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John Billington lost in the Woods

 Native American Nations | Massasoit of the Wampanoags                    

Hardly had this mission been successfully accomplished when there arose a great hue and cry for one John Billington who was lost. He had gone into the woods, and, unable to find his way out, wandered up and down for five days, finally reaching Manomet, twenty miles down the bay. The Manomets carried him further down the cape to the Nausets. The governor inquired of the Indians about him, and finally Massasoit sent word where he was and a shallop was sent for him. The Nausets soon after came, one hundred warriors, and "made peace" with the colonists. It is related that of the one hundred who came only sixty entered the village, the others holding themselves aloof. It was at about this time that Hobamock came to live at Plymouth. Whether he was the messenger who brought the tidings of Billington's whereabouts and remained, or not, does not appear; but he was there in August, for it was then that the episode between him and Squanto and Corbitant, which we will have occasion to consider later, came tumbling so close on the heels of that with the Manomet and Nauset that the settlers must have been nearly distracted by the antics of their neighbors. When Captain Standish with his formidable army of fourteen men surrounded the house in which Corbitant was supposed to be holding Squanto prisoner, if indeed he had not already dispatched him, three men were "sore wounded" in getting out, and were brought to Plymouth and healed; whereupon the colonists "received the gratulations of many sachems. Yea, those of the Island of Capawack sent to make friendship, and this Corbitant himself used the mediation of Massasoit to make his peace but was shie to come near them a long while after," as the story is told by Bradford.

     Following this series of events, each of which was fraught with the possibility of disaster to the settlers, came the red letter day of the whole year. On September 13, nine chiefs came to Plymouth to arrange a modus vivendi as modern diplomats would say; and before they got away every one of them signed an acknowledgment of allegiance to King James. Probably not one of them knew what he had done or dreamed that he had entered the town a prince, a ruler over his people, and left it a slave, for that is what the colonists tried to make of them; and their posterity have raised a great hue and cry about the faithless Indians not submitting to be governed by the colonists, as loyal subjects of the same king. Unless the rulers and holy men of God at Plymouth loaded them with "strong water" until they were entirely bereft of their senses, they undoubtedly thought that they were treating on equal terms with the settlers, signing a treaty of alliance, and not a craven surrender of their sovereignty. These nine chiefs were:

      Ohquamehud, said by Drake to be a Wampanoag, and undoubtedly true in the broad sense its which we use the term, for the same name, though spelled Oquomehod, appears on a deed from the Nausets to the people of New Plymouth in 1666.
     Cawnacome whom Drake identifies as Conecamon, Sachem of Manomet; and I desire to digress at this point to call attention to the fact that this latter spelling is identical with that of the name of Epenow's companion in captivity when he was carried away by Harlow in 1611, and undoubtedly identifies the former victim of English cupidity with the later sachem of his tribe.
     Obbitinua, said by Drake to be Obbatinewat, sachem of the Massachusetts, and subject to Massasoit. Dexter disagrees with Drake, on the theory that the colonists would not have asked him to submit himself by reason of his relations with Massasoit. This reasoning seems illogical to me, because there is strong ground for believing that the Massachusetts were not subjects, but allies of Massasoit, in fact the weight of authority strongly points to this conclusion; besides, even if he were a subject of Massasoit, Dexter's reasoning seems weak in view of the fact that nearly all the sachems who submitted themselves at that time were clearly subjects of Massasoit.
     Nattawahunt, probably Natawanute or Attawanhut of Connecticut, although Drake inclines to the belief that this is Nashacowan, a Nipmuck chief who was a subject of Massasoit. My reason for believing it to be the former is that Attawanhut, a Connecticut River sachem, had been dispossessed of his territory along the Fresh (Connecticut) River by Wapyquent, or Tattoepan as he is most frequently called, and Window, who had large property holdings in Connecticut and spent a considerable part of his time there, restored him to his former possessions, quite likely as a reward for his submission, and in the expectation of profiting by giving him, a subject of the king, the name of ruling the natives in the vicinity.
     Caunbitant, (Corbitant), Sachem of Pocasset whom we have already noticed.
     Chicataubut, of the Massachusetts.
     Quadequina, Massasoit's younger brother, who accompanied him to Plymouth on the occasion of his first visit and was undoubtedly one of the two "Kings of Pokanoket" whom Captain Dermer met in the wilds of Nemasket in 1619.
     Huttamoiden, Whom I am unable to identify from the writings of contemporary historians either by this name or any other bearing a close resemblance to it.
     Appanow, whom Drake takes to be Aspinet of Nauset, taking issue with other early writers, who think it was Epenow of Capawack. The closer similarity in sound together with the recorded fact that after the episode of Corbitant, Squanto and Hobamock the month previous, "those (Sachems) of the island of Capawack sent to make friendship," leads me to believe that it was Epenow. He had sent the month before and now undoubtedly came in person. This is probably the same Epenow who, with Conecamon, was carried away by Harlow in 1611, and made a thrilling escape three years later, as already related.

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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags


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