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      Indian History and Genealogy      

 

CHAPTER ONE: EARLY INDIAN HISTORY


It is not with a view to add to the number of facts already known concerning the aborigines of that portion of New England first settled by Europeans, that we present this account of the great and good old Massasoit and his lineal descendants for a period of about two hundred and fifty-seven years. It is not that we pretend to have recovered or re-discovered facts, for a time lost, in Indian history; for all we herein present, if never before in print, has, in manuscript or in carefully kept traditions, been known to, and in the keeping of, somebody. This history has been compiled in order that what has been written, as well as what has before found its way into type, together with many facts concerning the Indians never before written and never printed, but from generation to generation, from century to century, verbally transmitted from parent to child, may now for the first time be brought together, printed and published, and thus be made more available to students of our country's history, more easy of [2] access to everybody, as well as more secure from the possibility of loss. The evidences drawn from manuscripts, printed documents and Indian tradition, thus collected and presented in unity, add strength to our statements, and liken the thread of our discourse to a three-fold cord which is not easily broken - to three witnesses by which every word shall be established.

At the date when the landing of the Pilgrims took place at Plymouth, now two hundred and fifty-seven years ago, Massasoit was one of the mightiest of North American chieftains, his domain covering a very extensive territory, and, until visited by the plague that ravaged the country in or about 1617, occupied by a very numerous people.

Devastating was that terrible plague, annihilating whole families, and making households desolate; but to those who remained were spared their hearth-stones, their birth-places, their land and the inheritance of their fathers. Yes, the hunting grounds filled with game, the brooks, rivers, lakes and streams stocked with fish, their planting fields, and spots containing the graves of their ancestors, were left to them an untouched, uninjured and undisturbed possession. So terrible were the ravages of this pestilence, that wasted not only by night but also at noon-day, that the well were too few to care for the sick, and the living not sufficient to bury the dead, whose bones for several years unburied bleached in the sun, and were washed by the storms, till whitening the localities of their former habitations. Cruel as was the blow, still some mercy was mingled with the awful stroke. It was almost, but not quite, annihilation; a seed of the great people was spared. It was to the Indians like the outpouring of the vials of Almighty wrath; but an exhibition of wrath in which was also remembered mercy.

[3] The one great tribe, or union of tribes, over which Massasoit ruled as one people, was, at the arrival of the Pilgrims, recovering from the effects of the pestilence, and though slowly yet certainly re-peopling the land. Probably the plague had ravaged more upon the sea coast than among inland settlements, and this, together with the inclement season of the year when the Pilgrims landed, doubtless accounts for the fact that they had been on shore four days before seeing any Indians. That first sight was described by an early English writer, as follows: "They espied fiue or sixe people with a Dogge coming towards them who were savages; who when they saw them ran into the Woods and whistled the Dogge after them." This writer further informs us that the English pursued the Indians, which being perceived by the latter, "they ran away might and main, so that the English could not come near them."

Their next sight at the Indians was on the morning of Dec. 8, 1620, and was described as follows: *(I-1)

"Wee went ranging vp and downe till the Sunne began to draw low, and then we hasted out of the woods that we might come to our shallop .... By that time we had done and our Shallop come to us, it was within night and we betooke vs to our rest. .... About midnight we heard a great and hideous cry, and our Sentinell called out 'Arme, Arme'. So we bestirred ourselues and shot off a couple of Muskets and noyse ceased; we concluded that it was a company of Wolues or Foxes for one told vs hee had heard such a noyse in New-found-land. About fiue a clocke in the mornine wee began to be stirring. .... Vpon a sudden we heard a great and strange cry which we knew to be the same voyces though they varied [4] their notes, one of our company being abroad came running in and cryed, 'They are men, Indians, Indians'; and withall their arrowes came flying amongst vs, our men ran out with all speed to recover their armes. .... The cry of our enemies was dreadfull, especially when our men ran out to recover their Armes, their note was after this manner, 'Woath woach ha ha hach woach': our men were no sooner come to their Armes but the enemy was ready to assault them.

"There was a lustie man and no whit lesse valiant, who was thought to bee their Captaine, stood behind a tree within halfe a musket shot of vs, and there let his arrowes fly at vs. .... Hee stood three shots of a musket. At length one tooke as he said full ayme at him he gave an extreordinary cry, and away they went all."

This writer also says that after the Indians retreated the English picked up eighteen arrows, some of which were curiously "headed with brasse, some with Hart's horne and others with Eagle's clawes." *(I-2)

These accounts of the first discovery and first encounter with the Indians were doubtless penned by Richard Gardiner, who sent his manuscript to England, where it was published by Mr. G. Mourt under the title of "Mourt's Relation or Journal of a Plantation settled at Plymouth in N.E."

This attack upon the English was made by the Nauset Indians, and doubtless was led by their chief whose name was Aspinet, one of the numerous sub-chiefs who acknowledged allegiance to Massasoit. (See Appendix, No. I.) The place where the affair happened was called by the Indians Namskeket, but by the English "The First Encounter."

[5] It was into the hands of the Nauset Indians that the boy John Billington fell, when lost in the woods about six months after the event just cited, and concerning the recovery of whom an early historian relates that the Indian chief "Aspinet came with a great train and brought the boy with him," and that one Indian, when coming to water, took up the boy and carried him. They were met by the English near the place of that first encounter, *(I-3) and that early historian also informs us that Aspinet had "not less than an hundred," half of whom attended the boy to the Englishmen's boat, while the rest stood aloof with their bows and arrows, looking on. Aspinet delivered the lost boy to his English friends in a formal manner and "behung with beads." To the chieftain Aspinet for his kindness the English made the present of a knife, and also gave a knife to the Indian that found the lost boy and kindly entertained him till delivered to his friends.

Three days after the first encounter at Namskeket, viz., Dec. 11, 1620 (old style), the English landing took place at Patuxet, also within the dominions of Massasoit. To Patuxet the English gave the name of Plymouth. Some three months passed after the landing at Patuxet, now Plymouth, before the discovery of any more Indians, when suddenly and unexpectedly an Indian named Samoset appeared, and, to use the language of "Mourt's Relation" concerning that Indian, "He very boldly came all alone and along the houses strait to the rendezvous where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in as undoubtedly he would out of his boldness."

That historian continued that the Indian was naked, "only a leather around his waist about a span long. .... We cast a horseman's coat about him. He [6] had learned some broken English amongst the Englishmen that come to fish at Monhiggon, *(I-4) and knew by name most of the captains, commanders and masters that usually come [there]. He was a man free in speech so far as he could express his mind, and of seemly carriage. We questioned him of many things: he was the first savage we could meet withal. He said he was not of these parts, but of Moratiggon and one of the sagamores or lords thereof: had been 8 months in these parts it lying hence a day's sail with a great wind and five days' [journey] by land. He discoursed of the whole country and of every province, and of their sagamores and their numbers and strength. He had a bow and two arrows, the one headed the other unheaded. He was a tall strait man; the hair on his head black, long behind only short before; none on his face at all. He asked some beer, but we gave him strong water, and biscuit and butter and cheese and piece of a mallard; all which he liked well. He told us the place we now live in is called Patuxet, and that about 4 years ago all the inhabitants died of an extreordinary plague and there is neither man, woman nor child remaining, as indeed we have found none. All the afternoon we spent in communication with him. We lodged him that night at Stephen Hopkins house and watched him."

It was this Indian, Samoset, who on entering the English settlement at Patuxet, otherwise Plymouth, repeated those memorable words, "Welcome, Englishmen! Welcome, Englishmen!"


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