Otis Olney Wright.

History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; online

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century before.

Winslow's party arrived at Sowams on the afternoon of
July 4th, but Massasoit proved to be absent from home.
Messengers were immediately dispatched after him, and he
shortly appeea^ed being greeted by a discharge of his white
visitors' guns. He welcomed the Englishmen cordially and
invited them into his wigwam, where they delivered a lengthy
message from Governor Bradford and presented the gifts they
had brought with them. The sachem at once donned the coat
and hung the chain about his neck. "He was not a little
proud," says Winslow, "to behold himself; and his men also
to see their king so bravely attired. "

In answer to the Governor's message Massasoit made a
long speech in which he mentioned some thirty different
places over which he exercised jurisdiction, and promised that
his people should bring their skins to the English. At the
close of the speech he offered his guests tobacco and then "fell
to discoursing" of England, King James, and the French
against whom he seemed to feel a particular aversion. "Late
it grew," states Winslow in his narrative of this journey to
Pokanoket, "but victuals he offered none: for indeed he had
not any; being he came so newly home, so we desired to go to

Upon the following day many petty sachems came to
Sowams to pay their respects to their white allies. They
entertained the strangers by playing various games, the stakes
being skins and knives. The Englishmen challenged them to
a shooting match for skins, but they "durst not" accept the
challenge. They, however, desired one of the two to shoot at
a mark, "who shooting with hail shot (bird shot) they won-
dered to see the mark so full of holes." This "shooting at a
mark" is the first instance of target practice by a white man
within the Hmits of Rhode Island of which we have any record.

On Friday morning Winslow and Hopkins took their de-
parture from Sowams, carrying with them some seed corn
which Massasoit had given them. The sachem earnestly
entreated them to prolong their stay; but the Englishmen

The Indians 25

"desired to keep the Sabbath at home," so declined the
invitation. They reached Plymouth, on Saturday night, "wet
weary, and surbated," indeed, yet with the satisfaction of
feeling that the object of their mission had been attained.

Miss Virginia Baker.

The Wonderful Cure of Massasoit

Standish and his comrades found Plymouth much
excited over the report that a Dutch ship was stranded at
Sowams, and that Massasoit lay dangerously sick at the same
place. The impending famine made the Pilgrims especially
desirous of communicating with the friendly Dutch; while
the Indian custom of making visits of ceremony to prominent
people in sickness rendered it highly desirable that an embassy
be sent to the bedside of Massasoit. Therefore, taking Hob-
omok as interpreter, Winslow was sent as chief messenger;
for he was familiar with the Dutch tongue, and had already
been at Sowams to visit Massasoit, with whom he was a
favorite. Winslow's associate on the journey was, as he says,
"Master John Hamden, a gentleman of London, who then
wintered with us and desired much to see the country. " Dr.
Belknap found reasons for supposing Winslow's "consort" to
have been the illustrious John Hampden. The reasons for
this conclusion are not given, and many writers doubt its
correctness. But no good argument has appeared against
Belknap's supposition, and it is favored by many circum-
stances. The visitor's title of "Master," his earnestness to
encounter hardship and danger that he might "see the
country," and the readiness of the colonists to make him
Winslow's colleague and adviser on so important a mission,
all indicate a guest of no ordinary stamp. It was like Hamp-
den to privately cross over in some fishing-vessel and examine
for himself the region in which, as many thought, all freedom-
loving Englishmen would soon be driven to find an asylum.
Dr. Young thinks that a visit from the great patriot could not
fail to be pointedly noticed by both Winslow and Bradford;
but these authors wrote of this expedition before Hampden had
become famous, though not before he had become odious to
the Crown. A conspicuous record of his friendship for the
Colony would have been only an additional obstacle to the
much-desired royal charter. So long as it cannot be shown
that Hampden at that time was elsewhere, there is nothing
improbable in the belief that he was with Winslow.

26 History of Swansea

The first night the messengers were kindly entertained by
the Namaskets. At 1 p. m., on the second day, they reached
Slade's Ferry (in Swansea), where they were told that the
Dutch ship was afloat and sailing away, while Massasoit
was dead and buried. Hobomok, fearing that with Massasoit
dead there would be no safety for white men, urged an im-
mediate return; but Winslow, reflecting that they were then
in the country of the Pocassets, whose chief (Corbitant) would
be hkely to succeed Massasoit, and that a visit might strengthen
the questionable friendship of that sachem, desired to go
to his dweUing, There was danger in this, for both Winslow
and Hobomok had been active in the Namasket expedition of
1621, which was aimed at Corbitant' s Hfe in case Tisquantum
had proved to be slain, and the insincere sachem might take
this opportunity for revenge. But both of Winslow's com-
panions yielding to his desire, the party proceeded to Corbi-
tant's house (the sachimo-comaco) at Mattapuyst (Gard-
ner's Neck, Swansea).

The sachem had gone to visit Massasoit; but his wife,
the "squaw-sachem," treated the travellers with hospitahty,
while an Indian messenger went to Sowams for tidings. On
the journey Hobomok had touchingly mourned for his friend and
ruler, exclaiming, Neen womasu sagimus ! neen womasu sagimus I
etc., or," My loving sachem I my loving sachemi Many have I
known, but never any like thee!" Winslow adds that he was
assured by Hobomok that *' Whilst I Kved I should never see
his like among the Indians. He was no Har ; he was not bloody
and cruel, like other Indians; in anger and passion he was
soon reclaimed; easy to be reconciled towards such as had
offended him; ruled by reason in such measure as he would
not scorn the advice of mean men ; and that he governed his
men better with few strokes than others did with many, truly
loving where he loved. Yes, he feared we had not a faithful
friend left among the Indians; showing how he ofttimes re-
strained their mahce, etc., continuing a long speech with such
signs of lamentation and unfeigned sorrow as it would have
made the hardest heart relent. "

This description gives us a highly favorable opinion of
Massasoit, and of Hobomok also. Under the circumstances,
it was doubtless a just tribute to the great ruler, of whose
character we should otherwise have little positive information.

Half an hour before sunset the runner returned from
Sowams, stating that the Dutch ship had just departed, but
that the king was still living, though he would doubtless die
before the visitors could reach him. The latter then set forth
with such speed as they could in the early darkness, and

The Indians 27

reached Sowams late in the evening. Massasoit's dwelling
was so crowded that while all tried to make room, the strangers
had great difficulty in reaching the sick-bed. The powahs
were in the midst of their incantations, making, as Winslow
says, **such a hellish noise as it distempered us that were well,
and therefore unlike to ease him that was sick. " During the
din several women were more sensibly engaged in chafing the
chief's limbs to maintain the animal heat. The patient had
not slept for two days, and had become entirely blind.

When the "charming" ceased, Massasoit was told who
had come to see him. Upon this he feebly groped with his
hand, which Winslow took. The chief then twice said faintly,
Keen Winsnow.^ or "Art thou Winslow?" Winslow repHed,
Ahhe! or "Yes!" The patient then feebly muttered, Matta
neen wonchanet namen, Winsnowl which was to say, "I
shall never see thee again, Winslow!" Winslow then de-
livered, through Hobomok, a message of sympathy from
Bradford, and producing "a confection of many comfortable
conserves, " etc., he took some of it upon the point of his knife,
and with great trouble succeeded in getting it through the sick
man's teeth. When the confection had been dissolved in his
mouth, it was readily swallowed. This greatly astonished and
delighted the spectators, for nothing had been before swal-
lowed for two days.

Winslow then contrived to clean Massasoit's mouth,
"which was exceedingly furred," and scrape his swollen
tongue, removing an abundance of foul matter. Next, the
patient desiring drink, some of the confection was dissolved in
water and given him. Within half an hour he had visibly
improved, and soon began to see again. Winslow continued
his nursing all night. He also sent Indians to Plymouth with
a note describing the case, and asking Dr. Fuller's advice, as
well as that some delicacies be returned, especially a pair of
chickens for broth.

Before morning, the king's appetite beginning to return,
he asked for broth or pottage like that he had eaten at Plymouth.
Winslow was unfamiliar with such cookery, and had neither
meat, rice, vegetables, nor seasoning. In that early month
there were no herbs to be found. But setting his wits at work,
he took the coarse part of some pounded corn and set it on the
fire in an earthen pot; he then added a handful of strawberry
leaves and the sliced root of a sassafras-bush. When this
compound had been well cooked, he strained the liquid
through his handkerchief and gave a pint of it to his patient.
The broth was highly relished, and seemed to work wonders;
the vital organs resumed their duties, his sight became perfect.

28 History of Swansea

and gentle slumber soon followed. When Massasoit awoke,
he persuaded Winslow to go to the different wigwams and
treat several of the tribe who were sick, the kind Massasoit
telling Winslow that the poor sufferers were "good folk."
This labor, though very offensive to the senses, being performed
with cheerfulness and success, was as beneficial to the people
of Plymouth, from a political point of view, as it was medi-
cally to the sufferers.

In the afternoon, Massasoit desiring some wild fowl,
Winslow succeeded in shooting a very fat duck, at a range of
three hundred and sixty feet. When this had been made into
broth, Winslow insisted on skimming off the fat, fearing its
effect on a weak stomach; but his wilful patient would not
allow it. In consequence, within an hour Massasoit, who had
eaten too heartily of the dish, was again very sick. In his
straining he brought on the dreaded nose-bleed, which could
not be checked for four hours. The case for some time was
desperate, but at length his retching subsided, and then the
hemorrhage, after which he slept for nearly eight hours. When
he awoke, Winslow bathed his face and beard; but suddenly
the chief thrusting his nose into the basin of water, and
drawing up a large quantity, ejected it so violently that his
nose-bleed returned. At this sight the Indians gave up their
renewed hopes and utterly despaired; but Winslow, seeing
that the bleeding was superficial, soon stopped it. The loss of
blood had been a benefit. The king now needed only care as
to diet, and more sleep; by the second morning he was com-
paratively well, having a good appetite, and being able to sit
up and converse.

The supphes from Plymouth arrived in about twenty-
four hours from the departure of the runners from Sowams
(fifty miles and back). The medicines were no longer needed,
and the chickens Massasoit wisely concluded to keep for
breeding. Visitors continued to come from all the tribes round
about, and to them a pinese constantly repeated the details of
the wonderful cure which his English friends had wrought
upon their good ruler when he was wellnigh "spent." The
day before Winslow's coming, a visiting sachem had assured
Massasoit that the Enghsh were no friends to him, and es-
pecially insisted that they had neglected him in his sickness.
After his recovery the chief could not too warmly or too con-
stantly express his gratitude, exclaiming, among other things:
" Now I see the English are my friends and love me; and while
I live I will never forget this kindness they have showed me. "

Hampden and Hobomok had earnestly assisted Winslow,
and all three were entertained by the Indians in the best

The Indians 29

possible manner, until, after nearly two days from their
arrival, they were sped on their way with the warmest thanks
of both sovereign and people. Before their departure Mass-
asoit, in a secret council with his pineses, charged Hobomok
with a message to be delivered to Winslow during the journey.
The sachem Corbitant, who had remained in close attendance
on his chief, accompanied the messengers, and insisted on their
spending that night at his home. He proved a genial host and
a witty entertainer, who, more sensible than many white men,
was highly pleased when any of his many jokes were "returned
again upon him." His conversation with Winslow showed
much intelligence and shrewdness. Inquiring the meaning
of the "blessing" which Winslow asked on the food, he and
his followers patiently received a long lecture on divine matters
and religious observances, taking exception only to the
seventh commandment. As to the moral theology and reason
for asking the blessing, and giving thanks for the food after its
consumption, the Indians, according to Winslow, "said they
believed almost all the same things, and that the same power
we called God, they called Kiehtan. " This pleasant scene is
the last in which Corbitant appears. He probably continued to
rule his tribe for a long term of years, and be friendly to the
EngHsh; for if an enemy, he would have been occasionally

The fifth night after leaving Plymouth the messengers
spent with their native friends at Namasket, and the sixth
night found them once more at home, well but weary. Hamp-
den's desire to "see the country" and its people had been
gratified in an extraordinary manner. On the road Hobomok had
astonished Winslow by delivering Massasoit's parting message.

From The Pilgrim Republic,

"Massasoit" was a title, signifying: "great chief." His
proper name was Woosamequin, meaning, "Yellow Feather."
He was the principal chief of the Wampanoags. He was intro-
duced by Samoset an Indian who had been with white men who
came to trade and fish along the coast of Maine, and was able
to speak some broken English. It was this Indian who greeted
the settlers at Plymouth with those memorable words:
" Welcome, Englishmen. " Massasoit had no doubt met other
English adventurers, before the coming of the Pilgrims. The
white man may have been known to the Indians for a long
period preceding the "Swarming of the English." Capt.
Thomas Dermer visited Patuxet, (Plymouth), in May 1619,
and he received kind treatment at the hands of Squanto, who
probably knew the English to some extent. The Dutch had

30 History of Swansea

settled at Manhattan, (New York) in 1614; the English ^
were at Jamestown in 1607. The Northmen may have win-
tered in Mount Hope Bay, and were known in the traditions
of the Pokanoket tribes. French and Spanish explorers may
have visited Narragansett Bay, and were talked of in the wig-
wams of the natives.

It was fortunate for the Pilgrims that they came when
they did. We may regard it as Providential. Massasoit's
warriors were few, the tribes having been greatly reduced by
pestilence. And the Wampanoags must have been in mortal
fear of their old enemies, the Narragansetts. Massasoit was
a wise and good Indian statesman. He was glad perhaps to
have the English as his friends. He willingly declared him-
self a subject and ally of the King of Great Britain. He
appreciated the evident advantages of firearms, of better im-
plements of agriculture, and of the simple con,veniences of
civiHzed life. He did not take to the religion of the Christian
people; but I believe that he had the foresight and conviction
that his people would sooner or later give place to the white
man who would gain the possession of their lands.

Metacom, (Metacomet,) second son of Massasoit, 1661-2,
generally known as King PhiHp, the name given him by the
Enghsh, was perhaps the most remarkable of all the Indians of
New England. Like his father he acknowledged himself as
loyal to the Enghsh Sovereign, and freely sold his lands to the
white settlers. But he was not in sympathy with his father's
policy toward the English, and secretly plotted against them
as intruders and enemies. Notwithstanding that Massasoit
and King Philip had submitted to the King of Great Britain;
and had sold their lands to the white men; and had signed
treaties of peace and perpetual friendship, war was inevitable.
The Indians would not, or could not submit and comforn to
the English. They did not understand evidently what the
sale of their lands meant to those who bought them. They
expected to continue to live as before — to hunt and fish and
occupy at will. And as it has been said; it takes a thousand
acres of land to support one Indian as a savage. The conflict
came in 1675-6, with great losses to the whites and the prac-
tical extermination of the red men. And it seems quite
probable that but for the treachery of some of the natives, the
colonists could not have been saved from extinction.


Morton says of him : " In his person he is a very lusty man,
in his best years, an able body, grave of countenance and

The Indians 31

spare of speech ; in his attire little or nothing differing from the
rest of his followers, only in a great chain of white bone beads
about his neck; and at it behind his neck, hangs a little bag of
tobacco, which he drank and gave us to drink. His face was
painted with a sad red like murrey; and oiled both head and
face, that he looked greasily. All his followers likewise were,
in their faces in part or in whole, painted, some black, some
red, some yellow, and some white, some with crosses and other
antic works ; some had skins on them and some naked ; all strong,
tall men in appearance. The king had in his bosom, hanging in
a string, a great, long knife."

He died in 1662, and it was thought by the settlers who
knew him that he was about 80 years old.

TREATY, proposed by Governor Carver and signed by Massasoit,
in the spring of 1621. The first act of diplomacy recorded in the History
of New England ; and which was faithfully kept for more than fifty years : —

It was agreed

"That neither he (Massasoit,) nor any of his, should injure or do hurt
to any of their people (i. e., the settlers at Plymouth.)

"That if any of his did any hurt to any of theirs, he should send the
offender, that they might punish him.

"That if anything were taken away from any of theirs, he should
cause it to be restored ; and they should do the like to his.

"That if any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; and
if any did war against them, he should aid them.

"That he should send to his neighbor confederates to inform them of
this, that they might not wrong them, but might likewise be comprised in
these conditions of peace.

"That when his men came to them upon any occasion they should
leave their arms behind them.

"Lastly, that so doing, their sovereign lord, King James, would
esteem him as his friend and ally."

King Philip

By his foes, who were his only contemporary biographers,
the character of Philip was painted in most lurid colors. It
was not the fashion of the time to be just, even to a fallen
enemy. "Damnable wretch," "hellish monster," "bloody
villain, " are some of the epithets they delighted to bestow
upon him. Later generations, less moved by horrible mem-
ories of savage atrocities, and so better able to form a dis-
passionate judgment have viewed the conquered chieftain in a
different light. Washington Irving concludes his essay on
"Philip of Pokanoket" with these words.

(Prof. Wilfred Harold Munroe, L.H.D. in "Some Legends
of Mount Hope.")

32 History of Swansea

"Such is the scanty story of the brave, but unfortunate
King PhiUp: persecuted while living, slandered and dishon-
ored when dead. If, however, we consider even the prejudiced
anecdotes furnished us by his enemies, we may perceive in
them traces of amiable and lofty character sufficient to awaken
sympathy for his fate, and respect for his memory. We find
that, amid all the harassing cares and ferocious passions of
constant warfare, he was alive to the softer feelings of connu-
bial love and paternal tenderness, and to the generous senti-
ment of friendship. The captivity of his 'beloved wife and
only son' are mentioned with exultation as causing him
poignant misery: the death of any near friend is triumphantly
recorded as a new blow on his sensibilties : but the treachery
and desertion of many of his followers, in whose affection he
had confided, is said to have desolated his heart, and to have
bereaved him of all further comfort. He was a patriot
attached to his native soil, — a prince true to his subjects, —
and indignant over their wrongs, — a soldier, daring in battle,
firm in adversity, patient of fatigue, of hunger, of every variety
of bodily suffering, and ready to die in the cause he had espoused.
Proud of heart, and with an untamable love of natural liberty,
he preferred to enjoy it among the beasts of the forest or in the
dismal and famished recesses of swamps and morasses, rather
than bow his haughty spirit to submission, and live dependent
and despised in the ease and luxury of the settlements. With
heroic qualities and bold achievements that would have graced
a civilized warrior, and have rendered him the theme of the
poet and the historian, he lived a warrior and a fugitive in his
native land, and went down, like a lonely bark foundering amid
darkness and tempest — without a pitying eye to weep his fall,
or a friendly hand to record his struggle."

In 1876 the two hundredth anniversary of the death of
King Philip was observed, at Bristol, with appropriate cere-
monies, under the direction of the Rhode Island Historical
Society. A boulder monument was the next year erected on
the summit of Mount Hope bearing the inscription.

King Philip
August 12, 1676, O. S.

A granite block was also placed beside "Cold Spring"
with this inscription:

In the Miery Swamp, 100 feet W. S. W. from this Spring, according to
tradition, King Philip fell, August 12, 1676, O. S.

The Indians 33

Speech of Metacomet

Reported to have been made when approached in the
interests of peace. Taken from The King Philip Country, an
article by WilHam Adams Slade, in the New England Mag-
azine of July 1898.

"The English who first came to this country were but a handful of
people, forlorn, poor and distressed. My father was the sachem. He
reheved their distress in the most kind and hospitable manner. He gave
them land to build and plant upon. He did all in his power to serve them.
Others of their own countrymen came and joined them. Their numbers
rapidly increased. My father's counsellors became uneasy and alarmed
lest, as they were possessed of firearms, which was not the case with the
Indians, they . should finally undertake to give law to the Indians, and take
from them their country. They therefore advised to destroy them before
they should become too strong, and it should be too late. My father was
also the father of the Enghsh. He represented to his counsellors and
warriors that the English knew many sciences which the Indians did not;
that they improved and cultivated the earth, and raised cattle and fruits,
and that there was sufficient room in the country for both the Enghsh and
the Indians. His advice prevailed. It was concluded to give victuals to
the Enghsh. They flourished and increased. Experience taught that the
advice of my father's counsellors was right. By various means the Enghsh
got possessed of a great part of his territory, but he still remained their
friend tiU he died.

" My elder brother became sachem. They pretended to suspect him of
evil designs against them. He was seized and confined, and thereby thrown
into sickness and died. Soon after I became sachem they disarmed all my
people. They tried my people by their own laws, and assessed damages
against them which they could not pay. Their land was taken. At length
a line of division was agreed upon between the Enghsh and my people, and
I myself was to be responsible. Sometimes the cattle of the Enghsh would

Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 3 of 27)