Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Pocahontas Wedding Site

The real Pocahontas
According to Yahoo News, recent archeological work at the original site of the Jamestown Colony has uncovered more information about the oldest known Protestant Church in North America. In fact, this church is most probably the same church in which the daughter of Chief Powhatan, the famous Pocahontas, married the Englishman John Rolfe in 1614.

Although, National Geographic had done a story on this church about a year ago, I guess the total layout and size of the building has been uncovered now. You can see what the church would have looked like in this video from Jamestown Rediscovery.
At the front of the church important Anglicans would have been buried. Archeologists found four graves they believe would have marked this spot. It is believed that the exact spot where Pocahontas would have been married is at the front of the church between these important burial sites.

Of course these graves do not mark the burial spot of Pocahontas herself. She died in 1617 while visiting England with her husband and son. The site of her grave is unknown, but a statue honors the area in Kent England.
Pocahontas memorial in Kent
Jamestown, Virginia is a little outside of Yankee territory, but the success of this first permanent English colony paved the way for future Yankee settlements. If I travel through the southern states again in the future, I would absolutely love to stop at this area. Road trip anyone??

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Indian Pudding- A Yankee Classic

Yankees have always loved desserts. Its funny because life was not always easy in New England, the early Puritan colonists did not always have the materials and ingredients they would have had in Europe. However, they always seemed to find just enough to scrape together a sweet treat. The Yankee style of hasty pudding, called Indian pudding, is a great example of this.

In Britain, at least since the 16th century, hasty pudding had been a well known dessert. It was created by boiling wheat flour in either milk or water until it reached the consistency of batter, kinda like oatmeal or cream of wheat. This was certainly no Bill Cosby style pudding cup.

When the early Yankee colonists were hacking out a life in colonial New England, wheat was not always available. However, ever since Squanto taught the colonists how to plant corn, “Indian flour” or corn meal was something Yankees would have been familiar with.

New Englanders boiled the corn meal in water or milk and flavored the thick mash with something sweet or salty. Again, they used things that would have been very familiar to them. They classically used maple syrup, molasses, or meat drippings. Cane sugar might not have been widely available this far north, but molasses would have been heavily traded in New England.

The mush could be eaten hot, or left to solidify. Slices could be taken and later fried. It was popular with early Yankees because it was easy and cheap to make, and also satisfied that craving for something sweat which they share with us.

In time, what was called Indian pudding evolved into a primarily sweet dish, as it remains today. Things like cinnamon, nuts, raisins, butter, and eggs were added to the recipe.

I have to say that Indian pudding is not exactly a favorite dish of mine. If its available at the table, I’ll sample a spoonful or two, but I’ve never actually attempted to make it myself.

If you’re interested, here is a recipe for Indian pudding from Yankee Magazine. Good luck with it and Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chamber Rock- Bournedale, Ma

I guess I am doing a short series on historic Massachusetts rocks. Maybe I’ll try to catch another for next week.

Chamber Rock, or as it has historically been called, Sacrifice Rock, was a somewhat frustrating historical study. I have never run across an object with so many honorable mentions in historical texts which still remains more or less anomalous. I still have a lot of questions about the rock, even after a week’s worth of research.

Chamber Rock lies right at the entrance of Chamber Rock Rd in Bournedale, Ma. Although, the boulder is called Chamber Rock now, because of the cave like formations its split created, it was once known as Sacrifice Rock, because of the legends of Native American ritual human sacrifice attributed to it. In fact, it still sits on the edge of Sacrifice Rock Woods in Bournedale.

Although the site has a definite lack of historical evidence to support even its original name, it is connected to an abundance of legends. These legends are interesting in that the two main versions reflect both a Christian and pre-Christian perspective on the origins of the shape of the rock.

In addition, the second version of legend surrounding Chamber Rock seems to actually be an origin story regarding why and how so many of the native tribes of the Cape area became Christianized during the early colonial period.

The first legend about this giant rock is actually not the most popular version, but it seems to have Wampanoag origins, so it might actually be the older of the two. This particular take on the story comes from a bulletin of the Massachusetts Archeological Society entitled Indian Rocks of Cape Cod, written by Howard Torrey.

As the legend states, in Ancient times, the people of Comassakumkanet (modern Herring Pond) were troubled. Their squash and beans would not grow and even their corn was dying. No rain had come in a month and their shaman’s prayers and incantations were unable to help. The people feared the coming of winter because they had not been able to store any food.

Because of the drought, they believed that the Thunder People were angry with them. So the Sachem of the tribe called together his councilors and his shaman. Among the leaders of the tribe it was decided that a great sacrifice must be made. It had to be a very important sacrifice. In fact, it had to be human sacrifice.

A victim was chosen from among captives taken from a raid on a distant village. There was a huge flat boulder in the village which had been used as a natural stage during traditional ceremonies and important tribal rites. This boulder was chosen as the site for the sacrifice.

The victim was brought to the top of the boulder and tied in place. Dry kindling was piled up beneath him. Great storm clouds began to gather in the sky, so the people believed the ceremony was already working.

The entire tribe, including the Sachem and the shaman, gathered around the boulder in prayer. The shaman held a torch, ready to light the dry wood beneath victim. As the shaman stepped forward the storm suddenly broke in a blinding flash of lightening and a deafening roar. The ground shook around the people and dust and debris filled the air.

When the dust cleared, the tribe saw that the great boulder had been split in half. All the village leaders lay dead, scattered around the boulder. Amazingly, the victim remained unharmed.
A split in Chamber Rock- Was it caused by lightning?
The people interpreted this as a sign from the Thunder People that human sacrifice was unacceptable. This news spread throughout the Wampanoag region and the practice of human sacrifice was ended. The boulder remains as a testament to those who would doubt this.

In this version, the story seems to be used to explain why the Wampanoag tribe did not perform religious human sacrifice. However, I could not find another resource that even indicated that the local tribes had ever done so.

The second version of this story has more of a Christian influence, but ultimately has the same moral lesson. I obtained this version from Scott Corbett’s An Informal History of Cape Cod: Cape Cod's Way.

In this version, an early colonist of Sandwich by the name of Richard Bourne was traveling through the village of Bournedale when he accidently came upon a group of Wampanoag in the midst of sacrificing one of their own on top of a large boulder.

Bourne was familiar with the native language so he screamed to the natives to stop what they were doing in the name of God. He explained to them that there was no need to sacrifice because he believed Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice for mankind already. When natives refused to end the ceremony, he called upon God to stop them. The Almighty apparently answered his prayer. In a flash, a bolt of lightening crashed down into the middle of the natives.

The bolt of lightening split the rock in half and killed a number of the local tribe members. However, the intended sacrifice victim remained unharmed. After seeing such an awesome display of power from the Christian God of the Englishmen, many of the local Wampanoag converted to Christianity and became Praying Indians. From among these converts Richard Bourne was able to open the First Indian Meeting House in Plymouth colony.

Both of these legends left me with more questions than I actually began with. Each story states that Chamber Rock had once been a site used for human sacrifice. However, these stories don’t seem to match historical evidence. Certainly the local tribes of this area had a tradition of sacrifice to their deities, but what this actually meant is a little unclear.

Luckily, there are other sites close by which were used for a similar purpose. According to Native Plymouth Tours, there are at least two other rocks currently called “Sacrifice Rock” in the town of Plymouth, only a few miles north of Bournedale.
Early colonists knew about these sites and wrote about them. Human sacrifice, though, did not seem to be part of the tradition. According to Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth:
"Sacrifice Rocks- Of these there are two, and both on the easterly side of the Sandwich Road . . . These rocks, still covered with small branches, remain as monuments of aboriginal religious rites. Like the Manittoo Asseinah, or Spirit Rocks of the western Indians, they have always received the homage of branches from the natives."
So, it seems as though a traditional Wampanoag sacrifice was made by placing a branch upon the rock, not by opening the throat of a human victim. These sacrifices were made to appease or make a connection with the native concept of the Manitou, which in Algonquian culture sometimes represented the balance of life and death in the universe, but could also represent the spirit within any given object. These Sacrifice Rocks were areas where this connection with Manitou was particularly strong.

There are other sources which seem to mention Chamber Rock (when it was called Sacrifice Rock) specifically. In his book In Olde Massachusetts: Sketches of Old Times and Places During the Early Days of the Commonwealth Charles Todd seems to refer to chamber Rock, though not in name. Todd quotes a missionary from Mashpee named Gideon Hawley:

"We have a sacrifice rock, as it is termed, between Sandwich and Plymouth, to which stones and sticks are always cast by Indians who pass by it. This custom or rite seems to be an acknowledgment of an invisible being, we may style him the unknown God, whom the people worship. This heap is his alter. The stone that is collected is the oblation of the traveler, which if offered with a good mind, may be as acceptable as a consecrated animal."
Hence, it seems even in Bournedale the site was not historically used for human sacrifice. Rather, it was an alter for sticks and stones to be laid upon. Other historical sources only mention its existence as a landmark, but say nothing of its history.

In at least the second version of the legend, Richard Bourne plays a star role. Of him, there is no lack of history and supporting evidence. According to the History of Richard Bourne and Some of His Descendants, Richard was an Englishman who first immigrated to Lynn, Ma between 1625 and 1630.

Of course, the town of Bourne would eventually bear his name when it separated from Sandwich in 1884. However, in 1637 Bourne came from Lynn to the new settlement of Sandwich with the first few settlers. He became a distinguished citizen and served as representative to the General Court of Massachusetts from Sandwich for 15 years.

Bourne was most well known for his work among the local tribes of the Wampanoag Confederacy. With his own funds, he purchased land for the tribe he called the South Sea Indians. He provided that this land could not be taken from the natives unless all tribal members consented. This land ultimately became part of the town of Mashpee. Richard Bourne also learned to speak the local dialect of Wampanoag. It was through this mastery of the native language that he once saved the town of Sandwich from an angry group of local native warriors. When no one else could, Bourne was able to talk the group out of attacking.

Bourne also acted as a missionary to the native people. He was able to translate a written copy of the Lord’s Payer into the Wampanoag language. Along with Thomas Tupper, he also opened the first Indian Meeting House in the Plymouth colony, of which he became the pastor in 1670. The site where the meetinghouse originally stood is now called Burrying Hill and still bears a plaque dedicated to the original native church and burial ground.
Burrying Hill- Bourndale Ma
In fact, it was partially this connection which Richard Bourne built with the native groups of Sandwich and Mashpee which allowed these towns to be a safe haven for the colonists during the King Philip’s War and prevented the native groups of these areas from joining Metacom’s warriors.  

An additional amazing tale is told of Richard Bourne and his work as a native missionary. This legend comes from Massachusetts: A Guide to its Places and People.

According to this legend Richard Bourne got into an argument with a Wampanoag Pow-wow, which is similar to a shaman or religious leader. The Pow-wow lost his temper in the argument and cast a spell on Bourne, which caused his feet to sink into the ground and become stuck. The two agreed that neither would move from that spot until one had beaten the other in a contest of wits and endurance. The contest lasted for 15 days, during which time a white dove descended daily from the sky to deliver a cherry to the mouth of Richard Bourne. Apparently the Pow-wow had no such help. Unable to cast a spell on the dove and weak with thirst and hunger, the shaman dropped to the ground with exhaustion and Richard Bourne was once again a free man.

The tale goes on to say that one of the cherries from the dove fell into a local bog during the contest of wits. This cherry turned into the cranberry, which is still widely grown on Cape Cod.

So, not only can Richard Bourne be credited with shattering Chamber Rock and Christianizing the Cape’s Wampanoag population, but he can also claim credit for bringing the cranberry to the Cape (at least in myth). However, it seems in both legend and history, Bourne was a pretty influential person in early Massachusetts.

As I said, I still have questions about Chamber Rock. Did tribes within the Wampanoag Confederacy once perform human sacrifice? Was Chamber Rock really an area used for this sacrifice? Two separate questions for which I have no definite answer.

Considering all the legends surrounding this site, it seems like it deserves at least a closer look. However, according to the Massachusetts Archeological Society in Indian Rocks of Cape Cod, there is really no archeological evidence to support that native tribes used this area at all.

In addition, this source states that Chamber Rock was probably not split by a lightening strike (sadly). Rather, it was split when it was deposited by the last glacier to pass through this area, and then widened by further freezing and thawing action. Not quite as exciting.

So, perhaps Chamber Rock was once an important religious site for tribes in the Wampanoag Confederacy. Maybe natives even performed or attempted to perform human sacrifice at this site. But, it seems also quite possible that natives and early Yankees just liked to have a story for every large strange shaped rock they saw. They're kinda like me in that way I guess.
One of the dark chambers within Chamber Rock

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

King Philip's War- We Shall Remain

After researching and presenting the history behind Anawan Rock I realized that I did not do a great job at summarizing the King Philip’s War for anyone who does not know much about New England History. To me, the conflict between the Wampanoag Confederacy and the English colonies is filled with drama, tragedy, bravery, and everything that makes studying history awesome.

I did not have space in the article to go in depth into the connections made between Massasoit (Metacom’s father) and Edward Winslow (Josiah’s father). These two were actually at least acquaintances. It might be going too far to say they were good friends. However, Edward had a much better relationship with the local tribes than Josiah did.

For anyone who is interested, PBS did a great series called We Shall Remain, which documents the interactions between the expanding American colonies and states and the Native American populations they conflicted with. The first episode is about the arrival of the Puritans in 1620, which ultimately leads to the King Philip’s War. If this is your first time looking into this type of history, this series will totally change your perception of “Pilgrim” history and Plymouth Plantation. It is a fantastic series and absolutely worth watching, even if you aren’t a history dork like me.

Below is the link to the first part of episode 1 After the Mayflower. The entire episode is available on YouTube at least for now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Anawan Rock- Rehoboth, Ma

There are a lot of famous rocks in New England. I try to visit and learn about as many as I can. They all seem to have great history and sometimes a legend attached to them. Of the abundance of historic stones, Anawan Rock in Rehoboth has some of the most interesting and saddest history attributed to it.

As I said in an earlier post, quite a lot of New England legends come from the time period of the King Philip’s War of 1675 and 1676. Anawan Rock not only has legendary tales connected to it, but it actually played a significant part in the struggle between the Wampanoag confederacy and the English during this conflict.

However, In order to understand the importance of Anawan Rock, one needs to be introduced to Colonel Benjamin Church and the native leader known as Anawan. Both of these men played their own heroic roles in Philip’s war which eventually came to a head on August 28, 1676 at a large rock in a Rehoboth swamp.

I got the majority of my information from The Entertaining History of King Philip's War, written mostly by Thomas Church, the son of Benjamin Church. Thomas used the notes his father kept during the war, which were originally published in 1716.

The hostilities previous to the King Philip’s War had been building between the English colonists and the Wampanoag even before the death of Wamsutta, the Sachem of the Wampanoag, who the colonists called Alexander. Wamsutta was the older son of the famous Sachem, Massasoit, who is famous for being one of the natives who greatly helped the colonists adapt to life in Plymouth.

Profile Rock- Supposed to be the face of Massasoit
Thomas Church claims in his writing that Wamsutta had been suspected of conspiring with the Narragansetts against the English. In reality, he had probably sold Wampanoag land to colonists outside of Plymouth. According to Church, Wamsutta was ambushed by an armed group of Englishmen at a hunting cabin. The men were led by Josiah Winslow, the soon to be Plymouth Governor. The English forcefully convinced Wamsutta to travel back to Plymouth with them. Wamsutta arrived in Plymouth, but before he could return home, he mysteriously died.

Josiah Winslow- Governor of Plymouth Colony
Wamsutta’s brother Metacom, who the English called Philip, succeeded his brother as leader of the Wamanoag Confederacy. He, of course, suspected that the Plymouth colonists had a hand in his brother’s death. I think this is highly probable.
Metacom as depicted on the Cover of Thomas Church's book
At the time of these building hostilities, Benjamin Church was living with his family on a newly settled farm in Little Compton, Rhode Island. The area was called Sogkonate by the local tribes. Church had been born near Plymouth colony in 1639 and was just beginning a young family of his own with his wife Alice Southworth. At the time he was a Captain of the local militia.

Benjamin Church
Benjamin Church had many native neighbors of the local Sogkonate tribe, who were a small part of the Wampanoag Confederacy. The tribe’s Sachem, or leader, was a very respected woman known as Awashonks.

Church had heard rumors of the growing hostilities between the Wampanoag and the English, but it was not until the spring of 1675 when Awashonks sent two of her men to invite Church to a tribal ceremony, that he became directly involved. One of these messengers was John Sassamon.

Thomas Church describes Sassamon as a “Praying Indian,” or a native who had converted to Christianity. However, it seems Sassamon might have been playing both sides, because for a time he acted as a secretary of sorts to Metacom (Philip).

When Church arrived at the Sogkonte village Awashonks met him with some disturbing news. She explained that Metacom had sent six men from his seat in Mount Hope (also called Pokanoket) with the intention of forcing her to join him against the English, who he claimed were already amassing a force to invade his home at Mount Hope (now Bristol, RI).

Awashonks was considering refusal, but the men promised that if she denied Metacom they would kill English cattle and burn local English homes in an attempt to frame her. The men promised the English would retaliate against her. This, of course, placed Awashonks in a tough spot.

Church again asked her to go to Plymouth and seek the protection of Governor Josiah Winslow. Although she seems to have agreed with the advice, she asked Church to go to the English on her behalf, which he agreed to do. Awashonks sent Church back home with a tribal escort for his own protection. Church asked Awashonks to remain out of the conflict as long as she could and promised he would return with protection for her.

Church began to make preparations to travel to Plymouth. However, before he could get there John Sassamon’s body was found beneath the ice of Assawomsett Pond in Middleboro and Lakeville.
Assawomsett Pond
A native witness claimed to have seen Metacom’s men commit the crime. Very quickly, three Wampanoags were arrested and tried for the crime at Plymouth colony. All three claimed innocence right up until their execution.

Church claims that Sassamon had traveled to Plymouth to warn the colonists that Metacom was amassing warriors to attack the frontier settlements of New England. Ultimately, the colonists believed that Metacom had ordered the assassination of Sassamon for this betrayal.

Benjamin Church arrived in Plymouth by June 16; he informed Governor Winslow about what he had seen and heard at the Sogkonate village. However, four days later Wampanoag natives from Pokanoket attacked the colony of Swansea. After several days of looting and vandalism, the Pokanokets destroyed the settlement and killed several people.
In Entertaining History of King Philip’s War, Thomas Church states several times that this event could have happened without the consent of Metacom, and that Metacom had been upset to hear that war with the English had actually begun.

From early spring of 1675, Benjamin Church was swept into the war. In retaliation for the attack on Swansea, Governor Winslow ordered an attack on Mount Hope, which Church was asked to participate in because of his relationship with the natives and the area. The English successfully captured Mount Hope during the battle.

Throughout the war Church displayed bravery and a cool head under fire. It was often his expertise and experience with the natives that allowed the English to snatch victory from sure defeat. Yet, his own relationship with the administration of the Plymouth colony began to fray.

During the spring, summer, fall, and early winter months of 1675 the English seemed pretty outmatched. Metacom and the Wampanoags were able to sack and destroy many settlements like Deerfield, Hadley, and Springfield. Other settlements like Bridgewater, Middleboro, and Wrentham were under constant threat of attack. The conflict had spread from Plymouth throughout New England. When the English would finally arrive on the scene, the native warriors would disappear into a swamp or wilderness, where the English seemed unable or unwilling to follow. Metacom himself always seemed to escape.

In retaliation, Wampanoags who were captured or willingly surrendered were often sold into slavery, generally to the West Indies. Benjamin Church objected to this practice. He posed that surrendered Wampanoag and neutral native groups should be used as allies against the enemy. The leaders of the English colonies, who had now banded together, thought his idea was unsafe and thoughtless. Natives could not be trusted in their estimation.

The English, under the command of Governor Winslow, worsened matters by attacking the formally neutral Narragansett tribe in December. They killed roughly 300 men, women, and children, forcing the Narragansett to join Metacom.

However, during the summer of 1675, Church was finally able to reunite with Awashonks and the Sogkonate tribe. They too had been forced to join with Philip, but during the summer, had been attempting to hide from the English and Pokanoket in Rhode Island. Now, because of their relationship with Church, they were more than willing to negotiate peace with the colonists.

Captain Church was able to convince Awashonks to take her people to Sandwich, where they would be safe from Metacom’s men. In Sandwich the Sogkonate agreed to declare allegiance to Captain Church against Wampanoag Confederation.

Governor Winslow finally commissioned Church to raise a company of English and natives under his command and appoint his own officers. Although the winter of 1675 was hard on the New England colonies, this proved to be a turning point. Church used his native and English as irregular scouts who would effectively enter the swamps and dense forests, where the English militia had proven ineffective.

Church actually learned from his native allies. He asked his soldiers how the Pokanoket had gained such an advantage over the English during the previous months. They had a fairly simple answer for him. According to Thomas Church:

"They told him that the Indians gain great advantage of the English by two things; [they] always took care in their marches and fights, not to come too thick together; but the English always kept in a heap together; [so] that it was easy to hit them, as to hit a house."

The native scouts also told Church that it was very easy to know where all the English soldiers were during a march, because they grouped together. But it was difficult to tell how many natives were in one area because they scattered.

Using this advice and his new rangers, Church was able track and capture many hostile war leaders of the Confederacy. At one time he almost captured Metacom, who he did not recognize because Metacom had long ago cut his hair in an attempt to blend in.

Through the spring and summer of 1676, Church and the English began to wear the Wampanoag Confederacy down. Church’s unit was able to capture many important leaders among the natives. They even captured Metacom’s own wife and child, who were sold into slavery.

Finally, in August of 1676, Church and his unit caught up to Philip in Miery Swamp, back in Mount Hope (Bristol RI). The ranger unit had apparently surprised Philip, who was not even dressed when his group was attacked. Ultimately, it was another “Praying Indian,” named John Alderman who shot Metacom in the heart, thus ending Philip’s part in the conflict. Alderman claimed that his brother had been killed by Philip for giving poor advice and it was ultimately Alderman’s own information which led to Metacom.

Philip’s body was dragged through the swamp and cut into pieces. Alderman was rewarded with Philip’s distinctly scarred hand and his severed head. Church goes on to say that Alderman showed his trophies to anyone who was willing to pay to see them. In fact, he even sold the severed head to Plymouth colony, where it was placed on a spike and displayed for an entire generation.

During the August battle at Miery Swamp Benjamin Church had noticed a particularly large Wampanoag warrior attempting to rally native fighters against the English. Although he did not know it until later, Church had actually had his first encounter with Anawan.

There are not a whole lot of historical records which tell us about Anawan. What we do know is that he was quite a bit older than Metacom, as he had been a warrior in service to Massasoit. Church describes Anawan as second in command under Philip during the war, but that is not totally agreed upon even in Church’s own source. Lastly, we know that Anawan’s seat seemed to have been in Squannaconk Swamp in Rehoboth, close to the area where he was finally captured.

Squannaconk Swamp Nov 2011
When Captain Church first saw Anawan he was screaming the words “Iootash, Iootash” at the Miery Swamp battle. Church later asked what the word meant and his Algonquian speaking allies informed him it meant “Stand to it and fight stoutly.”

I only mention this fact because one of the paranormal claims at Anawan Rock is that some hear this exact phrase being shouted. This is somewhat peculiar, because this particular event did not happen at Anawan Rock. But, who am I to dictate the rules of the paranormal?

With Metacom killed, two Wampanoag leaders remained in the field, one of which was Anawan. Anawan was particularly difficult to find because, as any captured native explained, he never spent the night in the same place twice. In addition, the Natives described Anawan as:
"A very subtle man, of great resolution, and often said that he would never be taken alive by the English."
Finally, in august of 1676 word came from Rehoboth that Anawan had been spotted. Benjamin Church gathered together his group of rangers and headed in that direction.

In the early evening of August 28 Church received information from local native informants as to the whereabouts of Anawan and the remainder of Philip’s warriors. The informants told Church that Anawan was camped in Squannaconk Swamp with 50 or 60 men.

Church now had a choice to make. He could attempt to capture Anawan during the night. However, he only had half a dozen men with him, and a fight in a dark swamp against superior forces was a tricky proposition. Yet, if he did not succeed that night, he knew he would once again lose Anawan.

Church and his men decided to risk the attempt. Captain Church and his six men were led on foot by the native informants into the Squannaconk Swamp, where they found Anawan’s camp beside the cliff of a large rock. There, they also found Anawan sitting with his young son.
Anawan Rock- the site of Anawan's 1676 camp at the rear of the Rock
Church and his men ordered his Wampanoag informants to enter Anawan’s camp first, carrying large baskets. Church and his men hid behind the informants as they entered the dark Rehoboth swamp. The rangers silently crept toward Anawan and his son. When Anawan’s son noticed them, it seems as though Captain Church briefly held the boy hostage.
My fiance and dogs following the path Church might have to Anawan Rock
When Anawan saw this, all the fight seemed to leave him. The warrior who said he would never be captured alive by the English yelled, “Howoh,” meaning “I am taken.” Anawan then sat back silently as Captain Church collected his weapons.

Captain Church sent his Algonquian speaking rangers to the other campfires throughout the Swamp to tell the hostile warriors that Anawan had been captured and that it was best for them to surrender peacefully; otherwise Captain Church’s army would kill them all. This was a grand claim for a main with six soldiers at his back, but sometimes its all about attitude.

Now, what does Church do after he captured the great Anawan and his warriors? He asks them what they were eating for dinner. The two men actually sat down and had a steak dinner together out in the Rehoboth swamp. Church did not believe that Anawan could speak English. Through translators, he explained that all of Anawan’s men would be spared, but he could not promise the same for Anawan. Still, he promised to speak to the leaders of Plymouth on his behalf.

As it had now become too dark to march his prisoners out of the swamp, Church’s men and Anawan’s men lay down to rest the remainder of the night. The only two that stayed awake were Anawan and Church, who sat silently staring at each other.

After an hour or so, Anawan stood up and walked into the dark. Church was suspicious that Anawan was organizing an ambush. He even made a grab for Anawan’s sleeping son, so he could use the boy as a human shield if Anawan came shooting out of the dark.

However the great war leader returned carrying only a package. Anawan sat down next to Church and in perfect English he said:
"Great Captain, you have killed Philip, and conquered his country; for I believe that I am my company are the last that war against the English, so suppose the war is ended by your means; and therefore these things belong to you."
Anawan handed the package to Captain Church. The wrap contained Metacom’s black and white wampum bead belts. It was about nine inches wide, the beads organized in the design of beasts, flowers, and other figures. With this belt came other wampum ornaments and two powder horns. Anawan informed Church that these were Philip’s royalities, with which he adorned himself. 

Thomas Church mentions in his notes that the wampum belt went to a family in Swansea. As far as I know, it has since been lost. If you are from Swansea and you read this, check your attic. A priceless piece of history is probably hidden right under Nana’s old fur coat.

Though Benjamin Church had not slept in the two previous days he had spent tracking Anawan, the two men sat the rest of the night in conversation. According to Church, Anawan fondly discussed Massasoit and the time he had spent serving with him.

This seems remarkable to me. As far as Anawan knew, this was going to be his last night on earth and this is how he spent it and this is what he chose to talk about.

Captain Church marched his prisoners back to Plymouth, where very quickly he was called to other business in Boston. When Captain Church returned to Plymouth he was unfortunately greeted by Anawan’s severed head. Though the two men were enemies, he expresses regret at seeing the head of the last of Metacom’s friends displayed at the end of a wooded pole.

Despite Church’s shifty relationship with the English administration, he went on to faithfully serve in the French and Indian War. His tactics would earn him the title “Father of American ranging.” During peacetime, he eventually resettled in Little Compton, Rhode Island. In 1718, Church died as a result of a horse riding accident. He is buried in Little Compton Common Cemetery.

The grave of Benjamin Church- Little Compton RI

I found this history to be rather sad. It was amazing to me how complex and diverse the Native American world was in this area during the war. The sources contain the names of dozens of tribes and important native people that are rarely recognized in history. Anawan seemed like just as much of a hero as Benjamin Church. I wish additional historical records could be found about his life as well.

As far as Anawan Rock, it remains a monument of a time when New England was the frontier of our developing culture. Though it is reported to be haunted, my fiancé and I were only creeped out by the fall ticks we found on our dogs after visiting.
Anawan Rock from the front- Its actually quite large
Of course the monument also symbolizes a precedent set in the relationship between the English colonists and the local tribes. From the colonial perspective the diverse native cultures across our country could either assimilate, move, or be destroyed in the face of manifest destiny. This attitude remained until at least the 19th century. Certainly a pock mark on Yankee history.

However, as Nathaniel Philbrick theorizes in his book Mayflower, the King Philip’s War ultimately led to the French and Indian War, which ultimately caused an increase in colonial taxation, thus resulting in the American Revolution. So, despite how horrible the war was, it is directly linked with the establishment of our entire country and culture. Yup, for good or for bad, Yankees were there from the beginning.
The Sign Marking Anawan Rock off Rt. 44

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Viking Sunstones

Possible Viking Sunstone
Even though text books and history classes still generally give credit to Christopher Columbus for being the first European to sail from Europe to North America, the more recent editions of texts are now at least hinting at the possibility of earlier Norse settlements and visitations to our area.

According to the Icelandic Sagas and most historians, Erik the Red settled on Greenland around AD 980. There are, in fact, Norse settlements still visible on Greenland. Furthermore, there seem to have been at least exploratory trips to Newfoundland. The sagas go further, making the claim that the Norse also visited areas further to the west.

Perhaps, they even visited Yankee territory. There are several oddities in New England, like the Bourne Stone and Dighton Rock, which at least suggest a Norse visit.

One of the issues some theorists have with considering Scandinavian settlement in North America is the problem of navigation. This was well before the European use of the magnetic compass. Certainly experienced sailors could navigate using the sun and stars, but what about on cloudy or stormy days?

 In the Sagas, the writings indicate that the Scandinavian explorers used something called a sunstone to plot the position of a hidden sun on stormy days or long northern twilight nights, thus solving the navigation issue. However, historians have been confused as to what a sunstone actually was.

Recent articles from Wired News and Discovery News state that researchers have solved the mystery of the sunstone. According to the articles, Icelandic spar, a type of crystal Norseman would have been familiar with acts as a polarizer and de-polarizer of light.

The Norse explorers could have used a piece of this crystal in two ways. First, if the crystal is held up to one’s line of sight and pulled away suddenly, one should catch a glimpse of a yellowish pattern called a Haidinger’s Brush. The ends of the yellow pattern should point toward the sun. When tested, this method was found to be within 5 degrees of the true orientation of the sun.

The second method required Scandinavian explorers to observe the pattern of the light witch passed through the Icelandic spar. This crystal has a property called birefringence, which allows light passing through the crystal to form a double image.

By changing the orientation of the crystal one changes the brightness of each image. If the crystal is oriented in such a way that each image is equal in shade, it is possible to locate the position of the sun to within a single degree of accuracy.

The articles also state that there have yet to be any sunstones found in any Norse settlements or ship wrecks.

There is still no real uncontested proof that Norse people settled in areas in New England, but its becoming clear that it was absolutely possible. Perhaps, more study into things like Dighton rock, the Bourne Stone, or the New England Stonehenge will yield additional evidence. So, look for future pots on Dighton Rock and the Bourne Stone.

If you're curious about how the sunstone works, check out the following video.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Tough Yankee Cat

I came across this story last night. I would like to do a future post on Maine Coons, the hard core Yankee cat of the early colonists and the pure bred show cat of modern living rooms.

This Yankee cat seems pretty tough as he faces off with a mountain lion on his deck. And to think, I get a little freaked when a raccoon or coyote shows up in my back yard.

Check out the link and the slideshow.

The Battle of Falmouth- Part 2

The Battle of Falmouth- this painting hangs in Falmouth Town Hall

"Like an oak that stands unmoved though all the winds employ their ceaseless roar."

Its possible that Falmouth would have been burned to the ground if it not for the assistance of a Tory or loyalist to the British crown named John Slocumb. Slocumb, the owner of a tavern on the island of Pasque, was entertaining the British the night of April second. During the evening, Slocum overheard the officers of the fleet discussing their plans to destroy Falmouth on April third.

Apparently, the soldiers had been rather unkind to Slocumb’s family while spending their time at the tavern. Perhaps it was this ill treatment that convinced Slocumb to warn Falmouth. Perhaps he simply did not want to see the town destroyed, as it was more than likely he had friends and family there. Either way, Slocumb secretly sent his son to Woods Hole during the dead of night to warn to Cape Codders that the British were planning to invade early the next morning and fire the town.

Word came to Joseph Dimmick and the other defenders of the coast. Falmouth began to prepare for invasion by improving the already existing trenches along the beaches close to the town’s main harbor, which is today Surf Drive Beach and Surf Drive Road.

Although the original settlement of Falmouth had grown since its foundation, and stretched as far north as Hog Island (Chappy Island) and Coonamesset Pond, the oldest and most densely settled areas were near modern Mill Rd, modern Main Street, and Woods Hole. If the British landed at what was once Old Stone Dock (Now Surf Drive beach), most of Falmouth would have been vulnerable.

Surf Drive Beach 2011-What remains of Old Stone Dock can still be seen.

If you are wondering, as I did, why the British did not invade the current Falmouth Harbor area, which would provide great access to much of Falmouth’s original settlements, the current Falmouth Harbor was not opened until 1908. It was formerly a small salt pond called Deacon’s Pond.

Deacon's Pond. This area is now Falmouth Harbor
According to Jenkins in Three Lectures on the Early History of the Town of Falmouth, Joseph Dimmick also called for reinforcements from the towns of Sandwich and Barnstable, both of which responded quickly.

The expected invasion came early in the morning of April 3rd. The fleet consisted of two schooners and eight sloops, according to Amelia Forbes in the Early History of Nuashon Island. About 80 men initially arrived at the entrenchments to meet the enemy, including Major Dimmick.

If you compare the following pictures, you can make generalizations about where the trenches might have been along Surf Drive and where most of the battle actually took place.

Town Hall Painting- Old Stone Dock is clearly visible

Surf Drive- Old Stone Dock and Nobska Point beyond
At 11:30AM the British ships opened fire on the town. Sources indicate that the ships fired what the militiamen called “hoits,” which seemed in the source material like some sort of artillery meant to cause initial impact damage, then spread fire throughout the town.

However, as New Englanders know, winter is just wrapping up in early April around here. In April of 1779, the town of Falmouth was just beginning to thaw out. This thaw actually protected Falmouth by preventing canon balls from ricocheting off the ground and spreading damage. The “hoits” would land and only cause damage to whatever they actually hit, but the thawing ground prevented the damage and fire from spreading.

The British soon launched ten boats from their small fleet. All together, these boats contained about 220 soldiers according to Frederick Freeman in The History of Cape Cod. The British attempted to land in several places near Old Stone Dock and along Surf Drive. However, Major Dimmick and the Falmouth militia were already there to meet them.

Although some modern sources claim that Major Dimmick defended the shores of Falmouth with only 50 men, this is a bit misleading. Dimmick had called for reinforcements from the towns of Sandwich and Barnstable. By the time of the battle, the Sandwich militia had arrived. According to Jenkins, four companies were assembled along the coast to meet the British. At least two of these companies were from Sandwich, one commanded by Captain Simeon Fisk.

Combining the numbers of all four companies, there were about 200 militiamen prepared for battle. Major Dimmick was second in command. However, he was himself in command of a group of 25 to 50 men within the trenches along the beach. The accounts of the battle and the actions of Major Dimmick are pretty fantastic.

With canon balls flying overhead, small arms fire pouring from the redcoats in the invading boats, Dimmick and the militia successfully prevented several British attempts to land at the beach. According to Jenkins:
"The most urgent entreaties could not induce Dimmick to protect himself in the trench; he continued to pace the breastwork whilst the balls were flying around him and with every report of the gun would wave his sword in defiance."
Dimmick sounds like he put up a pretty impressive fight. In fact, the quote which began this article was used by Freeman to describe Dimmick holding his position against his enemies.

The British did manage to at least land their boats on the beach several times, but the fire from the militiamen was too fierce to allow them to carve a foothold. The British continued to fire at the town and exchange small arms fire with the militia until 5:30Pm. However, they soon began to understand that their attempts were not going to be successful. At a signal from their flagship, the smaller boats returned to the warships and the entire fleet moved off toward Nobska Point and Woods Hole. The militia followed.

Nobska Point as seen beyond Old Stone Dock
The British attempted again to land in Woods Hole, but were repulsed by the Militia. At this point the British took refuge on Nonamesset Island, where they instantly began to slaughter the livestock. The British vented their frustration at the islanders, threatening them. The British soldiers stated that the “Damn rebels” had been killing them and that the rebels “fought like Devils.”

All animals were slaughtered on the island, including the animals of the once helpful Tories. There was one pig, whose squeals could be apparently heard from the most extreme point of the mainland. The militia had been watching the actions of the enemy from the shore when they head the poor pig. One of the men, named Simeon Hamlin, sat down and began to cry. The others asked him why he cried and he responded:

"Why, I hear that poor pig, and can’t help crying, to see how those cruel English will treat their fellow beings."

I thought that was an amusing line.

Over the next couple days the British fleet slowly broke up and headed away from the Cape. The ships did attempt to fire on the town again, but the militiamen stayed in their trenches and the enemy did not make another attempt at a landing.

Although other parts of the Cape and Islands suffered additional attacks and invasions, Falmouth never again needed to meet the Empire of Great Britain in combat, at least in the Revolutionary War. The town’s destruction had been prevented by the skill and bravery of a couple hundred farmers and fisherman who refused to let their homes be destroyed. Joseph Dimmick, of course, deserves recognition for the major role he played in Falmouth’s defense even after the battle.
Joseph Dimmick's Plaque in Falmouth's First Burying Ground

Dimmick remained heavily involved in the conflict even after the Battle of Falmouth. Jenkins goes as far as calling him, “the heart and soul of the military movement in this region." Although there were no more show downs on the beaches of Falmouth, Dimmick was involved in many more daring missions against the British.

Later, during the war, a ship had been sent to the Connecticut River to purchase corn, which had become very rare. On its return trip the ship was intercepted and captured by British Privateers just inside Vineyard Sound. However, the captain escaped and ran to Falmouth seeking the help of Major Dimmick.

Joseph Dimmick gathered his brother Lot and about twenty other men. They headed for Woods Hole. They took three small whale boats and silently rowed out to Tarpaulin Cove, where the Privateer and the captured trading vessel lay at anchor.

Lot Dimmick's Headstone at Falmouth's First Burying Ground

When they came in sight of the larger ships, the militiamen and the privateers exchanged fire. The militiamen killed at least one pirate and boarded the captured ship. They got the ship under way and accidently ran it aground near the Vineyard. They waited for high tide to free the ship, defending their catch from the British.

When the tide came in, they escaped with the trading ship and arrived safely in Woods Hole with its life saving cargo.

Dimmick and the men of Falmouth even captured an English ship of their own once. The ship held 33 English soldiers, who were all delivered to Boston as prisoners of war.

Even after peace was declared in 1781, Dimmick remained very influential and respected in town. Children gawked at their local war hero on the streets. He was honored by Governor Hancock as a guest of honor. He was elected High Sherriff, a position he held for 25 years. In addition, he served on the Massachusetts senate and was raised to the rank of General after the war. According to Jenkins:
"It may be said of him that he feared nothing human. It was his delight to be at the post of danger, and he was generally selected when any hazardous enterprise was undertaken."
Dimmick really seems like he was quite a guy. On top of being a local war hero, he seemed somewhat modest. According to Jenkins, on his tombstone is written, “He merited this noblest of his mottoes- An honest man.” Dimmick died in 1822.

Joseph Dimmick's Headstone at Falmouth's First Burring Ground
Strangely I did not see the inscription that was supposed to be there
Although, I could not discover where Joseph Dimmick’s original house was, his son built a house on modern Main Street in Falmouth. The house built by Braddock Dimmick is right across the street from the Village Green, where his father trained the soldiers of Falmouth’s militia.

The Dimmick House- Main Street Falmouth
This house even has a ghost story of its own. It is said to be haunted by one of the grandchildren of Joseph Dimmick. It is currently a bed and breakfast. The story says that if you sleep in the spirit’s bed, she may wake you and ask what you are doing there. My fiancĂ© was not willing to stay the night with me, she was way more interested in the great cupcake store down the street.

I have to say I felt a little guilty researching the martial history of the town I grew up in. I had a vague idea of the Battle of Falmouth, but had no idea where it had taken place. Nor had I ever heard of Joseph Dimmick and what an absolute local hero he was. Where is the statue, town of Falmouth?

In Falmouth’s defense the historical society has done a beautiful job with marking the headstones at the First Burying Ground, so these graves can be easily located. Plus, Falmouth has done at least two reenactments of the battle for the town.

No, the Battle of Falmouth was not a true turning point in the American Revolution like the Siege of Yorktown. Instead, it demonstrates the growing feeling of nationalism and independence during the Revolution, even on rural Cape Cod. Further, it demonstrates the willingness of the small town farmers and fishermen of New England to fight for their land against largely overwhelming odds.

I wish history classes could spend more time on local events like this. It really puts one’s own hometown into a meaningful historic perspective. If one is truly supposed to learn lessons from the past through the study of history, the more I look into these local stories, the more I realize it would be hard to find a better teacher than a Yankee. Certainly, General Dimmick and the men of the Cape’s Revolutionary militia are no exception.