Troubles with the Indians
M ANY years had passed since the colonists first landed in New England. All this time they had lived at peace with the Indians. The savages often came to the villages to trade with the white men. They came to their houses, and many of them learned to speak a little English.
But the Indians were not all so friendly as Samoset, Squanto, and Massasoit. Many of them hated the white men and would have killed them if they had dared.
"See their cattle in our meadows," they said.
"They cut down our forests, and the deer no longer feed here," said others.
"They are not your forests and fields now," said Massasoit. "You sold them to the white men."
The Indians did not care for money. It was not pretty. They liked bright beads and shining buttons better. They liked English knives and gay red blankets.
But after a while the beads were lost and the blankets were worn out. The land which they had given for them did not wear out or get lost. The Indians looked at the rich farms; then they looked at their broken knives and ragged blankets.
"The palefaces have cheated us," they cried to their chief. "Let us make war upon them. Let us drive them from our land."
But Massasoit never forgot the promise he had made the white men so long ago. "They are our brothers," he said. "We will not harm them. Have you forgotten how they came to my lodge when I might have died? They have made schools for you; they have cared for you when you were sick. They have paid you what you asked for your land. They have kept their promise to us. We will keep our promise to them."
So as long as good Massasoit lived, the Indians made the Pilgrims no trouble. He was a great chief and many tribes obeyed him.
But at last a sad day came when Massasoit lay still in his wigwam. His friends, the Englishmen, stood around him, but they could not help him now. The great chief was dead.
After Massasoit's death his oldest son became chief. He was not very friendly toward the white men.
It was nearly fifty years since the Pilgrims had founded Plymouth. In that time thousands of Englishmen had come to New England, and there were also colonists from France, Holland, and other countries.
Most of these people had come to gain wealth. They wanted the lands the Indians owned, and often fought for them instead of paying for them. Often they were unjust and in many ways very cruel to the Indians.
One day the new chief went to Plymouth to talk the matter over with his father's old friends. While he was there he became very ill. The colonists took good care of him and tried to make him well, but in a few days he died.
After his death his younger brother, Philip, became chief. He hated all white men and wished to be rid of them. He believed they had killed his brother at Plymouth, and this made him hate them all the more.
So he sent word to many other tribes, saying that he was going to make war upon the settlers and asking them to join him. "We are stronger than the white men, now," said he, "and if we all join in this war we can easily kill or drive them all out of the country."
Swift Indian runners carried the message to the chiefs of other tribes. But they had seen how cruelly the white men punished the Indians who tried to harm them, and were afraid.
One band of Indians had tried to kill the people of a little town not far from Plymouth, and the white men had destroyed the whole tribe. So the chiefs of the other tribes told Philip they would not join his war.
But Philip believed that his tribes alone were strong enough to drive out the colonists, and a terrible war was begun which we call King Philip's War.
The Indians never came out in open battle to fight like soldiers. They usually hid in the forest near some village until night, when the people were quietly sleeping; then, with terrible whoops and yells, they swept down upon it, burning the houses and killing as many people as they could.
Near King Philip's home was the little village of Swansea, and the chief decided this should be the first town to be destroyed. From their hiding place in the forest the Indians watched for a good chance to make the attack.
One Sunday morning, when all the people of Swansea were at church, Philip said, "This is a good time to get rid of these people. We will kill them all at once, when they come out of the meetinghouse. "
When the service was over, the people came out never dreaming of the dreadful trouble awaiting them. Suddenly the air rang with the yells of the savages, and King Philip and his followers fell upon them.
When the sun set that day, the pretty village was in ashes and the streets were strewn with the dead and dying.
Sometimes a small band of Indians went into the country where there were little farms far from any town. They watched a cabin until they saw the men of the family go into the field to work; then, slipping up to the house, they would kill or steal the women and children, and set fire to the cottage.
But the Indians did not always succeed in their cruel work of destroying homes. Many lives and many homes were saved by the quick wits and brave hearts of the boys and girls as well as of the older people.
In the following pages we may read the experiences of some of the children in those early days so full of danger.