listed heeltap with two definitions ‘heeled shoes’ and ‘drink-leftovers’.

punkah louvre

Punkah Louvre Instructions

Another phrase new to me appeared in a first-class cabin hallway aboard the NYK Hikawa Maru, a Japanese luxury passenger and cargo ship launched in 1930 to run between Japan and Seattle. It was nicknamed the Queen of the North Pacific, and carried Charlie Chaplin among other famous passengers. It was built to compete with the best at the time, and managed to survive the Pacific War because it was requisitioned to become a hospital ship and because its hull was engineered to withstand heavy northern seas and to stay afloat even after hitting a couple of underwater mines during the war.

From reading about British India, I was familiar with the punkah ceiling fan and the poor punkawallah whose duty was to pull the ropes to keep it in motion while his masters attended to other matters. Wikipedia notes that punkah louvre is used to refer to the air vents in passenger aircraft, but this usage for similar individually controlled air vents in passenger ships looks to be older.

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Wordcatcher Tales: minarai, shashou, tetsuya, akuma no daibensha

I learned a few more interesting Japanese etymologies from reading Delayed Departures, Overdue Arrivals: Industrial Familialism and the Japanese National Railways, by Paul H. Noguchi (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1990).

見習い minarai (lit. ‘see-learn’) ‘apprentice’ – The components of this native Japanese term for ‘apprentice’ are not only much easier to recall, but also far more positive than the standard Sino-Japanese term that renders ‘apprentice’ in many compounds, 徒弟 totei lit. ‘useless-younger.brother’. The kanji 徒 appears in such words as 徒心 adagokoro ‘fickle heart’, 徒物 adamono ‘useless thing’, 徒桜 adazakura ‘ephemeral cherry blossom’, 徒者 tadamono ‘ordinary person’, 徒労 torou ‘wasted effort’, 徒食 toshoku ‘life of idleness’, and 徒論 toron ‘worthless argument’.

車掌 shashou ‘conductor’ (lit. ‘car-handler’) – The native Japanese readings for the kanji 掌 include tsukasado(ru) ‘rule, administer, conduct’ and tanagokoro ‘palm, hollow of the hand’ (< ‘hand-heart’). It also occurs in such learned Sino-Japanese compounds as 掌中本 shouchuubon (lit. ‘palm-middle-book’) ‘pocket edition’ and 掌状 shoujou (lit. ‘palm-shape’) ‘palmate’. Train conductors hold our fates in their hands.

徹夜 tetsuya ‘all-nighter’ (lit. ‘pass-night’) – The tetsu in this compound has nothing to do with 鉄道 tetsudou (lit. ‘iron-road’) ‘railroad’. Its native Japanese reading as a verb is tooru ‘pass (by or through)’, always written with a synonymous kanji, 通る. In the JNR, 徹夜 tetsuya meant a 24-hour shift on duty with only 4 hours of sleep.

悪魔の代弁者 akuma no daibensha ‘devil’s advocate’ – When I first encountered just the romanized shape, daibenmono ‘mouthpiece’, in this book, I really wanted to analyze it as 大便物 (lit. ‘large-convenience-stuff’), rendering ‘mouthpiece’ into ‘(bull)shitter’. But the actual kanji are 代弁者 daibensha (lit. ‘change-speech-person’) ‘spokesperson, proxy’. The kanji 弁 ben can also mean dialect, as in 広島弁 Hiroshima-ben ‘Hiroshima dialect’. The kanji 代 dai has three broad clusters of meanings: (1) ‘age, generation, era, reign’, as in 六十代 rokujuudai ‘in one’s sixties’ or 六十年代 rokujuunendai ‘the 1960s’; (2) ‘change, proxy, substitute’, as in 代母 daibo ‘godmother’ or 代名詞 daimeishi ‘pronoun’ (‘proxy noun’); and (3) ‘rate, fee, price, charge’, as in 代金引き換え daikin hikikae ‘C.O.D.’ (‘charge reversal’). Now, add in one devil and you get 悪魔の代弁者 ‘devil’s advocate’.

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Wordcatcher Tales: hagitoriya, ekiben daigaku

I learned two new Japanese idioms related to transport in Delayed Departures, Overdue Arrivals: Industrial Familialism and the Japanese National Railways, by Paul H. Noguchi (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1990), on pp. 41 and 46-47, respectively:

Hagitoriya 剝ぎ取り屋 ‘peeling-taking-doer’
or hagashiya 剥がし屋 ‘causing.to.peel-doer’

Commuter culture is a common feature among all transportation systems. However, the JNR worker had to contend with the intensity of this culture in Japan more than his Western counterpart. Twice a day the major urban centers in Japan become transportation madhouses which pale the images of New York’s Grand Central Station. Commuters have acclimated themselves to a high tolerance for discomfort in an over-crowded mass transportation system and have devised complex strategies for coping with these stressful conditions. They have learned the technique of sleeping while standing as well as the best way to fold and read a newspaper to minimize the use of space….

A direct result of this overcrowding on commuter trains was the creation of a specialized occupation, the oshiya ([推し屋] pusher), whose job it is to make sure the commuter is safely shoved into the railroad car before the doors are closed. The counterpart of the oshiya is the hagitoriya [剝ぎ取り屋 'peeling.off-taking-doer', or hagashiya 剥がし屋 'causing.to.peel-doer'], or the one who pulls out passengers who insist on boarding an already overcrowded train so it can depart. Some of these trains carry more than than 200 percent of their rated capacity.

Ekiben daigaku 駅弁大学 ‘station-boxlunch-college’

Another part of the culture complex of the railways in Japan is the various box lunches (ekibentō) sold at many stations. For some older Japanese they are symbolic of railroad transportation itself. The box lunch sold at any particular station is distinctive to that station, and some have achieved considerable fame throughout the country…. These box lunches have persisted into modern times; even on the bullet train one can purchase a bentō as the train passes through a geographical region famous for a particular kind of box lunch…. A number of idioms built around ekiben have crept into the Japanese language. For example, in the postwar period after higher education was made more available to the Japanese masses, the nation witnessed a phenomenal growth in the number of colleges and universities under the new educational system. Obviously, these were not of the same calibre as the prestigious national universities and the selective private colleges. As station box lunches could be found almost anywhere, so, too, could these fourth-rate institutions be discovered throughout Japan. Hence they were labeled ekiben daigaku (station box lunch colleges).

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Wordcatcher Tales: Chuckatuck, Nottoway

During my recent trip to see relatives in southeastern Virginia, I got curious about some of the Native American placenames and the languages they came from. Eventually I came across a very comprehensive article in Wikipedia on Native American tribes in Virginia (whose main contributors have the usernames Til Eulenspiegel, Parkwells, and—early on—Sarah1607). In it, I found that those tribes include not just descendents of Algonquian speakers (like the Powhatan Confederacy), but also a few far outliers who once spoke Iroquian and Siouan languages. The area I was visiting was where the three language types once met.

The village of Chuckatuck is now a borough of the city of Suffolk (the “World’s Largest Peanut Market” and home of WLPM-AM), formed out of what used to be called Nansemond County. As an English colony, Chuckatuck dates back to 1635. Chuckatuck Parish church (now St. John’s Episcopal Church) was established in 1642, and George Fox himself established Chuckatuck Friends Meeting in 1672. (Some of my ancestors show up in Chuckatuck Monthly Meeting records, but there is no longer a Friends Meeting there, as I discovered on this visit.) A Chuckatuck grist mill operated continuously from 1676 to 1972.

Despite being a tiny riverport and crossroads town, it has its own Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation, and Chuckatuck Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. According to the Foundation’s website, the village name comes from Chuckatuck Creek, “or Crooked Creek as the Indians called it” (a tributary of the James River). Those Indians must have been Algonquian-speaking members of the Nansemond tribe. The Virginia Algonquian language is also known as Powhatan, and was the source of such English words as hickory, hominy, opossum, persimmon, and (corn)pone.

Nottoway Parish was the original name of Southampton County, Virginia. It was named after the Nottoway River, which was in turn named for the Nottoway Indians who lived along it. The name Nottoway appears to come from an Algonquian word for peoples who were not Algonquian speakers. The same name shows up elsewhere in two counties named Nottoway in North Carolina and Louisiana, streets named Nodaway in Iowa and Missouri, and Nadoway Point in Michigan, where it faces Iroquois Island in Whitefish Bay, Lake Superior. The wide-ranging Algonguians had many foreigners in their midst.

We know the Nottoway used to speak an Iroquian language because someone collected a wordlist in 1820 from one of the last elderly speakers and sent it to Thomas Jefferson, who shared it with Peter DuPonceau, one of the earliest experts in the indigenous languages of North America. A few more words were added to the list, but they are the only trace we have left of the language. Nevertheless, they suffice to show that Nottoway was closely related to Tuscarora, which is much better documented but now highly endangered.

Two other groups of Northern Iroquian speakers lived in the area. The Meherrin Nation once lived along the Meherrin River in Virginia, but migrated south to North Carolina during the early 1700s. They signed several treaties with the colony and are now one of the eight indigenous nations officially recognized by the state of North Carolina.

The Tuscarora people once lived around the Roanoke, Neuse, and Tar Rivers in North Carolina, but began migrating north after the Tuscarora War of 1711-1713. Those who reached New York became the sixth nation of the Iroquois who are nationally recognized in Canada and the U.S. But other descendants of the Tuscarora have remained in North Carolina, and some have moved to Oklahoma.

Of the eleven tribes recognized by the State of Virginia, only three groups are not of Algonquian heritage. The Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, Inc. and the Choreonhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe of Southampton County both descend from people who once spoke the same Iroquoian language.

The third group claims descent from speakers of Eastern Siouan languages (also known as Catawban). The Monacan Indian Nation gets its name from one of two historic tribes, the Monacan and Manahoac (or Mahock), who once lived in Piedmont Virginia and spoke languages (now extinct) closely related to Tutelo. The Tutelo fled north in 1740 and were adopted by the Iroquoian Cayuga in 1753. The ethnologist Horatio Hale, working among the Cayuga in Ontario, was the first to discover that the Tutelo language from Virginia belonged to the Siouan family. (He was also the first to identify the Cherokee language as Iroquoian.) So the Siouan language family once extended as far east as Virginia and the Carolinas and as far south as Biloxi, Mississippi.

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Four Notable Slaves and Two Generals

While visiting ancestral haunts and a few more famous historic sites in Southampton County, Virginia, in April, we pulled the car over in front of the Rebecca Vaughan house in Courtland and I got out to take a photo of it. Soon I heard a lady’s voice behind me asking, “What do you think?”

She turned out to be the head of the Southampton County Historical Society, which runs a museum in another historic site I had photographed near what used to be called Jerusalem Courthouse, when the county seat had been called Jerusalem. Perhaps she had followed us from there, because she followed us into Heritage Lane, where the Vaughan house sits, and back out when we stopped to take a photo.

The house is still being restored and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because it was the last house in which anyone had been killed during the Southampton Insurrection of 1831, more commonly known as Nat Turner’s Rebellion. (I read William Styron’s novel The Confessions of Nat Turner not long after it first appeared in 1967, the year I moved in with my uncle in Southampton County after finishing high school—in fact most of my childhood—in Japan.)

We two history buffs had a long and enthusiastic conversation that might have gone on even longer if it hadn’t been getting close to supper time. She named four famous slaves born in Southampton County.

1. Nat Turner (1800-1831), who led the slave rebellion in 1831.

2. Dred Scott (1795-1858), who left the County not long after his birth and died shortly after the landmark Dred Scott Decision in 1857.

3. Anthony Gardiner (1820-1885), whose family emigrated to Liberia in 1831, and who went on to become Liberia’s 1st attorney general (1848-1865), 7th vice president (1872-1876), and 9th president (1878-1883).

4. John Brown (c. 1810-1876), who escaped to England in 1850, where he dictated his life story to the president of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, which published it under the title, Slave Life in Georgia: A Narrative of the Life, Sufferings, and Escape of John Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Now in England (1855). (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin had appeared in 1852.)

I hadn’t heard of the last two men, but I had heard of the two Civil War generals she next told me about.

General George H. Thomas (1816-1870) born in Newsom’s Depot, Southampton County, acquired several epithets from his leadership during the Civil War: “Rock of Chickamauga,” “Sledge of Nashville,” and “Slow Trot Thomas.” Until very late in the War, the Union troops never crossed the Blackwater River to invade Southampton County, and my interlocutor suggested that Gen. Thomas may have had something to do with that. (I doubt it, for two reasons: he commanded the Army of the Cumberland in the Western Theater; and Gen. Ulysses Grant held him in low esteem.)

General William Mahone (1826-1895) once lived in Mahone’s Tavern, just across from Jerusalem Courthouse. Trained as a civil engineer at Virginia Military Institute (class of 1847), he was hired to build the railroad between Norfolk and Petersburg. (His wife, Otelia Butler of Smithfield, is credited with naming several of the stations.) During the War, he distinguished himself at the Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg. He had worked as a teacher before becoming a railroad executive, and after the War joined the biracial Readjuster Party. He was a strong proponent of education for freedmen and free blacks and helped found Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute in 1882 (now Virginia State University), the first fully state-supported four-year institution of higher learning for black Americans in the United States.

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