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out of the perfectly apparent perfidy of Squanto,
was more intent upon finding an excuse for evading
the treaty than upon conforming to its provisions.

So when Samoset on March 16, 1621, appeared in
the street of Plymouth, and, after being entertained,
departed on the next day saying he would bring
Massasoit, a great Sachem who had sixty warriors
under him; and apparently sent runners who had
been lurking in the neighborhood, to convey to
Massasoit the tidings that the English had en-


camped upon the hunting grounds of one of his
tribes, now extinct, and had erected habitations
there of a more permanent character than had ever
been attempted before, the Great Sachem himself,
proud ruler of more than thirty villages, with his
sixty panieses, took up the trail of forty miles to
visit the intruders, not for the purpose of expelling
them by force, not to trade with them as had been
done before along the coast, but to inquire the pur-
pose of this unbidden camping upon the grounds of
which he was still the rightful owner, even though
the tribe, his tribe, that had occupied them had
been wiped out. Possibly he had in mind the very
thing that happened, the formation of a league with
the white men, who fought with "fire and thunder,"
to assist him in case of further encroachments by his
ambitious neighbor, Canonicus; and for which he
was willing to give a full equivalent, the right to
occupy the land, the assistance of his people in
teaching the strangers how to compel the forest,
stream and soil to yield up a subsistence, and to aid
them in case of hostile attacks upon them by tribes
over which he had no control, or which were likely
to break away from such restraint as he had over

Viewed in the light of what we know, it now
seems that the colonists were getting the best end
of the bargain as matters then stood, and could
well afford to be liberal in the construction of the
duties and obligations assumed by them. True, as
they increased in numbers and strength, the scale
might have tipped the other way even if the treaty


had been rigidly adhered to by the settlers, but this
affords no excuse for its breach by them. As
matters stood on that bleak day in March, 1621,
with their ranks depleted by death, that had deso-
lated nearly, if not quite, every hearth, deaths in
such numbers that they dared not raise a mound
to mark the spots where they had consigned their
departed to earth for fear that their weakness
might be discovered, they received much more than
they gave. To them this friendly visit of Massa-
soit and his readiness to sit with them in council,
to smoke with them the pipe of peace, to form
with them a defensive alliance, must have seemed
like a visitation of guardian angels from an unseen

Words without deeds, however, are of Uttle value,
promises are easily made, and, too often, as easily
broken. The shores of time are thickly strewn with
the wreckage of treaties shattered by the perfidy of
men who look not to their plighted word once it
seems to their advantage to disregard their solemn
pledges. This reflection brings us to a consideration
of the benefits accruing to the colonists from the
faithfulness of the natives to the pact entered into
between Governor Carver and their Great Sachem.

Things moved rapidly during the first few years
after the landing of the Pilgrims, and there must
have been times when they were in serious doubt
whether their venture was destined to success or
failure. Without attempting to recite the entire
history of that period, I will call attention to a few
of the important events for the successful culmi-


nation of which the colonists were indebted to the
Great Sachem who had pledged his friendship to
them. I do this for the purpose of properly ap-
praising the value of that friendship.

Two men occupy a unique position in the early
life of the colonists. I shall have more to say about
them in a later chapter, but it is not inopportune to
here call attention briefly to the fact that they
played an important part in assisting the settlers to
establish themselves, and to enter into trade rela-
tions with the tribes; of these Squanto, it will be
remembered was either the only survivor or one of
the very few survivors of the Patuxets who had occu-
pied the territory around Plymouth as far back as
the hunting grounds of the Nemaskets, whose prin-
cipal village was on the site now occupied by
Middleboro; and consequently he was a subject of
Massasoit. A brief account of his invaluable serv-
ices will appear elsewhere, and my only purpose
now is to suggest that without the friendship of
his Great Sachem he might not have been in posi-
tion to give such assistance to the colonists as to
lead Corbitant, in his bitterness, to speak of him
as the tongue of the English.

Hobamock, the other of these two, was one of
the panieses of Massasoit, attached to his chief-
taincy as counsellor and personal follower on the
warpath. He came to the English shortly after
the end of July, 1621, and proved to be of great help
to them in extending their trade and in estabHshing
friendly relations with the surrounding tribes. In
this he was undoubtedly aided by his position as a


counsellor to the Great Sachem, his influence on
this account extending even beyond the hunting
grounds of the Wampanoags. Besides it was he who
broke away and gave the alarm that resulted in the
rescue of Squanto when threatened by Corbitant. It
is true that Squanto was only threatened and then
let go, but what might have been his fate had not
Corbitant known that Hobamock was likely to
bring a hornet's nest about his ears, we can only
conjecture. And so the colonists owed the con-
tinued services of Squanto to Hobamock.

Three months after Massasoit's first visit to Ply-
mouth, as their first spring in the new world was
ripening into smnmer. Governor Bradford, who had
been elected to succeed Carver, was desirous of se-
curing first hand information concerning the Great
Sachem, how important a personage he was, and
what were his surroundings, and so on July 2, 1621,
Edward Winslow, who had been one of the hostages
for Massasoit's safety when he entered Plymouth to
confer with Governor Carver, set out accompanied
by Stephen Hopkins and with Squanto as guide, to
secure the desired information, to strengthen the
ties of friendship, and to procure corn for planting.
They arrived on July 4, and found Massasoit absent,
but he soon returned and greeted them kindly.
They presented him a red horseman's coat, which
he donned with great pride, and a copper chain
which he was to send by any messengers whom he
might wish to dispatch to Plymouth, as evidence
that they came from him. On this occasion they
found him and his people reduced to such straits



for food that he was unable to offer them anything
to eat until the next day, when he set before his
guests two large boiled fish, which served as a re-
past for them and about forty of the natives. They
spent two nights in his lodge, but in such discom-
fort, as Winslow informs us in great detail, that
they arose more exhausted than when they retired.
On the third day they departed to return to Ply-
mouth, although urged to make their visit longer
by Massasoit, who expressed regret that he had not
been able better to entertain them. Unfortunately
Winslow does not inform us what entertainment
they had after the first repast. From this and later
visits there sprung up a strong personal friendship
between Winslow and the Great Sachem which con-
tinued until the death of the former in 1655.

Hardly had this mission been successfully accom-
plished when there arose a great hue and cry for
one John Billington who was lost. He had gone
into the woods, and, unable to find his way out,
wandered up and down for five days, finally reach-
ing Manomet, twenty miles down the bay. The
Manomets carried him further down the cape to
the Nausets. The governor inquired of the Indians
about him, and finally Massasoit sent word where
he was and a shallop was sent for him. The Nausets
soon after came, one hundred warriors, and "made
peace" with the colonists. It is related that of the
one hundred who came only sixty entered the vil-
lage, the others holding themselves aloof. It was
at about this time that Hobamock came to live
at Plymouth. Whether he was the messenger who


brought the tidings of BilHngton's whereabouts and
remained, or not, does not appear; but he was there
in August, for it was then that the episode between
him and Squanto and Corbitant, which we will
have occasion to consider later, came tumbling so
close on the heels of that with the Manomets and
Nausets that the settlers must have been nearly-
distracted by the antics of their neighbors. When
Captain Standish with his formidable army of four-
teen men surrounded the house in which Corbitant
was supposed to be holding Squanto prisoner, if
indeed he had not already dispatched him, three
men were "sore wounded" in getting out, and
were brought to Plymouth and healed; whereupon
the colonists ''received the gratulations of many
sachems. Yea, those of the Island of Capawack
sent to make friendship, and this Corbitant himself
used the mediation of Massasoit to make his peace
but was shie to come near them a long while after,"
as the story is told by Bradford.

Following this series of events, each of which
was fraught with the possibility of disaster to the
settlers, came the red letter day of the whole year.
On September 13, nine chiefs came to Plymouth to
arrange a modus vivendi as modern diplomats would
say; and before they got away every one of them
signed an acknowledgment of allegiance to King
James. Probably not one of them knew what he
had done or dreamed that he had entered the town
a prince, a ruler over his people, and left it a slave,
for that is what the colonists tried to make of
them; and their posterity have raised a great hue


and cry about the faithless Indians not submitting
to be governed by the colonists, as loyal subjects of
the same king. Unless the rulers and holy men of
God at Plymouth loaded them with ''strong water"
until they were entirely bereft of their senses, they
undoubtedly thought that they were treating on
equal terms with the settlers, signing a treaty of
alliance, and not a craven surrender of their sover-
eignty. These nine chiefs were:

Ohquamehud, said by Drake to be a Wampa-
noag, and undoubtedly true in the broad sense in
which we use the term, for the same name, though
spelled Oquomehod, appears on a deed from the
Nausets to the people of New Plymouth in 1666.

Cawnacome, whom Drake identifies as Cone-
camon, Sachem of Manomet ; and I desire to digress
at this point to call attention to the fact that this
latter spelling is identical with that of the name of
Epenow's companion in captivity when he was
carried away by Harlow in 1611, and undoubtedly
identifies the former victim of English cupidity
with the later sachem of his tribe.

Obbitinua, said by Drake to be Obbatinewat,
sachem of the Massachusetts, and subject to Mas-
sasoit. Dexter disagrees with Drake, on the theory
that the colonists would not have asked him to sub-
mit himself by reason of his relations with Massa-
soit. This reasoning seems illogical to me, because
there is strong ground for believing that the Massa-
chusetts were not subjects, but allies of Massasoit,
in fact the weight of authority strongly points to
this conclusion; besides, even if he were a subject


of Massasoit, Dexter's reasoning seems weak in
view of the fact that nearly all the sachems who
submitted themselves at that time were clearly sub-
jects of Massasoit.

Nattawahunt, probably Natawanute or Atta-
wanhut of Connecticut, although Drake inclines to
the belief that this is Nashacowan, a Nipmuck
chief who was a subject of Massasoit. My reason
for believing it to be the former is that Attawanhut,
a Connecticut River sachem, had been dispossessed
of his territory along the Fresh (Connecticut)
River by Wapyquent, or Tattoepan as he is most
frequently called, and Winslow, who had large
property holdings in Connecticut and spent a con-
siderable part of his time there, restored him to his
former possessions, quite likely as a reward for his
submission, and in the expectation of profiting by
giving him, a subject of the king, the name of ruling
the natives in the vicinity.

Caunbitant (Corbitant), Sachem of Pocasset
whom we have already noticed.

Chicataubut, of the Massachusetts.

QuADEQuiNA, Massasoit's younger brother, who
accompanied him to Plymouth on the occasion of his
first visit and was undoubtedly one of the two
''Kings of Pokanoket" whom Captain Dermer met
in the wilds of Nemasket in 1619.

HuTTAMOiDEN, whom I am unable to identify
from the writings of contemporary historians either
by this name or any other bearing a close resem-
blance to it.

Appanow, whom Drake takes to be Aspinet of


Nauset, taking issue with other early writers, who
think it was Epenow of Capawack. The closer
similarity in sound together with the recorded fact
that after the episode of Corbitant, Squanto and
Hobamock the month previous, 'Hhose (Sachems)
of the island of Capawack sent to make friendship,''
leads me to believe that it was Epenow. He had
sent the month before and now undoubtedly came
in person. This is probably the same Epenow
who, with Conecamon, was carried away by Har-
low in 1611, and made a thrilling escape three
years later, as already related.

The confusion in names resulting from changes
in spelling from sound leaves us in doubt as to the
identity of some of the men of that period. The
names, being written down by some Englishman as
the sounds struck his ear, were spelled in almost as
many ways as there were men who had occasion
to write them. Consequently, where differences of
opinion arise concerning the identity of particular
individuals, we are obliged to decide for ourselves
which appears the most reasonable.

My only reason for going into this question in
detail and attempting to establish the identity of
these sachems is to call attention to the far reach-
ing effects of the treaty of March 22, 1621, for
there can be no question that the event of Septem-
ber 13 was the direct outgrowth of that treaty, as,
indeed, were all the events to which I have just
called attention.

g There were other matters arising at a later time
in which the action of the natives was unquestion-


ably influenced by the alliance between the Wam-
panoags and the English; but I will content myself
with calling attention briefly to one of them at this
time, one that will be more fully discussed in an-
other chapter, but is of so much consequence in
connection with the subject now under considera-
tion, that this array of the direct benefits resulting
to the colonists from their treaty with Massasoit
would not be complete without some reference to
it; and that is the challenge sent by Canonicus to
Plymouth in November, 1621, in the form of a
bundle of arrows wrapped in a rattlesnake's skin.
We are accustomed to think of Governor Bradford's
defiant reply, accompanied by the same skin filled
with powder and musket balls, as the only deter-
rent to Canonicus' ambitious project of attacking
the colony. But it should be borne in mind that
the Narragansetts could reach Plymouth only by
sailing around Cape Cod, which was impracticable,
or by crossing Wampanoag territory. This would
be an act of open hostility to the latter unless as-
sented to, so it may have been, not the powder and
balls alone, but the knowledge that he would have
to contest his way with Massasoit's warriors, as
well, that held the wily Canonicus in check. The
Narragansetts at that time could muster at least
three thousand warriors, and if the Wampanoags
had been hostile to the English or even passive, it
does not require any particularly prophetic vision
or power of divination to read the result to the
And so the first year passed without even the


suspicion of any lack of good faith on the part of
either the natives or the colonists; for no one ever
thought of blaming Massasoit for the acts of Cor-
bitant, or of the Manomets and Nausets. Corbi-
tant's Pocassets were almost or quite as strong
numerically as the Pokanokets alone, and their ter-
ritory adjoined; and the Manomets and Nausets
were way down on Cape Cod. When one stops to
consider the way in which the tribes of the federa-
tion were scattered, and the natives' natural love of
freedom from interference, it is easy to see that
the Great Sachem who could hold them together at
all in times of peace must be both diplomat and

But in the spring of 1622 Squanto, who evidently
was nourishing ambitions of his own, became jealous
of Hobamock, and caused rumors to be circulated
which cast some doubt upon the sincerity of Mas-
sasoit's friendship; and Bradford tells us that
''much anxiety existed which was increased by the
conduct of Massasoit, who seemed to frown on us,
and neither came nor sent to us as formerly." The
valuation which they placed upon his friendship at
that time, can easily be seen from this passage from
Bradford himself. Massasoit had good reason to
frown on them, and to refrain from coming or send-
ing to them as formerly. This was after Squanto's
treachery to his Great Sachem had been discovered,
of which a more particular account will be found
in the chapter dealing with him, and Massasoit had
himself gone to Plymouth to request his delivery to
him in pursuance of the treaty and had sent messen-


gers for the same purpose, all to no avail. This
might well cause him to wonder if the English
looked upon the treaty as creating obligations and
imposing duties upon only one of the signatories;
and he may have felt himself released from a strict
observance of its terms. From a remark made by
him after Winslow had administered to him and re-
lieved him of his distress in March, 1623, it is appar-
ent that the Great Chief's distrust of the English,
arising from Bradford's refusal to give Squanto up
to him, was not entirely removed until that time.

That there was ground for the colonists' anxiety
is apparent from the disclosure made by Massasoit
after his relief by Winslow; and that there was
justification for the acts of the natives we will show
in a subsequent paragraph; but, after Winslow's
visit to Sowams, there does not appear to have
been any suspicion on the part of the settlers that
Massasoit was a party to their projects, although
he knew of them.

Sometime in March, 1623, word of Massasoit 's
illness reached Plymouth, and, at Governor Brad-
ford's behest, Edward Winslow again set out for
Sowams, accompanied by Hobamock and a ''gentle-
man from London, named John Hamden," perhaps
the John Hampden who afterwards distinguished
himself as a leader of the Parliamentary forces in
the struggle between the Commons and Charles II.
Bradford desired them to make this trip to express
to Massasoit his friendship, and to obtain a con-
ference with Dutch traders who were reported to
have been driven ashore in Narragansett Bay.


Before their arrival the ship had been gotten off
and so this part of their errand came to naught.
Not so the other purpose, however, for on arriving
at Massasoit's lodge, they found him very ill,
scarcely able to speak and wholly unable to see.
When he asked who had come, and was told Wins-
low, he exclaimed: ''Ah, Winslow, I shall never
see thee again!" By administering some simple
remedies and scraping off a thick coating which had
gathered in his throat and on his tongue, Winslow
soon relieved him of his suffering; whereupon he
said: ''Now I see the English are my friends and
love me, and whilst I live I will never forget this
kindness they have showed me." The doubt exist-
ing since the episode over Squanto, fostered by some
one of his wily sub-sachems, unquestionably Corbi-
tant, who had whispered suspicions into his ears
during his sickness, was resolved; and Massasoit
kept his word.

His sagamores and alUes who had come to visit
him, some from a distance of a hundred miles, were
told how his friends, the English, had restored him
to health.

When they were about to return to Plymouth,
Massasoit called together his most trusted counsel-
lors, of whom Hobamock was one, and, in the
presence of all of them, directed Hobamock to ac-
quaint Winslow with the existence of a plot against
Weston's colony at Wessagusset and the settlement
at Plymouth. He informed them that the Massa-
chusetts Indians were the chief instigators of the
conspiracy and implicated the natives of Nauset,


Paomet, Sokones, Mattachiest, Manomet, Agawam
and the Island of Capawack, most of whom were
his subjects, and among which were several of those
tribes whose sachems had subscribed the declara-
tion of allegiance to King James eighteen months

It is significant that all the tribes implicated were
those who lived remote from Pokanoket, and, es-
pecially, that Corbitant was not openly mixed up
in the affair. That he was in sympathy with the
conspirators there is no doubt; and that he had en-
deavored to secure his Great Sachem's consent to
his making common cause with them is almost as
certain; and Massasoit's withholding of that con-
sent, notwithstanding his own serious grievance, is,
in itself, striking evidence of his exalted character.
The information given by him at that time was of
inestimable value to the colonists, as it enabled
their doughty Captain Standish to take the neces-
sary steps to put an end to the conspiracy and save
the colonies.

The man who accepts at its par value the saying
"There is no good Indian but a dead Indian," will
see in this conspiracy conclusive evidence of Indian
treachery and faithlessness, and will say that Massa-
soit, knowing of it, had silently acquiesced in it up
to the time of his restoration to health by Winslow,
revealing it then only from gratitude for his recovery.
To such critics, I would call attention to the fact
that he showed his superiority to the English in his
display of gratitude, for there is no evidence of any
manifestation of appreciation of favors received in


all their dealings with the Indians unless there was
attached to it the expectation of further favors;
and I would also call attention to the fact that the
colonists had themselves, onty a few short months
before, protected a traitor to Massasoit in plain vio-
lation of the express provisions of the treaty, the
first breach; and all the natives undoubtedy knew
of it. This act may well have caused the simple
natives to look upon the treaty as abrogated; and
to consider themselves released from all obhgations
assumed under that or any subsequent stipulations
or agreements; and Massasoit had good cause to
share in such feeling.

But for this illness of the Great Sachem, the
timely arrival of Winslow, and the efficacy of his
simple remedies to alleviate the suffering man and
arrest the progress of the disease, the colonists
might have perished at the hands of the conspira-
tors, and another awful example of savage treachery
been furnished to the world; and the major part of
humanity would have accepted it at its face value,
without looking into the first great cause. Indeed,
the history of those times, as recorded by Bradford,
might never have seen the light of day, and without
his record, his failure to keep the faith with Massa-
soit might never have become known; for it is from
his own narrative, providentially preserved, that we
ascertain the story of the straining of the friendly
relations between the whites and the natives.

One incident, perhaps better than any other re-
corded, except that of his disclosure to Winslow of
the plot against the colonies, serves to illustrate the


extent to which the old chief was influenced by
gratitude for favors received and love for his friends.
In 1637 Arthur Peach, a former servant of Wins-
low's, with three accomplices, killed a Narragan-
sett Indian in cold blood. We shall see more of the
details in the chapter devoted to Miantonomo, and
for the purpose of concluding the brief mention here
we will let Roger Williams tell the story. In his
letter to Winthrop, then Governor of the Plymouth
colony, he says, ^^Ousamequin coming from Plymouth

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Online LibraryAlvin Gardner WeeksMassasoit of the Wampanoags; (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 18)