Miles Standish - John S. C. Abbott

Increase and Growth of the Settlements

The Virginia Emigrants.—Humanity and Enterprise of the Governor.—Envoy Sent to England.—Trading Posts on the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers.—Capture by the French.—The Massachusetts Colony.—Its Numbers and Distinguished Characters.—Trade with the Indians.—Wampum the New Currency.—Trading Post at Sandwich.—Sir Christopher Gardener.—Captain Standish Moves to Duxbury.—Lament of Governor Bradford.

An incident occurred at this time, quite interesting, as illustrative of the adventurous life upon which these men had entered, in the wilderness of this New World; a life of excitement and heroic achievements, with its full share of earthly joys as well as griefs.

A ship, laden with passengers and goods, left England for Virginia. The captain was taken sick, so that he could not leave his cabin. The inefficient mate became bewildered. After six weeks at sea their provisions were exhausted. Starvation stared them in the face. Knowing not where they were, in the night, and in a gale of wind, they were almost miraculously swept over the shoals of Cape Cod, and striking a sand bar, were driven over it into a little bay, then called Manamoyake, now Chatham. The vessel leaking badly, with many of her planks sprung, was forced high upon the beach, so that, with the receding tide, not only the crew safely landed, and the cargo, though much damaged with salt water, was taken on shore.

The shipwrecked people, rejoicing to have escaped with their lives, reared their huts upon the shore, not knowing where they were or what would become of them. While in this state of suspense and sadness, they were alarmed one morning in seeing several birch canoes coming around a headland filled with Indians. They seized their guns and stood upon defense. But the Indians paddled rapidly along as if apprehending no harm, and addressing them in English, inquired if they were the Governor of Plymouth's people, or his friends. The Indians told them where they were, offered to conduct them to Plymouth, or to take letters for them. The Englishmen were greatly comforted by this intelligence. They gave the Indians several valuable presents from their shipwrecked stores, and dispatched, under their guidance, two men, with a letter to Governor Bradford, entreating him to send a boat to them with spikes, oakum, pitch and sundry other materials, with which they hoped to repair their vessel, and again to get her afloat from her soft bed in the sand.

The Governor immediately loaded a large boat with the needful articles, including a generous supply of corn, and taking also trading commodities with which to buy additional supplies of the Indians, went himself to the aid of his unfortunate countrymen. It was winter, when the chill sea was swept by angry storms. It was not safe, at that season, in the boat, to attempt to sail around the head of the cape, and to brave the storms of the Atlantic on the eastern shore. He therefore sailed across the bay in a southeasterly direction, and entering Barnstable Bay, ascended a little creek called Namskeket, which ran inland nearly; a mile. From the head of this creek it was but two miles across the cape to Manamoyake Bay, where the vessel was stranded.

The Indians, accustomed to portages, were readily hired to transport the articles across the land. The shoulders of the Indian women would bear very heavy burdens. The arrival of the Governor with the abundant supplies caused great rejoicing. He spent a few days with them, and then, returning to his boat, sailed along the inner coast till he had purchased of the natives a full cargo of corn, with which he replenished the granaries at Plymouth.

The stranded vessel was repaired and floated, when another fierce tempest arose, and she was driven, a hopeless wreck, upon the shore. The beach in Chatham, where she was stranded, is still called the "Old Ship." Remains of the wreck were visible within the present century.

Some of these shipwrecked emigrants were men of wealth, bringing with them many servants to cultivate large estates in Virginia. But the majority were men in the humble walks of life. Application was immediately made to Governor Bradford that they all might be permitted to repair to Plymouth, and to remain there until they should have the means to convey themselves to Virginia. The humane Pilgrims, ever ready to do a kind deed, without hesitancy acceded to their request. Boats were sent up the Namskeket Creek, and with great labor the shipwrecked emigrants and their goods were transported to the Christian colony.

"After they were hither come," writes the Governor," and something settled, the masters desired some ground to employ their servants upon, seeing it was like to be the latter end of the year before they could have passage for Virginia, and they had now the winter before them; they might clear some ground and plant a crop, to help bear their charge, and keep their servants in employment. And if they had opportunities to depart before the same was ripe, they would sell it on the ground. So they had ground appointed them in convenient places."

Among these emigrants there were many irreligious and disorderly men. Some were men of high character, who were highly appreciated by the Pilgrims. But there was general rejoicing in the little colony at the end of the summer, when two vessels arrived from England, and conveyed them to their original destination in Virginia.

It was now decided to build a pinnace, on the southern coast of the Cape, so that they could easily run along the shore there, in both directions, engaging in trade with the Indians. About twenty miles south of Plymouth, upon the shore of Buzzard's Bay, in the present town of Sandwich, there was a small harbor called Manomet, which the Pilgrims had not unfrequently visited. Sailing down from Plymouth can the north side, they could approach this spot within about four or five miles. Thus all the furs and corn which they could purchase on the south and eastern shores of the cape, could be sent across this "carrying place," and thence could be conveyed to Plymouth, avoiding the dangerous navigation around the cape. A boat-house was built here, and also a dwelling-house, where a few agents were stationed, to navigate the boat and to engage in agriculture. The enterprise proved eminently successful.

Again the company sent Mr. Allerton to England with a cargo of furs, to meet their engagements there, and to obtain authority to establish a trading-post on the Kennebec River. The Dutch were establishing trading-posts and agricultural colonies near the mouth of the Hudson, and many friendly messages and courteous acts were interchanged between these two parties. There were many English refugees in Leyden who, upon the death of their pastor, Mr. Robinson, were anxious to join their friends in America. They had expressed this desire very earnestly; but they were poor. They were unable to provide themselves with an outfit, or even to pay for their passage across the Atlantic. In order to aid these exiled and impoverished brethren, Governor Bradford, Captain Standish, and several others, formed a company and purchased of the Plymouth colony all their right to trade with the Indians for six years. For this they paid twelve thousand dollars. The main object of the purchasers seemed to be to raise money enough to bring over their friends from Holland. There were eight of the Pilgrim fathers united with four gentlemen in London who assumed these responsibilities. Very truly Mr. Baylies writes:

"The generosity of the chiefs of the colony to their Leyden brethren is unparalleled. They almost deprived themselves of the common necessaries of life to get them over, and to support them until they were able to support themselves; laboring at the same time under heavy debts, for which they paid exorbitant interest. But their necessities seemed only to stimulate them to greater exertions."

This new company, having obtained a patent for a trading-post on the Kennebec River, erected a house in a place called Cushenoe, now the city of Augusta. Here they collected, for purposes of trade, a large supply of coats, shirts, rags, blankets, biscuit, pease, etc. In the month of August, 1629, thirty-five families arrived at Plymouth from Leyden. Nine months after, in May, 1630, another ship arrived, bringing several more families. The new company, of which the Governor and the captain were the principal men, paid all their expenses, though they amounted to two thousand seven hundred dollars. Houses were assigned to them; grounds were purchased for them, and they were fed from the public stores for more than a year. When we remember that there was no blood relationship between these parties, no partnership, no bond of union excepting Christian charity; that the benefactors were poor, struggling for their own support, and that many of those whom they were thus aiding they had never seen before, we must regard this act as one of extraordinary generosity.

A trading-post had been established on the Penobscot River, at a point called Bagaduce, now Gastine. Here a very lucrative trade was transacted with the Indians, mainly in furs. The French claimed this post as within their domain. A small French vessel entered the bay, and finding the post defenseless, rifled it of all its contents, and carried off three hundred pounds of beaver skins and other property to the value of over two thousand dollars. Governor Bradford, in his description of this annoying event, writes:

"It was in this manner: The master of the house, and part of the company with him, were come with their vessel to the westward to fetch a supply of goods which was brought over for them. In the mean time comes a small French ship into the harbor; and amongst the company was a false Scot. They pretended that they were newly come from the sea, and knew not where they were, and that their vessel was very leaky, and desired that they might haul her ashore and stop her leaks. And many French compliments they used and conges they made. And in the end, seeing but three or four simple men, that were servants, and by this Scotchman understanding that the master and the rest of the company were gone from home, they fell of commending their guns and muskets that lay upon racks by the wall-side. They took them down to look on them, asking if they were charged. And when they were possessed of them, one presents a piece, ready charged, against the servants, and another a pistol, and bid them not stir, but quietly deliver up their goods. They carried some of the men aboard, and made the others help to carry away the goods. And when they had taken what they pleased, they set them at liberty and went their way with this mockery, bidding them tell their master when he came, that some of the Isle of Rye gentlemen had been there."

The emigration from England rapidly increased and, ere long, the colony numbered fifteen hundred souls. In the year 1628, John Endicott, with a party of emigrants, established rather a feeble settlement at Salem, then called Naumkeag. On the 30th of May, 1630, another party commenced a colony at Dorchester, then called Mattapan. In the months of June and July of the same year, a fleet of eleven vessels arrived from England, bringing over a large number of passengers, and, after some deliberation, they selected what is now Charlestown for their principal settlement. A part of the company went to Watertown. About fifteen hundred came over during the year.

The Puritans in England were now gaining the ascendency. Men of influence and rank were joining them. They were not at all disposed to bow the knee to those who had heretofore been their persecutors. The eminent John Winthrop came as Governor of the powerful Massachusetts colony, which colony was stronger in numbers, and far stronger in wealth and influence, when it first landed, than was the Plymouth Colony after long years of struggle with the hardships of the wilderness. Governor Winthrop was a gentleman of culture, position and wealth. Two of the emigrants, Humphry and Johnson, had married sisters of the Earl of Lincoln. Sir Richard Saltonstall, who was one of their number, was son of the Lord Mayor of London. There were many others, men of family and fortune, who, having lived in the enjoyments of large estates, were accustomed to all the refinements of polished society. Others, such as Hampden, Cromwell and Pym, who subsequently became conspicuous in the overthrow of the tyrannical throne of Charles I, wished to join them, but were prevented by a royal edict.

As early as 1623 there were as many as fifty vessels engaged in fishing on the New England coast. Several of these were owned by parties in Dorchester, England. They sent a party of fourteen persons to a spot near Cape Ann, where Gloucester now stands, to commence a small settlement. It was their main object to provide a home upon the land, to which the sailors might resort for refreshment and rest, and where they might be brought under religious influences. The site was purchased of the Plymouth colony. They carried out live stock, and erected a house, with a stage to dry fish, and with vats for the manufacture of salt. The experiment proved an utter failure, from the incompetence of the colonists.

The New World, as affording facilities for promising homes, was attracting ever increasing attention. This led to the organization of a powerful company, who obtained a grant of lands extending from the Atlantic to the Western ocean, and in width, running from three miles north of the Merrimac river to a line three miles south of the Charles. The company invested with this immense territory consisted of a number of private individuals, who, by their charter, became invested with almost imperial powers. The Plymouth colonists recognized the superior numbers, opulence and rank of their Massachusetts brethren, and were ever ready to render to them the precedence. And though the Massachusetts colonists were occasionally somewhat arrogant, as if fully conscious of their superiority, they were generally just, and at times even generous, to those brethren who were in entire accord with them in religious faith, and whose virtues they could not but revere.

The advent of these colonists was a great blessing to the Indians. The men of Plymouth and of Massachusetts, alike recognizing that universal brotherhood which Christianity so prominently enforces, were disposed to treat the Indians with the utmost kindness, and to do everything in their power to elevate and bless them. They purchased their lands, their corn and their furs, and paid fair prices for them, thus introducing into their wigwams comforts of which they previously had no conception. The Indians were thus stimulated to industry, and these friendly relations would have continued, to the inestimable benefit of both parties, but for the outrages inflicted upon the savages by such godless wretches as the infamous Captain Hunt, the low and thieving gang of Weymouth adventurers, and drunken sailors and reckless vagabonds, who, fleeing from crimes in their own country, gave loose to unrestrained passions in this New World.

The Pilgrims had no power to prevent these atrocities. The poor savages, ignorant and degraded, knew not how to discriminate. If drunken white men, vagabond sailors from some English vessel, pilfered their wigwams, insulting their wives and daughters, there was no law to which they could appeal, and, in their benighted state, the only redress before them was to violate, with still more terrible atrocities, with torture and flame and blood, the inmates of some white man's log house, the home, perhaps, of piety and prayer, where the Indian, if hungry, would be fed, if sick, would be nursed with true brotherly and sisterly tenderness. Thus, in God's mysterious government of this world, the consequences of the crimes of the vilest men fell with awful desolation upon the heads of the best of men.

The Indians had no circulating medium. Indeed they had no trade among themselves. In illustration of the benefits which the coming of the Pilgrim Fathers conferred upon them, let us again refer to the trading-post established, about twenty miles south from Plymouth, at Manomet, now Sandwich. Here, upon a small but navigable stream, a dwelling and store-houses were erected, where canoes and coasting vessels from all along the shore, as far as New Amsterdam, at the mouth of the Hudson, could meet in the exchange of their articles of value. A land carriage of but about six miles, over the neck of the Cape, the Suez of America, as it was then called, brought them to the waters of Massachusetts Bay, and to intercourse with all the settlements and Indian villages scattered along its shores. Indian runners could easily transport the light articles of traffic, and thus the dangerous passage around the vast peninsula of Cape Cod was avoided. Some circulating medium seemed essential in the trade thus commenced and rapidly extending.

The Narragansets and Pequots, residing upon Narraganset and Buzzard's Bays, made, from the small shells of a species of clam, a very beautiful ornamental belt, called wampum. The shells, graceful in form, beautifully colored and highly polished, were strung like beads, by a hole drilled through the centre, or were woven into rich embroidery. Three purple shells or six white ones were considered equivalent to an English penny. A string, two yards in length, was valued at five shillings. The Dutch, from New Amsterdam, sent cargoes to this trading-post. Thus sugar, cloths of various texture, cutlery and garden tools were obtained by the Indians. Friendly relations existed, and the happiness thus fostered might have continued uninterrupted but for the wickedness of men who were strangers to the principles which animated the Pilgrims.

A powerful Indian chief had his seat upon an adjoining hill, at the foot of which a busy Indian village was nestled. When the Dutch, at the mouth of the Hudson, first heard of this post, they sent a small trading-vessel to it, with very friendly letters to Governor Bradford. They landed and marched up to the trading-house, accompanied by a band of music. The trumpet notes, reverberating through those wilds, must have emptied the Indian village to gaze upon the unwonted scene. The Dutch commander sent an Indian runner to Governor Bradford, requesting him to send a boat for him to the other side of the bay, as he could not travel so far on foot through the Indian trails. A boat was at once dispatched to what is now called Scussett, and the chief men of the Dutch party were conveyed to Plymouth, where they were received with the highest honors. They remained several days with the Pilgrims, enjoying their profuse hospitality, and were then sent back in the boat. The friendly intercourse thus commenced, was continued for several years uninterrupted. Governor Bradford, speaking of the trade thus introduced, and of its great advantage to the Indians, writes:

But that which turned most to their profit, in time, was an entrance into the trade of wampum. Strange it was to see the great alteration it made in a few years among the Indians themselves. For all the Indians of these parts and the Massachusetts had none or very little of it, excepting the chief and some special persons, who wore a little of it for ornament. It being only made and kept by the Pequots and Narragansets, who grew rich and potent by it; whereas, the rest, who use it not, are poor and beggarly.

Neither did the English of this plantation, or any other in the land, till now, that they had knowledge of it from the Dutch, so much as know what it was, much less that it was a commodity of that worth and value. But after it grew thus to be a commodity in these parts, these Indians fell into it also, and to learn how to make it. It hath now continued a current commodity about this twenty years, and it may prove a drug in time. In the mean time it makes the Indians of these parts rich and powerful."

Such were the humble beginnings of the commerce of New England. The very spot upon which this trading-house stood can now be pointed out. "on it may the traveler pause and reflect how things then were! how they now are! Now, on what sea, to what coast of the habitable globe have not their descendants carried the products of their soil and industry, outstripping all other nations, with only England as a rival."

In the year 1630 the first public execution took place. It will be remembered that one John Billington, a man of worthless character, had, in some way, smuggled himself into the company of the Pilgrims. He had two boys, who seem to have been as worthless as he himself. Governor Bradford had written of him, "He is a knave, and so will live and die." He had already, in 1621, for vile abuse of Captain Standish, been condemned to have his neck and heels tied together. For some alleged injury or insult, he waylaid and shot a young man by the name of John Newcomen. The murderer had adopted the opinion that the colonists had no power granted them to inflict capital punishment. He had a fair trial before a jury of twelve men. There was no doubt whatever respecting his guilt. The court had some doubt as to its authority to inflict the penalty of death, since the Council, from whom its authority was derived, had no such power. The advice of Governor Winthrop was sought, and that of the ablest men of the Massachusetts colony. They advised, with perfect unanimity, that the murderer ought to die, and the land be purged from blood." He was accordingly executed in October, 1630.

In the year 1631, a singular event occurred. A very eccentric man, calling himself Sir Christopher Gardner, visited Massachusetts. He was descended, it is said, from the illustrious house of the Bishop of Winchester, and in his extended travels had visited nearly all quarters of the globe. At Jerusalem, he had been made knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Weary, as he said, of the world, and desiring to do penance, by bodily mortification for his sins, he came to the Pilgrims, offering to perform the most menial services for his living. Still he brought over with him two servants, and a very fine-looking woman whom he called his cousin. He endeavored to join the church, but they would not receive him. Being guilty of conduct for which he was about to be arrested and brought to Trial, he fled into the wilderness, and took refuge with the Indians. The Massachusetts authorities offered a reward for his capture and return to them.

Some of the Namasket Indians came to Governor Bradford, from the vicinity of Middleborough, and told him where Sir Christopher was, and that they could easily kill him, but could not easily take him alive; that he was a desperate man, and had a gun and sword, and that he would certainly kill some of them should they attempt to take him. The Governor told them by no means to kill him, but to watch their opportunity and to capture him. They did so, and catching him one day by the side of a river, endeavored to surround him. In his attempts to escape, by getting into a canoe to cross the stream, as be presented his musket to his pursuers, to keep them off the frail structure of bark, swept by the current against a rock, turned under him, and he was thrown, with his musket, into the water. Dripping, he reached the shore, his musket no longer of any use, and his only resource the rapier. He brandished that so fiercely that the Indians did not dare close in upon him. They, however, got some long poles, and with blows such as savages would be likely to strike, beat the sword out of his hands, fearfully bruising and mangling them.

He being thus disarmed and rendered helpless, they seized him and conveyed him to Governor Bradford. As the Governor looked upon the poor man, with his arms and hands terribly inflamed and swollen, the Indians said: "We did not hurt him; we only whipped him a little with our sticks." The Governor censured the Indians for beating him so cruelly, and had his wounds tenderly nursed. Some papers upon his person showed that he was a concealed papist, and one who had enjoyed the highest advantages of university education. Governor Winthrop, being informed of his apprehension, caused him to be brought to Massachusetts, and then sent him immediately to England.

This man sent in a petition, which two others signed, to the British Government, condemning severely both the colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts, stating that they intended rebellion; that they meant to be wholly separate from the church and laws of England, and that their ministers and people did continually rail against the state, the church and the bishops."

Sir Richard Saltonstall, and two other prominent members of the Massachusetts colony, were then in England. They were called before the Council to answer the accusation. They did it in writing, and so satisfactorily, as to draw from the Council a vote of approbation instead of condemnation. They were also informed that, as freedom of religious worship was one of the principal reasons of emigration to New England, and that, as it was important to the government to strengthen New England, it was not the intention of his Majesty to impose the ceremonies of the Church of England upon the colonists.

The first party of colonists for Massachusetts embarked in six vessels. It consisted of three hundred men, eighty women, married and single, and twenty-six children, with an abundant outfit of food, clothing, tools, and military weapons, and "a plentiful provision of godly ministers." Mr. Francis Higginson, one of the most prominent of these emigrants, soon after his arrival wrote home saying:

"When we first came to Naumkeag, we found about half a score of houses, and a fair house newly built for the Governor. We found also abundance of corn planted by them, very good and well liking. And we brought with us about two hundred passengers and planters more, which, by common consent of the old planters, were all combined together in one body politic, under the same Governor. There are in all of us, both old and new planters, about three hundred, whereof two hundred of them are settled at Naumkeag, now called Salem, and the rest have planted themselves at Massachusetts Bay, beginning to build a town there which we do call Charlestown.

"But that which is our greatest comfort and means of defense above all others is, that we have here the true religion and holy ordinances of Almighty God taught among us. Thanks be to God we have here plenty of preaching and catechizing, with strict and careful exercise and good and commendable orders to bring our people into a Christian conversation, with whom we have to do withal. And thus we doubt not that God will be with us; and if God be with us, who can be against us?"

About that time an Episcopal clergyman, by the name of William Blackstone, was the sole occupant and proprietor of the peninsula of Boston, then called Shawmut. The water at Charlestown was not good. But there was a very fine supply of crystal water gushing abundantly from a spring in Shawmut. Rev. Mr. Blackstone, had left England because he disliked the power of the Lords-Bishops." By his invitation many were led to transfer their habitations across the water, to the forest-covered peninsula, and thus were laid the foundations of the renowned capital of New England.

In the year 1632 Plymouth colony was in a state of greater prosperity than ever before. Increasing troubles in England and encouraging reports from America gave new impetus to the spirit of emigration. The products of agriculture were in greater demand. Cattle of all kinds had much increased, and brought high prices. More land was required for cultivation. All the land in Plymouth was occupied, and still new settlers were coming. Fears of any attack on the part of the Indians had greatly subsided. Enterprising men began to push into the surrounding region, seeking choice localities and larger farms.

Just across the bay of Plymouth, on the north, there was a reach of land commanding a fine view of the little settlement at Plymouth and of the adjacent waters. Captain Standish selected for himself a very attractive location there, including what is still called "Captain's Hill." Here the descendants of an ancestor so illustrious are now rearing a monument to his memory.

The town was named Duxbury, in honor of the captain, as that was the name of the seat which his family occupied in England. Elder Brewster took a farm by his side. Here both of these distinguished men, warm friends, could often be seen in their solitary fields, clearing away the forests, where no sound of the axe had ever before been heard since the creation of the world. These lands were deemed among the best in the colony. Governor Bradford seems to have deplored the gradual dispersion of the colonists. He wrote in terms of lamentation:

"Now as their stocks increased and their increase was vendible, there was no longer holding them together. They could not otherwise keep their cattle; and having oxen grown they must have land for plowing and tillage. And no man now thought he could live, except he had cattle and a great deal of ground to keep them; all striving to increase their stocks. By which means they were scattered all over the bay, and the town, in which they lived compactly till now, was left very thin, and, in a short time, almost desolate. And if this had been all, it had been less, though too much; but the church must also be divided.

"Those that lived on their lots, on the other side of the bay, called Duxbury, could not long bring their wives and children to public worship and church meetings here; but they sued to be dismissed and to become a body of themselves. So they were dismissed, though very unwillingly. To prevent any further scattering from this place, it was thought best to give out some good farms to special persons who would promise to live at Plymouth, and who would be likely to be helpful to the church or commonwealth, and so to tie the lands to Plymouth as farms for the same. There they might keep their cattle, and till the land by some servants, and retain their dwellings here.

"And so some special lands were granted at a place general, called Green's Harbor, (Marshfield) where no allotments had been in the former division; a place very well meadowed and fit to keep and rear cattle, in good store. But alas! this remedy proved worse than the disease. For within a few years those that had thus got footing tore themselves away, partly by force, and partly by wearing out the rest with importunity and pleas of necessity, so that they must either suffer them to go, or live in continual opposition and contention. This I fear will be the ruin of New England, at least of the churches of God there."