« PreviousContinue »
at first, took up sufficient for a farm in one place. Each one, besides his upland, as it was termed, or planting land, had, in another place, and frequently quite distant, his proportion of meadow land. This was necessary, because there was no hay seed known or in use. They had no grass for winter fodder, but bog or salt meadow, or thatch, and each must have his share of this, or his cattle would perish, or browse in the woods in winter."
Roger Williams, in addition to his six acre town lot, had a lot in the neighborhood of Whatcheer cove. The deed, already quoted, may be appropriately introduced here, as a document which belongs to the history of Roger Williams and of the town :
“Whereas, by the good Providence of God, I, Roger Williams, purchased this plantation of the natives, partly by the favors which I had long before with the sachems gotten at my cost and hazard, and partly with my own monies, paid them, in satisfaction for the settling of the said plantation, in the midst of the barbarians round about us; and whereas for the name of God and public good, and especially for the receiving of such as were troubled elsewhere about the worship of God, I freely parted with my whole purchase unto the township, or commonalty, of the then inhabitants, and yet reserved to myself the two Indian fields, called Whatcheer and Saxifrax Hill, as having peculiarly satisfied the owners of those fields for them, besides my general purchase of the whole from the sachems, and also planted both those fields at my first coming as my own peculiar with mine own hands, and whereas the town of Providence by their deputies, then called five Disposers, William Field was one, long since laid out unto me the aforesaid field called Whatcheer, and adjoined my six acre lot unto it, making up together twelve acres by the eighteen foot pole, and I having forgotten my bounds, the town deputies, William Field and Arthur Fenner, have since laid out and measured the said twelve acres unto me by the eighteen foot pole as aforesaid. These are to certify unto all men, that I, the said Roger Williams, have, for a full satisfaction already received from James Ellis, of Providence, sold and demised unto the said James Ellis, the said twelve acres aforesaid, bounded on the east by the river, on the west by a highway between the said twelve acres and the land of Nicholas Power deceased, on the north by a highway lying between the said twelve acres and William Field's land, and on the south by Mr. Benedict Arnold's land; the aforesaid twelve acres I do by these presents demise and alienate from myself, my heirs, executors, &c. to the aforesaid James Ellis, his heirs, executors, &c. with all the appertenances and privileges thereof. Witness my hand and seal,
ROGER WILLIAMS. (An arrow.) In the presence of us witnesses, Arthur Fenner, William
Field, enrolled the 29th day of January, in the year 1667.
Pr. me, SHADRACH MANTON, Town Clerk.” This field, Whatcheer, was afterwards sold to Arthur Fenner, Esquire, and is now occupied, as the family seat of the Hon. James Fenner, formerly Governor of RhodeIsland.
We may mention here, that Mr. Williams obtained the island of Prudence, from the Indians, and held it as a joint proprietor with Governor Winthrop, of Massachusetts. The following letter relates to this transaction :*
“ The last of the week, I think the 28th of the 8th. “ The bearer, Miantinomo, resolving to go on his visit, I am bold to request a word of advice from you, concerning a proposition made by Canonicus and himself to me some half
year since. Canonicus gave an island in this bay to Mr. Oldham, by name Chibachuwese, upon condition, as it should seem, that he would dwell there near unto them. The Lord (in whose hands all our hearts are) turning their affections towards myself, they desired me to remove thither and dwell nearer to them. I have answered once and again, that for the present I mind not to remove ; but if I have it from them, I would give them satisfaction for it, and build a little house and put in some swine, as understanding the place to have store of fish and good feeding for
Of late I have heard, that Mr. Gibbons, upon occasion, motioned your desire and his own of putting some swine on some of these islands, which hath made me since more desire to obtain it, because I might thereby not
Copied from 3 His. Col. i. 165.
only benefit myself, but also pleasure yourself, whom I more desire to pleasure and honor. I spoke of it now to this sachem, and he tells me, that because of the store of fish, Canonicus desires that I would accept half, (it being spectacle-wise, and between a mile or two in circuit, as I guess) and he would reserve the other ; but I think, if I go over, I shall obtain the whole. Your loving counsel, how far it may
be inoffensive, because it was once (upon a condition not kept,) Mr. Oldham's. So, with respective salutes to your kind self and Mrs. Winthrop, I rest, “ Your worship's unfeigned, in all I may,
“ ROGER WILLIAMS. “For his much honored Mr. Governor, these.”
Governor Winthrop retained his moiety of the island, and gave it, in his will, to his son Stephen."
Mr. Williams also owned the islands Patience and Hope. The names of the three islands are indicative of his mind. William Harris said, in 1677, in a somewhat reproachful tone, that these islands were “all put away.” Mr. Willjams sold them, perhaps, as he certainly did some other portions of his property, to maintain himself and family, during his long and unrequited toils, in England, for the welfare of the colony. To a native of Rhode Island, these islands should be interesting monuments of the virtues and services of her founder.
Having thus stated the manner in which the settlement at Providence was commenced, we must now return to the period of the first arrival of Mr. Williams, and narrate briefly his agency in averting the imminent danger of a general league among the natives for the destruction of the colonists.
Mr. Williams prevents the Indian league--war with the Pequods
their defeat and ruin.
The Pequods were, as we have already remarked, the most warlike tribe of Indians in New-England, and the most hostile to the colonists, not perhaps so much from a greater degree of ferocity, as from a clearer foresight of the effects which the natives had reason to apprehend from the increase of the whites.
In 1634, Captains Stone and Norton, of Massachusetts, with eight other Englishmen, were murdered by the Indians, in a small trading vessel, on Connecticut river. It is not certain, that the murderers were Pequods, but they fled to this tribe for protection, and divided with them the property which they had plundered. The Pequods thus became responsible for the crime; and the magistrates of Massachusetts sent to them messengers to demand satisfaction, but without success. The Pequods afterwards sent messengers, with gifts, to Massachusetts, exculpating the tribe from the guilt of the murder. , The Governor and Council, after a conference of several days, and a consultation, as usual, with the principal ministers, concluded with them a treaty of peace and friendship. *
* Winthrop, vol. i. 147, 149. The Pequods agreed to deliver up the individuals who were engaged in the murder, and to pay four hundred fathoms of wampumpeag, forty beaver skins, and thirty otter skins. While the Pequod ambassadors were at Boston, a party of the Narragansets came as far as Naponset, and it was rumored that their object was to murder the Pequod ambassadors. The magistrates had a conference at Roxbury, with the Narragansets, (among whom were two sachems) and persuaded them to make peace with the Pequods, to which the sachems agreed, the magistrates having secretly promised them, as a condition, a part of the wampumpeag, which the Pequods had stipulated to pay. The note of Mr. Savage, on this affair, deserves to be repeated:
“If any doubt has ever been entertained, in Europe or America, of the equitable and pacific principles of the founders of New-England, in their relations with the Indians, the secret history, in the foregoing paragraph, of this negotiation, should dissipate it. By the unholy But no treaty could appease the jealous hostility of the Pequods. In July, 1636, a short time after Mr. Williams" removal to Providence, a party of Indians murdered Mr. John Oldham, near Block-Island, whither he had gone from Massachusetts, in a small barque, for purposes of trade. The murderers fled to the Pequods, by whom they were protected. It was suspected, however, that the murder was contrived by some of the Narragansets and Nianticks; and there was evidently some disposition among these tribes and the Pequods to form a league for the destruction of the English.
The first intelligence of the murder of Mr. Oldham, and of the proposed league, was communicated by Mr. Williams, in a letter to Governor Vane, at Boston, a few days after the event. With a spirit of forgiveness and philanthropy, which honors his memory, he promptly informed those who had so recently expelled him from the colony, of the peril which now threatened them. It may be alleged, that self-preservation impelled him to appeal to Massachusetts for assistance to defeat a project, which, if accomplished, would have overwhelmed himself and his colony in ruin. But his influence with the Indians was so great, that it is probable he might have secured his own safety and that of his companions. The merit of his generous mediation ought not to be sullied, because his own
maxims of vulgar policy, the discord of these unfriendly nations would have been encouraged, and our European fathers should have employed the passions of the aborigines for their mutual destruction. On the contrary, an honest artifice was resorted to for their reconcil. iation, and the tribute received by us from one offending party was, by a Christian deception, divided with their enemies, to procure mutual peace. Such mediation is more useful than victory, and more honorable than conquest.'
It may be added, here, as an illustration of the temper of the times, that Mr. Eliot, the Indian apostle, expressed, in a sermon, some disapprobation of this treaty with the Pequods, for this reason, among others, that the magistrates and ministers acted without authority from the people. He was called to account, and Mr. Cotton and two other ministers were appointed to convince him of his error. The good man appeared to be convinced, and agreed to make a public retraction. It is stated by Dr. Bentley, that Mr. Williams, then at Salem, expressed his disapprobation of the treaty, doubtless on the same ground, of the combination of civil and clerical agency in the transaction. But Mr. Williams would not retract, after the example of Eliot