Imágenes de páginas

trainings to prepare themselves for active service, and the government renewed the project of fortifying the New Town, and in 1632, a tax of sixty pounds, was levied on the towns for that purpose, in the following proportion.*

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

1 10

[ocr errors]

60 A fortification was began on the Cornhill in Boston, and the people in the adjoining towns afforded their aid in the work. During the alarm the Sagamores in the vicinity of Boston, held out strong professions of friendship; and the great sachem Miantonimoh, of the Narragansets, unwilling to engage in a war with the English, travelled to Boston and expressed his desire of forming a league of friendship, and of remaining at peace, on which the alarm subsided.

Thus relieved from their fears, the people began to extend their plantations into the interior and along the coast, and before the conclusion of 1636, settlements were made at Quascacumquen, (Newbury,) Muskeraquid, (Concord,) Beaver Cove, (Hingham,) Aggawam, (Ipswich,) and Sudbury. A few new towns had also been planted in Plymouth colony, and in New Hampshire, besides the settlement at Piscataqua, and one at Strawberry bank, now Portsmouth,

On a review of the incidents connected with the first settlement of Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies, it cannot but appear on the first view, extraordinary that the planters met with so little interruption from the natives. From the hostile conduct towards the ships trading on the coast, previous to the landing of the pilgrims, nothing but vindictive war was to have been expected. Instead of this, the natives generally evinced a peaceable disposition, and admitted the English among them with apparent satisfac

* A fosse dug around the New Town, Cambridge, is in some places, visible to this day.-Holmes' Annals, Vol, i. p. 266. Note.

tion. On reflection however, several circumstances may be mentioned to explain their conduct. Both colonies took great pains to conciliate the natives in their first intercourse with them : in most cases the settlers obtained their lands by fair purchase, though it must be admitted that the price paid was small, but it is generally believed to have been equal to their value at the time. In all cases where the natives complained of injuries done them, full satisfaction was made by the English, either by punishing the

agressors, or by paying the damage sustained, and this generally had a good effect. Sometime prior to the landing of the English for the purpose of making permanent settlements, the natives had occasionally traded with the fishing vessels on the coast, and thereby obtained many articles of European manufacture, which administered much to their comfort and convenience, and though they afterwards became hostile, in consequence of the cruel treatment of these navigators, it is probable they were not averse to the settlement of their lands by the English, provided they should be humanely treated, and a trade opened on fair terms, by which they could obtain further supplies. Besides, they saw that the English were powerful from the use of fire arms, and, no doubt, they perceived the advantages that would result to themselves from an alliance with the English, in carrying on their wars with the tribes with whom they were in hostility.

But perhaps the most powerful cause which disposed the natives to a peaceful policy may be attributed to a fatal sickness which had prevailed among them, and swept ofl vast numbers, a short time before the arrival of the settlers. So fatal was this disease, that whole lodges were depopulated, and the carcasses of the inhabitants were found, in great numbers, scattered about the woods, and their bones bleaching in the sun, when first explored by the English. Another fatal disease spread among the natives soon after the arrival of the English. This was the small pox, which had been imported from Europe, and probably was more fatal than the previous disease. When Dr. Cotton Mather wrote, he says, “there were many old planters living, wbo related that they assisted in burying whole families of the natives at once." Many, when seized with the disease, were deserted by their friends, and left to die without assistance, in their miserable huts, and their carcasses to decay above ground. By these fatal diseases, the population of the country on the sea board, in Massachusetts and Plymouth, had very much diminished, and the natives felt little disposition to engage in hostilities with the planters.

The pacific disposition evinced by the two sachems Masassoit and Chickatawbut, who were still at the head of considerable tribes, was very fortunate for the first planters. Whether they were induced by real friendship, or other motives to permit the English to settle among them, is uncertain; but it cannot be doubted, that had these chiefs been hostile, the condition of the English would have been totally reversed: and it remains a question whether, with all the advantages derived from their fire arms and fortifications, they could have established themselves in New England under such circumstances.


By the influx of emigrants from England, the seacoast of Plymouth and Massachusetts, as well as the most eligible places in the vicinity, were now principally taken

up for settlements, and the planters began to extend their views to more inland parts of the country. The rich alluvial bottoms on the Connecticut river (by the natives called the Quonektacut,) which had been visited and described by the Plymouth traders, who had sailed some distance up the stream, attracted their attention. Some time previously, Wahquimacut, one of the principal sachems residing on that river, visited Plymouth and Boston, and represented to the governors of both colonies, the fertility of the lands, and urged them to send people to settle on the banks of the river, promising to furnish corn and beaver to such as would accept of his invitation. The governor of Massachusetts treated the sachem with respect, but paid no further attention to his project. Mr. Winslow, the governor of Plymouth thinking it worthy of notice, soon sent people to explore the country, and examine the river, and lands on its banks. The explorers found the river to be a capacious stream of pure water, bordered by extensive bottoms, partially cleared, on which considerable quantities of corn and other esculents were cultivated by the natives. Not only the river, but its confluent streams, abounded with fish of various kinds; of the larger sort, were salmon, shad, bass and sturgeon, which at the proper seasons were taken, particularly at the falls, in great abundance, by various artifices of the natives. Nor were the adjacent woods less prolific in game of all kinds found in similar latitudes. Besides the smaller quadrupeds, the moose, deer, bear, wolf, beaver, otter, fox and raccoon, were found in great plenty ; and the catamount, the dreaded enemy of the other animals, was not unfrequently seen prowling the woods. Fowls were also numerous; those of the aquatic kind covered the ponds and rivers in the spring season, and the woods teemed with others proper for the table. The accounts of the prodigious flocks of pigeons found in the woods, “ darkening the heavens in their flight,” would hardly be credited, were it not that they have been seen in vast numbers in later times, and still continue innumerable in our west-. ern regions.

Notwithstanding these allurements, serious impediments presented to emigration to the Connecticut. The Indians were populous on the river, and should they prove hostile, the adventurers might not be able to maintain their plantations, without aid from their brethren on the sea coast, which could not be afforded on a sudden emergency. The obstruction of the navigation of the river by ice, in the winter season, was another difficulty attending the settlements on its banks; and it was evident this must be a great embarrassment to transportation by water. At first, it was determined to erect a trading house only, at some place convenient for exchanging English commodities for furs brought down the river by the natives. Governor Winthrop at first entered into the project with governor Bradford; but on further consideration, gave it up as unimportant, and left the latter to carry it into operation without him.

A position for a trading house having been selected, the enterprising people of Plymouth resolved to occupy

it, as soon as possible. In 1633, materials for a small building, completely prepared, were put on board a vessel, with a chosen company; and William Holmes, commissioned by the governor, sailed for Connecticut river, in July. On his arrival, he found the Dutch from New Netherlands had anticipated him, and erected a work which they called the Hirse of Goodhope, on the bank of the river, at the place now Hartford, and mounted it with cannon, with the intention of holding the country, which they claimed by a pretended prior discovery. Arriving opposite the fort, Holmes was ordered to lower sail and strike his colors, or the guns would open upon him. Disregarding the threat, he pressed boldly up the river, and landed on the right bank, a small distance below the mouth of the little river now in Windsor, where he set up his house, and enclosed it with a stockade. Several sachems, who had been driven from the river by the Pequots, and had sought refuge at Plymouth, returned to their country with Holmes, and pleased with the project of the English to settle among them, they readily sold the spot on which the trading house was built, then called Natawanute.

The establishment of the trading house at this place, gave umbrage to the Dutch at New Netherlands, and they resolved to drive the English from the station. The next year they sent a company of men to the Connecticut, to accomplish their design; but finding the Englislı determined to maintain the place, and that it could not be taken without a bloody contest, they gave


up. Trading vessels now frequented the river, and large quantities of fur were procured of the natives. One ship sailed for England with a cargo of beaver and peltry amounting to £1000 sterling. The Dutch also shared in this lucrative trade; and it is stated that, in one year, they obtained not less than ten thousand skins of the natives.

From this pacific conduct of the natives on the Connecticut, the English flattered themselves that they should meet with no interruption in their trade; but in this they were disappointed. At this time the Pequots, a powerful people, living about what is now New London, and Stonington, were engaged in a war with the river Indians,

« AnteriorContinuar »