Meaning of the word Mattapan
Mattapan was the name for the area of the Massachusetts Bay Colony settled by immigrants who arrived in the New World on the ship Mary and John in June, 1630. In September of that year the Massachusetts General Court officially re-named the area Dorchester. The change was undoubtedly was due in part to the influence that the Reverend John White of Dorchester, England, had exerted on the formation of a company to settle Massachusetts and to the fact that many of the passengers on the Mary and John were from the West County of England near Dorchester.
C. Lawrence Bond suggests that the name Mattapan (originally Mattapanock) derives from the native word Matta = matchey - evil and pan = panaeu - it is spread about and ock - land or place
or Evil spread about place
He says: In 1617 a pestilence killed so many Indians in what is now South Boston, that they lay unburied. For many years those who escaped [the sickness] returned to hold memorial services at what became K Street. In 1630 a ship load of Puritans settled there and called it Dorchester, named for the place they had left in Dorsetshire. Eventually that part of Dorchester was transferred to Boston, and the name, Mattapan, was revived for a village on the Neponset, without knowledge as to its significance.
Bond indicates those who have previously provided opinions on meaning. JCH is John C. Huden, but DL does not appear in the key. Perhaps Bond meant Joseph Laurent who appears in the key as JL.
1. A Sitting down place (for rest after a carry.) DL
2. He sits down (or) End of portage. JCH
JCH thinks it highly probably it referred to the them temporary setting down place of the new-comers.
The American Philosophical Society website says: During the 19th century, Native Americans such as Sequoyah and Joseph Laurent advanced the knowledge of their languages by producing the first writing systems, dictionaries, and grammars of these languages. Huden was the compiler of Indian Place Names of New England (New York: Heye Foundation, 1962)
Note: Dorchester once stretched almost to the Rhode Island line. Many towns were made from Dorchester over the centuries. The main portion of South Boston was removed from Dorchester and added to the city of Boston in March of 1804. The area around Andrew was transferred in May of 1855, and finally what then remained of Dorchester was annexed to the city on January 1, 1870. Mattapan became the name of the village in Dorchester that grew up around the upper falls of the Neponset River, while the lower falls became known as Lower Mills.
-C. Lawrence Bond. Native Names of New England Towns and Villages: Translating 211 Names Derived from Native American Words. 3rd ed. (Reading, MA, 2000), 43.
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Created: March 2, 2013 Modified: March 2, 2013