The Sagamons (chiefs) of most note among the Pennacooks, were Passaconnaway, Wonnalancet his son, and Kancamagus, usually called John Hogkins, his grandson. These Chiefs were successively at the head of the Pennacoks, and each in his way, was a man of mark in his time. Passaconnaway was one of the most noted Indian Chiefs in New England. For a much more detailed accounting of their activities refer to Chapter 5 at this link: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/nh/county/hillsborough/manchester/book/evening.html
Beginnings - PaleoIndians to the Abenaki
We current residents and our ancesters are still "newbies"
in the broader historical perspective. Other folks lived here long before us. Paleo-indians were living in this area about 11,300 years ago (9,300 BCE). Small groups of families migrated seasonally to hunt and gather various floras, gradually moving about along the waterways and primitive trails. Their way of life was successful, and so the population grew. There is debate about how these early people got here, but many Native Americans believe that their ancient ancestors originated on this continent. One clue is that Abenaki and other Native American creation stories are rooted in the American environment and not elsewhere.
Family groups lived in rock outcroppings or shelters made of saplings or, perhaps, mastodon bones covered with animal skins. They used stone tools such as chert and quartzite, which were durable enough to cut through animal skin and bone, but brittle enough to be chipped into sharp-edged tools. This material was plentiful in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Part of their seasonal migrations were for trading purposes. Chert from as far away as Maine and New York and jasper from Pennsylvania have been found in Vermont. Tools made from Vermont stones have been found from Massachusetts to Maine. Paleoindian sites that have been excavated in Ludlow and East Highgate Vermont help us understand the Paleo-indian way of life. Tools show that they fished and gathered plants, but hunting seemed more important since tools found were more suited to hunting big land animals than marine animals. Paleoindians ate a lot of caribou because they were abundant.
By about three thousand years ago, a new Woodland culture was thriving. Analysis of archaeological sites along the rivers and lakes help us understand the lives of these early peoples.
Abenaki Life: 1600 The Abenaki of the Late Woodland period were part of a larger Wabanaki group that extended throughout most of Vermont, into Quebec, and included all of New Hampshire and Maine. In Vermont, the western Abenaki divided themselves into three major bands: Missiskoik (in the Champlain Valley) and Sokwaki and Cowasuck (in the Connecticut River Valley). By the Late Woodland period, extensive settlements existed in all of Vermont's lake and river valleys.
SOURCE MATERIAL ABOVE: Flow of History c/o Southeast Vermont Community Learning Collaborative Brattleboro, VT 05302 Visit their web site for a wealth of information from which these snippets were derived: http://www.flowofhistory.org/index.php
SOURCE MATERIAL BELOW: The White Mountains: a handbook for travellers: a guide to the peaks, passes ... edited by Moses Foster Sweetser 1886
When the first English explorers reached the shores of New England, they found a strong confederacy existing between the various Indian tribes of Maine and New Hampshire, which were then populous and powerful. The headship of this union was vested in the chief of the Penobscot tribe, who bore the title of Baahdba. Soon after the year 1614, however, several war-parties of Tarratine Indians from Acadia advanced stealthily into the Penobscot country, and surprised the royal town at night. The Bashaba and his chief warriors and councillors were slain while fighting, and the power of the Penobscots and the union of the tribes were broken together.
According to Sir Ferdinando Gorges's Description of New England, a terrible state of anarchy and civil war ensued, the chief sagamores battling with each other for supremacy, while against the divided league foreign enemies made successful campaigns. The valiant Tarratines marched mercilessly throughout the country of the Bashaba, shattering the power of the isolated tribes, and sending their fleets even as far as the Massachusetts coast, where the Indians of Ipswich were harried by a fierce naval foray. " The strong fought for supremacy, the weak for existence.
There was no necessity for the war-song or the war-dance. Every brave was compelled to enlist whether he would or not. The signal-fire gleamed on the hill-top. The war-whoop was heard in the valley. New England, before nor since, never saw such carnage within her borders." The destruction of the villages and their deposits of provisions, and the impossibility of tillage or hunting, catised a wide-spread and desolating famine to fall upon the tribes, already in process of extermination by battle and ambush.
In company with the universal war and famine came a mysterious pestilence, which broke out in 1616 on the coast and spread inland in every direction with fatal swiftness. Entire villages were depopulated, and tribes were blotted out This visitation lasted for three summers, and swept away the strength of all the northern peoples. Morton tells, in his New English Canaan, that the bones and skulls that he saw throughout the Massachusetts district made the country seem " a newfound Golgotha."
After the passage of the pestilence and the famine, the remnants of the thirteen tribes of the Connecticut Valley and the White-Mountain region formed a new confederation, designed to resist the Mohawks on the W. and the Tarratines on the E. The noble Passaconaway, formerly a valiant warrior and chieftain, now a venerable and sagacious sagamore of Pennacook, was appointed Bashaba.
The Indians of New Hampshire belonged to the Abenaqui nation, and were called Nipmucks, or fresh-water people, from Nipe, " pond," and mike, "place." They were divided into 13 tribes, each with its semiindependent chief. The Nashuas lived on the river of that name (meaning " pebbly-bottomed "); the Souhegans occupied the Souhegan Valley (Swheganash means "worn-out lands"); the Amoskeagswere about Manchester (deriving their name from namaos, "fish," and mike, "place"); the Pennacooks were at Concord (from pennaqui, " crooked," and auke, "place"); the Squamscotts were about Exeter (from asquam, "water," and auke, "place"); the Xewichawannocks were on Salmon-Falls River (from nee, "my," week, "wigwam," and owannock, "come"); the Pascataquaukes were toward Dover and Portsmouth (from pot, "great," ..-//."/, " deer," and auke, " place "). " The eighth tribe built a wigwam city at Ossipee Lake (cooash, 'pines,' and sipe, 'river'), and they were the cultivated Ossipees, with mounds and forts like more civilized nations. A ninth built flourishing villages in the fertile valley of the Pequawket River (now Saco, — from pequawkis, 'crooked,' and auke, 'place'), and were known as the pious Pequawkets, who worshipped the great Manitou of the cloud-capped Agiochook. A tenth had their home by the clear Lake Winnepesaukee, and were esteemed ' the beautiful Winnepesaukees.' An eleventh set up their lodges of spruce bark by the banks of the wild and turbulent Androscoggin River, and were known as ' the death-dealing Amariscoggins' (from namaos, 'fish,' kees, 'high,' and auke, 'place'). A twelfth cultivated the Coos intervales on the Connecticut, and were called 'the swift deer-hunting Coosucks' (from cooash, 'pines,' auke, 'place')." The thirteenth were the Pemigewassets. On Father Ducreux's Latin map of 1GGO, the Abenaqui nation occupies all the country between the Kennebec and Lake Champlain, including the upper waters of the Androscoggin (Fiuvius Aininvocontiits) and Saco (C/ioacotius Fluvius). "
Most of the Northward Indians are between five and fix Foot high, straight Body'd, strongly composed, smooth Skin'd, merry Countenanc'd, of Complexion more swarthy than the Spaniards, black Haired, high Foreheaded, black Ey'd, out-Nof'd, broad Shoulder'd, brawny Arm'd, long and slender Handed, out Breafted, small Wasted, lank Belly'd, well Thigh'd, flat Kneed, with handfome brown Legs, and small Feet : In a word, take them when the Blood skips in their Veins, when the Flesh is on their Backs, and Marrow in their Bones, when they frolick in their antique Deportments and Indian postures, they are more amiable to behold (though onely in Adam's Li-very) than many a trim Gallant in the newest Mode; and though their Houses are but mean, their Lodging as homely, Commo'nsfcant, their Drink Water, and Nature their best Clothing, yet they full are healthful and lofty." (ogilby's America.)
After the abdication of Passaconaway, in 1660, his son Wonnalancet succeeded to the chieftaincy. According to the Puritan fathers, he was "a sober and grave person, of years between 50 and 60. He hath been always loving and friendly to the English." The Apostle Eliot visited him in May, 1674, and preached from the parable of the King's son, after which the Sachem embraced Christianity in a beautiful allegorical address. He lived a pure and noble life, and restrained his warriors from attacking the colonists, even during the deadly heats of King Philip's War. After that struggle, he visited the frontier town of Chelmsford, and asked the minister if it had suffered from attacks. The Puritan answered, "No, thank God." " Me next," rejoined Wonnalancet.
At a later day he found it impossible to restrain his people from open hostilities, upon which he gave up the chieftaincy, and retired, with the few families who adhered to him, to St. Francis, on the St. Lawrence River, far away from the crash of war and the undisariminating fury of the English forays. He returned to the Merrimac Valley in 1696, but stayed only a short time, finally retiring to St. Francis, where he died.
When Wonnalancet retired, in 1685, Kancamagus, the grandson of Passaconaway, assumed the government. He made several attempts to retain the friendship of the English, as is seen in his letters to Gov. Crandall, but was slighted and ill-treated by them, and finally yielded to the impulses of the martial and patriotic party in the confederation. He organized and headed the destructive attack on Dover in 1686, which was the last terrib'e death-throe of the Pennacooks ; and was present at the signing of the truce of Sagadahoc, in 1691.
He then vanishes from history, and it seems probable that he led the feeble remains of his people to the Abenaqui city of refuge at St. Francis. " Kancamagus was a brave and politic chief, and in view of what he accomplished at the head of a mere remnant of a once powerful tribe, it may be considered a most fortunate circumstance for the English colonists, that he was not at the head of the tribe at an earlier period, before it had been shorn of its strength, during the old age of Passaconaway, and the peaceful and inactive reign of Wonnalancet. And even could Kancamagus have succeeded to the Sagamonship ten years earlier than he did, so that his acknowledged abilities for counsel and war could have been united with those of Philip, history might have chronicled another story than the inglorious death of the Sagamou of Mount Hope in the swamp of Pokanoket." (potter's Hist, of Manchester.)
The northern tribes of the confederation remained in their ancestral homes for some years longer, under the government of their local chiefs, but were nearly annihilated by military expeditions from the New England towns. (See Fryebury, Plymouth, etc.) They then migrated to Canada, and after their mournful exodus the Saco and Pemigewasset Valleys were opened to the settlers from the lower towns.
"Thus the aboriginal inhabitants, who held the lands of New Hampshire as their own, have been swept away. Long and valiantly did they contend for the inheritance bequeathed to them by their fathers ; but fate had decided against them, and it was all in vain. With bitter feelings of unavailing regret, the Indian looked for the last time upon the happy places where for ages his ancestors had Iived and loved, rejoiced and wept, and passed away, to be known no more forever."
Concerning Passaconaway, the Great Chief of the Mountain and Merrimac Indiani. The name Passaconaway is derived from two Indian words, papoeis, " child," and kunnaway, " bear," the Child of the Bear being a fitting chief for the tribes whose ancestral insignia was a mountain-bear. It is estimated that the Merrimae tribes had 3,000 warriors in the year 1600, but the annihilating successions of famine, pestilence, and pitiless invasions of hostile tribes reduced their number, in less than 20 years, to 250 men.
There is a tradition that the Mohawks attacked Concord not long before the year 1620, and inflicted terrible damage on the Pennacooks; and a subsequent foray of the western tribes of Passaconaway's league 'ito the land of the Mohawks resulted disastrously. Passaconaway was probably at the head of the Pennacook confederation before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth; and Captain Levitt reported having seen him in 1623. In 1629 he and his sub-chiefs granted the coast of New Hampshire to John Wheelwright; and in 1632 he sent in to Boston a culprit Indian who had killed an English trader. In 1642 Massachusetts despatched a strong force to disarm the friendly Pennacooks; but Passaconaway retired to the forest, and there received a just apology from the colonial authorities, after which he voluntarily surrendered his guns.
In 1644 he put his " subiects Lands and estates vnder the Goverment and Jurisdiction of the Massachusetts to be governed and prolected by then." From this time the forest emperor and mighty necromancer became nominally a sort of Puritan magistrate, administering the laws of the colony upon his astonished liegemen. In 1647 Passaconaway was visited by the Apostle Eliot ("one of the noblest spirits that have walked the earth since the days of the Apostle Paul"), whose preaching deeply impressed the great chief and his sons, and led them to entreat him to dwell with them and become their teacher. He was probably converted to Christianity by Eliot's loving counsels. In 1660, overburdened with years and weary of honors, he abdicated his authority at a solemn senate of the mountain arid river tribes holden at Pawtucket Falls.
His farewell address to his people was heard by two or three English guests, and was reported by them to have been a splendid piece of oratory. The following sentences are extracted from it: — " Hearken to the words of your father. I am an old oak, that has withstood the storms of more than a hundred winters. Leaves and branches have been stripped from me by the winds and frosts, — my eyes are dim, — my limbs totter, — I must soon fall! But when young and sturdy, when my bow no young man of the Pennacooks could bend, — when my arrows would pierce a deer at a hundred yards, and 1 could bury my hatchet in a sapling to the eye, — no wigwam had so many furs, no pole so many scalp-locks, as Passaconaway-s. Then I delighted in war. The whoop of the Pennacooks was heard on the Mohawk, — and no voice so loud as Passaconaway's. The scalps upon the pole of my wigwam told the story of Mohawk Buffering The oak will soon break before the whirlwind,—it shivers and shakes even now; soon its trunk will be prostrate, — the ant and the worm will sport upon it. Then think, my children, of what I say. I commune with the Great Spirit. He whispers me now: 'Tell your people, Peace — peace is the only hope of your race. I have given flre and thunder to the pale-faces for weapons,— I have made them plentier than the leaves of the forest; and still shall they increase. These meadows they shall turn with the plough, — these forests shall fall by the axe, — the pale-faces shall live upon your hunting-grounds, and make their villages upon your fishing-places-' The Great Spirit says this, and it must be so! We are few and powerless before them! We must bend before the storm ! The wind blows hard! The old oak trembles, its branches are gone, its sap is frozen, it bends. It falls! Peace, peace, with the white man ' —is the command of the Great Spirit; and the wish, — the last wish of Passaconaway."
In reflecting upon the character of the Merrimaek Sagamon, tho conviction forces Itself upon one, that at the head of a powerful confederacy of Indian tribes, honored and feared by his subjects, and capable of moulding their fierce passions to his will, the history of New England would have told another story, than the triumph of our Pilgrim Fathers, had Passaconaway taken a different view of his own destiny and that of his tribe, —and exerted his well-known and acknowledged power against the enemies of his race." (potter's Hist, of Manchester ) "
It is a notorious fact that the English trespassed on his hunting-grounds and stole his lauds. Yet he never stole anything from them. They killed his warriors, — yet he never killed a white man, woman, or child. They captured and imprisoned his sons and daughters, — yet he never led a captive into the wilderness.
Once the proudest and most noble Bashaba of New England, he passed his extreme old age poor, forsaken, and robbed of all that was dear to him, by those to whom he had been a firm friend for nearly half a century." (little's Htst, of Warren.)
The legend of the apotheosis of Passaconaway on Mt. Washington suggests the mysterious story of St. Aspinquid, who, according to the tradition, was an Indian sage, born in 1588, converted to Christianity in 1628, and died in 1682. His funeral was on Mt. Agamenticus, and was attended by many sachems, who had a great hunting-feast and brought to his grave 6,711 slain animals, including 99 bears, 66 moose, 25 bucks, 67 does, 240 wolves, 82 wild-cats, 8 catamounts, 482 foxes, 32 buffaloes, 400 otter, 620 beaver, 1500 mink, 110 ferrets, 520 raccoons, 900 musquashes, 501 fishers, 3 ermines, 38 porcupines, 832 martens, 59 woodchucks, and 112 rattlesnakes. On the mountain-tomb was carved the inscription: — "Present useful; absent wanted ; Lived desired; died lamented." St. Aspinquid is said to have preached the Gospel for 40 years, and among 66 nations, " from the Atlantic Ocean to the Californian Sea.
" Mr. Thatcher thinks that Passaconaway and St. Aspinquid were one in the same, since their age and reputation so nearly agree; and advances a theory that Passaconaway retired to Mt. Agamenticus during King Philip's War, received the name of Aspinquid from the sea-shore Indians, and died a few years later. , The Apostle Eliot and Gen. Gookin saw Passaconaway when he was in the white winter of his 120th year. After his abdication of the Pennacook sovereignty he was granted a narrow tract of land in Litchfield by the Province of Massachusetts, where he lived for a short time. The time and manner of his death are unknown, but the traditions of the Pennacooks relate that he was carried from them, in the winter season, by a weird, wolf-drawn sleigh, and borne to the summit of Mt. Washington, whence he was received into heaven.
The un-glorious stories of how the western areas of the United States were occupied by
our forefathers through cajolery, fraud and deception is not limited to those western territories. The theft of the native American's homelands all began when the first English explorers set foot on this continent. All too frequently the native people were more than willing to sell or trade their homelands for a trivial compensation.
While the early explorers inflicted unknown diseases upon the Indians who already lived here, it was not done intentionally, (Although it has been shown that it was not beneath the early settlers to intentionally expose the Indians to known diseases with known consequences.) The process of illness and disease severly decimated and weakened the native population. Additionally, fighting amongst rival tribes also contributed to a dramatic decrease in their populations during the 1600's.
Many of those who did survive found their way of life completely at odds with the practices and traditions of the early settlers who came from completely different backgrounds. The concept of owning land was unheard of to the native populace who believed the land was there for everyones mutual benefit. Yet they did respect the territories of rival tribes and wars over such territories were not uncommon. Thus, their defenses against the intrusions of the early settlers would have been a natural reaction. The weapons available to them however were far inferior to those of the invading settlers.
While there were atrocities committed by both the native populace and early settlers many early stories point to the basic peaceful nature of the native inhabitants, particularly the Abenaki peoples and their desire to obtain peacefull arrangements with the new settlers over the use of the land.
The history of New England would have told another story, than the triumph of our Pilgrim Fathers, had Passaconaway (picture at left) taken a different view of his own destiny and that of his tribe, —and exerted his well-known and acknowledged power against the enemies of his race."
It is a notorious fact that the English trespassed on his hunting-grounds and stole his lands. Yet he never stole anything from them. They killed his warriors, — yet he never killed a white man, woman, or child. They captured and imprisoned his sons and daughters, — yet he never led a captive into the wilderness.
Once the proudest and most noble Bashaba of New England, he passed his extreme old age poor, forsaken, and robbed of all that was dear to him, by those to whom he had been a firm friend for nearly half a century.
In the left column you can read of the heritage and lives of those who now are only remembered as the names of mountains, roads and towns, beyond which many inhabitants have no knowledge of how the names originated or who those people were. The material came from Moses Sweetser's White Mountain Guide of 1886.
Go Back even further: A Time Before New Hampshire: The Story of a Land and Native Peoples By Michael J. Caduto
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