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      Indian History and Genealogy      


"Like the shadows in the stream"
Local Historians, The Discourse of Disappearance and
Nipmuc Indians of Central Massachusetts

An abbreviated version of this paper was read at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass., May 20, 1999, as part of a evening public program titled, "Like Shadows in the Stream: Indian History and Historians," with Jean O'Brien of the University of Minnesota, moderated by Barry O'Connell of Amherst College. From a work in progress on New England Indian history, this paper was provided by Dr. Doughton to the Quinsigamond Band of Nipmucs and first made available through Nipmucnet, the Band's website. It is offered here with the permission of the author and cooperation of the Quinsigamond Band of Nipmucs, an association of Nipmuc Indians and friends based at Worcester, Massachusetts.

©1999, Thomas L. Doughton

        In one of the more widely read nineteenth-century texts on New England Native Americans, Samuel G. Drake's Book of Indians, the Nipmucs were labeled "long extinct." When first mentioned by English immigrants in the 1630s, Nipmucs were described as a powerful nation, the only Natives of the interior of Massachusetts. They occupied a series of homelands bounded by the New Hampshire border stretching from Sudbury to the Connecticut River, extending south towards Hartford along the river, incorporating northeastern Connecticut and northern Rhode Island, continuing through Mendon and Medway back to the Sudbury, Marlborough and Concord area. Here, near lakes, ponds and headwaters of Charles, Assabet, Chicopee, and Miller's, French and Blackstone rivers lived the "Nippiemook" or "Fresh Water People" in an extensive territory called "Nippienet" or "The Land of the Fresh Water People." Yet many historians of the nineteenth century—like Samuel Drake—, assured readers that the Nipmucs had "vanished," "disappeared," or "faded away," or in lines frequently quoted in histories, gone "Like the shadows in the stream/ Like the evanescent gleam/ Of the twilight's failing blaze/ Like the fleeting years and days."

In nineteenth-century New England, across works of history, fiction and reportage was created and solidified an obstinate discourse of disappearing Indians that claimed the region's aboriginal people had already vanished or were doomed to disappear. At times contradictory, if not duplicitous, this discourse is, on the one hand, an attitude of the dominant culture toward New England's past imagining that Indians had become "extinct." On the other hand, it is an ideology of vanishing Indians that refuses to "see" the continued presence, persistence and survival of the region's nineteenth-century Natives. In countless town chronicles, newspaper articles, fictional treatments and poetic works—all reinforced through a visual iconography, New England Indians take on the presence of an absence. Natives become "people without history," people without "a place," absent from the social landscape, their collective identity as Native, in both past and present, "erased."

Writing at the time of public controversy concerning "Removal," William Biglow, the first historian of Natick, found that "many of the vices both of the savage and civilized state" had led to a virtual disappearance of "the tribe of Aborigines which was first civilized and Christianized in North America …similar the fate of most, if not all the tribes in New England.
" He added that, "Whether a better destiny awaits the Red Men of the south and west, is known only to Him, who created them. The prayer of every Christian, of every philanthropist must be, Lord, have mercy on them, and protect them from their adversaries—Lord, have mercy on their persecutors, and touch their hearts with feelings of humanity, of pity and of justice." According to Charles Hudson, historian of Marlborough and Sudbury, in the "light of rational philosophy, or a pure and elevated religion," the "disappearance of the native tribes should fill us with rejoicing rather than with regret." If "sympathetic beings," affirmed Hudson, we "naturally" commiserate with the fate of Indians, but they are "destined to perish under Divine administration." Still in Hudson's opinion no "acts of injustice or cruelty" are justified since "an expiring nation, like an expiring individual is justly entitled to our sympathy and kind assistance." Similarly, the knowledge that they are destined to perish, furnishes "no more justification in accelerating their doom, than the belief that any of our friends were sick unto death, would justify us in adopting measures to hasten their departure." The aboriginal Nipmucs of the towns described by Hudson were "crude and uncivilized," and "in the Providence of God seem destined to fade away." Indeed, for others there might be "melancholy in the reflection that the natives of these hills and plains have all disappeared," in such a way that nineteenth-century residents "live and thrive on the ruins of the past." Natives were doomed to disappear, however, "such is the order of Providence." [Note 1]

Likewise, "a whole race of people has become nearly extinct," an "unfortunate people, whose fate it has been, like the morning dew, insensibly and mysteriously to disappear, before the lights of civilization and christianity," reported the North American Review in 1819. "That they should become extinct is inevitable," the journal explained but "this cannot excuse us for pressing upon them with indecent. If they must perish, let them die a natural, and not a violent death." [Note 2]

As many thinking Americans of the time agreed and William Tudor Jr. told Harvard's Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 1815, "in a short period they will exist no where else and even in the next century, the Indian warriour and hunter will perhaps only be found on the shores of the Pacific." Three years earlier an elderly John Adams had written to Thomas Jefferson of his "Interest in the Indians and a Commiseration for them from my childhood," recalling Natives as "frequent Visitors to my Fathers house," but added, "we scarcely see an Indian in a year." Reflecting comparable sentiments, in 1818 Niles Weekly reported "this people is rapidly passing away," however, the periodical informed its readership that " 'It will not tell well in history' that nothing was attempted, with strong arm to save them… That they are destined to disappear from vast tracts of rich country which they inhabit, seems manifest…but it is desirable that their descent to extermination should be easy—that they should have every comfort which their condition is susceptible of, —that a remnant should be saved as long as possible to stand as a monument of the national humanity." [Note 3]

Echoing comparable sentiments Judge Joseph Story inquired, "what can be more melancholy than their history?" At a commemoration of the town's founding in 1835, Story explained to Salem residents that "By a law of their nature, they seem destined to a slow, but sure extinction. Everywhere, at the approach of white man, they fade away. We hear the rustling of their footsteps, like that of the withered leaves of autumn, and they are gone for ever. They pass mournfully by us, and they return not." In these opinions, it could be argued that Story, likewise, reflects the general attitude of thinking New Englanders of his period. Judge Story (1779-1845) was a son of an early patriot, who was one of the Sons of Liberty participating at the Boston Tea Party and who served in the Continental Army. During his long career, the younger Story was a U.S. Supreme Court justice, legal scholar, congressman, and professor of law Harvard. According to historian Paul Finkelman, for example, "growing up in the aftermath of the Revolution, Joseph absorbed from both of his parents republican values, Unitarian theology, a heritage of Puritan idealism, a fierce sense of nationalism, and an unbending dedication to public service."

The year following his Salem oration Story wrote to his son that he was reading Irving's Life of Columbus, which "proves, and sadly proves (what I have ever believed) that the Europeans were always the aggressors of the natives in America, in all their contests, and that the sins of all the murders and desolations on these shores are attributable to their baseness and avarice and detestable passions," claiming "I never think on the subject without bitter regrets and undisguised indignation." The same letter contained the following sentiments:

The poor Indians! They will soon be exterminated in Florida, where the war is now waging. On their part it is now a desperate struggle for existence; and I have no doubt but they will all perish in the contest. In the course of a few years, not a relic will be found in all America of this heroic race. Their history will be lost in uncertain traditions. The white man will tell the story of their disappearance in his own way.
[Note 4]

Where Story described a "rustling" like "withered leaves of autumn," other comparable images proliferate, employed in a variety of period texts to illustrate the disappearance of Indians. "They've vanished, they have fled," like "the shades when the dawn is red" or like "the evanescent flush of twilight on the lake" or "like snow-flakes in the stream" in the work of Isaac McLellan.
[Note 5] For Charles Sprague, Indians "slowly and sadly …climb the distant mountains, and read their doom in the setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is pressing them away; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave, which will settle over them forever." Natives were doomed "as the snow melts before the sunbeam" or "like a promontory of sand, exposed to the ceaseless encroachments of the ocean, they have been gradually wasting away before the current of the white population which set in upon them from every quarter." According to Tudor, Natives had "dwindled into insignificance and lingered among us, as the tide of civilization has flowed, mere floating deformities on its surface, poor, squalid and enervated with intoxicating liquors," so that they "diminish and waste before" civilization "like snow before the vernal influence." Similarly, as early as 1819, Henry Clay employed what he called a "figure" drawn from the "sublime eloquence" of Indians that "the poor children of the forest," had been "driven by a great wave…overwhelming in its terrible progress" from the Atlantic to the Rockies, leaving "remains of hundreds of tribes, now extinct." Even individual images of "brittle leaves" repeat, an 1847 novel of "forbidden" love between an Indian and Euroamerican woman in Boston of the 1670s claiming "One by one they perish, like the leaves of the forest that are swept away by the autumn winds; melancholy shrouds them; they die of sadness, and are effaced from the earth by an inexorable destiny."

        Characteristic of the period are also statements published in the U. S. Literary Gazette of 1825 describing Natives as "wretched remnants of nations," who are "the oppressed and desolate few…the scanty, forlorn, and powerless intruders, who are glad to hide their misery in any corner whither they may go, when we bid them crawl out of our way." The same writing claimed that Euroamericans "have allied ourselves with pestilence and famine, and that far fiercer foe to humanity than either, intemperance; and they are well nigh extirpated." Equally representative was a remark of Tudor in the North American Review of 1816 that "the present generation" in Massachusetts, "who cultivate their fields in peace and security…never see an Indian except it be in some itinerant group, whose appearance and occupation are not unlike the Gypsies of Europe." [Note 6]

For some New England commentators of the antebellum period the disappearance of Indians, although "sad" or "melancholy" was not only unquestionably accepted but at the same time considered desirable. As Jared Sparks, "the grandfather of American historians," expressed it in an 1824 review of James Buchanan's Sketches of the History, Manners, and Customs of the North American Indians:

We do not go to the length, however, to which some tender hearted persons allow themselves to be carried, in deploring the fatality by which the Indians have been made to resign a part of their ancient domain, and leave a portion of the soil for the foot of the white man in the new world. In our view, the sum of human happiness is quite as great, and the glory of the creation quite as much advanced, by the ten millions of white, civilised, [sic] enterprising people now spread over the United States, as they would be one tenth part of that number of semibarbarous red men, the wild and restless tenants of the wilderness, unimproved by the march of ages, and unsubdued by the discipline of time. Our smiling fields, our farm houses and villages, our crowded cities and thriving commerce, these and all the other testimonies of the ever active powers of social man, are fruits of what some have called the usurpation of foreign intruders…if the savage and the civilised man cannot live together, who will hesitate in deciding the question which shall retire before the other? [
North American Review, 19 (October 1824) 464]

Similarly, an equally influential Edward Everett, asserted that while a "wave" of white population was "daily encroaching" upon Natives, it was becoming "common to speak of them as a much oppressed and wronged race, to deplore their extinction, and to form projects for their preservation and civilization." He asked: "Are they then a much injured and oppressed race, or rather is their gradual extinction and disappearance a great and crying injustice?" What he labels "barbarous tribes" have "but a partial and imperfect right in the soil; that they cannot allege a prior occupancy of the forests and plains, which they do not in any civilized sense occupy." Everett concluded, "If this be so, a civilized company of emigrants have a right to land and settle on a savage coast."

Settlers "possessing the arts of civilized life, enjoying the blessings of government, and backed by powerful countries beyond the sea," would be "likely to advance in population: while Natives would decline. Forests would disappear replaced by cornfield, which "feeds the white people, but starves the red people." Thus, in Everett's phrase, "the very first step to feed and support the new comers aims at the extinction of the savages."

Such notions of Euroamerican "entitlement" to Indian lands had long been accepted by New Englanders. For example, when a twenty-one year old schoolmaster at Worcester, John Adams could note in his diary:

Consider, for one minute, the Changes produced in this Country, within the Space of 200 years. Then, the whole Continent was one continued dismall Wilderness, the haunt of Wolves and Bears and more savage men. Now, the Forests are removed, the Land coverd with fields of Corn, orchards bending with fruit, and the magnificent Habitations of rational and civilized People. Then our Rivers flowed through gloomy deserts and offensive Swamps. Now the same Rivers glide smoothly on through rich Countries fraught with every delightful Object, and through Meadows painted with the most beautiful scenery of Nature, and of Art. The narrow Hutts of the Indians have been removed and in their room have arisen fair and lofty Edifices, large and well compacted Cities. [
L.H. Butterfield, Leonard Faber & Wendell D. Garrett, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, 4 vols., (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), I, 34]

Accordingly, Sparks, Everett and other authors merely rework what had become a cliché in New England writing. As Everett maintained in a review of Morse's 1820 Report to the Secretary of War on Indian Affairs, "the extinction of the Indians has taken place by the unavoidable operation of natural causes, and a natural consequence of the vicinity of white settlements." For Everett, none of the Indians were "aboriginals, in the literal sense of the term," since many Indians "at a very late period, and at no very remote period, had driven out some of a still "more oppressed and injured race.' " For these reasons, he concludes:

Let others then mourn over extinguished Pequods, and lament the vanished tribes of Naticks and Narragansetts;—for ourselves, while we would not insult the inferiority of their savage races, we rejoice in the memory of the pilgrims…Since then it was not possible that the savage races could be perpetuated and the civilized settlements flourish, we see neither matter of regret nor commiseration in the course which events have taken…in short we regard the disappearance of the natives in New England as full and final proof, that their preservation, within limits of a white population, is impracticable…Men have talked of the melancholy vanishing of the native tribes, as if but for the Europeans, the successive tribes would not have vanish; and forgetting that the hunting ground of fifty savage families would feed and does feed a large city of civilized christians…it is better that we be civilized than savage; and it is no just cause for melancholy reflection, that so much barbarity, heathenism, and moral degradation, have been succeeded by so much improvement and civilization. [Note 7 ]

        Certainly, numbers of Nipmucs and other Massachusetts Indians had decreased in the colonial period. Many scholars, for example, accept estimates that in the 130 year period from 1620 and 1750 thousands of Indians perished: 10,000 through warfare with Europeans, 2,500 killed outright, 795 from wounds in battle, and another 6,000 through capture, enslavement, hunger, exposure and displacement all related to defeat in various conflicts. By comparison, despite accepted notions of slaughters or massacres on both sides, between 1798 and 1898, Indians killed 7,000 white soldiers and civilians with an estimated 4,000 Natives dying in the same period. The decrease of New England Natives in the colonial period is, therefore, substantial yet the accepted "disappearance" of local aboriginal people is, for many reasons, curious and perplexing. The accepted "disappearance" of local aboriginal people is not really a "disappearance," since supposedly disappeared Nipmucs lived in regional towns. Many local residents, including several town historians were on familiar terms with them, and we encounter Nipmucs in a variety of nineteenth-century source materials.

        In 1819, the Uxbridge Selectmen, for example, petitioned the Worcester County Probate Court to appoint guardians for Samuel Johns, "an Indian …who by excessive drinking so spends and wastes his estate as to endanger and expose" the town to expense "for his maintenance;" while years earlier, he had appeared before the County justices of the peace for "swearing a profane oath" while inebriated. At Natick, Massachusetts, in 1821, Hannah Dexter, an Indian "doctoress," was burned to death. At Westborough in 1822, Polly Johns, "an Indian woman one of the Grafton tribe so-called…found sick, in a hut by the side of a swamp…wholly destitute of any necessaries of life—and unable to help herself," was cared for by a town resident until her death. Patience Job, who died at Barre, Massachusetts in 1834, according to her published obituary, "long been distinguished for her talents and general reading…by her industry and economy…had procured a sufficient quantity of money to purchase a large collection of well selected books, which she presented to the town," her body "at her request…given to the attending physician for dissection."[Note 8]

        "Remnants of a vanished race," these individuals are among regional Nipmuc Indians who allegedly had already "disappeared" or become "extinct." If not already "disappeared," other Indians were in the process of "disappearing" like Polly Pegan Nedson and husband Joseph Dorus who "spent most their time tramping" around the Brimfield, Sturbridge, and Monson area in the 1820s and 1830s, "turning up every few weeks begging for food and the privilege of sleeping in barns." During colder weather, with their children Esbon, Joe, Charles and Diantha, they would sleep on floors of kitchens in white households near fireplaces, while in the summer they would "camp out in the woods near some ponds for weeks at a time." Often "old blankets and quilts," were kept for them, since they never bought any clothes and "wore cast-off garments of the white people."

        To support themselves, the Dorus family "fished, snared partridges and rabbits…and raided the farmers' cornfields and potato patches." They also made "a few baskets which they traded mostly for rum." Considering themselves entitled to take trees for basket materials, the Dorus family "never hesitated to cut a tree for basket stuff when they saw one they wanted, no matter whose land it was on." Occasionally Joshua Buckingham, a Sturbridge Native and spouse of Polly Dorus's sister, Asenath Nedson, "travelled with them," and, together, they would "sit under a tree and send one of the boys to the house for food." A young Esbon Dorus, "once came in and asked for bread and cheese and pickles…after eating they all lay down and slept for several hours." Polly Dorus had "occasional fits," thought "caused by too much rum," while Joe Dorus was "witty and sarcastic, and very fond of cider." He called himself a "doctor," and carried "a bundle of dirty packages, which he called his medicines in an old leather bag."

        In the 1830s, Nedsons and several relatives lived on land remaining from the Nipmuc reservation at Woodstock, "swingling flax, chopping wood, weaving baskets and chairbottoms when not too full of liquor" until "one by one they succumbed to drink or disaster." James Nedson, for example, was "killed by a falling tree" while his "aged mother Meribah was thrown in the fire by a drunken savage."

        The Quan family —James and Sarah, four sons, and a daughter "had a shanty" near Alum Pond at Brimfield but "would sometimes be gone for months." Sarah made "cakes, did them up in walnut leaves and baked them in ashes," and was frequently "peeling birch brooms, making baskets." One of the Quan sons "in going into a barn to sleep, got among horses and was fatally kicked." Another son "was frozen to death by the roadside" while his wife later "was found frozen in a swamp where she had gone to cut basket stuff." Quan's widow, also known to Brimfield residents as Sarah or Polly Green was a celebrated cook "said she was a doctor and carried herbs in her basket." She was "jolly and fond of children," frequently giving white children "snake root and sweet ciceley out of her medicine bag." On foot she often traveled from Brookfield where a married daughter lived, stopping at Brimfield along the way to Holland, but supposedly Sarah was "fond of cider as other Indians were." [Note 9]

        Along with the Dorus family, the Quans were described in a newspaper article later in the century as "real Indians in their Native condition," neither noble nor brave, but "a dirty wandering set who did no good to anybody, and our only respect for them rests on their being the first occupants of the soil."

        In local town histories, nonetheless, are other abundant examples of allegedly vanished Indian individuals and families. Not always, but frequently, these are represented as doomed, dissolute, and degenerate. Some Nipmucs lived in towns, pursuing conventional occupations, living in stable households, their Indianness "unseen" by whites. Several Nipmucs portrayed in rich detail, for example, lived in the once extensive cedar swamps of Westborough in a squatters' community of Natives, African-Americans and whites who were "shiftless" or insane. In other town chronicles Nipmucs are represented as quaint, and colorful "characters," around whom grew persisting oral historical traditions. Often Natives are depicted as drunken, debased "remnants," with all of the vices of whites and none of the virtues. Frequently, however, local Indians are presented as the "last of …," the "last of…" almost a tribe unto itself, dozens of men and women supposedly the "last Nipmuc."

        Although collectively their message portrays the disappearance of Nipmucs, many local histories of the period thus confirm what Jean O'Brien has called the "paradox of Indian presence," and what I have labeled the discourse of disappearing Indians. We would, I suspect agree, that historical narratives argue erasure while at the same time providing a wealth of sometimes very detailed information confirming Indian presence and persistence.

        Well into the 1850s, few—whether advocates or opponents of aboriginal people— challenged the inevitably of Indian extinction, which anchored itself in the accepted "fact" that Indians of the East had already faded away. Indeed, much of the literature expresses Indian disappearance. The vanishing Indian appears repeatedly in fiction, poetry and drama. Travel texts, guidebooks and logs of exploration of newer parts of the continent claimed by Americans highlight the vanishing Indian. Essayists and critics accept Indian disappearance. The proliferation of reprinted eighteenth-century captivity narratives and chronicles of earlier Indian wars rely upon Indian extinction.

        Aboriginal disappearance was also re-enforced in the visual and plastic arts, whether in landscape paintings where Natives are invoked as if picturesque equivalents of European ruins or as if props in historical genre paintings glorifying the arrival of Europeans, foreshadowing Indian extinction. Similarly, some of the period's more celebrated works of sculpture by Horatio Greenough and Hiram Powers, for example, represent vanishing Indians as visual and plastic arts competed in portraying Indian disappearance.

        Local historical texts of the same period in proposing an American "creation story," correspondingly, employ the vanishing Indian as a stock character. Indeed, the disappearing Indian is omnipresent, justifying many of the most cherished beliefs of nineteenth-century Americans about who they were. Uniformly and employing the same idiom of extinction, they aimed to resolve the contradiction between championing a republic supposedly dedicated to democratic ideals and Eurocentric expansionism carving a transcontinental nation wrested from its aboriginal occupants. All of this is, in my work, labeled a discourse of disappearing Indians. It expresses a longing or a desire to provide an answer America's "Indian Question," but in the central New England region, as was true elsewhere, this desire to be free of Indians produced historical narratives that were patently counter-factual.

        On the one hand, Nipmucs remained present officially for the Commonwealth. Bay State Indians were not citizens but wards of the state until enfranchised in 1869. Considered "minors" at law, their affairs were administered by state-appointed guardians and local Indians were frequently visited by legislative committees: through the 1860s Nipmucs at Grafton, Worcester and Webster were described, their communities enumerated and in their names inscribed in official reports.[Note 10 ]

        Additionally, through a legislative Act of 1859, John Milton Earle, Worcester politician and newspaper publisher, was appointed to investigate the social condition of Massachusetts Indians and advance recommendations whether they should be placed on the same legal footing as other residents of the Commonwealth. Submitted to the General Court in 1861, Earle's report contained three sections: a 132-page narrative; a proposed act to enfranchise Bay State Indians; and an appendix of seventy-eight pages, listing Native families, a so-called "census." His labors are documented in the extensive John Milton Earle Papers at the American Antiquarian Society [AAS]. Statewide, Earle enumerated 1,126 individuals, in 291 families for whom the Commonwealth was guardian. Earle also tallied 322 individuals in eighty-seven families as "Miscellaneous Indians" whose heritage was not apparent to him. Aggregate totals in Earle's Report were 378 families comprising 1448 Indians, excluding 162 non-Indian spouses.

        Among them Earle also identified 181 men, women and children, connected to Nipmuc Indian families, including forty-eight persons at Worcester. [Note 29] Many of these Nipmucs Earle enumerated are part of families documented in other state records of the period. Between 1790 and 1813, for example, twenty-seven Nipmucs received cash payments from guardians of Indians at Grafton. Between 1786 and 1829, guardians at Grafton also sold twenty real estate holdings, on behalf of sixteen individuals, and in 1857 purchased property for a Nipmuc family desiring to move into Worcester. Additionally, in 1849 and 1859, the state provided the Worcester County Judge of Probate funds to be disbursed to meet some of their needs; who was assisted, when helped and how much they received is confirmed in the manuscripts of AAS-Member Judge Ira Barton at the Society. The manuscript records of the Grafton guardians, acquired in the late 1820s by Christopher Baldwin, are also in the AAS collection. Similarly, members of the "Dudley Tribe" living at the Nipmuc reservation at Webster received support from 1800 through 1869, according to very detailed extant guardians' accounts at the state Archives.

        Also during the 1860s, twenty-seven Nipmuc adults at Webster, Spencer, Worcester, Oxford, Gardner, New Bedford and Thompson, Connecticut received cash payments or other benefits from the Commonwealth, on the basis of their connection to Nipmucs at the Webster reservation. The manuscript notebook documenting these month by month disbursements for 1863 is part of the Webster, Mass. Manuscript Collection at AAS.

        On the other hand, however, the traditional sources searched by the historian reveal Nipmucs in vital, probate, real estate, military and other records generated by county and town clerks, Nipmuc individuals identified as Indian in these documents. And while early federal census returns had no category for Indians living away from reservations west of the Mississippi causing local Natives to be enumerated only as "black" or "mulatto," Massachusetts state census tallies, likewise, record local Natives as Indian.

        The "extinct" or "vanished" Nipmucs, clearly, generated a considerable amount of official documentation for a supposedly non-existent tribal community.

        The disappearance of the Nipmucs was, however, part of a much larger conceptual labor to make Natives extinct. According to the tidy scenario established at the beginning of the Euroamerican "errand" into the wilderness, Massachusetts Native people were nearly "wiped out" in the virgin soil epidemic of 1618-19, called a "wonderful plague" destroying them and leaving their lands free for occupation. As was very simply stated, the epidemic on the eve of English immigration to New England was the means chosen by Jehovah to make room for the new Jerusalem.

For comparison, AAS Vice-President William Paine told the Society's annual meeting in 1815, "The hand of God seems to have been most wonderfully displayed, in preparing the way for establishment of an European colony in this part of North America." According to Paine, "At the time our English ancestors arrived, the Indian tribes on the seacoast had been greatly thinned by a fatal epidemick, and the fierce spirit of the survivors seem to have been restrained by its pestilential influence…the settlement, no doubt, was facilitated in consequence of this destructive sickness." The aboriginal people subsequently vanished, Paine assuring the Membership, "they wasted, they have mouldered away. They have disappeared." The "ancestors," in this way, were beneficiaries of the "wonder which God did for their protection," in removing New England Natives, yet "we must commiserate the sufferings, and extinction almost, of the Indian nations through an immense extent of the country." Ironically, a grandfather of William Paine, Judge John Chandler II beginning in the 1730s had served for decades as one of the guardians of Indians at Grafton, Natives who had not "melted away" during Paine's lifetime. Additionally, Paine's father Judge Timothy Paine served as a guardian of the Grafton Nipmucs and William Paine grew up in a Worcester where several Indians were town residents or employed as servants in white households.

  In outline, seventeenth-century writers inform: Massachusetts Natives did not enclose their land, therefore, their lands were not really their property; Indians had more land than they needed or knew how to use; they welcomed the coming of Europeans; and, epidemics and pandemics prior to 1620 and, again, in 1633-34, were proof Jehovah was clearing the "uncouth" and "heathen" wilderness to make way for his saints. Indians were, simply, doomed to disappear. Their disappearance is thus central to the vision of New England codified in the region's earliest narratives. Additionally, lop-sided Native casualties in the so-called King Phillip War of 1675-1676 allowed the dominant culture to imagine the surviving Native populations were killed off or vanished. [For discussion of selected period sources, See Note 11]

Around this "official version" cluster sub-themes, many repeated in the works of local historians, particularly in the first half of the nineteenth century when was assumed the following: that European immigrants had geographical predestination to "possess" the continent; that "according to the intentions of the Creator" the soil was to be "subdued;" that European christianity was an advanced state of culture destined "to conquer" lower, decadent forms of human organization; and, that the vast reaches of the continent were under-utilized by transient, marauding, roaming, undeveloped Indians. Simply, Natives had to disappear. Their disappearance or extinction was ordained by the "Disposer of Human Events," the "Author of Nature," the "finger of God," the "Father of the Universe," the "Hand of Nature," or "Great Engineer of the Universe." How Natives were to be dealt with politically related to the acceptance of their fated erasure and extinction.

        Works of local historians, accordingly, reflect aspects of the "Indian Question" that haunts the early Republic. In local writings the Question animates several discussions advanced at differing periods of the last century, concerning: