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Natives and Early Settlers

On the day of the harvest feast held after they brought in their first crop in the late summer and early fall of 1621, the Pilgrims gladly accepted the five deer brought to the event by Massasoit, the sachem of the Massachusett tribe.  The Pilgrims were grateful to Massasoit because, when they were hungry and suffering from their arduous voyage, he had come to their rescue and taught them skills that would help them to survive.  One hundred of the Pokanoket people also took part in the feast.  The Pilgrims contributed the ducks and geese they had hunted for the meal, and Governor Bradford declared it was time for them to rejoice together.  This spirit of amity between the Pilgrims and the natives came about through a perception of mutual advantage.  The Pilgrims wanted peace, although they had not always acted peacefully towards the natives, and Massasoit wanted protection for his people that he thought the Pilgrims could provide.

Verrazzano, a sixteenth century explorer of the New England coast, had described the natives he met in New England as “beautiful people.”  Continued contact over the years with explorers and fur traders exposed the natives to European diseases, against which they had no immunity.  When the Pilgrims arrived in the next century, the local natives were in a vulnerable state.  They were not inclined to attack the settlers because they needed assistance in staving off their enemies.  Their population had recently been drastically reduced by the bubonic plague epidemic of 1616-1618 in which an estimated 90 percent of the people were killed off.

Early Europeans remarked that much of the land along the southern coast of New England had been cleared for settlement by natives.  Land was also cleared on the offshore islands and inland along river valleys, ponds, and lakes.  The natives lived by farming, gathering wild plants, fishing, and hunting and usually built their settlements in places favorable for farming and fishing.  They lived in villages and were joined together loosely into tribes, which included groups of related families.  During the summer months, most natives lived in small farmsteads and hamlets near the coast.  During the colder months, they came together in their larger villages along the bays and around lakes near the coast.  The Pilgrims of 1620 took advantage of the cleared land, which they considered safer than forests.  These areas were also regarded as good sites on which to construct their homes and farms.

The Puritans, another separatist group from England, bought the land that became the town of Concord from the Algonkians in 1636, and it became the first inland settlement.  Many settlers attempted to maintain friendly relations with the natives for as long as they could, but in the later years of the seventeenth century this compatibility was destroyed because of cultural clashes and numerous conflicts between natives and settlers who held different views about land ownership.  Land ownership as the English knew it was a foreign concept to the natives.  As more and more settlers came and established farms and households, the livestock belonging to settlers often trampled the natives’ crops.  Natives were gradually removed from areas they had inhabited for centuries and had used for native horticulture and game husbandry.

The Farrar family of Lincoln was among the seventeenth century settlers.  The first Farrar, Jacob, had moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts from Lancaster, England in the 1650s.  During King Philip’s War in 1675, Jacob’s son Jacob, Jr. was killed.  He left a widow, Hannah, and four sons.  Hannah was from Concord and returned there with her children.  Her son George Farrar was raised in the Goble household.  In 1691 he was on his own and married Mary Howe.  In 1692 he established a homestead on land that now abuts Route 126 at the east end of Farrar Pond in Lincoln.  It was lived in by generations of the Farrar family until it was torn down in the 1950s.

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Native Village in Winter, Figure 96 in The First Peoples of the Northeast by Esther K. Braun and David P. Braun, Lincoln Historical Society, 1994

The nearby Sudbury River was called Musketaquid, which means “Grass-ground River” or “Meadow River.”  Natives living in the area used the Musketaquid for transportation and as a source of food.  Natives probably returned there from the coast during the fall and winter to hunt for deer.  They probably lived in clusters of wigwams such as those shown in the sketch.  They made clothing of leather and wore fur coats in the winter.  The men wore leggings and loin cloths, and the women wore leather skirts and capes.  Both wore moccasins.

Thoreau wrote that Indians living in this area probably used something like the creel he found:

In the sluiceway of Pole Brook which I said must be Indian ground, and, walking there, I found a piece of soapstone pot.  It was an eel-pot or creel, a wattled basket or wickerwork, made of willow osiers with the bark on, very artfully.
–Thoreau’s Journal, Volume X, p. 312

In 1900 Ed Farrar dammed the western end of Pole Brook to create Farrar Pond.  At the east end of Farrar Pond, you can see Pole Brook running down to the pond.

The Concord Museum on Lexington Road in Concord devotes a whole room to the encounter of the local natives and the early English settlers.  The room contains a case full of native artifacts found in the local area.

Bibliography
Blanke, Shirley and Robinson, Barbara, From Musketaquid to Concord, The Native and European Experience, Concord Antiquarian Museum, 1985, exhibition booklet.

Braun, Esther K. and Braun, David P., The First Peoples of the Northeast, Lincoln Historical Society, 1994.

MacLean, John C., A Rich Harvest, The History, Buildings, and People of Lincoln, Massachusetts, Lincoln Historical Society, 1987.

Philbrick, Nathaniel, Mayflower, New York, Penguin Group, 2006.

Lincoln Historical Society publications are available through www.lincolnhistoricalsociety.org.