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.
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.
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. 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 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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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.