Massasoit

 

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Massasoit Lodge

Massasoit, in front of his Lodge

Massasoit, king of the Wampanoag Indians; born in the present limits of Massachusetts about 1580. His domain extended from Cape Cod to Narraganset Bay. At one time his tribe numbered 30,000 souls, but just before the arrival of the Mayflower they had almost been swept from the face of the earth by a malignant disease, which left only 300 persons alive. On March 15, 1621, Massasoit appeared at New Plymouth with sixty of his followers, armed and painted, prepared for peace or war. Edward Winslow had been sent with Squanto (see NEW PLYMOUTH) to meet him with presents from the governor, while Captain Standish, with several musketeers, remained a little behind. Leaving Winslow behind as a hostage, Massasoit approached with twenty armed warriors, and met Standish at a dividing brook. The dusky people were taken to a building where a rug and cushions were prepared for the king and his courtiers, and there, sitting in state, he received Governor Carver, who came with a braying trumpet and beaten drum. Squanto acted as interpreter. A treaty of peace and amity was concluded, which was never broken by either party while Massasoit lived. The old sachem sent messengers to other tribes, inviting them to come and make peace with the white people.

Massasoit and Governor Carver

Massasoit and Governor Carver

In the summer of 1621, Governor Bradford sent two envoys (Winslow and Hopkins) to Massasoit, at Pokanoket, near Narraganset Bay, 40 miles from Plymouth. They were kindly received by the king, who renewed the covenant with the English. When he had taken the ambassadors into his dwelling, heard their message, and received presents from them, he put on the horseman's scarlet coat which they had given him, and a chain about his neck, which made his people "proud to behold their king so bravely attired." Having given a friendly answer to their message, he addressed his people who had gathered around him, saying, " Am not I Massasoit, commander of the country around you? Is not such a town mine, and the people of it? Will you not bring your skins to the English?" After this manner he named at least thirty places, and all gave their assent and applause. At the close of his speech he lighted tobacco for the envoys, and proceeded to discourse about England, declaring that he was "King James's man," and expressing his wonder how the King could live without a wife (for the Queen was then dead). Massasoit had just returned home, and had no food to offer the envoys, who craved rest by sleep. "He laid us," wrote one of them, "on a bed with himself and his wife - they at the one end and we at the other; it being only planks laid a foot from the ground, and a thin mat upon them. Two more of his chief men, for want of room, pressed by and upon us, so that we were more wearied of our lodging than of our journey."

In 1623, when Massasoit was very sick, Winslow again visited him, and, in gratitude for the attention of the Englishman, the sachem revealed a plot of the Indians to destroy the white people. Thirteen years later, when Roger Williams, banished from Massachusetts, was making his way towards Narraganset Bay, he was kindly entertained by Massasoit for several weeks. A contemporary writer says the Wampanoag king was " a portly man in his best years; grave of countenance and spare of speech." He left two sons.

 

 

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