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Mayflower, Day by Day - Thursday, 30 September 1621

30 Sep 2021 3:09 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Encounter with the Massachusets

After another sleepless night, all but two of the travellers went ashore, and marched in arms for about three miles up into the country. They came to a place where corn had been newly gathered, a house pulled down, while all the people were gone. Winslow recorded that “a mile from hence, Nanepashemet, their king, in his life-time had lived. His house was not like others, but a scaffold was largely built, with poles and planks some six feet from ground, and the house upon that, being situated on the top of a hill.  Not far from hence, in a bottom, we came to a fort built by their deceased king, the manner thus; there were poles some thirty or forty feet long, stuck in the ground as thick as they could be set one by another, and with these they enclosed a ring some forty or fifty feet over. A trench breast high was digged on each side; one way there was to go into it with a bridge; in the midst of this palisade stood the frame of a house wherein, being dead, he lay buried.”

About a mile further, the travellers came to another platform surrounded by a trench, but this time it was seated on the top of a hill:  “here Nanepashemet was killed, none dwelling in it since the time of his death.  At this place we stayed, and sent two savages to look the inhabitants, and to inform them of our ends in coming, that they might not be fearful of us: within a mile of this place they found the women of the place together, with their corn on heaps, whither we supposed them to be fled for fear of us, and the more, because in divers places they had newly pulled down their houses, and for haste in one place had left some of their corn covered with a mat, and nobody with it.”

The women entertained the Englishmen at first with great fear, “but seeing our gentle carriage towards them, they took heart and entertained us in the best manner they could, boiling cod and such other things as they had for us. At length, with much sending for, came one of their men, shaking and trembling for fear. But when he saw we intended them no hurt, but came to truck [trade], he promised us his skins also. Of him we inquired for their queen, but it seemed she was far from thence—at least we could not see her.”

“Here Tisquantum would have had us rifle the savage women, and taken their skins and all such things as might be serviceable for us; for (said he) they are a bad people, and have oft threatened you:   But our answer was; were they never so bad, we would not wrong them, or give them any just occasion against us:  for their words, we little weighed them, but if they once attempted anything against us, then we would deal far worse than he desired.”  This is the first record of suspicion that Winslow notes about the possibility that Squanto had a “hidden agenda,” and was manipulating the English settlers.

Having spent the day in exploration, the travellers returned to the shallop, this time almost all the native women “accompanying us to truck, who sold their coats from their backs, and tied boughs about them, but with great shamefacedness (for indeed they are more modest than some of our English women are). We promised them to come again to them, and they us, to keep their skins.”

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