SQUANTUM - RETURN HOME

1619-1620

Gorges commissioned Dermer as commander of his expedition to New England in 1619. Squantum accompanied him as a pilot and an interpreter. In several weeks, the ship reached New England (near Maine). Squantum traveled the New England coast with Dermer mapping the resources.

Gorges knew well that relations with the native people were very bad due to the actions of some of his people. In 1605, Captain John Weymouth kidnapped 5 men. In 1611, an English ship under the command of Captain Edward Harlow came to Cape Cod and kidnapped several Wampanoag men, including Epenow, a Capawack sachem. Epenow was able to return to Capawack as a guide in 1614, when he escaped back to his people. In that same year, the English explorer Captain John Smith arrived to map the coast, trade for furs and establish fishing operations. Unfortunately, his lieutenant, Thomas Hunt, kidnapped 27 Wampanoag men after Smith had returned to England and sold them as slaves in Malaga, Spain. (One of these captured was, of course, Squantum.)

The loss of these twenty Patuxet and seven Nauset men was strongly felt in the Wampanoag communities. When a French vessel was wrecked on Cape Cod in 1616, the surviving crewmen were presented to various allied communities as to act as servants as was the custom for prisoners of war.

March to December 1619

Squantum fulfilled the expectations of Gorges and Dermer by traveling along the coast with Dermer looking for Captain Rocraft whom Gorges had sent out to meet with them. On meeting with a ship from Virginia, they learn Captain Rocraft has died. They continued along the coast, and in May 1619 arrived at Patuxet, Squantum's home, which had once had a population of 2,000 people. They found it was deserted with skeletons everywhere.

Death and Ruins

One can only imagine the shock and horror that Squantum experienced on his arrival. His family and everyone else he had known and loved were dead, and his village was in ruins.

From Patuxet they went inland and came to Namasket. In a letter written by Captain Dermer, under date of December 27, 1619, he described the event: 1

    "When I arrived at my savage's native country I traveled along a day's Journey to a place called Nammastaquet, where finding inhabitants I dispatched a messenger a day's Journey farther west to Pocanokit which bordered on the sea; whence came to see me two Kings attended with a guard of 50 armed men, who being well satisfied with that my savage and I discoursed unto them, gave me content in whatever I demanded; where I found that former relations were true. Here I redeemed a Frenchman, and afterwards another at Masstachusit, 2 who three years since escaped shipwreck at the northeast of Cape Cod." 3

The two kings mentioned by Capt. Dermer in this letter were probably Massasoit and his brother Quadequina. Massasoit and Quadequina told Squantum that a plague had killed all the people of Patuxet, his home. Not only had Squantum's village been destroyed, but also the plague swept across the lands of the Massachuset and the Pokanoket Wampanoag, destroying whole communities, and reducing those surviving to ten to thirty per cent of the original population. This destruction weakened the Wampanoag so that their leading sachem, Massasoit, was forced to submit to the Narragansett sachem Canonicus.

Pilgrim Hall Museum
Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA. US
Contains Detailed Information about the Colonists

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1. The use of the offensive word "savage" in this passage demonstrates an attitude held towards native people, even by Captain Dermer who had a reputation for developing positive relationships. (E Hunt, "Dermer, Thomas," Dictionary of Canadian Biography, p.262)

2. These were obviously the French men who had been shipwrecked in 1616.

3.Ebenezer W. Peirce, Indian History, Biography and Genealogy Pertaining to the Good Schem Massasit of the Wampnoag Tribe and His Decendants. Book 4, 1878.

1920

Thomas Dermer returned to Wampanoag Country in the summer of 1620 with Squantum and an Abenaki sachem from Pemaquid (Maine) named Samoset. Later in summer the people of Pokanoket and Namasket took Dermer prisoner. Squantum spoke on his behalf so he was set free.

Captain Dermer later wrote that he would have been killed at Namasket without Squantum's intervention. He added, "their desire for revenge was occasioned by an Englishman, who having many of them on board made great slaughter of them when they offered no injury on their parts."4

Squantum and Dermer then traveled to Martha's Vineyard, an island south of Cape Cod Bay. Near Capawack they met Epenow. Epenow knew Dermer worked for the same Sir Ferinando Gorges who had kept him a prisoner until 1614, so he feared Dermer might have come to take him prisoner again. As a result, Epenow and his men attached. Captain Dermer was wounded and several of his men were killed. Captain Dermer, although he was able to escape to Virginia, later died of his wounds.

Epenow captured Squantum and Samoset because he did not trust them as they were helping Dermer. Epenow took them to Tokanoket and turned them over to the sachem Massasoit.

Squantum Speaks by Campfires

Squantum charmed Massasoit by fires at night telling him stories of his time in England and his travels. Then he tried to convince Massasoit that making peace with the English would be in his best interest. Since they had been weakened by the plague, Massasoit's people had been experiencing trouble with the Narragansetts, and they were now under the control of Narragansett sachem Canonicus. Squantum told him that the Englishmen had powerful weapons. If the Pokanokets decided to make peace with the Englishmen, they could use them as allies against the Narragansetts. In return, they would offer the Englishmen help if they had any enemies. He convinced Massasoit that by helping the English, Massasoit's people could be strong again, and not forced to be subservient to their Narragansett enemies.

Arrival of the Pilgrims Winter 1690

While Nauset Indians observed from a distance, the Mayflower came near land on November 9, 1620. While the Mayflower remained off Cape Cod, the people went ashore near Namskeket.

The Nauset were alarmed when they saw armed men come ashore and search the area. The Nauset saw them take corn and other items that had been stored there. On December 6, ten of the Pilgrim men landed on the coast in a small boat, and set up camp. Finally, the Nauset, remembering the men who had been captured and taken away six years before, attempted to drive them away. They attacked and shot arrows at the Pilgrims in their camp, but left when the Pilgrims shot back with their guns.

The Pilgrims described this event that occurred on December 8, 1620 as follows:

"About midnight we heard a great and hideous cry, and our Sentinel called out 'Arm, Arm'. So we bestirred ourselves and shot off a couple of Muskets and noise ceased; we concluded that it was a company of Wolves or Foxes for one told us he had heard such a noise in New-found-land. About five a clock in the morning we began to be stirring. ..one of our company being abroad came running in and cried, 'They are men, Indians, Indians'; and withal their arrows came flying amongst us, our men ran out with all speed to recover their arms. .. "There was a lusty man and no whit less valiant, who was thought to be their Captain, stood behind a tree within half a musket shot of us, and there let his arrows fly at us. .... He stood three shots of a musket. At length one took as he said full aim at him he gave an extraordinary cry, and away they went all." 5

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4.Ebenezer W. Peirce, Indian History, Biography and Genealogy Pertaining to the Good Schem Massasit of the Wampnoag Tribe and His Decendants. Book 4, 1878

5. Mourt's Relation which was written mainly Edward Winslow (although William Bradford appears to have written the descriptions above) between November 1620 and November 1621. It was first published in London in 1622, presumably by George Morton (hence the title, Mourt's Relation).