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CHAPTER II. WAMSUTTA, alias ALEXANDER


[37] WAMSUTTA was the eldest son of Massasoit; or, if not the first born son, he was, by the decease of those older, or other cause at present unknown, the oldest of whom history has furnished us any knowledge. The date of this son's birth is unknown; he came to historic notice as early as 1639, under the name of Moonanam. This name, according to a custom common among the natives, he soon after changed. Hence, two years later, viz., 1641, he appeared under the name of Wamsutta, *(II-1) and about fifteen years later he accepted from the English at Plymouth the name of Alexander, which he retained until his death.

Namumpum, alias Tatapanum, alias Weetamoo, became the wife of this the eldest son of Massasoit, in or before 1653. She was called the "squaw sachem of Pocasset," and as such she claimed not only to rule the Indians of that section of country, but she also claimed a title or ownership to the land in her own individual right, which last claim would seem to make it appear that she had been the wife of a sub-chief before marrying this oldest son of the great chief Massasoit - or, if not the wife, then the daughter of a sub-chief who at his decease left no son to inherit his lands and honors.

Wamsutta appears to have been inclined to sell to the English these lands claimed by his wife, disposing of the same by deeds of sale, sometimes with and sometimes [38] without her consent. It was perhaps this willingness exhibited on the part of Wamsutta to sell, that led to the sale of March 9, 1653, already described in the last chapter, and the selling of Hog Island, Feb. 7, 1653, the first named with, and the other without, first obtaining the consent of his father. Wamsutta also signed the deed of ancient Dartmouth, Nov. 29, 1652, which seems to have been with the consent of his father, although the latter did not sign the deed.

April 2, 1659, Wamsutta and his wife, who was then called Tatapanum, joined in a deed to twenty-six of the ancient freemen of Plymouth Colony, thus transferring to the latter a tract of country lying easterly of Taunton and Assonet Rivers, and which subsequently became the township of Freetown, including nearly all of what is now Fall River. The consideration of that deed was as follows: "20 coats, 2 rugs, 2 iron pots, 2 kettles and 1 little kettle, 8 pair of shoes, 6 pair of stockings, one dozen of hoes, one dozen of hatchets, 2 yards of broadcloth, and a debt to be satisfied to John Barns which was due from Wamsutta unto John Barns before the 24th of December, 1657." On the date last mentioned, Wamsutta had given a bond for a deed of the above tract, therein enumerating what he should receive for the same, which was precisely what he acknowledged, in the deed of April 2, 1659, that he had received. (Appendix, No. 11.)

Wamsutta, in 1653, made sale of a tract of country that his wife objected to, and she therefore appeared before the colonial court at Plymouth, and urged her objections, and "The court agreed to doe what they could in conuenient time for her relief." This affair was finally settled and amicably adjusted, as the following copy of the early colonial records fully shows:

I, Namumpum of Pokeeset, hauing in open court June last, fifty-nine (1659) before the governour and magistrates [39] surrendered up all that right and title of such lands as Woosamequin and Wamsetta sould to the purchasers; as appeers by deeds giuen vnder theire hands, as also the said Namumpum promise to remoue the Indians of those lands; and also att the same court the said Wamsutta promised Namumpum the third part of the pay, as is expressed in the deed of which payment Namumpum haue received of John Cooke this 6 of Oct. 1659, these particulars as followeth: item; 20 yards blew trading cloth, 2 yards red cotton, 2 paire of shooes, 2 paire stockings, 6 broade hoes and 1 axe; And doe acknowledge receiued by me, Namumpum.

This document was witnessed by the Indians Squabsen and Wahatumchquatt, and two of the English.

April 8, 1661, Wamsutta sold to Capt. Thomas Willet a tract of land that included what is now Attleborough, Mass., and Cumberland, R.I., and also parts of the present towns of Mansfield and Norton. (Appendix, No. 12.)

The death of Massasoit is thought to have occurred in or about the year 1661, or some forty years after the landing of the Pilgrims at Patuxet, now Plymouth. Mr. Drake, in his excellent history of the Indians, says that Massasoit was alive as late as September, 1661, and we think he must have died in the last part of that year, or very early in 1662, as in the latter year he was succeeded by Wamsutta, his son, as chief of the Wamponoags. It is a noticeable fact that Wamsutta had been selling lands for several years prior to this date, and perhaps he did so in the capacity of a sub-chief.

Wamsutta lived but a short time after coming to be the chief ruler of his people, his reign commencing in the very year of his death.

Some of the English settlers at Boston, having visited the Narragansets, wrote to Mr. Prince, then [40] governor of Plymouth Colony, *(II-2) informing him that Wamsutta had solicited the Narraganset tribe of Indians to engage with him in a war against the English. Capt. Thomas Willet *(II-3) was sent as a messenger to Wamsutta, whose place of residence was at Mount Hope, to desire the latter to repair to Plymouth for the satisfaction of the English and his own vindication. Capt. Willet informed the chieftain of the story in circulation concerning him, at which Wamsutta seemed to take no offence, but remarked that the Narragansets were the enemies of himself and his people, and that this was an effort of theirs to put an abuse upon him, and involve him in difficulty with the English. In short, if we can credit English writers of that day, Wamsutta readily agreed to attend the next session of the colonial court, held at Plymouth, that this charge against him might be investigated. But when the time arrived for the session of that court, instead of visiting Plymouth, he was charged with being on a visit to the Narragansets, his pretended enemies. As Wamsutta did not appear at Plymouth at the time appointed, the governor and magistrates of that colony decided to order Josias Winslow, of Marshfield, then major commandant of the colonial militia, to take a party of soldiers, and search for Wamsutta, and compel his attendance at court in Plymouth. (Appendix, No. 13)

Supposing Wamsutta to be at his home at Mount Hope, Major Winslow took only ten men from Marshfield, intending to increase his force from the English [41] settlements lying nearest Mount Hope. But Massasoit, and his sons Wamsutta and Philip after him, had several temporary residences between Mount Hope and Plymouth; one of these residences being in what is now Raynham (Appendix, No. 14); another in the Titicut part of Middleborough; and a third at Munponset Pond, in what is now the town of Halifax (Appendix, No. 15). At a hunting house in the place last named, Major Winslow found Wamsutta and quite a number of his men (one authority says 80), who appear to have been taken wholly by surprise, and their arms that were standing together a short distance from the house were all seized by the English, who then beset the house, and taking Wamsutta prisoner, desired him to walk a little aside that Major Winslow might communicate to him the cause of this proceeding, and also the orders he had received concerning him. A brother of John Sausaman being present acted as interpreter. On receiving from Major Winslow the message, Wamsutta showed anger, and replied that the governor had no reason to credit unfavorable rumors or to send for him in such a manner, and that he would go to Plymouth when he saw cause. Wamsutta being unarmed, Major Winslow presented his loaded pistol at the breast of the chieftain, requiring him to retract his expressed determination, and an immediate compliance with the governor's demand; and at the same time threatened Wamsutta with death upon the spot if he still refused; but with none effect.

Hereupon the interpreter interposed, and asked to have a few words with the sachem before he answered, which prudent discourse between the two red heathen, so unlike the passionate zeal of the white christian, so softened Wamsutta, that upon his "second sober thought" he yielded and consented to go with Major Winslow and his party to Plymouth, provided "that [42] he might go as a sachem with his men attending him," and not as a culprit or a prisoner, - "which," as the early English writer continues, "although there was some hazard in it, they being many and the English but few, was granted him." The weather being hot, the Major offered Wamsutta a horse to ride, but the chief's wife and several other Indian women being in the company, Wamsutta declined the offer, saying that he could go on foot as well as they, and asking only that the speed of their travel might be regulated so that the females might properly comply with their pace; and this was accordingly done.

Wamsutta and his Indian companions were taken to and lodged in Major Winslow's house, and courteously entertained there until Governor Prince, who resided in Eastham, should arrive.


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