By Sylvester Baxter
, a member of, and by permission of, the Maiden
In looking up some data in early local history I have just come across something that seems to throw a light upon one of our old geographical names whose origin has always puzzled me and which, so far as I know, appears to be unknown.
The Mystic river
—which geologically has a peculiar interest as having in the preglacial period actually been the Merrimac
, carrying the greater stream by a short cut from near Lowell
to Massachusetts Bay
—has, since the first settlements, borne two names in different parts of its course, although the entire valley has been known as that of the Mystic
From its confluence with the Charles
, near the Navy Yard
, up through its tidal reaches, or what were tidal until the building of the dam and locks at Medford
, up to the Mystic Lakes
, it has been called the Mystic
Above the lakes, from Wilmington
down through Woburn
, it appears to have been always known as the Aberjona
, a name that is found in the early records of Woburn
Since most of our names of rivers, ponds, hills, etc., are of Indian origin, it has usually been assumed to be an aboriginal designation.
To many, however, the name, with its ‘jona,’ has suggested a Scriptural derivation.
And since many place-names have come from those of persons living in the neighborhood, it has also been somewhat fantastically suggested that perhaps the name is a corruption of ‘Abbie Jones' river,’ just as the Greater New York borough of the Bronx
derives its picturesque name from an old-timer named Broncks.
But there is no evidence in behalf of either of these assumptions.
Just now, however, having had occasion to look up some facts in relation to the famous expedition of the three Sprague
brothers, Ralph, Richard and William, pioneers in the settlement of Charlestown
, across country through the woods from Salem
, I find that in the Charlestown
records it is related that this party ‘lighted ’