Our Beloved Kin: Remapping A New History of King Philip's War

The Journey North: from Ktsi Mskodak to Ktsitekw

The party that traveled “from Wachusett” returned to the great meadow of Ktsi Mskodak with sachems and “four score” women and children. Word also traveled back to Ashpelon that “Stebbins was run away.” According to Stockwell, some of the Indians who had remained at Ktsi Mskodak “spoke of burning” the remaining captives or “biting off [their] fingers,” perhaps as punishment or as a warning which would invoke fear in the other captives; but instead Ashpelon told them that “there would be a court” where “all would speak their minds.” Ashpelon spoke last, rejecting any proposals to attack the captives. [1]

At the same time, conflict arose after “some of the Indians” had “fallen upon Hadley” again and were apprehended by settlers. The Indians were released upon an agreement that they would return to meet with the English “to make further terms.” This prompted an intertribal council on how to proceed in dealing with the English. The stakes were high—camped at the “long wigwam” the party had traveled far enough from English intrusion, but colonial militia continued to send scouting parties. They could comply or refuse to negotiate: “Ashpelon was much for it, but the Wachusett sachems, when they came were against it.” Weighing in, the “Wachusett sachems,” who may have included Wattanummon (a Penacook who captured Stephen Williams in a later raid on Deerfield in 1704), proposed to “meet the English, indeed, but there fall upon them and take them.” The council at the “long wigwam” reveals the ways in which new bonds of kinship and pan-Indigenous alliances were fostered between communities from Wabanaki to Narragansett. With Ktsi Mskodak serving as a crucial place of gathering far enough beyond colonial reach, “a Narriganset,” “country Indians belonging to Nalwatogg,” “Wachusett sachems,” and “about four score” of their women and children, an autonomous refugee band committed to the continuance and survival of its people had begun to evolve.[2]

After camping at Ktsi Mskodak “three weeks together” the party continued north “to a place called “Squawmaug River” (see M'sqawmagok River on map)—fishing grounds known to the party for its abundant salmon—roughly “200 miles above Deerfield.” [3] The party was too late in the season for salmon so they “parted into two companies,” some going one way, others going another, and continued on to traverse Askaskwigek Adenak, the Green Mountains.[4] There were dozens of routes that ran to and from Betowbakw (Lake Champlain) over the Askaskwigek Adenak and through the various waterways of Native inland spaces to the Kwinitekw, making access easy to raid English settlements in the Kwinitekw Valley. One trail in particular was so commonly used by raiding parties and captives alike that it later became known as the “Indian Road.”[5] Ashpelon’s original raiding party of twenty-six, augmented by the addition of the “four score” Indians “from Wachusett” and surrounding areas that had returned to Ktsi Mskodak, prompted the party to split at the base of the Askaskwigek Adenak range.[6] With many women (some of whom were expecting) and children on the journey north, those who were physically capable would take the more rugged trail for hunting, perhaps moving through  contemporary "Smuggler's Notch," while the others would take a less strenuous course, perhaps along trails following the Winooski River. The company that climbed the mountain trails trekked “eight days” through snow and rain over “a mighty mountain.” Stockwell noticed that “all the water” on the mountain began to “run northward.” The group Stockwell traveled with “wanted provision,” but “at length” reconnected with the others at the northern base of the mountain.[7]

The party stayed “a great while” on the banks of the Wintekw (see map; also known as the Lamoille River) at a site “half a day’s journey off” Betowbakw (see map; also known as Lake Champlain) to “make canoes,” which would allow them to “go over the lake.” As the group was to set the canoes upon the great Betobakw at the mouth of the Wintekw, they hunted a moose and stayed “till they had eaten it all up.” While at last paddling the lake, a “great storm” developed, but the skill of the paddlers who had surely navigated these waters before, were able to pull the others to an island.[8]

Stockwell noted that upon the island the party held a ceremony, discerning, as he reported, that the storm would “cast...away” an English expedition that was “coming” toward them from the western shore, which included “Benjamin Wait and another man” who were attempting to rescue their pregnant wives and children. Unbeknownst to Stockwell at the time, Benjamin Waite and Stephen Jennings, with intelligence from Stebbin’s report, sought funding and support from Major John Pynchon to intercept Ashpelon’s party. They enlisted a Mohawk guide and were traveling up the western shore of Betowbakw. Storms prevented the party from making considerable progress; together they “lay to and fro upon certain islands” for a few more weeks. Eventually, they made their way up to Quebec, hoping to negotiate the release of the English taken at Deerfield and Hatfield.[9]

Ashpelon’s party also advanced/ moved toward Quebec, traveling by foot over the ice of Bitawbagw River/Richelieu River, and “met with some Frenchmen” on one of the islands on the north end of Betowbakw, engaging in exchange. Stockwell, suffering from frostbite, was offered “a bit of biscuit as big as a walnut” that had come from “the Frenchman.” “Six miles from Chambly” two runners left to send word ahead to the French town. Stockwell’s condition being weak, he was at times carried by sled by one of the Native men. Following the runners, they arrived at Chambly “about midnight.”[10]

Stockwell stayed at several French homes at Chambly for several weeks’ time, visited by Indians and French alike. Ashpelon’s party likely camped at a gathering place outside of Chambly where they could easily trade, hunt, and negotiate about the captives’ ransom as it proved more advantageous for the group to create dwelling spaces on the periphery of colonial centers; Stockwell noted that the “French, as the Indians said, loved the English better than the Indians.” While New France was often more amicable and diplomatic in its relations with   Native people, the French were largely invested in the growth of their empire. Despite it being a seemingly progressive province, ideologically, the French did not consider Native peoples their equals. Stockwell stayed most of the time in Chambly with a French bachelor who offered to purchase his release, “but could not for the Indians asked a hundred pounds.” [11]

The group, at this point consisting of at least some of the original party, headed for Sorel, on Ktsitekw (St. Lawrence River)—the final stop on Ashpelon’s journey where the captives were eventually ransomed for 200 pounds. The party did not stay directly at Sorel; rather they gathered at “a place two or three miles off where the Indians had wigwams.”[12] Again, creating inland settlements on the outer boundaries of colonial settlements was a strategic move that created a sovereign space where refugee bands could live, talk, and counsel freely with one another.
[1] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 42.
[2] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 41-2. “Letter from Major John Pynchon,” 53; “Narrative of Benoni Stebbins,” 57. See also Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney, “Watanummon’s World: Personal and Tribal Identity in the Algonquian Diaspora c. 1660-1712” in Papers of the Twenty-fifth Algonquian Conference, ed., William Cowan (Ottawa: Carlton University, 1994), 212-224.
[3] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 42-3. Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney cite Marge Bruchac in a footnote for the spelling of M’skwamagok (an Abenaki fishing place on the Wells River). “Squawmaug” may have been Stockwell’s phonetic spelling.
[4] Calloway, Western Abenakis, 27.
[5] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 42. See also Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney, Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005), 129.
[6] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 43. Hafeli and Sweeney suggest that this would have placed Stockwell close to Mount Hunger and Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in the Askaskwigek Adenak range (footnote 29). It is possible, as Marge Bruchac reasoned in personal conversation, that any mountain would have seemed “mighty” to Stockwell, an inexperienced traveler in the North Country (Maggie King, personal conversation with Marge Bruchac, Amherst, MA, July 23, 2015).
[7] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 43.
[8] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 43.
[9] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 43-4. 
[10] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 44-5.
[11] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 45.
[12] “Stockwell’s Relation,” 46.

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