Otis Olney Wright.

History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; online

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after selling out at Freetown; Samuel Gardner, in company
with Ralph Chapman, a shipwright, bought of Ebenezer
Brenton of Swansea, for the sum of seventeen hundred pounds
current money "all that certain neck or tract of land com-
monly called and known by the name of Matapoiset, situate,
lying and being in Swansea ; " and on the 14th day of February
1694 Gardner and Chapman divided these lands, Gardner
taking for his share the southerly part. A wall running across
the neck near an old cemetery is said to mark the division
line then fixed upon between Gardner and Chapman.

In the Probate Records of Bristol County, we find that
Samuel Gardner did not live long to enjoy his Swansea pur-
chase, as the following true copy from that record will serve
to show.

An Inventory of the estate of Samuel Gardner of Swansea,
who, deceased ye 8 Decem br. 1696, taken by the underwrit-
ten this 15 day of February 1697, and apprized as followeth:



Dollars Cts.

Impres the house and land
Cattle 10, year old, (3.38)









11, 2 year old, (6.60)





3, 3 year old, (8.47)





15 kind, (12.10)





17 steers, oxen and bull, (18.11)





10 horse kind, (9.68)





97 sheep, (.95)





Husbandry, tackling and tools





15 Swine, (.64)





1 Negro





Armor, 2 guns and sword





Wearing Clothes





Beds and bedding





12 History of Swansea

S d DoUars Cta

Tools 1 00 00 4.84

Puter and plate 3 00 00 14.52

Brass and Iron 5 00 00 24.20

Glass bottles and lumber 6 00 00 29.04

£1046 05 00 $5305.85

RALPH CHAPMAN [ prizers.

Bristol this seventeenth of February 1696-7. Then did Elizabeth
Gardner, widow and relict of Lieut. Samuel Gardner late of Swansea de-
ceased appear before John Saffin, Esq. Judge of Probate of wills and within
the County of Bristol and made oathe that this inventory is true and just
and when she knows more, she will reveal it, whether in the chest or else-
where that it may be thereunto added and recorded.

JOHN CORY, Register.

This inventory of property is at least significant if not
remarkable. Five thousand three hundred and five dollars
was a large sum for a man to possess in those days. He had
comparatively an extensive tract of land not less probably
than a square mile 640 acres. It may be asked, how was all
that stock sheltered and fed? As we care for stock now, there
is not a barn in town large enough to house it, nor a farm that
produces hay enough to feed it. In the cold weather of Fall,
Winter or Spring most of the stock lay in sheltered places, in
thicket or underbrush, or rudely thatched hovels. The horses
and several of the cows may have been kept in a barn. But do
not imagine a modern barn: aside from the roof there was not
probably a shingle on it, and that may have had none. Ah,
how the winds would whistle through the barns of ye olden
times. In the winter when the ground was covered with snow
the stock was doubtless fed largely salt meadow hay — which
in the season could be procured in abundance on the shores of
Lee's and Cole's Rivers.

Corn was raised to some extent, this and the fodder was
an important element of food. Probably the cultivation of
grass was so limited in those early days that very little hay
was fed. When the ground was bare the cattle roamed through
the woods, browsed the trees and shrubbery and ate freely of
the dead grass or old bog as we sometimes call it.

Mr. Budlong of Cranston, R. I., has become famous all
through this section of the country for the extent of his farm-
ing operations. The large quantities of the different vegeta-

The Bourne Garrison House 13

bles he cultivates and raises is a surprise to many. But I
would go farther to view Samuel Gardner's farming establish-
ment as it was two hundred years ago than I would to view
Mr. Budlong's of to-day.

The log-house that Mr. Gardner built as tradition states —
this was succeeded by the stone one — the shell of a barn, the
hovels may be, the rude farming implements, — there were
probably no wagons or carts, none mentioned in this inven-
tory — the motley crowd of horses and colts, of oxen and steers,
of calves, heifers and cows, of bleating sheep and lambs, of
squealing pigs as they come out from the woods and gather
around their headquarters at the approach of night presents a
scene, if not for the painter, at least for the photographer.

You noticed the inventory included a negro valued at £30
or $145.20. It is remarkable that slavery after its introduc-
tion into Virginia in 1619 spread so soon through the existing
colonies. It is probable that the unmarked graves in the
southwest corner of the old cemetery are those of slaves. My
great grandfather had slaves, I do not know how many. My
father used to tell a story about two of them whose respective
names were Cudy and Pero. They appropriated some nice
pears ; when called by my grandfather to an account each had
hard work to prove that the other stole them.

There is a so-called colored burying ground on my farm,
but I suppose the graves are nearly all the graves of slaves.

Of the family who lived at the north part of the Neck, I
know little or nothing. If I knew its full history I would not
detain you longer to-night to tell it. I will mention a tradition
relating to the two families who first settled here on the Neck.

It is said the respective wives and mothers visited each
other alternate days throughout the year. What did they talk
about? That is just what I cannot tell. Possibly the ladies
can better answer that question.



An Agricultural People

THE New England tribes including the Wampanoags
were an agricultural people, cultivating corn, beans,
tobacco, squashes and other products of the soil. They
also subsisted on the wild game of the forests and the fish of
the fresh and salt waters. The Wampanoags had a rich soil to
cultivate along our rivers and Bay and obtained a plentiful
supply of fish from the waters and shores of Narragansett Bay.
Roger Wilhams speaks of the "social and loving way of
breaking up the land for planting corn. All the men, women,
and children of a neighborhood join to help speedily with then-
hoes, made of shells with wooden handles. After the land is
broken up, then the women plant and hoe the corn, beans and
vine apples called squash which are sweet and wholesome;
being a fruit like a young pumpkin, and serving also for bread
when corn is exhausted." Indian corn was the staple food,
parched, pounded to meal and mixed with water. Wmslow
speaks of a meal of corn bread called mozium, and shad roes
boiled with acorns, which he enjoyed at Namasket. Parched
meal was their reliance on their journey, and of unparched
meal they made a pottage called "nassaump," whence the
New England " samp. " " For winter stores the Indians gather
chestnuts, hazel-nuts, walnuts, and acorns, the latter requiring
much soaking and boiling. The walnuts they use both for
food and for obtaining an oil for their hair. Strawberries and
whortleberries were palatable food, freshly gathered, and were
dried to make savory corn bread." Strawberries were abun-
dant and the modern strawberry shortcake was anticipated by
the Indians in a delicious bread make by bruising strawberries
in a mortar and mixing them with meal. Summer squashes and
beans were their main dependence next to corn.

The fur-bearing animals of the forest furmshed both
food and covering for bodies and wigwams. Shell and finfish
were very abundant. Clams, oysters, quahaugs, scallops
could be obtained with little labor and the fish that now
frequent our bays and rivers were more plentiful than they
have been known to the whites. The luxury of a Rhode Island
clam bake was first enjoyed by our Indian predecessors. It
was the good fortune of the writer, in excavating the ground

18 History of Swansea

for a cellar at Drown ville to exhume an oven, used for baking
clams, about eighteen inches below the surface of the soil.
The coals and shells on the saucer-shaped oven of round stones
were evidences of aboriginal use and customs.

The women cultivated the crops for the most part and
were the burden bearers of the fish and game taken by the men.
"A husband, " says Williams, "will leave a deer to be eaten by
the wolves rather than impose the load on his own shoulders.
The mothers carry about their infant pappooses, wrapped in
a beaver skin and tied to a board two feet long and one foot
broad, with its feet hauled up to its back. The mother carries
about with her, the pappoose when only three or four days old,
even when she goes to the clam beds and paddles in the cold
water for clams. It is evident that in their wild state, no
large number of them could subsist long together, because
game on which they principally lived, was soon exhausted, and
hunger compelled them to scatter. This state of existence
always forced them to live in small clans or families. Venison
and fish were dried and smoked for winter's supplies. In
providing the food for the household, the labor was divided
quite unequally. It was manly for an Indian to hunt and fish,
but the cultivation of the fields and gardens was wholly
woman's work, as was the digging of clams and the procuring of
all other shell fish. The cooking was also womgm's perogative,
so that with the Indian the old couplet was not wholly inapt :

** Man^s work is from sun to sun;
Woman^s work is never done. '*

The Plymouth settlers described the houses of the
Indians as follows : " They are made round, like an arbor, with
long, young saplings stuck in the ground and bended over,
covered down to the ground with thick and well wrought mats.
The door, about a yard high, is make of a suspended mat. An
aperture at the top served for a chimney, which is also pro-
vided with a covering of a mat to retain the warmth. In the
middle of the room are four little crotches set in the ground
supporting cross sticks, on which are hung whatever they have
to roast. Around the fire are laid the mats that serve for beds.
The frame of poles is double matted; those within being

These frail houses were easily transported with their
simple fiu:nishings from place to place, wherever their bus-
iness, hunting, fishing, or comfort might lead them. Theu-
houses were removed to sheltered valleys or to dense swamps
in the winter, and in the summer were pitched in the vicinity

The Indians 19

of their cultivated fields or fishing stations. Roger WiUiams
says that on returning at night to lodge at one of them, which
he had left in the morning, it was gone, and he was obliged to
sleep under the branches of a friendly tree. It can be truthfully
said of the Indians that they had no continuing city or abiding
place, but like the Indians of the Northwest of our day, out-
side of reservations, wandered about from place to place as
their physical necessities or caprice moved them. As they had
no land titles, each family was at liberty to go and come,
within tribal hmits, with none to let or hinder. It is certain
that there were fixed haunts or rendezvous, inland and on the
shores of the Bay, called villages, where they spent considerable
time, either in summer or in winter. Thus Philip passed the
summer in and about Mt. Hope Neck, and it is popularly
stated that he lived at Mt. Hope; while in winter his home, if
we may so call a movable wigwam, was about the inland lakes
or ponds of his possessions. One of these favorite winter resorts
of King Philip is said to have been in the pine forests on the
banks of Winneconnet Pond, in the town of Norton, Mass.,
within the Pokanoket Territory. Banks of clam and oyster
shells, Indian arrowheads and stone implements of husbandry
and housekeeping are the best evidences of the localities where
the Wampanoags made their residences.

— BicknelL

SowAMS IN Pokanoket

At the period when the Mayflower came to anchor in
Plymouth harbor, Massasoit exercised dominion over nearly
all the south-eastern part of Massachusetts from Cape Cod to
Narragansett Bay. The south-western section of his kingdom
was known as Pokanoket, Sowams, or Sowamsett. It included
what now comprises the towns of Bristol, Warren, Barrington,
and East Providence in Rhode Island, with portions of Seekonk,
Swansea, and Rehoboth in Massachusetts. Though its area
was only about 500 square miles Pokanoket, owing to its many
natural advantages, was more densely populated than any
other part of the Wampanoag country. Its principal settle-
ment was the village of Sowams, where Massasoit maintained
his headquarters, and where, without doubt, the greater
portion of his life was passed.

For many years the exact location of this village was a
disputed point, authorities veu-iously fixing it at Bristol,
Barrington, and Warren. The late General Guy M. Fessenden
was the first to demonstrate, conclusively, that Sowams

20 History of Swansea

occupied the site of the last mentioned place. The results of
his careful and painstaking investigation of the claims of the
three towns may be found in the short but valuable historical
sketch of Warren pubhshed by General Fessenden in 1845.

One famiUar with the Pokanoket region readily perceives
why Massasoit placed his capital where he did. Warren is
situated midway between Barrington and Bristol, on an arm
of Narragansett Bay, and is bounded on the north and east by
the State of Massachusetts. A glance at the map of Rhode
Island will show the reader that, at Warren, which is farther
inland than either of its sister towns, the Wampanoags were,
in a great measure, protected from the danger of sudden
attack by their enemies, the Narragansetts who dwelt upon the
opposite shore of the bay, and that, in case of hostile invasion,
they were easily able to retire to less exposed portions of their

The Indians were always particular to locate their per-
manent villages in the vicinity of springs of running water.
Warren abounds in such springs. Its soil is generally fertile
and its climate agreeable and healthy, as, owing to its some-
what inland position, it escapes the full rigor of the fierce winds,
that, during the winter months, sweep the unsheltered shores
of Bristol. In the days when the Wampanoags inhabited its
territory, it was well timbered, and grapes, cherries, huckle-
berries, and other wild fruits grew abundantly in field and
swamp. Its rivers teemed with fish of many vEuieties, and also
yielded a plentiful supply of lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams,
quahaugs, and mussels. Flocks of wild fowl haunted its
marshes ; deer and smaller game frequented its woods. Even
in those seasons when food became generally scarce, the
dwellers at Sowams probably suffered little from hunger in
comparison with the inhabitants of many sections of New
England less favored by nature.

At Sowams, too, every facility for the manufacture of the
shell beads used as currency by the aborigines was to be found.
Any one who chose might become a natouwompitea, or coiner,
and hterally, "make as much money," as he wished. From
the rocks at hand the savage artificer shaped the rude imple-
ments which his craft demanded. The waters gave him
freely the periwinkle and the quahaug. From the former he
cut the Wampum or white beads. Of the "eye", or dark por-
tion of the latter, he fashioned the more valuable black beads
called suckauhock. These beads were made into necklaces,
scarfs, belts, girdles, bracelets, caps and other articles of dress
and ornament "curiously strung," says Roger Williams, "into
many forms and figures, their black and white finely mixed

The Indians 21

together. " Not infrequently a savage arrayed in gala attire
carried upon this person his entire stock of ready money.
Governor Bradford states that the Narragansetts and Pequots
grew "rich and potent" by the manufacture of wampum and,
presumably, wealth contributed in no small degree towards
estabhshing the prestige of the Wampanoags.

This tribe, properly speaking was a confederation of clans
each clan having its own headman who was, however, sub-
servient to a chief sachem. The Wampanoags, or Pokanokets
as they were also called, were originally a populous and power-
ful people and it is said that, at one period, their chief was able
to rally around him no less than 3,000 warriors. The father of
Massasoit, according to the testimony of his illustrious son,
waged war successfully against the Narragansetts; and
Annawon, King Philip's great captain, boasted to his captor,
Church, of the '* mighty success he had formerly in wars
against many nations of Indians, when he served Asuhmequin,
Phihp's father." About three years before the settlement of
Plymouth, however, a terrible plague devastated the country
of the Wampanoags and greatly diminished their numbers.
Governor Bradford, alluding to this pestilence, states that
"thousands of them dyed, they not being able to burie one
another, " and that "their sculs and bones were found in many
places lying still above ground, where their houses and dwell-
ings had been; a very sad specktacle to behould." The
Narragansetts who were so fortunate as to escape the plague,
took advantage of the weakness of their ancient foes, wrested
from them one of the fairest portions of their domain the
island of Aquidneck, (Rhode Island) and compelled Massasoit
to subject "himself and his lands," to their great sachem
Canonicus. In 1620, the Pokanoket chieftain could summon
to his aid only about 300 fighting men, sixty of whom were his
immediate followers. Yet Massasoit, despite his weakness,
contrived to maintain his supremacy over the petty sachems
of the various clans of the Wampanoag confederacy. The
sagamores of the Islands of Nantucket and Nope or Capa-
wack (Martha's Vineyard), of Pocasset, (Tiverton), Saconet
(Little Compton), Namasket (Middleborough), Nobsquasset
(Yarmouth), Monamoit (Chatham), Nauset (Eastham),
Patuxet (Plymouth), and other places, together with the head-
men of some of the Nipmuc nation, were tributary to him.
Undoubtedly some of these chiefs were allied to Massasoit by
ties of consanguinity or mutual interests; others, probably,
rendered homage as conquered to conqueror.

Like the Narragansetts, the Wampanoags were consider-
ably advanced in civilization. They built permanent villages,

22 History of Swansea

and cultivated corn, beans, pumpkins, and squashes. They
manufactured cooking utensils of stone and clay, and rude
implements for domestic and war-like purposes from shells,
stone, and bone. They prepared the greater part of their food
by the aid of fire and their cookery was, by no means, unpalat-
able. The famed Rhode Island Johnny cake and still more
famous Rhode Island clam bake each claim an Indian origin.
They understood how to dress birch and chestnut bark which
they used for covering their wigwams, and they constructed
canoes by hollowing out the trunks of large trees. Of rushes
and grasses they wove mats and baskets, and they fashioned
moccasins, leggings, and other articles of apparel from the
skins of wild beasts. They were very accurate in their obser-
vations of the weather, and spent much time in studying the
heavens, being familiar with the motions of the stars, and hav-
ing names for many of the constellations. In common with the
other native tribes of North America, they worshipped various
gods, peopling earth, air, sky, and sea with deities: yet they
acknowledged one supreme being, and believed in the immor-
tality of the soul.

It is obvious that Massasoit possessed mental endowments
of no mean order, and it is equally obvious that his environ-
ments were precisely those best calculated to develop a
character naturally strong. He dwelt in a land, which, if not
literally flowing with milk and honey, abounded with every-
thing needful to supply the simple wants of savage life, and
thus he escaped those demoralizing influences which attend
the struggle for mere existence. The proximity of a powerful
enemy rendered him, cautious, alert, and vigilant. His position
as the chief of a considerable confederacy invested him with
dignity, and called into activity all those statesman-like
qualities for which he was so justly famed. Winslow de-
scribes him as "grave of countenance, spare of speech," and
this description taUies exactly with our ideal of the man.
General Fessenden remarks: "This chief has never had full
justice done to his character." Certainly it was no ordinary man
who, conquered himself, still retained the respect and alle-
giance of several clans, difl*ering in thought, mode of life, and
interests. It was no ordinary man who, undaunted by mis-
fortune, endured the yoke patiently till the opportunity to
throw it off" presented itself, and then quietly taking advantage
of the auspicious moment accomplished the liberation of him-
self and his people from a servitude more bitter than death

Massasoit was familiar with the appearance of white men
before the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Jm. 16I9»

The Indians 23

Captain Thomas Dermer, an Englishman, visited the Massa-
chusetts coast and held an interview at Namasket with "two
kings" of Pokanoket, undoubtedly Massasoit and his brother
Quadequina. The EngHsh were regarded with suspicion and
dislike by some of the tribes of the Wampanoag confederacy,
owing to the fact that a certain unscrupulous trader had
kidnapped some of the natives and sold them into slavery in
Spain. Had the English attempted a settlement at Plymouth
when the Pokanokets were at the zenith of their power, they
would, probably, have been either exterminated or driven
from the country. But, in 1620, Massasoit, whose fortunes
were at the ebb, stood ready to extend the right-hand of
fellowship to the pale-faced strangers, in whom he perceived
the possible deliverers of his nation. The treaty with the
Pilgrims into which he entered at Plymouth in March, 1621,
was the bold stroke of a wise statesman and an experienced
politician. The article in the treaty which stipulated that
the English should aid him if "any did unjustly war against
him" makes his position plain. "We cannot yet conceive but
that he is willing to have peace with us," writes Winslow,
alluding to this treaty. "And especially because he hath a
potent adversary, the Narrowhigansets that are at war with
him; against whom, he thinks, we may be some strength to
him; for our pieces are terrible unto them." Subsequent
events proved that Massasoit's policy was not at fault for,
with the assistance of his white allies, he was finally enabled to
throw off the galling yoke of Canonicus, and to restore the
Wampanoags to their old-time position of independence and

In July, 1621, Governor William Bradford decided to
send a deputation to Pokanoket, to "discover the country,"
to "continue the league of peace and friendship" which had
been entered into a few months previous at Plymouth, and to
procure corn for planting. Provided with gifts, a horseman's
laced coat of red cotton and a chain, Edward Winslow and
Stephen Hopkins set out from Plymouth on Monday, July 2d,
having for a guide Tisquantum, or Squanto, the friendly
Indian whose name appears so conspicuously in the early
annals of Plymouth. The trail followed led the travellers
thorugh Titicut in the north-west part of Middleborough,
where they spent the night, to Taunton, thence to Mattapoiset
(South Swansea) and from there to Kickemuit in the easterly
part of Warren. Undoubtedly the Kickemuit River was
crossed at a wading-place, often alluded to in the early records
of Warren, which was at a point a little north of the present
Child Street bridge. From Kickemuit they continued on to

24 History of Swansea

Sowams in the western part of the town on the shores of the
Warren River, then known as the Sowams River. There seems
little reason to doubt that, in going from Kickemuit to
Sowams, they followed a winding trail leading along what now
constitutes the Kickemuit Road and Market Street in
Warren, as, in 1621, the westerly portion of Child Street was
a thick swamp. This visit of Winslow and Hopkins was the
second paid by white men to Rhode Island, the first visit
having been made by Verazzano and his companions nearl y a

Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 2 of 27)