Windham Life and Times – August 9, 2019

Nutfield 300

Samuel Penhallow’s Indian Wars– Introduction

Almost as soon as the conference between the English and the Indians ended at Arrowsick, attacks against settlers began. Penhallow’s Indian Wars was first printed in 1726. The author was a high placed British government official, who knew first hand accounts of events. In the introduction to the 1924 edition, Edward Wheelock says, “To the New England colonists the depredations of his Indian neighbors were of literally vital interest. The pioneer in the new settlements de-forested his land, tilled his fields, gathered his harvest and, on the Lord’s Day, walked to his meeting-house, at all times armed with his flint-lock for self defense against the native he had armed at a sinister profit with musket, powder and lead. When at last, Anglo-Saxon determination had conquered and the Indians were eliminated from the problem of pioneer existence, the growing generation of New England boys and girls read into the fragments the ‘Narratives,’ ‘Captivities’ and ‘Histories’ of those of their forebears who providently had escaped the enemy, or who had been redeemed after ‘captivation’ had lived to print the tale.” (More on this later with the stories of Jamie Cochran and John Dinsmoor, Indian captives.)

“Never before the colonization of America had the English come into continued and intimate contact with the savages and in the contest for supremacy that followed, they were but poorly prepared with their incomprehension of primitive society and their ill-conceived policies of fanatical proselytism. On the other hand the Indian of the Atlantic coast had experienced little in his acquaintance with the early explorers, English and others, that had prejudiced him favorably toward white men. These had kidnapped him to exhibit him as a curiosity in Europe or to sell him into slavery; they had shot him in little else than wantonness for petty thievery. When colonization began and the Indian himself had furnished the valuable food plant (corn) without which permanent settlements at that time would probably have failed, he saw his own planting places overrun by cattle, his game driven away, his fisheries ruined by mills and mill-dams, his people destroyed by firearms, diseases, vices, fire-water, indeed by the very religion of the whites. He was human. Naturally enough, before he was overwhelmed, he devastated outlying settlements and decimated the colonists; during the half century preceding the publication of this History, more than eight thousand New England settlers lost their lives and few families there were who mourned no relative or friend. In such a community the interest of Indian affairs was predominant…A specific instance of this interest is seen in the practice of making Indian affairs the chief topic in the published sermon— the newspaper of the day… Aside from all this, Penhallow’s Indian Wars seems to have been predestined to become a scarce book, Its author a public man and perhaps the best known officer of New Hampshire…Samuel Penhallow was born in St. Mahon, Cornwall, England, July 2, 1665. In his youth he was a student in the school of the silenced dissenting minister, Charles Morton at Newington-Green,  and with Morton, in 1686, he came to New England.” He was admitted to Harvard that same year.

“He next moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he began a prosperous career in business and political life. Here he married a wealthy heiress, Mary, the daughter of President Cutt, part of whose patrimony was valuable land in Portsmouth. He accumulated what in those times was described as a great estate, but many details of his life have been lost owing in part to the destruction of his diary in the great fire of 1802. He was elected Speaker of the House, August 7, 1699, and held office for three years. From 1702 to the time of his death, he was an influential member of the Royal Council, holding concurrently the offices of Treasurer of the Province and or Recorder of Deeds. As Councilor he won popular applause through his controversy with Lieut. Governor George Vaughan. At that time he was suspended by Vaughan, who was soon himself removed from office by Samuel Shute, the Colonial Governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Penhallow resumed his place by virtue of his office, took part in the ratification of the treaties with the Indians, of which he has given us a description in this history. He was appointed to the Superior Court of Judicature in 1714; of this Court he was Chief-Justice when he died December 2, 1726.”

“He is said to have lived in a style superior to that of his fellow townsman in his brick house at the head of the pier, entertaining every stranger of distinction. His biographer thus describes him as ‘given to hospitality,’ wherefore, the following Order, found in the Provincial Papers of New Hampshire may be of interest bearing as it does upon the amenities of official life two centuries ago. This direct us that:“Mr. Treasurer Penhallow take care to provide for the Gentleman Commissioners…who are going to Casco fort to the Eastward (Maine) to publish the Articles of Ratification of peace with the Indians, with all such provisions, wines, Liquors and other necessaries as may be proper…” [July 14, 1713.] “Of thirteen children, one son, Captain John Penhallow was an early proprietor of Phipsburg (Georgetown,) Maine, Governor of Arrowsick and a prominent officer of the militia under Col. Thomas Westbrook…Our author’s prominence in official business life must have stimulated his attention to the Indian affairs of his time and the resulting familiarity with his subject is perhaps his strongest claim to authority as a writer of this book.”


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