~ THE FOUR NIPMUCS OF MARLBOROUGH ~
History of Marlborough by Charles Hudson
Early Reminiscence by Ella Bigelow Pub 1910
Gary Brown Marlborough Historic Commission
Researched and Written by - John Buczek
Use the Map at the bottom of the page for points of reference
Praying Indians were very useful to the early white settlers, the Indians helped the settlers to build their houses, with the planting and harvesting, and "the more industrious earned money by cutting and preparing cedar shingles and some of them caught fish to use for barter with their English neighbors". Their friendliness was undoubtedly the result of the kindness shown to their race in former years by John Eliott and his son.
The Town of Marlborough with it's nearby "Praying Indian" settlement at the plantation" or "plowed fields place" a village known as the Ockoogamesets or "Ockoocangansett" were a small Nipmuc band was an example of the good and the bad relations with the Indians. Early on there was friction between the Marlborough settlers and the adjoining Christian Indian tribe, the Wamesit. They, the Wamesit, had been granted 6,000 acres of the best land in the area surrounding Marlborough as early as 1643 by Mr. John Elliott. A curious thought comes to mind at this time. How does one lease land they already own, owned for hundreds and maybe thousands of years?
The land was of such good quality, the settlers of Marlborough desired the land and to their dismay, the settlers found that they could not have the Indians ousted. A lease signed by Mr. Elliot was being honored by the Massachusetts Bay Council and they refused to go back on their word. The Indian village, which was referred to by the settlers as Whipsuppenick, was there to stay. The Indians were self-supporting, peaceable and adapting to the English way of life and, unfortunately, either hatred or greed for the land kept relations between Marlborough and Whipsuppenick on the edge of war. These relations reached a peak during the King Philip's War when an English Militia arrested 15 of the Indians had them chained together and marched to Boston. The Militia also seized the Indians supply of weapons and plundered their village. This persecution led to the breakup of the village and the Indians fleeing.
"The horrors and devastation of Philip's war have no parallel in our history. The Revolution was a struggle for freedom; the contest with Philip was for existence. The war lasted only about fourteen months; and yet the towns of Brookfield, Lancaster, Marlborough, Medfield, Sudbury, Groton, Deerfield, Hatfield, Hadley, Northfield, Springfield, Weymouth, Chelmsford, Andover, Scituate, Bridgewater, and several other places were wholly or partially destroyed, and many of the inhabitants were massacred or carried into captivity. During this short period, six hundred of our brave men, the flower and strength of the Colony, had fallen, and six hundred dwelling houses were consumed. Every eleventh family was house less, and every eleventh soldier had sunk to his grave."
Charles Hudson: A History of Marlborough
NOTE: Picture of King Philip from Sue Martin's web Site
Sunday, March 26, 1676, the Nipmuck Indian tribe raided Marlborough, the townspeople were at church when the attack began. They were saved only because the pastor, Rev. Mr. Brismead, had had a severe toothache and discovered the attacking Indians when he stepped out of the church for some relief from the pain. The worshipping assembly were alarmed by the appalling cry, "The Indians are upon us". This cry was followed by the firing of muskets from the enemy, wounding Moses Newton in the arm, but doing no further injury to the people who quickly took refuge in the closest Garrison. The meeting house, were the sermon was being preached, sixteen houses and thirteen barns were burned to the ground. The Indians also did great damage to fruit trees, the effects of which were realized for many years. Havoc of this nature occurred time an again and the early settlers soon abandoned their farms and Marlborough was for a time left desolate. On April 18, 1676, the Indians returned and burned the remaining houses at Marlborough.
And this is about the time that the story of the "The Four Nipmucs of Marlborugh" started.
As told by Gary Brown of the Marlborough Historical Commission
It was in the year of 1676 that many of the Praying Indians that were settled in "Ockoocangansett" were arrested after King Philip's War, Nipmuc and other Native Americans in 'Praying Towns' within Nipnet were ordered to Natick, taken to Boston and eventually to Deer Island in the harbor; others were hunted down and killed or taken captive and sold into slavery in the West Indies. The lucky ones fled, either westward across the Connecticut River or into Canada. It was this group of Nipmuc's from the Praying town of Marlborough that were being marched to Deer Island that we speak of. In what is surmised as an attempt to escape, three adults were shot and the one infant in the arms of the parent was similarly disposed of. As a matter of convenience, they were buried were they fell, their place of burial was where is now known as Union Street and Prospect Street.
Two hundred and fifty years passed when in 1950 construction for a water line to a house was undertaken. As the digging began it was discovered that there were human remains buried in the place that the water line was to be set. It is not certain as to what actually happened after the discovery, however the remains were turned over to authorities who apparently did some research and it was determined that the remains where that of four Native Americans. The remains were eventually shipped to the R. S. Peabody Foundation at the Phillips Academy where they were placed in storage for further investigation and there they lay, never to be looked at again until……….
In 1990, Gary Brown was doing some research on Marlborough properties and he kept on coming across a reference to "Dorchester" burials. He thought it to be unusual to be reading about Dorchester in Marlborough records. He continued to research and discovered that the reference was not to the City of Dorchester, but to the Dorchester family, the apparent owners of the property where the remains were found. His continued research led him to the documentation that spoke of the remains and their current location.
His first contact would be that of Walter Vickers a Native American Nipmuc Chief known as "Natachaman" (NA - TACH - A - MAN) who lives in Northborough to discuss how to get the remains back to Marlborough and eventually to a proper burial. Using a newly enacted Federal Law which in part states that "all Native American remains held in repositories, must be returned to the place of their disenternment and reburied" (this was certainly the first case in Massachusetts to have the Law applied and possibly the first and only case in United States where it was used).
Using the newly enacted law, "Chief Natachaman" and Gary Brown started the process of retrieving the remains. It was necessary to enlist the aid of John Peters a Wampanog named "Slow Turtle" and the Chief of the Massachusetts Indian Bureau (now deceased) to get the proper paper work and process in place. To properly pass the remains it was required that the remains pass from their current place of rest into the possession of an Indian Chief who in this case would be Chief Natachaman. In addition to retrieving the remains, a proper place of burial had to be found. Gary Brown made contact with the Cemetery Department and it was decided that to bury the remains in the Old Common Burial Ground behind the Walker Building. This place of internment would be close to the original land if not on the original land which was owned by the Nipmuc Indian. To comply with current laws, it was required that a burial container be used and through the generosity of John Rowe owner of a local funeral parlor, a proper burial vault was donated. With all in place and ready to go, all that remained was to retrieve the remains and start the burial process.
Upon being notified the, Peabody Foundation hastily prepared for some tests to determine the age of the bones. The research department at Phillips Academy did some studies on the bones and it was determined the remains were buried 250 years prior. With the tests completed, the remains were finally turned over to the friendly arms of a descendant, "Chief Natachaman".
Upon returning to Marlborough, the Chief and a Medicine Man carefully placed the remains into the waiting tomb and performed the burial ceremony. The ceremony was simple and meaningful. The Four Native American Nipmucs were returned to their rightful place in 1992.
Some time later, Louis Monti, owner of our local stone works company, donated a stone to mark the grave, it to was also simple.
Note, the death date at the time of the inscription was a best estimate, it wasn't until the results of the test were made available, that the best scientific date was discovered. Further investigation of early history provides back up for the scientific date.
A second ceremony was held, to celebrate the marking of the grave, it was performed by "Chief Natachaman", two Medicine Men and a Spiritual Leader.
So ends the story of the Marlborough Nipmucs… if you have time in your busy schedule, stop by and say a prayer. The grave is located at on the I. C. Church side of Old Common cemetery near the corner of the cemetery which abuts the sidewalk to the back door of the Walker Building.
Use the below map section for a reference. It was drafted March 16, 1667 by Samuel Andrews
The building at the apex next to the "Indian Planting Fields" is the Meeting House which was burned during the raid when Rev.Mr. Rev. Brimsmead was giving his sermon and the approximate location of where the Walker Building now stands. One the houses shown was the Garrison they sought refuge in, and the remaining buildings shown, along with others not there at this time, were burned. The Indian Planting Fields are the approximate location of the "Old Common Cemetery" and approximately one third along the "3 miles" line was location where the four Nipmucs were shot. Assabet River was called "Elizabeth River" at this time. These are my best estimates.
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