Windham Life and Times – August 2, 2019

Nutfield 300

“Bulwark Against The Indians”

The French and Indians in Maine | Father Rale

The New England Indian Wars in three volumes by Herbert Milton Sylvester, details conditions in Maine just prior to the arrival of the Scotch-Irish.  Keep in mind the British-centric views of the author “It is time now to come nearer what was to be the scene of the warlike activities two years later at Merrymeeting Bay, where nine families of English settlers were butchered without warning; as Bourne says, a larger number of people than even Kennebunk could boast of at that time. The old territory of Acadia, to the French, was comprised of the country east of the Penobscot, including New Brunswick and the coast of Nova Scotia. Acadia to the English extended as far north as the St. Lawrence; but this was not to be settled without a quarrel. Besides this, the French claimed the Kennebec River to be the boundary of their possessions in Maine. It was a natural highway — as Arnold demonstrated — to Quebec. Not far above the Ticonic Falls on the Kennebec was the Norridgewock settlement, which comprised one of the three great Abenake families in Maine; the Tarratines, on the Penobscot, and the Sokoki, on the Saco, being the other two. The Abenake on the Kennebec were closely allied to the French interest…And further, by Captain Bennett: ‘The bearer can further tell your Grace of the disposition of the French inhabitants of this province, and of the conduct of their missionary priests, who instills hatred into both Indians and French against the English.’ ” It was here that Sebastian Rale established a mission, but the exact date of his coming is not given. He was here sometime, however, before 1697, possibly as early as 1693. His contemporaries were Bigot, on the Kennebec, and Thury at St. Famille (Pentagoet), on the Penobscot. A writer on the Abenaki gives a lucid account of this  “Above the village, at the head of the rapids of the Kennebec, was a chapel dedicated to the most holy virgin, in which her image in relief demanded the prayers of the savages as they passed upward to the chase; and below, where the waters rested on their quiet level, another chapel stood, dedicated to the guardian angel of the tribe. The women contended with a holy emulation in the embellishment of their sanctuary by all the finery they possessed, and the chapels and the church were illumined by brilliant lights from the wax of the bayberries gathered upon the islands of the sea. Forty youths in cassocks and surplices officiated in performing the solemn functions around the altar. Such was the machinery of the holy office among the rude people of Nanrantsouak; and multitudinous processions, symbolical images, paintings, and mysterious rites were combined to catch the fancy and arrest the eye of the savage neophytes. Every day was introduced by the performance of mass, and the evening was ushered in by prayer in their native tongue, in which their zeal was excited by the chanting and recitation in which they took part, while the frequent exhortations of the father allowed no distraction of their attention, no suspicion of their piety, and no backslidings in their faith. Dictator of the consciences of his flock, where no envious rival, no jealous competitor, no labors and the place where his life-work was carried on. He was of French extraction, born (1657) in French Compte. He engaged in the American missions (1689) when he was thirty-two years old. He was with the Canadian Abenake two years. Two more years were devoted to the Illinois Indians, after which he came to Norridgewock, where he was to spend the remainder of his days, which were fated to be terminated by an English bullet.”

“Undoubtedly, of all the eastern tribes, the Noridgewocks were the most thoroughly embittered against the English. They had been among the most aggressive in the preceding years of war along the frontier, and possibly they had suffered most at the hands of their white adversaries. There were paramount reasons, nevertheless, why they should remain at peace with their English neighbors, however irritating such association might be. The English had inspired them with a wholesome respect for their fighting-qualities;…”

“The settlers, however, had little or no use for the savage. They knew the latter best for his treachery and unsparing cruelty. By the Peace of Portsmouth the savage was barred from intercourse with the English except at the truck-house. There were those of the settlers, too, whose attitude was not only intentionally insulting, but openly aggressive. Added to these evidences of unfriendliness were the constant encroachments of the English upon Indian territory; they planted a fort or a blockhouse wherever a settlement had taken root. These were regarded by the Indians as a menace to their liberty. There was reason for their apprehension, which, judiciously encouraged by Rale, was giving birth to an ominous resentment. ”In 1716 Samuel Shute succeeded Dudley as governor. In 1717 he came down to Arrowsic to attend a council which had been called at Georgetown. Here he met the delegates from the various Abenake tribes…Hither they came in a flotilla of canoes. The English were at Georgetown, while the savages had set up their wigwams on an adjacent island. The council convened August 9, 1717. The deliberations ran into the following afternoon. Wiwurna, the orator of the Norridgewocks, was the spokesman for his race… Shute was no less indifferent to the savage etiquette observed upon such occasions, and was inclined to be overbearing if not dictatorial. The savages, objecting to the English building so many forts, were answered by the governor that he should build forts wherever they occurred to him as necessary. At this impolitic declaration the savages abruptly left the conference to go to their wigwams across the stream, where Rale was awaiting the outcome of the convention.”

“Rale was the ruling spirit of the Norridgewocks on this occasion, as he had been on others, having attended them down river. Upon the savages reporting to him Shute’s decision, he wrote the latter a letter of inquiry as to the origin of the English title to the lands the latter assumed to occupy, which communication Shute refused to entertain. Shute had not mended matters; yet so anxious were the savages to keep on friendly terms with the English, that as the governor was embarking on his return voyage to Boston the next morning they made apology for their apparent rudeness of the preceding afternoon and requested the return of a flag left behind, which had been given to them by the English. Shute acceded to their request, and a new spokesman intervened, who gave the governor a belt of wampum, with a request that the English use the lands as they pleased. With some promises on the part of Shute as to the establishment of trading-houses, and a gunsmith for their convenience, the pledge of Portsmouth was solemnly renewed. Rale declared this last compact void, and some caustic correspondence ensued between the priest and the Massachusetts governor, all of which hastened matters to a crisis…”

 

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