Massasoit: A Story of the Indians of New England - Alma H. Burton

King Alexander

Each town established in New England was called a new candlestick, and, in 1661, when Massasoit died, there were about ninety of these Puritan candlesticks in the Land of the Bays.

As you have seen, most of the lands occupied by the English, were not claimed by the Indians, because the tribes which dwelt on them had been destroyed by the plague.

Then, too, many tracts had been bought.

They had been paid for with hatchets, blankets, and perishable articles; and, when these things were gone, the Indians began to think they had been cheated out of their lands.

Even before the death of Massasoit, his two sons, Wamsetta and Pometacom, chided the warriors who sold their land. " You are selling your birthright for a mess of pottage," they said, "and we shall soon not have ground enough to spread our blankets on."

They claimed that the Indians did not understand the deeds for lands to which they had signed the rude outlines of a bow and arrow, or hatchet, or turtle, or any of the various totems which represented their names. But the white men said that the Indians were shrewd and cunning in their trades. They always got the best price they could for their furs, and sold their lands so cheaply because they prized the trinkets more highly than they did the lands.

The colonies, however, made strict laws against buying lands without permission of the courts, where the purchase might be examined.

Anyone buying land, without permission, was fined five pounds sterling for each acre that he bought. Fences were ordered to be put up to keep cattle from the Indians' corn, and many laws were made to protect the Indians.

Josiah Plastowe, "for stealing four baskets of corn from an Indian," was ordered "to give him eight baskets of corn and pay to the court a fine of five pounds, and hereafter to be called by the name of Josiah and not Mr., as formerly he used to be."

The Puritans believed that their coming had been a benefit to the savages.

Did they not have horses and oxen to lessen their labor, and plows to produce more corn?

Did they not have a market for their furs?

Had they not learned to store up corn against a famine, and build warm cabins against winter weather?

Were there not schools and churches and the catechism?

But when Wamsetta became chief of the Wampanoags in the place of his father, Massasoit, he pondered well the wampum belts of his people. They told of boundless forests and sea-coast.

He looked about him and saw his tribes crowded into two small peninsulas of Mount Hope and Tiverton.

The game was frightened from the forest, and the fish were taken from the rivers.

Every day he gazed wistfully at the lands that were gone. There lay the orchards, and stretches of waving grain, the pastures dotted with herds of browsing cattle, and the gardens gay in the mingled blossoms of the old world and the new.

How he despised the placid scene! How he longed to chase, once more, the bounding deer through sunny glades, and hunt the bear in the mazes of a tangled forest!

But the new king gave no sign of his anguish.

He followed the footsteps of his father to the lodges of the Palefaces. He went to Plymouth and renewed the pledges of Massasoit. Then he went to buy powder, and was given several pounds as a present.

At length he and his brother went in state to Plymouth to request English names, and they were called Alexander and Philip by the magistrates.

And so these two Indian braves heard with wonder of Philip and Alexander of Greece, who had conquered the world in the olden time.

Who can tell if that very story may not have aroused their slumbering ambition?

At any rate, very soon after this event, news came that Alexander had visited his old enemies, the Narragansetts, and was plotting to massacre the English.

He was summoned to court to answer the charges, and as he did not appear, Major Josiah Winslow was sent to serve a summons.

The major and his musketeers found the chief reposing with his warriors in a hunting lodge, after a long chase in the forest.

Their arms were stacked at the doorway.

While the soldiers seized the arms, Major Winslow entered the lodge and served the writ.

Major Winslow and King Alexander


The proud chief refused to go; and when Winslow pointed a pistol at him, Alexander became insane with rage. He sprang for his weapons, but all the arms were under guard. Resistance was useless.

His warriors, fearing for his life, begged him to submit, and at length he bowed his head and set forth under an escort. Eighty warriors and Weetamoe, his wife, followed him in mournful silence as he set out for Plymouth.

The excitement of his arrest threw Alexander into a violent fever.

He was too ill to proceed farther than Duxbury, and was allowed to return home. He grew so ill, that his warriors made a litter from the boughs, and carried him through the forests to the Taunton which flowed past his lodge in Pocasset.

But the silent company had not paddled far down the stream, before it was plain that their young chief was dying.

With bursting hearts, his devoted men lifted the cold form from the canoe and laid it on a mossy bank.

And there in the shadows of the forest he loved so well, the proud spirit of Alexander broke like a reed in the winter's blast.

His faithful wife bent in anguish over the lifeless clay.

With his head pillowed on her breast, Alexander had gone in haste to join his father, Massasoit, in the Happy Hunting Grounds, where a Paleface might never safely enter.

And Weetamoe, now the squaw-sachem or queen of Pocasset, returned to her lodge breathing vengeance on the English, who had brought this shame and sorrow to her wigwam.