The Praying Indians of Megunko


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The Praying Indian town of Megunko in what is now Ashland Massachusetts played a key role in the events and outcome of King Philip's War. This presentation looks at the background of the geographic area, the activity of Rev. John Eliot, and the heroes and villains from Megunko during King Philip's War.

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The Praying Indians of Megunko

  1. 1. Rev John Eliot, ThePraying Indians & Megunko Plantation
  2. 2. Background 1600-1659• A survey of the Indians of New England before the arrival of the English• The great plague of 1616-1619• The submission of the Indians• John Eliot and the Praying Indians
  3. 3. Megunko 1659-1675• The Formation of Megunko• A Brief Outline of King Philip’s War & Megunko Heroes and Villains of the war• The Aftermath and Sale of Megunko
  4. 4. A Survey of the Indiansof New England Before The Arrival of the English
  5. 5. • There were about ten major tribes in New England prior to the arrival of the English. Most were Algonquian.• The Little Ice Age of that period made the growing period shorter and winters more severe.• This partly explains the failure of the early settlement attempts and the aggression of certain tribes.
  6. 6. • There was a tendency of the more northern tribes to extend their influence south as a matter of survival, and a tendency of the more western tribes to extend their influence eastward.• The Terratines (Abnakis) to the north and the Mohawks and Mahicans to the west were particularly feared.
  7. 7. Land ownership for the Native tribes had more to do with rivers than land.
  8. 8. Captain John Smithsurveyed the coast in1614, gave the name‘New England’ to thearea, gave Englishnames to the primarycoastal features, anddrew the first accuratemap of the coast.
  9. 9. The Great Native Plague of 1616-1619
  10. 10. The Experience of Richard Vines• In the winter of 1616-1617 Vines traveled to the mouth of the Saco River and spent the time with the Indians of that area.• The plague was in full force. Although the dead and dying were all about them, they did not contract the disease.
  11. 11. Characteristics of the Great Plague• Edward Bascome: “This distemper the Indians described as a spotted putrid fever, with ulcers, and yellowness of the skin and eyes, and bleeding from the mouth and ears.”
  12. 12. Characteristics of the Great Plague• Extent was from Narragansett Bay to Penobscot Bay. This marked the area frequented by European fishermen and traders.• The Massachusett tribe marked the epicenter. Some tribal groups lost 90% of their members, further away, there were 30% losses. The English discovered bone fields where there weren’t enough living to bury the dead.• English seemed to be immune.• Depending on the source, the plague is described as occurring between 1612 and 1623. The worst period was probably between 1617 and 1619.
  13. 13. Characteristics of the Great Plague• Most of the mature Indians in the years 1640-1680 were survivors of both the plague and other outbreaks of disease in the 1630’s and 1660’s• Most of the Puritans believed that the plague was an act of God, paving the way for the English. Many surviving Indians believed the same.
  14. 14. The Submission of the Indians 1644
  15. 15. The Submission of the Indians• The devastation of the plague and the threat of invasion by the Terratines and the Mohawks put the coastal and interior tribes in an untenable position.• As the English multiplied, the native tribes became first allies, then willing subjects to the dominant population of English.
  16. 16. The Submission of the Indians• In 1644, the Massachusett tribes subjected themselves to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Shortly thereafter, the Pennacooks of the Merrimac River valley and other lesser tribes including some inland Nipmucs subjected themselves as well.• From the English point of view, the Indians signed a covenant that acknowledged their willingness to abide by the Ten Commandments.
  17. 17. John Eliot & the Praying Indians
  18. 18. Short Bio of John Eliot• Born in Essex County, England 1604.• Educated at Jesus College, Cambridge where he learned Puritan doctrine.• Came to America on the Lyon in 1631, worked as a substitute minister in Boston before becoming permanent pastor in Roxbury in 1632.• He and his wife had 5 sons, 1 daughter.• Began his missionary work among the natives in 1644, probably encouraged by the success experienced among the natives of Cape Cod by Thomas Mayhew.
  19. 19. Background of the Praying Indians• Missionary work was a high priority for the Puritans, but the struggle for survival in the early years delayed any serious work among the natives.• Thomas Mayhew was the first of the missionaries, having converted many of the natives of Martha’s Vineyard, and then much of Cape Cod and the other islands.• Conversion of the natives was a difficult task for the Puritans, because they believed it important to ‘civilize’ them according to the English way, and to make them capable of reading the Bible.
  20. 20. Difficulties in Missionary Work• The Puritan pastor was bound to his congregation. This made it difficult for the individual pastor to devote much time to missionary activity. John Eliot served among family and friends who supported his missionary work among the natives.• If an Indian sachem converted, he could expect a serious loss of ‘tribute’ from his subjects. If subject Indians converted, their sachems would complain to the English that their subjects were being disloyal.• The Powwows (Medicine Men) as the spiritual leaders were particularly opposed to any missionary work.• Nevertheless, in areas with increasing English populations, large numbers of converts resulted. Many Indians believed that the English God was more powerful in war and in healing.
  21. 21. John Eliot & the Praying Indian Towns • Eliot began his missionary work around 1644. • It began with the Indian Waban and culminated in the establishment of the first Praying Indian town of Natick in 1651. • By 1660 there were seven Praying towns, and by 1675 there were fourteen. • In order to teach the Indians, Eliot translated the Bible into Algonquian and engaged a Nipmuc Indian named James Printer to help print it. The first printing, in 1663 was the first book printed in America.
  22. 22. How did the Indians get from Natick to Megunko? Megunko was sort of a ‘suburb’ of Natick. Present day‘Eliot St.’ in Natick and Ashland show the probable path.
  23. 23. Differences Between Old and New Praying Indian Locations• Older towns established between 1650-1660, newer communities established between 1670-1674.• Newer communities tended to be larger, perhaps an indication that the Nipmucs had greater population, and perhaps not as affected by the plague.• Newer communities had not yet been granted land.• Much of the missionary work in new communities had been done by Indians.• All newer communities were in Nipmuc Country.
  24. 24. The Puritan Missionary Goal• Bring into community, Civilize, Educate, Baptize• The more established towns had more baptized members, but many towns had just a few.• Civilizing meant dressing, acting, living like the English.• Education meant learning how to read, especially the Bible and Catechism.• All Praying Towns had an Indian civil leader and an Indian teacher.• The focus on education was so great that an Indian School was created at Harvard. Six Indians attended, one graduated, all died of diseases contracted at the College. Sassamon attended classes at Harvard before the Indian College was established.
  25. 25. The Formation of Megunko
  26. 26. Variations on the name ‘Megunko’• All Indian names in the Colonial Era had multiple spellings by the English, depending on what the writer ‘heard’ when he spelled out the name on documents. This applied to both place names and the names of individuals.• Megunko is spelled variously as Magunsquog, Magunkook, Makunkokoag, and Megonejuk. John Eliot spelled it ‘Magwonkkomuk’.
  27. 27. The Lands of Wuttawushan• The Deed of 1684 “…that tract of land lying, situate and being betweene the bounds of Natick, Charles River, Marlborough, and a point of Blackstone’s river beyond Mendon,• “…descending to us from the chiefe sachem Wuttawushan, uncle to the said John Awassamoag Sen., who was a chiefe sachem of said land, and nearly related to us all, as may be made to appeare.”
  28. 28. The Lands of Wuttawushan
  29. 29. Who was Wuttawushan?• Temple’s History of Framingham: – Nipmuc who acquired the land between 1620-1630 – Signed treaties with the English in 1621 and 1644 – Principle residence was Nashaway (Lancaster), but he was a friend of Massasoit (Wampanoag and father of King Philip).• Possible that the plague opened up this land for the Nipmucs to extend their influence toward the coast.
  30. 30. The Role of John Awassamog Sr.• Awassamog was the nephew and heir of Wuttawushan and is found on the deed establishing the first Praying Town of Natick.• Both through Wuttawushan and his wife he had large landholdings and appears on many deeds of land sales to the English.• His children include James Rumneymarsh, and Samuel, John Jr. , Thomas, Joshua and Amos Awassamog. They also appear on numerous deeds.
  31. 31. Brief Bio of Daniel GookinSuperintendent of Praying Indians• Born in Ireland around 1612, educated in England• Came to Virginia with his father by 1630• Drawn to New England because of his Puritan leanings. Lived in Roxbury and befriended Rev. Eliot• Was a military man, served on the influential Court of Assistants in Mass Bay for close to 35 years• Served as the Superintendent of the Praying Indians during the years leading up to and following King Philip’s War• Wrote two historical works about the Praying Indians: Historical Collections of the Indians in New England and The Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians
  32. 32. Gookin’s description of Megunko on the Eve of King Philip’s WarMagunkaquog is the seventh of the old Praying towns. It is situated partly within the bounds of Natick and partly upon land granted by the country. It is near midway between Natick and Hassanamesit [Grafton]. The number of inhabitants is about eleven families and about fifty-five souls, there are, men and women, eight members of the church at Natick and fifteen baptized persons. the quantity of land belonging to it is about three thousand acres. The Indians plant upon a great hill which is very fertile. These people worship God and keep the Sabbath, and observe civil order. Their rulers name is Pamhaman, a sober and active man and pious. Their teacher is named Job, a person well accepted for piety, and ability among them. This town was the last settling of the old towns. They have plenty of corn, and keep some cattle, horses and swine, for which the place is well accommodated!
  33. 33. Location of the Megunko Plantation• Temple: The wigwams stood on what is known as the Aaron Eames place, now owned by William Enslin (1887). The fort was built on the knoll where Mr. E.s barn now stands, handy to the spring at the foot of the knoll, a few rods to the south (maybe 10-15 yds). [Indian forts were of necessity always placed near a living spring or stream.] The burial-ground was on a sandy knoll sixty rods (300+ yds) to the southwest. The spot was crossed by the Central turnpike, (Rt 135)…
  34. 34. The wigwams stood in the area to the southwestof the Train access road on Rt 135 in Ashland MA
  35. 35. This is the intersection. The wooded lot isopposite Dunkin’ Donuts across the access road.
  36. 36. The original corn fields were probably where the Middle Schoolfields are located, just west of the wigwams. A petition in 1669 expanded the landholding to the hill in the larger circle.
  37. 37. Expansion of Megunko 1669• Temple: At first the Indians selected a planting-field on the rolling land near their wigwams, and built a fence around it ; but it did not prove fertile. And in 1669 Mr. Eliot sent the following petition to the General Court: "The humble Petition of John Eliot in the behalf of the poor Indians of Magwonkkommuk, this 14th day of October, 1669. Shewith —That whereas a company of new praying Indians are set down at the westernmost corner of Natick bounds called Magwonkkommuk, who have called one to rule, and another to teach them, of whom the latter is of the church, the former ready to be joined ; and there is not fit land for planting, toward Natick, but westward there is, though very rocky — these are humbly to request that fit accomodations may be allowed them westward." On this petition Ens. John Grout and Thomas Eames were appointed a committee to view and report. On their report, a grant of land, not to exceed 1000 acres, was made to this plantation, to be laid out westerly of the old Natick bounds, including the whole of what is now known as Magunka hill. Their new planting- field was on the top of the hill directly west of their fort. Their barns were set in the slope of the hill, a little north of east of the field. Some of them may still be seen in an old orchard now owned by Russell Eames.
  38. 38. This view is from the north at the Ashland Train Station. It gives a good view of the hill, but most of the activity occurred on the south side.
  39. 39. Members of Megunko Plantation According to Temple• Pomhaman, alias Pumapene and Pomham• Job Kattananit• William Wannuckhow alias Jackstraw• Joseph son of Jackstraw• John alias Apumatquin, son of Jackstraw• Jackananumquis alias Joshua Assalt,• Old Jacob• John Dublet, son-in-law- to Old Jacob
  40. 40. A Brief Outline ofKing Philip’s War and The Role of Megunko
  41. 41. In the summer of 1675, Philip’s men moved fromsoutheast Massachusetts to central Mass, and finally to the Connecticut River Valley in the fall.
  42. 42. Megunko During King Philip’s War• Drafted to serve in the army that attacked Mt. Hope.• Poor treatment caused many to ‘fall off to the enemy’.• Some followed Pomhaman to Quaboag (Brookfield), some went to Nashaway (near Lancaster) some, including many of the women and children, went to Marlborough and put themselves ‘under the English wing’.
  43. 43. Megunko During King Philip’s War• In Marlborough, on August 29, 1676, 15 men were arrested and brought to Boston on suspicion of attacking the English at Lancaster. Though none were from Megunko, it further poisoned the relationship with the Praying Indians. Those at Marlborough were forced to go to one of four designated Praying Indian towns where their liberty was severely restricted. (Gookin)
  44. 44. Megunko During King Philip’s WarOctober 26. Troops were sent out to Natick,who seized all the Indians there, and scouredthe country to the north and west, collectingthe scattered families— no distinction beingmade of age or sex, or long-tried fidelity, orestablished Christian character, — and allwere hurried down to Boston ; and atmidnight, Oct. 30, the tide favoring, they wereput on board of three vessels and taken to DeerIsland. They were kept here, in great privationand suffering, owing to want of shelter,clothing, and food, during the winter. (Temple)
  45. 45. Deer Island, opposite Logan Airport. It became a peninsula during the Hurricane of 1938.
  46. 46. The Attack on theHousehold of Thomas Eames February 1, 1676
  47. 47. The Problem of Food• By the middle of January, 1676, food was becoming a problem for all Indians. The war created a disruption in the corn harvest and access to the ocean for fish.• Those at Deer Island were given permission to retrieve any stores of corn in their plantations.• The Indians then with Philip had designs on the same stores of corn.
  48. 48. Location of the Household Temple:• Mr. Eames had taken up lands and built a house on the southern slope of Mt. Wayte, in 1669.• …. his house-lot was on the land which Mr. Danforth bought of Richard Wayte, and not on the land which he (Eames) afterwards received by grant and purchase of the Indians.• His nearest neighbors were in Saxonville.
  49. 49. Framingham map of 1699. The Eames farm was at the northwest corner of Farm Pond, south of Mt Wayte.
  50. 50. Relative position of Megunko Hill to Thomas Eames’ Farm.
  51. 51. Members of the Household Temple:• His family then consisted of a wife and not less than six children of his own, and probably four children of his wife by a former marriage, varying in age from twenty- four years to seven months.• His eldest son settled in Watertown; and before the summer of 1675, it appears that one or two of his wifes children were away at service, so that at the date of the assault eight or nine of his own, and one or two of his wifes children were living at home.• Some of the published accounts differ from this, and from each other
  52. 52. Circumstances Leading Up To The Attack• Two soldiers had been assigned to protect the farmers in that area, but were withdrawn at the time of the attack.• Mr. Eames was “maimed in the limbs” and was not liable to be ‘pressed into service’. However, his horses were!• Eames petitioned to have his horses ‘freed from the press’ which was granted.
  53. 53. Circumstances Leading Up To The Attack• On the last week of January, Thomas Eames rode with his horses into Boston to procure help and a supply of ammunition.• While there, his family was attacked without benefit of the assigned guard.
  54. 54. The Attack• On February 1, 1676, 11 Indians, including six from Megunko, returned to Megunko to recover their corn.• Not finding it, they were encouraged (or threatened) by Netus to go to the nearest English farm where their corn was presumably taken.• They were confronted by Mrs. Eames who had resolved never to be taken alive and had defended the household with hot soap and weapons from the kitchen.
  55. 55. The Attack• She and five children were killed and five or six children were abducted.• In addition, the whole of the farm, its animals and buildings were destroyed.• Of those taken, three boys escaped and returned home, one girl was redeemed, and two girls and possibly a boy never returned.• It is believed that one or more of the children were brought up as Indians in Canada.
  56. 56. The Accused• Thomas Danforth’s list of accused:• Netus, Anneweaken, Aponapawquin alias Old Jacob, Acompanatt alias James, Pakananumquis alias Joshua Assalt, William Wannuckhow alias Jackstraw, Joseph Wannuckhow, Apumatquin alias John, Pumapen, Awassaquah, and Aquitekash.
  57. 57. What Became of the Accused• Netus and Anneweaken were killed during the war. Both were prominent Praying Indians.• Netus was attached to Natick and had escaped when the Natick community was sent to Deer Island. He was killed the day after the assault on Marlborough in March 1676.• Anneweaken was attached to Hassanamessit. The time and place of his death is not listed.• These two were implicated by the others with insisting on the attack and the killing of the family.
  58. 58. What Became of the Accused• Pomhaman was at Quaboag in the winter of ’75-76.• He wasn’t implicated in the confessions of the Jackstraws.• Was at Wachusett in May.• Joined with others in a letter to the council at Boston in August suing for peace. His fate is unknown.
  59. 59. What Became of the Accused• Old Jacob appears to have been a relative of Awossamog, sharing in his land rights.• At some point, he joined with Netus and for a time, was allied with Philip.• There was no evidence given against him at the trial of the Jackstraws and he was eventually freed.• He lived to be 90 and preached conciliation to his brethren.
  60. 60. What Became of the Accused• Joshua Assalt was among those for whom a warrant was issued by Thomas Danforth in August of 1676.• At the time he was serving with the army at Marlborough, and wasn’t required to appear.• The sons of Thomas Eames later wrote an angry petition to the Court declaring “Two of those murderers, old Jacob, a chief man sometime at Natick, and Joshua Assunt, … had their lives granted them, and they lived many years at Natick after their return."
  61. 61. What Became of the Accused The Trial of the Jackstraws• When Thomas Danforth issue the warrant in August 1676, William Jackstraw and his two sons were the only ones to appear.• Eventually they gave a full and truthful confession, and their story is the basis for our current history of the matter.• They were tried and found guilty on August 18, 1676.
  62. 62. The Jackstraws’ Appeal• “…you were pleased to promise life and liberty unto such of your enemies as did come in and submit themselves to your mercy”• “…we do acknowledge that we were in company of those that burnt Goodman Eames his house. But we did not act in it. It was done by others, who were slain in the war, and so have answered Gods justice for their demerits”• “…were instrumental to save Goodman Eames his children alive, one of us carried one boy upon our backs rather then let them be killed”
  63. 63. The Jackstraws’ Appeal• “…it was a time of war, when this mischief was done : and though it was our unhappy portion to be with those enemies yet we conceive that depredations and slaughters in war are not chargeable upon particular persons, especially such as have submitted themselves to your Honours upon promise of life, &c. as we have done.”
  64. 64. The ExecutionJudge Sewall’s diary:"Sept. 21, 76. Stephen Goble of Concord wasexecuted for murder of Indians —ThreeIndians for firing Eames his house and murder.The weather was cloudy and rawly cold,though little or no rain. Mr. Mighil prayed; fourothers sat on the gallows, two men and twoimpudent women, one of which, at leastlaughed on the gallows, as several testified.
  65. 65. Thomas Eames’ Settlement From the Indians for Losses This land extends from Rt 9 to downtown Framingham along Union Ave.
  66. 66. The Story of Job Kattenanit, Master SpyTemple:• Teaching elder at Magunkook and a member of the Church at Natick• True friend of the English but distrusted because he was Indian• Originally from Grafton and well educated• His wife died in 1675 and he moved with his 3 children to Hassanimisco.
  67. 67. The Setup: The Soldiers of Bear Hill Cemetery• At the beginning of November 1675, Philip’s men came to Hassanamesit and made virtual prisoners of those who dwelt there.• Gookin writes that “Job and another escaped and brought news of the affair to Mendon.”• Bodges writes that on November 9th, Captain Daniel Henchman ‘with his lieutenant and twenty two mounted men, he rides to Hassanameset, and has a fight there...he relates that his Lieutenant, Philip Curtis (of Roxbury) is killed, and Thomas Andrews also (one of the Mendon Garrison).
  68. 68. The Setup: The Soldiers of Bear Hill Cemetery• Gookin writes: ‘..having no Indian guide with him, sustained a great loss’.• Writes further: ‘..t’was certain he lost two of his men as before said, whereof his Lieutenant was one; whose heads the enemy cut off, and placed upon a crotched pole at the wigwam door, faced against each other, which were seen a few days later by the English.’• Tradition has it that the English took the bodies and buried them in what is now Bear Hill Cemetery in Hopkinton.
  69. 69. Bear Hill Cemetery in Hopkinton, MA. The location is about 5 miles east of Hassanamisset in Grafton, MA.
  70. 70. Kattanannit Begins His Life as a Spy• Gookin writes that ‘..on the 13th of November Job ‘applied to Maj. Gookin, ..and desired a pass to go into the woods to seek for his children…. and said if God spared my life, I may bring you some intelligence of the residence and state of the enemy which may be very useful to the English.’ Gookin granted the pass.
  71. 71. Kattanannit• Job proceeds to Hassanamessit and meets with scouts of Captain Henchman. He shows his pass, but they bring him to the Captain who returns him to the Governor of Boston who (because of the clamor), put him in prison. After 3 weeks he is sent to Deer Island.
  72. 72. Kattanannit• At the end of December, it is decided that Indian spies are a good idea, and they prevail upon Job and James Quannapohit (alias James Rumneymarsh, son of Awassamog) to go into the enemy country to learn of their state and intentions.• They went to Wennemisset (New Braintree, north of Brookfield), James returned the 24th of January, 1676, and reported of the plans to attack Lancaster in 3 weeks and the frontier towns in the spring.
  73. 73. Kattanannit• Job returned on February 9 with the news that 400 enemy Indians would attack Lancaster on the 10th. Because of this the army was able to move, but there had been a distraction (the Eames affair?), so they had not reacted to James’ warning but only this later pleading by Job. Much of Lancaster was destroyed, but some, at least, were saved. Job and James were returned to Deer Island.
  74. 74. Kattanannit• On February 14th Job appealed to the Governor and Council to allow him to seek out his children. Captain Mosely intervened and Job was sent back to Deer Island. Was the Thomas Eames affair a deciding factor?• A few weeks later, a large contingent of the army was assembled at Marlborough with six Indian spies, including Job. He received permission to seek out his children but after he set off, Mosely again tried to have him retrieved.
  75. 75. Kattanannit• Job had conspired to meet a small group of Indians with his children, but all the delays frustrated the plan and he was unable to make the connection.• Ironically, a group of English horsemen intercepted the group who were eventually sent to Deer Island.• One of the women of the group had taken great care of the children and she and Job were eventually married.
  76. 76. In the latter stages of the war, the Indians penetratedcloser to the centers of English population, but lack of food and supplies prevented further progress.
  77. 77. The End of King Philip’s War• The Narragansetts were defeated in the spring of 1676.• The Mohawks refused to join Philip, thus negating his power in the Connecticut Valley.• Beginning in the spring, the colonials began once again to use Indian allies and the Praying Indians more effectively.• The French refused to supply Philip with arms and ammunition.
  78. 78. The End of King Philip’s War• The Colony offered amnesty to any who had not participated in attacks.• Of those who surrendered, many were ‘identified’ as combatants and either executed or sold into slavery.• Philip was marginalized and returned to his homeland. He was hunted and killed by a team of colonials and Indians. On August 12, 1676, he was shot by an Indian named John Alderman. His head was displayed in Plymouth for 20 years.
  79. 79. The Aftermath & Sale of Megunko
  80. 80. The Aftermath and Sale of Megunko• In the years following the war, the Praying Indians were restricted to Natick and some of the other towns. Megunko continued to be farmed, but because of the danger of marauding Mohawks, it eventually was abandoned.• In 1715, the Natick Indians sold Megunko to the Hopkins Legacy which marked the beginning of the town of Hopkinton.
  81. 81. Bibliography17th Century Sources• Eliot The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ , 1659 Various tracts and letters, translation of the Bible into Algonquian• Gookin, Daniel Historical Collections of the Indians in New England, 1674 The Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians, 1677• Mather, Increase A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New-England, 1676• Massachusetts Court Records18th Century Sources• Massachusetts Court Records• Governor Thomas Hutchinson The History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1765
  82. 82. Bibliography19th Century Sources• Temple, J.H. History of Framingham, Massachusetts, 1887• Moore, Martin Memoirs of the Life and Character of Rev. John Eliot, 1822• Drake, Samuel Adams Making of New England 1580-1643, 1886• Biography and History of the Indians of North America, 1834• Bodge, George Madison Soldiers in King Philip’s War,1896
  83. 83. Bibliography20th Century Sources• Massachusetts Historical Commission Town Surveys, 1980• Vaughan, Alden T. New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians 1620-1675, 1965• Lepore, Jill The Name of War: King Philips War and the Origins of American Identity, 1999• mp1.htm