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Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
May 19, 1892

GLIMPSES OF THE PAST

Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.

XVII – THE PASSAMAQUODDY INDIANS IN THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH WARS-Continued.

[Rev. W. O. Raymond, M. A.]

2.-King William’s War.

The year 1688 is memorable by reason of the commencement therein of the most dreadful Indian was recorded in the annals of Acadia and Eastern New England.

All the Indian tribes east of the Merrimac took part in it, the Micmacs and Maliseets included.

The war is known as King William’s war, from the name of the English monarch in whose reign it occurred.  It lasted with little intermission for ten years.  Every settlement in Maine, save Wells, York, Kittery and the Isle of Shoals, was over-run, and a thousand white people killed or taken prisoner.

As in most other wars which the Indians have waged against whites the latter were responsible for its origin.

Baron de St. Castine had settled at a point of land on the eastern bank of the Penobscot, in 1667, and married a daughter of the famous Maliseet chief, Madockawando.  For several years he called on a thriving trade with the Kennebec, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes, by whom he was highly esteemed.

Governor Andros, shortly after receiving his commission, plundered and destroyed St. Castine’s post.  The Indians commenced hostilities soon afterwards, at the instigation of St. Castine and his father-in-law, Madockawando.

The war was greatly encouraged and embittered by the French, who were at the same time at war with England.

From his fort on the Nashwaak, Governor Villebon encouraged and materially assisted the Indians in their expeditions.  Count Frontenac sent Villieu from Quebec to incite the savages to a general crusade against the English settlers.  The efforts of Villebon and Villieu were ably seconded by the powerful influence of the French missionaries-Jacques and Vincent Bigot, at the Kennebec; Thury, at Penobscot; and Simon, of Passamaquoddy and St. John.

It is, of course, difficult to determine the particular part taken by the St. Croix Indians in King William’s war; but it is certain they heartily united with their kinsmen, in all the important expeditions.

The first notable incident was the destruction of Dover, New Hampshire, when Major Waldron and twenty-two others were killed, and twenty-nine taken prisoners.  This was in June, 1689.

In July, a number of men were killed at Saco; and in August, Fort Pemaquid, on the coast, midway between the Kennebec and Penobscot, was taken, and the adjoining settlement destroyed.

The presence of St. John and Passamaquoddy Indians at Pemaquid is noted in the intensely interesting narrative of John Gyles, who was made prisoner at that place and remained nine years a captive on the St. John.  His narrative was published in Boston in 1736.  It is full of romantic interest, and is equally valuable for the information it contains regarding the manners and customs of the Indians of Acadie.

Early in 1690, Count Frontenac despatched an expedition from Quebec, under command of Villebon’s brother, Portneuf.  There were fifty French and seventy Abenaquis in the party.  At the Kennebec they were joined by thirty-six French and a band of Indians; and soon after by a large band of Maliseets from Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and the St. John, under the guidance of St. Castine and Madockawando.

With this formidable force, about five hundred in all, an attack was made, May 26, on the town of Falmouth (now Portland.)  The inhabitants sought refuge within Fort Loyal, which was captured four or five days later.  The French commander promised protection to the vanquished; but the terms of surrender were shamefully violated.  The Indians were permitted to murder nearly all of the prisoners, numbering over one hundred men, women and children.  Fort Loyal and Falmouth were reduced to ashes.

All summer, from May to October, the bodies of the slain lay exposed to the elements and the prowling beasts.  In October, Major Benjamin Church, passing on an expedition to the eastward, gathered the bones of the slain and buried them.

The following year an attack was made on Wells, by a band of two hundred Indians, under Moxus, a Penobscot chieftain; but the savages were repulsed by the garrison under Captain Converse.

In 1692, Villebon stimulated the Indians to undertake a winter expedition against the settlements.  A party of one hundred and fifty of them succeeded in surprising York, killing seventy-five of the settlers and taking one hundred prisoners.

A few months later, Villebon gathered a great war party, composed of Maliseets from Penobscot, St. Croix and the St. John, reinforced by a fair number of Micmacs-about four hundred warriors in all, accompanied by all the leading chiefs.  A fierce attack was made by the combined force upon the garrison at Wells; but, by the bravery of Captain Converse, the assailants were again beaten off.  Shortly afterwards the Indians made an attempt to capture the fort at Pemaquid, and were again unsuccessful.

These failures, apparently, had a depressing effect upon the savages; for in August, 1693, thirteen of their chiefs, representatives of the various tribes from Passamaquoddy to Saco, concluded a treaty with the English at Pemaquid.

This proceeding gave much dissatisfaction to the French.  Villebon, seconded by the missionaries, endeavoured to bring about renewed hostilities; and Count Frontenac despatched Villieu from Quebec to renew the crusade, if possible, against the English settlements.

Villieu made Villebon’s fort on the Nashwaak his head quarters for a time.  Thence he started for Penobscot, travelling by the usual route up the Medoctec and down the Mattawamkeag.  Arrived at his destination, he speeedily [sic] secured the adherence of Taxous, the adopted Indian brother of Governor Villebon, and the support of the Jesuits, Bigot and Thury.  With more difficulty, he at length succeeded in persuading Madockawando and his tribe to ignore the treaty made with the English.

Eventually a band of two hundred and fifty Indians was collected.  Their attack on Dover was totally unlooked for, and resulted in the destruction of one hundred lives and the capture of twenty-seven prisoners; besides which they burned a score of houses.  Sub-dividing into smaller bands, the Indians, during the remainder of the year, roamed about the country likes [sic] wolves, killing several persons at Groton, York, Kittery and Piscataqua.  Villieu stated the result of the campaign as ‘two small forts and fifty or sixty houses captured and burnt and one hundred and thirty English killed or made prisoners.’

Villieu soon after went to Montreal to receive the congratulations of Frontenac, to whom he presented a string of English scalps as a trophy.  He had done his work but too well, and had sown such seeds of distrust between the English and the savages as to render it well nigh impossible to establish peace between them for at least a generation.  Indeed the enmity excited at this time lasted nearly a century; and almost every succeeding year witnessed some act of hostility, even when the crowns of England and France were themselves at peace.

In the midst of their rejoicing over the destruction of the English settlements, an appalling pestilence swept away great numbers of the Indians.  On the St. John river alone, upwards of one hundred died, including some of the most noted warriors and their chief.  John Gyles describes this plague in his narrative, and says the Indians abandoned their settlement at Medoctec and did not plant corn there for several years.

The distress of the savages was aggravated by the fact that the French trading company charged excessive prices for their goods.

The English were prepared to trade on much more equitable terms.  In consequence of this the Indians began to murmur, and Villebon was compelled to interfere.

In June, 1695, he assembled at his fort on the Nashwaak a conference of fourteen chiefs, representing all the tribes from the St. John to the Kennebec.  The conference lasted three days.  Presents were freely distributed, and a tariff of goods arranged which gave great satisfaction to the Indians.  The chiefs were then banqueted, and departed more determined than ever to continue the war with the English.

The following summer, a combined effort was made by the French and Indians to secure the destruction of Fort William Henry, at Pemaquid.  The Micmacs came in force, some form as far eastward as Spanish river (Sydney) in Cape Breton.  The St. John Maliseets, with their brothers on the Penobscot and St. Croix, assembled in force.  A considerable body of French joined their dusky allies.  D’Iberville, who commanded, had able assistants in Montigny and Villieu.  St. Castine, and Fathers Thury and Simon were present to lend their aid.  When summoned to surrender, Captain Chubb, who commanded the fort, said that ‘though the sea was covered with French vessels and the land with Indians he should not surrender unless forced to do so.’  Notwithstanding this bluster the fort was taken without much difficulty, the surrender doubtless being hastened by a letter of St. Castine’s stating that if the fort should be carried by assault the garrison would experience no mercy at the hands of the Indians.  In the fall of the Pemaquid fort the New England people lost their strongest fortress.

The following season the Indians were again upon the war path, Villebon, being as usual, the instigator of their movements.  The Micmacs, numbering two hundred, accompanied by their missionaries, united with the Maliseets from St. John river and Passamaquoddy, at the usual rendezvous on the Penobscot.  Villebon’s journal mentions that on July 26, 1697, he sent off seventy-two St. John river Indians, with the Recollet missionary, Father Simon.  Their instructions were to pick up the Passamaquoddy and other Indians on their way.  Villebon says:

‘These savages departed in a good disposition, and with the intention of giving no quarter in the enemy’s places where they should pass; and I gave them 100 lbs. of powder and 500 lbs. of lead for hunting on the sea shore in going to Pentagoet.’

This would indicate that the party proceeded along the coast from the mouth of the St. Croix to the Penobscot.

The intense feeling existing between the contending parties is manifested in the directions given to the savages by their French allies ‘to burn and to destroy and to give no quarter.’

An entry in Villebon’s journal a few days after the departure of the Indians from fort Nashwaak illustrates the horrors of Indian warfare.  It reads:

‘M. de Thury confirms to me the report I already had received, of four small parties of our Indians having killed fifteen or sixteen English, and burnt one of them alive, on account of one of their chiefs being slain.’

The English settlements suffered constant annoyance from the Indian marauders; who killed Major Frost, at Kittery, and a number of people at Wells.  Major Marsh had a severe skirmish with the enemy near Pemaquid, in which he lost twenty-five of his men, but eventually succeeded in putting the savages to flight.  This was probably the last blood shed in King William’s war.

The Indians were becoming weary of fighting, and the peace of Ryswick deprived them of the open assistance of their French allies.  For a brief season peace reigned in Acadie.

The state of affairs at the St. Croix at this time is indicated in the memorial of Captain John Alden,1 of Boston, to his excellency the Earl of Bellamont, under date April 9, 1700.

Captain Alden states that ‘for thirty years and upwards he has traded between Boston and Acadie.  That it is understood and acted upon by both French and English that the river St. Croix (and Passamaquoddy bay into which that river falls) is the boundary between the two nations.  The English fish in that bay and make fish on its shore, in the time of peace, without hindrance from the French.’

It appears the Indians were quite numerous at this time around the bay.  M. de Brouillan, governor of Acadia, mentions that in the year 1701 the missionary to the Maliseets removed with his approval from Medoctec to ‘Pesmokady.’


1Captain John Alden was the eldest son of the noted pilgrim of the same name whose romatic [sic] courtship and marriage to Priscilla Mullins has been so well told by Longfellow.


Addition: Article XVIII contains the following addition to this one: "The following note should have been appended to last week’s article, in connection with the combined effort of French and Indians to secure the destruction of the fort at Pemaquid in 1696:-

It was the design of the French at this time to establish themselves in undisputed possession of the territory lying to the east of the Kennebec, and to claim that river as the western boundary of New France.  Consequently the re-establishment by Sir William Phipps of a strongly fortified post at Pemaquid was deemed a standing menace by the French and their Indian allies.  They termed the obnoxious fort Creve-Coeur as being, in view of their ambitious designs, ‘heart breaking.’

Cadillac wrote, in 1692, ‘This place is very troublesome to our Indians.’  The same writer states, amongst the reasons why every effort should be made to retain the good will of the Indians, ‘They defend Acadia and protect it from inroads of the English, who have often designed to come and fortify themselves at Pentagoet, and, were it not for the Indians, could have done so without any resistance.  Thus it is easy to see that they not only defend their own soil and our boundary, but they also attack and destroy their enemies, our neighbors.  They completely prevent their forming any settlements upon our shores, and oblige them to abandon their own and to take refuge in their towns.’"

Caren's note: Guéganne Doucet has pointed out to me that Madockawando was not Maliseet, but rather Abenaki-Penobscot. See http://www.famousamericans.net/madockawando/ for more information.