- Cultural Communities
- Digital Scholarship
- 25th Annual Sailors’ Series
- Lifelong Learning Lecture Series
- Where the Land Meets the Sea
- Watkins Bioacoustics Symposium
- Nautical Antiques Show
- 27th Annual Scrimshaw Weekend
- A Grateful Dead Yoga Experience
- Painting with a Splash FOR KIDS
- Right Whale Day
- April Vacation Week
- Over the Top Summer Gala
- Members’ Trip to Porto, Portugal
- Family Activities
- Community Programs
- Annual Events
- Moby-Dick Marathon
- Past Programs
OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the proceedings of the Winter Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, held at the Unitarian Chapel, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on December 29, 1903.
PELEG SLOCUM OF DARTMOUTH AND HIS WIFE MARY HOLDER
by William A. Wing
TEN ANCIENT HOMES
by Henry B. Worth
THE KING PHILIP WAR IN DARTMOUTH
by Captain Thomas R. Rodman
[Note--The "Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches" will be published from time to time and may be purchased for a nominal sum on application to the Secretary.]
Proceedings of the Winter Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
New Bedford, Massachusetts
December 29, 1903
New Bedford, Massachusetts
December 29, 1903
The winter session of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held at the Unitarian Chapel, New Bedford, on Tuesday evening, December 29, 1903. Owing to the fact that a severe snow storm had raged several hours, not over 150 or 200 were in attendance. But the session was interesting and the three papers--read by William A. Wing, on "Peleg Slocum of Dartmouth and his wife Mary Holder"; Henry B. Worth, on "Ten Ancient Homes"; and Captain Thomas R. Rodman, on "The King Philip War in Dartmouth," --were listened to with close attention.
President William W. Crapo called the meeting to order. Secretary Howland state that at a meeting of the board of directors, the publication section was authorized to print 500 copies of the proceedings of the September meeting. A pamphlet of sixteen pages had been prepared, and it was proposed to print the proceedings of subsequent meetings in the same manner.
President Crapo stated that there were four vacancies on the museum committee, and he appointed the following to fill the places: Benjamin Anthony, William C. Taber, Mrs. George H. Tripp, and William A. Wing.
The secretary announced that a public reception would be held in the museum rooms, in the Masonic building, on New Year's Day, from 3 to 6 and from 8 to 10.
The three papers of the evening were then read as follows:
Peleg Slocum of Dartmouth and His Wife Mary Holder
By William A. Wing
In an old vellum-bound volume of Records of the Friends' Monthly Meeting in Dartmouth, you may read: "At a man's meeting in the town of Dartmouth the sixth day of the eleventh month, 1698, at the house of John Lapham, we, underwriters, Peleg Slocum, Jacob Mott, Abraham Tucker and John Tucker, undertake to build a meeting house for the people of God in scorn called Quakers, (35 foot long, 30 foot wide and 14 foot stud) to worship and serve the true and living God in according as they are persuaded in conscience they out to do, and for no other use, intent or purpose. We subscribe our names with our own hands, and for the use of the said society of people toward the building of said house of our free will contribute as followeth." Then follow a list of eleven subscribers giving in all £63. The largest individual contribution, £15, was given by Peleg Slocum, who also gave the land, six acres, for meeting house and burying ground purposes.
Then, at a monthly meeting of Friends holden at the house of Peleg Slocum in Dartmouth, the 26th of the fourth month, 1699, it was agreed that there should be a further contribution toward the defraying of the charge of building the meeting house and there was subscribed £12 18s.
The Friends' Monthly Meeting of Dartmouth, which had been established a number of years before, had been held mostly at the house of Peleg Slocum, until the 21st of the fourth month 1703, we find record of a meeting held at "our meeting house in Dartmouth," and Peleg Slocum is recorded as one of the first approved ministers of the society.
It has been my privilege to have access to a quaint early edition of John Richardson's Journal; here, under the date of 1701, we read: "Peleg Slocum, an honest public Friend, carried us in his sloop to Nantucket. We landed safe and say a great many people looking towards the sea, for great fear had possessed them that our sloop was a French sloop, and they had intended to have alarmed the island, it being a time of war. I told the good-like people that Peleg Slocum, near Rhode Island, was master of the sloop and we came to visit them in the love of God, if they would be willing to let us have some meetings amongst them.
"We then enquired for Nathaniel Starbuck, who we understood was in some degree convinced of the truth, and went thither. He said we were very welcome and by this time came in his mother, Mary Starbuck, who the islanders esteemed as a judge among them (for little of moment was done there without her). The meeting being agreed upon at their house the large and bright-rubbed room was set with suitable seats of chairs, the glass windows taken out of the frames and many chairs placed without, very conveniently so that I did not see anything awanting. The seats both within and without doors were so placed that the faces of the people were towards the seats where the publick Friends sat--although there were but very few bearing our name in it. However, a great convincement there was that day. Mary Starbuck was one of the number. I remember Peleg Slocum said after this meeting the 'the like he was never at--for he thought the inhabitants of the island were shaken and most of the people convinced of the truth.'"
The celebrated Thomas Story, one of the original Friends, was entertained several times at the home of Peleg Slocum in Dartmouth, and in his journal wrote: "On the thirteenth day of the fifth month (1704) about the tenth hour in the morning, I set sail for the island of Nantucket in a shallop belonging to our Friend Peleg Slocum, which under divine Providence, he himself chiefly conducted, and landed there the next morning about six. (I wonder what a "shallop" is like? I don't believe anyone ever saw one outside of a book.) And sometime after we departed they did meet again and they became a large and living meeting."
Peleg Slocum, this "honest publick Friend," was of Quaker parentage, the son of Giles and Joan Slocum of Portsmouth, R.I. His father dying in 1682, bequeathed "unto my loving friends, the people of God called Quakers, four pound Lawful moneys of New England to bee payd into the men's meeting on Road Island" and "unto my son, Peleg Slocum, halfe a sheare of Land Lying and being in the Towne of Dartmouth."
Our honored historian, Daniel Ricketson, says in his History of New Bedford: "Peleg Slocum was an early settler on the neck of land in Dartmouth township, New Plymouth, at the confluence of Paskamansett or Slocums River with Buzzards Bay, which has since been known as Slocums neck."
In October, 1684, we find him named with several others as defendants in a suit brought against them as proprietors of Dartmouth, on the charge that they, the said proprietors, did not permit the division of lands. The court, eventually, in 1865, granted a non-suit. In 1694 he was confirmatory deed of Governor William Bradford.
In the will of Peleg Slocum of Dartmouth (yeoman) dated 1731, he describes himself as 'in good health of body and sound and perfect memory--yet mindful of the mortality of the body." This lengthy document shows him to be a man of many worldly possessions, and we have had proof of his spiritual riches.
He left a homestead in Dartmouth of over a thousand (1000) acres, "together with all my lands in the last Division in Dartmouth, with all my rights according to the Court Grant and the first Proprietary (and also all my rights) in the undivided lands in Dartmouth. My interests in the three islands called by the English the Elizabeth islands, and by the Indian names of Nashawina, Pennykest and Cuttahunker. He was owner of most of the latter island and it became known as Slocums island and for many generations remained in the Slocum family. It was a Slocum who sold our Gosnolds islet to those whose heirs so kindly donated it to our society.
Like his father, Giles Slocum, he remembered the Monthly Meeting of Friends commonly called Quakers in Dartmouth, and bequeathed them the sum of £10. He had always remained strong in his faith as one of these "people of God," and in 1724 he had eighty of his sheep seized for refusing to contribute toward building a Presbyterian church at Chilmark. In his will, among other bequests, were: "My boats and Riggin--possibly the ones that made the pious journeys to Nantucket--a dwelling house, a lot of land and a wharf at Newport, and an island called and known by ye name of Patience Island, lying in the Narragansett Bay between Prudence Island and Warwick neck in the colony of Rhode Island."
In 1860 Peleg Slocum had married Mary Holder, the daughter of Christopher Holder (of Holderness, England) and his wife Mary Scott. To this Mary Scott on her marriage had come from her father, Richard Scott of Providence, this same Patience Island, it being one of the earliest recorded marriage dowers of land in New England. This island had been granted to Richard Scott by his many years neighbor, Roger Williams, in 1651, and in 1682 he again ratified this deed at the request of Peleg Slocum for his wife, Mary Holder who had inherited it from her mother.
Their home in Dartmouth was probably "This my mansion house"--mentioned in Peleg Slocum's will--the probable site of which has long been known to his descendents as the "old chimney place." It stood near the home of the late Paul Barker on Slocums neck, itself formerly an old Slocum home. Now to mark it nothing remains but two foundation mounds, the well and some old fruit trees (for the old chimney has disappeared).
Again in the vellum-bound Friends' Record we may read: "The women's meetings in Dartmouth began at Peleg Slocum's house the 26th of fifth month, 1699." And on the 23rd of fifth month of that year at "our women's meeting held in Dartmouth, John Headley and Mary Slocum laid their intentions of marriage before the meeting."
Mary Slocum was the first born of Peleg Slocum and his wife Mary Holder. They had in all ten children, among them, bearing the old family names, were Peleg, Giles, and Holder. I wish we knew as much of Mary Holder Slocum as of her ancestors. She came from famous Quaker stock.
Her father, Christopher Holder, one of the first Friends to come to this country, was the author of the First Declaration of Faith of Friends in England or America, in 1657, in the same year, and at Sandwich formed the first Society of Friends on this continent, at a time when the intolerant laws against the Quakers made their meetings a crime. So while holding their first at the home of William Allen, on the warning of danger they adjourned to a wooded dell near by, known to this day as Christopher's hollow. In Boston, for his faith he suffered imprisonment, scourging and branding and such other tortures that he was known as "the Mutilated."
Christopher Holder was well mated in his wife, Mary Scott, who before her marriage, with her mother and sisters had been imprisoned in Boston as Quakers. John Rouse--an early Friend--wrote: "The power of God took place in all of them." In 1660 Mary Scott went to England and married her betrothed Christopher Holder, who in 1659, after his banishment (for being a Quaker) from Boston under penalty of death if he had gone to England, returned to seek redress from the king for the sufferings of the Friends.
Mary Scott's father, Richard Scott (of Providence) lived on the present site of old St. John's church. He is said to have been the second largest taxpayer and the first Quaker in Providence Plantations.
His wife, Katharine Marbury Scott--the grandmother of Mary Holder Slocum--was a sister of Anne Hutchinson the most brilliant and tragic figure in New England Colonial history. Katharine Marbury (Scott) showed this kinship in her own spirit and bravery. There is much of interest concerning these two remarkable women in a rare book, The Secret Workes of a Cruel People Made Manifest, printed in London in 1659.
Katharine Scott, with others, went to Boston in 1658, at the time of the persecution cutting off of the ears of three Quakers--among them Christopher Holder. Going before Governor Endicott she remonstrated against this "barbarous act." Bishop, in his New England Judged, in 1661, says of her: "She was a grave, ancient woman of good breeding, education and circumstances." On her saying upon their doing this barbarous act privately "that it was evident they were going to act works of darkness, else they would have brought them forth publicly and declared their offence," Ye committed her to prison and gave her ten cruel stripes with a three-fold-corded-knotted whip--tho' some of you knew her father and called him Mr. Marbury, and that she was the mother of many children. Moreover, ye told her ye were likely to hang her if she came thither again, to which she answered: "If God call us I question not He whom we love will make us not count our lives dear unto ourselves for the sake of his name." To which Governor Endicott replied: "And we shall be as ready to take away your lives as ye to lay them down."
The "Mr. Marbury" Bishop mentions--the father of Anne Hutchinson and Katharine Scott--was the Rev. Francis Marbury, rector of St. Martin's vintry and other parishes in London, and their mother was Bridget Dryden, the daughter of Sir John Dryden of Canons Ashby, North Hamptonshire, and sister of Sir Erasmus--grandfather of Sir John Dryden, the poet laureate of England. The name of Erasmus is, according to a family tradition, due to the great friendship between Sir John Dryden and Erasmus, the famous Dutch scholar--while at Oxford, only twenty miles from Canons Ashby. I am thankful it was not seen fit to perpetuate this name among the descendants. Canons Ashby, the home of Bridget Dryden, one of the most charming ancestral estates in England, is ten miles from Banbury Cross and three from Sulgrav manor--the home of the Washingtons. The old castle-like structure built in the fourteen hundreds, was originally a priory of the black canons, hence its name. At the time of the confiscation of the monasteries by Henry VIII, ancestors of the Drydens--the Copes--who dwelt in the "gallant house at Hanwell," Hanwell Castle, near Banbury, came into possession of Canons Ashby.
Canons Ashby, with its dark paneled walls hung with rich tapestry, ancient family portraits and battle-scarred armor, the lovely rose gardens and the beautiful neighboring church of St. Mary's with the old memorial brasses, ancestral 'scutcheons and tattered banners forms a strong contrast to the plain Quaker house of its descendant Mary Holden, in Dartmouth, and the Friend's meeting house at Apponegansett.
And so we might go on, tracing Mary Holder's ancestry with many an illustrious name back to the Norman Conquest. There was the blood of nobles, warriors, scholars, divines and martyrs in her veins, and if "blood will tell" this wife of Peleg Slocum in Dartmouth was indeed a gentle woman; but best of all, as he mentioned her in his will, she was "my wee-beloved wife."
In Peleg Slocum's huge old family Bible--leather-bound and brass-clasped--now in the possession of a descendant, written on the fly leaf I have often read "Peleg Slocum was Borne ye 17 day of ye 6 mo, 1654." He died in 1732 at the age of 78 years, having come to "that great change when it shall please the Lord to call me hence," as he wrote in his will, and probably lies buried at the Apponegansett by the site of the Friend's meeting house that he served so faithfully.
In the Friends' Record of Eastern Rhode Island there is this entry:
"Mary Slocum, the widow of Peleg Slocum, late of Dartmouth, died the 20th of 7th mol 1737, aged 75 years 4 months and 14 days--and departed this life at her son-in-law Peter Easton's in Newport the 3rd day of 8th week, and was buried the 5 day following in Friends' new Burying place at Newport, by the side of her son Giles. She was the daughter of Christopher Holder."
In the old vellum-bound Friends' Records there is this quotation from the writings of George Fox:
"Friends, fellowship must be in ye spirit, and all
Friends must know one another in the spirit and power of God."
And such were these people of God -- in scorn called Quakers -- Peleg Slocum of Dartmouth and his wife, Mary Holder.
Ten Ancient Homes
By Henry B. Worth
The ten ancient homes of which I shall speak include eight houses now in existence in the ancient town of Dartmouth, and the location of two that have been removed or destroyed. It is not supposed that this list includes every house within the limits of the old town as old as those mentioned, but merely that it comprises those which have been investigated and identified. It is probable that there may be buildings or parts of buildings of ancient origin that have escaped attention. It will appear that no house is included in this list within the residential portion of the city of New Bedford, the fact being that no house can be found in that section erected before 1760.
It is stated by Captain Ben Church that the emissaries of King Philip burned all the dwellings in Dartmouth, numbering about thirty, during the summer of 1675. The sachem of Mount Hope was shot the following year, and, therefore, a feeling of security prevailed, and it was safe again to build houses and dwell in them. Although a contrary rule has been suggested, it will be found a safe principle to follow, that no house now in existence was erected before the summer of 1676.
Investigation of the houses in this part of New England erected before 1700 indicated a dominant influence of Rhode Island architects. In Freetown and Rochester the Plymouth style of architecture prevailed, but along the three rivers of Dartmouth the dwellings were constructed on models to be found in Rhode Island. The first houses had but one story and a single room, with a loft under the roof; one end was built of a stone wall, tapering with the roof into a chimney, and the rough stones from the fields were fastened together by a mortar, the lime in which was formed by calcining sea-shells found on the shores. Stone chimneys with shell mortar always indicated an origin previous to 1700. Accompanying the use of these materials were certain peculiarities of framing, easily recognized and identified by students.
On Sconticut Neck, in Fairhaven, is standing a stone chimney of the house constructed by Stephen West probably between 1686 and 1690. It was taken down twenty years ago. The oak planks, on the outside of which were fastened shingles, and on the inside lath and plaster, were secured to the frame by wooden pegs in the same manner as the planking of a ship.
In Oxford Village is the base of a stone chimney of the house of Thomas Taber, built about 1680, and burned in 1869. A picture of this house is preserved in the New Bedford public library, and it seems to have been a singular-shaped structure, somewhat resembling the Governor Codington house of Newport, the second story on the front considerably projecting over the lower part of the house.
In the village of South Dartmouth on Rockland Street, between the road and the house of John J. Howland, was located the residence of the first John Russell. Its stone chimney, single room on the first floor, placed it is the same order as the first Rhode Island houses. Unfortunately, it was removed in 1873, although in a good degree of preservation. A picture of this house is in the possession of John J. Howland of this city.
Within the limits of the old town only two houses remain, which were built before the year 1700. Both face south, irrespective of the adjoining roads, and are in a fair degree of preservation, and it is not difficult to fix the date when each was erected.
The first is called the Potter, and by others the Kirby house, from owners who have occupied the same during the past century, but, if designated by its original builder, should be called the Waite house. It is located half a mile north of Central Village, between the Main and River Roads, but cannot be seen from either, on account of surrounding woods. This farm was purchased in 1660 by Thomas Waite of Portsmouth, R.I., and continued in that family over 60 years, when it was purchased by Robert Kirby, and continued to be owned by that family until 1837, when it was conveyed to Rescome Potter, the father of Perry G. Potter, the father of Perry G. Potter, the present owner. The old house has the stone chimney of the early Rhode Island type, is about eighteen feet square, of one story, and a single room and a narrow staircase leads to a loft under the roof. The tradition among the owners of this place states that the house was built in 1677. Experts who have recently examined it were inclined to locate its origin ten years earlier, but for the testimony of Captain Church that no Dartmouth house survived the depredations of the Indians in 1675. It is probable, therefore, that the house was built after the fear of Indian incursions had passed away. Since 1767 it has been used as a farm building.
The next is usually called the Sherman House, but its builder was William Ricketson, who came to Dartmouth from Portsmouth, R.I., in 1684. This farm is located on the east side of the Horse Neck Road, about three miles south of the South Westport corner. It was built according to the later Rhode Island type, which seems to have been first adopted in Connecticut. The massive stone chimney has one large room on each side, and the house is constructed with two full stories and an attic under the roof. The materials of the chimney and the artistic finish of the framing proclaim an origin before 1700, and that the builder was a master in his trade. The tradition indicates that the house was built in 1680, but this must be modified to conform to present information. Records recently printed prove that William Ricketson operated a mill and resided in the town of Portsmouth in the years 1682 and 1683, and his deed of the Dartmouth farm were dated in 1684; and this is probably the year when this magnificent house was started. It was a palace for those days, and it is to be regretted that the present owners find that its foundation structure has become so weak that they are contemplating its removal. The last occupants of this house left it about 25 years ago.
These two dwellings and the remnants of the Fairhaven chimneys comprise all that is remaining of seventeenth century buildings. After 1700 stone chimneys ceased to be constructed as bricks were within the reach of every builder. Increasing wealth enabled the inhabitants to build houses containing even more than four rooms, and in a few cases the Plymouth style of architecture took the place of the Rhode Island types.
The oldest house within the limits of the present town of Dartmouth is located on the west side of the Smiths Neck Road, opposite the Bay View property, and about half way between the road and the creek. Its last occupant was Humphrey H. Akin, a hermit, who died in 1901. The land on which this house is located was owned in 1690 by James and John Akin, and next by John Dennis, and in 1729 by John Tripp. A deed of land in the vicinity, dated 1720, refers to John Tripp's homestead house, and this is the earliest mention in the records. It is probable from the architectural indications, that the house was built between 1700 and 1720, by builders familiar with the Plymouth style of house, and the indications are that it was constructed by persons of no skill in artistic finish. It is a two-story edifice, with a brick chimney nearly in the center, and arranged with four rooms on the first floor, and four on the second, and very singularly divided by partitions. The brick chimney shows the use of different sizes, and of different qualities of brick. Each room seems to have a diminutive fireplace not over two feet high or wide, except that in the original kitchen, but no large fireplace appears, nor is there any indication that any large opening was filled. The chimney presents an illustration of very rude workmanship. The timbers are of hewn oak, and those which support the ground floor are small white oak trees, hewn on one side. The house is in a very dilapidated condition, and must soon fall to the ground. It has a very home-made style of workmanship in every part. The last occupant understood from his ancestors that it was erected by Peter Coffin, who owned the land in 1732, but on account of the reference in the 1720 deed, it was probably erected fifteen or twenty years earlier.
The farm of Ralph Earle is on the south side of the road leading from the Dartmouth Town house to Russells Mills, and extends from the Apponegansett River to the Tucker Road. His homestead house was a short distance east of the house of Herbert Wing, and was taken down when the latter was built. The family burial lot is a short distance in the rear. Ralph Earle died in 1718, and the farm passed to his son Barnabas, who married in 1759 when he was over sixty years of age, and died in 1778. On this farm are two interesting houses.
The first is called the Mosher house, from the family now owning it, but previous to 1868 it was usually known as the Briggs house. It is located on the south side of the road, at the top of the hill, and nearly opposite to the schoolhouse. It is a gambrel-roofed structure, and was probably occupied by Barnabas Earle. The records give no indication when this house was built, but it probably was not in existence during the lifetime of Ralph Earle. The only question is whether this house was built when Barnabas Earle was married in 1759, or earlier. Judging from the dates when similar houses are known to have been built, it is suggested that the year 1740 would not be far from the date of its origin.
Between Macombers corner and the junction of the Russells Mills and Bakerville roads is a red painted house with gambrel roof, now owned by Captain Crapo. There is no doubt that it was built before the Revolution. The deed of the lot from Barnabas Earle to Thomas Dennis, house carpenter, was given in 1757, and a few years later, when Dennis sold the place, he mentions the house, and therefore, 1757 is without question the date of its erection.
In Acushnet village, at the foot of the Meeting-House hill, and east of the Methodist church is a small gambrel roofed dwelling called the Summerton House, from the fact that Daniel Summerton owned it before it came into possession of the Hathaway family. This lot of land was owned in 1711 by
Samuel Jenney, who sold it to Rev. Samuel Hunt, the first minister of the Presbyterian Church, at the top of the hill. Hunt started in his ministry in February, 1708, and for three years was promised £30 a year, which was only paid him a part of one year; but in 1711 the situation had materially changed. He had married Hannah Pope, the daughter of Captain Seth Pope, the wealthy land owner, and the leader of the Presbyterians of Dartmouth. This house was probably built for the young minister, and here he spent the early years of his ministry, from 1711 to about 1719. The property then passed into the hands of different owners, until, in 1765, it was bought by Summerton.
Samuel Hunt purchased the farm of 100 acres owned by his father-in-law, Seth Pope, extending westward from the river, beyond the ice pond used by the late Simeon Hawes. The homestead house where Hunt lived and died is described, in a deed from his son, as being about 600 feet north of the Tarkiln Hill road, and a short distance south of the brook. This fixes the locality of the house as being on the spot where was located the residence of Simeon Hawes which was destroyed by fire about twenty years ago, and it may have been the identical house.
It has been stated that Rev. Mr. Hunt lived in the Harrington house, now the residence of Dr. Weeks, on the northwest corner of the crossroads and Lunds corner. To meet this tradition the indications are that if Hunt ever lived there he certainly never owned the place. Among the old Acushnet people there is a tradition that a minister lived in this house, and it may have been assumed that Samuel Hunt was the minister, but while the tradition is true the inference is unsound. After Hunt's death his successor in the church was Rev. Richard Perce, who owned and occupied the Harrington house as a homestead from 1736 to 1751, and at his death his successor, Rev. Israel Cheever, owned and occupied the same house from 1751 to 1757.
The part of the Hunt homestead farm between the Middle road and the river in 1755 was purchased by Dr. Elisha Tobey, and he built the small gambrel-roofed house now standing north of the saw mill.
The King Philip War in Dartmouth
By Captain Thomas R. Rodman
The date of December 22, 1620, has been fixed upon as that of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The Mayflower with her precious freight had anchored in the harbor of what is now Provincetown about three weeks earlier. This interval had been employed in explorations and preparations for landing. The hardships of that first winter in Plymouth are too well known to need more than a passing allusion. By the end of March the colonists had lost by death 44 of the original 102. The dead were laid on a bluff by the water side, and the marks of burial carefully effaced that the living, through their sorely diminished numbers, might not invite the attack of the Indians. Up to the middle of March the colonists had only twice seen the Indians, who either ran away so fast they could not be overtaken, or as happened near the site of Plymouth, attacked the exploring party under the leadership of Miles Standish.
On March 16, 1621, an Indian came boldly to the little hamlet. In broken English he told them his name was Samoset and bade them welcome. The colonists treated him kindly and in two days he returned, bringing back tools that had been stolen from them. He became "profitable" to them, telling of ye people hear, their homes, number, strength, their "chief," etc. On a third visit he brought another Indian, Squanto, who had been kidnapped seven years before by Captain Hunt, the subordinate of the famous John Smith. Squanto remained with the colonists, became their interpreter, pilot, taught them how to plant corn, and to use the fish as a fertilizer, instructed them in the Indian methods of fishing, and seems to have been loyal unto the end. Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags, or Pokanokets, appeared in the neighborhood of Plymouth a few days after the first visit of Samoset and was received with honors. A treaty was made between the chief and governor, Samoset and Squanto acting as interpreters, "that Massasoit and his people should offer no injury to the English; that any transgressor of this engagement should be surrendered for punishment; that if tools were stolen by natives they should be restored, and that similar redress should be afforded on the other part; that aid should be rendered by each of the contracting parties against the enemies of the other; that notice should be sent to the neighboring tribes to the end that they might enter into similar engagements; and that, when visits in future should be exchanged, the visitors should go unarmed."
Massasoit being further assured that King James "would esteem of him as his friend and ally," was conducted by the governor across the brook to rejoin his party, and the next day Standish and Allerton, on invitation from the chief, returned his visit and were regaled with "three or four ground nuts (wild artichokes) and some tobacco."
July 2, 1621, the colonists sent Mr. Edward Winslow and Mr. Hopkins, with Squanto for their guide, to their new friend Massasoit, with presents, a suit of clothes and a horseman's coat; the "found but short commons, and came both weary and hongrie home." The Englishmen had heard from Samoset that a pestilence and depopulated, four years before, the country where they had settled, and of this Winslow and Hopkins furnished corroborative evidence. They found Massasoit's place (his principal seat was on the site of the town of Warren, R.I.) to be forty miles from hence (Plymouth), "people not many, being dead and abundantly wasted in ye late great mortality, about three years before ye coming of ye English * * thousands of them dyed * * * not being able to bury one another * * skuls and bones being still above ground, where their houses and dwellings had been."
The territory which Massasoit ruled over may be defined as conterminous with Plymouth and Bristol counties. On the north, on the shores of Massachusetts Bay, was the Massachusetts tribe; on the west were the Narragansetts, with the Nyantics, a tributary race; they occupied the western part of Rhode Island beyond Narragansett Bay. Then the Pequots held the territory between the Narragansetts and the river now called the Thames. In the Pequot War, between this tribe and the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut, in 1637, these Indians were practically exterminated and were never known thereafter as a nation. West of the Pequots and extending beyond the Connecticut River were the Mohegans. In that part of Massachusetts which now comprises the counties of Worcester, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden, the Nipmucks had their seats.
The treaty between Massasoit and the colonists seems to have been faithfully and loyally maintained. Probably one reason for the desire of the chief to establish friendly relations with the English was the fear of his western neighbors, the Narragansetts, at whose frontier the pestilence, so fatal to the Pokanogets, or Wampanoags, had ceased. Corbitant, one of Massasoit's sachems, whose seat was at the Middleboro ponds, jealous of the influence of the English with his chief, conspired against him and them, and in August, 1621, on a full understanding, each with each, Miles Standish led a force of some twelve or fourteen men to arrest the movement. The conspirators were disarmed, none being killed, and the demonstration was so serviceable that nine sachems from Charles River and Massachusetts Bay came in to acknowledge themselves loyal subjects of King James.
In the following autumn the colonists celebrated their first Thanksgiving Day, and for three days feasted Massasoit and his party of ninety. The chief's contribution to the feast was five deer, most important in view of the fact that he had so large a following.
Early in the following year a party sent from England by the "Adventurer" Thomas Weston, had settled at Wessagussett (now Weymouth.) They were a lawless set, plundering alike Indian and colonist. There was a conspiracy among the neighboring Indians who had suffered from the depredations of the people of the new settlement, to attack them and fearing as a result that they would incur the enmity of the other colonists to attack them also, Massasoit was aware of this contemplated movement, and in gratitude for his recovery from a dangerous illness, due to the ministrations of Winslow, he informed the colonists of the impending peril. The general court, satisfied of the necessity for decided action, dispatched Miles Standish with an army of eight men to break up the conspiracy. This was accomplished, six Indians being slain. This and the affair with Corbitant just mentioned--both with the approval of Massasoit--were the only conflicts between the colonists and the Indians, until the King Philip War, a period of more than fifty years. The friendship between Massasoit and the Plymouth colony, from the signing of the treaty until his death forty years later, was unruffled, I believe, by a single untoward incident.
Massasoit was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander or Wamsutta, whose wife was Weetamo, the squaw sachem of Pocasset. Her seat was on the heights of that we call Tiverton. His chieftainship was a short one. Suspected of plotting with the Narragansetts against the colony, he was summoned to Plymouth, where he cleared himself of the charge. At Major Winslow's house, at Marshfield, he was taken with a fever. Being impatient to return home he was conveyed thither, but died, either on the way, or a few days after his arrival.
Philip, or Metacomet, the younger son of Massasoit, succeeded Wamsutta. He was never on good terms with his English neighbors. There were twelve years of suspicions, complaints, explanations and reconciliations before the terrible war, known as King Philip's War, came. Instead of the unwavering friendship of his father, Massasoit, for the colonists, he showed a disposition of distrust and enmity towards them, while he leaned to associations with the Narragansett and other tribes that had maintained from the first an attitude of suspicion and hostility.
To his friend, John Borden of Rhode Island, he said; "The English who came first to this country were but a handful of people, forlorn, poor and distressed. My father was then sachem, he relieved their distresses in the most kind and hospitable manner. He gave them land to plant and build upon. . .they flourished and increased. By various means they got possessed of a great part of his territory. But he still remained their friend till he died. My elder brother became sachem. . . He was seized and confined and thereby thrown into illness and died. Soon after I became sachem they disarmed all my people. . .their land was taken. . .But a small part of the dominion of my ancestors remains. I am determined not to live until I have no country."
There is not time to examine into the causes which led to the war, or to seek for its justification. There were the inevitable frictions in the contract of a race of hardy, energetic and intelligent freemen, with another indolent, improvident, and in comparison, mentally dull. The prodigal, thriftless people parted with their lands, on fair, or unfair consideration, to those who had the wit to acquire and the self-control to keep. As the Indian saw his possessions vanishing, as he realized that he was growing poorer and the white man richer, envy and jealousy would spring up in his heart, and under these passions, real or fancied wrongs would assume enormous proportions.
And the colonists were a masterful people. Not all of them had forgotten that the earth belonged to the saints and that they were the saints. Little by little, almost unconsciously, the usurpation of power might go on.
The strong self-contained man would look down with disdain and contempt on the faults and failings of his weaker brethren. Why should he do for those who could not, or would not, do for themselves? Why should he consult the opinion and judgment of those who had not the ability to form either opinion or judgment? Why should he consider as his equals those who were plainly his inferiors? And so the descendants of those who had assured Massasoit the "King James would esteem of him as his friend and ally," summoned Wamsutta to show that he had not conspired against them, and disarmed the followers of Philip.
I find there are two ways of looking at the war; one that it was unavoidable, the other that it was unnecessary. The one is the way of Massachusetts, John Endicott, Puritan and Pilgrim; the other, that of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, Baptists and Friends.
I doubt that the King Philip War was the result of a deep laid, wisely planned conspiracy. While there was a widely diffused hostile feeling among almost all the New England Indians, each tribe getting ready to strike when opportunity should offer, there was no agreement for a simultaneous rising. The sporadic quality of the outbreaks demonstrates this. The first was at Swansea, in Philip's own country. The next was at Mendon, three weeks later, when the Nipmucks made their attack on that place. Six months after the first outbreak was the great swamp fight in the Narragansett country. This was the first battle of any kind or degree in which the Narragansetts, the strongest of all the tribes, and hostile from the first, had engaged.
I see in Philip no qualities of a great leader, and no more evidence of courage than of conduct. On hearing of the attack on Swansea, the governor of Plymouth Colony sent thither a force, and Mr. Church, on the desire of that official, accompanied it. They find that several men have been murdered. Philip leaves the Mount Hope country and crosses the Taunton River in canoes, taking his following with him, and joins the squaw sachem Weetamo in Pocasset swamp. The English follow him, and there is some desultory fighting which would have been effective had Church been in command. But Philip, finding himself too closely pressed, leaves the swamp and leads his army to the Taunton River, which they cross, and then pass over Rehoboth plain to the Nipmuck country. He is pursued by the colonists and loses thirty killed. He meets some of the Nipmuck chiefs after the attack on Brookfield (August 13), congratulates them on their exploits and makes them presents. There is a report that he was present when Hatfield was attacked (October 19). There is no evidence that he was in the Narragansett swamp fight (December 19), although it is claimed that his headquarters were in the neighborhood. There is a report that in March, 1676, he was 40 miles from Albany, with 100 men, himself very sickly, Mrs. Rowlandson, the wife of the minister of Lancaster, taken prisoner when the Indians captured that place, saw him several times during her captivity (February 10 to May 2, 1676), "but not", as the historian somewhat grimly observes, "in circumstances to stimulate the sentiment of hero worship."
Early in July, 1676, eleven months after his flight to the Nipmuck country, Philip appeared in the neighborhood of Taunton. The eleven months had been of burning, murder and stiff fighting. The loss by death of the colonists had been six hundred men, and in no fight, nor conflict of any kind, had Philip been seen. He now prepared to attack Taunton, but the town having received reinforcements, he was driven into the woods. Men of Bridgewater followed him so closely that he threw away his stock of powder, that, lightened of the load, he might escape. Three following days, July 31, August 1 and August 3, Captain Church captured 190 of his people, including his wife and son. In the same week Weetamo, squaw sachem of Pocasset, the widow of Wamsutta, and Philip's loyal ally, was drowned in Taunton River, trying to cross it on too frail a raft. With the instinct of the hunted animal, Philip, with a few followers, returned to his old seat at Mount Hope. But he could not escape the vigilance of his enemies, and Captain Church was close upon his tracks, guided by a friendly Indian whose brother Philip had slain because he had suggested terms of surrender. At midnight Captain Church led a party to the chieftain's lair. As day broke, the Indians, discovering they were surrounded, rushed in a disorderly manner to the outlets of the swamp, where they had taken refuge. Philip, half dressed and running at full speed, was brought down by shots from the gun of a friendly Indian. He fell in the mud and water, was dragged on the firm ground, beheaded, and quartered, on orders from Captain Church, by his old Indian executioner.
This was the end of the King Philip War for the Plymouth colony. Thereafter what is now the state of Maine was the seat of warfare, and the war may be said to have ended April 12, 1678, when a treaty was made with the Eastern Indians at Casco.
In the early part of the war, probably in the latter half of July, 1675, Indians fell upon the settlements at Dartmouth, Middleboro, and Taunton, burning houses and murdering the inhabitants. We have no account of the part of the tragedy enacted at Dartmouth by anyone present thereat. Church states, apparently from hearsay, that after Philip's flight to the Nipmuck country the most of Plymouth's forces were ordered to Dartmouth. At Russell's garrison in "Poneygansit" were a number of Indians who had surrendered to Captain Samuel Eels, commanding the garrison, on terms promised by himself and Ralph Earle. The promises were not kept, the prisoners, numbering, according to Church, about eight score persons, were taken to Plymouth, sold and transported. The stout Indian fighter, as just and generous as he was brave, opposed this perfidy "to the loss of the good will and respects of some that before were his good friends."
What seems to confirm the story of the sale and transportation of these Indians is the order of the Plymouth court, held Aug. 4, 1675, from which the following extracts are taken:
"in reference to a companie of natives now in custody brought into Plymouth, being men, woemen and children, in number one hundred and twelve, upon seriouse and deliberate consideration and agitation conserning them, the conclusion is as followeth: That whereas upon examination it has been found that several have been actors in the late rising and warr of the Indians against us, and the rest compliers therein, * * * further also that they did not discover that pernicious plott, which Philip with others completed against us, which has caused the destruction of severall of us, by loss of lives and estates * * * the councill adjudged them to be sold and devoted into servitude."
The following is Increase Mather's account of the Dartmouth massacre:
"Likewise Middlebury and Dartmouth in Plymouth colony did they burn with fire and barbarously murdered both men and women in those places. * * * Such also is their inhumanity as that they flay off the skin from their faces and heads of those they get into their hands, and go away with the scalps of their enemies."
Increase Mather's history was printed in New England in 1676, the year following these occurrences, but he gives no names, and designates no particular locality.
The Plymouth Colonial Records give, I think, some information, as to those who lost their lives when Dartmouth was destroyed, and I submit the following:
"July 7, 1676. * * * Att the same time three other Indians appeared before the council * * * one called John Num * * * the last named John Num owned alsoe, that hee was of that companie that murdered Jacob Mitchell and his wife and John Pope; and so centance of death was pronounced against them, which accordingly emediately was executed."
"March 7, 1676. Experience Michell and Edward Michell appointed by the court to use the best care to inquire and take into their custody the estate of Jacob Michell deceased, and to make report to the court that soe it may be preferred to the best that may be for the good of his children."
The fact that Experience and Edward Michell were, on March 7, 1676, appointed to take charge of the estate of Jacob Mitchell, deceased, is evidence that he died prior to that date. And since Jacob Mitchell, his wife, and John Pope, who was her brother, were murdered by John Num and his companie, the several murders do not seem to be detached incidents, and we can read between the lines the story of a family massacred by a band of savages.
Of incidents in the history of Dartmouth during the King Philip War, I know nothing, beyond that narrated, until July 20, 1676, or some date thereabouts, when Captain Church was ordered to guard a train of carts to the army of Major Bradford, stationed at Taunton. He delivered his train, and then hearing of the celebrated Indian captain, Tishpaquine, at Assawampsett, now Middleboro, started with a force of English and Indians to attack him.
He had proposed to encamp at Assawampsett Neck, but, when fired on at the brook connecting Assawampsett and Long ponds, attacks the enemy, driving them into the swamp. He then marches a mile farther, halts until midnight, when he resumes his march to the south, probably following the trail which I judge now to have developed into the Long Plain Road, toward Cushnet, where all the houses were burnt. He crosses the river by the ford at head of tide water, where the Acushnet bridge now stands, and, moving west, camps on the higher land, which is between the Acushnet valley and the great cedar swamp. Having set a watch at the crossing, he takes his company into a thicket for sleep.
The next morning (21) he sees Indians viewing their tracks, leading up from the crossing, and sending out scouts, captures with his family, "Little Eyes"--a hostile from the Squaw-Sachem Awashonk's friendly band. Captain Church then leads his army along the river bank on the west side. Finding an old canoe, he sends "Little Eyes" and his band to an island, probably Palmers Island, under the charge of his cousin, Captain Lightfoot, and proceeds with his company across the neck of Clarks Point, passing over the ground now occupied by the Potomska and other mills, and thence along the head of Clarks cove, and up the hill, till, following the trail or road to the head of the Apponegansett River, he comes to the neighborhood of Russell's orchards, or Russell's garrison. There they "clap'd into a thicket, and there lodg'd the rest of the night without any fire.
In the morning, drawing nearer to the orchard they discover "some of the enemy, who had been there the day before, and had beat down all the apples and carried them away"; they discovered also where they had lodged that night, and saw the ground where they set their baskets bloody . . . with the flesh of swine, etc., which they killed that day. The Indians, who had lain under the fences without any fires, seemed by the marks they had left behind to be very numerous. The dew on the grass, where brushed away, showed they had not been long gone, and Captain Church started at once in pursuit of them. 'Traveling three miles or more they came into the country road, where the track parted; one parcel steered toward the west end of the great Cedar swamp and the other to the east end.' I think their route may have been by either of the trails, which were to become respectively, the Slocum and Tucker roads, and which led to the site of the village of Smith Mills. Here the ways part, that on the east following that part of the old trail from Plymouth to Howlands ferry, which we call today the Ezra Hathaway road; the other, on the west, leading by way of Faunces corner, and thence to the firm ground near Braleys station of today. Where the two trails diverge, the force divided, the Indians going west of the swamp and Captain Church with the English, east. The ruins of John Cook's house at Cushnet were appointed as a rendezvous, and this shows, first, that John Cook's house had been destroyed; second, that Cushnet was the designation of that locality. The ruined house was near the Fairhaven terminus of the Coggeshall street bridge. Church's party proceeding by the old Plymouth trail, comes to a miry swamp where they find Indians picking hurtleberries. This was probably on the line of Shawmut avenue. He attacks them, kills three and takes 63 prisoners; is informed that there are many Indians in the great swamp, that Philip himself is only two miles away; that the party captured were left there by 100 Indians who had gone to Sconticut Neck to kill cattle and horses for food, and had crossed the river, Acushnet, at its head. Captain Church concluded that he must cross with his party lower down. He does not tell us where or how he crossed, but in some was he effected the transportation to the east side of the river, of his entire force and prisoners. Then, calling Lightfoot from Palmers Island, he goes with him and Mr. Delano, one of his company, to a meadow, whence they see the Indians pass on their return from Sconticut Neck, en route for the upper crossing. After the Indians had gone on, the main body, the prisoners and "Lightfoot's" party are brought to the meadow and, crossing the enemy's track, made "all haste until they got over Mattapoisett River." Captain Church no doubt congratulating himself that he had, while encumbered with prisoners, avoided a conflict with a superior force.
Captain Church's Indians who had taken the path west of the Great Cedar swamp, did not arrive at the rendezvous until late in the night, and did not rejoin him until the next morning. They too had clashed with the hostile Indians, and had killed three and taken 63 prisoners, the same number as those killed and taken prisoner by Church's party. They had taken, besides, many guns of those who had fled without fighting.
It seems singular that Captain Church in this expedition makes no mention of seeing, or meeting with any white man after leaving Taunton. He had passed from Taunton to Middleboro, thence to Cushnet, and, fording the river, to the higher land to the west. Then he moved along the river to a point opposite Palmers Island, then west to the head of Apponegansett, then to the site of Smiths Mills, and then east to the river which he probably crossed at a point very near Cooks garrison. He had passed over and back the territory now covered by the houses of New Bedford, he had been in the close neighborhood of both Russells and Cooks garrisons. Presumably the people of Dartmouth were collected in these garrisons, but Captain Church seems to have had no communication with either. To a commander so wise, to a man so kindly and considerate, interest and instinct alike would have been powerful motives to such a course. And in the event of such conference, I believe he would have told us of it. But it was characteristic of the brave Indian fighter to do whatever he had to do with all his might, and to permit no matter of inferior consideration to interfere with the main, great object in view.
Scanty as was the population of Dartmouth it was widely scattered. The conformation of the territory with inlets running from the sea deep into the land made impossible that concentration of population so natural to a compact township bounded by right lines. The general court had ordered, June 8, 1664, that the tract of land known by the name of Acushna, Ponaganset and Coakset be henceforth called and known by the name of Dartmouth, thus indicating the beginning of a tendency of the settlers, towards North Fairhaven, South Dartmouth and Westport of today.
After Dartmouth had been destroyed by the Indians the general court, held at Plymouth, Oct. 4, 1675, ordered, that the people of Dartmouth, the "barbarous heathen being greatly advantaged in their work of spoil and destruction--through their (the settlers) "scattered way of living,--"in the rebuilding and resettling thereof * * * do soe order it, as to live compact together, at least in each village."
This order of the general court was friendly but it was impossible to obey it. The settlers must build where the conditions were favorable, where the soil was good and the water supply abundant.
I doubt if future investigations will give us more light on that old Dartmouth, and its history in the King Philip War. The writers of that day speak vaguely of the Dartmouth massacre, and usually couple it with similar acts in Middleborough, Taunton and perhaps other towns. Thirty houses are said to have been burned. The court records say that "most of theire habitations" were destroyed. It seems strange there was not more destruction of life, but I cannot doubt the settlers were forewarned, and forewarned is forearmed. The massacre of Dartmouth is assigned to the latter half of July, 1675. The outbreak at Swanzey, June 29, antedated it more than three weeks, and that interval gave full time to receive warning and to take shelter in Russell's and Cook's garrisons. And so when the murderous bands came on, with little impulse, or direction, save from their own evil hearts, they found, as a rule, only empty houses to wreck and burn.
When I undertook to tell something to this society about the King Philip War I hoped to find more than I have given as to the Dartmouth massacre. But next to the satisfaction of finding a truth is that of burying an illusion, and if our imaginations have added to painful occurrences, more painful exaggerations, the dispelling of such accumulations should give us comfort. It is impossible to withhold our admiration from those brave and hardy men and women, the fathers and mothers of ancient Dartmouth, dwelling in "splendid isolation," and relying upon themselves only in the hour of danger.
And I can wish nothing better for their descendents than that they prove worthy of their precious heritage, the memory of the deed and sufferings of those early days.