Massachuset Timeline

1575?-1585? Nanapashemet and Squaw Sachem are born.

1590?-1607? Nanapashemet becomes the great Chief Sachem of the Massachuset. He is the head of a federation that encompasses many tribes and villages and stretches roughly from the Blue Hills of Massachusetts to the Merrimack River in New Hampshire, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Connecticut River Valley. At the height of his power Nanapashemet is able to summon 3,000 warriors. His main residence is near present-day Salem. He has fortresses in Salem and Marblehead and probably elsewhere.

1600?-1608? Nanapashemet and Squaw Sachem are married and she gives birth to their first son Wonohaquaham, later named Sagamore John by the English.

1607 Halley's Comet is seen blazing in the night sky.

Competition over fur-trading with French settlers in present-day Maine sparks the Tarratines War between the Tarratines (Mi'Kmags) and Penobscots.

1609 Squaw Sachem gives birth to Montowampate, later named Sagamore James by the English.

1614? Squaw Sachem gives birth to their only daughter, Yawate, later named Abigail by the English.

1615 Eight years after war breaks out, the Penobscot Grand Sachem is killed, along with his wife and children, by the Tarratines (Mi'Kmag). Nanepashamet sends a war party in defense of his close allies the Penobscot. His war party is successful, killing many Tarratine warriors, and they return home with several women and children taken as prisoners.

1615-1617 - The Tarratines strike back with fierce raiding parties, and they decimate the coastal allies of the Massachuset, including the Wampanoag. All tribes in the area move inland, become unsettled and fearful, and move from place to place.

Nanapashemet moves from his coastal home near Salem, to what likely is his traditional winter hunting and fishing grounds along the Mystic River in present-day Medford. He constructs an elaborate palisade for himself on Rock Hill in Medford, so that one must not only cross a bridge over a moat to get inside, but also climb a ladder. He sends his wife and 4 children to an unknown tribe within his domain somewhere far inland.

1616 Squaw Sachem gives birth to her youngest son Wenepoykin, later named Sagamore George by the English. He would also be known as George Rumney-Marsh and No-Nose. The birth likely takes place not long before Squaw Sachem goes into hiding.

1617 - A devastating plague sweeps across Massachuset country, and Nanapashemet loses 75%-95% of his people. But because he is so isolated inland inside his fortress, he is spared from the disease. Also, because Squaw Sachem and her children are in hiding so far inland, it is likely that is why they are also spared from the disease.

1618 - Having escaped the pestilence of 1617, the Narragansett look to extend their power. Reduced in numbers, the surviving tribes of the area put up no defense. Most tribes immediately submit in vassalage to the two Chief Sachems of the Narragansett, including Massasoit (who would later ally with the Pilgrims at Plymouth). The Narragansett reach the height of their power, able to summon some 30,000 warriors.

1619 - The Mi'Kmags finally find Nanapashemet and kill him in his palisade at Medford.

1620 - Nanepashemet's wife returns with her four children. Since none of the boys are old enough to rule, custom dictates that Nanepashemet's wife should take over as, "Squaw Sachem." Sadly, we do not know her name and only know her by title. We know of several other, "Squaw Sachems," that existed all over Southern New England Awasaunks, Weetamoo, etc. so it is not a unique title.

1621 Only four tribes remain loyal to Squaw Sachem, and she conducts raids on former members of her husband's federation in an attempt to regain power. She inflicts fear upon Obatinua the sachem of present-day Boston, who has created a new alliance with the sachem of present-day Weymouth, Chikataubut. They call themselves the Massachuset.

Obatinua meets the Pilgrims. He tells them that, although he lives in Massachuset territory, he is loyal to Massasoit. He also tells them that Squaw Sachem is his enemy, and that he best not linger in one place too long for fear of the Tarratines.

Massasoit meets the Pilgrims at Plymouth. They sign a peace treaty and forge an alliance. Massasoit is said to have, "a potent adversary the Narragansetts that are at war with him."

Obatinua, Chikataubut, and 7 other sachems sign a treaty of amity with the Pilgrims for protection. They are reportedly fearful of Squaw Sachem. It is likely the fear of Squaw Sachem, the Tarratines, the Narragansetts, as well as the devastating plagues that have reduced their numbers, that caused these sachems to ask for protection from the English.

1622-1623 Squaw Sachem places her sons in power at each of the villages that remain loyal to her. Her domain stretches roughly from Charlestown, to Concord, to Marblehead. She continues raids on disloyal villages and tribes from her late husband's former domain.

Wenepoykin, the youngest, becomes sachem of Naumkeag at 8 years old. It is likely a family member helped him rule until he was old enough.

Monowampate becomes sachem of Saugus at 13 years old.

Wonohaquaham becomes sachem of Mishawum, or present-day Charlestown.

As was customary when a sachem dies, Squaw Sachem marries her husband's Pauwau (Physician) named Webcowit. The marriage appears only a formality, however, as Squaw Sachem seems to continue to retain her power. The exact date of their marriage is unknown.

1625 Present-day Quincy is the site of Merry-Mount. Formerly the settlement of Mount Wollaston, it is now a trading post owned by a man named Thomas Morton. It is a place where much merry-making is taking place. They have beer, rum, and cider. They display their drums and guns. They even erect a may-pole and dance around singing a lewd song in one of the earliest known May Day celebrations in America. Englishmen and Indian women are said to be, "dancing and frisking together," and are described as, "madd Bachinalians."

Squaw Sachem, a regular visitor to Merry Mount, meets Edward Gibbons of Boston, a member of the trading post. They would be close friends for an unknown number of years. Squaw Sachem's disposition mellows considerably, and she never again conducts raids.

Continued



Continued

1627 Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Bay colony becomes angered at the, "great licenciousness," of the goings-on at Merry Mount. He calls Morton the, "Lord of misrule over a school of atheism." Bradford also feared Morton and his men were trading firearms to the Indians for furs. Morton is eventually arrested, exiled to England, and Merry Mount is burned to the ground.

Wonohoquahan gives the English permission to settle on present-day Charlestown. He is said to be, "of gentle and good disposition."

1628 As the settlement of Charlestown is being built, Squaw Sachem, her son Wonohaquaham and Webcowit come down from their home in the woods to view the work of the Englishmen. She gazes curiously upon each household implement, and they are fascinated by the tools and the buildings made of timbers.

1629 There is an Indian village on the north side of the North River, near the corner of present-day North and Osborne Streets in Salem. It is the only Indian settlement in original Salem that can be identified from early colonial records. Squaw Sachem's son Wenepoykin is sachem of this territory at about 14-years-old. This land is part of Naumkeag.

A heated conflict begins flaring up between the Narraganset and Wampanoag. The Narraganset plot against the allies of the Wampanoag -- the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Wonohaquaham warns the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the Narraganset's plans.

1630 Wonohaquaham and his brother Montowampate are said to command no more than 30 or 40 men.

1631 - While visiting Agawam, Wonohaquaham and his brother Montowampate are wounded when the Tarratine (Mi'Kmag) attack from the north. Montowampate's wife is carried off by their enemies. She is returned two months later after a ransom is paid.

1633 A smallpox epidemic ravages all the tribes of Southern New England. Just as Squaw Sachem's people start to recover from the terrible plague of 1617, this epidemic decimates their numbers once again. Wonohaquaham and Montowampate both die from smallpox. Wenepoykin survives, but he is disfigured from the disease's terrible ulcers. He is called, "No-Nose," by many from this point forward.

1637 Squaw Sachem and Webcowit deed to Jotham Gibbons, (oldest son of Edward Gibbons, who was 3 years old at this time) upon her death all the land she reserved for herself. "This I do without seeking to of him or any of his; but I receiving many kindnesses of them, am willing to acknowledge their many kindnesses by this small gift to their son."

Squaw Sachem and Webcowit receive 36 shillings from Edward Gibbons for, "the land between Charlestowne and Wenotomies River."

The Town of Charlestown reimburses Edward Gibbons 36 shillings, "which he paid to the Indians for the ground near Wenotomies."

1639 Squaw Sachem and Webcowit deed to the people of Charlestown a large tract of land that includes part of present-day Arlington for the sum of 21 coats, 19 fathom of wampum, and 3 bushels of corn. She reserves a large parcel of land bordering the west side of the Mystic Lakes for her use until her death, and also for the use of the Indians for planting, hunting, and fishing, "while the Squaw liveth."

1640 Squaw Sachem and Webcowit sign another deed confirming that the land west of the Mystic Lakes, reserved for herself until her death, is bequeathed to Jotham Gibbons, and it further explains that it is not part of the land deeded to the Town of Charlestown.

1644 Squaw Sachem, along with four other sachems, sign a Treaty of Submission with the English, agreeing to place her land and her people under the jurisdiction of the government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1647 Webcowit begins taking an active interest in the Englishmen's efforts to Christianize his countrymen. He asks the Englishmen why they have been 27 years in his land and never taught them to know God before then. "Had you done it sooner," he says, "we might have known much of God by this time, and much sin might have been prevented, but now some have grown old in sin." The Englishmen answer by telling him, "You were not willing to hear until now, and God had not turned their hearts till then."

1650 Although it isn't known for certain, this appears to be the year Squaw Sachem dies. She is likely buried somewhere in present-day Medford, believed to be along the west side of Grove Street overlooking the Mystic Lakes.

1650? 1675 The remnants of Squaw Sachem's family and people are sent to the Praying Indian Village of Natick where they settle for many years.

1675 Angered by decades of unfair treatment and losses in court over land claims all over his family's former domain, Wenepoykin joins with the Wampanoag in King Philip's War.

As King Philip's War heats up, Squaw Sachem's family is removed from Natick and interned on Deer Island. Conditions are so deplorable that only 40% survive the ordeal. Despite this, two men from Yawate's family aid the English in King Philip's War, acting as guides and spies. Their assistance helps to bring a quick end to the war.

1676 Wenepoykin is taken prisoner, sold into slavery, and shipped to Barbados.

1684 Wenepoykin returns from Barbados and lives with a relative at Natick. He dies later this year with his sister Yawate (Abigail) by his side. Yawate would also die in that same wigwam at Natick within a couple of years.



About the timeline

Gathered from various primary and secondary sources, this timeline represents a glimpse into the lives of the Massachuset. It is a story of tremendous suffering, turmoil, desperation, and survival. It illuminates acts of devastating betrayal by the English against a people who demonstrated the very essence of honor and integrity. It is affirmation of the systematic destruction of a once rich and thriving culture. It chronicles the heartbreaking fall of a people from the ultimate wardens of their environment into utter destitution and deprivation. May the story of the Massachuset be passed on so that future generations will learn of their struggles and no other culture should ever suffer as they suffered.



© 2005 The Menotomy Journal