“How did the Charles River get its name?”

Charles River at sunset in December. (Photo: Robert Bauer)

On an unexpected detour this weekend through South Natick, The Five-Year-Old (who’s reading now–YAY!) noticed a sign for the Charles River. After establishing that it was in fact the same Charles River that flows by the Museum of Science, she naturally wanted to know: “Mommyo, how did the Charles River get its name?”

He looks so shy and retiring. Can you believe this man would name anything after himself? (Portrait of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck, 1636. Image via Wikipedia)

Funny story. According to Wikipedia, when Captain John Smith mapped the New England area in 1614-15, he named the river the Massachusetts River after a local Native American tribe. But when he presented his map to King Charles I of England, the king made a few changes, as kings will do. One of those changes was to swap out the “barbarous name” Massachusetts for the more refined and regal Charles.

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