Captain John Smith’s 1616 map of Maine and Massachusetts Bay was the first to bear the name “New England.” Best known for his leadership in establishing the British colony at Jamestown, he returned to the Americas in 1614 to chart the coast of what was then called “Northern Virginia.” He covered an area of 350 miles, from the bay of Fundy down to Cape Cod, in an open boat of no more than 30 feet in length. In spite of the primitive surveying tools he had at his disposal, his map was accurate to within 10 miles.
At the request of Crown Prince Charles, native place names were replaced with the names of English cities. Accominticus became Boston, Aumoughcawgen; Cambridge. Some names indicated on the map have survived to modern times, while others have not. The Smith Islands are the present day Isles of Shoals. Cape Cod remained Cape Cod, in spite of Princes Charles’ attempt to rename it “Cape James.”
Names that have persisted include that of the Charles River, Cape Ann, and, notably, Plymouth. Though it is widely believed that the Pilgrims named Plymouth for their port of departure, it was, in fact, previously designated by Smith, who described it as “an excellent good harbor, good land; and no want of any thing, but industrious people.”