Alvin Gardner Weeks.

Massasoit of the Wampanoags; (Volume 1) online

. (page 9 of 18)
Online LibraryAlvin Gardner WeeksMassasoit of the Wampanoags; (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


told me that the four men were all guilty. I an-
swered but one; he replied true, one wounded him,
but all lay in wait two days and assisted. Also
that the principal must not die, for he was Mr.
Winslow's man; and also that the Indian was by
birth a Nipmuck man, so not worthy that any
other man should die for him."

Williams had been banished from Salem two
years before this and on his way to the Narragansett
country, ''on foot and alone in the dead of winter,"
he had been kindly entertained by Massasoit at
Sowams; and they appear to have been on very
friendly terms thereafter.

I cannot refrain, in passing, from referring to one
little pleasantry of the Great Sachem at the ex-
pense of Winslow and his friends, and I will let the
old chronicler tell the story. ''Mr. Winslow com-
ing in his bark from Connecticut to Narragansett,
— and he left it there, — and intending to return
by land, he went to Osamekin (Massasoit), the saga-
more, his old ally, who offered to conduct him home
to Plymouth. But before they took their journey,



124 MASSASOIT

Osamekin sent one of his men to Plymouth to tell
them that Mr. Winslow was dead; and directed
him to show how and where he was killed. Where-
upon there was much fear and sorrow at Plymouth.
The next day when Osamekin brought him home,
they asked him why he sent such a word etc. to
which he answered that it was their manner to do
so, that they might be more welcome when they
came home."

Perhaps the best tribute to the character of the
Great Sachem extant is contained in the lamenta-
tion of Hobamock as poured into the ears of Wins-
low and Hamden when on their way to visit him
in his sickness in 1623. He told them they would
never see his like again among the Indians, con-
tinuing, "He is no liar, he was not bloody and
cruel like other Indians; in anger and passion he
was soon reclaimed, easy to be reconciled toward
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; yea, he feared we had not a faith-
ful friend left among the Indians; showing how he
had oft times restrained their malice etc. continuing
a long speech, with such signs of lamentation and
unfeigned sorrow as would have made the hardest
heart relent."

Such was the tribute of one of his counsellors and
men of valor, who had lived with him and under his
rule, who had sat with him in council and followed
him on the warpath.



MASSASOIT 125

Carver, Bradford, Winslow, Brewster, Standish,
in fact all the men who played a leading part in the
opening scene of the drama enacted upon the bleak
New England coast, passed from the stage of hu-
man action, leaving the old chief still directing the
affairs of his federation; but finally, he too laid
down the sceptre and was gathered to his fathers
in whose faith he died, having refused to accept the
white man's religion, though undoubtedly hearing it
preached from time to time. Whether his own in-
herent honesty revolted at the practices of the men
who professed a higher religion, we do not know;
and whether, in his declining years he read in the
encroachments of the men he had befriended, the
approaching doom of his own people is wholly a
matter of conjecture. The exact date of his de-
parture from earth to the land of Ponemah is not
recorded, nor does any one know where his remains
were buried. Drake says he was alive as late as
September, 1661, but a deed given by Wamsutta
dated April 8, 1661, conveying what is now the
town of Attleboro, begins ''Know All Men by
These Presents that I, Wamsutta, alias Alexander,
Chief Sachem of Pokanoket." This leaves some
doubt concerning the accuracy of Drake's conclu-
sion, although, like Passaconaway, Massasoit may
have surrendered the tomahawk of authority to his
eldest son before his death.

Gone were the white men who knew him in his
prime, when he governed his people "better with
few strokes than others with many," when he ''re-
strained their malice," and stood the uncompromis-



126 MASSASOIT

ing friend of the English, refusing to Usten to the
appeals of his sub-chiefs to speak the word which
would have kindled a holocaust for the settlers.
Gone were the friends of his early days, who valued
his friendship and loved him for his native honesty
and sincerity. In their place had arisen another
generation, interested in him and his people only as
the possessors of land they coveted; and so far as
we know not a white man dropped a tear over the
cold form of the hero who had so often stood be-
tween them and destruction.

Of him General Fessenden well says, ''This Chief
has never had full justice done to his character":
and I have not attempted anything like a complete
biography. Of his early life nothing is known ex-
cept the glimpses revealed by the lamentation of
Hobamock and the boasting of Annawon; and even
subsequent to that time, there are so many voids,
so much that is left to be inferrred from the writings
of contemporary historians that the task is well
nigh impossible. My only purpose has been to call
attention to the qualities he possessed in such a
way that ''full justice may be done to his character."
So little is really known of his early life that his-
torians have not been able even to tell us his name,
that is, the name bestowed upon him at birth.
Massasoit and Ousamequin are the two names
handed down to us by the early writers; and each
of these has a multitude of variations. "Massa-
soyt" is the way Bradford has it in his first mention
of him, and undoubtedly fairly represents the sound
as he heard it from Samoset; and^Prince says, "the



MASSASOIT 127

ancient people from their fathers in Plymouth pro-
nounce it Mas-sa-so-it."

Bicknell tells us that his true or tribal name was
Ousamequin, made up of ousa, yellow, and mequin,
feather, and that Massasoit means Great Sachem.
Others, Peirce among them, think that he changed
his name from Massasoit to Ousamequin in 1632,
when he was at war with the Narragansetts ; while
still others believe he adopted the latter name on
the death of his brother Quadequina. He does not
appear to have been known to the Pilgrims by this
name until long after his first appearance among
them, but this really signifies nothing, as it may
well be that they were in ignorance of his true name
for a long time, calling him by that which they
heard from the lips of Samoset; and that worthy
may have used his title and not his name in speak-
ing of him. So there is no real conflict between
Prince and Bicknell, and color is lent to the claim
of the latter by the well known practice among the
Indians of naming their children for some tangible
object, either animate or inaminate, hence Yellow
Feather.

Whatever his mother may have called him, to
whatever name he may have responded when pro-
nounced by a fond father or by brothers and sisters,
Massasoit he is to history, and Great Sachem he was
in name and in fact; and as Massasoit his memory
should be kept green, and his services to the colo-
nists, as recorded by them, perpetuated for the
generations yet to come; generations who will draw
inspiration and new courage and zeal in the cause



128 MASSASOIT

of freedom and humanity from the story of perils
encountered, and hardships endured and overcome
by the fathers, with the assistance of the friendly
natives under Massasoit, in estabhshing upon these
shores a haven of civil and religious liberty, "an
asylum for the oppressed of all nations."

It is to Massasoit that we pay our tribute of re-
spect and admiration for the manly virtues, the
heroic qualities, that have endeared him to every
true American who has taken the pains to analyze
properly the records and acquaint himself with the
facts that go to make up the beginning of American
history.



VI

MASSASOIT'S FAMILY

WHILE nothing definite is known of Massa-
soit's ancestry, the fact that the Great Chief-
taincy of the federation passed from him to his
eldest son and then from the latter to a younger
brother, together with what we know of the hered-
itary character of the position among the other
Algonquin groups and tribes, establishes beyond
question his connection with a line of kings.
Whether his father occupied the position before
him, or it was handed down collaterally, does not
definitely appear, nor is it of any special interest,
except as it might throw some light upon the cus-
toms and laws of descent of this particular federa-
tion, and as matter of genealogical research, which
possesses a fascination for most men. Who the man
is and whence he came are always questions that
arouse our interest in connection with those who
have occupied prominent positions in the affairs
of nations, not so much that it matters, for it is the
man that counts, but that we sometimes hke to
speculate upon the conditions which have con-
tributed to the production of the character
which leaves its impress upon the history of the
times.

129



130 MASSASOIT

|At the beginning of the white man's history in
New England, Massasoit was known to have had
two brothers Hving. Whether there were other
brothers or sisters does not appear. Of the two
brothers mentioned in history, Quadequina accom-
panied him to Plymouth in March, 1621, and is
described as ''a very proper, tall young man of a
very modest and seemly countenance." He is
generally credited with being one of the two "Kings
of Pokanoket" whom Captain Dermer interviewed
at Nemasket in June, 1619, this conclusion un-
doubtedly being drawn from the fact that he appears
to have been Massasoit's companion at and after
the time of his first actual introduction to history.
He was probably next in age to Massasoit, as the
other brother does not appear to have been partic-
ularly noticed until a much later date.

The part played by him in the affairs of the tribe
or federation and in their dealings with their neigh-
bors and the whites seems to have been an inconse-
quential one, which leads to the conclusion that he
was simply a younger brother of the "King," and,
in consequence of his royal blood, a close counsellor
and frequent companion. He died within a few
years of the landing of the Pilgrims.

The second brother of the Great Sachem whose
name is variously written, as Akkompoin, Uncom-
pawen, Woonkaponehunt, and Vucumpowet, does
not appear prominently in history until King
Philip's war, in which he was one of that Great
Sachem's chief counsellors and war captains, al-
though his name appears with that of PhiHp on an



massasoit's family 131

agreement made with the Plymouth authorities on
August 6, 1662, where it is written under that of
"Philip, Sachem of Pokanoket," as "Vucumpowet,
unkell to the above said Sachem." As I shall not
have occasion to refer to him again, a word concern-
ing his position in the Chiefs' Council will not be
out of place. here. That he was an active partici-
pant in the affairs of the federation during Philip's
reign is apparent from the fact that in addition to
the treaty or agreement of August 6, 1662, he also
signed with Philip two others, one at Taunton,
April 10, 1671, and the other at Plymouth, Septem-
ber 9, 1671. He is known to have been with Phihp
as counsellor and captain in the war that bears the
name of the latter; and, in this capacity, he accom-
panied Philip on an expedition started against
Plymouth in July, 1676. This project proving not
feasible, the party turned back at Bridgewater, and
having felled a tree across a river in the line of their
march, to be used as a bridge, Akkompoin, who
was one of the last to attempt to cross, was shot by
the English who came up before he got away. This
was on July 31, 1676, and it was this same bridge
upon which Philip was seen sitting the next day,
but escaped.

The known children of Massasoit were Wam-
sutta, Pometacom or Metacomet, Sunconewhew,
Amie, and possibly another daughter, as Phihp had
a sister who was captured on the same day that her
uncle Akkompoin was shot, who may have been
Amie, although Peirce says there is no reason to
suppose it was she, and as she married Tuspaquin



132 MASSASOIT

who had a wife Uving in September, 1676, there is
very good reason for supposing that the one cap-
tured in July was not Amie.

Wamsutta was first known as Mooanam, and
both he and his younger brother Pometacom were
given Enghsh names at the request of their father
who brought them to Plymouth, apparently for that
purpose, Wamsutta being then named Alexander
and Pometacom, Philip, for Alexander the Great of
Macedon and his father Philip, respectively. Wam-
sutta succeeded his father upon the death of the
latter or possibly before. I have already called at-
tention to the fact that he signed himself ''Chief
Sachem of the Pokanokets'^ some months before the
last date at which some writers assert that Massa-
soit was still alive. This may be explained on the
theory that the aged chief turned over the affairs
of the federation to his son in his old age. Before
he assumed the active management of the tribal
affairs, he seems to have participated with his
father in the sales of land and the making of treaties,
whether in pursuit of some arrangement between
themselves by which Wamsutta became associated
in the government, or at the insistence of the Eng-
lish to guard against future contingencies, we do
not know. At any rate, we find the deed of Poka-
noket given in 1653 signed by both, to say nothing
of the renewal in 1639 of the original league of Mas-
sasoit and Carver, or of Roger Williams' declara-
tion that when he first came to the Narragansett
country, in 1636, Massasoit and Mooanam, his son,
gave him Seekonk, which the Plymouth colony



massasoit's family 133

claimed under their grant from the authorities in
England, who, of course, had no title to it.

In 1662, the government at Plymouth became
suspicious of Wamsutta, and sent Captain Thomas
Willett to investigate the truth of rumors that had
reached them to the effect that the sachem was
attempting to secure the cooperation of the Narra-
gansetts in a revolt which he was planning against
the whites. Willett was told by Wamsutta that the
whole story was a fabrication of the Narragansetts
to injure him and his people with the English. He
agreed to attend the next session of the Court at
Plymouth, but did not put in an appearance. The
colonists afterwards concluded from some rumors
that came to them that he was on a visit to the
Narragansett country, and this added to their sus-
picions, they apparently assuming the authority to
say when and where he should move, and never giv-
ing him or any of his race credit for visiting another
friendly tribe for any other purpose than to stir up
trouble for them. The government then sent
Major Winslow, the commandant of the colonial
militia, to bring him to Plymouth, just as though he
was a common criminal, and they had jurisdiction
over him.

Like his father before him and his brother who
followed him in the great chieftaincy, Wamsutta
had hunting camps at various places in what re-
mained of his domain. There is known to have
been one in what is now Raynham, one at Titicut,
and one on the shore of Munponset Pond in Halifax.
It was at the latter that Major Winslow found him



134 MASSASOIT

with a number of his warriors at breakfast with their
guns outside. Of the three early writers who re-
late this incident, two say he had eighty men with
him, and the other says eight. Although apprised
of the approach of the English, he made no attempt
to secure his arms or to escape, but remained quietly
at his repast, which ought to have been enough to
disarm the suspicion of any but an evil-minded man
looking for trouble; but not Winslow. He took the
guns and, entering the lodge, demanded that Wam-
sutta go with him to Pljanouth, a virtual prisoner,
to answer to nothing, to men who had no authority
over him. He refused, whereupon Winslow, pursu-
ing the usual high-handed methods of the day,
presented a loaded pistol to his breast threatening
him with instant death if he persisted in his refusal.
After a parley with his people, he submitted, and
they took up the journey, his family accompanying
him. He was offered a horse, but declined, saying
if the women and children could walk, he could.
The party spent the night at Major Winslow's
house in Duxbury, where Wamsutta was stricken
with a raging fever, brought on, no doubt, by the
outrages that the whites had perpetrated upon him.
He was not their subject, but was the proud ruler of
an independent people, and his spirit was broken
by the inhumanity of the men who could not have
secured a foothold upon the soil without the protec-
tion afforded them by his father. Thus are the
honest mistakes of men visited upon their children.
Wamsutta's people begged to be allowed to take
him to his home, which the English in their mag-



MASSASOIT^S FAMILY 135

nanimity permitted on condition that they would
return him to Plymouth when he had recovered.
He was called to a Higher Tribunal, however, and
let us hope a more just and merciful one, for he died
while descending a river in his canoe. Thus passed
the eldest son of the defender of the colonies, and
thus began King Philip's war by the invasion of
Wampanoag territory by armed men, and the cap-
ture of the king of the country at the point of a
loaded pistol; and yet, there are men even now, who
tell us that King Philip started the trouble.

Wamsutta married Tatapanum, otherwise called
Weetamo, and known to history as the "Squaw
Sachem of the Pocassets." She is beheved to have
been the daughter of Corbitant; and in the war
which resulted from the series of outrages of which
the arrest and moral murder of her husband was the
culmination, she followed the fortunes of her brother-
in-law Philip, twice her brother-in-law in fact, for
Philip married her sister, Wootonekanuske. She
was a widow when Wamsutta married her, and, after
his death, she married a third husband about
whom nothing is known except his name, Queque-
quanchett. She subsequently married a fourth,
Petononowit, whom she left in consequence of his
having espoused the English cause; and she then
formed a liaison with a young Narragansett Sa-
chem, Quinapen, one of Phihp's captains. She was
drowned by the breaking up of a raft near Metta-
poisett in August, 1676. Word had reached her
that the English forces were approaching, and there
being no canoes available, she attempted to escape



136 MASSASOIT

on an improvised raft which was not strong enough
to withstand the buffeting of the seas. Her body-
was recovered by the Enghsh who humanely cut off
her head and exposed it on a pole at Taunton,
where, as one of their eminent divines scoffingly
informs us, it was seen by some of her people who
had been taken prisoner, who set up a lamentation
saying it ''was the head of their queen." Little
did the poor mourners know the fate that was in
store for them, or they might have raised a prayer
to the Great Spirit to be allowed to share in that
of their ''Queen." Slavery, worse than death, "the
store of rods for free born backs and stocks for free
born feet," was the lot reserved for them by their
Christian captors.

No doubt the apologists for the colonists will say
that Weetamo should not have joined in Philip's
nefarious scheme. She had seen her people robbed
of their inheritance, their means of securing a live-
lihood taken away under the pretence of purchase,
her husband, with nothing proved against him,
dying at the hands of the men whose existence had
depended upon the friendship of his father, as truly
as though he had been given the deadly poison
which his people always believed was administered
to him; but in spite of all this, she should have
kissed the hand that smote her.

PoMETAcoM, Massasoit's second son and Wam-
sutta's successor when the latter died in 1662,
played such an important part in the affairs between
the Indians and their oppressors that a separate
chapter will be devoted to him and his captains.



MASSASOIT^S FAMILY 137

SuNCONEWHEw was the third son of Massasoit.
But Uttle is known of him, his name appearing but
once of which I find any mention in connection with
the so-called sale of lands to the English, and that
with Philip's on a deed confirming the sale of Re-
hoboth by Massasoit in 1641, the confirmatory deed
bearing date March 30, 1668. It is said that Philip
had a brother killed July 18, 1775, who was a great
captain and had been educated at Harvard College.
As there is no record of any other sons of Massasoit
except these three, this was undoubtedly Suncone-
whew.

Amie, the only daughter of Massasoit of whom
anything definite is known, married Tuspaquin of
Assawamsett, commonly called the ''Black Sa-
chem." Their oldest son, William Tuspaquin, fol-
lowed his father in fighting for his people in King
Philip's war, in the early part of which he met his
death. Their second son is said to have been a
noted warrior, and to have had a part of his jaw
bone shot away in battle. We are left in doubt
concerning the part he played in the war, whether
he was fighting with his own people or with the
English. He is mentioned as a member of Captain
James Church's company; and it is reported that
he died suddenly after the war while sitting in his
wigwam. These two statements, however, are not
entirely irreconcilable with the supposition that he
may have been faithful to his own people, as he
might have joined Captain Church's company after
the war; although how he and his family escaped
slavery is almost beyond comprehension; or how he



138 MASSASOIT

came to die suddenly while sitting in his wigwam;
for while the men of note, the chiefs and sons of
chiefs who followed Philip, died suddenly, it was not
while sitting in their wigwams.

There is one fact that lends color to the theory
that he followed the fortunes of his Great Chief as
did his father and elder brother, and that is the in-
dignation of som.e of his children when their brother,
Benjamin Tuspaquin, second, married Assawetough,
or Mercy Felix, the daughter of John Sassamon,
whom they regarded as a traitor to his people.

The only known descendants of Massasoit now
living trace their lineage through this son of his
daughter, Amie.

In 1917, the General Court of Massachusetts
passed the following :



LEEMA MITCHELL AND HER TWO SISTERS, OF
THE WAMPANOAG TRIBE OF INDIANS.

Resolved, That there shall be paid an-
nually from the treasury of the common-
wealth, in equal quarterly installments from
the first day of December, nineteen hundred
and sixteen, the sum of one hundred dollars
each to Teeweleema Mitchell, Wootone-
kanuske Mitchell, and Zeriah Robinson,
three sisters, aged and needy Indian women
of the Wampanoag tribe, residents of Lake-
ville, who are descendants of King Philip's
sister, and descendants of Massasoit. (Ap-
proved February 21, 1917.)"



massasoit's family 139

General Ebenezer W. Peirce in his ^'Indian His-
tory, Biography and Genealogy" traces the descent
of these three women from Benjamin Tuspaquin,
giving names in each successive generation, and men-
tioning another sister, Emma J., who marred Jacob
C. Safford and had two children living at the time
of the writing of his book in 1878. I am recently in
receipt of a communication from Charlotte L.
Mitchell, the Wootonekanuske named in the resolve
quoted above, in answer to an inquiry, in which
she writes that one of these children, Helen G. Saf-
ford is still living, but is confined in a hospital for
the insane. She also speaks of her own brother
Alonzo as still living, unmarried and in feeble
health. Of the three annuitants above named, Zer-
viah Robinson was born (Mitchell) June 17, 1828,
Teeweleema (known as Melinda) April 11, 1836, and
Wootonekanuske (known as Charlotte L.), my cor-
respondent, November 2, 1848.

So if these five are all the living descendants of
Massasoit, as Peirce asserts, the royal line will be-
come extinct in the next generation.

In 1917, the General Court of Massachusetts also
passed the following:



AN annuity to FANNIE S. BUTLER THROUGH
THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF BOSTON.

Resolved, That there be allowed and paid
out of the treasury of the Commonwealth
to the mayor of the city of Boston an an-
nuity of two hundred and fifty dollars, to



140 MASSASOIT

be expended by the mayor for the benefit of
Fannie S. Butler, granddaughter of the late
Sylvia Sepit Thomas and daughter of the


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryAlvin Gardner WeeksMassasoit of the Wampanoags; (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 18)