God Made a Way for His People


Several years before the Seperatists (pilgrims) began their voyage on the Mayflower, God cleared the way for their establishment in Plymouth and others in the rest of New England. This has never been more evident to me than after reading the following account taken from New England's Memorial published by Nathaniel Morton in 1669. I have copied an excerpt of the text directly from the document. Not all footnotes are included, but when they are, they are inserted in parentheses where denoted(*), and bold type emphasis is my own.


Included is a remarkable account of a French prisoner of the Indians who gives them a warning from God. This excerpt begins after description of the affliction of sickness on the English during the first winter in 1621:


[Of those that did survive in this time of distress and calamity that was upon them, there was sometimes but six or seven sound persons, who (to their great commendation be it spoken) spared no pains night nor day to be helpful to the rest, not shunning to do very mean services to help the weak and impotent.(* Two of the seven, says Mr, Bradford, were Mr. Brewster their Reverend elder and Mr. Standish their Captain. -Prince's Chron. 104.) In which sickness the seamen shared also deeply, and many died, to about the one half of them before they went away. Thus being but few, and very weak, this was an opportunity for the savages to have made a prey of them, who were wont to be most cruel and treacherous people in all these parts, even like lions; but to them they were as lambs, God striking a dread in their hearts, so that they received no harm from them. The Lord also so disposed, as aforesaid, much to waste them by a great mortality, together with which were their own civil dissensions, and bloody wars, so as the twentieth person was scarce left alive when these people arrived, there remaining sad spectacles of that mortality in the place where they seated, by many bones and skulls of the dead lying above ground; whereby it appeared that the living of them were not able to bury their dead. Some of the ancient Indians, that are surviving at the writing hereof, do affirm, that about some two or three years before the first English arrived here, they saw a blazing star, or comett which was a fore-runner of this sad mortality, for soon after it came upon them in extremity. (*In 1617 the country of the Pawkunnawkuts was nearly depopulated by the great plague. It is certainly remarkable that the Pilgrims should have selected a location which was made vacant for them by the hand of Providence, while unaware of the fact The feet itself is also remarkable, as it opened a way for colonizing the country, which we cannot suppose could have been done by so small a number of persons^if the immediate region had been filled with savages. But the wasting sickness among them can hardly be connected with the comet which appeared in 1618 ; the sickness was three or four years at least before the arrival of the Pilgrims. The pestilence was not extensive; it was not on the Cape, nor far into Massachusetts, and scarcely reached the interior. As to the suggestion of a special providence in this sickness, Hutchinson says, " Should we not go into the contrary extreme if we were to take no notice of the extinction of this people in all parts of the continent ? In some, the English have made use of means the most likely to have prevented it, but all to no purpose. They waste, they moulder away, they disappear.") Thus God made way for his people , by removing the heathen, and planting them in the land ; yet we hope in mercy to some of the posterity of these blind savages, by being a means, at least stepping-stones, for others to come and preach the gospel among them; of which afterwards in its more proper place. But to return,


The Indians, after their arrival, would shew themselves afar off, but when they endeavored to come near them they would run away. But about the sixteenth of March 1621 , a certain Indian, called Samoset, came boldly among, them and spoke to them in broken English, which yet they could well understand; at which they marvelled; but at length they under stood that he belonged to the eastern parts of the country, and had acquaintance with sundry of the English fishermen, and could name sundry of them, from whom he learned his language. He became very profitable to them, in acquainting them with many things concering the state of the country in the eastern parts, as also of the people here; of their names, number and strength, of their situation and distance from this place and who was chief amongst them. He told them also of another Indian called Squanto alias Tisquantam, one of this place, who had been in England, and could speak better English than himself: and after courteous entertainment of him he was dismissed: Afterwards he came again with, some other natives, and told them of the coming of the great Sachem, named Massasoit, who (about four or five days after) came with the chief of his friends and other attendants, with the aforesaid Squanto, with whom (after friendly entertainment and some gifts given him) they made a league of peace with him, which continued with him and his successors to the time of the writing hereof. The terms and conditions of the said league is as followeth:


I. That neither he nor any of his, should injure or do hurt to any of their people.


II. That if any of his did any hurt to any of theirs, he should send the offender that they might punish him.


III. That if any thing were taken away from any of theirs, he should cause it to be restored, and they should do the like to his.


IV. That if any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; and if any did war against them, he should aid them.


V. That he should send to his neighbour confederates, to inform them of this, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise comprised in these conditions of peace.


VI.. That when his men came to them upon any occasion, they should leave their arms (which were then bows and arrows) behind them.


VII. Lastly. That so doing, their sovereign Lord King James would esteem him as his friend and ally.


All which he liked well, and withal at the same time acknowledged himself content to become the subject of our sovereign Lord the King aforesaid, his | heirs and successors; and gave unto them all the lands adjacent, to them and their heirs for ever. After these things he returned to his place called Sowams, about forty miles distant from Plimouth, but Squanto continued with them, and was their interpreter and proved a special instrument sent of God for their good, beyond expectation; he directed them in planting their corn, where to take their fish, and to procure their commodities; and also was their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them until his death. He was a native of this place where Plimouth island is, and scarce any left besides himself. He was carried away (with divers others) by one named Hunt, a master of a ship, who thought to sell them for slaves in Spain, but he got away for England, and was entertained by a merchant in London, and employed to Newfoundland and other parts; and at last brought hither into these parts by one Mr. Dermer, a gentleman employed by Sir Ferdinando Gorges and others, for discovery, and other designs in these parts; of whom I shall say something, because it is mentioned in a book set forth, anno 1622, by the president and council for New England, that he made the peace between the savages of those parts and the English, of which this plantation (as it is intimated) had the benefit: And what a peace it was may appear by what befel him and his men.


This Mr. Dermer was here the same year that these people came, as appears by a relation written by him, bearing date June 30, anno 1620, and they arrived in the country in the month of November following, so that there was but four months difference. In which relation to his honoured friend, he hath these passages of this very place where New Plimouth is; "I will first begin (saith he) with that place from whence Squanto or Tisquantum was taken away, which in Captain Smith's map is called Plimouth, and I would that Plimouth had the like commodities. I would that the first plantation might here be seated, if there come to the number of fifty persons, or upwards; otherwise at 'Charlton, because there the savages are less to be feared. The Pocanakets, which live to the west of Plimouth, bear an inveterate malignity to the English, and are of more strength than all the savages from thence to Panobskut: Their desire of revenge was occasioned by an Englishman, who having many of them on board, made great slaughter of them with their murderers and small shot, when (as they say) they offered no injury on their parts. Whether they were English or no, it may be doubted; yet they believe they were, for the French have so possessed them: For which cause Squanto cannot deny but they would have killed me when I was at Namassaket, had he not entreated hard for me. The soil of the borders of this great bay may be compared to most of the plantations which I have seen in Virginia. The land is of divers sorts; for Patukset is an heavy but strong soil; Nauset and Satukett are for the most part blackish and deep mould, much like that where groweth the best tobacco in Virginia. In the bottom of the bay is great store of cod, bass or mullet, etc." And above all, he commends Pacannaket "for the richest soil, and much open ground, likely and fit for English grain Massachusetts is about nine leagues from Plimouth, and situate in the midst: Between both is many islands and peninsulas, very fertile for the most part." With sundry such relations which I forbear to transcribe, being now better known than they were to him.


This gentleman was taken prisoner by the Indians at Mannamoset (a place not far from Plimouth, now well known) he gave them what they demanded for his liberty; but when they had got what they desired, they kept him still, and endeavoured to kill some of his men, but he was freed by seizing on some of them, and kept them bound till they gave him a canoe load of corn: Of which see Purch. lib. 9, fol. 1778. But this was anno 1619.


After the writing of the former relation, he came to the isle Capewak, which lieth south from this place, in the way to Virginia, and the aforesaid Squanto with him; where he going on shore amongst the Indians to trade as he used to do, was assaulted and betrayed by them, and all his men slain, but one that kept the boat; but himself got on board very sore wounded, and they had cut off his head upon the cuddy of the boat, had not his man rescued him with a sword, and so they got him away, and made shift to get.into Virginia, where he died, whether of his wounds, or the diseases of the country, or both, is uncertain. By all which it may appear how far this people were from peace, and with what danger this plantation was begun, save as the powerful hand of the Lord did protect them.


These things were partly the reasons why the Indians kept aloof, as aforesaid, and that it was so long ere they could come to speech with any of them: Another reason (as afterwards themselves made known) was, how that about three years before these first planters arrived, a certain French ship was cast away at Cape Cod, but the men got on shore, and saved their lives, and much oftheir victuals and other goods; but afterwards the Indians heard of it, and gathered together from these parts, and never left watching and dogging them, until they got advantage, and killed them all but three or four, which they kept and sent from one Sachem to another to make sport with them, and used them worse than slaves; and they conceived this ship was now come to revenge it. Two of the said French so used were redeemed by the aforesaid Mr. Dermer, the other died amongst the Indians; and as the Indians have reported, one of them lived amongst them until he was able to discourse with them, and told them, that God was angry with them for their wickedness, and would destroy them, and give their country to another people, that should not live like beasts as they did, but should be clothed, etc. But they derided him and said, that they were so many that God could not kill them. His answer was, that though they were never so many, God had many ways to destroy them that they knew not. Shortly after his death came the plague, a disease they never heard of before, and mightily swept away, and left them as dung upon the earth (as you have heard.) Not long after came the English to New-Plymouth, and then several of the Indians began to mind the Frenchman's words, thinking him to be more than an ordinary man. And as the first part of his speech had proved true, they began to be apprehensive of the latter, namely the loss of their country. This relation the first planters at Plimouth, after they came to be acquainted with them, several of them heard from divers of their ancient and gravest Indians, and have often seen the place where the French were surprised and taken; which place beareth the name of Frenchman's Point with many to this day. This relation, for the verity thereof, being also very observable, was thought meet to be here inserted, and let me add a word hereunto; that it is very observable likewise, that God hath very evidently made way for the English, by sweeping away the natives by some great mortalities; as first, by the plague herein Plimouth jurisdiction; secondly by the smallpox in the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts, a very considerable people a little before the English came into the country; as also at Connecticut, very full of Indians a little before the English went into those parts; and then the Pequots by the sword of the English (as will appear in its place) and the country now mostly possessed by the English. I might also mention several places in the jurisdiction of New Plymouth, peopled with considerable companies of proper able men, since the first planters thereof came over, even in our sight, before they were in a capacity to improve any of their land, that have by the same hand of providence been cut off, and so their land even cleared for them, and now so replenished with their posterity, that places are too strait for them. By little and little (saith God of old to his people) will I drive them out from before thee, ' till, thou be increased, and inherit the land, Exod, xxiii, 28, 29, 30.


But before I pass on let the reader take notice of a very remarkable particular, which was made known to the planters at Plimouth, some short space after their arrival, that the Indians, before they came to the English to make friendship with them, they got all the powaws in the country, who, for three days together, in a horrid and devilish manner did curse and execrate them with their conjurations; which assembly and service they held in a dark and dismal swamp.(*Behold how Satan labored to hinder the gospel from coming into New England.) But to return.


The spring being now come, it pleased God that the mortality, which had taken away so many of the first planters at Plimouth ceased, and the sick and lame recovered apace, which was, as it were, new life put into them; they having borne this affliction with much patience, being upheld by the Lord.]


Sources: New England's Memorial - by Nathaniel Morton

Contributed by David Kaspareit

posted February 2, 2010



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