Excerpt on “Indians” from A History of Andover, 1829

In the early 19th century, many New England towns published histories. This selection describes the native populations of the Andover area from that point of view. It is rich in description but from the point of view of European settlers. A Native person in Newbury is also referenced on page 44 (page 5 in PDF).

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THE features of the Indians are good, especially those of the women; their complexion somewhat reddish, or copper coloured; their hair black and straight; their limbs clean, straight, and well proportioned. A crooked or deformed person is rarely to be found among them. They are very ingenious in their way; are quick of apprehension, sudden in despatch, subtle in their dealings, ready in invention, and in labor assiduous. They had wigwams, or cabins to defend them from the weather. These were built by uniting poles at the top, and inserting them into the ground at suitable distance. These were covered with bark, boughs of trees, or skins except an aperture at the top for smoke, and a small place for entrance at the side. The fire was built in the centre; the ground around the fire was covered with mats, skins, or boughs, as they could afford. They used no chairs, but sat on this covering, and had no need of a table. They slept with their feet toward the fire. A whole family, and sometimes more, was accommodated in one of these cabins, which had but one room. They were commonly built near good water.

They had skins for clothing before the English came among them, from which they made mocasins for their feet. They often took fish with a kind of spear. They used bows and arrows for hunting and for war. The end of the arrow was often pointed with flint stone; these points have been found in the fields long since the Indians have departed. Their game was sometimes taken in traps, pitfalls or snares. Various instruments of stone have been found, since they have left the country. They soon found the use of hatchets, knives, fire arms, blankets, and other articles after the English came among them.

They made canoes of bark taken from large birch trees. This was sewed together with fibres, or roots. It was put into proper shape, and strengthened by ribs, on thin pieces of wood, and a rim, like the top of a basket, was fastened all round it and bound with tough bark, or fibres of roots. It was daubed with pitch to prevent leaking. With these canoes, they could pass up and down and across rivers, and they would carry several persons. They were light and might be carried with ease, round falls of water, or from one stream to another.

A few years before the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, the Massachusetts Indians were very much diminished by a pestilential disease and by wars. Some tribes had become extinct; others were very small. It has been stated, that from thirty thousand they were reduced to three hundred warriors.

Andover was a place of resort favorable to their mode of life. There was a plenty of fish in the Merrimack and the numerous streams running into it; the light land near the water was suitable to the cultivation of corn and beans, and the forest afforded them game. Roger with a small company had a settlement near Cochichewick brook.

Such was the kindness, such the justice and humanity of the first settlers, that they suffered very little from the Indians, for more than thirty years. An equitable consideration was paid for whatever was obtained from them. The inhabitants were able safely and quietly for pursue their business, till the breaking out of Philip’s war in 1675. This rendered garrison houses necessary for refuge and defence.

These houses were sometimes made of thick timbers, sometimes filled with bricks between the studs. Sometimes they were surrounded with a rampart, or stockade. A watch was kept through the night. During the time of war, there was a garrison house in every neighborhood in the different parts of the town.

The first violence and damage occurred on the 19th April 1676. “Mr. Ephraim Stevens discovered the enemy about a mile this side of Bodwell’s ferry, but escaped upon his horse, and alarmed the inhabitants. The Indians pursued and passed along the main road, without doing any mischief, till they came to the south part of the town, where they killed Joseph Abbot, and took Timothy Abbot.” These were sons of George Abbot, sen. Joseph was stout and resolute, and probably made resistance; and there is a tradition, that he killed one, or more, of them, before he was slain. He was in his 24th year. Timothy was in his 13th year, was kept several months, and was brought back by a squaw who knew the family and was friendly. He had been treated by the Indians as well as circumstances would admit; but, as Hubbard states, was greatly pined with hunger.

“At the same time Mr. Faulkner’s house was burned, and Roger Marks was wounded and his horse killed. They killed some cattle, but had time only to cut out their tongues, being fired upon by the people in the garrison.” A few months after, a small party of the enemy surprised and captivated Mr. Haggett and two of his sons. July 10th 1677, John Parker, James Parker, John Phelps, and Daniel Blackhead were surprised and slain at black point in Scarborough.

“In 1688, the Indians commenced another war with the English. Andover suffered more in this, than in the preceding war.” In August 1689, John Peters and Andrew Peters were killed by the Indians; and in the same year, Lt. John Stevens, Benjamin Lovejoy, Eleazar Streaton and Robert Russell died in the war at the eastward. In August 1696, John Holt and William Peters were slain. But eh most severe and distressing shock, which Andover ever suffered for the Indians, was on the fifth of March 1698; “when between 30 and 40 Indians surprised the town killed five persons, burnt two houses and two barns with the cattle in them – set another dwelling house and the meetinghouse on fire; but the fires were happily extinguished before they had done much damage.” The persons killed were Simon Wade, Nathaniel Brown, Penelope Johnson, aged 19, daughter of Timothy Johnson, Capt. Pascoe Chubb and Hannah his wife, aged 41, daughter of Edmond Faulkner. Chubb, two year before, had been Cast. at Pemaquid fort, when he had treacherously murdered two chiefs of the Indians, and had greatly irritated them; and his death afforded them as much joy, as the taking go a whole town, because they had taken, though by accident, their beloved revenge on him for his barbarity and perfidy to their countrymen. “They took Col. Dudley Bradstreet and family and carried them about fifty rods from his house, when they halted and dismissed their prisoners without offering them the least injury; a singular instance of mercy in a people, who had always shown themselves to be cruel, and to have no mercy. The tradition is, that one Waternummon, an Indian who lived at Newbury, and is supposed to have a particular regard to Col. Bradstreet, undertook to conduct the Indians to his house upon these conditions, that they should neither kill nor captivate any of his family.” They took Abiel Stevens, a lad, who feigned himself lame and kept behind; the Indians hastened, expecting to be pursued, he turned, ran and made his escape, though fired upon by the Indian who took him.

“The snow being uncommonly deep, and the inhabitants unprovided with snow shoes, the Indians were not pursued.”

“Assacumbuit, their principal leader, and distinguished himself in this war, by his horrid barbarities, which rendered their conduct in releasing the captives the more extraordinary.”

No assault after this has been made upon Andover; but the towns near suffered severely many years afterward.

The inhabitants were obliged to use caution and often to repair to garrisons for safety. Block houses were necessary near the Merrimack to secure the fields and laborers. In the spring of 1704, four block houses were built at the expense of the Province, for 8, 8, 10, by Christopher Osgood and John Barker. It was very necessary to have a block house in Shawshin fields, as there was no garrison or dwelling house near, and many of the inhabitants raised corn and rye in these fields.

In September 1722, the town voted, “that there be a now block-house builded against Henry Bodwell’s, and the other three block houses in said town shall be repaired, all at the town’s expense.” In 1735, the block-house in Shawshin field was sold for 20s to John Johnson.

The Indians were enemies very much dreaded. They concealed themselves and lay in ambush, and waited long and patiently, for an opportunity to surprise their prey. They never made their attacks openly, nor fought in the open field. The time of assault was often just before dawn of day, when they could strike the blow without resistance, and could cause the greatest panic. The inhabitants did not feel safe in their fields, and were liable to be shot down while at their labour. They frequently carried their firearms with them to their work. They also carried their guns, when they assembled for worship on the sabbath, and were exposed to be way laid in going and returning, and assaulted in the meeting house. They could not rest safely in their beds, without constant watch in time of war. They knew not when the enemy was near; they encamped in the wilderness, and were in the same place only a short time. It was as difficult to hunt them in the forest, as to hunt a wolf, and they were skilful at lying at ambush for their pursuers.

Under such circumstances, the early settlers suffered exceedingly, not only form actual assaults, but from alarms and constant apprehension of danger. Their labors were often interrupted, much time was lost, and much expense incurred in securing their families and property. They were exposed, and suffered frequent losses, by destruction of their cattle, houses and barns, and pillage of their fields. They were often called to perform military duty, not only to protect themselves, but the frontiers; and numbers perished in their wars, by sickness, hardships, or by the enemy. How little do we, their posterity, know of the dangers, alarms, distresses, and hardships, to which they were exposed, and which they endured!

It was important to our ancestors, that peace was preserved with the natives so many year. There was no war with them near Andover for more than thirty years after the plantation was begun; but they were obliged to attend to military duty and to be equipped. How easily might the first settlers of New England have been destroyed, had the natives been hostile, and had they combined and exerted themselves to remove their new neighbours! Divine providence favored the arduous undertaking of settling a principle, and treated the savages with kindness and justice, and secured their confidence.

When wars commenced, the planters had increased in numbers and strength, and, with their superior skill and means of defence, they were able to protect themselves, and drive the enemy to distant parts, or weaken and destroy them, and compel them to preserve peace.

The frontier settlements were exposed, and frequently suffered depredations from the Indians, till the reduction of Canada, and the French, in 1763, ceded their territories in America to the English.

It is probable, that the Indians left Andover, at the commencement of Philip’s war, and that a few, if any, families have resided there since. The residence of an Indian family in Andover is not now recollected by the oldest inhabitants. They have uniformly retired from civilization, and have not long continued, where settlements have been made by the English.

In 1679, grants of land were made to Edmond Faulkner, John Farnum, and Ephraim Stevens, in consideration of losses sustained by the Indians. In 1683, a grant of six acres was made to Joshua Woodman. Amhers, N.H. was granted, in 1738, to those who had served in Philip’s war, or to their representatives. The representatives of nine belonging to Andover, had shares. This grant was made more than sixty years after the war closed.

Philip’s war commenced in 1675; peace was established, Nov. 1676. War from 1688 to the declaration of the peace of Ryswick, in 1697 – war began at the westward, in 1703; peace restored, in 1713, by the treaty of [Utrecht]. It is computed, that from 5,000 to 6,000 young men were lost in these wars; and that the population, during that period, suffered a check of not less than 100,000 souls.


Abiel Abbot, A History of Andover from its Settlement to 1829 (Andover, Mass: Flagg and Gould, 1829), pgs 40-47.