Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tsienneto- One of the Wee Folk?

On 12 April 1719, the Reverend James MacGregor gathered his newly arrived flock of Ulster Presbyterians under a large oak tree at the east end of Lake Tsienneto, now called Beaver Lake in Derry, New Hampshire. This was the first act of the new settlement, called Nutfield at first because of the oak tree. It was also the first sermon heard and the beginnings of the First Parish Church, which still stands in Derry today.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, my mother’s uncle, Arthur Russell Hitchings, owned a large summer farmhouse on the north side of Beaver Lake, on the corner of North Shore Road and Chester Road (Route 102). The farm house still stands. Her uncle used to ride the “Milk Train” from Derry to Chelsea, where he was the CEO for Forbes Publishing Company. This was the train that carried Hood’s milk from Derry to the bottling plant near Boston. My mother remembers swimming in the lake, across the street from the summer house, but after her uncle retired he removed to a house in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire.

It is unknown what the word Tsienneto means in English. According to urban myth, Tsienneto was one of the local Indian spirits of the lake. Others say it was a word from Northern Ireland for one of the fairy folk. Both meanings are similar enough to have some basis in a fact which has long been lost to time… Although the lake is now commonly called Beaver Lake, there is still a Tsienneto Road nearby.  I found two poems about Tsienneto at the Google Books Search…. Both poems have imagery of canoes and Native Americans.

Poems by Ralph Henry Shaw, Lowell: Press of the Morning Mail Company, 1885, pages 23 and 24.


Sweet water glade!
I come once more to gaze on thee,
And in the maple’s branching shade,
To listen to the wild-bird’s glee
That, in each little, margent wood,
Befits the heart’s ease of my mood.

Here in thine edges hyaline
I see the leafy maples green
Inverted, till I seem to be
Now gazing on the spirit realm;
As when but sleep is at the helm
Our craft of though, all silently
Glides into realms of fantasy.

I see the belt of sunshine gleam
Like silver, midway on the thy wave;
And in my fancy’s idle dream,
The glancing paddles in thee lave,
Still dipped by them who knew of yore
They gentle wave and pebbly shore.

Their wigwam still is nestled here;
Their birch canoe is still on thee,
Tsienneto, like the birch’s shade;
For fancy makes our fancy clear;
For things unseen may sometimes be
So plainly in our mind’s eye made.

Found in Granite State Magazine, edited by George Waldo Browne, Volume 4, (July to December, 1907) pages 19 and 20.


By Henrietta W. R. Frost

Tsienneto (pronounced Shaw-ne-to), which word means “Sleeping in
Beauty”, in the Indian name applied to the beautiful sheet of water
Nestling in among the hills of Derry, N. H., and commonly called Beaver
Lake, whose outlet, Beaver River, flows into the Merrimack- Author

O calm, serene Tsienneto!
Asleep at break of day.
The birches bend still nearer
To hear the winds at play.

For nestled on thy bosom
Sweet Nature loves to rest,
And only those who bend to hear
Can learn the song in quest.

I fain would learn the story
The birds have sung so long.
O tell it me, I pray thee!
I’ll give it back in song.

I’ll don the spirit of repose
And lay me down and dream,
And watch the clouds float airily
Above this spot serene.

Where “Jenny Dickey’s” waters
Come tumbling o’er the hill,
The maiden-hair and columbine
Have flourished long at will.

The beech and birch and hemlock
Have shaed pool and fall,
And heaven’s cerulean blueness
Has tenderly crowned all.

Primeval forests long ago
Surrounded ev’ry shore,
And red men roamed the uncut way
And sailed these waters o’er.

This was the “happy hunting ground”
Where Wonnolancet brave,
And chief of all the Penacooks,
His hunting lessons gave.

And Hannah Dustin walked these shores
In days of dire distress;
When life meant action to the hearts
Who stood for faithfulness.

Methinks I hear the paddle’s sound,
And see beneath the trees
The war-time dance; the wigwam’s smoke
That came from such as these.

But ‘tis a dream. Tsienneto sleeps
In beauty undismayed.
The “pipe of peace” still burneth;
We need not be afraid.

The white man claims these borders
Where once the red man trod,
And bird and beast and tree and flower
Still live to worship God.

For more information:

Nutfield Rambles, by Richard Holmes, Peter E. Randall Publisher, Portsmouth, NH, 2007 page 12 says that Tsienneto was an Indian word for a local fairy or wood nymph.

Tsienneto: A Legend of Beaver Lake, by R. N. Richardson, 1907

A blog post about Tsienneto by Peter M. of the blog New England Folklore at


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Tsienneto- One of the Wee Folk?", Nutfield Genealogy, posted June 23, 2011, ( accessed [access date]).

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