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Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire: Ruined Monument to Man Saved by Pocahontas

Captain John Smith, the man who coined the name "New England," gets no respect. His once-impressive monument, erected in 1864, has been reduced to a ruined base with a weather-hammered bronze plaque.

Star Island, Isles of Shoals, NH
Take the ferry from Portsmouth to Star Island. At the turnstile to the Vaughan Cottage Museum, take the poison-ivy-covered path to the south, empty side of the island. You'll see a tall obelisk, but that's actually a different monument. The ruins of the John Smith monument are beyond it. The walk should take about 10 minutes. Wear long pants to protect from poison ivy, and hold a stick above your head to ward off attacking seagulls.
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Ruined Monument to Mr. Pocahontas

Captain John Smith -- the man saved by Pocahontas -- has a nice statue in Jamestown, Virginia, the colony that he founded in 1607. But in 1614 he came here, to this cluster of tiny islands six miles off of the New Hampshire coast. He named the islands after himself, sailed back to England, published a map that first referred to this region as "New England" (and that finally convinced Europeans to colonize America), and never returned.

By 1864, Smith's 250th anniversary, no one called these the "Smythe Isles" any more. A monument was erected to Smith here in that year, but its main purpose was to lure visitors to a new summer hotel. The monument was a tall marble pillar, covered with an inscription, set on a triangular granite base. At the top were three carved heads, representing the heads of the three heathen Turks that Smith had lopped off as a mercenary Crusader in Transylvania.

Granite and marble proved no match for New Hampshire weather. First the heads were blown out to sea. Then the inscription was sandblasted flat. Then the entire pillar was blown away in a storm. In 1914 a bronze plaque was bolted to the ruined base. That's the state of the monument today -- plus 90-something years of abuse from salt, sun, ice, water, wind, and seagull poop.

[ Team, 12/03/2005]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Pleasure Ground - Tiny FiguresPleasure Ground - Tiny Figures, York Harbor, ME - 10 mi.
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In the region:
Salem Witches Hanging Site, Salem, MA - 36 mi.

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