As I mentioned in the previous newsletter, Peggy Maharan mentioned that her great-grandmother, Alberta Morse Snook was an Indian. Alberta Morse Snook was a daughter of Simeon Dewitt Morse, granddaughter of Joseph C. Morse, great-granddaughter of Alathea Wiser, and great-great-granddaughter of Benjamin Wiser Senior. Her uncle has the Family Bible and next to Alberta’s birth and death entry it states, “full-blooded Indian”.
There were some additional references to James Quanapohit, ancestor of Benjamin Wiser, in the book, “Nonantum and Natick”, by Sarah S. Jacobs, 1853, p.289. This book was mentioned in the last newsletter. Benjamin Wiser, was probably the son of James and Ruth (Bowman) Wiser, James was the son of James and Hannah Wiser, and Benjamin was probably the son of James Quanapohit, alias Rumneymarsh, Wiser, and his wife Mary Ponham. James Quanapohit was born about 1636 in Rumneymarsh (now Chelsea), Massachusetts and passed away 1712.
Beginning on page 276 of the previously mentioned book, “And now for the history of Job Kattenanit and James Quanapohit. James was the brother of the old man who lost his hand in the Mount Hope expedition. Job had been, before the war, a teacher at Magunkook, where he was at the time of Mr. Eliot’s journey with Mr. Gookin in 1674, and was well esteemed for piety and ability. After the troubles began, the settlement at Magunkook was relinquished, and Job and his people lived at Hassanamesit.
About.the beginning of November, these two came to the English at Mendon, and reported that some of Philip’s men had made a descent upon Hassanamesit, and had carried off the Christian Indians, who were all employed in gathering and housing their crop of corn. James and Job, with some squaws and children, chancing to be at a little distance from the rest, got away. They were unable to tell the number of the enemy, or the direction in which they had gone. The people taken away were fifty men, for the most part unarmed, and a hundred and fifty women and children. It was afterwards ascertained that the hostile Indians were a force of three hundred men, all well armed. They told the Hassanamesits, some of whom were their kindred, that if they would go quietly, they should not be hurt; if they refused, all their corn should be taken from them, and then they would perish of hunger.
Said the war party, “If we do not kill you, and you go to the English again, they will force you all to some island, as they have just done to the Naticks, where you will suffer with cold and hunger, and perhaps, in the end you will all be sent out of the country for slaves."
It is not surprising that, these arguments succeeded with many. Among those who listened to them were the eleven so long imprisoned at Boston, about that Lancaster murder, the August before. These men, who knew themselves innocent in that affair, and still, smarted under a sense of the usage they had received, thought going off with their countrymen, preferable to the risk of starvation and Deer Island. Perhaps, as Mr. Gookin says, if Englishmen, and good Christians, too, had been in their case, and under like temptation, they might have done the same..Immediately on receipt of the intelligence brought by James and Job, Captain Henchman and Captain Syll, with two English companies, and five Indian guides, marched to Hassanamesit. They found signs of the enemy, but could not discover any considerable body of them. Early, however, on the morning of November 6th, Captain Syll, hearing a noise, sent out two files of men, with James Quanapohit and Pequan. They had not gone far, when they discovered seven of the enemy, one of whom was leading along an English youth. The hostile Indians fled; James and Pequan pursued, and , by their courage and activity, succeeded in rescuing the English prisoner, whom they brought in to the captain. This lad said he had been seized the day before at a mill in Marlborough, where, at the same time, the seven Indians had killed and scalped a younger boy, his companion.”
On page 279, “About ten o’clock, word was given to march back to Hassanamesit. When they had gone about two miles the captain missed his letter-case, containing his orders and other important papers, and sent back two men with old Thomas Quanapohit [brother of James], to look for it in the wigwam where he had slept. They had come within a few rods of the wigwam, when they suddenly discovered that it was occupied by the enemy; four Indians sitting by the fire, and two others standing at the door, who at the same moment became aware of their approach. Thomas, with great presence of mind, instantly turned round, and began to beckon and call earnestly, as if many men were behind, coming up the hill, whom he would hasten forward to surround the wigwam. One of the six presented his gun, which missed fire, and all the rest came out and ran away, supposing, from Quanapohit’s strategem, that the English force was at hand. Thomas and his comrades, having thus scared away the enemy for the present, thought it wisest to ride back to their company as fast as they could. And, indeed, they were not very well appointed for combat. Quanapohit, himself, with his one hand, had only a pistol; one of the Englishmen had a gun without any flint, and the other no gun at all.
The captain, meanwhile, had found his letter-case, and was waiting for his messengers, whom he would never have seen again, but for the courage and quickness of Thomas.
Three, then, of the guides attached to this expedition, have given signal proof of their fidelity. Yet some of the inferior officers and soldiers were so infected with a spirit of enmity and suspicion towards all Indians, that they murmured against these, “their guides and keepers;” and to satisfy them, Captain Syll sent home three of the five he had taken, retaining only the two Quanapohits. Afterwards, when the two captains had separated their commands, Captain Henchman was without any Indian guide, and in an attack, made under his orders one night, on about forty Indians in a wigwam at Hassanamesit, he lost his lieutenant and another man, whose heads the enemy cut off, and placed on a crotched pole at the wigwam door.”
On page 289, “Meantime, the council at Boston, desirous to learn the state of the enemy, empowered Mr. Gookin to select two Indians from Deer Island to procure intelligence. Mr. Gookin went to the island, and conversed with two or three of the principal men about the plan. It was approved by them, and Job Kattenanit and James Quanapohit were chosen. Their reward was to be five pounds apiece…Going to Mr. Gookin’s house privately by night, they were kept there in secret, until everything was ready for their journey, and they had received their instructions…Nothing was heard of them for three weeks. At the end of that time James made his appearance at the house of Isaac Williamsn, an English settler, near the Falls. The poor spy was very faint and weary, having traveled near eight miles through deep snow. He was kindly received by Williams, and after a night’s rest, was conducted by him to the house of Mr. Gookin. Next day he appeared before the governor and council, and made his report.”
Continuing on page 291; “Some of the Indians suspected the true nature of the errand on which James and Job had come, especially certain Narragansets, who had seen James with the English in the Mount Hope expedition. He, at least, would have been put to death, but for the kindness of Monoco, One-eyed John. They had served together in the former wars against the Maquas, and the chief did not now forget his old friend and fellow-soldier. He took him unto his own wigwam, and loading his gun, declared he would kill any man who should do any harm to Quanapohit.
Tukapewillin, the pastor of Hassanamesit, who was now kept here against his will, told James privately, that Philip had given orders that certain Praying Indians should be sought after, and, if found, should be seized and brought to him, that he might put them to death. Among these, James and his brother, Thomas Quanapohit, had been mentioned by name.
James’ position was certainly a critical one, and he could no longer think himself safe, even under the protection of Monoco. Just at this time arrived Matoonas with a train of followers, and a dance was got up in his honor. James and Job painted their faces like the others, and joined in the dance, which lasted two or three nights. When the revel was over, Mautamp, the Quaboag sachem, proposed to visit Philip, and to take James with him to communicate the state of affairs in Boston, and any other intelligence of which he was possessed. This was not at all Quanapohit’s wish, and he sought some pretext by which he might evade the visit, without increasing the suspicions of Mautamp. Philip, he said, knew him, having seen him when he fought for the English at Mount Hope. It would not be safe for him to make his appearance before the sachem, until he had performed some signal exploit in his service. He therefore proposed that he should first kill some English, and carry their heads with him. This seemed to satisfy Mautamp for the time.
James next communicated to Job the necessity he was in of making his escape as soon as possible, and urged him to do the same; but Job, being in no immediate danger, preferred to remain, in the hope of gaining more intelligence. He was also bent on bringing off his children, and would not relinquish that design with further effort. James tried every means to persuade him to accompany his flight. “After I am gone,” said he, “I fear the Indians will know us to be spies, and will kill you.”
Job, however, was resolved to stay for his children’s release, and to contrive a way of escape for other Christian Indians “that longed for deliverance.” If his life were preserved, he hoped to follow in about three weeks.”
Note: I will continue the details of James Quanapohit’s exploits in the next newsletter.
We are lucky as descendants of James Quanapohit to have such details of his life. James’ experiences in the King Philip’s War have brought alive this period of time in American history for me. I have gained a greater respect and understanding for the Native Americans who lived during this time. James, as a Christianized Indian was put into a most difficult position, should he support his native relatives or should he protect the families and religion that he now embraced. Our Wiser heritage is something we can all take pride in.
Thank you for your interest and help with this newsletter.
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Ron Wiser 6 Baton Rouge Roswell, NM 88201 (505) 623-2534