Table of Contents
History of Manchester
PASSACONAWAY, THE MAN
From my summer home in the White Mountains, I can look out upon a skyline of over twenty mountain peaks. Of these, several bear Indian names,–Passaconaway, Wonalancet,1 Kancamagus, Chocorua and Paugus. I like to lie in the hammock on the porch, gaze upon these mighty peaks and think of the brave chiefs of long ago whose names they bear. For these were not imaginary Indians whose names have come down to us.
The first three named were famous chiefs, the heads a powerful confederacy of thirteen or more tribes.2 This federation, with the exception of the Five Nations of New York, was the most powerful Indian coalition in the East. Passaconaway welded this confederacy together under the leadership of his tribe, the Pennacook.
Shortly before the advent of the Pilgrims, a pestilence swept through New England and did its work so thoroughly that, in many cases, powerful tribes dwindled to mere handfuls of forlorn survivors.3 In such numbers were the dusky inhabitants swept off that there were not enough left to bury the dead.4 Nine-tenths, it has been said, of the New England Indians perished in this plague.5 When Sir Richard Hawkins revisited the coast in 1615, the aborigines were struggling against this pestilence. He vividly tells of seeing their unburied skeletons bleaching in deserted wigwam towns.6
After such devastation, new tribal relations had to be formed. Then, too, the Mohawk cloud darkened the horizon and, as never before, became a source of constant terror to these scattered and enfeebled Easterners. Our Indians had fought hand to hand with the hated Maguas, and all too well knew their strength and valor.7 Now, scattered, decimated, and leaderless, they could see the rising of the Mohawk storm. They must unite and must have a leader! A man of commanding personality, of giant physique, a warrior, a statesman, a leader in every sense of the word,―for such a man did the hour call.8
At this time the Pennacooks, around Manchester and Concord, were the strongest and most highly developed of the New England Indians, and their tribe was the best organized one.9 The man who had put the Pennacooks into the front rank in New England was Passaconaway. He was the red man's hope. To him the tribes looked for leadership. In him all the qualities of a leader of men seemed to be combined. He was a physical and intellectual giant. Under his guidance the Pennacooks secured, by marriage, diplomacy and sometimes by war, an alliance with over a dozen tribes in what is now New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine. This alliance, bearing the name Pennacook, included the Pennacooks, Wachusetts, Agawams, Wamesits, Pequawkets, Pawtuckets, Nashuas, Namaoskeags, Coosaukes, Winnepesaukes, Piscataquas, Winnecowetts, Amariscoggins, Newichewannocks, Sacos, Squamscotts, and Saugusaukes.10 Such a union is proof enough of the prowess and diplomatic finesse of its Bashaba, the mighty Passaconaway of the Pennacooks.
Before beginning the life-story of this head chieftain, who was probably the greatest New England Indian of whom we have any record, let us return to the threatening Mohawk storm. The savage onslaught broke with the fury of a hurricane just before the forming of Pasaconaway's confederacy, some years (some say twenty) before the landing of the Pilgrims. Nevertheless, we have vivid and reliable accounts regarding it.
The Gibraltar of the Pennacooks was a strongly built fort on the crest of Sugar Ball Hill in what is now Concord, N. H. According to their custom, upon nearing the enemy's country, the Mohawks separated into bands of from less than a dozen to more than twenty men each. These bands, with a definite time and meeting-place clearly agreed upon, would make their way as secretly as possible, from different points as opportunity offered, cruelly murdering and pillaging all in their path.11 This time, the usual plan was being carried out when a small party of New Yorkers fell in with certain Pennacooks and, after a skirmish, the former were put to rout. The alarm spread like wild fire, and, in an incredibly short time, the entire Pennacook tribe either disappeared in the forests or, gathering their corn, flocked to the Concord fort.
The repulse of the Mohawk skirmishers only spurred them on to redoubled efforts. No time was lost in meeting at the fort, but, on seeing it, the invaders realized the uselessness of trying to take it by storm. For a while the two foes eyed each other like two leashed bull dogs. The Pennacooks, well supplied with corn and knowing that they could not match the foe in open battle, were content to await the next move. Not so with their foes, who chafed and fumed at the delay.
Many tricks and ruses of Indian cunning were discussed, for, if the fort was to fall, it must be by strategy. After one or two feints, which failed to draw the Pennacooks out of their stronghold, the Mohawks drew off in disgust. Next morning a lone Mohawk was seen leisurely crossing the plain at the base of the bluff, almost under the Pennacooks' very noses. The huge log gate opened a trifle and a young brave slipped out, then another, a third and so on, until over a score were pursuing the prey. The Mohawk ran like a fox for the wood-fringed river with the long line of whooping warriors in his wake.
In the excitement the New Yorkers, leaving a few warriors to protect the decoy and ambush the pursuing youths, moved through the woods, crossed the Merrimac above the fort and, under cover of scrub trees and bushes, managed to draw near the fort, unseen. After the last pursuer had disappeared, they broke from cover with a blood-curdling yell and rushed upon the poorly-defended fort. The fight was bitter. Because of numbers, the raiders were fast gaining the upper hand, when the pursuers, perceiving the ruse, returned and fell upon the foe. Numerical superiority now rested with the Pennacooks. Tradition tells us that both sides were almost literally cut to pieces before the few remaining Mohawks, baffled and wounded, finally took to the woods, leaving their dead and dying in the hands of the victors.12
The future Bashaba must have been terrible in this fight, for he himself stated that from his wigwam pole the most Mohawk scalps hung. After this memorable and last battle with the Mohawks, Passaconaway's people held them in mortal fear and would endure almost anything rather than risk another such conflict. Of the Mohawks one says: "When they first encountered white men in 1609 their name had become a terror in New England, insomuch that as soon as a single Mohawk was caught sight of by the Indians of that Country, they would raise the cry from hill to hill, 'A Mohawk! a Mohawk!' and forthwith would flee like sheep before wolves, never dreaming of resistance."13
Let us for a moment glance at some of the interesting customs and occupations of the Pennacooks, for we shall be better able to visualize these early New Englanders in their sorrows and joys if some of their methods of life are understood. Pennacook, now Concord, meaning "at the bottom of the hill,"14 was the rendezvous of all the Indians of that name.15 On what is now Sewall's Island the royal residence was raised.16 It will be borne in mind that the red man is nomadic and makes frequent moves. In summer the squaws move the frail wigwam from one field to another, and from one part of a field to another, in order to escape the fleas,17 which the Indians dubbed "poppek" on account of their celerity of movement. But, usually, the royal residence was pitched in about the same place. Passaconaway had other headquarters on an island about a mile north of the junction of the Souhegan and Merrimac rivers.18 An island was a desirable site, because the breezes, playing over it, would sweep away the pestiferous little midges, or "no-see-ums" as the natives termed them, because of their invisibility.19 These islands which we have named, besides being far famed as the seats of authority and scenes of royal feasts and council-fires, were also noted as the places where the Bashaba performed his feats of magic, for Passaconaway was not only the most powerful war-chief in this part of the world, but also the most famous powwow, or medicine-man, likewise.
The Pennacooks raised corn, melons, squashes, gourds, pumpkins, and beans. They also dug for groundnuts and gathered acorns, chestnuts and walnuts. To the early settlers they gave this rule: "Begin to plant when the oak leaf becomes as large as a mouse's ear."20 These people regarded the crow as being almost as sacred as the sun itself. One of their legends relates how the Great Manit sent a crow from his "Kantantowit's field"―the great Southwest―with the first bean and the first kernel of corn, which he deposited in New England. From these all their bean and corn crops sprang.21 How many of us, while eating Indian corn, watermelon, pumpkin or squash, realize that for centuries before the white man's advent, the dusky aborigines were waxing fat and strong on these vegetables raised in the Saco Valley, Winnepesaukee and other regions? They cultivated several different kinds of gourds, many species of which are now rare and some probably extinct, but all were known as Askutasquash. We―with the English habit of clipping words―retain only the last syllable, and call a now common gourd a "squash." Sometimes these Merrimac Indians steamed or boiled their gourds; at other times, especially on trips when a fire might be dangerous, they ate them raw.22
According to Judge Chandler E. Potter, who gave this subject careful and exhaustive research, the occupations of the Pennacooks ranked thus: First and fore-most, farming; second, hunting and fishing; third and last, the fashioning of tools necessary for the carrying on of these occupations. Naturally the Pennacook was a husbandman and not a "knight of the sword." War was not a profession. It was indulged in only as necessity demanded, which was seldom, with this peace-loving tribe.
Then came the Englishman, with his drum, bayonet, red coat and' bearskin cap–an imposing' figure in the savage eye. Judge Potter claims that from the time of the advent of 'the English, the red man became a martial man. He shifted the farm work off upon his squaw, who already had the drudgery of the wigwam. However, when a field was to be cleared for planting, the entire tribe, braves included, turned to and the field was rapidly cleared. But this seems to have been the extent of the male Pennacook's agricultural exertions, from now on.28 Men were kept, by the English, standing around, doing no work; why should not the dusky warriors do likewise? Were the Indians not just as powerful, just as terrible and just as fearless in battle as the red-coated "braves" of the whites? So, from the industrious and hard-working farmers, they changed into mere idlers, and this new custom became the bane of their race." It is claimed by Belknap that these Indians were not murderous and treacherous until the white man taught them these lessons.25
Canoe-making was an art in which the Indians excelled. Under favorable conditions two men could make a good birch-bark one in a day.26
Under normal conditions an athletic brave could shoot an arrow entirely through the body of a moose or bear so that with spent force it would fall to earth many yards the other side of the victim.27 We find Passaconaway boasting of being the most powerful bowman of his tribe. A favorite hunting ground of the Indians seems to have been the White Mountain region. By means of a trap known as the "kulheag" they caught the bear, beaver, wildcat and sable.28 The dusky hunters in "the forest primeval"29 seemed to possess the animal instincts intensified, and they delighted at beating the animals "at their own game," such as outwitting a fox, outwrestling a bear, etc.
On the Merrimac the Indians had two "fishing-places," Pawtucket (Lowell) and Namaoskeag (Manchester).30 Their third was at the outlet of Lake Winnepesaukee, where dams were constructed at Ahquedaukenash (meaning "dams" or "stopping-places"). From the fact that when the English discovered this last place they found several of these permanent dams, or wiers, they named it the "Wiers," and to-day it bears this name.31 (But Weare, N. H., was named for Meshach Weare. See Little's "History of Weare, N. H.") Vast quantities of shad were caught at the Wiers,32 while on the Merrimac, besides shad, thousands of salmon, alewives, and lamprey-eels were secured.33 So many fish were taken that, by drying and smoking them, the tribes were able to lay in a supply for the entire winter.
Once a year all the Pennacook people congregated at these fishing-places and observed a festival or series of holidays. At these times lovers' vows were plighted, marriages performed, and speeches made.34 At the official council, with every sachem and warrior present, the affairs of the nation were discussed in true "town-meeting" style, long before the advent of the now world-renowned New England town-meeting. Everyone could voice his opinion freely, and, in the presence of all, the policy for the coming year was outlined.35 All intertribal disputes were peaceably and reasonably arbitrated, and, under Passaconaway's leadership, the confederacy constantly grew stronger and more and more harmonious. If war was deemed necessary, the recruits were mustered in and war-dances held at these fishingiplaces.36 Here, too, the Bashaba proved to all, through feats of magic, his intimacy with the Great Spirit, Manitou the Mighty.37
With the Pennacooks, the favorite place of assembly seems to have been Amoskeag Falls. Passaconaway for many years had his royal residence upon the hill on the east side of the Merrimac, where Governor Smyth later built his mansion.38 Eliot repeatedly visited the Pennacooks at this place, because here he found great numbers gathered together well disposed to listen to his preaching. It is highly probable that here, at Amoskeag Falls, was the fishing-place the Apostle refers to when he writes of Passaconaway's acceptance of Christianity.39
Another custom among these people was this: When prisoners, especially Indians, were captured, they were led to the fishing-place. Then, if one of their own warriors had fallen, the wife or mother of the deceased might choose one of the prisoners; the fate of this one was in her hands; she could order him killed or adopt him in place of the lost one. The captive was usually spared and adopted. The remainder of the prisoners were either held for ransom or slain. Although unusually free from wars, yet even when embroiled in one, the Pennacooks were exceptionally merciful towards their prisoners, rarely torturing or killing them.40
On state occasions a sort of cap or coronet was worn, such as may be seen on Passaconaway. In war times, eagle or hawk feathers, or sometimes a long head-dress, adorned the sachem's head. In preparation for battle the warriors daubed their faces with red and black paint for the purpose of striking terror into their foes. Upon their breasts the head and sometimes the body of a black bear was painted. This was the Pennacook totem, or coat-of-arms. The tribal totem, painted upon the breast of all warriors, served as a means of identification, just as "civilized" nations use flags and uniforms.41
At one time during Passaconaway's reign his tribe numbered over three thousand and, should necessity require, he could throw an army of skilful and cunning veterans numbering over five hundred men into the field.42 This army, using the Indian mode of warfare, was a powerful machine, whose stealthy ambush and unlimited endurance were not to be despised. Had the Bashaba joined his force with King Philip's inferior band, historians probably would have chronicled a different story from that of the defeat and ignoble death of the latter.43 Time and again we have illustrations of the damage inflicted by a score or two of Indians upon vastly superior numbers of whites by ambuscade and agility.
Let us now glance at Passaconaway himself, the man who welded intounity and heldwith an iron hand his great confederacy. The chief reason why his life story is not more widely known among us today is because he was a friend of the whites and not a destroyer of them. Peaceful Indians seem to be overlooked by the historians. Whole volumes are written about Philip, Osceola, Sitting Bull, and other Indians who have brought disaster to the whites. But friendly Indians like Massasoit, Tahanto and Passaconaway―real helpers and staunch friends of the whites―are ungratefully forgotten.
Passaconaway, the "son of the Bear," was the first "Teddy Bear" of whom we have any historical account in America. There is reason to believe that he was born between 1555 and 1573. In accordance with Indian custom, upon his reaching maturity he was given a name chosen because of his most pronounced characteristics. Thus, in order to have received the name "Papisseconewa" (as his name was spelled in early colonial days), which is derived from Papoeis―a child―and Kunnaway―bear―he must have been a powerful, fierce and gigantic youth." He is seen in the picture wearing a bear's head and skin, as part of his royal insignia. Passaconaway, because of his unusual powers, physical, magical, social and intellectual, was given a title which few have held―Bashaba. A Bashaba is head and shoulders above sagamore, sachem or chief, and corresponds to Emperor in our language.45
The first thing that we actually know concerning Passaconaway's relations to the English was his presence at Plymouth in 1620, when the Pilgrims came in the Mayflower. The whites were totally ignorant of his presence, yet he himself later tells us that he was there. He was in his prime at this time and was the most noted powwow, or sorcerer, on record.46
Passaconaway, with several other medicine-men, was summoned to Plymouth to conjure against the English. For three days, in a dark swamp, these magicians attempted to call down lightning to burn the ships, and they sought to bring plague and pestilence upon the new-comers, but all in vain. The ships would neither catch fire nor spring a leak. Evidently the Great Spirit could not or would not strike dead the interlopers.47 Passaconaway, probably the recognized leader in this powwow, tells us that the Great Spirit whispered to him then, "Peace, peace with the whites. You and your people are powerless against them." Here at Plymouth the Bashaba learned a lesson which he never forgot―that the white man's god was stronger than his own.48 "I made war upon them, my young men were struck down before me, when no one was near them." Sadly he returned to Pennacook, realizing that he could neither destroy the invaders by sorcery, nor with his braves successfully contend against their miraculous fire and thunder. Because of the realization of the superiority of the English, Passaconaway, instead of combating them, decided to treat them kindly.49
Christopher Levett, when in the neighborhood, while exploring the coast in 1623, reports seeing a gigantic Indian, reverenced by all―white and red men alike―who called himself "Conway." There is little doubt that this was Passaconaway.50 The same year the chieftain paid a visit to a plantation on which the English had settled, which act Passaconaway considered an encroachment upon his domains. From these frontiersmen the report came that the chief was about sixty years old. His confederacy at this time was at its zenith.
Although a strong and commanding personality, the Bashaba possessed moderation, keen insight and sagacjty.51 These qualities, with his genius for swaying a crowd, and his almost superhuman feats of necromancy, made Passaconaway the most influential sachem in New England, and probably the greatest red man in the East. Passaconaway was the equal of any of his white contemporaries.52
Very early he realized the effect of his magical powers upon the multitudes and is reported as having performed extraordinary feats "to the wonderment and awe" of his superstitious subjects. From Englishmen who mingled with the Pennacooks and who were witnesses of several of his sleight-of-hand tricks, we learn that the powwow swam across the Merrimac under water at a place where it was far too wide to cross in one breath. It was explained that, after entering the water on the farther side, a mist was cast before the spectators' eyes and he was not again seen until he stepped out upon the bank in front of the wondering beholders.53
Another time we are told that Passaconaway placed a bowl of water before him. The usual incantation then followed, in the midst of which a black cloud hovered over the assembled company and suddenly a sharp clap of thunder rent the air. To the amazement of the spectators, a solid piece of ice floated in the bowl; this trick was performed in the middle of summer. Settlers, reporting it, added: "Which doubtless was done by the agility of Satan, his consort."54
"Wood, in his 'New England's Prospect,' says: 'The Indians report of one Passaconawaw, that hee can make water burne, the rocks move, the trees dance, metamorphise himself into a flaming man. Hee Will do more; for in Winter, when there are no green leaves to be got, hee will burne an old one to ashes and putting these into 'water, produce a new green leaf, which you shall not only see but substantially handle and carrie away; and make a dead snake's skin a living snake, both to be seen, felt, and heard. This I write but on the report of the Indians, who confidentially affirm stranger things.'"55 The Bashaba could hold a living, venomous snake in his hand as if it were a worm.56 From so many sources are these feats reported that there is little doubt as to their having taken place.57
Like the prophets of old, this heathen Bashaba was whole generations ahead of his people. Long before his brethren, he perceived the general superiority of the Anglosaxons over the Indians.55 The Great Spirit, as he relates, had whispered to him that although the palefaces were now only few in number, they were to be as numerous as the leaves of the forest; that the red man's hunting-ground was to be stripped of its timber and furrowed with the white man's plow; and that the rivers and fishing-places were to be choked with, dams and whirring mills. All this, with his statesmanlike vision, he foresaw, and to-day we are able to judge of the accuracy of his foresight.
But he did not give up without an effort; not by wasting his young men before the white man's fire and thunder, however, but by the "supernatural" powers in his possession, did he make this struggle. A brave man was Passaconaway, yet, like Chocorua and many other warriors of this region, the thunder of the white man's iron pipe" and the flash sent a shiver through his frame. Not the "crack" of the gun, but what it symbolized, caused this terror. To the superstitious aborigines the mere flash and report were comparatively nothing, but every musket-shot gave positive proof that the whites' god was omnipotent and destructive; that each and every white could, through his "iron pipe," summon the aid of his deity, which god would sweep down the Indians before him, no matter how far distant they might be.59 Years later, when traders had sold them rifles, powder and bullets, this erroneous idea was corrected. But at this period it seems to have been almost universal. So we find Passaconaway fighting them with "medicine," not, like Philip, with knife and tomahawk. This recognition of the superiority of the whites' divine ally seems to have been the reason for Passaconaway's policy of "Peace with the English."
To the early colonists themselves, it seemed most providential that the Almighty had led so powerful a chieftain to adopt a policy of peace and to restrain his bands of forest soldiers, even when smarting under wrongs and injustice from those whom he befriended.60 Historians agree that a word from Passaconaway, or, later, from Wonalancet, would have swept our forefathers into the sea. The settlements of Strawberry Bank (Portsmouth), Newburyport and Saugus (Lynn) were not equal to the forces immediately under the Pennacook's command, to say nothing of the allies he might have procured. That he could have swept the seacoast clear of the whites is well within the bounds of sober probability.61
Passaconaway's peace policy was one for which he paid dearly. In 1631, he officially demonstrated his determination to deal justly with the English by delivering up a kinsman, a murderer, for trial. At that time, his tribe was the wealthiest and strongest in New England; twenty years later his people had been reduced from prosperity to the verge of starvation and beggary.62 This was the cost of a "Peace Apostle's" loyalty to a principle. So powerful was Passaconaway's grip upon his people that throughout the bloody Indian wars which occurred during his reign, not one of his subjects inflicted harm upon a single white man, woman, or child.
A glaring moral weakness in a majority of the English settlers was their inability to distinguish one red man from another. To them an Indian was an Indian; praying or hostile, an Indian was a bloodthirsty, treacherous reptile, to be either hanged, murdered, or sold into slavery.63 But who was it that had changed him from husbandman to vengeful warrior? Who got him drunk and then cheated and swindled him?64 By their own greed, unscrupulousness and rum, the whites debauched the red man. On good authority it has been said that a trader could lock up his post, full of valuable articles, and the next year find it untouched, unless by chance some white should discover it, in which case it surely would be looted. Again and again we shall cite instances in which innocent and peaceful Indians were treated as open enemies and unscrupulously murdered.
One of the earliest of Passaconaway's transactions with the English is said to have been his signing of the famous Wheelwright Deed. By many this has been considered a forgery. The Rev. N. Bouton, D. D., Editor of the Provincial Papers of New Hampshire, writes thus, however: "The famous 'Wheelwright Deed, which has been pronounced a forgery by Hon. James Savage, the distinguished antiquarian of Boston, and the late John Farmer, Esq., of Concord, bears date May 17, 1629. Hon. Chandler E. Potter, who has devoted much attention and research to the subject, maintains the validity of the deed. But whether the deed be a forgery or not it forms part of our history;―is the basis on which rests the grant of several townships in the state, is recognized in various ways in our public records as genuine. . . . The deed is recorded in the office of Recorder of Deeds, at Exeter."65
Let me give the substance of this famous document in a few words. It certifies that Passaconaway, for certain valuable considerations, sells to John Wheelwright and his associates a tract of land extending from the then (1629) Massachusetts line thirty miles into the country, and from the Piscataqua to the Merrimac, reserving the hunting and fishing rights to his people. The seventh and last article declares that "every township within the aforesaid limits or tract of land that hereafter shall be settled shall pay to Passaconaway our chief sagamore that now is and to his successors forever, if lawfully demanded, one coat of trucking cloth a year."66 The names or marks of several noted sagamons were affixed to the deed as were also the signatures of some of the respectable planters of Saco and Piscataqua. Whether the Wheelwright Deed is valid or not, it affords proof of the extent of the Bashaba's power and dominions.67
Rev. John Wheelwright had been a preacher at Braintree, then part of Boston, and was a brother of Anne Hutchinson. For preaching too searching a sermon in Boston on Fast Day, 1636, he was banished. Making his way to Exeter, he took up his abode there. He was a gentleman of "learning, piety and zeal,"68 and it seems unthinkable that a man of his character would countenance a forgery.
Passaconaway's motive in disposing of this region seems to have been his fear of the Mohawks. (The name Mohawk is an Algonquin word meaning cannibal, and was applied to the New Yorkers.69) By selling his land to the English, the latter naturally would settle in their newly-acquired possessions and this would insure the Pennacooks some measure of protection. But Passaconaway's idea was not that the Indians should vacate the lands they had sold, but that the whites should come and live with his people. In order to save their own scalps, the white frontiersmen would be forced to fight side by side with Passaconaway's men against the Mohawks. Doubtless this was the reason for such a wholesale alienation of lands. It seems to have been either a case of accepting the lesser of two evils, or a misunderstanding of the nature of a sale.
As we have said, in 1631 Passaconaway performed an act incontrovertibly proving to the English his sincerity and his desire for justice. A trader named Jenkins was mysteriously murdered, while asleep in an Indian wigwam. The murderer was among the Pennacooks, and a summons was sent to the Bashaba notifying him of the crime. Immediately Passaconaway ordered the accused to be seized and turned over to the proper English authorities for tnal.70 He did this not with the idea of betraying a kinsman, but in order that honest and just relations might be established between his Indians and the English.
Realizing their own treachery towards, and fraudulent treatment of, the Indians, the traders lived in constant fear of retaliation. Repeated alarms, based upon little or no foundation, rang through the province and threw the populace into a delirium of fear. Eleven years after Passaconaway had delivered up the murderer, he had a chance to measure the Englishman's gratitude.71 A groundless alarm was spread in 1642, and as usual, nearly everybody was thrown into a frenzy. Passaconaway, who, even now, in all probability, could have swept the English into the sea, but who had chosen and was conscientiously trying to carry out a friendly policy, was singled out as the victim. He was gathering his hordes for a mighty onslaught―so went the rumor. Nothing could be plainer!
A body of experienced soldiers was therefore despatched to nip the plan in its bud and to seize the designing Bashaba.72 The orders were to arrest the dangerous plotter at either Ipswich, Rowley, or Newbury, where, at that season of the year, he was accustomed to reside.73 Luckily for him, a hard storm arose, which effectually checked the progress of the troops for three days. During this time, Passaconaway, being informed of their approach, retreated to the wilderness beneath the shadow of the White Mountains.
Wonalancet, his second son, was not so fortunate. His wigwam was surprised and, although (some claim) his squaw escaped, he was taken. Brutally and insultingly they led him about by a rope until, loosening his cords, he sped to the bushes for cover. The whites fired upon the fugitive, wounding him, and recaptured him. But there were no signs of the anticipated war bands! Crowned with the glory of an ignominious triumph, the heroes returned to Dover with the victims of their prowess―one or two peaceable braves and a few frightened squaws.74 The Massachusetts Government well knew the extent of the humiliation inflicted by its orders, and ought to have felt ashamed for having treated the Pennacooks so unjustly and so treacherously.
Cutshamekin, a brave taken in this lamentable affair, was sent to Passaconaway, bearing an invitation to come to Boston and confer with the government officials.75 This was adding insult to injury, for the English demanded the delivering up of all the arms of the tribe. Had Passaconaway been forty years younger, I fear he might have delivered up considerable ammunition (in smoke). I fear his answer would not have been a few words of protest from injured innocence but a series of Deerfields and Schenectadys. The answer which he returned, however, shows that, although beginning to feel the pains of old age, he yet retained his proud and independent spirit. He was no man's dog and would brook no insult! He replied, "Tell the English when they restore my son and his squaw, then will I talk with them." Potter adds, "The answer was that of a man who felt he had been most deeply wronged."76 The aged Bashaba never wholly forgave this insult.
From now on he began to distrust the sincerity of whites and seems never fully to have overcome that feeling. Five years later an opportunity arose for him to show, in a subtle yet unmistakable manner, his feeling towards those who had wronged him. During the spring of 1647, the Apostle Eliot came to the Pennacooks at Pawtucket to preach to the confederated tribes which annually gathered there. Of late, the Bashaba's time had been devoted to turning over and over in his mind the wrongs done him by the English, and evidently he came to the conclusion that a religion tolerating such injustices merited only contempt. So, when the clergyman drew near, Passaconaway took his family and secretly departed for the wilderness. He left this word of explanation for the unarmed Eliot, the reason he left was that he "was afraid the English would kill" him.77 Was rebuke ever more gently administered?
In 1642, the same year in which Wonalancet had been taken, he was returned, whereupon the father delivered in "the required artillery."78 At least outwardly, friendly relations thus were re-established and all was harmonious once more.
For many years the Provincial Government had been endeavoring to secure a more binding assurance from the "great Merrimack" than just his simple word. As a means of forcing Passaconaway to sign the articles submitting himself and people to the power an protection of the government, the English governor had long been pursuing a perfidious policy, a policy indeed which was continued long after this Bashaba's death, namely, that of endeavoring, with British gold, to bribe the Mohawks to sweep down upon and destroy the New England Indians.79 Was this the protection offered by the government? If so, do we wonder that the Bashaba hesitated before accepting it? Since 1631 not one Englishman had suffered injury at the hands of the confederated tribes, to Passaconaway's knowledge, yet his actions and words were not sufficient―he was dangerous because he had not yet bowed down and paid homage to the British King and flag. Meanwhile, however, the governor of Massachusetts in person visited Albany, N. Y., to buy up the Mohawks as a fiery broom with which to sweep out of existence the Indian neighbors of the New Englanders. At last, in 1644, Passaconaway, in behalf of his confederated peoples, signed the articles of submission to that government which, after seizing his fire-arms, actually had done its best to buy up his enemies to exterminate him.80
The following year (1645) his signature was affixed to a treaty signed at Boston, in which treaty were also included the Narragansetts, Niantics, Uncas and his Mohegans, together with several northern tribes.81
During the next few years Passaconaway became deeply interested in religion. Already the incident of 1647 has been cited, when the Bashaba retreated to his protecting woods before the advent of the Apostle Eliot, expressing his fears as to the motives of that clergyman. The following fishing season, "the great Merrimack" is found eagerly listening to the words of the noble missionary. Eliot's work among the Indians never can be over-appreciated by the whites. Passaconaway drank in the message of life, he was deeply touched, and at length accepted the new religion for himself and his family, and urged his tribesmen to do the same.82
That the sagamon was sincere and that he never wavered in his new resolution is certain.83 Writing to Captain Willard, shortly after, concerning the Bashaba's conversion, Eliot bore witness that "Passaconaway did all in his power to keep him at Pennacook and offered him any place for a dwelling or anything he wanted if only he would remain and teach them more."84 In other letters Eliot relates how earnestly the "great Sachem" implored him to live at Pennacook. Among other arguments the Indian stated that, as he (Eliot) met them only once every twelve months, little good came of his teaching; for, no matter how impressive his word might be, the hearers forgot most of it before the year was out. Potter, in narrating how Passaconaway illustrated his request to Eliot, records the new convert as saying: "You do as if one should come and throw a fine thing among us, and we should catch at it earnestly, because it is so beautiful, but cannot look at it to see what is within; there may be in it something or nothing, a stock, a stone or a precious treasure; but if it be opened and we see what is valuable therein, then we think much of it. So you tell us of religion, but (although) we know not what is within, we shall believe it to be as good as you say it is."85
This last sentence illustrates an Indian standard of politeness. An anecdote may be inserted here to show that the Indians regarded it a mark of good breeding to believe the words of another unless they had actual proof to the contrary. "A Swedish minister, having assembled the chiefs of the Susquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical facts on which our religion is founded: such as the fall of our first parents by eating an apple; the coming of Christ to repair the mischief; his miracles and sufferings, etc.―When he had finished, an Indian orator stood up to thank him. 'What you have told us,' said he, 'is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged by your kindness in corning so far to tell us those things, which you have heard from your mothers.'" But when, in his turn, "the Indian had told the missionary one of the legends of his nation, how they had been supplied with maize or corn, beans, and tobacco, he treated it with contempt, and said, 'What I delivered to you were sacred truths; but what you told me is mere fable, fiction and falsehood.' The Indian felt indignant, and replied, 'My brother, it seems your friends have not done you justice in your education; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility. You see that we, who understand and practise those rules, believe all your stories :why do you refuse to believe ours?'"86
There is little heard of the aged Passaconaway between 1648 and 1660. At the latter date he was seen by Englishmen, a venerable, wrinkled old man of about one hundred and ten. Such longevity is not unique. In the "History of Concord" we read the names of several Indians who passed the century mark.
Believing that his end probably was near, in the fishing season of 1660, Passaconaway despatched messengers summoning all the subject tribes to Pawtucket. An enormous multitude gathered. Daniel Gookin, who reported the proceedings, was present.87 In spite of the characteristic Indian stoicism, great sorrow was manifest among the red men. Their once all-conquering Bashaba, now bent and trembling, was about to deliver his Farewell Speech. Especially noticeable was the grief when the aged Passaconaway arose and, in husky tones, yet in the still musical remains of what once was the most powerful and melodious voice in all the confederacy,88 addressed them thus: "Hearken to the words of your father. I am an old oak that has withstood the storms of more than an hundred winters. Leaves and branches have been stripped from me by the winds and frosts-my eyes are dim-my limbs totter― must soon fall! But when young and sturdy, when my bow―no young man of the Pennacooks could bend it―when my arrow would pierce a deer at an hundred yards―and I could bury my hatchet in a sapling to the eye―no wigwam had so many furs―no pole so many scalps as Passaconaway's! Then I delighted in war. The whoop of the Pennacooks was heard upon the Mohawk―and no voice so loud as Passaconaway's. The scalps upon the pole of my wigwam told the story of Mohawk suffering.
"The English came, they seized our lands; I sat me down at Pennacook. They followed upon my footsteps; I made war upon them, but they fought with fire and thunder; my young men were swept down before me, when no one was near them. I tried sorcery against them, but they still increased and prevailed over me and mine, and I gave place to them and retired to my beautiful island of Natticook. I that can make the dry leaf turn green and live again―I that can take the rattlesnake in my palm as I would a worm, without harm―I who have had communion with the Great Spirit dreaming and awake―I am powerless before the Pale Faces.
"The oak will soon break before the whirlwind―it shivers and shakes even now; soon its trunk will be prostrate―the ant and worm will sport upon it Then think, my children, of what I say; I commune with the Great Spirit. He whispers me now―'Tell your people, Peace, Peace, is the only hope of your race. I have given fire and thunder to the pale faces for weapons―I have made them plentier than the leaves of the forest, and still shall they increase! These meadows they shall turn with the plow―these forests shall fail by the ax―the pale faces shall live upon your hunting grounds, and make their villages upon your fishing places!' The Great Spirit says this, and it must be so! We are few and powerless before them! We must bend before the storm! The wind blows hard! The old oak trembles! Its branches are gone! Its sap is frozen! It bends! It falls! Peace, Peace, with the white men-is the command of the Great Spirit―and the wish―the last wish―of Passaconaway."89
A silence fell over the multitude as the venerable speaker took his seat―a deathlike silence. The eloquence, pathos, and prophetic message of this speech -were never forgotten by the Indians or by the whites present. The Bashaba had struck home. The counsel of the veteran leader made such an impression that the Pennacooks present on this solemn occasion probably never deviated from the policy so eloquently advocated.90 No, not until the youths now present had become aged or passed away altogether did Passaconaway's people attempt retaliation upon those who were grievously wronging them.
"The Son of the Bear," however, after delivering this classic of Indian oratory, neither died nor abdicated the chieftainship. We find him still holding sway for at least three years more.91 Piece by piece the English government took away the aged Pennacook's lands-lands he had reserved for his own poverty-stricken people. Englishman after Englishman, armed with a government grant, ordered him from his own fertile fields and hunting-grounds. To cap the climax, the legislature announced its intention of issuing grants for the lands at Pennacook "whenever so many should be present to settle a plantation there."92 With his "beautiful island of Natticook," of which he had spoken so fondly, gone, and Pennacook going, Passaconaway began to see that not far distant was the day when he would not have enough soil left on which to stand.
Infirm and heart-broken, he at last bowed his head and succumbed to fate. He must become a beggar, a burden upon charity. He, once the wealthiest, strongest, and noblest chieftain in New England, now poverty-stricken! In just eighteen years from the time he had submitted to the provincial government, his tribe, the most industrious and prosperous in New England, had become a paltry group of miserable paupers.93 Rum, commercial exploitation and English bayonets had "civilized" them and here they stood, a group of "Christian" beggars.
At Pennacook, in 1662, Passaconaway became the "humble petitioner" to the "Great and Honred Court." He prayed that the rulers might, in reality, be generous enough to return to him, out of his own lands, enough to pitch a wigwam on.94 The petition was as follows:
"To the honerd John Endecot Esqr together with the rest of the honerd General Court now Assembled in Boston the petition of papisseconnewa in behalf of himself as also of many other Indians who now for a longe time o'r selves o'r progenators seated upon a tract of land called Naticot and is now in the possession of Mr. William Brenton of Rode Island marchant; and is confirmed to the said Mr. Brenton to him his heir and assigns according to the Laws of this Jurisdiction, by reason of which tracte of land being taken up as a foresaid, and thereby yr pore petitionir with many oth (ers is) in an onsetled condition and must be forced in a short time to remove to some other place.
"The Humble request of yr petitionr is that this honerd Courte wolde pleas to grante vnto vs a parcell of land for or comfortable cituation; to be stated for or Injoyment; as also for the comfort of oths after vs; as also that this honerd Court wold pleas to take in to yr serious and grave consideration the condition and also the requeste of yr pore Supliant and to a poynte two or three persons as a Committee to Ar (range wi) th sum one or two Indians to vew and determine of some place and to Lay out the same, not further to trouble this honerd Assembly, humbly cravinge an expected answer this present sesion I shall re main yr humble Servante
"Wherein yu Shall commande
"Boston: 8:3 mo 1662."95
It is interesting to note that, just thirty years before, he had determined upon and delivered up Jenkins' murderer in order that friendly and peaceful relations with the English might be established. "The aged Merrimack's" petition was granted, and it is amusing to note that, on the suggestion of the surveyors, who realized the plight of the redskin, "two small islands and a small patch of intervaile land" were added to the grant.96 This show of generosity on the part of the government must have happily surprised him. No doubt he was also surprised, though not so happily, when he was ordered to pay the bill for surveying the grant.97
During Passaconaway's last years a trading post, or trucking-house, was established at Pennacook, near the Sewall Farm, by Richard Waldron and Peter Coffin, both of Dover. Tahanto, a lesser sagamore, repeatedly represented to these unscrupulous traders that trouble would result from the vast quantities of rum which were being sold to the Indians for furs. He pleaded with them to turn their rum upon the ground, for it would make the Indians "all one Devill."98 The selling of fire-water to the natives was against the Provincial law.99
During the summer of 1668, some Indians were sent from this trucking-house by the agents, Thomas Payne and Dickinson, to Waldron's post at Piscataqua, to procure guns, ammunition, and cloth. Instead of the articles ordered, a little cloth and great quantities of liquor were sent. For a day and a half the Indians, over a hundred in number, were drunk together.100 On the afternoon of the second day all left for their wigwams except one, who was more intoxicated than the rest and who remained in the building; soon an argument arose between the trader and this Indian and a cry was heard by an Indian in the vicinity. The latter discovered Dickinson on the floor, dying, and later noticed the intoxicated murderer, half stupefied off towards the woods with a bloody knife in hand. Passaconaway was notified by the magistrate and turned over the suspect to the proper authorities. By this time the murderer had regained his senses and expressed himself as "sorry for the poor white man and willing to die for the crime." Nor was this said with the idea that penitence would save him, for, being condemned to death, in his last words he expressed sorrow for the victim. This Indian, when sober, would have hurt no one, being a law-abiding man. But, inflamed by the traders' rum, he was brought to crime and death. Says one historian: "It is rare that the Indians fall out if sober and if drunk they forgive saying, 'It was the drink, and not the man, that abused them.'"101 As we have intimated, the red man was condemned to be shot. Official investigation revealed that Payne and the murdered man had been selling rum contrary to law; Payne was fined thirty pounds. Coffin was fined fifty pounds and all charges, while his partner, Waldron, the "man higher up"―we shall know him better before our story ends―escaped scot free.102 By such incidents were the latter days of Passaconaway saddened.
Mr. Little says of Passaconaway: "It is a notorious fact that the English trespassed on his hunting-grounds and stole his lands. Yet he never stole anything from them. They killed his warriors,―yet he never killed a white man, woman, or child. They captured and imprisoned his sons and daughters,―yet he never led a captive into the wilderness. Once the proudest and most noble Bashaba in New England, he passed his extreme old age poor, forsaken, and robbed of all that was dear to him, by those to whom he had been a firm friend for nearly half a century."103
Soon after the murder of Dickinson, Passaconaway disappeared from Pennacook and remained away during Philip's War. Probably he abdicated the chieftainship about 1668 or 1669, for in 1669 Wonalancet was the recognized chief. After his abdication he received a tiny grant of land in Litchfield, where he is said to have resided for a short time.104 Either here or at his residence at Pawtucket, he was seen by Daniel Gookin, Superintendent of Indians, and the Apostle Eliot "in the white winter of his 120th year."105 These are the last authentic data that have come down to us concerning Passaconaway, and it is highly probable that he passed away soon after.
There are two interesting legends concerning the death of this "wondrous Indian."106 Some Maine Indians claim that a great man, a man of wonderful bearing, personality and influence, although very aged, came to them shortly before the breaking out of Philip's War. Because of the strange likeness of this man to Passaconaway, because he called himself "Bashaba," was a wizard and powwow, some writers believe him to have been Passaconaway.107 A devout and earnest Christian, this stranger taught and helped the people near the foot of Mount Agamenticus. Because of his sterling character, long and active life of usefulness and religious fervor, he was named "the good Saint Aspenquid."
In 1682, at the age of one hundred and twenty, Saint Aspenquid died, reverenced and beloved. For miles around there was deep sorrow and mourning. In order to pay fitting respect to such a man, preparations were made for the largest funeral service ever held among these Indians, the grandest one we have on record. Runners flew to all points of the compass; and nearly all the Indians on the Maine coast, and from miles inland, came together at Mount Agamenticus for the burial. An enormous amount of game was brought, 6,711 animals constituting the funeral offering. Of the animals brought to the grave and funeral feast were "99 black bears, 66 moose, 25 bucks, 67 does, 240 wolves, 82 wild-cats, 3 catamounts, 482 foxes, 32 buffaloes, 400 otter, 620 beaver, 1500 mink, 110 ferrets, 520 raccoons, 900 musquashes, 501 fishers, 3 ermines, 58 porcupines, 832 martens, 59 woodchucks, and 112 rattlesnakes."108 The body was borne to the summit of Agamenticus, and laid to rest in a rocky cave. On the door of this natural tomb these words were rudely carved by the Indians:
"Present useful; absent wanted;
Let us now glance at the second tradition, which was the one held by the Pennacooks. Dread of the White Mountains seems to have been imbedded in the aborigines. They hunted, trapped, and marched through the numerous valleys and passes, hut seldom, if ever, ascended the loftier peaks, especially Mt. Washington, the monarch of them all, which they called Mount Agiocochook. Its height is so great that vegetation ceases to grow far below its craggy summit.110 This "monarch of mountains"111 was seldom ascended by the Indians. The Great Spirit, while on his earthly visits, was supposed to abide on this summit.112 Here he revealed himself to his lieutenants―his powwows and sachems―especially to one favorite who "communed with the Great Spirit dreaming and awake."
The tradition runs that there was to be a Council of the Gods in heaven and it was Passaconaway's wish that he might be admitted to the divine Council Fire; so he informed the Great Spirit of his desire. A stout sled was constructed, and out of a flaming cloud twenty-four gigantic wolves appeared. These were made fast to the sled. Wrapping himself in a bearskin robe, Passaconaway bade adieu to his people, mounted the sled, and, lashing the wolves to their utmost speed, away he flew. Through the forests from Pennacook and over the wide ice-sheet of Lake Winnepesaukee they sped. Reeling and cutting the wolves with his thirty-foot lash, the old Bashaba, once more in his element, screamed in ecstatic joy. Down dales, valleys, over hills and mountains they flew, until, at last, enveloped in a cloud of fire, this "mightiest of Pennacooks" was seen speeding over the rocky shoulders of Mount Washington itself; gaining the summit, with unabated speed he rode up into the clouds and was lost to view―forever! Fitting finale was this to the life of a kingly and prophetic man, and as well deserved was his triumphant translation as was the reputed one of the prophet Elijah.
Some stanzas from an old poem, "The Winter Evening," reveal the awe in which the great Indian was held by his white contemporaries:
Before bidding adieu to Passaconaway let us enumerate a few of the things which enshrine the chieftain's memory and perpetuate his name. In the Edison Cemetery, Lowell Mass., there is a statue, a memorial to the Great Bashaba.114 In Concord, N. H., there is a Passaconaway club-house on the Merrimac; 115 and there used to be, in 1853, a locomotive of the Concord Northern R. R.116 bearing the name of Passaconaway. At York Cliffs, Maine, there is a Passaconaway Inn. There is also Passaconaway Cottage in Birch Intervale, now Wonalancet.117 Until it was burned, in February, 1916, there was a Passaconaway House in our Albany Intervale. Then there is the Passaconaway (or Albany, or Swift River) Intervale. And our post office, Passaconaway, Carroll County, N. H., helps to keep the famous name before the public. Grandest monument of all, however, is his mountain, of which we shall speak later. Long may the noble Bashaba―the noblest of his vanished race―live in our minds and hearts!
1. Wonalancet, though not visible from our cottage, may be seen from certain points in the valley.
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