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

The Last Indians of New England

Scotch Highlanders, English red-coats, and, American troops, in homespun, drove the French and Indians from the western forts, until at last only Montreal and Quebec remained to be conquered.

A great armament, under command of General Wolfe, sailed past the bays of New England on its way to the capital of the French.

There were twenty-two ships-of-line, and as many frigates and armed vessels, and eight thousand men, were borne through the waves to meet victory or death. Pennons were streaming, oars were flashing, and white sails were unfurled to the breeze, as they moved past the towns by the sea.

Weeks passed. One day, a ship with red streamers sailed swiftly into Boston harbor, and brought the news of the surrender of Quebec. The key of Canada had been taken! Montreal surrendered a few months later, and at last the cruel French and Indian wars were over.

There was joy throughout the colonies. Bonfires blazed on every hill. Newspapers scattered the news.

The American people were grateful to England for aid in the war, and erected monuments to the king, and to the generals who had lost their lives in defense of English soil in America.

The legislatures, of the different states, vied with each other in eulogies. They called George II the "Scourge of Tyrants, and the "Hope of the Oppressed."

There was sorrow for the dead, and pity for the living who were crippled for the rest of their lives.

But there was peace once more in all the land. The plow again turned up the rich soil for the golden grain. The wheels went round. The ships sped over the ocean without fear of privateers. Rhode Island alone, soon had one hundred and eighty-four vessels bound for foreign parts, and three hundred and fifty for the coasting trade, and all the bays were white with the sails of ships from every sea.

England began to say that the colonies of America were the fairest jewels in the crown.

Nearly eighty years had passed since the last remnants of King Philip's wars had guided the French to the towns of New England. The warriors of one generation had read the wampum belts of the generation that had gone. They had found sweet revenge as they followed the warpath to the English, over the hidden trails of their forefathers.

But now the last battle was over. The last scalp was taken. The dusky warriors withdrew from the rivers, ponds, and hunting-grounds, in the Land of the Bays, and pushed farther to the west.

At the close of the war, there were ninety families on the island of Nantucket. But in a few months, over two hundred persons died from a terrible disease. At the same time, the famous bluefish disappeared from the coves of the island. The natives saw, in this, a gloomy omen of their own end. They abandoned their churches, and soon a straggling little band, broken in spirit and wasted in body, was all that was left of the thousands who had formerly dwelt on Nantucket.

The Mount Hope of Massasoit, which had fallen to Plymouth, by conquest, was sold to four Boston merchants, and the Wampanoags were seen there no more.

The last remnants of the proud Narragansetts dwelt near Charlestown, Rhode Island. There, on a neighboring hill, was the burial-place of their kings. Toward the morning sun was the dark mass of hemlocks, near which Canonchet had fallen. Near by, in Sachem's Plain, towered the high pile of stone, beneath which proud, young Miantonomo found release from the insults of the Palefaces.

In Massachusetts, the few Indians in the praying towns hired out as servants, or wandered about as vagrants. They married among the negroes, and soon were known no more as a race.

In Connecticut, a few red men still dwelt on their own lands; but no scalps hung in their wigwams, no squaw pounded the corn as of yore, no deer lurked in the forest. The wigwams of skins were changed to shanties of pine, and the sons of famous warriors cut firewood, and peddled baskets, from village to village.

In New Hampshire, where the mountains tower above the blue lakes, dwelt Chocorua, the last chief of his tribe. When he had buried his wife by the side of the brook, all that was left to him was his little son.

One day the boy visited the home of Mr. Campbell, and died very soon after. The chief was frantic in his grief. He brooded over his loss, until he was convinced that his son had been poisoned, and he resolved to avenge his death.

One night, when Mr. Campbell returned from his work in the field, he found all his family dead. They had been scalped in the most brutal manner. Chocorua had been there. The white settlers banded together in pursuit. They found the chieftain standing on the brow of a high cliff. He stood like some stone image far above his enemies.

Death of Chocorua


"Throw yourself down from the cliff, or we shoot," shouted the men below. No answer came back. Again the men called, and pointed their muskets. "I shall not throw my life away at the bidding of any white man," cried out the chieftain, in broken English.

His pursuers sent a volley of shot up the mountain. The lonely chieftain stood erect for a moment, stretched out his hands, and pronounced an awful curse upon the white men who had destroyed his race. Then the last of the New Hampshire tribe fell on his face. It is tradition, that the trees, at the 'base of this mountain, withered, meadows lay parched like a desert, brooks dried up, cattle died of disease, and the white settlers moved away from the spot which was cursed by the chieftain, Chocorua.

A few years later, an Indian chief returned from the far west to visit his old hunting-grounds. He came to New York City, and seemed much dejected as he looked out over the beautiful bay.

"I have been looking at your great city," he said, "and see how happy you all are. But, then, I cannot help thinking that this fine country, and this great water, was once ours. It was the gift of the great Spirit to our ancestors, and to their children.

"At last the white people came in a great canoe. They asked only to tie the canoe to a tree, lest the waters should carry it away. Then they said some of their people were sick, and asked permission to land them, and put them under the shade of the trees. The ice came, and they could not go away. They begged for a piece of land, to build wigwams for the winter. Then they asked for some corn, to keep them from starving, and promised to go away when the ice was gone.

"When spring came, we told them they must go away with their big canoe; but they pointed to the great guns around their wigwams, and said they would stay there. We could not make them go away.

"Afterwards, more came. They brought firewater with them, of which the Indians became very fond. They persuaded us to sell them some land. They drove us back, from time to time, into the wilderness, far from the water and the fish and the oysters.

"They have destroyed the game. Our people have wasted away; we, who live, are miserable and wretched, while you are rejoicing over your free and beautiful country. This makes me sorry, brethren, and I cannot help it."

"When you came over the morning waters," said one sachem of Massachusetts, "we took you into our arms, we fed you with our best meat. Never went white man cold and hungry from an Indian wigwam."

But the red men and the white men could not dwell together.

In Maine, one of the Kennebec tribes settled on a grant of land with several white men. He was not ill-treated; but there was a deep-seated prejudice against him, and he felt a stranger in their midst. His only child died. No neighbors came near to help him with the last sad rites of burial. Shortly after, he called at the home of one of the settlers. He bore traces of great grief and sadly said: "When the white man's child die, Indian very sorry. He help bury him. He shed tears. When Indian child die, no one speak. I make his grave alone. I can no live here."

And he gave up his farm, dug up the body of his child, and carried it two hundred miles through the forests, to join the Canadian Indians. When another Indian was asked to settle in one of the white towns, he shook his head. "Here I am, deaf and dumb," he said, "I do not talk your language. I can neither hear, nor make myself heard. When I walk through your busy streets, I see every person in his shop. One makes shoes, another hats, a third sells cloth, and every man lives by his labor. I can not do one of these things. I can make a bow, catch fish, kill game and go to war; but none of these things is of any use to me here."

"We are driven back until we can retreat no farther," said another old warrior. "Our hatchets are broken, our bows are snapped, our fires are nearly extinguished. A little longer, and the white man shall cease to persecute us, for we shall cease to exist."

The last tribute of wampum had been paid. The white men had now the pine shilling, and the gold and silver from the mint of England, in return for the products of the soil.

They built their log cabins in the edge of the forests, until the Indians fled beyond the great Father of Waters.

The red men of New England left no lofty ruin behind them. Only a few arrow-heads and strings of wampum, dug up by the plow, a few names of mountains, streams and valleys, remain to tell of the once proud race that roamed in the Land of the Bays.