John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

Miles Standish, the Puritan captain .. online

. (page 20 of 21)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottMiles Standish, the Puritan captain .. → online text (page 20 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

as hostages to the English, to be tenderly cared for
by them, until the terms of the treaty should be ful-
filled. Thus happily this menace of war was dispelled.

A little while before the events which we have
above recorded, a serious design was entertained of
abandoning the location at Plymouth and removing to
some place where they would find richer soil. Not
only was the soil at Plymouth so barren that it would
scarcely repay cultivation, but the harbor was incom-
modious and shallow. Several general meetings
were held, and the subject was very thoroughly dis-
cussed. Many had already moved to other loca-
tions, and the church had thus become seriously

" Some," writes Governor Bradford, " were still for
staying together in this place, alleging that men and
women might here live, if they would be content with
their condition. And it was not for want of necessi-
ties so much they removed, as for the enriching of
themselves. Others were resolute upon removal, and
so signified that here they would not stay ; that if the
church did not remove, they must; insomuch that
many were swayed, rather than that there should be
a dissolution of the church, to condescend to a re-
moval, if a fit place could be found, that might more
conveniently and comfortably receive the whole, with
such accession of others as might come to them, for


their better strength and subsistence, and some such
like cautions and limitations."

A committee of the church was chosen, by advice
of Governor Bradford, to select a place to move to.
They repaired to Nauset, on Cape Cod, where is now
the town of Eastham. The report they brought back
was so much in favor of the place that the large ma-
jority of the church consented to remove there. But
it was soon found that they had by no means im-
proved their condition by the removal. The result is
graphically described by Governor Bradford :

" Now they began to see their error, that they had
given away already the best and most commodious
places to others, and now wanted them themselves.
For this place was about fifty miles from here, and at
an outside of the country, remote from all society.
Also it would prove so strait as it would not be com-
petent to receive the whole body, much less be capa-
ble of any addition or increase. Thus, in a short time,
they would be worse there than they are now here.
The which, with sundry other like considerations and
inconveniences, made them change their resolutions.
But such as were before resolved upon removal took
advantage of this agreement, and went on, notwith-
standing ; neither could the rest hinder them, they
having made some beginning. Thus was this poor
church left, like an ancient mother, grown old and


forsaken of her children, though not in their affec-
tions, yet in regard to their bodily presence and per- '
sonal helpfulness. Her ancient members being most
of them worn away by death ; and these of later times
being like children translated into other families, and
she, like a widow, left only to trust in God. Thus
she that had made many rich became herself poor."
It required sleepless vigilance and the wisest
measures to keep peace with the Indians. There
were now, in the sevefal colonies, many individual
white men who were totally unprincipled. No power
of law could restrain them from insulting and abusing
the Indians. The ignorant savages had very inade-
quate conceptions of justice, and avenged themselves
upon any white men who fell into their hands. One
of these miscreant white men, who was running away
from Massachusetts, was killed by an Indian, in the
woods between Fairfield and Stamford. No one
knows whether the Indian had any provocation to
commit the deed. The murderer was demanded by
the Massachusetts authorities. The sachem of the
tribe promised to deliver him to the English, bound.
Ten Englishmen were sent to receive the prisoner.
The Indians, who were in charge of the captive, as
soon as they came in sight of the English party, cut
his bands and he fled like a deer into the woods.
Upon this the English seized eight of the Indians, in-


eluding two sachems, and held them in close cap-
tivity for two days, until they received, from the
chiefs, satisfactory promises that the murderer should
be delivered to them.

About a week after this, a wandering Indian came
to a lonely hut in Stamford, and finding a woman
alone, killed her, as he supposed, and robbed the
house. All the Indians in that region seemed angry,
sullen, and often insulting. It was not deemed safe
for the English to travel, unless well armed and in
some strength. A vigilant watch had to be kept
night and day. This was a very uncomfortable state
of things, but no remedy could be devised for it. So
many had moved from Plymouth that the little village
was quite in a state of decay. Duxbury, where Miles
Standish had taken his farm, was, as we have men-
tioned, at a distance of eight miles from Plymouth.
Francis Baylies, alluding to the place in the year
1830, writes:

" The extensive pine forest, the certain evidence
of sandy and barren soil, which even now almost
skirts the ancient town of Plymouth on the south and
the west, prevented any extension of population in
that direction, and on the east the ocean was its
boundary. So unconquerable is the barrenness of
this region, that even now the wild deer makes his
lair in the same place where deer were hunted by our


forefathers two centuries ago, and a few wretched
Indians inhabit the primeval woods in which their
ancestors disdained to dwell." *

Fear of the Indians, with whom hostilities were
liable at any time to break out, prevented the colonists
from selecting farms far inland. The strong settle-
ments on Massachusetts Bay induced the Plymouth
people to extend their settlements along the ocean
shore in that direction. The second church of the
Plymouth colony was established at Duxbury.

The house which Captain Standish occupied here
during the long evening of his eventful life, was situ-
ated on the southeastern part of the peninsula, where
the remains of the cellar, which he probably dug, are
still to be seen. The house in Duxbury, now called
the Standish House, was built by his son, Alexander,
partly it is supposed from timbers taken from the old
house. This fact seems to be substantiated from the
appearance of the beams, which bear the traces of a
peculiar saw, which was used before the introduction
of saw-mills. The hearthstone also, as well as the
doors and latchings, were doubtless used in the pater-
nal home. It was by the side of that fireplace that
the heroic captain sat and mused, while the storms of
a New England winter shook his dwelling. The tim-
bers are of oak, and very sound and strong.

* Memoir of New Plymouth, by Francis Baylies, part i, p. 277.


Upon the south side of Captain's Hill there is a
large rock, called the Captain's Chair. Near this spot
the original barn was erected. The farm comprised
about one hundred and fifty acres, and contained
some of the most fertile land to be found in the
county of Plymouth. Other parts of the town are
sandy and unproductive. Clark's Island, where the
explorers of Plymouth Bay passed their first Sabbath,
is said to possess, in some parts, a rich soil, which can
scarcely be surpassed in any country. " While the
northern and western sides offer the most desirable
qualities for pasturage and grain, its southern and
eastern declivities present a perfect garden, abound-
ing with trees, through whose foliage, even during
the summer's hottest months, stir the breezes from
the sea."

The historian of Duxbury describes the scene
now witnessed from the summit of Captain's Hill,
and endeavors to give expression to the emotions
which the view must awaken in every reflective mind.
He writes :

" Select, should you visit it, the closing hours of a
summer's day, when the burning heat of the declining
sun is dispelled by the cooler shades of approaching
evening, and ascend to its height. Now as the retir-
ing rays of day form on the heavens above a gorgeous
canopy of variegated hues, so on nature's face below


all brightens into richness, and the verdure of her
covering softens into mildness ; the shining villages
around, and the village spires towering against a
background of unfading green, add gladness to the
scene. The glassy surface of the bay within, with its
gentle ripplings on the shore beneath, the music of
the dashing waves on the beach without, give quiet
to the mind and peace within.

" Before you, in the distance at the east, appear
the white sand-hills of Cape Cod, shining beyond
the blue expanse, and seeming to encircle by its pro-
tecting barrier a spot dear to the heart of every de-
scendant of that Pilgrim band. Still nearer, at your
feet and before you, are the pleasant bays of Ply-
mouth, Kingston, and Duxbury, enlivened by passing
boats, and sheltered by the beach from a raging
ocean, crowned at its southern extremity by a light-
house, and with the extending arm of Saquish enclos-
ing the Island of the Pilgrims ; turning your eyes to
the south, they fall in succession on the promontory
of Manomet ; on the ancient town of Plymouth, rising
beneath, and as if under the protection of the mound
beyond, the resting-place of the Pilgrim's dead on
the villages of Rocky NOOK and of Kingston.

" Extending your eye over the extent of forest to
the northwest, you see the Blue Hills of Milton, as-
cending far above the surrounding country; while


nearer, at the north, are the villages of Duxbury and
Marshfield, scattered over the fields, whose white cot-
tages, shining in the sun, offer a pleasing contrast to
the scene. Below you and around you once arose the
humble abode of the Pilgrims. Who can gaze upon
the spot which marks the site of the dwelling of
Standish, without feelings of emotion ? who can but
give thanks tb?t that spirit

' A spirit fit to start into an empire
And look the world to law '

had been sent amongst them, to be then- counsel in
peace and their protection in danger ? Who can but
admire its ready adaptation to a sphere of action so
totally different from the school of his youth ? Here
also argse the dwellings of Brewster, who having fol-
lowed in his youth the retinue of kings and princes,
preferred a solitary retreat in the western wilds, and
there to worship his God in peace* Here, too, was
the abode of Collier, who, under every circumstance
of danger, strove with unceasing toil in the discharge
of every duty necessary to the welfare and prosperity
of the colony. Here, too, can be seen the spot
whereon the habitation of Alden was, whose prudent
counsels and whose rigid justice attained for him a
rank in the estimation of the colony, alike an honor to
himself, and a subject of pride to his descendants.


Turn your vision as you may, and you will feel that
you are gazing on a scene of more than ordinary in-
terest, full of the most grateful recollections, and of
a nature the most agreeable and pleasing.

" ' Scenes must be beautiful, which daily viewed
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years,
Praise justly due to those that I describe.'

" Rose, the first wife of Myles Standish, died at
Plymouth, January 29, 1621, about a month after the
landing. She was among the first to succumb to the
privations of that terrible first winter. He married
a second wife (Barbara), who survived him.

"To his house on Captain's Hill, Standish re-
moved after his second marriage, and here he drew
around him a devoted class of friends, among whom
were the elder Brewster, George Partridge, John Al-
den, Mr. Howland, Francis Eaton, Peter Brown,
George Soule, Nicholas Byrom, Moses Simmons, and
other settlers of Duxbury.

" The Indians also loved as well as feared him,
and the faithful Hobbomak ever kept near to minister
to his wants, and was the faithful guide in his travels.
This devoted Indian died in 1642, having- faithfully
served his master twenty years, and is supposed to
have been buried on the south side of Captain's Hill,
near the great rock called ' The Captain's chair.'


Tradition fixes his wigwam between two shell mounds
on the shore near the Standish place, till taken home
to the house of Standish, where he became an inmate
till his death."

The Standish Monument. .

The Will of Captain Standish. His Second Wife Captain's Hill.
The Monument. Letters from President Grant and General
Hooker. Oration by General Horace Binney Sargent. Sketch
of his Life. Other Speakers. Laying the Corner Stone. De-
scription of the Shaft.

None of the particulars of the last Jiours of Cap-
tain Standish have been transmitted to our day. So
far as is known he enjoyed good health until his last
sickness. His will was dated March ist, 1655. In
it he expressed the wish that, should he die at Dux-
bury, his body should be buried by the side of his two
dear daughters, Lora Standish, and Mary Standish,
his daughter-in law. One-third part of his estate he
bequeathed to his dear and loving wife, Barbara Stan-
dish. The following extract from his will indicates
the devout character of the man :

" I do, by this my will, make and appoint my lov-
ing friends, Mr. Timothy Hatherly and Captain James
Cudworth, supervisors of this my last will ; and that
they will be pleased to do the office of Christian love,
to be helpful to my poor wife and children, by their
Christian counsel and advice ; and if any difference
should arise, which I hope will not, my will is that


my said supervisors shall determine the same, and
that they see that my poor wife shall have as comfort-
able maintainance as my poor state will bear, the
whole time of her life, which if you my loving friends
please to do, though neither they nor I shall be able
to recompense, I do not doubt that the Lord will."

There is a tradition that Captain Standish's second
wife, Barbara, was a sister of his first wife, Rose.
When the Mayflower sailed, she was left an orphan
in England. She afterwards reached the colony a
full grown woman, and became the wife of the Captain,

Captain Standish died the 3d of October, 1656.
But his character and achievements were such that
for two hundred years since his death, his name has
been one of the most prominent in our retrospects of

the Pilgrim days. His descendants are very numer-
ous. For some time it has been, by these his de-
scendants, in contemplation to rear a monument to
his memory. On the i/th of August, 1871, there
was a very large gathering of these descendants at
Duxbury, to consecrate the spot on Captain's Hill,
where the monument was to be reared. Many others,
of the most distinguished men of our land, were also
present, who wished to unite in this tribute to the
memory of one of the most illustrious names in Amer-
ican annals. President. U. S. Grant wrote, regretting
his inability to be present :


" I am heartily with your association in sympathy,
with any movement to honor one who was as promi-
nent in the early history of our country as Miles Stan-
dish ; but my engagements are such that I regret I
am unable to promise to be present in August."

In the reply from General Hooker to an invitation
to attend the celebration, he writes :

" I regret to state that my engagements for the
month of August are such as to render it impossible
for me to join you on that memorable occasion. It is
unnecessary for me to say that I deeply sympathize
with the object of your meeting. I have been an ad-
mirer of the character of Myles Standish from my
boyhood up, and would like to be identified with any
body of gentlemen engaged in commemorating his
great virtues. To me, his civil and military character
towers far above his contemporaries, and they, if I
mistake not (when history shall be truthfully written),
will be made to appear to be the most remarkable
body of men that ever lived. Viewed from our pres-
ent standpoint, in my opinion, they are now entitled
to that judgment. It will be a graceful act on the
part of our friends, to erect a monument to his mem-
ory ; but it must not be expected to add to his fame
or immortality. Industry, valor, and integrity were
regarded as the cardinal virtues of our forefathers,
and I hope they will never be held in less estimation


by their descendants. One of our gifted poets has
happily named ' Plymouth Rock ' as the corner-stone
of the nation. The superstructure promises to be
worthy of the foundation. With great respect, I have
the honor to be your friend and servant,

" J. HOOKER, Major-General."

Replies of a similar character were returned by
Generals Sherman, Sheridan and Burnside, and by
W. C. Bryant. General Horace Binney Sargent de-
livered the oration on this occasion. It was very elo-
quent in its truthful delineation of the character and
career of the illustrious Puritan Captain. Every
reader will peruse with interest the following grapic
sketch from its pages :

"About the time that all Christendom was in
mourning for the murdered Prince of Orange, and de-
ploring in his death the overthrow of the bulwark of
the Protestant faith, a little fair-haired child was play-
ing among the hedge-rows of England, who was des-
tined to learn the art of war in the armies of that
king's more warlike son, Prince Maurice, then a boy
of seventeen, and to be a tower of defence to the un-
soldierly Pilgrim colony of Protestant America.

" That child whose bones, after nearly fourscore

years of toil and war, were laid somewhere on this

hill-side, perhaps under our unconscious feet was

Myles Standish, the great Puritan Captain ! He was



born about the year 1580, of English ancestry, dating
back to rank and opulence as far as the thirteenth
century. Of his childhood, little is known. To de-
feat the title of his line to lands in England, the rent-
roll of which is half a million per annum, the hand
of fraud is supposed to have defaced the page that
contained the parish record of his birth.

" Unjustly deprived of these vast estates, as he
avers in his will, in which he bequeaths his title to his
eldest son, it seems probable that he went to Holland
near the time of his majority. Queen Elizabeth
signed his commission as lieutenant in the English
forces, serving in the Netherlands against tfre cruel
armies of the Inquisition. As she died in 1603,
about two years after his majority, it is not improba-
ble that we are indebted to that first disappointment,
which may have driven him, in his early manhood and
some despair, into the army.

" From 1600 to 1609, the year of the great truce
between Prince Maurice and the King of Spain, the
contest was peculiarly obstinate and bloody. In this
fierce school the Puritan captain learned the temper
and art of war.

" From 1609 to 1620, a period of truce but not of
civil tranquility, the Low Countries were inflamed
by those theological disputes of the Calvinists and
Arminians which brought the excellent Barneveldt


to the scaffold, and drove the great Grotius a fugi-
tive from prison into exile. In this school, perhaps,
Myles Standish learned some uncompromising relig-
ious opinions, which brought him into strange sym-
pathy and connection with the Pilgrim church in Ley-
den. Both periods seemed to leave their impress on
his character. The inventory, recorded with his will,
mentions the Commentaries of Caesar, Bariffe's Artil-
lery, three old Bibles, and three muskets, with the
harness of the time, complete. His Bibles were old.
A well-worn Bible for every musket ; and, thank God,
a musket, not an old one, to defend each Bible !

" The schedule of his books, some forty in number,
records nearly twenty which are devotional or reli-
gious. With the memory of one act of singularly
resolute daring, when, in obedience to the colonial
orders to crush a great Indian conspiracy, he took a
squad of eight picked men into the forests, and
deemed it prudent to kill the most turbulent warrior
with his own hands, we may imagine how the Pilgrim
soldier, friend and associate of Brewster, disciple of
the saintly Robinson, rose from the perusal of one
of the old Bibles, or of " Ball on Faith," " Spasles
against Heresie," or " Dodd on the Lord's Supper,"
to stab Pecksuot to the heart with his own knife ; a
giant who had taunted him with his small stature, in
almost the very words of Goliah in his insulting


sneer at David, long before ; and to cut off the head
of Watawamat, which bloody trophy the elders had
ordered him to bring home with him. We can im-
agine him on the evening of that cheaply victorious
day, taking more than usual pleasure in the exultant
psalms of the warrior David, and in a chapter of Bur-
rough's " Christian Contentement " and " Gospell Con-
versation," especially as he had his three muskets
with bandoleers, and Bariffe's Artillery, close at his
hand. One can feel the unction with which the val-
orous Pilgrim would religiously fulfil the colonial
order to smite the heathen hip and thigh, and hew
Agag in pieces before the Lord.

" Not originally, and perhaps never, a member of
the Pilgrim church, and possessing many traits which
might have belonged to the fierce trooper, in an army
whose cavalry was the legitimate descendant of
Caesar's most formidable enemies, the Batavi, cele-
brated for cavalry qualities, and long the body-guard
of the Roman emperors, the appearance of the
somewhat violent soldier, in the saintly company of
Parson Robinson's church, is an anomaly.

" It has been proven many a time, from the days of
Bannockburn, when the Scottish host sank on its
knees to receive the benediction of the Black Abbot
of Inchaffray, even to our own late day, when many
of the best fighting regiments were blessed with the


most earnest chaplains, that men never tender their
lives more gallantly to God and mother-land than
when they are fervently preached to and prayed for.

" Yet the all-daring contempt for peril, the rough-
ness of temper, the masterly economy with which
Standish saved human life by consumate indifference
to personal homicide upon prudent occasion, his pow-
er of breathing his own fiery heart into a handful of
followers, till he made them an army able to withstand
a host in the narrow gates of death, would lead us to
expect such a colleague for the saintly Brewster as
little as we should expect to see Sheridan

" ' Cavalry Sheridan,
Him of the horses and sabres we sing '

prominent among the Methodists.

" In truth, with the poem of our sweetest and most
cultured bard in our minds, and with the memory of
those fierce monosyllables with which our great cav-
alry leader rolled back defeat upon the jubilant rebel
host, and rescued victory at Winchester, fancy can
depict the foaming black horse pressed into the rush
of the shell-shattered guidons by the iron gripe of
knees booted in " Cordovan leather," and imagine that
little Myles Standish rode that day in the saddle of
little Phil. Sheridan.

" To the genealogist, who believes that names rep-


resent qualities and things, it is not unpleasing to find
in the family record of Standish and Duxbury Hall,
in the parish church of Chorley, Old England, the
name Milo Standanaught. To stand at nothing, in
the way of a duty commanded by the civil authority,
seemed the essence of character in Myles Standish ;
and thoroughness stamps the reputation of the name
and blood to-day.

" The materials for personal biography are scanty.
His wife, Rose Standish, an English rose, whose
very name augurs unfitness for a New England win-
ter on an unsettled cape, died within a month of the
landing. A light tradition exists that his second wife,
Barbara, was her sister, whom he left an orphan child
in England, and sent for. She arrived a woman
grown, and the valorous captain added another illus-
tration to the poet's story, that Venus and the forger
of thunderbolts were married.

" From the first anchorage, Captain Standish, as
the soldier of the company, was charged with all deeds
of adventure. At first, certain grave elders were
sent with him for counsel. But ultimately his repute
in affairs, both civil and military, was such that he was

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottMiles Standish, the Puritan captain .. → online text (page 20 of 21)