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Contributed by Nia Holley and Lauren Tuiskula
Eight of the Native people taken by Waldron at Cocheco and sent to Boston were executed at what is known today as Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, now featured as a stop on Boston's Freedom Trail. They were executed on September 13, just one week after being taken at Cocheco.
Both Increase Mather and Samuel Sewall recounted the day of the execution in their diaries. Mather writes, “There were 8 Indians shot to death in Boston of those that were bro’t in from the Eastward.” Sewall describes the day in more detail, providing the location of the execution, a place once referred to as “Wind-mill hill.” In an entry dated Sept. 13 he writes, “The after part of the day very rainy. Note, there were eight Indians shot to death on the Common upon Wind-mill hill.” Their names were not recorded.
In a later entry dated September 22, Mather writes of four Nipmuc leaders also brought down from near Cocheco and executed at Wind-mill hill.
“This day Sagamore Sam [Shoshanim] was hanged at Boston … The same day 3 other Indians hanged, viz the Sagamore of Quaboag [Matoonus], one-eyed John [Monoco], & [Old] Jethro. They were betrayed into the hands of the English by Indians.”Mather referenced Peter Jethro, the son of Old Jethro, in implying that these four leaders were betrayed and taken by “Indians,” not by English men. However, the story of Peter Jethro, and the circumstances of this capture, are much more complicated than Mather acknowledged.
Ironically, Increase Mather’s tomb is located at Wind-mill hill. He was buried there in 1723, the very place he likely witnessed and recorded the execution of eight unnamed Indians over 40 years earlier. Mather is interred with his son, fellow minister, Cotton Mather.
Why Here? How Copp’s Hill Came to BeThe signage and documentation at present day Copp’s Hill tells that the burying ground was constructed in 1659. What was there before it was a burying ground? Why did they choose to hold the executions at this site?
Early maps and writings show that prior to being named Copp’s Hill or wind-mill hill, the spot near Boston common was simply called “Mill Hill.” See a map of Boston in 1648 here. In his diary, Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop notes that in August of 1632 the windmill was brought down from “neere Newtone” and placed at Copp’s Hill. The hill was later named for William Copp, a shoemaker who owned a lot nearby. A map of Boston in 1676 marks the spot simply as the “burying place.”
There are no markers acknowledging the death of these Native men on Copp’s Hill. It is unlikely they were buried at the cemetery, but the high, prominent location was likely the reason that the executions were carried out on the hill.
Copp’s Hill and the Massacre at Hurtleberry HillIn addition to his description of the four Nipmuc leaders executed at Copp’s Hill, Mather makes note that a “sick Englishman” named Goble “was hanged with the very same rope” that had been used to hang “Sagamore Sam” or Shoshanim. In her article “Massacre at Hurtleberry Hill: Christian Indians in English Authority in Metacom’s War,” Jenny Hale Pulsipher describes the incident that led to Daniel Goble’s execution.
As Pulsipher describes, on August 7, 1676, three Native women and three children gathered berries at Hurtleberry Hill, near Concord, after they were granted permission by Daniel Gookin to leave their camp in Cambridge. The woman were under the watch of a guide named John Stoolemester. Stoolemester wandered off from the group, and was found by English soldiers who seized him, as he was an armed Indian, and therefore, they judged, “must be an enemy.” After learning that he had just been released from English military service, the soldiers let Stoolemester go and proceeded to Hurtleberry Hill, where they later encountered the women and children gathering berries. The soldiers exchanged bread and cheese for some of the fruit, and then the company moved on, but not before four of the soldiers took note of the group. The four later slipped back out and returned to Hurtleberry Hill, where they chased and murdered the women and children.
Stoolemester, who left quickly after being dismissed by the English, relayed news of his meeting to his camp. Eventually the story reached Andrew Pittimee, husband to one of the murdered women, brother to the other two, and one of the Indian scouts tasked with aiding the English. Fearing for their safety after hearing Stoolemester’s story, Pittimee requested of Daniel Gookin that two Englishmen go out and find the women and children. The bodies were found after two days of searching.
On August 11, four days after the murders, the four Englishmen were found guilty by the Court of Assistants and sent to prison in Boston. They were Daniel Hoar, Daniel Goble, and Stephen Goble from Concord, and Nathaniel Wilder from Lancaster.
Pulsipher highlights the significance of the men’s conviction. She writes: “What was surprising was that these four men in Boston were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by a jury of Englishmen — the only time in the war that anyone was punished for committing violence against an Indian”.
Although the conviction was initially noteworthy, and both Daniel and Stephen Goble were executed, Daniel Hoar and Nathaniel Wilder were eventually released. In the October session following the massacre, the Court heard a petition by the two men who had murdered the Native women and their children at Hurtleberry Hill and allowed these two remaining men to be set free. As Andrew Pittimee watched hundreds of his relations sent “into foreign parts,” he was given ten pounds, to be shared with the other survivors, for his loss.
Copp’s Hill and the WannukhowsWind-mill hill is a site important to other stories as well. William Wannukhow and his sons, who were convicted of burning the home of Goodman Eames in Framingham, were executed at the site with Stephen Goble. Sewall writes in his diary: “Stephen Goble of Concord, was executed for murder of Indians: three Indians for firing Eames his house, and murder”. Just as the names of those taken from Cocheco and executed at Boston were not recorded, Sewall also fails to record the names of the Wannukhows.
Increase Mather also made note of this execution in his diary, adding his own commentary. Unlike Sewall, he does not name the Englishman that was killed writing “There were 3 Indians hanged & an Englishman hanged also, for murdering the Indians not far from Concord.” However, he ends the entry by noting, “A sad thing also that English & Indians should be executed together.”
Slavery after CochecoThe above explores the limited record of the Native people executed immediately after Waldron’s raid at Cocheco. What remains unknown is what happened to those that were sent into slavery following Waldron’s raid, nearly 350 people unnamed and unaccounted for. Some likely sat nearby in prison awaiting their fate while those they were taken with were executed. Others may have been quickly sent into the slave trade. According to historian Margaret Newell, during August and September, Massachusetts colony “sold over 190 Indians to various buyers in lots ranging from 1 individual to 41, while Plymouth disposed of an additional 169.” Newell notes that “women, girls, and infants represented 68 percent of the total.” There were also a small number of people, taken at Cocheco, who escaped enslavement and death. Some of their stories are told in this path, including Mary Namesit and Samuel Numphow .
Waldron's actions at Cocheco jeopardized peace negotiations. Many of the people sent down to Boston had been part of the peace process, but their loss and betrayal precipitated the violence that continued throughout the next year. Diary by Increase Mather (Harvard University: 1900), 46 Diary by Increase Mather (Harvard University: 1900), 47 Jenny Hale Pulsipher, "Massacre at Hurtleberry Hill: Christian Indians and English Authority in Metacoms War." The William and Mary Quarterly 53, no. 3 (1996): 459. doi: 10.2307/2947201 Pulsipher, "Massacre at Hurtleberry Hill," 460 Diary by Increase Mather (Harvard University: 1900), 47 Margaret Ellen Newell, Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015), 168]