Frequent contributor Jim Peters sent this post as a follow-up to his earlier essay on the “Native American History of Lowell.”
As a child, television taught me that the Native American, the “Indian,” was savage and without Christian scruples. We have since learned that those with the Christian scruples were often the savages. Blankets were given to the Indians that had been tainted with the pus of Smallpox, ravaging entire tribes and reducing their numbers greatly. “Scalps” were French in origin. The practice was determined to be the best way to verify that you had indeed killed the savage. The Native Americans just copied the European American.
There was money in scalps. Captain John Lovewell of Dunstable removed the scalps of ten Native Americans and sold them to the Crown for one hundred pounds each. That was 1,000.00 pounds in English currency, a fortune for the day. A Supreme Being seemed to play into the mix as the year 1663 was disturbed by many earthquakes. “The mounting hostility of the Indians,” kept the area from enjoying the relative peace and tranquility of many of the other areas that surrounded it. Rivers became important, and the town of Concord was formed directly around the river that bears its name.
The Concord people, the European Americans, found it difficult to explore much beyond the reaches of their Garrison Houses. A Garrison House was built like a fort, and was of a design that provided some protection from bands of Native Americans who tormented the Europeans. Garrisons were usually built in an enclosure, giving them the appearance of a fort.
One man, living in a garrison in Pawtucketville, or what would become Pawtucketville, was Thomas Whittier who lived peaceably among the Native Americans, in this case the Pawtuckets, of that area, His was the only European American home to be allowed by the Native Americans in that area for decades. It was torn down in the 1930’s. He is best remembered, not as a peace-maker, but as an ancestor of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Whittier was the exception. “Yet even the Concord and Nashua men dared not go about unarmed nor dwell at any very great distance from a garrison house.” the author says in his 1862 writings on the Native American nations in the Lowell area. It was said that Whittier was very friendly with the “Indians” and never harmed.
Vesper Island was first seen by the French Canadians who traveled down this far south. The first Englishman to see it was famed adventurer John Smith of Pocahantas fame. He noted it in his diary, which was usually rewritten by traveling companions.
The most impressive book available was called the “Memories of the Indians and Pioneers of the Region of Lowell, Massachusetts (1862).” In it, the author cites many peculiarities of the Native Americans. For instance, they held lengthy meetings to offset problems. These meetings were cordial, the author says, and productive. Most Native Americans of this region carried bags of wampum, whatever was considered to be of value in the day, and traded for goods and services. In fact, at Hadley Field in the Highlands, five Native American nations bartered daily, usually in the early morning hours. These nations included the Nashobah, the Souhegan, the Pawtuckets, the Wamesits and the Pentuckets. Each nation had a leader and there was a sort of monarchial tendency in setting up the royal line.
As I stated in my earlier report, Native Americans who lived a good life and died with dignity were believed to, in death, travel to the southwest. That belief could very well be the reason for the placement of stones at the Megalith in Pawtucketville. We will never know for certain, it is just a theory.