Joseph English: Loyalty and Survival in the Life of a Colonial Native Scout
Joseph English, a grandson of the Sagamore Masconomet, apparently grew up in Ipswich at a time when only a handful of Native residents remained. The influence of Anglo-American society and culture would have made a profound impression on him. His viable options as an adult were accommodation or relocating beyond the frontier of New England.
A Thesis in the Field of History for the Degree of Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies
by Benjamin Webster
Harvard University, May 2021
Joseph English was a man of Native American ancestry who served in New England’s military in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Captured in action and taken prisoner to Canada, he escaped, returned to Massachusetts, and went on to achieve renown as a scout and pilot in the Merrimack Valley. As a descendant of sagamores on both sides of his family, he also participated in land transactions with English colonists.
This thesis reviews primary evidence on Joseph from archival documents, deeds, and other sources to construct a rough narrative of his life. It also puts Joseph’s life into context by exploring matters such as the intercolonial wars pitting New England against New France and its Native allies, the position of “friend Indians” within Massachusetts, and the nature of Anglo-Native land transactions.
Finally, the paper attempts to explain why Joseph, a Native person, chose to align himself so closely with the interests of the English colonists. It finds that in cooperating with the settlers, Joseph English was carrying on a family tradition already in its third generation. Through land transactions and military service, he demonstrated his loyalty and deflected the hostility of white settlers. At a time when Indians in New England faced numerous threats, Joseph chose allegiance to the English as the most promising strategy for survival.
Resources for local Native American history and dialects - (The following information is provided by Mary Ellen Lepionka of Gloucester. Download the full PDF document to which this refers. Read: Who Were the Agawam Indians Really? Mary Ellen Lepionka’s Sources Sources for Algonquian place names include William Bright’s Native American Place Names of the United States (2004, […]
The Story Behind the Story of Wigwam Hill - As a researcher on Indigenous history here, I was captivated by this account, both for its romance and its tragedy. Who were these people? Where did they come from and where did they go? Why was all that happening and what did it mean? And what did it have to do with Masconomet's Agawam Village, known archaeologically as once having occupied that same Wigwam Hill site on Castle Neck? Following are the answers I discovered. 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 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. 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 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. 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. Emma Jane Mitchell Safford - Across Green Street from the Ipswich Town Hall is a sign on a fence, commemorating Emma Jane Mitchell Safford. She is documented as the last descendant of Massasoit, Sachem (tribal leader) of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620. While the term "Indian Princess" is an English construct and Massachusetts was not named after Massasoit, the story is one that has endeared Ipswich residents for decades. 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 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. 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 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. 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.