Praying Indian

Praying Indian is a 17th-century term referring to Native Americans of New England, New York, Ontario and Quebec who converted to Christianity. Many groups are referred to by this term, but it is more commonly used for tribes that were organized into villages. These villages were known as praying towns and were established by missionaries such as Puritan leader John Eliot[1] and Jesuit missionaries St. Regis and Kahnawake (formerly known as Caughnawaga) and the missionaries among the Huron in western Ontario.


John Eliot Leading Indians in Prayer
Puritan minister John Eliot leads Natick Indians in Christian prayer, as depicted on the mural of the rotunda on the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

In 1646, the General Court of Massachusetts passed an "Act for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians". This act and the success of the Reverend John Eliot and other missionaries preaching Christianity to the New England tribes raised interest in England. In 1649 the Long Parliament passed an ordination forming "A Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England" which raised funds to support the cause.

Contributors raised approximately £12,000 pounds sterling to invest in this cause, to be used mainly in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and in New York. Eliot received financial aid from this corporation to start schools for teaching the Native Americans. The Indian nations involved appear to have included the Massachusett and the Nipmuc.

On October 28, 1646, in Nonantum (now Newton), Eliot preached his first sermon to Native Americans in their Massachusett language. This happened in the wigwam of Waban, the first convert of his tribe. Waban later offered his son to be taught the English ways and served as an interpreter.[2] Eliot translated the Bible into the Massachusett language and published it in 1663 as Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God. By 1675 20% of New England's Natives lived in Praying Towns.[3]

Christian Indian Towns were eventually located throughout Eastern and Central Massachusetts. They included: Littleton (Nashoba), Lowell (Wamesit, initially incorporated as part of Chelmsford), Grafton (Hassanamessit), Marlborough (Okommakamesit), Hopkinton (Makunkokoag), Canton (Punkapoag), Mendon-Uxbridge (Wacentug), and Natick. Today only Natick retains its original name. Praying Indian Towns started by Eliot extended into Connecticut and included Wabaquasset (Senexet, Wabiquisset), six miles west of the Quinebaug River in present-day Woodstock, the largest of the three northeastern Connecticut praying towns.

These towns were situated so as to serve as an outlying wall of defense for the colony. That function came to an end in 1675 during King Philip's War. Praying Indians offered their service as scouts to the English in Massachusetts but were rejected. Instead, Praying Indian residents were first confined to their villages (thus restricted from their farms and unable to feed themselves), and many were confined on Deer Island in Boston Harbor.[4]

John Eliot tried to prevent it,[5] but it is reported that it became dangerous in Massachusetts to talk in favor of any Native Americans. This likely contributed to the initial successes of the Indian rebellion.[4] The order for removal was passed in October 1675, and by December over 500 Christian Indians were brought to the island. When they were released in 1676, because of the harsh conditions only 167 had survived.[6]

After the war, in 1677 the General Court of Massachusetts disbanded 10 of the original 14 towns and placed the rest under English supervision,[7] but some communities were able to survive and retain their religious and education systems.[8]

Praying Indians in the Revolutionary War

There are several narratives regarding Native American history that are greatly underrepresented. A significant number of Praying Indians fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.[9] By the time of the war, the vast majority of these Indians had been completely assimilated into their surrounding Christian communities and had fewer significant ties to other Native communities.[10] They fought in entirely integrated units, unlike the African-American soldiers who fought for their country from the Revolutionary period through World War II.[9]

There is no evidence of official discrimination for Native American soldiers. They received equal pay and treatment as their white counterparts. That is a direct contrast to unit segregation in the Civil War, for instance. African-American soldiers fought in segregated units, such as the 54th Massachusetts Regiment under Col. Robert Gould Shaw. They were initially paid less than their white counterparts. Soldiers of Native American origin fought in several significant battles during the Revolutionary War such as Bunker Hill, Battle Road, Trenton, and Saratoga.[9] The number of Praying Indian soldiers likely numbered over 100; an entirely accurate count is hard to come by.

Unlike other Native groups such as the Iroquois Confederacy, the Praying Indians were cohesive and steadfast in their support for the colonists. The Iroquois Confederacy had several factions, most of which supported the British during the Revolutionary War but some that decided to fight with the colonists. That inevitably led to clashes involving previously aligned groups, when Native tribes on the opposite sides of the conflict met on the field of battle. For example, the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777 saw Loyalist Seneca soldiers fighting against colonially aligned Oneidas.[11]

The Praying Indians never saw such a split. They had extremely close ties to both the Puritan clergy that established the Praying towns, as well as non-Native peoples that lived among them.[12] Despite continued seizure of Native lands, the various Praying Indian communities realized that their continued survival could only be ensured by close ties to their communities; support of a distant government would only serve to alienate themselves from those who were in close proximity.[12]

In particular, Praying Indians from Natick and Ponkapoag (present day Canton) served in large numbers.[13][14][15] The borders of Revolutionary-era Natick have since changed and included what is now Needham, Dedham, parts of Framingham, Dover, Wellesley, and other Metrowest communities.[10]

The first significant engagements Praying Indians participated in were the Battles of Battle Road and Bunker Hill. Approximately five out of the estimated 21 Native Americans at Battle Road were from Praying Indian communities, and out of the estimated 103 Native Americans at Bunker Hill about 10 were Praying Indians from the Natick area (primary source confirmation of service histories puts these numbers significantly less).[16] As a result of the unit integration in the Continental Army, in most cases there was no real concentration of Praying Indians in a single unit; Praying Indians served in dozens of distinct units throughout the Revolutionary War. The Battle of King's Bridge in the Bronx, where both Daniel Nimham, the last sachem of the Wappinger and his son Abraham were killed alongside some 60 members of the Stockbridge Militia is a notable exception.

Soldiers of Praying Indian origin

A closeup on the Praying Indian Memorial in Natick
A partial list of names on the Natick monument

Histories for Native American, Africa-American, and other minority groups were compiled by Revolutionary War historian George Quintal Jr. in his book Patriots of Color: ‘A Peculiar Beauty and Merit’.[9] A sampling of histories of Praying Indian soldiers is found below:

James Anthony was born in Natick and initially served for eight months in 1775 in the regiment of Col. Jonathan Ward and in the company of Capt. James Mellen. He later re-enlisted for three years from 1777 to 1780 in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under Col. William Shepherd, serving in Capt. Reuben Slayton's company. The unit fought at Saratoga and was present at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777. Anthony was discharged 14 March 1780.

Caesar Ferrit from Natick came from a diverse background: West Indies, French, Dutch, and Natick Indian. Born around 1720, he was raised in Boston by an English family and studied animal husbandry. He lived in Boston for several years but then moved to live among the Natick Indian community in 1751; this may have been the group he identified strongest with. He answered the call for Minutemen at Lexington and Concord with his son John and was part of a group of militia under Capt. Joseph Morse that ambushed British soldiers in Lexington. This engagement was likely one of the first skirmishes of the battle and the entire Revolutionary War.[17] He enlisted in various militias and regiments throughout the war, serving in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York under numerous commanding officers. He was discharged from service in 1781 at the approximate age of 61. He died in Natick in 1799 at the approximate age of 79.

John Ferrit was the son of Caesar Ferrit and followed his father to the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He was part of the company under Capt. Morse that was likely one of the first groups to directly engage the British at Lexington. Like his father, he served in various units throughout the war and fought in New York and Rhode Island. He was discharged in 1781.

Thomas Ferrit had a much shorter military stint than his brother or father. Born in 1751, he served for two days as a Minuteman at Lexington under the command of Capt. Ebenezer Battle. After the skirmish there is no record of military service, but he was married in Natick in 1777.

Joseph Paugenit Jr. was born in Framingham and was baptized in Natick in 1754. His father, Joseph Sr., fought during the French and Indian War. He served in the company of Capt. Thomas Drury under the command of Col. John Nixon, and fought at Bunker Hill. He later re-enlisted in the Col. Thomas Nixon's 4th Regiment in New York and fought at the Battles of Harlem Heights and White Plains. After his second discharge he re-enlisted a second time, once again under Col. Thomas Nixon. He fought at the Battle of Saratoga and was reported as deceased soon after, likely as the result of wounds sustained during the battle or from contracting smallpox.

Alexander Quapish was born circa 1741 and enlisted in Dedham in 1775. He served as a member of Lt. Col. Loammi Baldwin's main guard in the regiment of Col. John Brewer. He took ill in March 1776 and died in Needham. Records indicate Michael Bacon, who cared for him in his last days, conducted his burial and sought compensation from the Continental Army for his services.

Samuel Comecho served in the Battle of Bunker Hill under the command of Capt. Benjamin Bullard in Col. Jonathan Brewer's regiment. Born in Natick, Comecho enlisted for eight month's service and his unit held the line at Bunker Hill between the redoubt and the rail fence. He re-enlisted on the first day of 1776 in Col. Asa Whitcomb's regiment and served in Capt. William Hudson Ballard's company in the Canadian theater. It was reported that he died on March 14, 1776. The cause of death was likely smallpox.

Praying Indian Memorial
A memorial dedicated to Praying Indian veterans of the Revolutionary War


The sacrifices made by Praying Indians and other minority groups during the Revolutionary War have never been properly celebrated. It was not until the 20th century that these veterans were first recognized. The town of Natick installed a monument to Native American veterans of the Revolutionary War in 1900, which still stands today on Pond Street near Natick Center. However, it was not until Needham historian Robert D. Hall Jr. that their final resting places were properly honored. Hall and volunteers placed grave markers and American flags in a Needham cemetery to honor these veterans in 2003.[10]


The Praying Indian communities were able to exercise self-government and to elect their own rulers (sachems) and officials, to some extent exhibiting continuity with the pre-contact social system, and used their own language as the language of administration, of which a wealth of legal and administrative documents survive. However, their self-government was gradually curtailed in the 18th and 19th centuries, and their languages also became extinct around the same time. During that period, most of the original "Praying Towns" eventually declined due to epidemics and to the fact that the communal land property of others passed out of native control. The Indian-inhabited areas were eventually transformed into "Indian districts".[18]

Natick praying indian wedding
A wedding ceremony of modern-day Natick (Massachusett) Praying Indians.

21st century

Descendants of the Praying Indians from Natick have organized as the Praying Indian Tribe of Natick,[19] currently under the leadership of Rosita Andrews or Caring Hands from Stoughton, Massachusetts, who received her title of chief from her mother. The Praying Indian members live within a radius of 20 miles (32 km) around Stoughton.[20] According to Caring Hands, in 2011 there were just under 50 members of Natick Praying Indians.[21] On 11 August 2012, members of the tribe celebrated a public service in Eliot Church, South Natick, the site of the original church of the Praying Indian town of Natick, for the first time after almost 300 years.[22]

Further reading

Several books and journal articles have been written about this topic. One of the most extensive overviews of Praying Indians in the Revolutionary War, which includes service and life histories, is George C. Quintal's Patriots of Color - 'A Peculiar Beauty and Merit'. Additionally, Daniel J. Tortora, Associate Professor of History at Colby College in Waterville, ME, wrote an article titled, "Indian Patriots from Eastern Massachusetts: Six Perspectives" in the Journal of the American Revolution. This work details six different Indians of Eastern Massachusetts origin that fought in the Revolutionary War, including several with Praying Indian roots.

Jean M. O'Brien's Disposession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts 1650-1790 and Daniel R. Mandell's Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts are both extensive volumes that delve into Native American life in Massachusetts. For historical context, Kathryn N. Gray's John Eliot and the praying Indians of Massachusetts Bay: communities and connections in Puritan New England is an excellent overview. Forgotten patriots: African American and American Indian patriots in the Revolutionary War: a guide to service, sources, and studies by Eric G. Grundset provides a comprehensive overview of historical methodologies used when studying this and similar topics.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Praying Towns; Nipmuc Indian Association of Connecticut; Historical Series Number 2 Second Edition 1995
  3. ^ Blackwell Reference Online; A Dictionary of American Reference; Purvis, Thomas L. 1997
  4. ^ a b Adams, James Truslow (1921). The Founding of New England. Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press. p. 357.
  5. ^ Biglow, William (1830). History of the Town of Natick from 1650 to 1830. Boston. p. 25.
  6. ^ Gookin, Daniel (1677). An Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England in the Years 1675, 1676, 1677 . OCLC 3976964.
  7. ^ Praying Towns, Blackwell Reference Online
  8. ^ Goddard, Ives and Kathleen J. Bragdon (eds.) (1989) Native Writings in Massachusett. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. P. 14.
  9. ^ a b c d Quintal, George Jr. (2004), Patriots of Color - 'A Peculiar Beauty and Merit', National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
  10. ^ a b c Hall, Robert D. Jr. (2004 - 02 - 08), "Praying Indians in the American Revolution" Needham Historical Society.
  11. ^ Raphael, Ray (2002). A People's History of the American Revolution. Harper Perennial. p. 252. ISBN 0060004401.
  12. ^ a b Schmidt, Ethan (2014). Native Americans in the American Revolution: How the War Divided, Devastated, and Transformed the Early American Indian World. Praeger. p. 52. ISBN 0313359318.
  13. ^ Tortora, Daniel J. (2016), "Indian Patriots from Eastern Massachusetts: Six Perspectives," Journal of the American Revolution Annual Volume 2016, P. 283-290.
  14. ^ Mandell, Daniel R. (2000). Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803282494.
  15. ^ O'Brien, Jean M. (2003). Disposession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts 1650-1790. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803286198.
  16. ^ Quintal, George Jr. (2004), Patriots of Color - 'A Peculiar Beauty and Merit', National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior P. 39-41.
  17. ^ Biglow, William (1830). History of the Town of Natick. Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon. p. 44.
  18. ^ Goddard, Ives and Kathleen J. Bragdon (eds.) (1989) Native Writings in Massachusett. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. P.2-15.
  19. ^ "Praying Indians of Natick and Ponkapoag (official web site)". Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  20. ^ Allan Jung (2007-02-07). "Family a chief concern for Praying Indians leader - Caring Hands, chief of the Praying Indians". Metrowest Daily News. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  21. ^ Bob Reinert (2011-11-17). "Natick observes American Indian Heritage Month". USAG-Natick Public Affairs. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  22. ^ "Native American tribe worships in first public service in 300 years". Anna-Claire Bevan. 2012-08-16. Retrieved 2013-11-06.

External links


Cutshamekin (died in 1654) (also spelled Kitchamakin, Kuchamakin, or Cutshumaquin) was a Native American leader, who was a sachem of the Massachusett tribe based along the Neponset River and Great Blue Hill in what is now Dorchester, Massachusetts and Milton, Massachusetts before becoming one of the first leaders of the praying Indian town of Natick, Massachusetts. He is the possible namesake of Jamaica Plain.

Cutshamekin was the brother of sachems Chickatawbut and Obtakiest who both died in 1633 during a smallpox outbreak which decimated many of the Native Americans in the area. In the 1630s, Cutshamekin sold much of the tribal land that he controlled around the Neponset River, including deeding what is now Milton, Massachusetts to Richard Callicott, with the exception of 40 acres reserved near the Neponset River near Dorchester Mills including what is now Dorchester Park and the Ventura Playground in the Neponset River Reservation. By selling much of the tribe's land, Cutshamekin isolated many of his followers. In 1643/44 Cutshamekin agreed that he and four other sachems from as far away as Mount Wachusett would sign a formal treaty with Governor John Winthrop submitting to the Massachusetts Bay Colony's authority in return for defense from their enemies. In 1646 the missionary John Eliot preached his first missionary sermon to Cutshamekin and his followers at their wigwam near Israel Stoughton's grist mill and Richard Callicott's trading post near what is now Dorchester Mills. Eliot's first sermon was not positively received by Cutshamekin and his followers, but Eliot continued to meet with Cutshamekin and his followers every other week with some success. In 1647 Cutshamekin's son was accused of drunkenness in Nonantum and he accused his father of the same, but both publicly repented. By 1651 Cutshamekin had joined the Praying Indians at Natick, Massachusetts as their leader, but had some issues with the smaller tributes paid by the Praying Indians. Cutshamekin died in 1654 and was buried on his remaining 40 acres of land in Dorchester "in a ceremony fitting a sachem: on tree branches around his mound grave were draped his wealth of furs." After Cutshamekin's death in 1654, he was succeeded by his nephew, Josias Wampatuck, who Cutshamekin had helped raise. Some historians theorize that "Jamaica Plain" was named after Cutshamekin and that "Jamaica", though a different letter "A" pronunciation, is an Anglicization of the name of Kuchamakin, who was regent for the young Chickatawbut, sachem (chief) of the Massachusett tribe.

Elm–Maple–South Streets Historic District

The Elm–Maple–South Streets Historic District is a historic district encompassing part of the historic downtown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The most prominent parts of Stockbridge lie within the Main Street Historic District, which abuts this district to the north. The southern boundary of this district is the railroad tracks that run parallel to the Housatonic River. The eastern boundary of the district is Laurel Hill, a wooded park overlooking the town, and the western boundary is a terraced shelf in the plains of the river. The district includes properties on Depot, Elm, Maple, and South Streets, and Laurel Lane. Unlike Main Street, this district consists of more densely place residences, and narrower roads containing businesses just off Main Street. Its buildings were mostly constructed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and partially reflect Elm Street's function as an industrial part of the town. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.Stockbridge was founded in the 1730s as a "Praying Indian" community, with its main settlement where the downtown area is now. South Street began as a Native American trail leading to the south, crossing the river at a fordable location. A bridge was first built near where the modern bridge now stands in 1744. The junction of Main and South Streets became a major local commercial nexus by later in the 18th century, with the area closer to the river where small industries began to flourish. One of Berkshire County's first printing operations was begun in this area, and there was by the mid-19th century a blacksmithy. A few houses stood in the area by the turn of the 19th century, but it was not until the 1850s that a significant number of houses began to be built south of Main Street. Many of these were populated by people engaged in trades for travelers, or otherwise engaged in business on Main Street. One of the older houses and the largest in the district, the Tidmarsh-Edwards House at 8 South Street, has had a number of notable residents, including politician and businessman John Z. Goodrich.

John Alderman

Alderman, also known as Isaac and Antoquan, was a Wampanoag praying Indian who shot and killed the rebellious Native American leader Metacomet in 1676, while taking part in a punitive expedition led by Captain Benjamin Church. Alderman was a subsachem in the Westport/Dartmouth area of Bristol County, Massachusetts. He was called Alderman because he was considered a close associate and counselor or Phillip. When Phillip summarily murdered his brother in front of him because of his dissension, Alderman changed sides and joined Benjamin Church, an English colonist who had settled in nearby Little Compton. Church was known for his preference of using Indian soldiers to fight other Indians, and later mounted five other expeditions to Maine during Queen Anne's War using Indian soldiers, although no muster roles or records exist of who exactly the Indians were. Cotton and Increase Mather reported that Alderman was subject to Weetamoo, the squaw sachem of Pocasset (modern day Fall River, MA, and Tiverton, RI) although this may have just been because his land was in the Pocasset area. In a deed of "100 acres more or less" tendered by Sachem Mamanuah, Alderman was mentioned as residing at Punkatest Pond, modern day Nonquit Pond of Tiverton, Rhode Island close indeed to the area where the village of Pocasset was located.

Alderman later took the name of Isaac and worked as an Indian minister in Coxit in Dartmouth. He had a son who took the name Isaac Isaac according to the naming tradition of the time, who witnessed the grant of 100 acres to his father by Sachem Mamanuah, and he had a wife named Kate, information which is only mentioned in a land transaction in the Portsmouth, RI deed book. For his service he was awarded 100 acres of land in Little Compton by sachem Mamanuah of Little Compton, which he later sold to an English colonist. This transaction was recorded in the deed books of Portsmouth, RI as the English colonist was originally from there. Alderman also visited Portsmouth with Benjamin Church to set up the apprenticeship of an Indian woman and her son to a local weaver. The woman was being punished for her support of Phillip in the recent hostilities, and was apprenticed to William Wodell, a weaver for life.

While Alderman is well known by his English nickname, his Wampanoag name is only mentioned once, in the Proprietors Records of Little Compton. The name "Isaac also appears in a land transaction in Barnstable county from several Sacconett Indians indicating he may have been detained behind the Sippican line for some time after King Phillip's War. His son may have taken the name of either "Isaac Simon" or "Isaac Crocker," after his father's death, but the surname "Isaac" was also used by Indians of Martha's Vineyard who later emigrated to the Brothertown Community of upstate New York.

As a reward, Alderman received King Philip's head and one hand. Phillip's hand was recognizable from the scarring that had occurred from the explosion of an early musket in his grasp. Allegedly, he kept the head and the hand in a bucket of rum and would exhibit them for a fee. The rest of King Philip's body was quartered and hung on trees. Alderman later sold the severed head to Plymouth Colony authorities for 30 shillings, a standard rate for Indian heads during King Philip's War. The head was then placed on a stake atop the fort on Burial Hill in Plymouth, where it remained for the next 20 years. The Mathers also reported that Phillip's hands were brought to Boston, rather than given to Alderman.

Thomas Church, Benjamin Church's grandson wrote "Phillip had one remarkable hand, being much scarred, occasioned by the splitting of a pistol in it formerly, Captain Church gave the head and the hand to Alderman, the Indian who shot him to show such gentlemen as would bestow gratuities upon him, and accordingly he got many a penny by it. He also wrote of Alderman, "This was the same Indian who brother was killed and whom informed the English where to find Phillip." Trumbull, History of Connecticut 1. 349

In 1800, an Indian man named James Thomas died in Milton, Massachusetts, claiming to be Alderman's grandson. Thomas was 94 years old at the time, born in 1706 and this may well have been the case. The Indian Thomas family was associated with the Titticut Indian village of Middleboro, and an Indian James Thomas donated land there for a meeting house.

John Eliot (missionary)

John Eliot (c. 1604 – May 21, 1690) was a Puritan missionary to the American Indians who some called "the apostle to the Indians" and the founder of Roxbury Latin School in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1645.

John Sassamon

John Sassamon (c. 1620-1675) also known as Wussausmon (in Massachusett), was born c.1620. He became a Christian convert, a praying Indian who helped serve as an interpreter to the colonists.

In January 1675, Sassamon was ambushed and assassinated. A mixed jury of colonists and Indian elders convicted and executed three Wampanoag men for his murder. These events helped spark the conflict known as King Philip's War, in which the English defeated the Wampanoag and ended armed resistance by the Native Americans of southeastern New England.

Littleton, Massachusetts

Littleton (historically Nipmuc: Nashoba) is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 8,924 at the 2010 census.

For geographic and demographic information on the neighborhood of Littleton Common, please see the article Littleton Common, Massachusetts.

Main Street Historic District (Stockbridge, Massachusetts)

The Main Street Historic District is a historic district encompassing the scenic and historic portions of Main Street in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The downtown portion of Main Street is widely recognizable due to its use by Norman Rockwell in his 1967 painting, Main Street, Stockbridge at Christmas. The central portion of Main Street is a broad street with wide green lawns, anchored by a traditional New England town center containing a church and municipal buildings. Along this part of Main Street is the Mission House, a National Historic Landmark that is one of oldest buildings in Stockbridge, dating to the early 1740s. Further to the west the road is more rural, and the district's western boundary is at the crossing of Main Street over the Housatonic River. The eastern part of the district includes the retail heart of the town, including the Red Lion Inn and several blocks of shops. The far eastern part of the district is Laurel Hill, a wooded park with views of the town center. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.The Stockbridge area has a significant prehistory of Native American use, with archaeological evidence of human use on at least a seasonal basis dating back for centuries. In the early 18th century it was settled by Mahican Indians who had been driven from the Hudson River area by conflict with the Mohawks. These uses included the establishment of a Native burying ground, which is within the bounds of this district. In 1734, the Province of Massachusetts Bay founded a "Praying Indian" community, with its main settlement where the downtown area is now. The arrival of English squatters and conflicts over land usage patterns led to the Natives eventually losing control of the community. The area's colonial settlement accelerated after the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. The Red Lion Inn opened in 1775, and it flourished in the early 19th century as a crossroads community not far from the county seat at Lenox.


The Massachusett are a Native American people and ethnic group in the United States Commonwealth of Massachusetts, mostly inhabiting their traditional homeland which covers much of present-day Greater Boston. The people take their name from the indigenous name for the Blue Hills overlooking Boston Harbor from the south, which was a ceremonial and sacred area for the people of the region.

As some of the first people to make contact with the European explorers and English colonists, the Massachusett and other coastal peoples were severely decimated from an outbreak of leptospirosis circa 1619, which had mortality rates as high as 90% in these areas. This was followed by devastating impacts of virgin soil epidemics such as smallpox, influenza, scarlet fever and others to which the indigenous people lacked natural immunity. Their territories, on the more fertile and flat coastlines, with access to coastal resources, was mostly taken over by English colonists, as the Massachusett were too few in number to put up any effective resistance.

Under the missionary John Eliot, the majority of the Massachusett were converted to Christianity and settled in 'Praying towns' established where the converted Indians were expected to submit to the colonial laws, accept some elements of English culture and forced to abandon their traditional religion, but were allowed to use their language. Through intermediaries, Eliot learned the language and even published a translation of the Bible. The language, related to other Eastern Algonquian languages but more specifically, the regional languages of southern New England, would slowly fade, ceasing to serve as the primary language of the Massachusett communities by the 1750s, and the language was likely extinct by the early years of the nineteenth century. The Massachusett language was shared with several other peoples in the region, and the Wampanoag preserved their dialect of the language until the death of its last speaker sometime in the 1890s.

The last of their common lands were sold in the early nineteenth century, loosening the community and social bonds that held the Massachusett families together, and most of the Massachusett were forced to settle amongst their English neighbors, but mainly settled the poorer sections of towns where they were segregated with Blacks, recent immigrants and other Indians. The Massachusett mainly assimilated and integrated into the surrounding communities.

Two groups of Massachusett have received state recognition after the creation of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs. The Ponkapoag Massachusett, descendants of the Praying Indians of Ponkapoag, centered around what is now Canton, Massachusetts, and the Natick Massachusett-Nipmuc. As the Natick were formed from a substantial input of Nipmuc families, and maintained close connection with the Nipmuc communities, the Natick Massachusett-Nipmuc are recognized as a tribe of Nipmuc, via their involvement with the Nipmuc Nation.


Matoonas (? - died 1676 in Boston) was a sachem of the Nipmuc Indians in the middle of 17th century. He played a significant role in the Native American uprising known as King Philip's War.

Matoonas had originally converted to Christianity and became a Praying Indian. He was even made a constable by the colonists of the Praying Indian village of Pakachoog. However, in 1671 his son was accused of murdering an Englishman named Zachary Smith, and hanged, despite the fact that it was widely known that somebody else was responsible for the crime. After the execution the head of Matoonas' son was placed on display as a warning. Consequently Matoonas was very bitter towards the English although he kept his true feelings hidden until a suitable opportunity would present itself. When Metacom (King Philip) began organizing an armed movement against the English settlers in New England in 1675, Matoonas willingly joined and convinced other Nipmuc sachems to follow him. In July of that year he led a raid on the town of Mendon, which decided Nipmuc participation in the war on the side of Philip. Mendon was the first colonial settlement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to be attacked during King Philip's War.Shortly after the raid on Mendon, together with another Nipmuc sachem, Muttawmp, Matoonas successfully ambushed a party of colonial soldiers in what became known as Wheeler's Surprise at Brookfield.Matoonas was betrayed and turned over to the English in autumn 1676 by another Nipmuc sachem. Most colonial sources list the name of the one who gave betrayed him as "Sagamore John", or "Chief John". Some sources give the original Native American name of this person as Horowaninit, Schultz and Tougias state in their work on the King Philip's War however, that "...Muttawmp and Shoshonin, who had delivered Matoonas to the English, likewise fell victim to Waldron's treachery and were executed at Boston." Matoonas' betrayer either volunteered to execute him personally, or was forced to do so by the colonists, in order to demonstrate his loyalty to the English. Sagamore John was sold into slavery. Matoonas' head, like his son's before him, was presented on a pole outside of Boston as a way to terrorize other Indians who supported King Philip.Mattoonas was surrendered by his chief, at Boston, where he was summarily tried and sentenced to death. At the request of the chief, he was shot by one of his own tribe and his body was hung in chains on Boston Common.

Mendon, Massachusetts

Mendon is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 5,839 at the 2010 census.

Mendon is part of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, an early center of the industrial revolution in the United States. Mendon celebrated its 350th Anniversary on May 15, 2017.


Muttawmp (died September, 1676) was a sachem of the Nipmuc Indians in the mid-17th century, originally based in Quaboag. He participated in King Philip's War, taking part in most of the major engagements as one of the most important chiefs who fought for Metacomet (King Philip).

Muttawmp had converted to Christianity and become a Praying Indian. However, Metacomet began organizing the local tribes so that they could attack the colonists, and Muttawmp foreswore Christianity and joined him, together with Nipmuc sachem Matoonas. He led the successful attack on Brookfield in which Edward Hutchinson was mortally wounded, son of the controversial Anne Hutchinson.Muttawmp was also the Nipmuc leader in the Battle of Bloody Brook on September 12, 1675 near South Deerfield, Massachusetts, in which 51 colonial soldiers and 17 colonial teamsters were killed, including Captain Thomas Lathrop. The name of the place was changed from "Moody Brook" to "Bloody Brook" because the stream near the battlefield turned red with blood. In October, 1675, Muttawmp surrounded Hatfield, Massachusetts with 800 men and tried to draw the colonists out by setting fires outside of town. However, the militia within the town resisted the temptation to come out in force and only sent out a 10-man party to investigate, nine of whom were killed or captured by the Nipmucs. On April 21, 1676, he and 500 warriors routed civilians in an Attack on Sudbury, Massachusetts. Muttawmp finally tried to make peace with the colonists, but he was executed in September 1676.

Nashoba Valley

The Nashoba Valley refers to an area in Northwestern Middlesex and Northeastern Worcester Counties, Massachusetts, located around the interchange of Interstate 495 and Massachusetts Route 2.

At one point Littleton, Massachusetts was known as the Praying Indian town of Nashoba. The hill that today is Nashoba Valley Ski Area is called Nashoba Hill.

Natick, Massachusetts

Natick is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. Natick is near the center of the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, with a population of 32,786 at the 2010 census. Only 17 miles (27 km) west of Boston, Natick is considered part of the Greater Boston area. The center of population of Massachusetts in 2000 was in Natick. A 2014 census shows Natick's population was 34,230. This means between 2010 and 2014 Natick grew 3.6%, making it one of the fastest-growing towns in the Boston area.

Peter Jethro

Peter Jethro (also known as Jethro or Animatohu or Hantomush) (c. 1614 – c. 1688) was an early Native American (Nipmuc) scribe, translator, minister, land proprietor, and Praying Indian affiliated for a period with John Eliot in the praying town of Natick, Massachusetts.

Praying town

Praying towns were developed by the Puritans of New England from 1646 to 1675 in an effort to convert the local Native American tribes to Christianity. The Natives who moved into these towns were known as Praying Indians. Before 1674 the villages were the most ambitious Christianization experiment in English colonial America. John Eliot first preached to the Natives in their own tongue in 1646 at Nonantum, meaning "place of rejoicing," which is now Newton, Massachusetts. This sermon led to a friendship with Waban, who became the first Native American in Massachusetts to convert to Christianity.


Quashaamit (also known as William of Blewe Hills and William Minnian or William Awinian and Quashawannamut) (born prior to 1640, and died ca. 1670-72) was a bilingual Praying Indian sachem or sub-sachem, and teaching minister, possibly affiliated with the Nipmuc, (Massachusett) and Wampanoag tribes. Quashaamit worked closely with Massasoit, Metacomet, Wamsutta, and Wampatuck and deeded large tracts of land to early settlers in what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Quashaamit lived near Great Blue Hill and was a resident of Ponkapoag, a Praying town, which was founded in 1657 after the Indians were removed from their traditional lands on the Neponset River near what is now the Neponset River Reservation. Quashaamit (William Awinian) served as an Indian preacher in Ponkapoag from 1656 until his death sometime between 1670 and 1672. Quashaamit was acquainted with Rev. John Eliot who translated the first Bible into a Native American language, and in 1662 Eliot helped Quashaamit and other Ponkapoag Indians deed land to settlers, in what is now Mendon, Massachusetts and Milford, Massachusetts and to reserve their traditional hunting and fishing rights in the area. In 1659, Quashaamit went to Providence to assert his right to land in what is now northern Rhode Island, and the town agreed to investigate his claim with the Indians in the area, and in 1661-62 his rights to northern Rhode Island were referenced in a deed by Alexander (Wamsutta), recorded in Providence. On "August 5, 1665, in a deed to the town of Braintree [(Quincy)] made by Wampatuck alias Josiah, Chief Sachem of the Massachusetts Indians, [w]ith the consent of his wise men, [Quashaamit] is called William Mananiomott in the body of the instrument, but his signature is William Manunion, and Joseph Manunion was a witness." In 1666 Quashaamit deeded land to Edward Inman and John Mowry in and around what is now North Smithfield, Rhode Island, and Quashaamit signed his name "William Minnian" which "suggests, the English were well established in the region." Inman purchased further land from William Minnian in 1669 which was also confirmed by King Philip (Metacomet) who also refers to William's uncle, Jeffrey, but the deeds were disputed by the town of Providence for several years thereafter because the town claimed exclusive possession of those lands as previously granted by Canonicus. Daniel Gookin wrote in 1674 that "William Awinian...was a knowing person, and of great ability, and of genteel deportment, and spoke very good English. His death was a very great rebuke to this place," and he was "a very able teacher who died about three years since." Upon his death John Eliot stated that "Their late Teacher, William, is deceased; He was a man of eminent parts; all the English acknowledge him, and he was known to many. He was of ready wit, sound judgment, and affable. He has gone into the Lord."

Rev. Stephen Badger House

The Rev. Stephen Badger House is a historic house at 87 Eliot Street in Natick, Massachusetts. Built in 1753, it was the home of Natick's last missionary to the local "Praying Indian" community, and is a prominent well-preserved surviving example of Georgian architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.


Waban (c.1604—c.1685) was a Native American of the Nipmuc group and was the first Native American convert to Christianity in Massachusetts.

West Hill Dam

West Hill Dam Reserve is a United States Army Corps of Engineers flood control project with a recreational park and wildlife management area located at Uxbridge, Massachusetts. The West Hill Dam Project was completed in 1960. It is located on the West River, one of the branches of the Blackstone River which flows from Worcester, MA to Providence, RI. The West River originates in Grafton, Massachusetts, at Cider Mill Pond and Silver Lake, near Upton, Massachusetts, and the Upton State Forest. The dam is unusual in that it isn't filled unless there is a flood.

West Hill Dam was built after devastating floods during the 1950s; it is intended to protect the Blackstone Valley from future destructive flooding. The cities and towns downriver from Uxbridge, including Millville, Blackstone, Woonsocket, North Smithfield, Cumberland, Lincoln, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Providence, Rhode Island, suffered extensive flooding from the Blackstone during Hurricane Diane in 1955. Hurricane Donna tested this new dam in 1960 as the eyewall passed over.

The West Hill Dam is located in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor near the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. Park rangers provide visitor assistance and offer scheduled interpretative programs. Fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing opportunities are available year-round. The park has a recreation area, 34 picnic sites, one playground, a swimming area and five miles of hiking trails.

West Hill Dam (where the Army Corps project is based) is also the field office for the Charles River Natural Valley Storage Area. It consists of scattered wetlands in the upper and middle Charles River watershed, between the towns of Bellingham and Needham. The wetlands provide flood storage area, fisheries, wildlife management, and recreation. The Charles River is the well-known watercourse that flows into Boston Harbor.


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