Windham Life and Times – April 14, 2016

Passaconoway

His Ascent into Heaven

“It was about the middle of February, 1684. From comparative Indian accounts, it was well below zero, with a sky of azure blue and not a cloud to be seen anywhere. Passaconaway had been told to journey to what we now know as Dustin Island, where the wild rushing Contoocook divides that it may quietly enter the Merrimack. With whom he had journeyed hither he did not know and could not remember, for now he found himself erect and alone amidst a circle of glowing coals, whose rising heat gave him perfect protection from the elements.”

“Now well past the century mark, the heavy sinews and muscles of former years shrunken and face much wrinkled, he nevertheless was able to stand erect and with folded arms await the will of the Great Spirit. Presently the message came and in almost though not quite audible tones he was told, “Passaconaway, thy time has come. Watch the southern sky and do my bidding, for thou art speedily to be made ready for the journey to the Happy Hunting Grounds which the Great Spirit prepared for those who have done their best.”

“The message ceased and immediately his eyes, still keen and little dimmed by age, scanned the sky southward to what we now know as Concord. Here there appeared to be very small white clouds, which as he watched intently seemed to be coming northward, following the “River of Swift and Broken Waters.”

“Nearer and nearer they came to his lonely isle at the mouth of the “Silver Stream that Winds among the Hills.” As the clouds drew nearer they grew larger and began to swirl round and round, until to his great delight he saw they were filled with wolves,―wolves, the fastest thing in the forest, and better still, a sweeping count showed one hundred and twenty, the Indian’s idea of the largest wolf pack ever known.”

“In wonderment filled with trust he stood erect and strong, with arms folded as the fires burned low and his own clothing seemed to take on added winter strength. He noticed that the wolves in the clouds were stringing out in great circles, two by two, until with one grand sweep they sped past him before his very eyes.”

“Was this an apparition or was it real? He was to know almost instantly. It took only a few brief moments for the wolves to speed by and come to a sudden stop. Instantly he found before him a magnificent sledge, heavily laden with well curried and finely softened furs of all the animals of forest, lake and stream, he had been accustomed to hunt throughout his long life.”

“No heavenly message was needed now. The wolves were already tugging at their traces anxious to be up and away. ‘Passaconaway stepped on a splendid bearskin mat, the largest and best he had ever known, for was he not “The Son of the Bear?” The softer and finer furs surrounded him with their warmth, and as his left hand grasped the side of the sledge for steadiness, he found a long rawhide whip in his right hand. He had seen the settlers’ use these and had always wanted one for himself. Now his wish was fulfilled.”

“One crack of the whip was the signal, and away they sped over the frozen wastes of the Merrimack, crossing meadows at open rapids or broken waters (falls), but generally following the river northward through what we now know as Boscawen, Franklin, Tilton, Winnisquam, Laconia, and Lakeport to Lake Paugus, named after his grandson.”

“At Arquedahkenash, (The Weirs) it was necessary to slacken speed for here was his last earthly view of the representatives of his people. Out on the ice where the Weirs Station now stands, the brief stop was made, and as he looked upward and to the left, he saw several rows of the spirit forms of sachems and sagamores with whom he had worked so many years. All those on the shore had hands and arms extended high in the air,―the Indian’s sign for “Welcome, brother.”

“He started to address them, but the Great Spirit sealed his lips. The wolves were again tugging at their traces, anxious to perform their task. He had given them a quick glance and then again turned to the left, this time to see the spirit forms of his sachems and sagamores fading away, with the single right arms and hands of each one lifted high,―the Indian’s sign for “Farewell, brother.”

“A small group of former Winnepesaukees now appeared on the shore and this is what they saw. The wolf train with its precious load sped onward over the glassy surface of the lake, so beautifully streaked with windrows of the whitest and purest snow. The speed increased, (we can understand it now as we have seen a modern plane do the same thing) until the watchers on the shore saw them in the air, making straight for Agiococook (Mt. Washington) the highest of the hills.”

“Now but a speck in the sky, they were at the top, and a brief moment of heavenly light such as they had never experienced before, illumined the scene. Here in a brilliant light, between two white clouds they saw their beloved Passaconaway, Greatest Chieftain of the tribes, received into the welcoming arms of the Great White Spirit,―the God of the Indian, and the God of all mankind.”

George Calvin Carter, PASSACONAWAY: THE GREATEST OF THE NEW ENGLAND INDIANS. Granite State Press

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