Friday, February 21, 2014

1621 - The Plymouth Plantation

January 13, 1621 - while John Carver is bedridden patient in the newly-built common house, its thatched roof catches suddenly fire following a spark. He manages luckily in escaping unharmed.

Poorly supplied and ill-prepared to this new environment, the Plymouth settlers were severely strained due to harsh wintry conditions. Most had never known such a cold weather. Owing to rain and snow, children remained confined for the greater part aboard the Mayflower in precarious conditions until building works are completed. Living conditions were so bad ashore as men and women all fell sick, some even dying swiftly.[10/25/1621]

February 17, 1621- Myles Standish is appointed the first commander of the Plymouth Plantation.

February 21, 1621 - already sorely affected by the wintry rigors, the Plymouth Plantation adds up four dead for this one day.

March, 1621 - King James 1 decides to put an end to the lottery system although it is the primary source of funding for the colony of Virginia.

March 16, 1621 - after a particularly merciless winter during which have died in Plymouth more than half the settlers, a first contact occurs with an Indian named Samoset.

This one came by surprise into the village with welcoming words in rough English. Native of Maine, he belonged to the Wawenock tribe and had learnt to speak English with fishermen and traders who went regularly on his island. He had spent some time alongside the Wampanoags but wished to go back to his country. He taught the settlers that the previous inhabitants of Patuxet had all died from disease four years earlier. The closest village was now Nemasket were lived about 300 persons, including Massasoit Ousamequin, Grand Sachem of the Wampanoags.
Shortly after, Squanto, the Indian sold a few years earlier as slave in Spain and back in his country in 1619 thanks to the explorer Joseph Dermer, appeared to the settlers. He surprised them by his perfect English and gave them lots of advices for fishing, hunting and farming.

March 22, 1621 - Squanto and Samoset organize a first meeting between Sachem Massasoit and governor John Carver. A peace treaty is concluded through Edward Winslow, one of the leaders of the colony.

Although this treaty mainly favored the settlers, it was so beneficial to Massasoit Ousamequin and the Wampanoags as to the English, because when the news spread among the tribes of southern New England, those who, like the Naragansetts, would have wished to gang up against them, were deterred by fear that European turn against them their dreaded weapons. It is certain however that this new alliance allowed Massasoit to expand significantly his sphere of influence. 
During the following months, Indians and settlers worked together, getting their first harvests. 


That year, William Bradford also concluded peace agreements with Obatinua, sachem of present-day Boston and Chickataubut, sachem of Wesagusset (present-day Weymouth) who tried to rebuild the former Massasuchetts federation dismantled by the Tarratine War and the epidemics. Others, like Squaw Sachem, the widow of Nanapashemit, former Great Chief of the Massachusetts, killed by Tarratines in 1619 saw on the contrary, with suspicion, the arrival of these foreigners.

Wampanoag - this confederacy of Native American tribes whose territory included southern Massachusetts, a part of Rhode Island, Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, were approximately 12 000 people when the English landed on their  shore.
The earliest contacts between Wampanoags and Europeans went back to 16th century, at a time when merchant ships and fishing boats travelled along their coast. These had been generally peaceful but some treacherous captains had misused their welcome and captured, for the occasion, some of them to be sold as slaves in Europe. Thomas Hunt had thus kidnapped in 1614 about twenty Wampanoags who had been carried to Málaga. One of them named Squanto had been bought by Spanish monks who had first tried to convert before releasing him. He had been able after a long journey, to go back to America as interpreter for an explorer, captain Dermer. He had however returned to his tribe only in 1619, after it had been wiped out by plague. The increasingly frequent coming of European sailors was undoubtedly behind the infestation of diseases against which Indian populations had no immune defence. The outbreak of the first pandemics in 1617 had immediately caused terrifying havoc, taking indifferently men, women and children, turning the country into a living hell.

Squanto teaching corn-growing method

When the Mayflower's Pilgrims settled down in Plymouth, Squanto taught them to grow corn and beans using fish as a fertilizer, to catch herring and pick up shells. He served as a middleman between the settlers and Sachem Massasoit. This one sought an alliance with the English in order to guard against attacks from other tribes. The Wampanoags had indeed just lived through a particularly bloody decade during which they had been assaulted by North Mic'macs warriors in what was called the Tarratine War (1615-1619).
At the same time, the Penobscots come from the West had taken place in Connecticut. The Wampanoags had furthermore been struck, between 1616 and 1618, by deadly epidemics, reducing in some places their population by 90 %. The most affected communities had been those which maintained trade connections in particular with the French, disease carriers against which Indians were not protected. Conversely, the Narragansetts, an isolated coastal nation mistrustful towards Europeans having thereby been preserved, were likely to be invested with a greater influence. A timely alliance with the settlers allowed Massasoit to maintain his authority, even though he needed to give up in exchange 12 000 acres of land.

Massasoit Ousamequin (c. 1581-c. 1661) which means " Grand Sachem with the Yellow Feather ", was leader of the Wampanoag Confederacy. He was native of Montaup (Mount Hope, CT), a Pokanoket village near present-day Bristol, Rhode Island. He went to Plymouth in 1621 to negotiate a treaty ensuring the safety of the English, in exchange for their alliance against the Narragansetts. Massasoit was actively seeking for it since the devastation caused during the last six years by a series of epidemics.
According to English sources, Massasoit allowed the Plymouth colony to escape starvation that threatened it in the origins. He wove, on the other hand, personal friendship with John Carver, Stephen Hopkins, Edward Winslow, William Bradford and Miles Standish and it is thanks to him that English settlers and Wampanoags experienced a period of peace over 40 years.

Edward Winslow
Edward Winslow (1595-1655) 
One of the main Pilgrims Fathers of the Mayflower, he served as governor of Plymouth in 1633, 1636 and 1644.
He was native of Droitwich (Worcestershire). Exiled to Leiden in the Netherlands, in 1617, to flee the religious persecutions raging in England, he married the following year Elizabeth Barker. He left to New England with his family but his wife died shortly after their arrival at Plymouth. He remarried in 1621 with Susannah White, which was the first wedding in New England.
Winslow was chosen by his partners to deal with the Indians and managed in winning the friendship of their sachem Massasoit.

The Mayflower returns to England
March  1621 - Plymouth settler John Billington is punished for challenging Myles Standish's orders. 

Hailing from Lincolnshire, Billington family including John (c.1580-1636), his wife Elinor and their two sons Francis and John Junior passed since leaving England for true troublemakers. Like many, They had heavily suffered  the harsh traveling conditions on the Mayflower but the younger son Francis had distinguished himself from the arrival off Cape Cod by uttering threats and firing musket shots, nearly blowing up the ship. Considered a strong head, John Billington would further keep disputing  the decisions of the of the colony government .

April 15, 1621 - captain Christopher Jones who commands the Mayflower leaves the Plymouth Plantation and sails back to England.

Despite extremely poor living conditions and high mortality that struck the settlement during winter, no pilgrim showed the wish to get back to his country.

April, 1621 - Governor John Carver dies in Plymouth, five months hardly after his election. He is replaced in this appointment by William Bradford.

April 1621 - May 6, 1621 - the Mayflower arrives in London after a safe return.

Without bringing good news, captain Jones carried back either just a little cargo from America. The Adventurers who had backed the Pilgrims expedition and thought to make swift profit put the blame on John Carver, judged to be incompetent.

June 3, 1621 - Foundation of the Dutch West India Company  (De West-Indische Compagnie) by letters patent of the States General of the Netherlands. With the agreement of the Prince of Orange, it aims to compete with Spain and Portugal and has for 21 years a trade monopoly with Africa and Americas.

The chartered company was assigned a trade monopoly with West Indies and privileges on the slave trade between Western Africa (between the Tropic of Cancer and Cape of Good Hope), Brazil, Caribbean and North America. Its development area ncluded Americas and a wide part of the Pacific Ocean to New Guinea. Its purpose was to found enough trading posts to get the upper hand over the Spanish and Portuguese competition.

June 11,  1621 - William Bradford is obliged to send a party to get back John Billington the younger kept near Cape Cod by Nauset Indians.

John Billington had wandered several days in the woods befor being found at Manamet by NausetSquanto and a party set sail to Cape Cod to pay for corn previously taken to the Indians by the colony and gain the boy’s release.They were welcomed on their arrival by Iyanough, sachem of the Cummaquid who led them up to Nauset Chief Aspinet with whom they exchanged gifts. The English were then invited to a singing and dancing celebration but were struck by the testimony of an old woman who told them she had three sons who, when Captain Thomas Hunt was in these parts in april, 1614, went aboard his ship to trade with him, and were carried captives by him into Spain by which means she was deprived of the comfort of her children in her old age. The settlers told her they were sorry that any Englishman should give her that offense, that Hunt was a bad man, and that all the English that heard of it condemned him for the same.

Late June, 1621 - The Plymouth settlers are informed that Corbitant, sachem of the Namasket tribe is plotting against Massasoit. He is attempting  for it to ally with Narragansett with whom he secretly negotiates .

Corbitant did not accept that Massasoit negotiated with the Pilgrims and that Nauset sachem had done so, blaming particularly Squanto, according to him responsible for the situation.

July 3, 1621 - Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins are sent to Pokanokets visit Sachem Massasoit in his capital Sowam (Mount Hope).

The Pokanokets formed a tribe living South of present-day Massachusetts, on the border with Rhode Island. Their leader Massasoit Ousamequin also ruled the Wampanoag Confederacy.
After a meal and exchange of gifts, Massasoit concluded an exclusive trading pact with the English envoys.

July, 1621 - George Sandys is appointed treasurer of the Virginia Company in place of the Earl of Southampton.

He decided to provide new industries to the colony for which he summoned a hundred craftsmen. This ranged from glassware to silk weaving, hemp growing, wine production and metallurgy. They had effectively discovered some iron near the James River. Sandys found unseemly that economy was in Virginia essentially based on tobacco planting even if at that time, this production turned out six times more cost-effective than corn.

George Sandys
George Sandys (1577-1644)  
Eighth son of Sir Edwin Sandys, archbishop of York, he had studied in Oxford but had left without degree. He began, from 1610, a series of trips which led him to France, Venice, Constantinople and from there to Palestine and Egypt where he visited Mount Sinai. He passed in his return by Cyprus, Sicily, Naples and Rome. He published an account of his adventures in 1615, making a substantial contribution to the geographical and ethnological knowledge of these regions. Sandys had just finished his translation of the Ovid's Metamorphoses when he decided to go to Virginia alongside the new governor Sir Francis Wyatt, the husband of his niece Margaret.

Late June , 1621 - August, 1621Corbitant, sachem (sagamore) of the Pokasset tribe tries to raise the people of Nemasket against the English. Squanto and his companion Hobomock are sent to assert the situation but are soon taken to task by Corbitant who blames them for their links with the Plymouth settlers and threatens to kill them both.
Hobomock succeeded however in escaping and ran to warn Miles Standish that Squanto was kept by Corbitant.

He considered himself as a determined foe of the English had not tolerated that Massasoit colluded with them and challenged since then his leadership.

August 14, 1621 - Governor William Bradford and Myles Standish decide to engage retaliation against Corbitant, planning to kill him given the threat he represents.

Standish left to Nemasket with Hobomock and a party of a dozen men, waiting overnight to surprise Corbitant during his sleep. A woman and a man were wounded during the attack until the settlers realize by surrounding his wigwam that it was empty. Corbitant had fled abandoning Squanto.

August, 1621 - the Narragansett leader Canonicus (Quononicut) sends a messenger to Plymouth to propose a peace treaty.
[January, 1622]

Massasoit and the Wampanoag Sachems come to sign a peace treaty
September 13, 1621 - the English sign with the Wampanoag sachems a second treaty of Mutual Protection.

After the strife arisen in August, Massasoit could be proud for having recovered his authority over the other sachems of the region. These were nine among the most important of the area to come to Plymouth sign this treaty, including Corbitant and Quadaquina, Massasoit's brother.

September 1621 - While exploring Massachusetts Bay unders Squanto's guidance, Myles Standish and his 8 men meet Chief Obbatinewat who shows them the way to find Squaw Sachem.

They found Nanepashemet's last refuge (today Medford) but Squaw Sachem had left. Edward Winslow wrote about it “Having gone three miles, we came to a place where corn had been newly gathered, a house pulled down, and the people gone. A mile from hence, Nanapashemet, their king, in his lifetime had lived. His house was not like others; but a scaffold was largely built, with poles and planks, some six foot from the ground, and the house upon that, being situated upon 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 by one another, and with those they enclosed a ring some forty or fifty feet over. A trench, breast high, was dug on each side; one way there was to get 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 from hence we came to such another, but seated upon the top of a hill. Here Nanapashemet was killed, none dwelling in it since the time of his death. The care with which the great Moon Chief took to fortify himself, shows the fear which he felt for his mortal enemy".
October, 1621 - King James 1 decides to introduce a tax on Virginia tobacco re-exported from England. He agrees to reduce the imports of Spanish tobacco and gives the Virginia Company and Bermuda a monopoly of its production while reserving one-third of profits, in addition taxes.

Late September, early October, 1621 - The Plymouth settlers celebrate for three days the first harvest festival in the presence of Grand Sachem Massasoit and 90 Wampanoags.

First Worship Service in Plymouth (Jan. 21, 1621) - painting by George Johann Schwarze

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