Lockety Fight: Unraveling Centuries of Silence
William Hubbard’s and Increase Mather’s accounts of Weetamoo’s death have persisted, and subsequent historians have frequently relied on the narrative they created. While historians of King Philip’s War have embellished, speculated, and altered details depending on the time of their writing and their interpretations, nearly all have accepted, and repeated, the basic details of Hubbard’s and Mather’s accounts. And they all seem to agree on one thing: Weetamoo was a victim - whether of the river, of the violence of her "traiterous" warriors, or possibly even the violence of a colonial soldier.[i] Nevertheless, the narratives re-enact that victimhood over and over again.
But what if Hubbard and Mather were only half right about Weetamoo’s death? What if a battle took place on the day that Weetamoo died?
Local histories have a very different perspective of the war. Rooted in deep local memory and accounts of place, local histories sometimes remember what more general histories do not. In Samuel Hopkins Emery’s 1893 History of Taunton, he describes a battle that took place “on the sixth of August, 1676”:
On the sixth of August, 1676, an Indian fled to Taunton, and seeking to make terms for himself, offered to conduct the English to a party of the enemy representing that they might be taken with little difficulty or danger. Twenty of the Tauntonians ventured out and surprised and captured the whole twenty-six. The place of this exploit is believed to be at Lockety Neck, between the Rumford and Coweset (or Wading) Rivers (now in Norton). About this time the head of the squaw sachem Weetamoe, was exhibited on a pole at Taunton, her dead body having been found at Metapoiset.[ii]
In his language and most of the details of his account, Emery closely follows Hubbard’s and Mather’s narrative of the incident that they claim led to Weetamoo’s death. However, Emery diverges from their accounts in an important way: he disassociates the “exploit” of the twenty Tauntonians from Weetamoo’s death. This is an important shift from Hubbard’s and Mather’s claim that Weetamoo died while “fleeing” from capture by the Tauntonians.
But even as Emery elides this connection between the Taunton “exploit” and Weetamoo’s death, he includes a detail that does not appear in Hubbard, Mather, or in any other accounts of the war: an explicit location. He claims that the twenty Tauntonians’ “exploit” took place at “Lockety Neck.”
Lockety Neck, at the confluence of the Rumford and Coweset rivers and about six miles away from Taunton center, is a well-documented site in local narratives, although it never appears in broader histories of the war. Emery’s description of the site in History of Taunton, as well the map by James Seaver that appears in his book, are both likely based upon earlier local historical accounts. George Faber Clark spends several pages discussing "Lockety Fight" in his History of the Town of Norton (1859), and Eric B. Schultz and Michael J. Tougias note, in King Philip's War (1999), that an “Indian Battle Ground” marked on an 1871 map of Norton also probably refers to Lockety Neck.[iii] Clark, in particular, lays out extensive local knowledge of the location:
I have searched diligently for some authentic account of this engagement; but I can find none. Several persons have informed me, that, in some history of the Indian wars, they had seen an account of it; but I think they must be mistaken, and have confounded tradition with history. Yet it is possible that some account has been printed; but, if so, it is very strange that no one can point it out to us.
There is, however, no doubt that a battle actually took place on this neck or point of land. (...) in 1712, land was laid out to Thomas Stephens near the place of “Lockety Fight,” on “Lockety Neck.” Thus there can be no questioning the actuality of the battle, and the locality of it.
Some years ago, the plain, which extends to within three or four rods of the junction of these rivers, was ploughed up, and large quantities of spear-points were found, with the appearance of having been thrown from the extreme point of the land.[iv]
Clark demonstrates that local knowledge continues to recognize the “exploit” at Lockety Neck, even as he questions the “strange” lack of documentation in the “history of the Indian wars.” Perhaps most importantly, he provides evidence that what happened on August 6, 1676 at Lockety Neck was a battle. According to Clark, the warriors were driven toward the confluence and entrapped there. It was a battle intense enough to leave spearheads in the ground, and labels such as “Lockety Fight” and “Indian Battle Ground” on the maps. Clark’s description is a far cry from the “surprised and captured” narrative that Mather, Hubbard, and Emery use in their accounts.
If Weetamoo was indeed at the encounter between twenty-six warriors and twenty Tauntonians on August 6, 1676, then many questions begin to emerge. Lockety Neck is located about six miles northwest of the town of Taunton, closer to the safety of the swamps and marshes of the north than to the Taunton river. If Weetamoo had been “intending to make an escape from the danger,” why would she have run toward the river, in the direction of the town of Taunton? Why wouldn’t she seek a much shorter and safer route to the north? And if she did cross the Taunton river, as far north as she was, how did her body end up all the way to the south in Mattapoisett? And if she was, indeed, at Lockety Fight, wouldn’t she have been there to fight alongside her warriors? Why would she leave them behind?
As this map shows, to travel to the Taunton River crossing, Weetamoo would have had to run six miles along the Three Mile River, the same route taken by the Taunton men, pass through Taunton center, and travel another eleven miles downriver through Assonet to Mattapoisett, both of which places were exposed to colonial troops. Alternatively, she could have skirted Taunton by traveling twelve miles through the woods and eight miles down the Segreganset River, which would put her near Assonet, but also close to the Swansea settlement. Even then, it would be another eight miles down the Kteticut to Mattapoisett. It is unlikely that Weetamoo would have followed either route, especially since deeper, less accessible refuges lay to the north.
If Lockety Neck was the site of the encounter between Weetamoo’s men and the soldiers from Taunton, the question remains: what really happened to Weetamoo? If she did not “escape,” was she “seized” along with her men?
Weetamoo may have died in battle. She may have been captured, taken back to Taunton, and died there. Without more documentation, there is no way to know. Most assuredly, she was deeply grieved by her relations when she was displayed as a sign of conquest on the green in Taunton. Although Mather and Hubbard did not acknowledge her role in Lockety Fight, Weetamoo’s kin acknowledged their leader, their tears a symbol of great reverence to the rock woman who resisted, who fought so fiercely for them. Their cries were not only in grief, but to honor her strength and leadership both before and during the war.
[iii] Schultz, Eric B., and Michael Tougias, King Philip’s War: The History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict, Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 1999.