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

Dispersal from Schaghticoke

Though many Native people from the Connecticut River valley made their way to Schaghticoke in the years following King Phillip’s war, the village was by no means a permanent safe haven. Indeed, the same forces that drove peoples to the north and west– war, pestilence and persecution – continued to affect those gathered at Schaghticoke, influencing their movements well into the middle of the 18th century. Native people’s knowledge of the trails and rivers that crisscrossed Wabanaki territory made their movement throughout that northern region relatively easy. Use of these highways also meant that people rarely had to stay in one place for long; as there were many places accessible to them, Native people could make choices, dependent on their specific needs, or the specific threats facing them.

While some made their way all the way north to the mission towns in French Canada, others joined with the sovereign Wabanakis living near Lake Champlain. From places like Missisquoi and Winooski, warriors, many of whom had been for a time at Schaghticoke, raided colonial towns along the Connecticut River throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The English worried much about Native dispersals from Schaghticoke, and were particularly concerned over the prospect of Natives coming under the influence of the French. Beginning in the 1670s, Governor Andros of New York tried hard not only to maintain peace among Indian groups near Schaghticoke and Albany, but tried also to encourage natives not to head north. Better to maintain the Schatightoke Indians as allies, thought Andros, then to allow them to become agents of the French. Of course, such a view ignored much of Native people’s own sovereignty – indeed, many who left New York allied themselves neither with the French nor the British, seeking to make livings for themselves within the Wabanaki heartland to the east. Some even headed far west, all the way to the Great Lakes region.

Regardless of his view’s legitimacy, Andros set a precedent for enacting policies aimed at keeping Natives in and around Schaghticoke, including banning the enslavement of Indians, as the following excerpt from New York’s Colonial documents shows. This declaration was made in 1679, right after King Phillip’s War.

Councill Minutes; Indians Declared Free and Not Slaves

At the Councell held in New York December 5th 1679

“Resolved, That all Indyans here, are free & not slaves, nor can bee forct to bee servants, Except such as been formerly brought from the Bay of Campechio & other foreign parts, but if any shall bee brought hereafter within the space of six months, they are to bee dispose as soone as may bee out of the Government, but after the Exparacoon of six months, all that shall bee brought here from those parts shall bee free…

…All Christian Servants that shall be brought into this government shall bee recorded att ye Secretarys office att importation by the Masters of Vessels or others that shall bring them, & they have liberty to assigne them to another, for the time specifyde in their Indentures, & no such servant be reassigned or transferred over to serve his time with another, without the Consent or Approbacon of the next Court of Sessions or Juresdiction, at the great distance of the time of Fourts, by the Appropacon of two Justices of peace, one being president or first Justice of said Riding or Corporacon to bee recorded in ye respective place & transmitted to the office of Records.” [1]

In 1691, The New York colony commissioned the construction of Fort Half Moon at the mouth of the Mohawk River, building it specifically for the Natives of Schaghticoke, in exchange for their promised residence. 

Not all were convinced to stay, however, and not all made their way north. Some were drawn from Schaghticoke to the safe and exceptionally fertile lands to the east, as far as the Wabanaki homelands of Norridgewock, on the Kennebec River, and Namaskonti, on the Sandy River, where alluvial valleys provided rich soil, in which crops of corn, bean and squash (known collectively as “The Three Sisters”) could be grown with great reliability.

It may seem counter-intuitive that Native people fleeing the violence and persecution of the English should settle fairly close to the English settlements of eastern Maine. However, in this region, near the Kennebec and the Penobscot rivers, political and military power was still largely in the hands of Wabanaki people. From the 1670s to the 1740s, the English attempted, only sometimes successfully, to ratify treaties with Wabanaki leaders. Tensions often arose, however, when the wording of those treaties framed Natives as the submissive actors. Supported by an extensive network of intertribal alliances, and often reinforced and supplied by New France, the Wabanakis on the coast and in the northern interior knew well that they held positions of strength. In 1677, toward the end of King Philip’s War, one Wabanaki leader, Mogg, sent a message to Massachusetts via the captive Francis Card, saying, “we [the Wabanaki] are owners of the country and it is wide and full of [Indians] and we can drive you out.”[2] Forty years later, during a 1717 treaty council, Wiwurna, the Wabanaki speaker from Norridgewock told Massachusetts Governor Samuel Shute:

We now return Thanks that the English are come to Settle here, and will Imbrace them in our Bosoms that come to Settle on our Lands . . . [but] we desire there may be no further Settlements made. We shan't be able to hold them all in our Bosoms. [3]

[1] Berthold Fernow, ed., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Co., 1881), 13:537.
[2] “Declaration of Francis Card,” Documentary History of the State of Maine (Baxter Manuscripts), James Phinney Baxter, ed., (Portland: Maine Historical Society, 1900), 2nd series, 6: 150-1.
[3] See Emerson Baker and John Reid, “Amerindian Power in the Early Modern Northeast: A Reappraisal,” The William and Mary Quarterly 61:1 (2004), 89. For interpretation of this statement in relation to traditional ecological knowledge and resource management see Lisa T. Brooks and Cassandra M. Brooks, “The Reciprocity Principle and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.”

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