ETHNOHISTORY 1 OF THE PRESUMPSCOT WABANAKIS 2
©Alvin Hamblen Morrison, PhD
Professor (Emeritus) of Anthropology, SUNY-Fredonia
Ethnohistorical Anthropologist, Mawooshen Research
This copy is provided for reference only. Not for reproduction or distribution.
This first PREPRINT is my first draft of my contribution to a proposed book, a multi-authored interdisciplinary account of the Presumpscot River. My part is not intended to deal with either the “Archaeology” or the “History” of the River, because neither of those topics is my own academic specialty. Archaeology specializes in the “Prehistoric” Natives, History deals with the Euro-American Newcomers from their arrival until today, and Ethnohistory fits in between, focusing on the “Historic”-Period Natives per se, and their interactions with the Newcomers.
“What’s in a name?’’
Juliet’s primeval question to Romeo was scripted by Shakespeare ca.1595. A few years later, some of Shakespeare’s contemporaries dropped us an enigmatic place-name to ponder – ASHAMAHAGA – in a context that implied it was then a label for today’s Presumpscot River, although its true meaning is now unknown to us. I shall describe that context shortly, but first must present some general facts about Indian place-naming, especially as they apply to rivers, the all-important lifelines of our First Nations Peoples.
Wise Wabanaki Traditionalists remind us that Native American placenames were received from the land and water, not bestowed upon them as were / are the European Newcomers’ names. Also, even beyond any general names for any contributing river-branches, specific features of any stretch of any part of a river may have separate names. Furthermore, there might not be any overall single name for an “entire” river – and even if there is one name, it may not be wise to consider it as a singular “Capitalized Proper Noun”. Similarities of place-descriptive names, because of similarities in geographical features, inevitably led to often-repeated “uncapitalized common noun” placenames, even when located close-by each other. This open-ended American Indian style of nomenclature constrasts sharply with the more-restrictive European style, frequently causing confusion.
Whatever words the Natives used for placenames then fell heavily on the tin-ears of the Newcomers, English or French, who at best often used indiosyncratic and inconsistent spellings of any word, familiar as well as unfamiliar. Today, we are the inheritors of their clumsy attempts at catching the Natives’ exotic pitches. We also must realize that changes in dialects and pronunciation have occurred since the 1600s, among both Natives and Newcomers, so that the “real” placenames may be far beyond recall today. So, whenever our current name for our river came into use, did it always lack the second-letter R, as in PESUMPSCA in the 1636 grant from Gorges to Cleeve? If so, when did the R get added, as in PRESUMPSCOTT in the 1795 History of the District of Maine by Sullivan? Far too specific, these questions may never be satisfactorily answered.
Fannie Hardy Eckstorm is my choice of the best interpreter for most Maine Indian placename questions. Her 1941 book Indian Place-Names of…the Maine Coast (reprinted by the University of Maine Press), page 159, tells us that Presumpscot’s “early forms do not begin with pre- but with pes- or pas-, prefixes which denote something split up, or divided.” She then sees –ompsk- as rock or stone, and finally implies that “rough places river” is at least an “apt characterization” of the name’s intent, even if not an exact translation. Eckstorm lived from 1865 to 1946, mostly in the Bangor area, at a time and place well suited to gain linguistic insights from still-fluent-speaking Maine Indian consultants as well as having a wide network of scholarly correspondents. Among her many other accomplishments, she was Maine’s first practitioner of what we now call ethnohistory. But, alas, she seems not to have given us any help at all with the name Ashamahaga, linguistically or even geographically.
The name “Ashamahaga”, placed sole-alone between “Sagadahoc” and “Shawakotoc” in two early-published accounts of Maine rivers (1614 and 1625), clearly implies that it must be the Presumpscot River. Indeed, there is no likely alternative to the Presumpscot River, between the joint Kennebec-Androscoggin Rivers’ estuary (often termed the Sagadahoc River) and the Saco River. The 1614 report gives only the list of river-names, but the 1625 chronicle adds tantalizing details. Both accounts resulted from debriefing five Wabanaki men, who were kidnapped from Muscongus Bay (north of Monhegan Island) in 1605 by Captain George Waymouth’s expedition, which was sent to the Maine coast to find a suitable location for an English colony.
The five Wabanaki captives were taken to England, to be returned as guides for later English voyages. Three Indians were assigned to Sir Ferdinando Gorges (who would soon become the absentee-landlord of southwestern Maine), and two Indians to Sir John Popham (the first major financer of the Popham-Gorges colonial endeavors, who died in 1607 very soon after his short-lived Sagadahoc Colony had started out from England).
The detailed account published in 1625 as Description of the Countrey of Mawooshen presents the first known Wabanaki human geography data – naming (from east to west) ten rivers and the Native communities and leaders living thereon. Probably the 1625 Description was the composite product of both the1605 debriefing and some other data, but there is no way now of telling which is which. However, there is absolutely no mention at all that the peaceful theme described therein – a Wabanaki political alliance along the Maine coast from today’s Ellsworth to Biddeford, under paramount-sakamo / superchief Bashaba (Mawooshen apparently meaning “walk together”) -- had begun to unravel with ongoing intergroup warfare by 1607, collapsing by 1615 with Bashaba’s murder, and then was followed by a pandemic of European disease during 1616-1619. So, Waymouth’s five captives must have been the major raconteurs of this early version of “Maine: the way life should be”.
Of course, by the time of 1625 publication, many of the persons and groups named in 1605 had either died or regrouped. Yet the English general public relished hearing any tales of exploration and discovery, and the specific target of publishing them was to lure potential investors into further overseas affairs. National pride was the common issue during that internationally competitive and still-open-ended Age of Discovery. Collectively, the series of travelog publications by both Richard Hakluyt and Samuel Purchas has rightly been called “the great prose epic of the English nation”. Even after we discount it for potential propaganda (from captive Indians seeking early return, through English naivete, to huckster hype), and for misunderstandings and mistakes, it all helps us better understand the spirit of its time. And even for our purposes here, reading about Ashamahaga and Shawakotoc is still fascinating.
“To the Westward of Sagadahoc, foure dayes iourney there is another Riuer called Ashamahaga, which hath at the entrance sixe fathoms water, and is halfe a quarter of a mile broad: it runneth into the Land two dayes iourney: and on the East side there is one Towne called Agnagebcoc, wherein are seuentie houses, and two hundred and fortie men, with two Sagamos, the one called Maurmet, the other Casherokenit.
“Seuen dayes iourney to the South-west of Ashamahaga there is another Riuer, that is sixe fathoms to the entrance: This Riuer is named Shawakotoc, and is halfe a myle broad: it runneth into the Land fiftie dayes iourney, but foure dayes from the entrance it is so narrow, that the Trees growing on each side doe so crosse with their boughes and bodies on the other, as it permitteth not any meanes to passe with Boates that way: for which cause the Inhabitants that on any occasion are to trauell to the head, are forced to go by Land, taking their way vpon the West side. At the end of this Riuer there is a Lake of foure dayes iourney long, and two dayes broad, wherein are two Ilands. To the North-West foure daies iourney from this Lake, at the head of this Riuer Shawakatoc there is a small Prouince, which they call Crokemago, wherein is one Towne. This is the Westermost Riuer of the Dominions of Basshabez, and Quibiquisson [= today’s Union River at Ellsworth Maine] the Westermost [sic – but obviously meaning EASTernmost].” 3
That quotation is the entirety of the last two paragraphs of the 1625 Mawooshen Description, and the only two paragraphs of it that need concern us. How much of it can or should we believe? Certainly not all, but at least some. Clearly, the Presumpscot River’s Sebago Lake attributes are bestowed here upon the Saco River. But Crokemago does belong on the Saco, because it seems to be a version of “Narracomecock”-- the name of the Wabanaki fort at Pigwacket / Pequawket, now Fryeburg, (which should not be confused with a place of similar name [Rocameca] on the Androscoggin River). The importance of Crokemago / Pigwacket to the Presumpscot’s Wabanakis is nonetheless a key issue for us to consider later. The basic question for us now is about Agnagebcoc Towne: Where could A-Towne’s remains now be hiding?
Perhaps the town’s name AGNAGEBCOC itself holds information pertinent to locating it.
However, while Eckstorm suggested meanings for a few of the names of rivers and towns stated in the Mawooshen Description, she seemingly ignored Ashamahaga and Agnagebcoc – and I know of no other properly-grounded scholar who has attempted them. So we are left with only the following barest “facts” (ie, if we can believe them) and theories.
Description: A-Towne = 1 “Towne” of 70 “Houses” and 240 “Men”.
Extension: One community averaging 3.4 men (ie, warriors) per household of at least
9 persons each, = a minimum of 630 total population.
Comments: Not easy to hide big A-Towne; Not easy to feed its big population.
In wartime, protection-by-location is adaptive for both people and crops.
The following ethnohistorical accounts contrast the Native foodways found on the major river-mouths east and west of the Presumpscot, and thus help suggest a potential profile of the lost community of A-Towne. Note that these accounts mention a wartime setting ignored by the Mawooshen Description of essentially the very same date (1605).
French explorer Samuel de Champlain cruised along the Maine coast from the French colonial outpost of Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia) in summer 1605 –
the same year that Waymouth kidnapped the five Wabanaki men from Muscongus Bay.
About the Sagadahoc Estuary (lower Kennebec River) Indians, Champlain wrote:
“The [Native] people live like those near our settlement [Port Royal NS – ie, by hunting-fishing-gathering], and they informed us that the Indians who cultivated Indian corn lived far inland, and had ceased to grow it on the coasts on account of the war they used to wage with others who came [by sea] and seized it.” (Champlain 1:321)
Of the Saco River-mouth Indians, he stated:
“They till and cultivate the land, a practice we [coming from the northeast, in Nova Scotia] had not seen previously.” (1:327)
And of the Saco Indians’ Biddeford-Pool-vicinity village of Chouacoet, he wrote:
“The Indians remain permanently in this place, and have a large wigwam surrounded by palisades formed of rather large trees placed one against the other; and into this they retire when their enemies come to make war against them.” (1:329)
The bottom line is that maize-gardening (Indian-corn-cultivation) is necessary for feeding larger populations, but it is labor-intensive and requires sedentary attendance, and often is too risky (via climate, weather, predators) to bother with. The sea-going “Tarentines” were
Micmacs and Eastern-Etchemins who lived too far to the colder northeast to grow maize securely, and therefore had to either trade or raid for it across the Gulf of Maine. For the potential producers, the closer they lived to the Bay of Fundy (from which the Tarentines came), the less sensible it was to tempt maize-raiding by growing their corn near the coast.
So, since it is likely that A-Towne required maize to feed its multitude, it is unlikely that A-Towne (or at least its maize-garden) was near the mouth of the Presumpscot River in 1605. The upstream side of at least one if not two or more waterfalls seems to me the most likely place to expect to find it (or its garden).
The lowest / “last” waterfall on the Presumpscot River (ie, the closest to the sea, which for our purpose of going upstream we must call the “First” Fall) is at-or-near the recently-removed Smelt-Hill Dam in Falmouth. From the seaside at Martins Point Bridge (US Route 1) to this First Fall is approximately two-&-a-half miles upstream, much of it mudflats at low tide. For this place in 1623-24, Englishman Christopher Levett stated: “Just at this fall of water the sagamore or king of that place hath a house, where I was one day when there were two sagamores more, their wives and children, in all about fifty, and we were but seven.” (Levett 43).
Clearly, “about fifty” is not big A-Town, and archaeological evidence indicates that this First Fall area was only a regular seasonal fishing camp. However, Levett’s trip to Maine was after the end of the Native warfare which crescendoed to destroy Bashaba and his Mawooshen alliance by 1615, and which was followed by the devastating “plague” of 1616-1619 which caused up to 90% depopulation among the Indians, and led to major removals / regroupings of survivors throughout the entire region, stretching from Cape Cod to Penobscot Bay. (That “plague”did not effect the few Europeans present; whatever the disease was, the Europeans had inherited immunity to it, but the Indians had not. The 1634 encore epidemic was identifiable smallpox, which again harmed the Natives severely.)
No detailed account of Presumpscot First Fall area dating earlier than Levett’s (1624)is known today, if there ever was one, for comparison of conditions pre- & post-disasters. Captain John Smith’s account of his 1614 cruise along the Maine coast, like the 1605/25 Mawooshen Description, by default describes a peaceful region (both accounts were promotional propaganda). Smith mentions warfare only in the past tense. Smith states nothing more specific about the Portland area than this:
“Westward of this Riuer [Sagadahock] is the Country of Aucocisco, in the bottome of a large deepe Bay, full of many great Iles, which diuides it into many good Harbours.” Like the name “New England” which we know that Smith coined, his use of Aucocisco seems to be a first in our known records. That he meant it for more than just Portland seems clear from its use again a few pages later, when he lists among “The chiefe Mountains” he saw along the Maine coast, “the twinkling Mountaine of Acocisco” – Mount Washington seen from Casco Bay. Smith starts his “Description of New England” with a list of Native “Countries…alied in confederacy” with BASHABA (“the chiefe and greatest [leader] amongst them”) – a list including “Ancocisco” – a third spelling. (Smith 717, 721, 706)
Fannie Eckstorm (my guru of placenaming) claimed that Aucocisco is Micmac for “muddy-bay”, and refers specifically to Back Cove in Portland. Eckstorm saw Casco as an Abenaki word for “heron” (a large water-bird), and suggested Casco somehow replaced Aucocisco as an early name for Portland. She does not comment about how or why one small muddy bay’s name could be stretched to include a faraway tall mountain in the same “Country” with it. (Eckstorm 168-169)
So, conceivably, before the time of Tarentine maize-raiding, A-Towne might have been on or close to the seashore in today’s East Deering section of Portland, a peninsula facing the harbor but on a narrow neck between both Back Cove and Presumpscot River-mouth, both of which are very muddy bays at low tide! Smith in 1614 may have been told an antique name for that place which still applied, generally, to its wider-spread people: Aucocisco, later somehow becoming Casco for both the English colonial town and its bay-region.
The Second Fall upstream is Ammoncongin Fall at Cumberland Mills in Westbrook. This is at-or-near the SAPPI / S D Warren plant’s dam. It is over six miles upstream from First Fall, and over eight-&-a-half miles upstream from seaside at Martins Point Bridge – well away from the sea-going Tarentines. Also, it is only around one mile downstream from the Third Fall called Sacarappa Fall at the old Dana Warp mill on Bridge Street in Westbrook.
In my estimation, this is a wise locale to look for A-Towne – searching a mile-wide ribbon on each side along the river, starting at the Portland-Westbrook boundary below Second Fall (an area relatively “undeveloped” today), and extending upstream to above Third Fall. If no luck, extend yet more easterly to the Westbrook-Falmouth boundary (also a less-developed area). My reasoning comes from reading several 19th & 20th-century comments about local historical and geological events -- comments which may seem less-than-best today, but nontheless are based on old-time field-experiences and folk-knowledge largely overlooked today if remembered at all. Let’s consider one such historical comment.
Christopher Levett, in his 1623-24 explorations mentioned earlier, states that he “went about three miles” up the Presumpscot. (From seaside at US 1 to the First Fall, I measure two-&-a-half miles.) Yet he also states, regarding the First Fall, “further a boat cannot go, but above the fall the river runs smooth again.” (Levett 43). Earlier, Levett may have been further up the Presumpscot by another route, as suggested by Charles S. Fobes, in his paper “The Story of the Presumpscot” for the Maine Historical Society in 1894: namely, via the Fore &/or Capisic &/or Stroudwater Rivers. (Levett states that he went “six miles up” the Fore River, which probably means inclusive of its Capisic or Stroudwater neighbors.)
Fobes wrote: “When Levett explored the [Fore] river…, he must have found the Indian planting ground which was a short distance below the [Presumpscot Second] falls at Cumberland Mills [by walking to it from the southwest]. … George Munjoy… had found his way to that part of the Presumpscot and in 1666 bought of the sagamores Nunateconett and Warabitta the land which was ‘to begin on the other side of the Ammoncongin [Presumpscot] river at the great falls, and go down the riverside to the lowermost planting ground,’ etc. This was the deed of the famous mile square.” (Fobes 371; emphases added)
An Indian planting ground may or may not mean that an Indian village was nearby. It may have been important both to hide the corn from raiders and to keep the village nearer the coast for traders. However, even if it was nearby and cannot be found today, A-Towne still might be accounted for (either here or elsewhere on the lower Presumscot), theoretically at least, given some geological information about the “Presumpscot Formation” of slippery glacial marine mud (which was named for this very region), combined with local historical information of known stream-bank collapses and mud-slides resulting from the “PF”.
In his 1987 book on Maine geology, David L. Kendall (p 93) states: “At Gorham in September 1983, nearly seven acres of land slid into the Stroudwater River and Indian Creek…. It all happened in just a few moments. … Landslides like this are not frequent in Maine but they all seem to involve the glacial marine clay.” My maps call it “Indian Camp Brook”, instead of Indian Creek, (which makes it seem named from only limited Native use) but it makes the point that A-Towne understandably could have been buried in the same way. And Charles Fobes, who does not mention any Indian village in his 1894 paper, devotes almost two full pages to mudslides in Westbrook, parts of which include these:
“Saccarappa is built upon a great landslide, or rather it was in part a slide and in part a subsidence. An area of this character of about two hundred acres is marked by abrupt embankments, whose height varies from ten to thirty feet.” (Fobes 364)
“May 5, 1831, a large slide occurred on the north side of the [Presumpscot] river near Pride’s Bridge [on US Route 302 in Riverton]. The greatest of the slides within historic days took place above that at the bridge and about one third of a mile below the village of Cumberland Mills [(near the planting ground?)], on November 22, 1868. The bed of the river some two hundred feet in width was filled for half a mile with debris.” (Fobes 365)
Undoubtedly, besides those mudslides mentioned by Fobes and Kendall, there must have been others on the Presumpscot between 1605 and the present, at least one of which could have buried and / or scattered whatever evidence was left of A-Towne, wherever it was. Someone(s) may have found and kept some bits of evidence that may yet come out of storage, or the less-developed areas of Westbrook-Portland-Falmouth may yet yield some unexpected paydirt. So, in sum, I suggest that we may yet be able to site Agnagebcoc Towne, even if we cannot truly sight it.
Wabanaki SOCIAL ORGANIZATION and LEADERSHIP
Wabanaki survival has long depended upon fluid social organization and flexible
leadership. The Native Wabanakis’ Dawnland Diaspora and Mobile Managers have befuddled English and American Newcomers from the Early Contact Period to the present day, as being “not proper” by Euro-American standards. However, the Wabanakis are still around today, their continuing presence a testimony to the effectiveness of their adaptively advantageous social structure – and it was / is cleverly and dynamically structured to organize potentially-chaotic events.
Wabanaki society could shrink or swell its groupings as occasions required; Wabanaki leadership was both authorityless and plural; and both their groups and their leaders were able to relocate and return, repeatedly. Even in battle, and when Wabanakis outnumbered their English opponents, if casualties got too high the Wabanakis might leave the field to fight again elsewhere another day. “Not proper” it may have appeared, but it also was wise of the Wabanakis, even if the English proclaimed each such event as a “Victory”. The Newcomers’ idea of their God-given “Inevitability” of conquering the Natives has been stymied by the Wabanakis’ equally-spiritual idea of response: “Never-Never-Never!”. Weapons may have changed, but the old ideas remain on both sides.
Anthropological three-category typology of sociopolitical organization puts traditional Wabanaki society in the middle level of complexity: it is not at Level 1 “Egalitarian”(no real prestige differential, and no economic differential); nor is it at Level 3 “Stratified” (both prestige and economic differentials); but it is at Level 2 “Rank” (prestige differential, and maybe but not necessarily some economic differential, between either individual members of society or their family groups). By contrast, European societies were not only
technologically more complex but societally at Level 3. And each European society had only one monarch at a time, with all other leaders obedient subordinates (in theory!).
Each of the Wabanaki peoples had several sakamos at any one time, but all led without real authority – they had to lead by persuasion, to carry out their real responsibility to the group of persons who chose voluntarily to be led by them, and who could vote-with-their-feet to go live in another community led by other sakamos. “Prestige differentials” made the true power-base of any sakamo, and kept each community’s membership “fluid”. Since their kinfolk were in other communities too, such fluidity did not mean isolation of individuals or families. Frequent intercommunity visitations kept family communications fresh.
A few families who had produced past leaders were looked-to first for new leadership, but any potential candidate, male or female, whether for sakamo or shaman (medicine-person),
had to prove personal capability-talent, and new sources of leadership were not overlooked.
Adoptees with obvious talents, even French priests and English captives, were occasional admired choices for leadership among the Wabanaki peoples.
There were different levels of sakamos, depending on age, talents, needs, and events. In the
1600s, there were at least four Wabanaki paramount sakamos, meaning super-chiefs of super-alliances, who must have had extraordinary leadership talents themselves, and also had married off their kinfolk to further extend their webs of influence. These four were:
1) Souriquois Micmac MEMBERTOU , who died in1611, but whose Micmac & Eastern- Etchemin “Tarentine” Alliance outlived him to crush Bashaba’s alliance. A former shaman as well, Membertou was the first Native leader in the northeast to “convert” to Christianity, raising his own power by making a lasting French connection as “Hereditary Grand Chief”.
2) Western-Etchemin BASHABA (died 1615), headed the Western-Etchemin & Abenaki-Pennacook “Mawooshen” Alliance, whose influence(we are told) extended westward to the Saco River (thus including the Presumpscot River), until it was destroyed by “Tarentines”. Bashaba’s death and resulting realignments were soon followed by the 1616-19 “plague”.
3) Pennacook PASSACONAWAY (died c.1665) built a Pawtucket/Pennacook-Abenaki Alliance centered on the Merrimack River of today’s New Hampshire and Massachusetts but extended into Maine to the eastern end of Casco Bay, by himself and skilfully married-out kin. Also a noted shaman, he never “converted”, but promoted peace with the English.
4) Western-Etchemin MADOCKAWANDO (died c.1698) was based on Penobscot Bay, near his son-in-law French Baron de St-Castin (aka “Castine”). He wanted to make English connections as well as French, but French Gov. Villebon of Acadia denied him that. He was both a shaman and a kinap (war-chief) as well as being the last Wabanaki superchief.
Sakamos (aka sagamores, sachems) also could become Mobile Managers, traveling far in some cases. Famous examples are Wabanaki SAMOSET of Pemaquid ME welcoming the Pilgrims in Plymouth MA (1621), and Mahican PAUGUS of Scaticook NY acting as warchief at Pigwacket now Fryeburg ME in Lovewell’s Fight (1725). Kinfolk in not-very-foreign communities, even outside their own “home-tribe” (especially after Native warfare, disease epidemics, English push, and French pull, caused removals and regroupings), called in new leadership as needed. So, when opportunity knocked, “Have Skills, Will Travel”.
The Dawnland Diaspora for Wabanaki survival was never fully understood by the ever-increasing-and-encroaching English colonials and their Euopean-minded leaders, who saw it only as further “treachery”. Repeated Wabanaki tactical retreats to French missionary-stations in Canada (especially Odanak on the St-Francis River near the St-Lawrence) were seen by the English as strategic abandonment of “former” Native territory. So, repeated Wabanaki tactical returns were seen only as French-inspired invasions, ergo “intolerable”.
Caught in the middle, the Wabanakis preferred French pull to English push, yet still tried to maintain Wabanaki autonomy. Wabanakis were not mere pawns of the Europeans. They still needed their traditional natural resources (now English-held), and preferred English trade-goods. My own research of Wabanaki Frontier Encounters leads me to believe that, with the French for “friends” the Wabanakis really did not need the English for “enemies”.
I believe that the Wabanakis knew and acted upon all of that. Their encounter dynamics on the Presumpscot River seem to me to reflect all of the above.
Encounter Dynamics on and around the Presumpscot, 1623-1756
During the 133-year span 1623-1756, it seems that there are only two well-enough-known-about Presumpscot Wabanaki sakamos to discuss in any detail. In between, there were of course innumerable Anglo-Wabanaki encounters, some very worthy of note, whose casts of characters involved are either anonymous or nearly so. In what follows, I will begin with sakamo Skitterygusset (fl. 1623-1657), end with Chief Polin (d. 1756), and in between selectively outline chronologically some of the more significant local encounter events.
In 1623, entreprenurial-agent Christopher Levett met, liked, and was liked-by, sakamo “Skedraguscett”, who “hath a house” (and 50-odd guests) at Presumpscot First Fall. This sakamo and others adopted Levett as their “cousin”. After fond farewells, Levett went back to England, where unforeseen circumstances prevented his promised return. Thus ended a rare opportunity for peaceful cooperation between Natives and Newcomers.
The next we hear of Skitterygusset, he was accused of leading a murder-gang against dishonest fur-trader Walter (Great Watt) Bagnell, in 1631 at Richmond Island (off Cape Elizabeth) where Bagnell had set up his trading-post (English goods for Indian furs).
Two years later (1633), an English expedition, unsuccessfully hunting pirates, put in at Richmond Island, where they found and lynch-hanged another sakamo, Black Will (guilty or innocent), in revenge for Bagnell’s murder.
Some interesting points are: 1) Black Will most probably was Black William / Poquanum who was a sakamo of Nahant MA; 2) Fannie Eckstorm (161), without any comment, calls Skitterygusset “a sachem of Lynn MA” in her placename entry for “Skitterygusset: a creek near the mouth of the Presumpscot [in Falmouth ME]”. Lynn and Nahant are two abutting communities on the North Shore of the greater Boston area. Here we seem to have Mobile Managers at work in a Native Maine-Massachusetts (Passaconaway ?) connection.
Perhaps it was to Massachusetts that Skitterygusset went in 1634, the time of the second major Native epidemic (smallpox this time). He seems not to have been at Presumpscot then, because John Winter, the new trade-agent in residence at Richmond Island, wrote to Robert Trelawney (his boss in England) in April 1634: “The trading heare abouts with the Indians is not worth any thing, for heare is no Indian lives nearer unto us then 40 or 50 myles, except a few about the River of Salko…”; and again in August: “Theris a great many of the Indyans dead this yeere, both east and west from us & a great many dyes still to the eastward from us.” (Trelawney 461)
Wherever he was in 1634, Skitterygusset outlived the epidemic and still belonged to the Presumpscot. On 27 July 1657 “Scitterygusett of Casco Bay Sagamore” signed a deed with
fisherman Francis Small of Casco Bay (to share? or abandon?) a very large tract of land on Presumpscot River, in return for an annual coat to wear and gallon to drink. Seeming more like rent or lease amounts, those petty payments imply that the Native thought that he was making a personal alliance with the Newcomer for sharing, not selling-out. But was Francis Small’s intention the smaller or the larger of those possibilities?
******* INSERT 1657 ‘Scit to Small’ DEED HERE *******
Nagging questions of Natives’ sharing or abandonment of land via Newcomers’ “deeds” afflict all such early colonial transactions – and “Scitterygusett to Small” seems to be the first such on the Presumpscot 4. Land was the property-in-common of a Native band. Any sakamo supposedly was authorityless. Yet those of his followers who disliked his decisions were free to leave him and go elsewhere. Would his people have been consulted, either about a personal alliance for sharing their land, or about their outright abandonment of it?
In other words: How far apart were the theory and the practice of sakamoship? What-if-any agency for land-decision-making did Wabanaki followers have relative to that of their leaders? The ethnohistorical jury is still out, for a verdict on most of these questions.
The “meaning” of Indian-land-deeds was different in different regions of the continent, and clearly evolved over time everywhere. At first, the Wabanakis could not have known the English concept of private alienation-by-sale. Their concept of land was joint-usage, but shared beyond the in-group by alliance. At first the few English were welcomed, but later they wore out their welcome by overcrowding and land-grabbing beyond toleration. Just after 1700, the population of New France was 15,000 French, while that of New England was 100,000 English. Futhermore, by then the patterns had been set of the French wanting Indians ON the land for trading, and the English wanting Indians OFF the land for farming.
******* INSERT WARS LIST HERE *******
In 1675, in southern New England where these ever-increasing pressures were greatest, the lid finally blew off the pot, and King Philip’s War began. The Massachusetts Colony government by then controlled what is now Maine, and to “protect” themselves from the north, started an unwise policy of demanding that all Maine Wabanakis turn in their firearms, which by then had become the Natives’ tools of choice for subsistence hunting. That intolerable policy, and Southern New England Indians fleeing northward, plus a Saco River sakamo’s child being killed by callous Englishmen, touched off a separate new region of the war: King Philip’s War Northern Front (Anglo-Wabanaki War #1).
For the high number of casualties (killed, wounded, captured), relative to the small New England population, this was an extremely costly war -- and to the Natives also. Both sides lost, neither side“won”. Nothing was “settled” except each side’s mind against the other, and all the causal issues would erupt again and again. All along the Maine coast’s thin ribbon of settlements, from the Piscataqua River to Pemaquid Point, the homeless surviving colonists fled southward to the Massachusetts Bay Colony heartland. The greater-Portland area (including the small settlements on Presumpscot River), since 1658 called Falmouth, was so hard-hit that its survivors first fled to the islands of Casco Bay, but even there they still were attacked. This was the first destruction of “Portland” – and also of all other Maine coastal communities.
Green colonial militia units were ineffective protectors even of themselves – thus, at repeatedly-attacked Black Point (in Scarborough), an ambush led to the name “Massacre Pond”. And it was from Black Point on 15 September 1676 that two leading citizens wrote to the Massachusetts governor that they had seen “two or three Frenchmen” with the Indian
attackers. Some historians have claimed no French involvement in King Philip’s War, but on the Northern Front there were at least French “observers” (as we term them today).
In southern New England, the war ended soon after the killing of Pokanoket Wampanoag sakamo Metacom / King Philip by an English-allied Pocasset named Alderman, in August 1676. Yet in Maine the Northern Front continued until 1678, when the real threat that the English would call in Mohawk allies from New York tipped the balance. (Earlier, raiding Mohawks hit Wabanakis repeatedly – on the Penobscot and Kennebec Rivers as recently as 1662. These were the Traditional Iroquois-League Mohawks of today’s New York state, who were longterm enemies of the Wabanakis, and who had became allies of the English; not the Separatist French-Catholic Mohawks, who after 1668 lived in the Montreal area and befriended the Wabanakis, with whom they together raided the New England frontier and fought English armies as French allies.)
New England’s colonial militiamen could not be paid money for their military service because the Colonies had too little cash, or anything else of value except land – much of Massachusetts’ land being to the north in today’s Maine and New Hampshire, both of which needed to be resettled after the war. So, land-grant towns were planned for veterans, called “Narragansett Towns” after a major campaign of the war’s initial southern front.
However, no new northern towns actually could be laid out at that time, because a new war soon started, called King William’s War. So, veterans received land-paper-IOUs, which many eventually sold cheap to speculators, to get any immediately useful compensation at all. And, with every war thereafter (see wars list), this unfortunate pattern repeated itself --
“Canada Towns” were the second paper-land batch, named after a major campaign of 1690.
Later towns often were designated by the surnames of the veterans’ military-unit officers.
After the Treaty of Casco Bay in April 1678 officially ended War #1, many of the evacuees started returning to their ruins in Falmouth, accompanied by newcomers. Old land-titles were respected and new ones granted, and within a decade considerable prosperity had redeveloped there. Yet inasmuch as no real issues of English encroachment on Wabanaki lands and lifeways had been addressed (indeed they continued to increase, and ever-further toward the eastward), by August-September 1688 Wabanaki patience had worn out and Anglo-Wabanaki War # 2 (King William’s War) started with a vengeance.
This war saw fullest French involvement, because it had a counterpart in Europe, called both the War of the League of Augsburg and the War of the Grand Alliance. In Maine the frequent result was joint raids by French and Indians together in large numbers, although raids by smaller warparties of Indians alone still continued. Herein, consideration is limited to two raids on Falmouth (“Portland”), in 1689 and again in 1690, and their consequences.
Falmouth was deemed important enough to Boston commerce that Massachusetts officials, in 1680, had constructed Fort Loyal, on the waterfront at the foot of today’s India Street (in Portland). And they sent troops under one of their better military commanders, Major Ben Church (whose Indian scout had shot King Philip in 1676), northward on patrol after Pemaquid had been destroyed in August 1689. Church’s men arrived in Falmouth almost simultaneously with a larger force of French and Indians coming to destroy the town. After a six hour battle in Deering Oaks (28 September 1689), the enemy withdrew. (Major Church would make four more expeditions to Maine, but none so fortunate as his first.)
French government in Quebec planned a three-pronged 1690 campaign against the English colonies: Schenectady in NewYork; Salmon Falls (Rollinsford) in New Hampshire; and Falmouth in Maine. Schenectady was hit 8 February 1690; Salmon Falls on 18 March; and Falmouth not until mid May, but with larger joint forces of French and Indians than the other two targets had suffered. Each town was to be destroyed, and all three certainly were. In Falmouth’s case, it was the second destruction of “Portland”.
Ten-year-old Fort Loyal in Falmouth was the very last stronghold for those survivors of the first-stop local garrisons who were lucky enough to escape the one and reach the other. The Fort held out from 16 to 20 May 1690, when casualties reached a tipping point and fair surrender terms were sought by Fort Loyal’s acting commander, Captain Sylvanus Davis. The terms of “good quarter” were pledged by French force commander Portneuf, but not delivered. So, those English colonists who were not immediately killed and scalped were captured to march to Quebec. Among those captives after the Massacre at Fort Loyal were Captain Sylvanus Davis (who had been wounded in an Indian raid in King Philip’s War) and Mrs Hannah Swarton (a Falmouth frontier housewife). Their stories concern us next.
The Massacre at Fort Loyal was but an early case of European officers being unable to get their Indian allies to obey the European surrender terms, because the Indian allies expected the Right of Plunder in payment for their services. This meant looting goods, taking scalps for both war-rituals and bounties, and taking captives for adoption, or marriage, or servants, or sale-money. Both French and English had, and suffered from, this problem with Indian allies, but the French are remembered (by English speakers at least) as “infamous” for it, in the Northeastern USA today -- not only by History Buffs (Fort Loyal 1690, Fort Oswego 1756, Fort William-Henry 1757), but especially by American Literature Buffs because of James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel Last of the Mohicans.
The Rhetoric (words) and Iconography (pictures) of Encounter is a fascinating aspect of both ethnohistory and anthropology-of-literature. A special genre of American Literature is “Indian Captivity Narratives”(real adventure stories, popular in earlier centuries), and from King William’s War (War #2) came several -- from Maine at least three: John Gyles (Pemaquid 1689); Sylvanus Davis (Falmouth 1690); and Hannah Swarton (Falmouth 1690). Only two of the Maine three pertain to “Portland”, so we consider only them here.
As acting commander of Fort Loyal, Captain Sylvanus Davis had to make a report to his military superiors upon his release after four months a military prisoner in Quebec City. His report is not a “typical” Captivity Narrative by any means. Neither were his conditions typical. As an officer he was accorded special favor, so he underwent absolutely no Indian encounters except on his 24-day march overland with his French and Indian captors. However, his candor and relative informality make his report interesting anthropologically. Davis had a particularly-tinny tin-ear for French names, seemingly not caring much about
accommodation to making the best of his foreign surroundings. Yet his encounters with his French military counterparts give us a rare view of them, totally absent from most “ICNs”.
The Colonial Period mores of “women’s place” put an extremely biased filter on early Captivity Narratives about women, although supposedly by them. The first northeastern case was from after War #1 (King Philip’s War), and tells about Mrs Mary Rowlandson’s captivity, through the narration of Increase Mather, a prominent Massachusetts Puritan clergyman. He was the father and mentor of Cotton Mather, an even more prominent Massachusetts Puritan clergyman, who played the same role of telling about Hannah Swarton’s captivity.
Both Mathers milked their respective cases for sermon materials, and clearly put Puritan dogma into the mouths of the Captives throughout, especially regarding their respective “Redemptions” (which did not just mean being sprung from foreign captivity). Cotton Mather clearly believed that when Hannah Swarton left the Communion-ity of Puritan orthodoxy in Beverly Massachusetts to go into the wilderness to live in Falmouth Maine, she had asked for trouble, and yet nonetheless she was “Redeemed”. Here was a Cautionary Tale for Puritans to think upon, if there ever was one.
Almost a century and a half later, in 1837, the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society in Boston published a further twist to the Hannah Swarton captivity, altering her name just slightly: Hannah Swanton, the Casco Captive: or the Catholic Religion in Canada, and its Influence on the Indians in Maine. Yet another Cautionary Tale, updated, but taking us further away from Hannah, on yet another’s errand.
So, from War #1 onward, in became a trend for clergymen (who were the only trained writers in some frontier communities) to publish women’s Indian Captivity Narratives, and pack them with the religious overtones that are less frequent in men’s. Men also tended to write their own narratives, often later in life. Anthropologists seeking first-hand tales of Indian cultures thus usually prefer men’s narratives, but have to take whatever is available.
Cotton Mather called the 1690s the “Mournful Decade”, but nonetheless he took advantage of the fine opportunities it gave him to study individual victims’case-histories. One such case was that of Mercy Short, in today’s terms a Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder victim of the March 1690 Salmon Falls Raid. She became early-linked to the 1692 Salem Witchcraft Hysteria by claiming to have been evil-eyed and cursed by Sarah Good, a poor loner who already was in jail as a suspect. Mather saw connections between and among the Puritans’ backsliding from former Orthodoxy, Devilish French-&-Indian attacks, and Witchcraft. In Mather’s mind, God was punishing Massachusetts Colony. (Or was it self-punishment?)
Many of the Falmouth refugees from both Wars #1 and #2 had fled to Salem and other North-Shore communities in which they had families or friends. Those refugees who had not returned after War #1 had considered selling, if they had not already sold, their land-titles in Maine to a number of Boston-area businessmen who took advantage of this new windfall opportunity to buy up cheaply whatever lands in Maine that they could acquire, as a longterm investment. After 1690, during War #2, there was a rush to sell, and the buyers could get much for little, with inevitable interfamily feuds resulting. In 1692, in Salem and neighboring towns, when the “Afflicted Girls” who made the Witchcraft accusations ran out of loners and deviants to target, they went into interfamily politics to find new fodder. Under law, a witch-finder could claim a witch’s property – indeed a temptation to accuse. Eventually even Governor Phips’ wife was accused, and the nonsense finally stopped.
But these added insults following the initial injury of warfare were to remain problematic.
After the Massacre at Fort Loyal in May 1690, on “the Neck” (meaning today’s intown Portland from East End to West End) called Machegonne (meaning knee ?), all the satelite settlements of Falmouth, and even as far as Saco, were abandoned. When Major Church came by in September 1690, on his second expedition to Maine, he was attacked at Purpooduck Point (now Spring Point in South Portland), and although he drove off the Indians there, he left the area without visiting the Neck, where an unpleasant task waited.
Not until August 1692, when Church returned on his third expedition, accompanied by Sir William Phips, the Governor, were the bones of the 1690 raid-victims buried. As if it were haunted, the Neck lay vacant of English resettlement until after War # 3.
War #2 ended in Europe with the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, but in Maine not until the Treaty of Mare Point, in Casco Bay, 7 January 1699. What is now named Falmouth became the new focus of resettlement, starting in 1700 with the building of Fort New Casco, on Menikoe Point (now Prince Point, just north of Waites Landing in Falmouth).
This was intended as a truck-house (trading post) for the Wabanakis as much as it was a stronghold for the English. It was right around the corner from, and to the east of, the mouth of the Presumpscot River.
After the War of the Spanish Succession broke out in Europe, Governor Dudley held a council with all of the Wabanakis he could contact, at Fort New Casco, 20 June 1703.
Sakamos present promised peace to the Governor, but two months later 500 French and Indians attacked all the Maine settlements from New Casco to Wells. So, August 1703 marked the start of Anglo-Wabanaki War #3 (Queen Anne’s War).
The Siege of Fort New Casco started with a truce-parley faked by the attackers, which, when it failed to take the fort off-guard, led to the destruction of all the homes in the area.
As the fort was being undermined on the water side, the lucky arrival of the Colony warship not only raised the siege but destroyed 200 canoes. While this was an English tactical victory, in kept the attackers in the area, where they continued their depredations,
especially upon English boats in Casco Bay.
The second-generation-settler Jordan family of Spurwink (Cape Elizabeth) spanned the full range of Indian-raid victimization (minus scalping?), among the 22 persons of their name who were either killed or captured during a raid in August 1703. Dominicus Sr (a good friend of Indians in peacetme but an infamous enemy in wartime) was killed by surprise blows from a tomahawk; his wife and children were “carried to Canada” (ie, were Indian-captured and force-marched, to be kept by Indians, or sold to the French). Dominicus Jr escaped after several years, and soon became a respected government interpreter. Mrs Jordan Sr and her other children were returned at war’s end – except for Mary Ann, who was renamed Arabella by her French masters, married, and voluntarily stayed, in Canada.
Later in the war, which lasted a decade, harassment of Scarborough, Saco, and settlements westward, was continual. So pressed were the Colony’s armed forces that Massachusetts government proclaimed a bounty of £40 for each Indian scalp brought in, to encourage the forming of Bounty-Parties as a means of better patrolling the frontiers. The war in Europe ended with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and this War #3 in New England with the Treaty of Portsmouth 13 July 1713. Yet both there and here, few if any real issues were resolved.
With “peace” restored, the English kept pushing ever eastward, taking their military posts with them. Therefore, Fort New Casco in Falmouth was now considered irrelevant and was torn down in 1716. The French, who claimed that their Acadia Province extended west to Kennebec River, countered English expansion there by prompting Jesuit missionaries Rale and LaChasse to exhort the Wabanakis to resist such intrusion. Massachusetts Colony Governor Shute contra-countered by calling a council with Wabanaki leaders at Arrowsick Island (east of Sagadahoc Estuary) in 1717. There he heard first-hand of Native concerns.
In 1720, Wabanakis from Norridgewock and Penobscot, and even those in Nova Scotia, were stimulated by the French to start depredations against English intruders. The English countered in force, so that, inevitably and eventually, War # 4 (The Abenaki War, aka Governor Dummer’s War, etc) roared through the northeast. This time there was no European counterpart, and therefore “officially” there was no direct French participation –
but Jesuit missionaries had such high-profile that the English targeted them specifically.
Colonel Thomas Westbrook led troops to Norridgewock to capture Father Sebastien Rale in 1722. Rale fled before the English arrived, but left behind papers said to implicate French involvement in the Wabanakis’ attacks.
The English kept up their military offensives in War # 4, successfully (at last) in the east; but in the Connecticut River valley Western Abenaki Chief Greylock harried English settlements repeatedly, at will. Maine historians seldom mention Greylock’s name, but the Western Abenakis still count him as a freedom-fighter-extraordinaire. In Maine, historians
tend to emphasize the importance of two English blows struck against the Wabanakis:
1) In August 1724, after unsuccesful attempts by others, Captain Jeremiah Moulton (who at age four, 32 years before, had seen both his parents killed and scalped in an Indian raid on York in 1692) led a truly surprise attack on Norridgewock village-&-mission on the Kennebec River (near today’s Skowhegan). This time Father Rale and some sakamos were killed and scalped, many Wabanakis of all ages and both sexes killed, and the entire community burned and abandoned. Survivors regrouped and moved to recently abandoned, then fully destroyed, Indian Old Town on the Penobscot River, further from the English.
2) In May 1725, after £ 100 scalp-bounties were offered by Massachusetts government,
Captain John Lovewell led a bounty-party to Pigwacket village (at present Fryeburg), but was ambushed nearby the village. Lovewell and 14 of his men died, but their survivors held
their position and outgunned twice their number – to the point that the Natives withdrew, after their war-chief Paugus(a borrowed Mahican sakamo) was killed, not only from the battlefield but from their village as well – at least temporarily. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the English, but it did seem to shut down the Pigwacket fort called Narrockemecock on the Saco River. That fort-village on Saco River seems to have been the base, along with Odanak / St-Francis on Arsikontegok / St-Francois River in Quebec, for those Wabanakis who were at least seasonally using the Presumpscot River from at least c1700 onward.
War # 4 was officially terminated in July 1727 in a tent on Munjoy Hill with the signing of the Treaty of Falmouth, but the Wabanakis soon complained it was mistranslated to them. The idea that Wabanakis were to be “loyal subjects” of the British Crown, thus guilty of “treason” if they had “unlawful” dealings with the French, and that the British Crown itself “owned” all of the “once”-Wabanaki land not already specifically “deeded” to Englishmen, made little if any sense to the fluid-structured Wabanakis, even when translated perfectly.
By the end of War # 4, massive removals and regroupings of Wabanakis had occurred. While many moved north to French mission-stations in Quebec at Odanak / St-Francis and Wolinak / Becancour, many others moved eastward to form the Eastern Abenaki Penobscot community, and the Etchemin Passamaquoddy and Maliseet communities, that we know today. War #4 was a definite turning point in the Dawnland Diaspora for Survival, but the Wabanakis’ seasonal returns to traditional hunting-fishing-gathering places befuddled and angered the English expansionists. Real issues still were not resolved, and the French still wanted a Wabanaki buffer zone between Canada-Acadia and the English settlements.
With the wisdom of hindsight, we can see what the ever-growing English population in the thin ribbon of coastal settlements could not see – that it really was not yet safe enough to start going up-rivers inland, to found new townships, and gradually turn that old thin ribbon into a new ever-broader sash. Yet the 1730s was when the English push inland started. That also was the time of industrial development which fostered it: dam-and-mill construction blossomed on many rivers and streams, financed by both local and Massachusetts wealth.
A prominent developer in the now-Portland area was Colonel Thomas Westbrook, who had been commander of eastern frontier troops in War # 4. In 1727 he moved from Portsmouth to (Old) Falmouth, where he gave the name Stroudwater to that suburb of today’s Portland, and eventually lent his name to today’s city of Westbrook. Besides being Mast Agent for the Royal Navy he was an entrepreneur on his own account and with partners. His 1734-5 construction of a “great dam” on the Presumpscot was the largest project yet in the area.
Whether that dam was at First Fall (as William Willis, p 449 states) or at Second Fall (as some others state or imply) – apparently Westbrook had a dam at each -- is irrelevant to us, because it was at the Colonel’s feet that the blame was laid by the Wabanakis for his not opening the dam’s fishway seasonally, as he was supposed to do (and originally had done, according to one complaint), during the fish migrations upstream, which the Wabanakis depended upon, both to eat, and as fertilizer for crops. The first complaint, by three unnamed Wabanakis “belonging to Ammiscogan River” [ie, Presumpscot], was in 1736.
The first two new upstream Presumpscot River towns were Narragansett # 7 (now Gorham) and New Marblehead (now Windham). In 1736 John Phinney (son of a veteran of War #1’s Narragansett Campaign) canoed up the Presumpscot with his son Edmund to be the first settlers of today’s Gorham. In 1737, after commuting from (Old) Falmouth until he had readied his land, Thomas Chute of Marblehead MA moved-in his family, to become the first settlers of today’s Windham. Other settlers soon followed in both communities.
In 1739, after the Presumpscot Wabanakis had received no positive response about the seasonal opening of fishways in dams, their last sakamo known to us by name -- Polin --
went to Boston to appeal to the Governor and Council. The official records 5 of their talk
include this question and answer about the size of Polin’s band on the Presumpscot:
Governor Belcher: “How many Familys have you att Pesumpscot?”
Chief Polin: “About 25 Men besides Women & children.”
This projects to between 75 and 100 or more persons, of all ages and both sexes – but nothing was said about where they were based, and if they were seasonal or year-round.
The Governor and Council agreed with Polin that fishways should be opened on dams, wherever Native fishing took place, and decreed so. However, there was no sure way to
enforce that decree, especially in Maine. So, while Polin won the round, he lost the fight.
And, understandably, Polin also lost his will to respect Englishmen and their laws. After
trying in vain to play by their rules, he was left with no choice but to try to get even.
Before very long the new towns began being troubled by Wabanakis who were both reacting to local pressures and hearing rumors of yet another European war: England’s 1739 war with Spain morphed in 1740 into the full continental War of the Austrian Succession. So, in 1743 the Massachusetts government ordered that a line of defensive forts be built against future French and Indian attacks, and both Gorham and Windham were funded to do so. In each town, in 1744, a Province Fort was built, supposedly big enough to enclose the community’s evacuated citizens during an attack. In Gorham, the fort was on Fort Hill (west side of Fort Hill Road just north of cemetery); in Windham, it was on Anderson Hill (north side of Anderson Road at intersection with River Road).
Anglo-Wabanaki War # 5 (King George’s War) was declared in June 1744. In 1745, New England militias had their finest hour by capturing the largest stone fort in North America, the French Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island NS. The 4000 New Englanders were led by Colonel William Pepperell of Kittery, who was created a baronet for his / their efforts. One of his officers was Moses Pearson of (Old) Falmouth, whose Portland-area veterans eventually (really after War # 6) would be granted Pearsontown (now Standish) for their military service. Also under Pepperell at Louisbourg was a group of Pigwacket warriors who chose to side with the English, and moved to Boston – proving Wabanaki flexibility in choosing leadership (and the Pigwackets themselves) still thrived.
But that was the good news. The bad news was that the English treaty-makers soon gave Louisbourg back to the French, in 1748, much to the ire of New Englanders. And in the new inland towns of Maine (Gorham and Windham), home-life during War # 5 was grim.
Out of 18 families in Gorham, nine decided to stay on throughout the war, and nine left the new town temporarily for coastal communities. In April 1746, Gorham was fatally raided, one house at a time, so unless other families saw or heard mayhem, or received refugees before raiders, there was little time for either home-defense or evacuation to the Fort. Yet, whenever rumors of imminent raids made it seem wise to live at the Fort, proper care for livestock and crops suffered neglect. A trade-off was for men to form collective guarded work-parties which moved from farm to farm during daylight, while women and children stayed in the Fort. Still, livestock and crops often were destroyed, and any person found momentarily separated from any group easily could be captured or killed by the “skulkers”.
Even the coastal community of (Old) Falmouth had a terrible scare in September-October 1746. Furious over their loss of Louisbourg, the French Navy planned a bombardment and invasion of New England ports, Falmouth included. A large French fleet and over 3000 troops arrived in Nova Scotia, but it was hit by an epidemic, which killed the admiral. And then a violent gale scattered the fleet and destroyed many ships – much like the so-called “Protestant Wind” that broke up the Spanish Armada in its 1558 attempt to invade England.
New England offered thanksgiving for its deliverance, especially since Old England sent no
Royal Navy squadron to help defend the Colonies against the French fleet’s planned attack.
Spring and summer 1747 found Presumpscot communities under attacks again. Saccarrapa and Windham suffered multiple killings and capturings – one of the captives being young Joseph Knights, who would again be captured in War # 6. Two whaleboats were sent from (Old) Falmouth to Sebago Lake to be used in pursuit of raiding parties – although pursuit sometimes meant that the raiders would kill their least-fit captives who might delay the resulting necessarily-speedier-flight from the pursuers, posing another trade-off decision.
“Pooran6,Chief of the St.Francois” was expected to attend a Treaty Conference at Falmouth
in October 1749, but apparently did not come. However, the wording of that comment tells
us that Polin was then a sakamo in residence at Odanak / St-Francis, the large Wabanaki village and French mission-station on the Arsikontegok / St-Francois River, near its junction with the St-Lawrence River, in southern Quebec, and it suggests that he seems to have given up entirely on diplomatic approaches to his grievances about English intrusions on the Presumpscot. Odanak was a major new base for many displaced Maine Wabanakis.
In Europe, the War of the Austrian Succession ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in October 1748. London celebrated it with Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, etc. But in New England, despite Massachusetts Governor Phipps’ proclamation of November 1749 to “require all his Majesty’s good Subjects to live in Peace with the Indians”, they did not do so, nor did the Wabanakis do so with them. Different accounts give different dates, depending on local circumstances, as to when War # 5 (King George’s War) really did end, but I suggest that, despite Conferences of 1752, 1753, 1754 with different groups of Wabanakis, War # 5 simply morphed into War # 6 (The French & Indian War), which was part of the so-called Seven Years War between Britain and France for world empire. On the Wabanaki Frontier in Maine the same old grudges defied any sort of diplomacy.
Only local affairs will be discussed in considering War # 6 herein, starting with geography.
A glance at adjoining Maps 4 and 5 of Delorme’s MAINE ATLAS shows the closeness of
Saco River to Presumpscot River at the south end of Sebago Lake: straightline ten miles between Steep Falls (in today’s Standish) to White’s Bridge (on Standish-Windham line);
straightline twelve miles between East Limington (where Little Ossipee River meets Saco River) and South Windham (on Gorham-Windham line at Little Falls).
Local histories mention Indian trails between the Saco and the Presumpscot, and in my opinion it seems probable that there was indeed considerable interaction between Wabanaki bands based on either or both rivers – more so than (but not totally excluding) between those of the Sebago-Presumpscot drainage and the Androscoggin River. Thus Pigwacket village in today’s Fryeburg (on the upper Saco) logically would be the main near-base for Presumpscot-using Wabanakis, and unquestionably Odanak / St-Francis was the far-base.
Wabanakis living on thePresumpscot would have been as endangered as were the English,
during this War # 6 – even using the Presumpscot would have been hazardous for them.
In the still more-theoretical-than-actual newest town on the Presumpscot (also on the Saco), Pearsontown (now Standish), the fort was built in 1754, long before actual settlers came to live. Workers had the fort almost completed, and had gone to (Old) Falmouth for supplies, when an Indian raid set it afire. Other raids kept the workers inside the fort for days on end.
Notes from the 25 July 1754 meeting of Governor Shirley’s Council in Boston state:
“His Excellency mentioning to the Board the many Outrages & Hostilities suppos’d to be
done by one Polan an Arssagunticook Indian [meaning Odanak / St-Francis]. Unanimously
advised that his Excellency be desir’d to pursue such measures as he shall think most proper for taking & securing the said Indian that so any further mischief may be prevented being done by the said Indian.” (MHS BM 24:17)
Showing the rising desperation (and inflation?) during the colonial period in New England, Massachusetts government offered bounties for (enemy) Indian scalps, starting with £ 3 each during War # 1 and ending with £ 300 each during War # 6. There was counterfeiting in some cases, by substituting friendly Indians’ scalps. (This understandably hastened a new hostility outbreak in 1755 in Maine.) The bounties not only stimulated in-person scalp-hunters, but also stay-at-home investors who outfitted bounty parties for profit-making -- somewhat comparable to US citizens investing in Government War Bonds in World War 2.
One such investor was (Old) Falmouth’s leading clergyman, Harvard graduate Parson Thomas Smith, whose father Thomas Sr was Truckmaster (Indian-trading-post manager) on the Saco at Union Falls in today’s Dayton ME, and whose son became Parson Peter Smith in New Marblehead (Windham). Thomas Jr wrote in his Diary for 18 June 1757: “I received £ 165, 3s, 3d of Cox for my part of scalp money.” His salary that year, he reports elsewhere, was £ 800. It is from Parson Thomas Smith’s Diary that we learn details about events leading to and including Chief Polin’s last raid of revenge, on Windham, in 1756:
May 10. “This morning we are alarmed with young [Joseph] Knights, who escaped from the Indians three days ago,and got to North Yarmouth this morning, who brings news of 120 Indians coming upon the frontier who are to spread themselves in small scouts [scouting-parties] from Brunswick to Saco.” [Smith 165] [This was JK’s second captivity.]
May 14. “This morning, one Brown was killed and Winship was wounded and scalped at [New] Marblehead [Windham]. Manchester fired upon them, and we hope killed an Indian
[He did; it was Polin!], as did Capt Skillin another. The Indians fled affrighted and left five packs, a bow and a bunch of arrows, and several other things.
“Brown and Winship were going with a guard of four men and four lads to work upon Brown’s Place, about a mile from the fort, right back, and the two Walkers forward on about 60 rods, and the Indians fired on them; whereupon Manchester fired once, but Farrow and Sterling with the other two lads run away home, and the Indians fled also in great haste. Capt Skillin with a company being gone out in the woods about a mile, were called back and with Capt Brown’s scout (that happened also to be there) pursued the Indians and fired on one, and then all shouted for victory. Manchester was the hero of the action, but Anderson behaved gallantly calling, follow on my lads; or the English, perhaps all of them, would have been killed.” [Smith 165-6]
Only decades-later accounts tell the follow up. The Wabanakis supposedly carried away Polin’s body, went up the Presumpscot, and buried (most of) him, under the roots of a tree that they partly bent over and set straight again. Some say one of Polin’s legs was taken back to Canada for Catholic burial. Some say that decades later still, workmen by the Songo Lock dug up bones that were considered to be Polin’s – including a huge mandible (lower jaw) that could surround a normal sized one. If it were indeed Polin’s jaw, it could indicate that he had acromegaly, a form of giantism, probably hereditary, that could have been seen as a supernatural distinction for himself, and his lineage, and would give chiefly status by default. Some persons claim to have seen these bones; some claim to know where they are now. Some persons claim that Polin’s descendents are alive and well. Cooperation and DNA testing perhaps could tell us much more about the last known sakamo of the Presumpscot, who truly deserves respect as the Last Freedom Fighter of the Native Period 7 of the River. Currently, facts about Polin cannot easily be separated from fables.
The 19th-century poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote Polin a sort of eulogy in 1841, but got
both the geography and the ethnicity wrong: The Funeral Tree of the Sokokis. The Saco
River Wabanakis were just that, not Sokokis (who lived on the middle Connecticut River).
And the Saco River does not drain Sebago Lake – the Presumpscot River does. That much
we do know, along with the sad fact borne out by this sad story: that Indian Treaties have been mostly pothole patches at best, not by any means making for smooth roads forward.
The term Freedom Fighter is hard for us to understand. We can only marvel at English statesman William Pitt Sr, who, in 1777 during the American Revolution, told the English Parliament “While a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms – never –never—never!” He could grasp the validity of the Americans’ desire to expel the English. But a decade earlier very few if any of those same Americans could have grasped the validity of the Indians’ desire to expel the American English invaders of the Indians’ homeland. And we today still seem to have that same irrelativism, in world affairs.
Ethnohistory reminds us that our ancestors were not ourselves by candle-light – their world and worldview then were very different from our world and worldview now. But once in a while we can find a “positive?” value in common that inspires across the time gap. In the case of Elizabeth McLellan McLellan (she and her husband Hugh were distant cousins), I find a sort of role-model for the ages, and a fascinating tale of encounter dynamics on the Wabanaki Frontier. Hugh and Elizabeth were Ulster Scots (“Scots-Irish”) who came to settle in Narragansett # 7 (Gorham) in the winter of 1738-9 and lived there through Wars #5 & #6 and beyond. Their story is told by their descendent Hugh D McLellan in his 1903 History of Gorham – admittedly a potentially biased account, but still valuable to consider.
My next paragraph below sets the stage for the final paragraph’s quoted coda.
The McLellan family went to the Fort (on Fort Hill) to live in it, the day after a truly brutal massacre of the Bryant family in the Indian raid of April 1746, and “in about seven years, they returned to their log-house”! In autumn 1750, during the theoretical “peace” between Wars #5 & #6, and while all the men and boys were collectively harvesting the fields, the women and children were in the fort without any guard but their own wits – and old Bose, Elizabeth’s dog. Bose’s sudden growling sent Elizabeth to bar the fort’s gate and climb to the watch-box with a rifle she knew how to use well. While other women present, except one, refused to believe her, a lengthy wait-&-watch finally produced a “skulking” Indian, whom Elizabeth shot and mortally wounded. Later, captives from isolated Gorham homes eventually reported that Bose’s and Elizabeth’s actions had scared off the planned attack on the fort – the raiders assuming that a guard-party of soldiers must have been on duty there.
“Mrs McLellan lived to a good old age, and would never give up that she did not kill or desperately wound an Indian and save all in the fort. During her entire life she held an unconquerable antipathy against Indians; still she treated them kindly. In passing through the town they always made her a call, and she never let one go away hungry, and made her conduct invariably kind to them. From policy she did not let them know her feelings. An Indian was never known to treat her otherwise than with kindness and respect, and she enjoined on every member of her family to treat the Indians kindly, for she knew the talk among the settlers was that the barbarities exercised toward the Bryants was heightened by a trifling insult received previous to the war, by a young Indian, from one of the females of the family. And as peace with the Indians was precarious, she kept an eye on the main chance.” [McLellan 65; see also 62-64, 658-659]
I would like respectfully to dedicate this paper
to the fond memory of
ERNEST HARMON KNIGHT
Historian of Raymond & Casco
and of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal
for his many years of friendship
and historical assistance to me
1 ethnohistory combines the findings & theories of ethnology (cultural anthropology) with the methods of historiography (history-writing), thereby mitigating the bias of the limited written records about “the peoples without ‘history’”. An analogy I like is that ethnohistory snowshoes beyond the end of the snowplowed pavement called history.
To quote the American Society for Ethnohistory’s website www.ethnohistory.org --
“Practitioners recognize the utility of maps, music, paintings, photography, folklore, oral tradition, ecology, site exploration, archaeological materials, museum collections, enduring customs, language, and place names. Furthermore, ethnohistorians…use the special knowledge of the group, linguistic insights, and the understanding of cultural phenomena in ways that make for a more in-depth analysis than the average historian is capable of doing based solely on written documents produced by and for one group.”
2 Wabanaki (meaning Dawn-Land-ers) is the collective name for those Northeastern Algonquian-Language-Family peoples of northern New England and Maritime Canada, specifically known as Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Abenaki, and Pennacook. All of these peoples were / are living in Maine, and each people had a number of locally-named bands / communities. When in doubt as to what name to use for any / all “Maine Indian” group(s), the one safe answer is always to say Wabanaki.
3 Mawooshen Description document has been reprinted in full in several modern publications, but my favorite venue (because it appears in such detailed context with so very many other relevant contemporary documents) is The English New England Voyages 1602-1608, edited by David B. QUINN and Alison M. QUINN (1983) for The Hakluyt Society, London (Second Series, No. 161). However, I must give a warning: While the Quinns are high among the foremost historical scholars of the Age of Discovery, when it comes to the ethnohistory of the Wabanaki peoples, the Quinns erred grievously in following the lead of the Smithsonian (1978) Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15: Northeast, wherein the entire 1500s-1600s past of the Western Etchemins is wrongly added to the 1700s-present period of the Eastern Abenakis. Therefore, in their Notes about the documents of the 1500s-1600s, every time the Quinns say “Eastern Abenakis”, what they really mean to say, and should have said, is Western Etchemins. This means that most of Captain Waymouth’s five Wabanaki captives from Muscongus Bay, and certainly paramount-sakamo Bashaba on Penobscot River (who headed Mawooshen confederacy), really were Western Etchemins. Relocations following Native trade-wars, European-disease epidemics, English pushing, and French pulling, led the Etchemins to move eastward out-of the area, into which came eastward the equally-disrupted Abenakis. The 1614 document I refer to regarding Ashamahaga appears in Quinn & Quinn (1983) as Document 25, and the 1625 publication of the Mawooshen Description as Document 50.
4 A year later (1658), when Massachusetts took over government of southern Maine, there were, according to William Willis (p 98), who specifically names them: “On the east side of Presumpscot River” four persons’ families; and “On the west side of that river” three persons’ families. Why Francis Small’s name is not included in the Willis list is because Willis was stating only the mouth-of-the-river settlers, who had received their lands from English-grant-holders who had previously received their lands “directly” from the English Crown (Christian to Christian), with no consideration whatever about (“pagan”) Indian “possession” as a potential issue. King’s grants were the first and only “legality” early-on.
If this seems ethnocentric, racist, et cetera, it was simply in-sync with the earliest Western European mind-set at the dawn of the Age of Discovery -- namely, that God granted all lands to the Pope to distribute to Christian monarchs. The Papal Line of Demarcation (1493-94) divided the entire non-Christian world between Spanish and Portugese spheres of influence. Balboa’s 1513 “discovery” (and claim-for-Spain) of the Pacific Ocean was the first proof that there is a “New World” between western and eastern sides of the then-known Eurasian landmass (thereafter called “Old World”). The existence of Native peoples in this New World (not being mentioned in Genesis, and called “Indians” when Columbus thought in 1492 that he had landed off the coast of India) caused a theological and practical crisis which took time to ponder. Finally it was decided that they were “truly human”, and a Papal Bull of 1537 pronouced the decision. (Protestants had to make up their own minds.)
5 Official records about Polin seem to be limited to 3 named and 1 unnamed Primary Source accounts in the Maine Historical Society’s publications of archival manuscripts.
Listed by date they are:
1736: MHS Documentary History Baxter Manuscripts Vol. 11 (1908) pp.173-173.
1739: MHS Documentary History Baxter Manuscripts Vol.23 (1916) pp. 257-262.
1749: MHS Collections Vol. 4 pp. 145-167, especially 147.
1754: MHS Documentary History Baxter Manuscripts Vol. 24 (1916) p. 17.
6 How can Pooran be the same person as Polin? Simply because there are different dialects in some Algonquian-Language-Family languages: so a speaker of an R-dialect would pronounce Polin’s name differently than a speaker of an L-dialect, and an English translator or secretary would write it down differently – and since this was a statement about Polin, not by him, that scenario seems like the simplest explanation of the difference.
7 The Last Freedom Fighter? On the Presumpscot, yes. Among the Wabanakis, no. In the American Revolution (War #7 on the list), while some Wabanakis joined the American Colonial forces to fight the British, other Wabanakis stayed neutral, and a few even joined the British cause, if only to revenge past American Colonists’ taking away their homeland or hunting-fishing opportunities. Bethel ME (then still called Sudbury Canada) was raided, with a few Colonists killed or captured. In the War of 1812 (War #8 on the list) it was properly feared that the same grudges might erupt again, but they seem not to have done so.
CHAMPLAIN , Samuel de
1922 / 1971 Works (in six volumes). / Volume 1: 1599-1607. H P Biggar, editor.
Orig: Toronto: Champlain Society. / Repr: Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
ECKSTORM, Fannie Hardy
1941 / 1960 Indian Place-Names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast.
Orig: Univ of Maine Studies, 2nd Series, No55, Nov 1941. / Repr: Orono: U of M Press.
FOBES, Charles S.
1894 The Story of the Presumpscot. Pages 361-386 of Maine Historical Society, Collections & Proceedings, 2nd Series, Vol 5 (1894) / Portland: MHS.
KENDALL, David L.
1987 Glaciers & Granite: A Guide to Maine’s Landscapes and Geology.
Camden: Down East Books.
1624 / 1988 A Voyage Into New England, Begun in 1623 and Ended in 1624.
Pages 33-68 of Maine in the Age of Discovery, Roger Howell & Emerson W. Baker, eds.
(1988) / Portland: Maine Historical Society.
MHS (Maine Historical Society)
See Note 5.
McLELLAN, Hugh D.
1903 / 1992 The History of Gorham Maine.
Orig: Portland: Smith & Sale Printers. / Repr: Camden: Picton Press.
SMITH, John (Captain)
1910 / 1967 The Description of New England. In Travels & Works (in two parts). / Pt. 1.
Edward Arber, editor. / Orig: (Edinburgh) / Repr: NY: Burt Franklin.
SMITH, Thomas (Reverend)
1849 Diary, 1720-1788. In Journals of Rev Thomas Smith & Rev Samuel Deane.
William Willis, editor. (1849) / Portland: Joseph S. Bailey.
1884 James Phinney Baxter, editor. Documentary History of the State of Maine, Vol.3.
Portland: Maine Historical Society.
1865 1972 The History of Portland, 2nd Edition.
Orig: Portland: Bailey & Noyes. / Repr: Somersworth NH: New Hampshire Publ’g Co.
[LAND-DEED of SCITTERYGUSETT to FRANCIS SMALL]
Casco Bay 27: day of July 1657:
Bee it knowne vnto all men by these prsents, that I Scitterygusett of Casco Bay Sagamore, do hereby firmely Couenant bargan, grant, & sell vnto Francis Small of the sd Casco bay fisherman, his heyres, executors, Administrators, & assignes, all that vpland & Marshes at Capissicke, Lijing vp along the Northerne side of the riuer, vnto the head yr of, & soe to reach & extend vnto ye river side of Ammecungan/ To haue & to hould & peaceably to possesse & Injoy all the aboue sd Tract of Land with all manner of Royaltys, of Mines, Mineralls, fishings, fowlings, Hawkines, huntings, Immunjtys profetts, Comoditys, libertys, & priuiledges wtsoeuer, for the same for euer to abide, & remajne, to the soole & onely
pper vsse, & behoofe of him the abouesd Fran: Smale, his heyres, executors Administrators & assigns for euer; In witnesse wrof I haue here vnto sett my hand & seale the day & yeare aboue written/
Signed sealed & Deliuerd The marke of
In the psence of, Scitterygussett/
Nathanjell Wallis/ Vera Copia Transcribed, & Compared
The marke of by ye originall July : 8 : 59 : Edw:
Peter Indean/ Rishworth Re: Cor:
Memorandum yt I Francis Smale do bind my selfe yearly to pay unto
ye sd Scittergussett Sagamore during his life one Trading Coate for
Capussicke & one Gallone of Lyquor for Ammomingan/ Francis Smale
Transcribed out of ye originall
p Edw: Rishworth Re: Cor:
[Source: York Deeds Book I / Part I / Fol. 83. (1887) Portland]
THE SIX ANGLO-WABANAKI WARS
From east to west, the WABANAKI Peoples (= Dawnlanders) at one time or another collectively included the MICMAC, MALISEET, PASSAMAQUODDY, PENOBSCOT, ABENAKI, and PENNACOOK, and the various divisions thereof.
1. KING PHILIP’S WAR 1675 – 1678
(No European Counterpart)
2. KING WILLIAM’S WAR 1688 – 1699
(War of the League of Augsburg)
(War of the Grand Alliance)
3. QUEEN ANNE’S WAR 1702 – 1714
(War of the Spanish Succession)
4. ABENAKI WAR 1721 – 1726
Governor Dummer’s War
(No European Counterpart)
5. KING GEORGE’S WAR 1744 – 1749
Governor Shirley’s War
(War of the Austrian Succession)
6. THE FRENCH & INDIAN WAR 1754 – 1763
(Seven Years War)
PLUS TWO MORE POTENTIAL WARS, WHEN WABANAKI AFFAIRS WERE STILL VERY VOLATILE:
7. AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1775 -- 1783
First War for American Independence
8. WAR OF 1812 1812 -- 1815
Second War for American Independence