History

Agawam

Image: Ipswich Riverwalk Mural ,Sagamore Masconomet selling Agawam to John Winthrop

At the time of the arrival of European colonists in the 1630′s, the Ipswich area was known as Agawam but the Native Americans had been decimated by what is now believed to have been a hepatitis plague. The population of the Agawam region stretching from the Danvers River to the Merrimack River had been in the thousands.

masconomet_grave

The sagamore (family chief) Masconomet of the Agawam tribe established friendly relations with the English, perceiving them as his best protections from raids by the Tarrantines, coastal raiding Indians from the St. John’s River Basin in New Brunswick. In an agreement with the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Masconomet accepted the ways of the English, including Christianity. He sold to Ipswich founder John Winthrop Jr. “all the land lying and being in the bay of Agawam, soon named Ipswich, as well as land formerly reserved for my use in “Chebacco,” now the town of Essex, for the sum of 20 pounds, (about $2,800 in today’s rates.)

Shells and arrowheads have been found in the fields along the Ipswich River and out to Jeffreys’s Neck. The Town hall sits at what is believed to have been the site of a village of bark-covered wigwams, and a winter campground was located on Pine Swamp Road. A larger Paleoindian discovery was made at Bull Brook in the 1950’s.

Ancient Prejudice against “the Indians” Persists in Essex County Today - Beneath broad acceptance of Indian rights and benign admiration for aspects of Native culture lies inherited hostility toward Native people. Unrecognized, it has gone unchallenged, but locally I have found it evident in these six ways.
Who Were the Agawam Indians, Really? - It’s hard for people to change their stories—so embedded in deep time and official canon, even when there is a better explanation or a closer truth. I hope it will be possible to change public knowledge about the Native Americans who lived here and get closer to the truth.
The Bones of Masconomet - On March 6, 1659 a young man named Robert Cross dug up the remains of the Agawam chief Masconomet, and carried his skull on a pole through Ipswich streets, an act for which Cross was imprisoned, sent to the stocks, then returned to prison until a fine was paid.
Winthrop fleet ships PTSD in the Massachusetts Bay Colony - The Great Migration brought nearly 14,000 Puritan settlers, unprepared for the hardships and trauma that awaited them. Building a new society in the wilderness induced transgenerational post-traumatic stress and mass conversion disorder, culminating in the Salem Witch Trials.
The Ipswich discovery of PaleoIndian artifacts at Bull Brook The Bull Brook Paleo-Indian Discovery - in the early 1950's, a group of young amateur archeologists men discovered one of the largest Paleo-Indian sites in North America along the banks of Bull Brook and the Egypt River in Ipswich, with over 6,000 artifacts uncovered.
Legend of Heartbreak Hill, Ipswich MA The Legend of Heartbreak Hill - "In Ipswich town, not far from the sea, rises a hill which the people call Heartbreak Hill, and its history is an old, old legend known to all."
The Tragedy of the Wilderness: The Colonists and Indian Land, Part 4 - Native Americans and settlers managed to impoverish themselves through overexploitation of the wider environment. At the same time, they both also selectively protected species, custom-designed habitats for them, and practiced common-sense conservation of trees, soil, fish stocks, and water
Disorder in the Corn Fields: The Colonists and Indian Land, Part 3 - Today, vestiges of the Commons survive here as city parks or conservation lands, such as the South Green in Ipswich, and public gardens, such as Boston Common.
The visit of Samoset to the Plymouth pilgrims “Brought to Civility” — The Colonists and Indian Land, Part 2 - The idea of private property was alien to Native Americans, but the practice of private ownership apparently was not a feature of colonial life either.
This mural at the Winchester Public Library depicts the sale of the land on which Winchester stands to the colonists by the Squaw Sachem. It was painted by Aiden Lasalle Ripley (1896–1969) in 1934. “That we may avoid the least scrupulo of intrusion” – The Colonists and Indian Land, Part I - More than the concepts of sovereignty and private property, the commodification of nature in the service of mercantile capitalism was the crux of the problem.
Manitou in Context by Mary Ellen Lepionka Manitou in Context - The creator power was regarded as the equal of other powers in the skyworld and the underworld, but it is Kitanitowit’s Gitchi Manitou that ascended to prominence under the influence of Christianity. Of all the great spirits, it most resembled the Christian God and was transformed accordingly during the Contact Period.
Native American Influence on English Fashions - In contact situations in the early 17th century, Europeans were quick to grasp the essential humanity of Native Americans and admired their appearance and physical fitness. Soon, upper-class English wore American feathers and furs, Native Americans prized English woven fabrics and garments, especially tailored shirts.
Appropriations of Native Identity: Pocahontas and the Last Wampanoag - Originally posted on Enduring Gloucester:
Mary Ellen Lepionka Frederick Mulhaupt (1871-1938) painted “Native American Life on Cape Ann” for the old Maplewood School in 1934. It was later moved to its current location at the O’Maley Middle School. Erasure narratives, in which the Indians disappeared, reached even into…
The Great Dying 1616-1619, “By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague” - An estimated 18,000,000 Native Americans lived in North America before the 17th Century. The arrival of 102 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower at Plymouth in 1620 and the settlements by the Puritans a decade later were accompanied by the demise of the native population of North America.
Living descendants of the Agawam Indians Living Descendants of the Native Americans of Agawam - by M. E. Lepionka 3/6/17. Mary Ellen is a publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with a Master’s degree in anthropology from Boston University and post-graduate work at the University of British Columbia. In 2008 she retired to research the prehistory of Cape Ann and the Native […]
Discovery of native American shell heap on Treadwell’s Island, 1882 - Early in September 1882, Mr I. J. Potter, owner and publisher of the Ipswich Chronicle, called the attention of the officers of the Peabody Academy of Science to a shell heap which he had observed on the shore of Ipswich River on Treadwell’s Island, formerly known as Perkins […]
Emma Safford, Ipswich MA Emma Jane Mitchell Safford - Emma Jane Mitchell Safford was a descendant of Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoag. Her daughter, also Emma, tried to help her relatives regain land taken from them on the reservation.
Hannah Duston The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697 - Hannah Duston was born in Ipswich in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. A bronze statue in Haverhill honors her daring escape, killing and scalping a dozen Abanaki captors.
Attack on Brookfield Ipswich, the Brookfield Massacre and King Philip’s War - In 1660, a group of Ipswich families settled in Quaboag which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks in 1675 resulted in its destruction.

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