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The town of Lancaster, the territory of Nashaway
Mistress Mary Rowlandson in "the Place Between"Mary Rowlandson's town of Lancaster was located within the Nipmuc territory of Nashaway, at the fertile confluence of rivers. The name "Nashaway" referred to this "place between" rivers which connected Native territories. Mary had arrived at Nashaway, from Salem, with her parents, John and Joan White, but soon married the town minister, Joseph Rowlandson. She thus became the only woman in the town known as "Mistress," because of her husband's status.
Mary Rowlandson's house and pasture were at the very center of this confluence, where Nipmuc women had long cultivated corn, squash and bean mounds, intercropped with sunflowers and sunchokes, and gathered edible plants, including berries. Here, Rowlandson would have cultivated a small kitchen garden, as colonial men plowed the fields, and cattle took over the meadows. The rivers at the confluence also created a barrier, providing defense.
Monoco Reclaims the Place BetweenWhen the Nashaway leader Monoco led the February 1676 raid on Lancaster, he was reclaiming it as Native space, an area that had always been vital for planting, fishing and gathering medicinal plants. They may have targeted the Rowlandson house in particular because of its location and their status. Mary Rowlandson and her children, as well as other captives, also provided a form of defense. In the wake of the Great Swamp massacre in Narragansett territory, Native leaders began to take women and children captive, carrying them into their own communities. They may have believed it was less likely that English men would burn Native villages if they contained English women and children. A high status captive like Mistress Mary Rowlandson was valuable, both for protection and for the price that Massachusetts leaders might be willing to offer for her return. Native people also sought to incorporate captives into their own social networks and cultural practices, teaching them how to "be human" in this place, creating a bridge between cultures.
The Rowlandson LotA visit to the Rowlandson homesite today shows that many Native edible and medicinal plants, such as cattail and pickerelweed, and English plants, transported in cattle dung during the colonial period, grow in abundance due to the fertile soils and flowing water. Silky dogwood grows in the former Rowlandson lot. As part of the process of succession, raspberries are now reclaiming the meadow in the former Rowlandson pasture.
Englishman's FootprintOne of the English plants, plantain, was known as "Englishman's Footprint," as it appeared, along with cattle, as a sign of the arrival of English settlers in Native homelands. As cattle moved through the land, they deposited the seeds, along with fertilizer, and the plantain spread. An edible and medicinal plant, it is one of many English plants, including clover and dandelion (pictured with plantain below), that is uniquely adapted to cattle, and which Native people also adapted as useful food and medicine. Abenaki author Cheryl Savageau published a poem drawn from the story of Samuel Eames, a young captive who escaped, and found his way to a colonial settlement by following the "Englishmen's footprint." You can appreciate her sense of irony, a twist in the final line of the poem, that reflects Native people's experience of colonization.
Reading the Place Between Lancaster and NashawayThe raid on Lancaster and Mary Rowlandson's capture is remembered through memorials and the site is preserved, but the memory of Nashaway and the Native people who lived there lies beneath the surface, still readable on the land.
Click here to view these locations in the map of Mary Rowlandson's removes or in the interactive story map.
Testimony and Petition of William Wannukhow and Sons
The Testimony and Petition of William Wannuckhow and his sons, MA 215-217, was transcribed in J.H. Temple's History of Framingham, Massachusetts.
To the Hon. Court of Assistants sitting in Boston, Septr the 5th 1676.
The humble Petition of William Wannuckhow, Joseph Wannuckhow and John Appamatahqeen, all prisoners at the barr; Humbly imploreth your favor to hear and consider our application. We know that your Honours are men of truth, fearing God, and will faithfully perform your promises especially when it concerns so great a matter as the lives of men. You were pleased (of your own benignity) not for any desert of ours, to give forth your declaration dated the 19th of June, wherein you were pleased to promise life and liberty unto such of your enemies as did come in and submit themselves to your mercy and order and disposal within a time limited which afterwards was enlarged to a longer time, and tidings thereof sent by James Prentice unto us, which offers of grace, as soon as we heard of it, we readily embraced it, and came in accordingly ourselves wives and children, as Capt. Prentice and his son, with others, to whose house we were directed to come, are ready to testify; and those orders of yours are upon record, the copies whereof we are ready to present. If it should be said that we are known to be notorious in doing mischief to the English, we answer, none can so say in truth, or prove any such thing against us. Indeed we do acknowledge that we were in company of those that burnt Goodman Eames his house. But we did not act in it. It was done by others, who were slain in the war, and so have answered God’s justice for their demerits; as for our part we came along with that company upon a necessary and just occasion, to get our corn which we had planted gathered and put up at Magunquog. But finding our corn taken away, we intended to return. But Netus and another man that were our leaders earnestly moved to go to Goodman Eames’s farm for to get corn, and they said they did believe he had taken our corn. But we were unwilling to go. But they by their persuasion and threatening carried us with them. But as we said before, we neither killed nor burnt nor took away any thing there. But were instrumental to save Goodman Eames his children alive, one of us carried one boy upon our backs rather than let them be killed. This is the truth of things, so that we cannot be reckoned among such as have been notorious in doing mischief. Indeed we were enemies, being tempted to go among them by example of our choice men Capt. Tom and others. But we had no arms and did not hurt the English as many others have done, that upon their submission to your mercy are pardoned. Besides it was a time of war, when this mischief was done; and though it was our unhappy portion to be with those enemies yet we conceive that depredations and slaughters in war are not chargeable upon particular persons, especially such as have submitted themselves to your Honours upon promise of life, &c. as we have done.
Therefore we desire again to insist upon that plea, that we may receive the benefit of your declarations before mentioned. Our lives will not be at all beneficial to Goodman Eames. Those that slew his wife and relations and burnt his house have already suffered death, and the satisfaction of Goodman Eames in our death will not countervail the honour and justice or authority of the country that may be blemished thereby.
As a result of James Printer’s advocacy, other families were able to come in under the amnesty declaration. In August, William Wannukhow and his family, of Magunkoag, traveled to Captain Thomas Prentice’s house in Cambridge, as they “were directed to come.” Three weeks later, at Prentice’s, they were apprehended by the Constable “to answer the complaint of Thomas Eames for killing” his wife and children and “burning” his house, barn and property. The above document, MA 215-217, offers insight regarding the idea of amnesty in colonial space. Transcribed in History of Framingham, Massachusetts, the document presents the petition of William Wannukhow, Joseph Wannukhow and John Appamatahqeen as they seek amnesty for burning the home of Goodman Eames. The men did not gain amnesty and were eventually convicted.
As stated in the testimony above, Wannukhow and his sons made efforts to save Thomas Eames' children carrying "one boy upon [their] backs, rather than let them be killed." In History of Framingham, Massachusetts, Temple provides further insight as to the locations of these children in the aftermath of the burning of the Eames farm. Thomas Eames' stated that he lost nine children in the raid, with some of them being killed and others being taken into captivity by the Indians. Temple writes that some of the children were carried near Wachusett whiles others went to Wennimisset. Three of the children managed to escape during the first few months of their captivity, including one of the sons. At the age of 11, this boy escaped from his party and, because he did not know the way to any of the English towns, he is said to have found plantain, or "the English Foot," and followed it home. As Temple writes, plantain was found amongst the English and was not native to the land pre-contact. Abenaki poet Cheryl Savageau writes of this Eames child, but cautions against plantain, in her poem "Englishmen's Footprints."
In addition to the Eames son that used plantain to find his way home, reports of the whereabouts of other Eames children also exist. On May 14 of 1676, a soldier named Thomas Reed wrote of seeing Thomas Eames' daughter and her child at a camp near Turner's Falls. On August 14, Joseph Wannukhow, after inquiring about the whereabouts of Eames's two daughters learned that they were "at a great hill about middle way between Wachusett and Pennacook." This could possible be Mount Monadnock [link?].