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Grey Lock's Return
Contributed by Griffin Harris with Lisa Brooks
The Native politics of the Connecticut River valley remained highly dynamic decades after King Phillip’s war had ended. Rather than simply driving the Native people of the valley north, both conflict and trade forged new intertribal and tribal-colonial alliances; Native spaces adapted and transformed as kinship and exchange networks expanded. The travels of Grey Lock, a Connecticut river valley Indian originally from Woronoke, who became a leader in Wabanaki country, and who led a series of raids against colonial English towns on the Connecticut River in the 1720s, serve as an excellent example of the shifting but very deliberate movements of Native people in the valley and beyond.
During the dispersal that followed King Phillip’s war, Grey Lock, along with his and several other families, traveled first from Woronoke, near the Westfield River in Massachusetts, to Schaghticoke. Moving along well-established east-west routes, many Native people did the same, and Schaghticoke became, for a time, a central gathering place, inhabited by members of different tribes from throughout the southern Connecticut River valley. But Grey Lock did not stay in Schaghticoke for long, and soon after arriving headed northeast, into the deep interior of Wabanaki country. There, he established himself at Missisquoi, near the northern edge of Betowbakw, or Lake Champlain, intermarrying into an Abenaki family.
This map shows the travels of Grey Lock and the warriors whom he drew from the areas in and around the Wabanaki heartland (gray arrows). It also shows some of the raiding paths he and his warriors took into the southern Connecticut river valley (orange arrows). It is important to note that Native homelands are designated as different from villages. In many places of Native inhabitation, there was no one centralized hub or town – rather, peoples were constantly shifting through known areas, moving with the changing availability of natural resources. Thus, Native homelands, rather than being represented by distinct points, are represented on this map as larger regions (purple circles). It is also important to note that the places shown on this map represent only a small selection of the towns, villages and homeland that existed in and around the Connecticut river valley in the early eighteenth century.
As the British expanded northward from southern New England and westward from Maine, they came into increasing contact with, and conflict against, Wabanaki people. Tensions boiled over in 1722 when Governor Samuel Shute of Massachusetts declared war on the Maine Wabanakis. Grey Lock, in response to British aggression, led a series of small raiding parties against several settlements in and around the Connecticut River. He struck at Fort Dummer (named for the then-governor of Massachusetts, William Dummer), which had been constructed in 1724 for the purpose of expanding and defending British towns. Note that Fort Dummer was established in the Sokoki region through which the Wampanoag leader Weetamoo and the captive Mary Rowlandson traveled during King Philip’s War [internal link to Wantatisquet page]. This conflict became known as “Dummer’s War,” “Grey Lock’s War,” “Lovewell’s War” (for a military commander in Maine) or more recently (and perhaps most comprehensively), the fourth Anglo-Abenaki War, with King Philip’s War being the first. In moving throughout the valley, Grey Lock, who came to be known as “Wawanolewat” or “he who fools the others or puts someone off track” took great advantage of the disparity between Native and British regional knowledge. Using established networks and paths, he was able to quickly strike settlements and then disappear northwards. Colin Calloway describes the effectiveness of these raids in Western Abenakis of Vermont:
“Grey Lock left his lair [at Missisquoi] time and again to strike his enemies in the south, and Massachusetts levies proved no match for the war chief. He harried the frontier, depleting Massachusetts’s resources, tying up its manpower, and eroding the morale of its citizens. Small war parties of mobile and seemingly invisible warriors filtered silently south through the Green Mountains, waited patiently until the time was right, then struck without warning and retreated from when they had come before a defense could be organized or a pursuit mounted.”
Southward raids from Wabanaki territory were hardly unprecedented, and had been occurring sporadically for the past fifty years (the 1704 raid on Deerfield, lead in conjunction with the French, is one of the most famous).
Grey Lock also effectively drew Native people from the surrounding regions to his cause. Warriors from Odanak, Winooski, Kahnawake and Koasek (among other places), representing a variety of tribes, all took part in his raids. At the same time, Grey Lock worked to retain political neutrality with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, knowing well that the British would attempt to persuade the Iroquois, and especially the Mohawks, to strike against the Wabanaki.
Although Grey Lock's raids subsided after 1726, the war ending through a series of treaties with Wabanaki leaders on the coast, ongoing Wabanaki resistance and diplomacy prevented the British from pushing their way into the heart of Wabanaki country for several decades. Grey Lock, meanwhile, continued to live on at Missisquoi; he was never found or prosecuted by the British, and he never signed any treaty. Both documents and oral traditions indicate that he lived well into the 1740s (meaning he was at least in his eighties before his death) and his daughter Charlotte is remembered in the Missisquoi community. Grey Lock has remained a highly regarded figure amongst Wabanaki people, as well as members of other regional tribes. Even today, his descendants remain among Abenaki communities.
 Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney, Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005). Colin Calloway, The Western Abenakis of Vermont (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 116.