E/MS Unit I

Lesson A: Native American Tribes and English Colonists in Early Massachusetts

Key Questions

  1. Which native people lived in what is now Massachusetts in the early 1600s?
  2. Where did they live?
  3. Where were the English settlements located prior to 1675?
  4. How did native people sustain themselves?
  5. In general, how did English settlers view native people?
  6. What can we learn from pre-1700 maps of Massachusetts?

Primary Sources

Document E/MS I-1: Excerpts from the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company, March 4, 1629

Document E/MS I-1: Excerpts from the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company, March 4, 1629

CHARLES BY THE GRACE OF GOD, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland…

Now know ye, that We [King Charles] … do grant and confirm unto said Sir Henry Rosewell [and all the members of the company]….for the planting, ruling, ordering, and governing of New England in America…all that part of New England in America …which lies and extends between a great river there commonly called…Merrimack, and a certain other river there, called Charles River, being in the bottom of a certain bay there, commonly called Massachusetts…and also all…those lands…lying within the space of three English miles on the south part of the said Charles River…and also, all…those lands… which lie…within the space of three English miles to the northward of the said river called…Merrimack…and all lands…lying within the limits…north and south in latitude…and within all the breadth…throughout the mainland there, from the Atlantic…on the east part to the South Sea [the Pacific Ocean] on the west part; and all lands and grounds, place and places, soils, woods and wood grounds, havens, ports, rivers, waters, fishings…lying within the said bounds and limits…and also all islands lying in America aforesaid…also all mines and minerals, as well royal mines of gold and silver…

Document E/MS I-2: Excerpts from Mourt's Relation or Journal of the Proceedings of the Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England, 1622.

Document E/MS I-2: Excerpts from Mourt's Relation or Journal of the Proceedings of the Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England, 1622.

This section of the book commonly known as Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth describes the first time men from the Mayflower explored the area around what is now Provincetown.

[S]ixteen men were set out with every man his musket, sword, and corslet, under the conduct of Captain Miles Standish, unto whom was adjoined, for counsel and advice, William Bradford, Stephen Hopkins, and Edward Tilley.

[GROUP 1] Wednesday, the 15th of November [1620], they were set ashore, and when they had ordered themselves in the order of a single file and marched about the space of a mile, by the sea they espied five or six people with a dog, coming towards them, who were savages, who when they saw them, ran into the wood and whistled the dog after them, etc. First they supposed them to be Master Jones, the master, and some of his men, for they were ashore and knew of their coming, but after they knew them to be Indians they marched after them into the woods, lest other of the Indians should lie in ambush; but when the Indians saw our men following them, they ran away with might and main and our men turned out of the wood after them, for it was the way they intended to go, but they could not come near them. They followed them that night about ten miles by the trace of their footings, and saw how they had come the same way they went, and at a turning perceived how they ran up a hill, to see whether they followed them. At length night came upon them, and they were constrained to take up their lodging, so they set forth three sentinels, and the rest, some kindled a fire, and others fetched wood, and there held our rendezvous that night.

[GROUP2] In the morning so soon as we could see the trace, we proceeded on our journey, and had the track until we had compassed the head of a long creek, and there they took into another wood, and we after them, supposing to find some of their dwellings, but we marched through boughs and bushes, and under hills and valleys, which tore our very armor in pieces, and yet could meet with none of them, nor their houses, nor find any fresh water, which we greatly desired, and stood in need of…

[W]e went on, and found much plain ground, about fifty acres, fit for plow, and some signs where the Indians had formerly planted their corn…. [Later] we found a little path to certain heaps of sand, one whereof was covered with old mats, and had a wooding thing like a mortar whelmed on the top of it, and an earthen pot laid in a little hole at the end thereof. We, musing what it might be, digged and found a bow, and, as we thought, arrows, but they were rotten. We supposed there were many other things, but because we deemed them graves, we put in the bow again and made it up as it was, and left the rest untouched, because we thought it would be odious unto them to ransack their sepulchers.

[GROUP3] We went on further and found new stubble, of which they had gotten corn this year, and many walnut trees full of nuts, and great store of strawberries, and some vines. Passing thus a field or two, which were not great, we came to another which had also been new gotten, and there we found where a house had been, and four or five old planks laid together; also we found a great kettle which had been some ship's kettle and brought out of Europe. There was also a heap of sand, made like the former—but it was newly done, we might see how they had paddled it with their hands—which we digged up, and in it we found a little old basket full of fair Indian corn, and digged further and found a fine great new basket full of very fair corn of this year, with some thirty-six goodly ears of corn, some yellow, some red, and others mixed with blue, which was a very goodly sight. The basket was round, and narrow at the top; it held about three or four bushels, which was as much as two of us could lift up from the ground, and was very handsomely and cunningly made. But whilst we were busy about these things, we set our men sentinel in a round ring, all but two or three which digged up the corn. We were in suspense what to do with it and the kettle, and at length, after much consultation, we concluded to take the kettle and as much of the corn as we could carry away with us; and when our shallop came, if we could find any of the people, and come to parley with them, we would give them the kettle again, and satisfy them for their corn. So we took all the ears, and put a good deal of the loose corn in the kettle for two men to bring away on a staff; besides, they that could put any into their pockets filled the same. The rest we buried again, for we were so laden with armor that we could carry no more….

[GROUP4] [In a river] we saw two canoes, the one on the one side, the other on the other side; we could not believe it was a canoe, till we came near it…. [We] came that night back again to the fresh water pond, and there we made our rendezvous that night, making a great fire, and a barricade to windward of us, and kept good watch with three sentinels all night, every one standing when his turn came, while five or six inches of match was burning….

In the morning we took our kettle and sunk it in the pond, and trimmed our muskets, for few of them would go off because of the wet, and so coasted the wood again to come home, in which we were shrewdly puzzled, and lost our way. As we wandered we came to a tree, where a young sprit was bowed down over a bow, and some acorns strewed underneath. Stephen Hopkins said it had been to catch some deer. So as we were looking at it, William Bradford being in the rear, when he came looked also upon it, and as he went about, it gave a sudden jerk up, and he was immediately caught by the leg. It was a very pretty device, made with a rope of their own making and having a noose as artificially made as any roper in England can make, and as like ours as can be, which we brought away with us….

[When we returned to the Mayflower, we] delivered in our corn into the store, to be kept for seed, for we knew not how to come by any, and therefore were very glad, purposing, so soon as we could meet with any inhabitants of that place, to make them large satisfaction. This was our first discovery, whilst our shallop was in repairing.

From Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, by William Bradford, originally published in 1622 by John Bellamie, London, as A Relation or Journal of the beginnings and proceedings of the English plantation settled at Plymouth in New England, by certain English adventurers both merchants and others (Applewood Books, 1963).


  1. How many Englishmen went ashore to explore?
  2. What did they see? What did they do?
  3. How did the Englishmen expect the Indians to behave?
  4. How did the Wampanoags behave?
  5. What have you learned about the way of life of the Wampanoag people in the early 1600s?
  6. What surprised you about what you just read? Why?
Document E/MS I-3: Friend or Foe? Excerpt from Roger Clapp’s Journal, 1630

Document E/MS I-3: Friend or Foe? Excerpt from Roger Clapp’s Journal, 1630

In May 1630, while the first shipload of Puritans were still en route to Massachusetts aboard theArabella, an exploring party of Englishmen came ashore at what is now Watertown. Roger Clapp recorded their experiences:

We went up Charles River, until the river grew narrow and shallow, and there we landed our goods with much labour and toil, the bank being steep; and night coming on, we were informed that there were hard by us 300 Indians. One Englishman, that could speak the Indian language, (an old planter) went to them, and advised them not to come near us in the night; and they harkened to his counsel and came not out. I myself was one of the sentinels that night… In the morning some of the Indians came and stood at a distance off, looking at us, but came not near. But when they had been awhile in view, some of them came and held out a great bass towards us; so we sent a man with a biscuit, and changed the cake for the bass. Afterwards, they supplied us with bass, exchanging a bass for a biscuit cake, and were very friendly unto us… Had they come upon us, soon they might have destroyed us! I think we were not above ten in number. But God caused the Indians to help us with fish at very cheap rates. We had not been there many days but we had an order to come away from that place, which was about Watertown, unto a place called Mattapan, now Dorchester.

Quoted in “Memoirs of Captain Roger Clap,” in Chronicles of the First Planters of Massachusetts Bay, ed. by Alexander Young ( Little & Brown Co., 1846).


  1. What did the Englishmen see and do when they reached their destination?
  2. Why did they tell the Indians not to come near them at night?
  3. How did the Massachusett people behave toward the white men?
Document E/MS I-4: Trading Wampam and Goods for Land: 1636 Deed Transferring Land from Indians of Agawam to Wiliam Pynchon

Document E/MS I-4: Trading Wampam and Goods for Land: 1636 Deed Transferring Land from Indians of Agawam to Wiliam Pynchon

A copy of a deed Whereby the Indians at Springfield made sale of certaine land on both sides the great River at Springfield to William Pynchon Esq & Mr Henry Smith & Jehu Burr, for the Town of Springfield for ever.


alias Agawan this fifteenth day of July, 1636

It is agreed between Commucke & Matanchan ancient Indians of Agaam for & in the name of al the other Indians, & in particular for & in the name of Cuttonus the right owner of Agaam & Quana, & in the Name of his mother Kewenusk the ?amasham or wife of Wenawis, & Niarum the wife of Coa, to & with William Pynchon, Henry Smith & Jehu Burr their heires & associates for ever to trucke & set at that ground & muckeosquittaj on medow, accomsick viz: on the other side of Quana; & at the ground & muckeosquittaj on the side of Agaam, except Cottinackeesh or ground that is now planted for ten Fatham of Wampam, Ten coates, Ten howes, Ten hatchets, & Ten knifes; and also the said ancient Indians with the Consent of Menis & Wrutherna & Napompenam - do trucke & set to William Pynchon, Henry Smith & Jehu Burr, & their Successors for ever, at that ground on the East side of Quinnecticot River called Usquaiok & Mayasset reaching about four or five miles in length, from the north end of Masaksicke up to Chickuppe River, for four fatham of wampam, four coates, four howes, four hatchets, four knifes: Also the said ancient Indians Does with the Consent of the other Indians, & in particular with the Consent of Machethood Wenepawin, & Mohemoos trucke & set the ground & Muckeosquittaj, & grounds adjoyning, called Masaksicke, for four fatham of wampam, four coates, four hatchets & four howes, & four knifes.

And the said Pynchon hath in hand paid the said eighteen fatham of wampam, eighteen coates, 18 hatchets, 18 howes, 18 knifes, to the said Commucke & Matanchan, & doth further condition with the Said Indians, that they shal have & enjoy all that Cottinackessh, or ground that is now planted; And have liberty to take Fish & Deer, ground nuts, walnuts akornes, & Sasashiminesh or a kind of pease, And also if any of the cattle spoile their corne, to pay as it is worth; & that hogs shal not goe on the side of Agaam but in akorne times: Also the said Pynchon doth give to Wrutherna two coates over & above the said Particulars expressed, & In Witness hereof the said Indians & the Rest, doe set to their hands, this present 15th day of July, 1636.

The marke of Menis

The marke of Machethood

The marke of Cuttonis

The marke of Kenir

The marke of Cominuk

The marke of Matanchan

The marke of Wesai alias Nepinam

marke Keckusneck

The marke of Wrutherna

The marke of Macossak

The marke of W


The marke of Coa

Source: Hampden County Registry of Deeds

Document E/MS I-5: John Seller's A Mapp of New England, 1675.

Document E/MS I-5: John Seller's A Mapp of New England, 1675.

Seller's Mapp is the first large, detailed map devoted solely to New England.

Document E/MS I-6: John Foster's A Map of New-England, 1677.

Document E/MS I-6: John Foster's A Map of New-England, 1677.

Originally printed in Boston, Foster's is the first map drawn, cut, and printed in America.


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