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#1 Feb-19-2019 12:49:pm

Registered: Sep-17-2007
Posts: 4307

Springfield Remembered: Street Name Origins, Part 1

Springfield Remebered: Street Name Origins, Part 1


February 19, 2019 at 11:29 AM

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/springfie … ins-part-1

{illustrations at the link}

SPRINGFIELD, NJ – The street names in town are usually easy to deduce, whether they are of a geographical feature, a surname of local notable people or real estate developers, or simply the town name itself, such as South Springfield Avenue.

Almost every day since moving to Springfield, I’ve driven down Wabeno Avenue and home to Owaissa Avenue. I made an educated guess they were of Native American origin and further deduced that they were probably related to the Lenape people given our local pre-colonial history and having made several trips to the Trailside Nature and Science Center in the Watchung Nature Reservation.

What is the origin of Wabeno and Owaissa?

I contacted Jim Rementer, Director of the Lenape Language Project in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He didn’t recognize the words as part of the Lenape language. But he did reach out to a colleague, Ray Whritenour who has worked on the Lenape language for many years.  He confirmed the words were not of Lenape origin but he did provide an answer to the question.

The words Wabeno and Owaissa can be found in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1855 poem, The Song of Hiawatha:

In the lodge that glimmers yonder In the little star that twinkles Through the vapours, on the left hand, Lives the envious Evil Spirit, The Wabeno, the magician, Who transformed you to an old man. Take heed lest his beams fall on you, For the rays he darts around him Are the power of his enchantment, Are the arrows that he uses.'

“…Shawondasee, fat and lazy, Had his dwelling far to southward, In the drowsy, dreamy sunshine, In the never-ending Summer. He it was who sent the wood-birds, Sent the Opechee, the robin, Sent the blue-bird, the Owaissa…"

Longfellow used many Native American words throughout the poem utilizing the writings and spellings from the works of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft was an American geographer, geologist, and ethnologist noted for his early studies of Native American cultures. It is also noted that Schoolcraft didn’t pay close attention to the linguistical nuances in his studies.

Though Hiawatha is an Iroquois hero, Longfellow's poem is set in Minnesota, and most of the Native American words he uses in it come from the Minnesota Indian languages of Ojibway (Chippewa) and Dakota Sioux.

The meaning of Wabeno and Owaissa based on Longfellow’s use of the words from Schoolcraft’s works are “the blue-bird" and a “magician or juggler" respectively as referred to in the poem.  However, these are the Anglicized version of the original Ojibway words waabano for Indian of the Magical Dawn Society and ozhaawanowesi for Eastern Bluebird.

Longfellow’s poem is also not primarily based on the Iroquois legend of Hiawatha but rather on the Chippewa legend of Nanabozho, a rabbit spirit who was the son of the west wind and raised by his grandmother.

On The Map

The earliest known map that shows Wabeno and Owaissa Avenues is on an 1882 Plan of Springfield Township map. The plan shows Wabeno Avenue starting at Springfield Avenue which will later become Meisel Avenue, crossing Linden Avenue, then continuing over Maryland Avenue which was never created. That road ended at would one day become Flemer Avenue, to be renamed Mountain Avenue.

Owaissa Avenue runs parallel to Wabeno Avenue crossing the same streets and continuing over the area of what is now Jonathan Dayton High School ending on Flemer Avenue opposite of what will later become Caldwell Place.

Also running south and parallel to Wabeno and Owaissa Avenues is Opechee Avenue, another Ojibway word. That road was never built. Coincidentally, 1882 was the same year that Longfellow died.

, Wabeno Avenue connects the county roads of Meisel Avenue and Mountain Avenue. Owaissa Avenue is much shorter than originally planned and starts at Meisel Avenue and ends at Garden Oval.


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