Page images
[ocr errors]

have sometimes been made on it. Mr. Williams himself does not speak of it in a tone of reproach. He immediately resolved to comply with the advice. He accordingly embarked in a canoe, with five others,* and proceeded down the stream. As they approached the little cove, near Tockwotten, now India Point, they were saluted, by a company of Indians, with the friendly interrogation, "What cheer ?” a common English phrase, which they had learned from the colonists. At this spot, they probably went on shore, but they did not long remain there. They passed round India Point and Fox Point, and proceeded up the river on the west side of the peninsula, to a spot near the mouth of the Moshassuck river. Tradition reports, that Mr. Williams landed near a spring, which remains till this day.Ş At this spot, the settlement of Rhode Island commenced :

“O call it holy ground,

The soil where first they trod,
They have left unstained, what there they found,

To the town here founded, Mr. Williams, with his habit-
ual piety, and in grateful remembrance of “God's merciful
Providence to him in his distress," gave the name of

There has been much discussion respecting the precise period at which this memorable event occurred. There is a perplexing confusion in the statements of different writers. We shall be excused, if we examine the subject with some minuteness. Callender, in his Century Sermon, (p. 18) says, that it was “ in the spring of the year 1634–5." Governor Hopkins, in his History of Providence, s places it

* William Harris, John Smith, (miller,) Joshua Verin, Thomas Angell and Francis Wickes. R. I. Register, 1828, article written by Moses Brown.

| Equivalent to the modern How do you do?

# The lands adjacent to this spot were called Whatcheer, in memory of the oceurrence.

ş" Tradition has uniformly stated the place where they landed, to be at the spring southwest of the Episcopal church, at which a house has recently been built by Mr. Nehemiah Dodge." Moses Brown.

|| Mrs. Hemans' noble ode, “ The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers.” This beautiful stanza applies with more literal truth to Roger Williams and his companions, than to all the Pilgrim fathers.

1 Published in the Providence Gazette, from January to March, 1765, and republished in the 2 Mass. His. Col. ix.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ The

“ some time in the year 1634.” Hutchinson (vol. i. p. 41) assigns the same year. Later writers have naturally been led into the same mistake. Backus (vol. i. p. 70) states, that in January, 1636, Mr. Williams left Massachusetts, which is the right date, according to the modern mode of computing time, though, by the style, which then prevailed, it was 1635.

But the period of his banishment is fixed decisively by the records of Massachusetts, and by Winthrop's Journal. His sentence of banishment was passed, November 3, 1635. In January following, according to Winthrop (vol. i. p. 175) the Court resolved to send him to England, and the messengers found, that he had departed from Salem three days before their arrival.

In his letter to Major Mason, Mr. Williams says, next year after my banishment, the Lord drew the bow of the Pequod war against the country.” This war commenced in July, 1636, with the murder of Oldham. This fact corroborates the preceding statement.

The time of his leaving Seekonk for Providence cannot be accurately determined, but we may approach very near to the true date.

Governor Winslow, of Plymouth, who advised him to leave Seekonk, entered on his official duties in March, 1635–6. This was the only year that he held the office of Governor, between 1633 and 1644.1 Mr. Williams must, therefore, have been at Seekonk, subsequently to the date of Governor Winslow's accession to office.

In Mr. Williams letter to Major Mason, he" began to build and plant at Seekonk.” He did not begin to plant, we may presume, till the middle of April, if so early. In the same letter, he speaks of his removal as occasioning his “ loss of a harvest that year," from which remark we may reasonably infer, that the corn had attained a considerable growth before he left Seekonk, and consequently that he did not cross the river till the middle, perhaps, of June.

On the 26th of July, a letter was received from Mr. Williams, by Governor Vane, informing him of the murder * Mass. Rec. vol. i. 163.

† Backus, vol. i. 74. # The Plymouth settlers, in 1623, began to plant their corn the middle of April. Prince, p. 216.


says, that


of Mr. Oldham, by the Indians of Block-Island.* This letter was written at Providence, and it proves, that Mr. Williams had removed thither previously to the 26th of July.

We may safely conclude, that he left Seekonk, not far from the middle of June, 1636. The exact day will never, it is probable, be ascertained.

There is one circumstance, which, perhaps, misled Mr. Callender and Governor Hopkins respecting the year of Mr. Williams' arrival. In a deed, signed by himself and wife, and dated December 20, 1661, he used these words : Having, in the year one thousand six hundred thirty-four, and in the year one thousand six hundred thirty-five, had several treaties with Canonicus and Miantinomo, the two chief sachems of the Narragansets, and in the end purchased of them the lands and meadows upon the two fresh rivers, called Moshassuck and Wanasquatucket, the two sachems having, by a deed under their hands, two years after the sale thereof, established and confirmed the bounds of these lands."

The statement, that he had held several treaties with the Narraganset_sachems, in 1634 and 1635, presents some difficulty. But we have already seen, that while at Plymouth and at Salem, he held some intercourse with these chiefs. In a manuscript lettér, already quoted, he says :

“ I spared no cost towards them, and in gifts to Ousamequin and all his, and to Canonicus and all his, tokens and presents, many years before I came in person to the Narraganset; and therefore when I came, I welcome to Ousamequin and to the old prince Canonicus, who was most shy of all English to his last breath.”

It is probable, therefore, that the “ treaties” which he mentions, as having been held in 1634 and 1635, were propositions concerning lands, made by him, perhaps, to the

Winthrop, vol. i. 190. + In a letter to the author, from John Howland, Esq. of Providence, one of the most intelligent and active members of the Rhode Island Historical Society, he says, “When our Society was first formed, it was proposed to fix on the day of his arrival here, as the day of the annual meetings of the Society; and till that day could be ascertained, we decided on the day of the date of the charter of Charles II.


[ocr errors]

chiefs, through Indians, whom he saw at Boston or Salem, and by whom he was in the habit of sending to them presents. We have already intimated a conjecture, that for some time before his banishment, he had entertained the thought of a settlement in the Indian country. If so, it was natural for him to enter into negotiations for lands. But these propositions, whatever they were, were not concluded in the years which he mentions. He says, that " in the end,he purchased the lands at Providence, and that the deed was dated two years after the purchase. We accordingly find, that the deed was dated “ at Narraganset, the 24th of the first month, commonly called March, in the second year of the plantation, or planting at Moshassuck, or Providence.” The year is not mentioned in the instrument, but it is known to have been 1637–8.* This deed 'corresponds with Mr. Williams' statement, and refers to the year 1636 as the time of his actual purchase, and also as that of his arrival.

We will add another fact, to strengthen a position, which has, perhaps, been sufficiently established. A parchment deed, now in the possession of Moses Brown, is dated the “ 14th day of the second month, in the 5th year situation, or plantation, at Moshassuck, or Providence, and in the 17th year of King Charles, &c. 1641.”f This deed also points to the year 1636, as the date of the first settle-. ment of Providence.

In June, of this year, the settlement of Hartford (Con.) was begun. Rev. Messrs. Hooker and Stone, who had been settled at Newtown, (now Cambridge) removed, with their whole church, and founded the city of Hartford. A fort had been built, the preceding year, at Saybrook, at the mouth of the river Connecticut, and small settlements had been commenced at Weathersfield and Windsor.

Backus, vol. i. p. 89. | Rhode Island Register, 1828.

of our

[ocr errors]



Purchase of lands from the Indians-division of the lands among

the settlers.

an old

The spot where Mr. Williams and his companions landed was within the jurisdiction of the Narraganset Indians.* The sachems of this tribe were Canonicus, and his nephew Miantinomo. The former was man, and he probably associated with him his young nephew, as better fitted to sustain the toils and cares of royalty. Their residence is said by Gookin to have been about Narraganset Bay, and on the island of Canonicut.

The first object of Mr. Williams would naturally be, to obtain from the sachems a grant of land for his new colony. He probably visited them, and received a verbal cession of the territory, which, two years afterwards, was formally conveyed to him by a deed. This instrument may properly be quoted here :t

At Narraganset, the 24th of the first month, commonly called March, the second year of the plantation or planting at Moshassuck, or Providence; Memorandum, that we, Canonicus and Miantinomo, the two chief sachems

*“ Under the general name of Narraganset, were included Narraganset proper, and Coweset. Narraganset proper extended south from what is now called Warwick to the ocean; Coweset, from Narraganset northerly to the Nipmuck country, which now' forms Oxford, (Mass.) and some other adjoining towns. The western boundaries of Narraganset and Coweset cannot be definitely ascertained. Gookin says, the Narraganset jurisdiction extended thirty or forty miles from Seekonk river and Narraganset Bay, including the islands, southwesterly to a place called Wekapage, four or five miles to the eastward of Pawcatuck river; that it included a part of Long-Island, Block-Island, Coweset and Niantick, and received tribute from some of the Nipmucks. After some research, I am in. duced to believe, that the Nianticks occupied the territory now called Westerly. If so, then the jurisdiction of the Narragansets extended to the Pawcatuck, and perhaps beyond it.”- Whatcheer, Notes, p. 176.

+ This is transcribed from a copy furnished by John Howland, Esq. It differs a little from that contained in Backus, vol. i. p. 89. The orthography is conformed to modern usage.

« PreviousContinue »