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A History of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
Chapter I  Nomenclature

THE word Tatamagouche or Tatmagoucbe is of Indian origin, and, according to Rand, the great student of the Micmac language, is a corruption of the Micmac Takumegooch. The root of this word is Takumoog, which means across or lie down across. The termination och (often oochk) is a typical example of the Micmac locative termination which gives the word the meaning of ploce where or at the. Thus, the meaning of the whole word taken literally is, lying across place or at the place which lies across (some other). The application of the word is quite evident. French and Waugh’s rivers clearly meet at right angles, that is, they lie across each other. Moreover, the rivers themselves after their junction, meet the harbour in a similar manner.

“For the principal river to enter an elongated bay not at its head in line with it, but some distance from its head and at right angles to its course, is certainty an unusual geographical feature, and just such as the Indians noticed and used as distinctive in their purely descriptive place nomenclature.’’

The only difficulty in the application of the word is to decide whether it refers to the meeting of the rivers or to the meeting of the rivers and harbour. Local traditions say that it applies to the meeting of the rivers, but it is more than probable that these two natural occurrences in close vicinity gave rise to the word.

The change from Takumegooch to Tatamagouche was made by the French who, according to their custom, caught and recorded as -t- the Indian sound which the English catch as -k-. It was of course from the French that we received the word.

From notes made by W. F. Ganong, Ph. D., to whom the writer is indebted for this explanation of the word.

+ Since writing the above the writer has had a conversation with Lone Cloud, intelligent Micmac Indian, who has assured him that Tar-me-gooch (as he pronounced it) meant where two rivers met and the current of one crossed the current of the other. This should remove all doubt as to the meaning of the word—local tradition has been amply confirmed.

Some say that the word means a large beaver dam. Traces of beavers have been found in the vicinity, and so at one time a large dam may have been constructed somewhere near this place by these industrious animals, or possibly the Indians used the word to describe the large body of water partially enclosed by Ross’ and Weather-bie’s points, which to a certain extent resembles a large dam.

When the name was first applied to this place is unknown. The earliest written record is in the year 1738, when Le Loutre refers to it as “Tahamigouche”. As may be expected, the early spelling of the word is varied. No less a person than Haliburton has shown that he even did not know which was the correct spelling, for in his history published in 1829, he spells the word in two ways, “Tatamagouch” and “Tatmaguish”. On old charts it is sometimes spelled something like this, “Patameragouche”. However, as years went along only two spellings namely, Tatamagouche and Tatina-gouche, survived among the educated. Men of authority as late as twenty years ago, indicated by their persistent usage that they believed the latter spelling to be the correct one, but the former has now been generally accepted.

The name, Tatamagouche did not survive without a struggle. Col. Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres, who was the first landlord at Tatamagouche, accepted this old Indian name, but not so the first Scotch settler, Waugh, who in many of his land transactions speaks of himself as belonging to “Southampton, district of Colchester, County of Halifax.” In 1794, in a lease to James Langille, he describes the lands as lying “on Point Brule on Southampton Harbour”. Waugh, as far as we know, was the only person at Tatamagouche to use this name, and it is indeed difficult to understand why he should have attempted to affix it to his new abode. We should naturally have expected him to endeavour to perpetuate the name of one of the many places in Scotland which were dear to his heart. It is interesting to notice DesBarres and Waugh in contemporaneous documents persisting to call the same place by different names. These men, like ail others, had many differences, but on this occasion, fortunately perhaps, the old warrior won out. Tatamagouche is to be preferred to a name borrowed from a town in England, with which, so far as we know, there was no historic connection. DesBarres, while he made no attempt to change the original name, did make an effort to perpetuate his name elsewhere. Barrachois Harbour, outside the Narrows, he called Joseph Harbour, while the waters beyond Cape John and Malagash Point, he named Frederick Bay. It is doubtful if these names were ever used by any one save DesBarres himself, and they have long since sunk into oblivion, and would forever remain there if it were not for old charts and deeds.-

Another word about which there has been a difference of opinion, is Gouzar, a word which for many years has designated the basin of water at the head of the bay. It has always been supposed that th( Indians used the word to describe the place because of the abundance of geese which gathered there in spring and fall. This explanation is erroneous. One of the first settlers there was a man by the name of Gousar or Geeser. Hence the name. In 1786 it is referred to as Port Gouza.

There are two other local names which need a few words of explanation. These are Brule and Barrachois. The former is the French word for burnt land and formerly was applied only to that long landscape that ever since has borne this name. Doubtless a,t one time it had been visited by a disastrous fire which left it shorn of vegetation. The latter word is found quite frequently in the Maritime Provinces and means either a lowland or a sand bar. It does not occur in the French of today, at least not in the modern French dictionary, and probably was first coined by the French Acadians to describe those tracts of low land often found in Nova Scotia.

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