Table of Contents
PAUGUS, MOUNTAIN AND CHIEFTAIN
The southeastern rampart of our valley consists of three picturesque mountains: Chocorua, with its rocky, jagged peak; Bald, with its rounded and polished dome; and Paugus, a long, humpy ridge, miles in extent.
The present chapter is to be devoted to the last, the wildest and the ugliest of the three. Frank Bolles has a chapter on this mountain in his "At the North of Bearcamp Water," in which he affectionately terms it "Old Shag." Many of our New Hampshire hills are known by several different names, but this one in particular seems to have a great variety. Because of its many "fire and wind-swept domes,"1 from different viewpoints it presents entirely different shapes. Hence Paugus has as many names as it has humps. The most common ones are: Bald, Moose, Ragged, Deer, Hunchback, Middle, Frog, Toadback, and Old Shag.2 But the most romantic and commonest name today is the one with which Miss Lucy Larcom christened it―”Mount Paugus."3
Time and again this venerable pile, 3,248 feet in height, has been the―victim of fire, hurricane, and ax.4 From our valley we see on its most northwestern ridge a large area covered with a beautiful light green young growth. Three years ago this was bare―a huge scar―the merciless ax of the lumberman having stripped it clean, so that not even a bush could be seen upon it. The United States Government now owns this "old ridge," so that in time the mighty Paugus once more probably will robe itself in a mantle of pines and spruces.
Before the Revolution, from these very slopes, masts were cut for the Royal Navy.5 The old settlers tell of finding immense pines marked with the King's "Broad Arrow," and, had not the famous mast trade ceased with the opening of our Revolution, these forest monarchs would have helped to whiten every sea.6
On its south side, Paugus is a jumble of ledges, cliffs and trees. From Chocorua one sees it as a series of rocky terraces, while from our side (the north) only one or two cliffs jut out through the dark veil of spruce. There is one especially beautiful ledge in about the center of the mountain. It is shaped like a kite, starting in a point at the top, widening at an obtuse angle, then, for the remaining three quarters of its height, it tapers smoothly down to a sharp point. The face of this ledge is almost perpendicular and apparently of white granite. It is almost as white as chalk and not a speck or spot seems to blur its brilliancy. I think that this is the whitest ledge in the entire Sandwich Range. When the moon plays upon it it appears to sparkle and even tremble as a waterfall. It is said that the Indians, and some of the whites, held this spot in awe; they knew not whether it was rock or water. The only approach to it, from our side, at least, is through miles of the worst of tangles.
A writer speaks of a certain ledge on the northwesterly side of Paugus, the upper part of which displays the perfect image of a lamb's head. "Eye, mouth, nose, ear and forehead are exact; even the chest and back are clearly delineated. Here it has stood for ages, an object of veneration to the aborigines, a natural symbol of the Christian's Prince of Peace."7
The three foes―fire, wind, and man―have done their work only too well―they have made Paugus one of the most inaccessible of all the hills. The one path to the top, from our side, is "swamped out" with a terrible yet very dull blade, namely, the hurricane, which has torn and slashed, leaving a great abattis, an almost impenetrable tangle. From the south, there are many attractive paths leading to the summit.8
The view both north and south is practically the same as from some of the more accessible lookouts. There are only two distinctive views from Paugus, views which no other mountain can boast. From its eastern hump, a remarkable view may be had of Chocorua, towering and frowning high above. The huge slide on Chocorua-nearly the whole length of the western slope, which is invisible from all other points, is here seen in such awful grandeur as to cause the beholder to shudder.9 The second impressive view is from the extreme southwestern knoll. From here one's attention is monopolized by lofty Passaconaway. Poor Paugus appears to be on its knees at the feet of this mighty Bashaba. From here, as from nowhere else, the massive bulk of Passaconaway strikes horror into the spectator. This gigantic pile so overtops Paugus that it appears as if a hurricane might topple it over and completely bury its humble neighbor.
The most picturesque physical feature of Paugus is found among the crags and boulders on the southern slope. Over, between and around some of these ledges a little brook trickles, falls and splashes. About a thousand feet above the level country around, high up among the cliffs, there is a beautiful pool of water which is at the foot of a wonderful series of falls. Looking up from here we see where, in places, the brook is but a silver thread, while in others it appears as a very respectable fall. This fall consists of a succession of storied ledges and cliffs, at least two hundred and fifty feet long, from the mossy brook-bed to the glassy pool below. Each of these crags is from fifty to sixty feet long, and about twenty-five feet in perpendicular height.10 Over these the water shoots, spreads and dances. Bolles, who was a great admirer of Mount Paugus, says that if the volume of Paugus Brook were thrice its present size, these falls would be among the most beautiful in New England.11
An "old timer" says that when the Lord had nearly finished creating the world, He had a quantity of boulders, trees and dirt left over. Having not yet completed New Hampshire, it is said that He dumped this surplus material there. Therefore the mountains.12 I think that if all of our beautiful White Mountains were on the Paugus plan, the "highlander" would not be alone in his belief. For, of the score or more mountains seen from our valley, this alone has no definite shape, size, or dimensions; but just stretches from Chocorua to Passaconaway and Wonalancet, and thus fills up a gap.
However, the lover of history, especially Indian history, cannot look upon this ridge without emotion, for it bears the name of a once prominent figure in New England history; and at the mention of "Paugus" a bloody battle is recalled. Hence the chief redeeming feature of this lowly mountain is its name. The one to whom nearly all these peaks owe their romantic Indian nomenclature―Lucy Larcom―happily named this after a red man who probably often ranged its humps and penetrated its chasms; and also she named the ragged ridges, near and below Paugus, the Wahwah Hills, after a fellow chief of Paugus.13
Paugus, meaning "the oak,"14 was a sachem of the Pequawkets about 1725.15 At this period the authorities of the Provincial Government offered one hundred pounds bounty for every enemy Indian scalp.16 The English were not alone in this barbarity, for their rivals―the French―had been outfitting parties and offering their Indian allies premiums for enemy scalps or prisoners.17
Among those tempted by the scalp bounty was Captain John Lovewell, of Dunstable, a famous Indian fighter. On February 20, 1725, Lovewell's party, discovering the tracks of Indians, followed them. By the smoke of the Indians' evening fire, the English located the redskins' camping spot. The canny Lovewell, by counting their tracks in the snow, knew them to be only ten in number, and determined upon a plan whereby they should all be shot without danger to his own men. The captain divided his company into squads of five, each to fire in order as rapidly after one another as possible. Slowly they crept upon the sleeping party. The Indians, tired from the long day's journey, had not posted any sentinels. Captain Lovewell began the slaughter by killing two of the Indians with his own shot; five more were killed on the spot instantly. The remaining three, half awake, jumped from their blankets; two reeled and fell; the other, wounded, ran upon the ice but was overtaken and held by a dog until he could be killed and scalped. By these tactics not a white man was hurt and a raid probably was averted. For the French doubtless had fitted out the raiders with extra provisions, snow-shoes and blankets, evidently for their expected prisoners.18 In memory of this affair, the pond, near Wakefield, has ever since been known as "Lovewell's Pond." The victorious troops marched to Boston in a blaze of glory. They were given their thousand pounds―an enormous sum in the eyes of these farmers―which they divided.19
After such a glorious success and so rich a reward, it is not surprising to find the victors seriously considering making redskin-killing a profession. On [Sunday,] April 15, 1725, therefore, Captain Lovewell set out with a party of about fifty men to "hunt savages," and if necessary to penetrate to the very heart of the red man's country for the purpose of slaying Paugus and his band―known to have made several raids―and return home with scores of scalps.20
This time Fortune seems to have deserted them as completely as it had favored them before.21 A veteran Indian fighter, William Cummings, became unable to travel farther because of the effects of a wound received long before, and a relative was detailed to escort him home as soon as he was able to travel. Soon after a Nutfield man, Benjamin Kidder, was disabled by a serious illness, and, being too humane to abandon him, the party stopped on the west side of Ossipee Lake, where they erected a palisaded blockhouse. The surgeon, Sergeant Woods and a guard of seven men were left here. This blockhouse was to be a refuge in case of retreat.
The remaining thirty-four continued on their advance northeast to the land of the Pequawkets. At length we find them picking their way through the unbroken fastnesses under the still snow-covered brows of Chocorua, Bald, Moat and Kearsarge. On the seventh of May, while camping near the present site of Fryeburg, Maine, having crossed the Saco, the sentinels were put upon their guard by sounds, repeated again and again, in the underbrush, which sounds, they thought, might be made by prowling beast or lurking savage.
Next morning, while reverently listening with bared heads to the prayer of their young chaplain, Frye, a shot was heard not a great distance off. Upon approaching the spot from whence it came they discovered a fairly large pond, and upon its nearer bank stood a red man, apparently fowling. Here was scalp number one! For their labors they should receive some recompense! But might not this hunter be a decoy? A council of war was held and the scalp proved too tempting. Being in open woods of tall growth, where they could see quite a distance, they left their packs and started to creep up and shoot this Indian. But the native's eyes were as sharp as theirs. Although not a decoy, as it later appeared, he perceived the ambush and decided to sell his life as dearly as possible. With his charge of beaver-shot he mortally wounded Captain Lovewell and Private Whiting. Almost instantly a bullet from Ensign Wyman's rifle brought down the Indian. Chaplain Frye and another man ran forward and scalped him.
In view of their leader's plight it was thought best by the English to retire to their packs. Where could they have left them? No packs were to be seen, but at length the spot where they had deposited them was round. The packs had been stolen! Suddenly a blood-curdling yell rang out. From all sides the Pequawkets, led by Paugus, rushed upon the whites, firing as they came, and holding up ropes, suggestive of an immediate surrender. By counting the packs, the Indians had ascertained the number of whites.
The frontiersmen withered and fell under the hail of this first volley. Lovewell, not yet dead, received another wound, but lay firing as he died. Ten others fell dead, two of whom were the lieutenants. Yet the English stood their ground and, with an equally galling fire, answered the onrushing braves, killing some and driving the rest to cover. Unless the Pequawkets intended to strike terror into the English, and thereby avoid a fight, their motive for rushing forth from their ambush, from which they might have killed many more of Lovewell's men, will always remain a mystery.
One only of the English showed a "yellow streak"; he, Benjamin Hassell of Dunstable, turned and fled from the field. In his panic he did not stop until he had reached the Ossipee Fort. Here he so luridly pictured the bloody scene (he had remained only for the first volley) that fear seized the reserves and they retreated to the settlements. With the surviving embattled men it was a case of life or death; far from any aid, they must not only decisively whip their foes, but also must regain the settlements before starvation should strike them down.
Under the cool and experienced guidance of their only unharmed officer, Ensign Wyman, they gradually fell back the few rods to the shore. Here, with the pond behind them, they settled down for a long battle. Each man sought out cover―stump, log, tree, boulder, or bush―and, as best he could, concealed himself from the vigilant eyes of his enemies. Whenever a tiny part of a foe was seen, the soldiers fired. The red men, trained in this type of bush-fighting, possessed the greater resourcefulness in concealment; while the woodsmen, long skilled in the use of fire-arms, excelled in deadliness of aim. Also the white men were more dogged, obstinate and persevering than their more agile foes. Hence, because the weakness of the one side was the strong point of the other, they were not unevenly matched and many men on both sides fell.
Many of the Pequawkets and English were personally known to each other and frequent taunts were hurled across the field.22 A continual hooting, cat-calling and wolf-howling was kept up by the savages, to which the English replied with cheers and shouts.
After several hours of this kind of fighting the Indian howls died away. With the slightest rustling in the leaves, as of a retreating snake, they gradually wriggled off. Presently, at a distance, a terrible noise showed that they were holding a powwow for victory. Suddenly, like an ill omen, their chief conjurer fell dead, shot by Ensign Wyman, who had secretly crept up. This broke up the meeting abruptly and they immediately returned to the conflict.
Later, Chaplain Frye, who lay wounded, praying from time to time in a scarcely audible voice, passed away. This youth's death greatly depressed the English and their fire became noticeably lessened; whereupon the Pequawkets again sprang up with ropes, offering them quarter, but Ensign Wyman replied that "they would have no quarter but what they won at the point of their muskets."23
Once more the battle was renewed. Just before dusk some savages managed to reach a peninsula or beach. Paugus was one of these. He took cover behind a pine tree within a very short distance of one of Lovewell's best shots, John Chamberlain. For a short time each endeavored to discover an unprotected part of the other's person and at length both aimed their muskets and pulled the trigger. There was a flash in each priming-pan, but the guns failed to go off. Both weapons had become foul from incessant firing all day long, and were now practically useless. So these fearless men, being acquainted with each other, agreed to go down to the water and wash out their guns. The contestants on both sides, perceiving the situation, did not interfere. Both cleansed their pieces with equal rapidity, but Paugus gained the advantage in loading his gun, because, instead of having to ram his ball home, as did the white, his bullet was small enough to roll down the barrel. Perceiving his advantage, he, priming his piece, cried, "Me kill you!"24 To which the dauntless Scot replied in kind. Throwing down his ram-rod, Chamberlain struck the stock of his gun upon the hard sand, brought the musket to his shoulder and fired. Paugus fell, pierced through the heart. But the well-aimed ball of the sachem tore through Chamberlain's cap and hair, leaving him unwounded, however.25 So close together were the shots that the reports seemed as one. The reason Chamberlain had gained the advantage was because his musket had become so worn with use that, by striking it upon the ground, some powder from the charged barrel filtered through into the priming-pan, thereby priming the gun; while Paugus had to shake from his powder-horn the necessary powder into the priming-pan. The knowledge of this is all that saved the settler's life.26
Shortly after dark the discomfited Indians retreated, even leaving their fallen foes unscalped. In consideration of the value of these scalps, this precipitous withdrawal shows that there was some pressing reason. It is highly probable that the death of their chieftain was the cause. But whatever the reason, they suddenly disappeared and left the field to the whites.
Of Lovewell's men only nine were not severely hurt, eleven were badly wounded and the rest were hors de combat. It was estimated that only about twenty Pequawkets escaped unhurt. However, this was only a conjecture, for the Indians so concealed their losses that later only three corpses were found.
For some time the English lay still, dreading lest the Indians should fall upon them again, as they had done twice already. About midnight, as soon as prudence permitted, the eleven men who were able to travel set out for the Ossipee Fort. It was found abandoned, but a piece of birch bark was discovered telling that all had been lost. Some rations of pork and bread had been left. While refreshing themselves with these, their number was swelled to a dozen by the addition of Sotomon Keyes. He, thrice wounded, and giving himself up for lost, had crawled to the shore of the pond where he chanced upon a deserted canoe. In preference to being found by the savages, he pushed off in it, and, lying in the bottom, drifted quite a distance. The wind drove him ashore, where, feeling greatly strengthened, he made his way to the fort.
On [Sunday,] the thirteenth of May the first party of half-starved fugitives arrived in Dunstable. Thinking that by division their retreat might be concealed, they had formed three groups. The last group, after indescribable hardship and suffering, arrived two days later. These followers of Lovewell had had no food except that left in the fort and had been forced to subsist on the products of the wood and swamp. Their wounds were in a most pitiable condition and were almost unbearably painful. But they had made history and the pond near Fryeburg has been called "Lovewell's Pond" ever since the sanguinary struggle there.
Two or three days after the arrival of the survivors, a party was sent up to view the fateful field and to bury the slain. Three Indian graves were discovered. From these, out of curiosity, the frontiersmen exhumed the bodies. One of these was found to be that of Paugus. The mighty "Oak" at last had been laid low.
Lovewell's Fight forever broke the power of the Indians in New Hampshire. The shattered remnants of the once terrible Pequawkets withdrew to the squalid Indian village of Saint Francis in Canada, where their descendants survive to this day.
But a more congenial neighbor than the old-time war-whooping, musket-firing Paugus, and certainly a more poetic bearer of his proud name than an unromantic Indian of to-day could be, is Mount Paugus, linking Past with Present, just as "Old Shag" links jagged Chocorua with gentle Wonalancet and towering Passaconaway; and, until the "everlasting hills" shall disintegrate and disappear, Mount Paugus probably will remain as an enduring and fitting monument to a once living and fearless inhabitant of Passaconaway-land; reminding succeeding generations that
1. Bolles: Land of the Lingering Snow, 155.