To the student of Indian history of the early New England period the catalog of the librarian would allow one to infer that the ground had been already preempted by Mr. William Hubbard and some other well-known writers upon the tragedies of the early New England days, whose labors are more famous for being a quaint reflection of the times than for comprehensive treatment of the subject at hand. Without Mr. Drake’s labors, allied to those of Church and Belknap, the earlier story would be a meager one. It is to these authors one goes with assurance and infinite satisfaction, and one feels safe in accepting them as authorities upon the matters of which they write. Mr. Hubbard, who is most tedious in his narrative, leaves one at the threshold of Mr. Penhallow’s “Relation, “which brings one to the verge of 1726; while Mr. Palfrey’s consideration of the events which limit the scope of the present work is general rather than subjective. Unquestionably, Mr. Palfrey offers very little of the conflicts of the English settler with the Indians. His objective was a “History of New England,” to which the depredations of the Indians were necessarily incidental. With Gardener’s “Pequod Wars” and Church’s “Philip’s War” is ushered in a decade of peaceful years, the termination of which leaves one upon the threshold of a most sanguinary conflict which broke out anew in 1688, and in which the stage of activities was shifted from the purlieus of Mount Hope 1 to the northern boundaries of New Hampshire and eastward about the marshes of old Scarborough and the islands of Merrymeeting Bay.
Isolate attacks were made upon the Connecticut River settlements at the outset; but with the destruction of Hadley and Deerfield, and one or two towns in the Hudson River Valley, the settlers along the coast of Maine and about the Piscataqua bore the brunt of the terror and devastation which everywhere followed in the wake of the Indian allies of the French whose outposts at Norridgewock and Pentagoët afforded the Jesuit, Rale, and the son-in-law of Madockawando, St. Castin, ample seclusion in which to foment and perfect their plots under the guiding hand of Frontenac, whose great labor was the progress of New France and the extension of its domain as far to the west as Albany and the country about the Hudson and Iroquois, and as far south as New York. From 1677 to 1685 the Indians had been peaceable. There were mutterings of a storm along the uplands of the Scarborough lands, where lived Henry Jocelyn and the Algers.
It broke and passed with a half-dozen savage butcheries, in which the Algers paid the penalty of their greed of land and their ungenerous attitude toward their Indian grantors. Jocelyn had been made a captive by Mugg, the Saco sachem, and released. An exchange of captives was made, and the Scarborough settlers turned to the tilling of their acres anew, while Scottow began the building of his fort. Frontenac had been recalled. Denonville had superseded him, and, in the whirl of events, Frontenac, who was hanging about the court of Louis XIV, then at the zenith of its brilliancy, needy and out of kingly favor, pushed by influential friends and a wife whose subtle intriguing was to prove of service to her ambitious husband, was about to see his fortunes mended.
Frontenac had his faults. He was fiery and headstrong; but he was as keenly active and energetic, and of an unconquerable vitality. Denonville proved to be a bitter disappointment to his master, and the king was not wholly unmindful of Frontenac, to whom he had presented a “gratification” of 3,500 francs. Letters from Denonville betrayed the desperate state of affairs at Quebec. In his need the king determined to restore Frontenac to the dignity of which he had stripped him seven years before. He summoned Frontenac into his presence and, remarking that it was his belief that the charges which had led to his recall were unfounded, he added, “I send you back to Canada, where I am sure that you will serve me as well as you did before; and I ask nothing more of you.” 2
Frontenac was in his seventieth year. It was Denonville’s plan to carry the war into the English colonies. His plan was accepted by the king in a modified form, but one which made the wished-for results more doubtful. New York was the objective-point, the immediate conquest of which was decided upon. The raids upon Cascoe and the towns to the south along the coast, the devastation of the New Hampshire border, and the destruction of Schenectady were almost simultaneously accomplished by the three war parties sent out respectively from Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. This was in 1690. In this year Pemaquid was destroyed; Salmon Falls as well. The trail of the Indians and French wound through the woods of old York; and everywhere in its wake were the smokes of burning cabins and the stark figures of the settlers, dead and mutilated, almost across their own thresholds.
This was twelve years after the ending of King Philip’s War, the beginning of an era of savagery that has been paralleled nowhere in the history of civilization.
Hubbard’s story is perhaps sufficient, so far as it goes; yet here at the second coming of Frontenac began a new era of barbarities that were to extend through a half-dozen Indian outbreaks, at the instigation of the French, and which were to cover a span of two generations with all the demoralization of flame and bloodshed. And while the author has it in mind to go back to the beginning of things colonial, he hopes he may be able to add something of interest to the narrations that have gone before, and which have found many interpreters whose stories have been perpetuated in reprints, which of itself is but an added proof that the author need to make no apology for the work he has undertaken. The material is abundant. In the main it is veracious. The difficulty seems to be in the matter of selection so as not to over-burden the work with that which takes on some color of value more from local tradition than from its actual importance as a record of the so-called lean days, and at the same time to enable the impartial reader to realize unconsciously the historical truthfulness of the events portrayed. The story is told chronologically, as one would unwind a strand of yarn from its reel. If the author’s notes at times seem to be somewhat in extenso, it is because he has preferred to offer them to the reader under the color of a personal comment, rather than as a part of the text, thus avoiding that disposition to digression which, while it illuminates, is apt to impair the directness of the relation.
The interest of the author in Indian lore, or, more particularly, Indian history as related to the early settlements of New England, has been crystallized somewhat in his story of the Pioneer Settlements of the Maine Coast — a relation which terminated with the closing years of the peace following the death of King Philip. With the completion of this work the author hopes to have paid his debt of admiration to the sturdy characteristics of his forefathers, and as well to have afforded to others some inspiration to continue the investigation here begun. It is the story of a great and significant drama, the stage-settings of which are the green woods of the wilderness, — their somber shadows and ominous silences by day, and their horde of voiceless terrors “When Night’s black mantle covers all the world,” — a mingling of tragedy and romance, in which Fate severed the thread of the French power upon the continent of North America at the inevitable moment, but at what cost to the New World dwellers upon the English frontiers of 1688 and 1759 can never be estimated.
- Vol. 1
- Vol. 2
- Vol. 3