EPHRAIM CURTIS VISITS TANTASKWEE, 1675.--COMES TO THE LEADMINE.--CURTIS' ISLAND, TWO OR THREE MILES AWAY.--REPORT, DATED JULY 16, 1675.--SECOND VISIT, REPORTED JULY 24.--FOUND THE INDIANS IN THE SAME PLACE
In July, 1675, Ephraim Curtis, thirty-three years old, and noted for his intimate knowledge of the country, his quickness of comprehension and cool courage, and his large acquaintance with the Indians, who language he spoke fluently, was employed by the Governor and Council of Massachusetts, upon special service in the Nipnet country.
Upon his return, he exhibited a report, a verbatim copy of which is found in the Proceedings of the Worcester Society of Antiquity, for the year 1892, and is as follows:
"To the honored Governor and Councle of the Massachusetts Colony in New England.
Whereas your honors imployed your servant to conduct Uncheas his six men homewards as far as Wabaquesesue, and alsoe to make a perffet discovery of the motions of the Nipmug or Western Indians, your honors may be pleased here to see my return and relation. I conducted Unkeas his men safly while I com in sight of Wabaquesesue new planting fields; first to Natuck, from thence to Marelborrow, from thence to Esenemisco from thence to Mumchogg, from thence to Chabanagonkomug? from thence to Mayenecket, from thence over the river to Senecksig, while wee cam nere to Wabaquasesue, where they were very willing we should leave them, and returned thanks to Mr. Governor and to all them that shewed them kindness and alsoe to us for our company. And in my jorny my chefe indever was to inquire after the motions of the Indians.
The first information which I had was at Marlborrow att the Indian fort, which was that my hous at Quansigamug was robed; the Indians, to conferm it, shewed me som of the goods, and alsoe som other goods which was non of mine.
They told mee it was very daingerous for me to goe into the woods, for that Mattounas, which they said was the leader of them that robed my house, was in company of fifty men of Philip's complices, rainging between Chabanagonkamug and Quatesook and Mendan and Warwick, and they might hapen to meet mee; and if I mised them, yet it was daingerous to meet or see the other Nipmug Indians which were gathern together, for they would be reddy to shoot mee as soon as they saw me.... With newes thos three Natuck Indians which wer with mee as volunteers were discurriged and told me that if I did not provide mor company they wer not willing to go with mee. Hearing this I repaired to the consable of Marelborrow and to the milletary officers and tould them my busness, and they pressed two men with horses and armes to goe along with mee. And soe as we passed the forementioned place, (Senecksig) wee could not find any Indians, neither in tents nor felds; but after we passed Senecksik, som miles into the woods westwards wee found an Indian path newly mad. There being with mee a vollenter Indian that come from the Indians out of the wilderness, but two or three days before, and hee tould mee hee would find them out.
So in our travell wee followed this tract many milds, and found many tents built, wherein I suppose they might keep their randivos for a day or two; and soe wee found three places where they had piched, but found no Indians. And following still in pursuit of the tract, wee com to the lead mynes by Springfield old road wher wee saw new footing of Indians; and soe looking out sharp, in about two milds riding we saw two Indians, which when we saw I send the Indian that went with mee from Marelbarrow to speek with them. But soe soone as they had discovered us they ran away from us; but with fast rideing and much calling two of our Indians stopped one of them; the other ran away. We asked the Indian where the other Indians were; hee being surprised with feare could scarcely speak to us, but only tould us that the Indians were a littel way from us. Soe then I sent the Marelborrow Indian before us, to tell them that the messenger of the Massachusetts Govoner was coming with peacable words; but when hee cam to them they would not believe him; hee therfore cam riding back and meet us.
These Indians have lately begun to settel themselves upon an Iland containing about four acres of ground, being compassed round with a brood miry swamp on the one sid and a mudy river with meadow on both sides of it on the other sid, and but only one place that a hors could posably pas, and these with a great deal of difficulty by reson of the mier and dirt.
Before wee com to the river ther mett us att least forty Indians att a littel distance from the river, some with the guns upon their shoulders, others with their guns in ther hands reddy cocked and primed. As wee cam nere to the river most of them next the river presented att us. All my acquaintance would not know mee, although I saw ner twenty of them together and asked ther welfare, knowing that many of them could speke good English.
I spak to many of them in the Governor's name which I called my master, the great Sachim of the Massathusets Englesh. I think some of them did beleve mee, but the most of them would not. Ther was a very great upror amonghst them; som of them would have had mee and my company presently kiled; but many others, as I understood afterwards, wer against it. I required ther Sachims to com over the river; but they refused, saying that I must com over to them. My company wer somthing unwilling, for they thought themselves in very great dainger wher wee wer; they said what shall wee bee when wee are over the river amongst all the vile rout? I tould them wee had better never have sen them, then not to speak with ther Sachims, and if wee run from them in the tim of this tumult they would shoot after us and kill som of us.
Soe with some difficulty wee got over the river and meaddow to the Iland wher the stood to face us att our coming out of the mire, many Indians with the guns presented att us, redy cocked and primed. Soe wee rushed between them and called for ther Sachim; they presently faced about and went to surround us, many of them with ther guns cocked and primed att us. We rushed between them once or twice, and bid them stand in a body, and I would face them; but still the uprore continued with such noyes that the aire rang. I required them to lay down ther armes, and they commanded us to put up our armes first, and com of our horses, which I refused to doe. Some of them which were inclinable to believe us, or wer our friends, some layd down ther armes, but the others continued the uprore for a while; and with much threattening and perswasion, at last the uprore ceaseed. Many of them sayed they would neyther believe mee nor my master without hee would send them two or three bushells of powder. At lingth I spok with ther Sachims, which wer five, and ther other grandes, which wer about twelv more; our Natick Indians seemed to be very industrious all this tim to still the tumult and to persuad the Indians. And as soone as I cam to speek with the Sachims, we dismounted and put up our armes. I had a great deal of speech with them by an interpreter, being brought to ther court and sent out again three or four times.
The nams of the Sachims are these: 1, Muttaump, (Quabaug Sachem.) 2. Konkewasco; 3. Willymachen; 4. Upchatuck. (A Nashaway.) 5. Keehood; (Wabbaquaset.) 6. Nontatouso; (Wabbaquaset.)
Muttaump I perceive is chosen to bee head over the other five, and was the chefe speaker.
These company in number I judg may bee ner two hundred of men. They would fain have had mee to stay all night; I asked the reason of some that could speak Englesh; they sayd that they had som messengers at Cunnetequt as some southward, and that was the reson of their rud behaviour toward us, and they sayd they had heard that the Englesh had killed a man of thyres about Merrimak river, and that they had an intent to destroy them all.
I left them well apeased when I cam away. Mor might be added; but thus far is a true relation, p'r your honors most humbel servent.
July 16, 1675."
"Uncheas his men" were commissioners to the Governor, in regard to the formation or furtherance of an agreement that Uncas would aid the Colonies against enemy Indians.
The diplomatic, mutual courtesy is pleasingly apparent on both sides.
Three volunteer Natick Indians, two soldiers "pressed" at Marlboro, (John and James Barnard) and an Indian of Marlboro, who had just come from the Indians, and said he "would find them out," set out from Marlboro, a party of twelve, all told.
This narrative is plainly, direct, first hand, primary evidence upon all points stated in it as of Curtis' own knowledge.
In the absence of other evidence, it would be final and conclusive. In the face of apparently contradictory evidence, it would be entitled to outweigh all evidence not founded, like Curtis', on personal knowledge.
Leaving Marlboro, Curtis' party entered the old Bay Path in Westboro, and continued in it thru Essenamico (Grafton) to Mumechog (Oxford). Then going towards the Mohegan country, they branched off to Chabanagonkomog; the Indian village lying northerly of the pond, and so to Mayenecket, and over the river (Quinebaug) to Senecksig (North Woodstock).
Parting from the Indians there, and finding no Indians in the vicinity, Curtis moved westward, and found the track of Indians "newly mad" and followed it.
In the course of many miles' travel, three places were found where they might "keep their randivos" for a day or two. Those were places where they performed the great war-dance.
To promote a war-campaign the night-long dance occupied the same place in Indian politics as that of the speeches and rallies of our times, i.e., calling men together and exciting to action.
The territory of Wabbaquaset included that part of Woodstock which lies south and west of Senesksik, and extended westward into the town of Union, Conn. The suggestion is now made that the tracks followed by Curtis were made by a party moving from place to place, collecting warriors from Wabbaquasset and proceeding toward the place of rendezvous. Facts that appear further along with support such conjecture.
Curtis thus continues:--"Following still in pursuit of the track, we came to the leadmines by Springfield old road where we saw new footing of Indians."
From here onward, his description and his narrative are perfect; a scene of intense interest in early Colonial history is vividly described by the chief actor. It bears the impress of a man of "cool courage" who sits down while memory is warm, and gives the incident in simple detail. We may only follow and observe.
In 1657, a way was cut thru from the leadmine, to connect with the Springfield path going thru Brimfield.
Winthrop urged, in a letter, that Richard Fellows should proceed at once to track the way "before buches grow up."
It was eighteen years later that Curtis, following the "newly mad" track, passed along the same way to the eastward of old Pequiog pond and thereabouts came in sight of two Indians; and "by hard riding" one was captured at or near the Wallis farm.
And the visit to the Indians on "four acre iland" occurred within the limits of the tract of land purchased by David Wallis, who was the first settler there in 1755.
He built the first frame house in Holland, the home of six generations of the Wallis family, which was sold out of the name by William S. Wallis, in 1894.
North side of the ancient but well-preserved house, begins the rise of Wallis hill; having a round shaped pinnacle, at the height of eighty feet above the swamp, on the opposite or north side. The hill doubles its base dimensions, by elongation northwestward; pushing out into the swamp like a promontory into the sea; bearing a second pinnacle, lower than the first, sloping rapidly downward to where the Quinebaug river has cut its way across from swamp to swamp, as it flows northward.
Across the river another hill appears, which is the island described by Curtis. The town line between Brimfield and Holland runs across this island, east and west.
The Worcester and Springfield Trolley Line has a waiting station in the town of Brimfield, called Five-Bridges.
A road from that station, running southerly thru the swamp to Holland, is called the Five-bridges road; and a branch running southerly from that, crosses the island the Wallis farm, connecting with the main road from Holland to East Brimfield.
The bridge that spans the river is in the place through which Curtis' party rushed their horses.
A great oak stands near where the forty warriors opposed his approach to the river. The reputed longevity of oaks in general leads one to imagine this is a tree of some size in Curtis' time.
The assembling of two hundred warriors at the island, appears to have been something like a convention of different parties. The young men were enthusiastic for war, some, generally the older men, were opposed.
Konkawasco, who, June 25, as "ruler of Quabaug" had signed an agreement not to fight the English, because he had no confidence in Philip, and was willing still to be subject to the laws of Massachusetts, was the leader of the opposition.
But in less than twenty days after signing the agreement, he had been superseded by the election of Muttaump "to be head over the other five chiefs" by the faction among the Indians that had then become dominant.
The hostile attitude of the warriors, upon the approach of Curtis, and the uproar "till the air rang" was their way of demonstrating the power of the party that was for war.
It was equally in accordance with Indian custom, that quiet was obtained and the meeting turned over to the ceremonious control of the chiefs and "grandees."
The "court" the half circle of twelve "grandees," the six chiefs, Muttaump, acting the part of a prosecuting attorney, Curtis, brought in four times, and questioned, forms a picture for the imagination.
Ephraim Curtis arrived at the leadmine, pursued a new trail two or three miles, had the interview with the Indians at the island, and went far on his way homeward, all on the same day.
His return was by way of the fording-place at East Brimfield, entering the Old Bay Path at Fiskdale.
Photos of Area
The Governor and Council, evidently alarmed as well as surprised, to learn of the widespread disaffection among the natives, immediately sent Curtis again with a message to the Indians and letters to Maj. Pynchon. He returned to Boston July 24, and made this report:"...I am proceeding according to your order in my journey to the Indians, and going through Brookfield, I delivered your letters directed to Maj. Pynchon, to the constable of brookfield. From this went directly to the Indians, and found them at the same place where they were before. We sent one Indian before us to give an account of our coming; at which they made a great shout. When we came to the river, we called to have the Sachems come over to us. The reply was made to us that if we had any business to them we must come over to them. I first asked for the chief speaker Muttaump; they told us he was at present gone from them, but might be spoken withal, it may be the next day.
We then required to see the Sachems that were there. And these appeared, Keehood, Willymachen, John Apeckgonas and Samuel sachem of Washakim, with whom we treated. We had pretty good quarter with them. There was no abuse offered to us. I read your Honor's letter deliberately to them. they seemed to accept of it very well. They promised that Kehood and one more of their principal men would come to the Massachusetts Bay within four or five days, and speak our Great Sachem. Many questions they asked of us to which we answered; but in the close of all we told them that if they were not satisfied, if Muttaump and Keehood, or some of their principal men would come to the Bay, our Great Sachem would use them kindly, and well fill their bellies, and answer all their questions. We asked them why they were so abusive the last time.
They said that Black James the constable of Chabonagonkamug had told them that the English would kill them all without any exception, because they were not Praying Indians.
When we were come back about 12 miles, one of our Indians told us that there was one man there had been with Philip, and was come there three days before us, and had brought English goods with him which they thought he had robbed the English of.
We asked him why he had not told us of it while we were there.
He said he did not know of it while we were come over the river, but we rather judge he concealed it through fear that we would make a disturbance for that man's sake. This is the substance of what I have to acquaint your honors withal.
July 24, 1675"
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