« AnteriorContinua »
in number and size that of any other town in New England of equal extent. The mountain scenery there is delightful. There too are shown the battle grounds, where the unfortunate Petumtucks contended with the inhabitants for their inheritance, after they had sold it for a fair price.
Indian village at Natick.–The reverend John Eliot, the minister of Roxbury, first proposed the attempt to convert the natives of this country to civilization and christianity. In the year 1646, he began to instruct that portion of the Massachusetts tribe, which resided at that time at a place called Nonantum, within the present town of Newton.There he met with success in the conversion of some Indians, and among others, of Waban, a wise and grave man of that tribe. Some progress was there made in building a village, but in a few years it was abandoned. Mr. Eliot ever maintained the opinion that the Indians could not become christians, unless they were first civilized. He therefore proposed that the Indians of Nonantum should be collected into a village, in a more convenient place than their present one; and designated a place on Charles river, then within the limits of Dedham, and ten miles west of the village in this town, since called Natick, an Indian word which signifies a place of hills. When this measure was proposed to the general court, Dedham readily consented to it, and sent their agents there to express its concurrence. The general court granted 2000 acres for the Indian town in 1651. It is asserted by those who described that town afterwards, that it contained about 6000 acres. In the year 1659, Dedham appointed nine persons to define the limits of the Indian town. But these men of the woods, who had wandered over an indefinite extent of territory, and who very imperfectly understood the English notion of land-marks, were not all at once to be confined to one place, defined only by imaginary lines, and marked trees. They would not agree on bounds. They would not meet the Dedham committee. When boundaries were at last fixed, they disregarded them, and committed trespasses on the lands belonging to Dedham, and much litigation and trouble ensued from these causes.
The Naticks, so the tribe was afterwards called, soon built a little town, which had three long streets, two on the north of Charles river, and one on the south of it. Each family had a house lot. Most of the houses were built in the Indian style, the principal materials of which were poles set in the ground and covered with pealed bark. The few built in the manner of English houses, were less perfect and comfortable. There was one large house, the lower room of which answered the double purpose of a school room, and a meeting house. In the second story, the Indians deposited their skins and their other valuable things. In the corner of the second story, Mr. Eliot had a little room partitioned off, in which he had a bed. These Indians were supplied with spades, hoes, axes, and all other tools necessary for the improvement of their land. Mr. Eliot recommended to them a form of government, similar to a model in Exodus, and they actually chose rulers of tens, of fifties, and hundreds. But these rulers were to be approved by a superior authority. To aid this imperfect Indian government, an English magistrate was appointed to hold a court among them. This magistrate in fact appointed the Indian rulers. That is, men to decide small causes, constables, and marshals; and had the same authority as a court of common pleas in all judicial matters.
The general court from time to time, made laws for the purpose of regulating the Indian towns, guarding them against various evils, and protecting their rights. Their great and devoted patron, Mr. Eliot, taught that portion of the tribe who would hear him, the doctrines of the christian religion, by addressing them in their own language. He translated the bible into their own language, and to prepare them for better understanding the lessons taught, schools were established for their children, and in the summer season, once every fortnight, he was present to teach some of his Indian disciples the art of rightly employing their understandings, by which means several persons of this tribe were prepared to become teachers.
As an almost unconquerable aversion to Jabor, is the Indian's great sin, the English magistrate among them was commanded to encourage industry by rewards and penalties. In the year 1670, the Indian church at Natick had two teachers, John and Anthony, and from forty to fifty communicants. They observed the sabbath. Some of them could read, some could read and write, and rehearse
the catechism. These flattering prospects inspired strong hopes that the noble efforts made for their conversion, would be successful, but this account thus far, is that of general Gookins and Mr. Eliot, by whose great exertions, these favorable effects were produced, and by whose zeal, they were perhaps favorably represented.* The reverend Stephen Badger, minister of Natick, in the year 1797, in a letter to the historical society,t writes the last chapter of the history of this tribe. The remnant of that tribe had been under his parochial care; but he could find no records or written evidence of their former doings. . The full bloods of that tribe did not then exceed twenty, and they were dispersed. The causes of their decay were numerous. The attempt to force them into civilization, broke down their spirit. Their conscious inferiority in all their attempts to imitate white men, degraded them in their own estimation. Their aversion to labor, their strong propensity to a wandering life, their strong thirst for ardent spirits, their natural improvidence, are causes which have contributed to their downfall. In the beginning of the last century, the tribe was in a civilized state. Some of the tribe held up their heads and thought something of themselves. They had civil officers of their own, they had a training company, organized in the English manner, with proper officers, who had their proper titles, but no commissions. But their trainings soon degenerated into drunken frolics, and were suppressed. The doctrines of christianity never made a deep impression on their minds, although there have been men among them of sober and christian lives. Such was Waban. Such was deacon Ephraim, and several other teachers. The number of the tribe in 1749, was
extinct. This is the result of the most perfect experiment perhaps, that ever has, or ever will be made to civilize the natives of this country. Who has ever made equal exertions to that great and ardent missionary, the reverend John Eliot, who by way of eminence, is called the apostle to
* Historical collections, vol. Ist, 171. vol. 10, 124. + Historical collections, vol. 5, 32.
the Indians. Who will ever possess such opportunities to convert the Indians ? They were comfortably settled in a village, on a tract of good land. They had the example of the white men, both to stimulate their exertions by the hopes of present reward, and to teach them the ordinary arts of life. Their former hunting grounds they knew were appropriated to different uses by the English. Gen. Daniel Gookins, the pious and upright superintendent of the Indians, was ardently devoted to their interests, and supported Mr. Eliot in his efforts. The good work of reforming these wild men of the woods, was encouraged by the almost unanimous opinion of the community in their favor, for then no unsuccessful experiment had damped the spirit of christian philanthropy. The true character of the American Indian was not then fully understood.Alas! if we overlook all their vices, or attribute them to the influence of a peculiar situation, yet by one single trait in their character, that of aversion to labor, they were doomed to sudden decay and final extirpation from the land cultivated by civilized man. If a whole tribe merit a monumental stone, I recommend that it be placed on the Indian burying ground at the foot of Pegan hill, and its inscription may say, “Here are interred the Naticks, a tribe of native Indians, who were the first of that race to embrace christianity. Soon after their conversion at Nonantum, in 1646, they were collected into a village at this place, by their great patron and missionary, the reverend John Eliot.
Here the tribe lived and gradually declined, and became finally extinct before the year 1826.
Name of the town. Records. Incorporation. Town-covenant. Town legisla
ture of seven men. By-laws. Wood reeves. The example of a society formed out of its simple elements. Measures to support public worship. Method of supporting ministers. Parish funds. School funds and Schools.
Name of the town.—The celebrated John Rogers, of Dedham, in England, had been forbidden to preach before our first settlers came to this country. Many of his people emigrated to this country and several to this town. John Dwight and his son Timothy Dwight and John Rogers and John Page were of this number. From this circumstance we may suppose the general court gave to this place the name of Dedham. The inhabitants requested the general court to give it the name of Contentment, which name is written over the records of the first several meetings. It appears to me that the word well expresses the leading motives of the first twenty-four settlers in coming into this town. They were soon however associated with men of somewhat a different and higher character.
Records. Very few towns it is believed have an unbroken series of records from the first commencement of their settlement, at an early period, to the present time. That Dedham has such a set of records must be attributed to the excellent example set by the principal townsmen of the first half century, they first wrote a clear account of all the public acts ; and then carefully preserved the most material of them, by duplicate copies. The second generation had, it is true, hardly sufficient education, even with the help of such good precedents, either to transact the public business or to make a proper record thereof. The records begin, September 1st, 1635, and state every transaction so fully that I have been able to collect this history therefrom. To major Lusher belongs by far the greatest share of this praise. Some of our by-laws, for instance, those relating to wild horses in the woods are in the same language of those in the colony statute book relating to the same subject, although previously made,