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There are seven of the Bashaba's children on record, and we have reason to believe that perhaps there were others. He had at least four sons. We have fairly complete accounts of the first two of these, Nanamocomuck and Wonalancet, but concerning the other two we know very little except their jaw-breaking names―Unanunguoset and Nonatomenut1 I shall speak of the daughters a little farther on.
Nanamocomuck, the oldest son of Passaconaway, became Sachem of the Wachusetts very early, and held sway over their somewhat limited domain around the mountain in Massachusetts now known as Mount Wachusett. This sachem's oldest son, Kancamagus, was the last and most warlike chief of the Pennacooks. He is treated in another chapter. Nanamocomuck was a peaceful and law-abiding Indian, who at one time expressed a desire to adopt the Christian religion. He was so abused by the English, however, that his friendliness turned to bitter hatred, and he removed to Maine to escape their obnoxious proximity.2 Upon a certain occasion the Sachem of Wachusett had become responsible for a fellow-tribesman who owed a small debt to a white man, John Tinker, and for his debt he was imprisoned―”unjustly as it would seem”―in Boston. His generous brother, Wonalancet, made a great sacrifice―selling his own home―in order to redeem his brother.3 Nanamocomuck died quite young, while Passaconaway was still Bashaba, so that he never became chief of the Pennacook tribe and head of the Confederacy, as he would have done had he lived longer.
Of Passaconaway’s daughters the name of only one, Wenunchus, has been handed down to us. Another daughter, probably the oldest, married Nobhow. We have as evidence his signature to a petition in behalf of his wife, which petition also was signed by the sons of Passaconaway. It is highly probable, therefore, that Nobhow signed as the husband of one of Passaconaway’s daughters.4
Another daughter, perhaps the youngest, married Manatahqua, or Black William, as the English called him. In 1630 he was Sachem of Saugus (Lynn) and vicinity. Like his father-in-law, he was a faithful friend of the whites, of which friendship, however, the ungrateful English were unworthy. In November, 1631, a rascally trader. Well versed in the knavery of commercialism, was murdered by some Indians who, undoubtedly, had been stung into revenge by repeated swindlings. The crime took place near the mouth of the Saco, and it was a well-known fact that some of Squidrayset's men, Indians of the vicinity, had committed the murder. Over a year later, in January, 1633, the unfortunate Black William happened to be near this ill fated spot. A sloop was cruising about the coast in search of pirates. Upon nearing the spot where the murder had been committed, the white sailors recalled the incident, and vengeful passions arose within them. At that very moment an Indian appeared, on the shore. It was Black William. They lost no time in seizing him and, with no provocation whatever on his part, and well knowing that he was personally innocent, they hung him.5
Many writers, including Judge Potter, believe that Wenunchus, the Bashaba's other daughter, married Montowampate, the Sachem of Saugus. All historians agree that she was the wife of a sachem of Saugus, but there seem to have been two brothers, Montowampate and Winnepurkitt, who held the Saugus sachemship in the 1620's and 1630's. The weight of the evidence seems to show that it was the elder of these, Montowampate and not Winnepurkitt, who was the husband of Wenunchus.
Montowampate, whom the English named "Sagamore James,"6 was born in 1611. He was the son of Nanepashemet, and was the eldest of three sons. Sagamore James went to Governor Winthrop on March 26, 1631, in order to recover twenty beaver skins of which he had been defrauded by an Englishman named Watts. Watts had returned to England. But the governor gave the young sachem a letter to an influential gentleman in London, and it is thought that the fearless Indian actually made the trip to England and recovered what was due him.7
Considerable hard feeling had arisen over the question of boundaries between the whites and the Indians, but, as Mather piously remarked, "God ended the controversy by sending the small-pox among the Indians at Saugus, who were before that time exceedingly numerous."8 Montowampate died of this disease in December, 1633.9 His two surviving brothers, Wonohaquaham and Winnepurkitt, "promised, if ever they recovered, to live with the English, and serve their God."10
The marriage woes of Wenunchus have been immortalized in Whittier's "Bridal of Pennacook."11 Yet, the story as he gives it is not historically accurate, although it is, as one writer has said, "very good poetry."12 For example, the poet calls the bride Weetamoo, while her true name was Wenunchus. The real Weetamoo was the wife of Alexander, the brother of King Philip.13 Moreover, the poet attributes a tragic end to the lovelorn bride. Happily, history is sometimes kinder than poetry, for, to state the actual facts in cold prose, the bride was still living near Salem some fifty-eight years later than the time when the poet kills off his heroine.14
Upon Montowampate's arrival at man's estate, he won Wenunchus' hand, probably about 1628. Passaconaway sent messengers, inviting all the people of his domains to the wedding feast. Legend tells of the magnificent banquet following the marriage ceremonies, such a feast as only the wealthiest and most powerful Indian over-lord in New England could provide. All the people were present and the occasion was one never to be forgotten. Indian custom demanded that, in addition to the parental feast, the groom's people, if the bride and groom were members of different tribes, should give another feast when the husband brought his bride home to his wigwam.15 The bridal party left Pennacook and set out for Saugus, accompanied by an escort of picked warriors provided by Passaconaway. Doubtless the customary second feast was spread in honor of Wenunchus, now Mrs. Montowampate, to welcome her to her new home.
The newly married couple lived happily together for a short time, when Wenunchus experienced an attack of homesickness, and expressed a desire to visit her people at Pennacook. Montowampate consented, and ordered a select band of braves to escort her to Passaconaway's residence. After a short visit, Wenunchus infomed her father of her desire to return to her husband, whereupon the Bashaba forwarded a message to Sagamore James, asking him to send an escort for Wenunchus. This seems to have nettled the young sachem, for his reply was sharp and haughty. He stated that, inasmuch as he had escorted her to her father's house in a manner worthy of her social rank, now that she wished to return her father should provide the necessary escort. Passaconaway, considering such an answer to be an insult, seems to have lost his temper―a thing we have no record of his doing ,except in this poem―and, standing upon his dignity, he stoutly refused to yield. The younger man, likewise, stubbornly refused to recede from the position he had taken.
In all this controversy the wish of Wenunchus seems to have been entirely overlooked, for, no matter how much both Passaconaway and Montowampate might have been willing to do to please her, neither would budge an inch on the question concerning the method of her rejoining the husband for whom her heart was yearning. So she remained at Pennacook, the unthinking cause and unhappy victim of a men's quarrel. As pictured by Whittier, the bride, pining to return, secretly stole from her father's wigwam, pushed a canoe into the Merrimac, and drifted down towards Sagamore James's country. But, alas, she was capsized some rapids and lost. So much for poetry.
The real facts seem to have been that her domestic life was interrupted for some time by this unhappy altercation between her husband and the Bashaba.16 Yet Wenunchus finally was restored to her husband, though whether escorted or not we do not know; for when a raid was made upon Saugus by eastern Indians, in 1632, she was in Montowampate's wigwam with him and was left unharmed.17 As already stated, Montowampate died in 1633 of the small-pox.18 According to the historian of Salem, Wenunchus was still living in 1686 near Salem.19 Lake Wenunchus, in Lynn, and the ladies' club-house, Camp Weetamoo, in Concord, N. H., perpetuate the memory of the Pennacook bride, as do also Mount Weetamoo in Campton, and the Weetamoo Branch Path which connects the Piper Trail with the Hammond Path on Mount Chocorua and which leads through Weetamoo Glen and past Weetamoo Rock.20
I will briefly narrate the career of Winnepurkitt (or, perhaps, Wenepoykin), who is regarded by some writers (Drake among them) as the husband of Wenunchus. Winnepurkitt was born in 1616, and, at his brother's death in 1633, became Sachem of Saugus. He had about forty men under his command. Not only did he embrace Christianity, but he wore clothes like the English. About 1630 he was proprietor of Deer Island in Boston Harbor, and, because of certain other lands which he held, he was known among the whites as "George Rumney-marsh."21
After Philip's War, when hundreds of the participants in that fateful outbreak were seized by the victors and hung or transported for slaves, this sachem was taken. He was sold into slavery in the Barbadoes, along with scores of others.22 But an Indian is no man's slave, and no bonds can hold him in servitude. Not many years later, large numbers of these unfortunate red men escaped and, by one means or another, made their way back to their native soil. Winnepurkitt was one of those who succeeded in returning; but he was not long to enjoy his freedom, for, in 1684, at the age of sixty-eight, he died,23 probably the victim of the hardships encountered in slavery or incurred during his desperate efforts to escape from bondage.
Ahawayetsquaine is mentioned as a wife of Winnepurkitt and by her he had several children.24 Some writers, who regard Winnepurkitt as the husband of Wenunchus, explain his marriage to Ahawayetsquaine by assuming that the bridegroom, supposing that old Passaconaway had recalled his daughter forever, had remarried. Others tell us that he had more than one wife.
To Wonalancet, the best known and most lovable son of Passaconaway, we shall devote a separate chapter.
1. Bouton: Hist.
of Concord, 26; Potter: Hist. of Manchester, 64.