American Minute with Bill Federer
Of 102 Pilgrims that landed in Massachusetts in November of 1620, only half survived till spring.
In the Spring of 1621, as recorded by Governor William Bradford in his Of Plymouth Plantation:
“About the 16th of March, a certain Indian came boldly amongst them and spoke to them in broken English … His name was Samoset.
He told them also of another Indian whose name was Squanto, a native of this place, who had been in England and could speak better English than himself …”
Samoset’s initial visit to the Pilgrims was recorded in Mourt’s Relation, written by Edward Winslow and William Bradford in 1622:
“Friday the 16th a fair warm day towards; this morning we determined to conclude of the military orders, which we had begun to consider of before but were interrupted by the savages, as we mentioned formerly; and whilst we were busied hereabout, we were interrupted again, for there presented himself a savage, which caused an alarm.
He very boldly came all alone and along the houses straight to the rendezvous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldness.
He saluted us in English, and bade us welcome, for he had learned some broken English among the Englishmen that came to fish at Monchiggon, and knew by name the most of the captains, commanders, and masters that usually come.
He was a man free in speech, so far as he could express his mind, and of a seemly carriage. We questioned him of many things; he was the first savage we could meet withal.
He said he was not of these parts, but of Morattiggon, and one of the sagamores or lords thereof, and had been eight months in these parts, it lying hence a day’s sail with a great wind, and five days by land.
He discoursed of the whole country, and of every province, and of their sagamores, and their number of men, and strength.
The wind being to rise a little, we cast a horseman’s coat about him, for he was stark naked, only a leather about his waist, with a fringe about a span long, or little more; he had a bow and two arrows, the one headed, and the other unheaded.
He was a tall straight man, the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before, none on his face at all; he asked some beer, but we gave him strong water and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all which he liked well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English.
He told us the place where we now live is called Patuxet, and that about four years ago all the inhabitants died of an extraordinary plague, and there is neither man, woman, nor child remaining, as indeed we have found none, so as there is none to hinder our possession, or to lay claim unto it.
All the afternoon we spent in communication with him; we would gladly have been rid of him at night, but he was not willing to go this night. Then we thought to carry him on shipboard, wherewith he was well content, and went into the shallop, but the wind was high and the water scant, that it could not return back.
We lodged him that night at Stephen Hopkins’ house, and watched him. The next day he went away back to the Massasoits, from whence he said he came, who are our next bordering neighbors. They are sixty strong, as he saith …”
Mourt’s Relation continued:
“The Nausets are as near southeast of them, and are a hundred strong, and those were they of whom our people were encountered, as before related.
They are much incensed and provoked against the English, and about eight months ago slew three Englishmen, and two more hardly escaped by flight to Monchiggon; they were Sir Ferdinando Gorges his men, as this savage told us, as he did likewise of the huggery, that is, fight, that our discoverers had with the Nausets, and of our tools that were taken out of the woods, which we willed him should be brought again, otherwise, we would right ourselves.
These people are ill affected towards the English, by reason of one Hunt, a master of a ship, who deceived the people, and got them under color of trucking with them, twenty out of this very place where we inhabit, and seven men from Nauset, and carried them away, and sold them for slaves like a wretched man (for twenty pound a man) that cares not what mischief he doth for his profit.
Saturday, in the morning we dismissed the savage, and gave him a knife, a bracelet, and a ring; he promised within a night or two to come again, and to bring with him some of the Massasoits, our neighbors, with such beavers’ skins as they had to truck with us.”
Governor Bradford continued in Of Plymouth Plantation, that a few days later, Squanto arrived with Chief Massasiot:
“Massasoyt, who about four or five days after, came with the chief of his friends and other attendants, and with Squanto.
With him, after friendly entertainment and some gifts, they made a peace which has now continued for twenty-four years.”
Governor Bradford described Squanto:
“Squanto stayed with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.
He showed them how to plant corn, where to take fish and other commodities, and guided them to unknown places, and never left them till he died.”
Governor Bradford added:
“The settlers, as many as were able, then began to plant their corn, in which service Squanto stood them in good stead, showing them how to plant it and cultivate it.
He also told them that unless they got fish to manure this exhausted old soil, it would come to nothing,
and he showed them that in the middle of April plenty of fish would come up the brook by which they had begun to build, and taught them how to catch it, and where to get other necessary provisions; all of which they found true by experience …”
Though records are scarce, it appears that Squanto was kidnapped around 1605, along with other Patuxet natives, by George Weymouth’s expedition and taken to England where he lived with Sir Ferdinando Gorges of Plymouth.
On Sir Ferdinando’s 1614 expedition to map the New England coast, Squanto served as interpreter.
Allowed to return to his tribe, Squanto, with other Patuxet and Nausets, was kidnapped again by Captain Thomas Hunt, who intended to sell them at the slave markets of Malaga, Spain, a city notorious for the slave trade which began during its Muslim occupation.
Governor Bradford wrote of Squanto:
“He was a native of these parts, and had been one of the few survivors of the plague hereabouts.
He was carried away with others by one Hunt, a captain of a ship, who intended to sell them for slaves in Spain …”
Squanto was rescued by some Christian friars, who introduced him to Christianity and gave him his freedom.
Squanto returned to England where he was hired by John Slaney, treasurer of the Newfoundland Company. Squanto worked for Newfoundland Colony governor John Mason, then for Captain Thomas Dermer, agent of Sir Ferdinando Gorges.
Governor William Bradford wrote of Squanto:
“He got away for England, and was received by a merchant in London, and employed in Newfoundland and other parts, and lastly brought into these parts by a Captain Dermer, a gentleman employed by Sir Ferdinand Gorges …”
When Squanto finally returned to his tribe in 1619, he found that all of them had died of a plague. Depressed, he lived with the neighboring Wampanoag tribe.
As tragic as his kidnapping was, had Squanto not been kidnapped he most likely would have died in that plague.
Pilgrim Governor William Bradford continued:
“Captain Dermer had been here the same year that the people of the Mayflower arrived, as appears in an account written by him, and given to me by a friend, bearing date, June 30th, 1620 …
‘I will first begin,’ says he, ‘with the place from which Squanto (or Tisquantem) was taken away, which in Captain Smith’s map is called ‘Plymouth’; and I would that Plymouth (England) had the same commodities.
I could wish that the first plantation might be situated here, if there came to the number of fifty persons or upward; otherwise at Charlton, because there the savages are less to be feared …
The Pokanokets (Patuxet), who live to the west of Plymouth, bear an inveterate hatred to the English …
For this reason Squanto cannot deny but they would have killed me when I was at Namasket, had he not interceded hard for me.'”
The plague that wiped out the Patuxet may have come from survivors of a shipwreck at Cape Code three years before the Pilgrims landed.
Governor William Bradford described the fate of a French ship which wrecked in 1617:
“About three years before, a French ship was wrecked at Cape Cod, but the men got ashore and saved their lives and a large part of their provisions.
When the Indians heard of it, they surrounded them and never left watching and dogging them
till they got the advantage and killed them, all but three or four, whom they kept,
and sent from one Sachem to another, making sport with them and using them worse than slaves …”
“Another Indian, called Hobbamok came to live with them, a fine strong man, of some account amongst the Indians for his valor and qualities.
He remained very faithful to the English till he died.
He and Squanto having gone upon business among the Indians, a Sachem called Corbitant…began to quarrel with them, and threatened to stab Hobbamok;
but he being a strong man, cleared himself of him, and came running away, all sweating, and told the Governor what had befallen him, and that he feared they had killed Squanto …
So it was resolved to send the Captain and fourteen men, well armed… The Captain, giving orders to let none escape, entered to search for him.
But Corbitant had gone away that day; so they missed him, but learned that Squanto was alive, and that Corbitant had only threatened to kill him, and made as if to stab him, but did not …”
Bradford wrote further:
“After this, on the 18th of September, they sent out their shallop (small sailboat) with ten men and Squanto as guide and interpreter to the Massachusetts, to explore the bay and trade with the natives, which they accomplished, and were kindly received …
Nor was there a man among them who had ever seen a beaver skin till they came out, and were instructed by Squanto.”
Governor William Bradford wrote the account of Squanto’s death in LATE SEPTEMBER 1622:
“Captain Standish was appointed to go with them, and Squanto as a guide and interpreter, about the LATTER END OF SEPTEMBER;
but the winds drove them in; and putting out again, Captain Standish fell ill with fever, so the Governor (Bradford) went himself.
But they could not get round the shoals of Cape Cod, for flats and breakers, and Squanto could not direct them better.
The Captain of the boat dare not venture any further, so they put into Manamoick Bay, and got what they could there…”
Governor Bradford concluded:
“Here Squanto fell ill of Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose, which the Indians take for a symptom of death, and within a few days he died.
He begged the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in Heaven, and bequeathed several of his things to some of his English friends, as remembrances.
His death was a great loss.”
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.