Samuel Gorton, Doyle Davidson, and the Native Americans


Samuel Gorton was one of the initial founders of Rhode Island and ancestor of Doyle Davidson and also David Kaspareit. Gorton was a friend of the Indians. Previous postings give account of circumstances that lead to Samuel Gorton and others purchasing land from the Narragansett Indians, Miantinomi the Chief Sachem and with that purchase they founded Shawomet, which Gorton later named Warwick.


Adelos Gorton in his book The Life and Times of Samuel Gorton wrote:


" The sturdy resistance of Gorton to the injustice of the Massachusetts authorities, his restoration to freedom, the plea he had made for Miantinomi, and his ever kindly interest in the welfare of the red people gave him the highest favor any man had attained to among them; and the Sachems, immediately upon Gorton's freedom and arrival upon the island, sent messengers to him, to recount to him their wrongs, to express their sympathy and love for him and their surprise and joy at his release. When they returned he accompanied them. The Sachems, seeing the approach of the vessel, sent a band of lusty men who met him and conducted him to the old Sachem Cannonicus, multitudes of Indians coming forth joyfully to meet him. Directly upon Gorton's arrival among them, on April 19th, a General Assembly of the Narragansett Nation was called by their Chiefs for the public manifestation of the sense of the wrong done them and for the adoption of measures to right them. An accusation, plainly false, was made by the Massachusetts Magistrates against the planters of encouraging the Narragansetts to war. The Narragansetts, at this time a powerful tribe, needed no encouragement to leap in avenging warfare; they ached for it. Only Gorton's influence with them and their heed to his persuasion that they refrain from violence and await the better righting of their wrongs by the English government, which all felt sure would be done, restrained them from the slaughter of many Massachusetts settlers. An Act of Submission, which the Massachusetts Commissioner had been unable to obtain from them, was procured from them by Gorton. Williams had not yet returned with the charter, and so from necessity, as well as propriety, the submission was taken to the parent government. A formal act, setting forth their reasons therefore, submitting themselves and granting their entire dominion to the government of the King, was drawn up by Gorton, and it was subscribed to by Pessicus, Chief Sachem, brother and successor of the late Miantinomi, and Cannonicus and his son Mixan. The article was also a peace treaty in which they, yielding to Gorton's advice, agreed not to war for revenge, but to submit their wrongs and their redress to the justice of Great Britain; and although civil war in England prevented that government from protecting them in their rights or redressing their grievances and the killing of Miantinomi went unavenged, the Narragansetts, out of regard for Gorton and Williams, never violated this agreement, even after they had despaired of relief from England. They remained neutral in war until forced from it by the other colonies assaulting them."


"In 1675 Gorton received information that the Connecticut Indians intended to invade the Narragansett country. He had early, by his influence with the Narragansetts, prevailed upon them to observe peace, to abide the tribunal of the English government and refrain from avenging the death of their Chief; and he sent a request to Governor Winthrop of Connecticut that he would have the now intended invasion forbidden. Continuing upon the subject, Gorton writes":


".There is a rumor that the Indians are in combination to root out the English, which many fear (for my own part, I fear no such thing) as though God brought his people hither to destroy them. I think we have no cause to suspect God's hand toward us in these parts, which hath removed us into a place more suitable for us, wherein the people are multiplied beyond thoughts of heart; and with all the natives decreasing by war among themselves and by disease. If God make room by such means for the spreading of the English, it seems more suitable than the sword unto that royal leave which was granted to his subjects to plant themselves in these parts; and also to the charge given together with it, namely, that none of the English should take any lands from the natives without giving them satisfaction for it. And is it to be doubted that the not observing this charge is a great and universal grudge among the Indians at this day; while men take up lands and plant upon them as their own, without any retribution; at the least not to the Chief Sachems, if any small thing at all, to some base, inferior fellow, which makes the Sachems afraid lest by this means in short time they shall be spued out of the country for want of land to reside upon. And for aught that I have learned, this was the cause of that barbarous slaughter made of our friends at the Dutch plantations. Sir, my humble submission consists in my prayers to God for you and yours."


Another written account from the book Rhode Island, Its Making and Its Meaning, of the release of the Gorton and his colleagues from prison discusses the influence their release had upon their Indian counterparts:


"The Narragansetts, it seems, had been close observers of what had befallen the Gortonists during the autumn and winter preceding. They had heard the discharges of musketry that betokened the assault upon the log house; had been told of the capture of the inmates, and of the cruelties inflicted upon them by the Puritans. All this, too, they had perfectly comprehended, for it was in accordance with Indian custom. But now something had occurred which was not in accordance with Indian custom, and which they did not comprehend. The captives, after torture, had been released instead of being put to death. What could this mean? To the Indian it could mean only one thing: the tribe in England to which the Gortonists (Gortonoges) belonged must - for the Narragansetts had heard of fighting in England - have gained the victory over the tribe to which the Puritans (Wattaconoges or Englishmen) belonged, a circumstance which had inspired the Wattaconoges with a wholesome respect for their captives. If this were true, it might signify much to the Narragansetts themselves; for was it not the Wattaconoges in America who had put to death the beloved Miantonomi whom the Gortonoges had befriended ? So it was decided to send for the Professor of Christian Mysteries and his followers, and obtain light.


Just where Canonicus awaited the party from Portsmouth-whether near Wickford, or on Cohanicut Island - we do not know, but they were received by an armed guard and ushered before the patriarch amid joyous demonstrations. Next they met Pessicus - the brother and political successor of Miantonomi- at his house, and were detained in long consultation with " divers Sachems and chief counsellors." The latter told us, says Gorton, that " they thought we belonged to a better Master than the Massachusetts did." Summoning, therefore, a grand assembly of their nation, " they concluded with joint and unanimous consent to become subjects to the State and Government of Old England."


As these accounts demonstrate, Gorton was held in high regard by the Narragansetts. It is written that during his imprisonment and while he was in England, his wife and children stayed not only with his neighbors, but also his Indian neighbors. He ministered the doctrines of Jesus Christ to them, at their invitation, and many were converted. He was faithful to keep his word in all his dealings with them and they treated him with the same honesty and integrity.


The Spirit of God has set Anthony and Misty Reece, both of Native American heritage, with Doyle. They received his gospel and have remained faithful, humbling themselves to walk as God directs.


Just as God sent Samuel Gorton to minister to the Native Americans, He is sending Doyle to minister to the Native Americans and has joined Anthony and Misty with him, to walk with him and minister the gospel of the Lord Jesus to their people.

Sources: The Life and Times of Samuel Gorton by Adelos Gorton 1908;
Rhode Island, Its Making and Its Meaning, by I.B. Richman, 1902

Contributed by Kathryn Currier

posted May 26, 2010



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