Samuel Numphow’s Journey: A View from Winnepesaukee
As war broke out in the south, colonial authorities sought to prevent and contain the movement of Native people, including those who went north. In October 1675, Samuel Numphow traveled from his home at the mission community of Wamesit, in Patucket territory, up the Molôdemak River towards Penacook. Numphow was the son of a traditional leader and convert "ruler" from the fishing falls at Patucket. He was also a fluent reader and writer of English, who attended colonial schools. He carried a message for the Massachusetts Bay colony to the Pennacook leader Wannalancet, who was then leading a group of Patucket-Penacook people upriver, seeking sanctuary from the storm of war. In their journeys north, both Wanalancet and Samuel Numphow traveled through a wide kinship network in the north, moving through Penacook country to lake Winnepesaukee and the intervale of Pemigewasset, a Wabanaki town nestled in Wôbiadenak, the White Mountains.
Numphow's letter, which he sent to Massachusetts Governor Leverett on his return, demonstrated his familiarity with this vast region that encompassed his network of relations, a northern territory beyond the knowledge of most Englishmen.
Numphow's report also documented the first raids on English settlements on the Wabanaki coast, from the perspective of Pemigewasset, a fertile place and swift-flowing river between mountains, and Ossipee, a Wabanaki stronghold at the confluence of the Ossipee and Saco Rivers, another fertile intervale. From the perspective of these mountain homelands, the people may have been especially concerned that, if left unchecked, English settlements and industries would continue to creep upriver towards their fishing falls and planting places, threatening subsistence.
A transcription of Samuel Numphow's letter follows:
In his letter, Samuel Numphow refers to two coastal raids, one at Piscataqua, on the Oyster River [Durham], and another at Caskoak, on the house of John Wakely, where Wakely's daughter was taken captive. Wannalancet, as Numphow reported, had gone further north, "toward" Canada, which for the English, meant a vast northern space beyond their reach. Numphow also referred to Native people from the Massachusetts colonial town of Groton, who "were afraid" to return to Wamesit following the burning of a haystack at neighboring Chelmsford. Samuel Numphow returned to Wamesit, where growing settler anger toward "Indians" would lead to vigilante action , which would effect even those who served as messengers and scouts.
To the honoured gouvernor, I Sam Namphow, being commanded to carry a letter to wanna[lan]cit. We came to pannakook a little further there we saw some of the pannakook Indians and asked them where wannacit was they said he was at pemechowasick [Pemigewasset]. We went to wennippesakick that was our way to go to a place were they said he was but when we came to wennippesakick shore we saw some more Indians. We asked them where is the sachem they said he went away three weeks agone frm pemechowasick he went toward the French. And they told us two Indians come from Pascattoway today they told us they killed two English men and take one alive: ten Indians in a company.
And they told us there was some more Indians went out afore these last: from aospak [ossipee] and killed some English and brought two children and one maid alive and they told us fifty more going out then we asked them which way doe they goe: they said we cannot tell.
And we coming home we met with Groton Indians at penakook they told us they [were] afraid to come in our town. 12 8 mo 1675 youres to command Sam Namphow