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Kendall intro & index
Travels through the northern parts of the United States in the years 1807 and 1808
by Edward Augustus Kendall
Volume 2; chapters L-LIII; pp. 177-224
prior 4 chapters on Cape Cod
L: p 177-183: Mashpee
LI: p 183-201: Martha's Vineyard, Gay Head, Indians, Edgartown, Chabaqiddic, Holmes Hole
LII: p 202-219: Nantucket, whaling, farming, Falmouth, Wareham, Rochester, New Bedford
LIII: p 220-234: Dighton rock, Dighton, Taunton, Polly C. Bragg
Massachusetts—Plantation of Marshpee.
RETURNING to Barnstable, I found that the salt hay, upon cutting which my friends at the inn had been so industriously employed, had at the end of their labour been floated away by the tide. This is a disaster not very unfrequent; and, to protect the stacks, they are either built upon high ground, or, if in the marshes, upon stadles or piles.
On the south side of the peninsula, and to the west of Barnstable, is a tract of land belonging to a village of Indians, and called the Plantation of Marshpee. The name is pronounced Mashpee, and sometimes so written; and this is the better orthography of the two. It is properly massa pee or missi pi, the great pool; meaning one of the pools or ponds, of which there are several on the plantation, and which are numerous all over the peninsula. This pool is called by the whites Marshpee Pond. The Indian village is the most considerable of those remaining in New England. The road leading to it from Barnstable is woody, hilly and agreeable,
I was introduced to the Reverend Mr. Gideon Hawley, the missionary here, whom I found infirm, and very far advanced in years, but from whom I received a hospitality and welcome the most fervent and gratifying. I remained two nights in his house, and experienced much attention, not only from himself, but from his family also; and these circumstances have perhaps made the more impression upon me, because I had not reached Boston before I learned that he was dead! Mr. Hawley devoted a long life to the sole employment of Indian missionary, at first in the country of the Six Nations, and latterly on the Plantation of Marshpee. At this place, the mission is in part supported by the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, in part by a fund in the hands of Harvard College in Massachusetts, and in part by the Massachusetts Missionary Society.
Mr. Hawley, junior, accompanied me over the plantation, which is of no small extent; the road, between Barnstable and Falmouth, running nine miles upon Indian lands. Some of the Indians live close to the missionary-house; but others are far off. The former are on the banks of Marshpee and Nantuet Ponds. The whole number of souls on the plantation is about four hundred.
But, when the inhabitants of this plantation are called Indians, the denomination must
be qualified; for a very large proportion are Europeans and negroes, or at least largely mixed —with one or both. It is said that many Hessians, from the army of General Burgoyne, married into this community; and there are also Englishmen, and descendants of Englishmen, to be found here : and, with respect to negroes, it is represented, that while slavery was supposed to be maintainable by law in Massachusetts, there was a particular temptation for taking Indian wives, the children of Indian women being acknowledged to be free. From these and various other causes, of the whole four hundred souls, there is at this day only a very small number, perhaps not twenty, that are pure Indians. Under these circumstances, however, and consistently with what is to be seen elsewhere, the village is more likely to increase than to diminish; for, to whatever cause, moral or physical, the decline of the Indians, in their villages, among the whites, is to be ascribed, the fact is certain, that any mixture, African or European, produces an animal more fitted for the pursuits of civil life, less enslaved to, or less injured by, the use of spirituous liquors, and especially more prolific.
Of the Indians who reside near the missionary house, the greater part have wooden houses, after the manner of the country; one family,
however, still possesses a wigwam, though with some mixture of European architecture. The smoke passes through the middle of the roof; but the fire-place is of brick: the inside of the wigwam is perfectly neat. The furniture in the houses, here, is generally of the same description with that of the poorer whites. In one of the houses, I saw an aged couple, both of white complexion: the woman had had three Indian husbands, and was now married to a white man.
Among the wealthier members of the village is one Macgregor, a native of Manchester, in England. This man is in possession of a very respectable farm and orchard, both of which are particularly well attended. His land is close to the sea, and he is employed in ditching and embanking a tract of marsh, which is at present too much exposed to the tide; and though he lives in no solitude, and is not without the assistance of as many hands as he finds it convenient to employ, yet his enterprise, his situation, his wigwam, and the complete state of order observable around it, his straw hat, and general personal appearance, made me regard him as a second Robinson Crusoe. He informed me that he left Manchester before he was ten years of age, and followed a sailor's life till he was twenty. At that time, which is now twenty-seven years ago, he married his present wife. He has lived on
the plantation ever since. but has no children. From others, I heard, that when he first came into the neighbourhood, he had a stock of clothes, though in other respects destitute; and that his situation was not so bad, but that he might have married into a respectable white family, almost as easily as into an Indian. I thought it a little singular, that while almost every one of the Indians had a wooden house, this Englishman was lodged in a wigwam; but the wigwam agrees with the taste of his wife, and his own attention seems to be given exclusively to his farm and garden.
The plantation contains a certain number of industrious and thriving Indians. One, named Ebenezer Queppe, is master of two yoke of oxen, several cows, a horse, a wooden or English house, with barns and other appurtenances.
The church is at the distance of several miles from Macgregor's, an unpainted wooden building, in a small opening of the wood. On one side of it, and spreading into the woods, are the graves of the Indian villagers, generally nameless and mouldering heaps. There are, however, two grave-stones, one of which commemorates the virtues of a young woman who was a servant in Mr. Hawley's family; and the other, those of an unmixed Indian, who was made a deacon of the church. The deacon died
in 1771; and in good weather, his widow, an unmixed Indian also, who is now eighty-seven years of age, commonly walks to church, a distance of between three and four miles. On visiting her at her dwelling, I found her bent with age, and with some appearance of misery in her person and deportment; but she has a good house, with a very large parcel of land, well farmed. She long ago adopted an Indian girl for her daughter; the girl is now married, but still lives in the widow's house, and her husband takes care of the farm. Both in the houses and in the fields, the inhabitants that I saw were almost exclusively women and girls; the men being out fishing, or making salt hay.
The Indians, on this plantation, as in other parts of New England, are in some particulars under the peculiar protection of the law. They cannot be sued for any debt exceeding the amount of twenty-four shillings currency, unless contracted with the consent of their guardians : and their lands are in no case answerable. To many of their white neighbours, these provisions are believed to be very offensive; since, but for them, they might, at the cost of a little New England rum, long since have deprived the objects of them of every acre in the Plantation of Marshpee.
These people are very superstitious, and very fearful of going about in the dark, in which they are constantly apprehensive of being presented with terrifying visions.
FROM Falmouth, which lies to the southward of the Plantation of Marshpee, and occupies the point of land on the east of Buzzard's Bay, I crossed the arm of the sea, nine miles in width, by which the island of Martha's Vineyard is separated from the main land of the peninsula.
Martha's Vineyard, more anciently called Martin's Vineyard, and by the Indians, Nope and Capawac, is about twenty miles in length, and from four to nine in width, and contains three towns, of which the eastenmost is called Edgartown, the middlemost, Tisbury, and the western, Chilmark; and to the west of Chilmark is Gay Head, a peninsula so called from the bluff-head in which it terminates, and of which the lands are held by another community of Indians. I landed in a cove, called Holmes's
Hole, at the north side of the island, and in which there is a small village, making part of Tisbury.
My chief curiosity was directed to Gay Head, remarkable from the beds of ochres, variously coloured, that display themselves on its face, and which, when the sun shines upon them, must produce, as seen from the sea, a very brilliant effect. From Holmes's Hole, the road leads through shrub oak-woods, for several miles, to the church of Chilmark, to the westward of which the country is generally open. For four miles further, there is a public road, running over hills, on which are scattered masses of rock. From these, there is a descent to Monamsha Creek, a fordable inlet of the sea, on the opposite side of which commences the peninsula, and the Indian lands, five miles in length, and said to contain about two thousand four hundred acres.
All the fences on this side of the island are of uncemented stones, after the manner general in New England. Tisbury and Chilmark meetinghouses are without spires, and in all respects humble in their exterior appearance. To reach Monamsha Creek, I was directed across some inclosed lands, to the south of a hill, called, from amass of stone on its summit, Sugar-loaf Hill, beyond which I found a cottage, in
which I procured some bread and milk, the only provisions it contained, salt-fish excepted. The owner was afterward my guide, in fording the creek below.
Immediately at the edge of the creek, some Indian wigwams and houses of wood begin to present themselves. Near it is a pond, called Monamsha Pond, and which is valuable to the Indians, on account of the cranberries that cover its marshy borders. These berries they gather for sale ; and from them the name given, both to the pond and to the creek appears to be derived.* The wigwams and other houses have for the most part an indigent appearance; but, with respect to some, it is otherwise; and in two or three instances there are well cultivated farms, and the houses have good barns adjoining. The land is a succession of hills and valleys, or rather ravines or gullies.
The light-house, in the house of the keeper of which I lodged this night, is erected on the beds of ochre. The height of the surface, from the level of the sea, is about two hundred feet; and the stratums, between the turf above and the beach below, are as curious and instructive, as the prospect that they present, when advan-
* Monamsha or Minamsha: minac, in some of the Algonquin dialects, signifies a berry.
tageously seen, must be singular and beautiful.
"There are evident marks," says a topographer of Gay Head, "of there having been volcanoes formerly on this peninsula. The marks of four or five craters are plainly to be seen. The most southerly, and probably the most ancient, as it is grown over with grass, now called the Devil's Den, is at least twenty rods over at the top, fourteen and a half at the bot tom, and full one hundred and thirty feet at the sides, except that which is next the sea, where it is open. A man, now alive, relates, that his mother could remember when it was common to see a light upon Gay Head, in the night-time. Others say, their ancestors have told them, that the whalemen used to guide themselves in the night by the lights that were seen upon Gay Head."* To this volcanic history, though apprized of it before my visit, I saw nothing that induced, or does induce me to give credit. What I saw consists in regular stratums of ochres, not indeed horizontal, but regularly inclined, and a surface hollowed in some places into pits and amphitheatres, and crowned, at the level above mentioned, of two hundred feet from the present high-water mark,
* American Gazetteer.
with a stratum of sea-sand, oyster-shells and iron-ore, beneath a very thin one of vegetable mould.
In advancing to the edge of the precipice, in order to descend, by some gully, to the beach, I collected, at spots where the wind had torn up the turf, a number of oyster-shells, some of which are very little altered, some thoroughly impregnated with iron-ore, and some imbedded in indurated bog-ore. The roots of the herbage are only a few inches above the level on which they lie, and beneath them is a coarse red sand, or rather gravel. It was obvious that these were not the signs by which I was to be conducted to the craters and their lava; and them therefore I left, to look for the latter on the beach.
Descending first to the depth of a stratum of yellow clay, and which may measure fifty feet, I came next to a stratum of white ochre or tobacco-pipe clay, in which is a broad vein, of a brilliant red. Both the white and the red descend to the water's edge, and the discoloured waves, at their feet, are here red with the one, and there white with the other.
The superior stratum is throughout a yellow or dun-coloured clay; and the white ochre is only a broader vein than the red, running south from under the light-house for about half a mile, while to the north the inferior stratum is blue. Thus, the combinations of colours, in this fantas-
tic landscape, are truly the gayest imaginable. White greatly predominates; but is relieved by broad masses of blue, red and yellow, and even green; for, not only the sides of the hollows are covered with turf, but large portions of the incumbent stratum, with its shrubs and herbage, have fallen from above, and lie on the sloping banks below.
Of these several ochres, it is only the red, of which the substance is uniform and pure, and the colour really bright. The colours of the rest require to be seen at a distance, and in the sunshine ; but the red has no dulness in its hue. Of this, I had the fullest opportunity of making observations; because, though the sun shone for a short time on the evening of my arrival, my longest visit to the beach was amid a continued rain.
The substance, as well as the colour of the white ochre, is injured by the presence of several foreign substances; particularly minute fragments of quartz, and pyrites and pure sulphur. The substance of the blue is largely intermixed with fragments of blackened wood, by which, indeed, the colour that distinguishes it appears to be communicated; and, beneath this stratum, is one as worthy of remark as any other object at Gay Head, namely, a stratum of gray rock, rising no more than five or six feet above the level of the
beach, and which consists of the blue clay, in an indurated or petrified state, interspersed, like the clay itself, with blackened wood, unpetrified. I have fragments that I broke from the stratum, and some that I gathered on the beach, worn into pebbles; and, in both, the veins of wood are soft, resembling charcoal.
The presence of the fragments of blackened wood, in the native stratums of clay and rock, at the depth of two hundred feet below the surface, from the former of which they may be picked by baskets-full, is certainly a circumstance of some curiosity. The fragments are to be found in all conditions, from perfect wood and bark, neither rotten nor much discoloured, to perfect coal, of which the black powder may be rubbed between the fingers.
Here, then, is a complete reversal of the order of nature. Sands and shells cover the highest summit of these precipices, and the products of the forest are buried at their base. We look in vain for lava; and, as to the pretended craters of volcanoes, what are they but ordinary concavities in the surface of the soil ? These concavities are precisely of the same class with those that I have before had occasion to describe ;* and, like them, they owe their existence to the action of
* See Chapter viii.
water. From the oyster-shells and iron-ore on the surface, it is natural to infer, that that surface was once a part of the bed of the ocean. The ocean scooped out these pits. When the ocean fell to a lower level, the pits became ponds, and the shallower hollows became morasses and bogs. Mounds, which rose between the present edge of the precipice and the ocean, have sunk, and been swallowed up; as the present edge is sinking, and being swallowed up also. Vegetables grew, and iron-ore was formed. Thus much for the surface.
But, if the surface was once the bed of the sea, how has it happened that fragments of wood have been buried, at a depth of at least two hundred feet, beneath that surface? Must there have been a period when this lower level was dry land, and a subsequent period when two hundred feet of earth was accumulated upon it and when seas rolled over it; and at length a third period, when the sea again subsided? All this may have been; but there is an easier solution.
The white ochre is a mere deposit of testaceous exuviae. That such exuviae should have yielded so vast a product, and that they should be thus collected in one spot, is indeed among those mighty works of nature, of which we witness the existence almost without pre-
suming to hope or an explanation; but, that they may he so collected, and may yield such a product, we have abundant evidence; and we know that they are found in the beds of great bodies of water.
This white ochre, this mass of testaceous exuviae, must therefore have been deposited on the bed of a great body of water, whether the ocean or an inland lake. But, may not vegetable exuviae have been deposited at the same time ? On the borders of still waters, are not trees continually letting fall fragments of their branches ? In this situation, do we not see dead leaves and twigs, blackening the border of the strand ? Now, if argillaceous matter accumulate at the same time, these twigs, fragments of wood and leaves, will be buried; and, being buried, they will be preserved. But, the vegetable matter supplies iron, and the animal matter, sulphur; hence the native sulphur, the pyrites, the blackness of the wood, and the colours of the ochres. That the fragments of wood were accumulated in this manner, and not by any sudden overthrow of a forest, is made probable by the general diminutiveness of the fragments. In some instances, they are parts of large limbs and trunks; but more frequently they are of small proportions. There is also no necessity for attributing their blackness to fire.
But, these deposits made, it is still to be accounted for, that they now present themselves, not below, but above the level of the sea. For myself, I look to the subsidence of the ocean for the cause, and regard the island on which they are found as a remnant of a tract of land, once stretching to the westward, and which remnant is always, and at this hour, wearing away. There are others, meanwhile, who will more easily reconcile it to their imagination, that the island has been raised out of the sea, than that the sea has sunk below it; and, for their engine, they will probably choose a volcano.
That there have been volcanoes on the peninsula, (a peninsula of oyster-shells, testaceous exuviae and argillaceous stratums !) is a position supported but by contemptible proofs. The pretended craters deserve no notice; and, as to the light and lights seen in the night-time on Gay Head, by the mothers and ancestors of persons now alive, it is to be remembered, that the oldest tradition of this kind can go back no further than the year 1620, since which Gay Head has been daily as well as nightly before the eyes of the colonists. The lights may have been the fires of English or of Indian fishermen, or of Indian huts; or they may have proceeded from the combustion of pyrites, or of sulphuric vapour. West River Mountain in New Hampshire, has vulgarly
the reputation of containing an extinguished volcano; but authentic traditions stop short—approving any thing more than the occasional occurrence of superficial combustion.
Following the beach to the south-eastward, the vein of white ochre presently terminates; and the soil, though it continues elevated, is composed only of yellow clay. To the north-westward, near the stratum of rock, are large rocky fragments, which, extending into the sea, occasion breakers. At the feet of the stratums of ochre, masses of this substance, of the various colours, rolled into the form of rocks, are intermixed ; and the sea, sometimes throwing its thickened waves against the ochres, stains the red with white and blue, and the white with blue and red.
The soil of almost the whole peninsula is rich ; and of the two acres which appertain to the lighthouse, a small proportion is cultivated by the keeper. One third of the whole peninsula belongs to the Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and others in North-America, by which it is left to the use of the Indians. The Indians, like those of Marshpee, are a mixed race, and two hundred and forty in number, in which the women and children make more than
the due proportion. On the soil, there were not at this time more than fifteen or sixteen men and boys, the rest being at sea, in the fisheries. This is a favourite employ, to which they give themselves, and to which they are anxiously solicited. Ship-owners come to their cottages, making them offers, and persuading them to accept them ; and so rarely is Gay Head visited for any other purpose, that this was supposed, at the light-house, to be my errand. This business of inviting the Indians is a sort of crimping, in which liquor, goods and fair words are plied, till the Indian gets into debt, and gives his consent. Taking the history from the mouths of the white people only, it appears that there is often much to be complained of, in the business of the voyage both in the Indian and in those with whom he connects himself. On the one hand, great advantages are taken of his folly, his credulity, and his ignorance; on the other, he torments the ship or share-owner with his indecision and demands, till the moment of the sailing of the ship. First, he agrees to go, and accordingly receives some stipulated part of his outfit; then he "thinks he won't go ;" and then he is to be coaxed, and made drunk. Again, he "thinks he "won't go," unless such and such articles are supplied; and these articles he often
names at random, and for the sake of inducing a refusal. One Indian was mentioned to me, that thought he would not go, unless five pounds of soap were given him; and another, that thought the same, unless he received seven hats. Now, the shareholder makes a general calculation. He has no objection to gratify any folly, to the extent of a certain advance, by which, especially if he is himself the seller of the goods, he is every way a gainer; but, further than this, he refuses, of course, to go. I say, the share-holder; because an individual, taking a certain number of shares, undertakes to find whalemen upon shares, and to them he is responsible. But, if the whaleman dies, and no share falls to his estate, then the share-holder suffers a loss, to the amount of all that he has advanced. The Indians find their fishing-voyages as little for their ultimate benefit, as they are found by those that I have lately mentioned; and their obstinate addiction to spiritous liquors makes their case still worse: hence, an Indian, that goes to sea, is ruined, and his family is ruined with him. It is less with the Indians of Gay Head, than with those on the western parts of the island, and elsewhere, that the share-holders, otherwise called fitters-out, are induced to resort rather to fraud than force; for these Indians are neither under the control nor the protection of guardians, and they are answerable; for the debts
that they contract. In Tisbury, the Indians cannot be sued for any debt exceeding twenty-four shillings currency; and in Edgartown the sum is limited to twenty shillings. But, this restraint, though eminently proper for the defence of the Indians against the rapacity and arts of those around them, is regarded by the Indians with no inexplicable disgust; for, as they cannot be sued, so they will not be trusted. Hence, the Indians of Gay Head are in continual fear that they shall be placed under guardians, or that some law will be established, to abridge their liberty. My visit followed shortly upon one made by the Reverend Mr. Freeman, of Boston, who had then lately made a tour of the islands and neighbouring coast, on a benevolent commission to ascertain the spots proper for placing huts and other accommodations for shipwrecked mariners; but, the Indians, as I was informed at the light-house, had been much alarmed by his coming among them; had shut themselves up in their houses; and had received his visits with suspicion. They were fearful that he was engaged in some project for giving them guardians; and I was told that my own journey would add to their uneasiness.
These Indians are divided into two ecclesiastical societies, of which one is anabaptist and the other congregational; and both are taught by
Indian preachers, in orders. The anabaptist clergyman is a large farmer, and was, when young, of great promise; but he is now given up to drink. The anabaptist church, which is of wood, is built on the brow of a steep hill; and beneath, against the hill, is an apartment of stone, called by no better name than the cellar, in which the keeper of the lighthouse, who as also a farmer and a school-master, keeps an Indian school. The winter season is the only part of the year in which it is kept; and then the schoolmaster has a journey of a mile, over the naked hills, between his house and the school. Some of his scholars are remarkably apt; and the rest are not below the ordinary level.
On the Indian lands there are no made roads, and for the most part only horse-paths. My host, at the lighthouse, was so good as to accompany me to the commencement of the road on the south side of the island. His mother, whom, with his wife and children, I found, in his absence, in his solitary mansion at the light-house, is in excellent possession of her faculties, at the age of ninety-three years. We sat by a peat fire; for this fuel is abundant on the peninsula, and wood is rare.
Along the top of the neck of land that joins the peninsula to the main body of the island, and to the east of Monamsha Pond, some beau-
tiful views present themselves. To the southeast is an island, only resorted to by fishermen, and called No-man's Land; and from the west of Squipnokit Point, a narrow strip of sand projects in nearly a straight line, forming the westernmost extremity of the island. Opposite this, to the west of Squipnokit Point, the surface of the island, near the sea, is low, and the road runs upon the beach. Near the point, the lofty precipices of yellow clay are now falling into the sea, like the ochres at Gay Head. In more than one place, the soil on which the road has lately run is gone. The grass has not yet grown on what remains; but it is no longer travelled, either because half its width has descended into the waves, or because a gulf, of a quarter of a mile in width, yawns between its disjointed extremities.
I took this road in order to reach Edgartown, which is in Oldtown Harbour, at the south-west extremity of the island. On my way, a hog, that by some mischance had turned his poke, so that his throat was squeezed into one of the acuter angles, came up to my side, carrying his head awry, and vainly shaking his poke, and at the same time foaming at the mouth. As he evidently came for assistance, I descended from my horse to give it him; but, now, his fears overcame his desire to be relieved, and he
avoided me. In the same embarrassment, he proceeded with me for half a mile, running close tothe horse's legs when I was on my journey, but retreating if I alighted. We came, at length, to a farm-house, where I procured for him more efficient help.
Oldtown Harbour is much frequented in the winter, when vessels bound to Boston, from the southern ports, are often detained in it for three weeks together. With a fair wind, two hundred sail, including many large vessels, sometimes leave it at once. Many pilots live here, but it has very little shipping or trade. The town is inhabited by the families of mariners that sail in the employ of the southern merchants. Their families remain in these climates, because the southern are found to be destructive to New England constitutions. Some employment is also given here by the shipping of the neighbouring island of Nantucket; water being supplied on their outward-bound passage, and the cargoes, at boisterous seasons, unloaded. In calm weather, the ships unload off Nantucket, without the bar; but, at other times, vessels of less draught are employed at Edgartown, and the lightened ships follow them to their port. There is but one wharf at Edgartown. The packet,
that sails between New Bedford and Nantucket, stops at this port.
The harbour is in part formed by the island of Chabaquiddic, on which there are many white inhabitants, and sixty-five Indians. Martha's Vineyard contains four thousand inhabitants, of which half are resident within Edgartown, including Chabaquiddic. By the aid of brooks, two or three water-mills are turned on the island; but the chief dependence is on wind-mills.
On the island of Chabaquiddic, there is said to be a rock, which, on every side, drives the needle from the pole. A marvel, that is less easily explained, is mentioned as existing in Edgartown Harbour; namely, a pond, in the woods, which is always more full in a dry summer, than in a wet one;
The ancient Indian population of Martha's Vineyard is supposed to have been equal in numbers to the present white one. Among the vestiges dug up, are stone-mortars, for grinding corn, and what are called immense deposits of clam-shells, which latter are chiefly found near the village of Edgartown. By the road side, and opposite the cottages of the white inhabitants, corresponding heaps are now to be observed; but those that have dug near Edgartown,
are of opinion, that the Indians made pits for their reception.
Between Edgartown and Holmes's Hole, to which I returned, in order to recross the sound, the road is for the most part bordered by shrub oak. Sheep and cattle browze in the woods; and of the former the island is said to maintain fourteen thousand. Martha's Vineyard has long been celebrated for its sheep. In the rebellion, large numbers were taken, and paid for, for the support of the king's troops; but it is a common jest in the neighbourhood, that the number paid for exceeded the whole number that the island could have produced,
Holmes's Hole is a cove to the west of Oldtown Harbour. The houses, which are irregularly built, are about one hundred in number, and there is a small neat church. As at Edgartown, many vessels lie here in winter, and supply it with much business. Among those that keep public-houses, one is a physician and justice of the peace.
Massachusetts—Nantucket—Falmouth—Buttermilk Bay—New Bedford.
I HAD proposed to myself to pass from Martha's Vineyard to Nantucket, an island close adjacent; but, the risk, that as I was informed, was at this season to be run, of being detained on it by the winds for weeks, diverted me from the undertaking. What is chiefly remarkable, in the history of the island, is this, that being an inconvenient residence, and of no more than fifteen miles in length, by eleven in breadth, it nevertheless contains a village of a thousand houses, and a population of from six to seven thousand souls.
The island is wealthy, and its funds are of two descriptions, namely, sheep-pastures and the whale-fishery of the north-west coast of America. The inhabitants are chiefly quakers. Widows are numerous; but the boys, who are all brought up to the pursuit in which their fathers have perished, support their mothers. The whaling-
voyages are favourable to health, but they are full of danger. While the native male population is thus occupied at sea, the island supports numerous resident artificers and mechanics, who emigrate from the main. Their sons go a whaling, and new emigrants supply their place.
The harbour can be entered only by vessels of light draught, on account of a bar that lies across its mouth. The coast is flat, and the wharfs are therefore run out far into the water. One hundred ships, and at least fifty brigs and schooners, are said to belong to the port.
Near the wharfs, some rods of ground have been sold at the rate of thirty-two thousand dollars per acre; and a hundred dollars per square rod is no uncommon price. Such is the prosperity of Nantucket; and yet, as I have been assured, by a wealthy, commercial and intelligent native, so numerous are its incommodities, that it is only matter of surprise to see it still inhabited, and particularly since its whole business might be equally well conducted at the contiguous and more eligible port of New Bedford.
The history of the whale-fishery of Nantucket is of some interest, both in commerce and zoology.
It began in Nantucket Sound, in open boats. The species of whale taken was not the spermaceti, but that which is technically called the bone-fish, or fish valued for the article called in commerce whale-bone. When this fishery had continued for some years, the fish gradually became scarce, and at length was too seldom seen to reward the fisherman for his toil. Small vessels of twenty-eight tons were then employed, in which the prey was sought for, and found, at a little further distance. These vessels, being driven by a gale of wind into deep water, fell in with the spermaceti whale, which ever after became the chief object of regard. But this fishery, like the former, came to fail; and successful adventures were then pushed as far as Davis's Straits and the adjoining seas. Here, too, after some years, the fish ceased to be found, and the voyage was now stretched to the Western Islands or Azores, where, for a certain period, t was prosperous. Failing here, it was resumed on the coast of Guinea, whence the fish, as from all the former places, in time disappeared. Lost on the eastern shores of the Atlantic, it was once more recovered on the western; and the coasts of Virginia, Carolina, Florida, the Brazils and Patagonia, were successively the seats of the fishery, and successively exhausted. But, the chase was not relinquished here. Cape
Horn was doubled, and the whale, still found where followed, and still retiring when he was found, drew his enemy, from voyage to voyage, up the coasts of Chili, Peru and California, to what is called the North-west Coast, which is the present resort. The fishing of the North-west Coast, however, as past experience gives reason to believe, will not be more permanent than the fisheries that have preceded it; so that the fish, should the trade find adequate encouragement, may one day be seen to have been pursued fairly round the world. Meanwhile, the voyages to the Pacific Ocean have opened a further object, that of the commerce in peltries at the Canton market, the vessels employed in which, in the course of a voyage of two years, encompass the globe. From Nantucket, they depart in ballast. On the Northwest Coast, they freight themselves with peltries, and these they carry to Canton, and exchange for the teas and nankeens of China, and the calicoes and muslins of India, with which they return, at length, by the Cape of Good Hope, to Nantucket. The trade here described is at present in more esteem than the whale-fishery. The voyage round Cape Horn, an undertaking of so much magnitude in the days of Anson, is of no account with the Nantucket sailor, and the health of the crews is well preserved, because much care
is taken in this regard, and because many opportunities are afforded for arresting the progress of the scurvy. Fresh fish is the ship's provision, in preference to salted meat. Prodigious supplies of eggs are obtained on the Falkland Islands ; and, on the North-west Coast, frequent communications are had with the shore, whence vegetable and animal food are procured. Such is the account of this commerce, for which I am indebted to the conversation of a gentleman resident in New Bedford, but a native and old inhabitant of Nantucket.
The comparatively total disappearance of the whale, in the Atlantic, is an unquestionable fact; and the naturalist has his choice, between the attributing the phenomenon to the destruction of the animal, or to its flight: he may believe that the whales of the northern latitudes of the east coast of America had perished by the harpoon, before the fishermen thought of stretching to the Western Islands; or he may believe that they have retired from their pursuers. The numbers, in which they were formerly known as high as Davis's Straits, would perhaps appear to be exaggerated by historians, were they not supported by modern descriptions of the new seats of the fishery.
The earliest accounts, of the whale-fishery of the English, carry back its history only to the
year 1593, when a certain number of ships sailed from England for Cape Breton, some for morse-fishing, and some for whale-fishing; and, though the whale-ships were unsuccessful, yet they found eight hundred fins on the coast, where a Biscay ship had been lost the year before.* By whale-fin has always been meant the barb, from which the whale-bone is really obtained. The morse or sea-cow affords the same example, of ancient abundance and actual scarcity, with the whale. An account is given of a small bark, by which alone, in 1591, fifteen hundred morses were killed at Ramea.+
The whale was formerly numerous in the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence, and even in the mouth of the river of the same name; and, in 1604, the single harbour of Passamaquoddy is described as possessing a whale-fishery sufficient for freighting several vessels.++ In 1663, when the royal
* Anderson's History of Commerce.
+ Hackluyt's Voyages, vol. iii. p. 192. cited in the American Annals, vol. ii.
++ Charl. Hist. Gen. de la Nouv. Franc, liv. iii.— The Moucouadi and Moucouacadi of the French is the Passamaquoddy of the English, formerly written Magagadarvie and Macagadava. The same termination, couadi, quoddy, gadavie, gadava, is found in Chabaquidtlic, the name of the little island that is on the east of Oldtown Harbour.
charter was granted to the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the adjacent whale-fishery was particularly provided for.* Captain David Smith and Captain Gamaliel Collings, of Truro, were the first that actually carried the fishery into those regions; but the enterprise was recommended to them by Admiral Montagu. Their first voyage, which was a prosperous one, was begun in the year 1774.
In 1801, a writer relates, on the authority of a whaler of Nantucket, that round the island of Juan Fernandes, where a harpoon was scarcely ever thrown, the whales swim in shoals; and that it is quite a matter of choice which of the company they [the harpooners] shall fall upon.+
The agricultural or rather pastoral interests of Nantucket are upon a peculiar footing. A small proportion of the land is inclosed, for crops of hay and grain ; but the greater part is common-land. The island was originally divided into
* See the Charter.
+ American Universal Geography, in which the name of Captain Worth, of Nantucket, is the authority cited. It is added, that the coast of Chili, where no rain falls, to interrupt the boiling of the blubber, is, for that reason, much more favourable to the profits of the voyage, than Hudson's Bay or Davis's Straits, and that a cargo, of the value of 6,000 l. currency, is sometimes the fruit of a fifteen months' voyage.
twenty-seven shares; and, with the exception of a very few private farms, it is still considered accordingly. Shares, or portions of shares, called cow's commons, entitle the holder to the pasturage of a certain number of sheep, or of sheep, oxen, cows, or horses, in proportion; a cow being considered as equal to eight sheep, and a horse to sixteen: the whole number of sheep, to the pasturage of which the island is estimated to be competent, is nineteen thousand. The arable land, in common, is cultivated upon the same system. All the produce of the island requiring to be carted to the port, and oxen not being used for draught, many horses are kept.
The sheep and cattle range the common-lands, on which there is no fence; one consequence of which is, that two or three thousand sheep are sometimes lost at once, during a winter's storm. This misfortune is the result of an anxiety in the animal to escape from the fury of the winds, without providing for the rising of the tide. When the wind blows off the land, every sheep in the flock endeavours to place himself on the lee side, or behind all the rest. The whole flock then advances as far as possible on the beach, and there stands to endure the storm. When the tide rises, and the surf begins to break on the lee side of the flock, the outer sheep are successively washed away; for the in-
ner remain immovable, and wait till the waves fall also upon them.
Six hundred and seventy-five acres of arable land are annually planted by the proprietors in common. One year they are sown with maize, and the next with rye and oats. In maize, they yield an average crop of about twelve bushels, making an aggregate of 8,100 bushels ; to which is to be added 4,000 bushels, for the produce of the private farms. In rye and oats, the six hundred and seventy-five acres, held in common, yield about 500 bushels of the first, and about 8,000 of the second.*
* See Folger and Macy's Account of Nantucket.
In 1791, Mr. Jefferson, then secretary of state, presented a Report on the Fisheries of the United States, from which it appears that the number of vessels, then belonging to this island, was 141, of which 132 were large vessels, built for the southern fishery. Mr. Jefferson, was misinformed, however, as to the agricultural resources of the island, or, as he figuratively denominates it, the sand-bar. What he adds, in regard to the attachment of the inhabitants to their island, is true, not only with respect to foreign countries, but even to the neighbouring coasts of Massachusetts: "The people, especially the females, are fondly attached to the island; and few wish to emigrate to a more desirable situation."* The words of the Report are as follows:
"The American Whale Fishery is principally followed by the inhabitants of the island of Nantucket, a sand-bar, of about 15 miles long and 3 broad, capable of maintaining by its agriculture about 20 famlies ; but it employed in these fisheries, before the war, between five and six thousand men and boys—and, in the only harbour it possesses, it had one hundred and forty vessels, one hundred and thirty two of which were of the large kind, as being employed in the southern fishery.—In agriculture, then, they have no recources; and if that of their fishery cannot be pursued from their own habitations, it is natural they should seek others from which it can be followed, and prefer those where they will find a sameness of language, religion, laws, habits and kindred. A foreign emissary has lately been among them for the purpose of renewing the invitations to a change of situation; but, attached to their native country, they prefer continuing in it, if their continuance there can be made supportable."
Mr. Jefferson's Report on the Fisheries, 10th Jan. 1791. [this footnote spans pages 210-211]
* American Universal Geography.
A few Indians, so called, remain upon Nantucket ; but, of the unmixed race, two or three females compose the entire list. In 1620, as appears from history and tradition, there were not less than five thousand. Beside the depopulation by wars, pulmonary consumption is to be reckoned among their severest scourges. This disease, which, after the country-people among the whites, they call a languishment, and which is so prevalent in the colonial population of the United States, is equally fatal to the Indians. It is
remarkable, also, that the Indians, like the colonists, have always suffered from a decay of their teeth. Mr. Roger Williams, the founder of Providence Plantations, relates, in his MS, that when he firsts came into the country "the Indians were vastly subject to the tooth-ach; and that their stoutest men complained more of that pain, than their women of the pains of travail."*
Falmouth, to which I returned, is a thriving town, with a sea-port to which there belongs fifty or sixty sail of vessels ; chiefly coasters, but in part of three, and even four hundred tons burden. The employ of the larger vessels is found in the southern states, for which they carry cargoes to New York, Boston and Europe. The soil of Falmouth is less light than that lower down the peninsula; but, still, more proper for the grain than for pasture. Captain Crocker, of this place, has twelve thousand feet of salt-works, the roofs of the vats of which are moved by windlasses; the ropes communicating with more than one range or tier of vats,
* Calender's Historical Discourse, p. 101.—In the comparison drawn by Mr. Williams, there is less force, however, than most readers may imagine; because it was a part of the Spartan education of the Indians, that women, in the pains of travail, should not complain at all.
There are two societies, with their churches, in the town, but only one clergyman, the Reverend Mr. Lincoln, who, dividing his time into five parts, gives three-fifths to one society, and two-fifths to the other; and the societies contribute after the same rate, to the amount of his salary.
From Falmouth, the readiest communication with the west shore of Buzzard's Bay, is the ferry; but I preferred to drive round the bay, through parts of the towns of Sandwich, Wareham and Rochester. At the head or northern extremity of Buzzard's Bay, is an inner bay, called Buttermilk Bay. Thickly wooded hills, and steep declivities, distinguish a great part of the road between Falmouth and Buttermilk Bay: but, arrived at the bay, the country is more level and open, and composed of rocks and sands. Such, in particular, is the description of the soil for seven miles, between Buttermilk Bay and the church of Wareham ; but the land southward, on the Agawam, is of a superior quality. The church is at the head of a spacious green, which spreads from the western extremity of a dam. The dam arrests the course of a stream immediately where it enters the sea; so that there is fresh water on the north side of the dam, and salt on the south. There are two other rivers in Wareham, upon which are fulling, flower and saw
mills, forges and carding-machines. Wareham has ten or twelve sail of coasting-vessels.
In this town, there are four poor persons maintained, of whom three are aged women, and one a male ideot. They are farmed out, at seventy, eighty or ninety cents per week, accordingly as they are able to make themselves in any degree useful.
Rochester, which adjoins New Bedford, is a busy place, and rapidly advancing in wealth and population. It occupies, in a direct line, fifteen miles of coast; and by reason of its numerous inlets, possesses a sea-board of at least thirty miles. Its inland limits comprehend part of a small lake, called Assawampset Pond, besides the entire surfaces of other pools or ponds; and exclusive, of several brooks, it has two small rivers, the Matteposset or Matapoiset and the Sippiwan. The Matapoiset falls into a creek or bay, called Matapoiset Harbour; but this harbour is of less importance to the town than Rochester Harbour, called after its own name.
Ships are built in Rochester, for the port of New Bedford, and there is commonly two thousand tons upon the stocks. Many vessels also sail out of the port of Rochester, particularly fifty or sixty coasters, and some ships of two
hundred and fifty and three hundred tons. There are six places of public worship.
The soil, in that part of the town which is crossed by the road, is rocky, and sandy; and, though it improves as we approach New Bedford, it is light throughout the district, and unfit for pasture: it produces, however, good crops of maize and rye.
New Bedford is a town, commercial village, and port of entry, of which the trade is active, and promises to increase. Its situation is on an inlet or arm of the sea, in Buzzard's Bay, which inlet, in the town itself, is called the river. The head of the inlet receives a brook or rivulet bearing the Indian name of Acushnet. A bridge, the building of which was commenced after the year 1796, is thrown across the Acushnet, at what is called the head of the river, but which is the mouth of the river, and head of the inlet. At three miles below the bridge, is the village. Above, the Acushnet, impeded at two or three places in its course, spreads itself into diminutive lakes.
The village has two streets that run parallel to the water, and two or three cross streets ; and the number of houses is about three hundred. All the buildings are of wood, but many of them are handsome; and the whole appearance of the place bespeaks prosperous industry. Ship-build-
ing is a principal employment of the place; and there were at this time seven large vessels on the stocks. A hundred square-rigged vessels belong to the port; and the ports of Falmouth, Dartmouth and New Bedford, possess together a hundred and fifty. Vessels of more than three hundred tons cannot conveniently come to the wharfs of New Bedford. Their chief employ is that of carrying freights between New York and Europe; rarely, if ever, fetching freights from the West Indies, but loading with West India produce at New York. The country round New Bedford has nothing to export, and it consumes but few imports. There are some handsome warehouses, built on the wharfs; but the decline of the little trade in which New Bedford was lately engaged, and the entire transfer of its tonnage into the carrying-trade, will probably prevent the building of more. The former trade arose out of the products of the whale-fishery ; but the decline of the market for these products has reduced the merchants and ship owners of New Bedford to abandon the pursuit.
One or two small salt-works are erecting in New Bedford. A manufactory of sheaves for ships blocks has been established in the village, the machinery of which is turned by sea-water, thrown upon an over-shot wheel. The water is raised by sails; but this expedient, which is well
adapted for raising water for the salt-works, in-adequate to the service here required. All the water, that it ordinarily raises in forty-eight hours, being expended in four.
Many of the inhabitants of New Bedford are emigrants from Nantucket; and the rest are generally from the towns to the eastward. In Westport, which is on the western boundary of Massachusetts, and is separated from New Bedford only by the town of Dartmouth, a colony has lately been begun, by adventurers from Yarmouth. Their particular inducement is the acquisition of a more convenient harbour than their old one, in which they can load and unload their fish with less handling and consequent damage.
New Bedford itself was made a town so lately as the year 1787, though the Acushnet is said to have been discovered in 1602. In 1778, when it had become a nest of privateers, Acushnet could boast of losses to the amount of 97,000 l. currency, by the hostilities necessarily committed for its destruction. In 1794, when it was engaged in commerce, its exports amounted to 82,085 dollars. In the village is a marine-insurance office, and a printing-office, at which is published a weekly newspaper; and there is a quaker's meeting-house, and a congregational church; but no settled clergyman. At the Head of the River is another church; and it
is not long since, and both were regularly served; but the pulpits are now only occasionally filled, and then only by methodist and other travelling preachers. One Smith has here recently propagated the doctrine, that there will be no resurrection for the wicked; and he is much followed.
From the Head of the River to the mouth of the inlet is a space of seven or eight miles. The town lies on both sides of the inlet, which, opposite the village of New Bedford, is about a mile in width. The village of New Bedford is on the west shore, and the villages of Fairhaven and Oxford on the east. Fairhaven fronts New Bedford, but Oxford is below. Fairhaven has a church with a spire; and I saw several large vessels lying at its wharfs.
Middleborough, a populous town, engaged in the nail manufacture and other works in iron, of the ore of which metal it possesses great quantities, lies between New Bedford, and Taunton, or rather Taunton river, in which direction I now proceeded. On a rising ground, by the road side, and on the banks of a large body of water, called Long Pond, is an open burying-ground, in which, on a rude slab of slate, is rudely cut the following biographical inscription:
" In memory of the Rev. William Nelson. He died April 11th, 1806, in his 65th year.
"In Middleborough i had my birth,
" At Warren my classical education,
" At Tiverton I had my ordination,
" At Norton my dwelling-place;
" Dartmouth an assylum for my health,
" At Middleborough my exit and grave."
AT New Bedford, I was for the second time in the neighbourhood of Narragansett Bay, though on that portion of its shores which belongs to the territory of Massachusetts. At the distance of a very few miles, I gained the banks of a river, that, like many others in the United States, being without a name, is called Taunton River, from the town past which it flows. It falls into Mount Hope Bay, an inlet of Narragansett Bay, above Rhode Island; and is navigable, for small vessels, as high as Taunton,
All the ground in this vicinity, if not classic, is at least historical. The English colonists in
the year 1620, found it in the possession of a numerous people, whom they called Narragansetts, or Narragansett Indians, and of whom there may remain a hundred souls, settled in the neighbourhood of some little lakes, in the town of Charlestown,: to the westward of the bay. Of the Narragansetts, or at least of their sachem or chief, styled by historians King Philip, we are still reminded at every step, by the traditionary names. All the country is described as part of King Philip's territory. The town of Raynham is said to have been King Philip's hunting-ground ; another tract was King Philip's fowling-ground; a rock on Mount Hope was King Philip's Throne or Chair; and "they show the spot (Kikemutt Spring in a farm, belonging to Stephen Paine, Esquire, in Bristol,) where Philip received the news of the first Englishmen that were killed, and wept at the news."* It was a vestige of the Indians, still remaining on Taunton River, that I now proposed to visit. It consists in a sculptured rock, known to the inhabitants by the name of the Writing Rock, and which has long excited some portion of antiquarian curiosity; several drawings having
* Callender's Historical Discourse on the Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of Rhode Island, &c. Boston, 1739.
been made, of which one, by Mr .James Winthrop, is in the library of Harvard College, and has been engraved in the Transactions of the Massachusetts Academy of Arts and Sciences; and another, procured in the beginning of the preceding century, by Dr. Cotton Mather, may be seen in one of the volumes of the Transactions of the Royal Society of London. The rock is on the east side of the river, in Berkeley, a new town, comprehended within the former limits of the town of Dighton, and on a tongue of land that projects to the southward, and is denominated Asonnet Neck.
Though the Writing Rock is a monument as rude as it is unintelligible, yet it deserves attention, as well for what it really is, as for what various observers have supposed it to be: it is not a monument of the Phoenicians, nor of the Carthaginians, nor of the lost tribe of Israel, nor of Prince Madoc, nor of Captain Blackbeard, nor of Captain Kyd; but it is a monument of the sculpture of the ancient inhabitants of America, whether Narragansetts or others.
The rock is an insulated mass of fine-grained gray granite or grunstein, lying northwest and southwest, on the sands of the river, a few feet above the present low-water mark, but covered at every tide. Its length is eleven feet, and its height four and a half. Toward the land, its
form is broken and irregular, but inclining gradually outward, from the summit to the base ; toward the water, it presents a regular face, and nearly smooth, forming an inclined plane, of about sixty degrees elevation. Of this face, which is of the length of the rock, and about five feet broad, the whole appears to have been originally filled with sculptures; but those, immediately at the base, if such there were, are now entirely worn away. A little above, sculptures discover themselves but faintly; while those at the summit are very perfect. In what figures the sculptures consist will be best learned from the accompanying plate; but a few words—and they are very few-— are to be added, on the style of workmanship. The whole is composed of outlines, hollowed, or cut in intaglio ; and of which the breadth is generally less than an inch, and the depth, where deepest, does not exceed half an inch. From the appearance of the sculpture, and from the hardness of the stone, it is probable that the upper parts have suffered little injury; and yet the edges are here broken, and the whole execution appears barbarous. The different states of preservation, observable in the lower figures and the upper, may be attributed to the action of the water, and perhaps to the collision of floating bodies of ice, both of which agents must operate on the lower part of the stone in a greater degree than on the upper; the
upper being covered, at every tide, for a much shorter space of time than the lower. The alternate action of salt and the atmosphere have produced an equal diversity of colour on the surface of the stone; the upper part being of a deep red or purple colour, and the lower gradually fading toward the base into a pinkish gray. The interior substance is gray.
After viewing the rock and its sculptures, which last are sufficiently conspicuous to attract notice, from the deck of a vessel sailing in the channel of the river, we demand, if not the meaning of the sculptures, at least the history of their formation; but, upon the second subject, there is very little to be said, and upon the first, absolutely nothing. The only solid history is, that the rock, with its sculptures, was found in its present place, and apparently in its present condition, by the earliest colonists.
But, in the absence of history, there has been an abundance of conjecture. Two opinions though with some subordinate varieties; chiefly divide the learned and unlearned ; the unlearned believe that the rock was sculptured by the order of a pirate, either Captain Kyd or Captain Blackbeard, in order to mark the site of buried treasure ; and the shore, for more than a hundred fathom on a side, has been dug, in the hope of a discovery ; the learned are more attached to a Phoenician origin, and suspect that the Writing Rock may be
a monument of the first navigators that passed the Pillars of Hercules: indeed, they find the Pillars of Hercules among the sculptures.
According to some, however, one of the first English vessels that navigated these seas passed a winter at the anchorage near this spot; and the sculptures, as they say, are of the workmanship of the crew: or an English vessel (as the story is changed) was stranded here; and the rock was sculptured in memory of the disaster. Both these traditions are attempted to be supported by a third ; namely, that the timbers of a vessel were seen on the shore, in the time of the last generation; and that an anchor, nearly destroyed by corrosion, was once found near the spot. A Hebrew scholar, in Boston, has made a drawing from Mr. Winthrop's drawing, (for the rock he has not seen,) in which he shows that one of the figures is a king; another, his throne and canopy; a third a priest; a fourth an idol, a fifth a foreign ambassador, &c. and, in the intervening parts, he points out Hebrew characters, composing words, which words explain the figures ; as the king—the priest—the idol. But this gentleman has misemployed his ingenuity, and a single glance at the rock would have robbed him of all disposition to support the hypothesis. There is not, in reality, the smallest reason to doubt, that these sculptures are of In-
dian work ; but, upon this point, I shall be able to offer more conclusive arguments in a succeeding chapter. It is necessary that I should say something here, upon the fidelity of the representation in the plate.
It is to be confessed that this drawing of the sculptures on the Writing Rock bears very little similitude to the other drawings that have been made of the same objects; but it should at the same time be known, that the other drawings (I believe there are only four) are all as unlike each other, as the present is to them. If the plate in the transactions of the Royal Society be consulted, the diminutive figure that it contains, of what Dr. Mather calls two lines, copied from the Writing Rock, will be found to have scarcely the smallest resemblance to what is now before us: that figure is equally unlike the drawings by Professor Sewall and Mr. Winthrop; and Professor Sewall's drawing is totally at variance with Mr. Winthrop's. The variations are not confined to minute particulars, or to such as merely depend upon skill in delineation ; but each copy contains prominent figures, such as are not to be found in the other copies.
Concerning the copyist of Dr. Mather's two lines of the inscription, no particulars are mentioned. The lines are introduced to the Royal So-
ciety as having been procured to be copied by the doctor.* Professor Sewall made his copy by hand, and by his eye; but Mr. Winthrop had resort to a mechanical expedient, very likely to mislead. This gentleman carried to the rock a quantity of printing-ink ; and, having rubbed this material into what he considered to be sculptures in the rock, he proceeded to take an impression, which, when taken, he regarded as a fac simile. But it must be evident, that the accuracy of the impression eminently depended upon the accuracy with which the ink was applied. Now, the sculptures being in general very obscure, nothing could be more easy than to apply the ink erroneously.
The fourth drawing is in the possession of the Honourable Judge Baylies, of Dighton, under whose inspection it was made. In this instance, the supposed sculptures were chalked, and the chalked lines were copied. But this expedient, like the former, is deceitful in its promises of accuracy: I tried it myself, and found that I falsified the figures at every touch.
The obscurity of a great part of the sculptures, and the consequent difficulty of tracing them by the eye, suggests the adoption of these
* See Transactions of the Royal Society, 1712.
contrivances; but is it probable, that what is obscure, when seen at a proper distance, and in a proper position of the eye, can be distinctly traced by the finger, when the tracer stands close to the rock, and, looking down upon its side, marks out a distinct figure, where all was in-distinct before?
Another occasion of diversity in the drawings is the style of execution. Professor Sewall's drawing (which I think the most accurate of the four) is performed with a feeble and hesitating hand, and therefore greatly injures the original, in which the lines are bold and determined. Mr. Winthrop's impression of the reiterated daubs of his ink, shows only a congeries of disjointed members; whereas, in the original, the whole is connected and complete. Judge Baylies's drawing, on the other hand, is finished with all the graces of penmanship, and hence enhances the flow and freedom of the design, as well as the neatness of the execution.
But, since no two of the copies agree, there must be error in more than one. That, amid the errors of others, I have been myself in all respects accurate, is what I do not venture to assert, nor even venture to believe. I shall state two principles, however, by which I have governed myself in making this drawing, and which have certainly been overlooked by my
predecessors : of these, the first is that of aiming to make the copy neither worse nor better than that of the original; the other, that of being content to leave obscure and nearly indistinct in the copy, that which is obscure and nearly invisible in the original. The upper parts of the sculptures are in general very well defined upon the rock ; but the lower are much otherwise.
It is in consequence of the fidelity introduced into the copy, that the perpendicular and horizontal lines are generally untrue: my precursors have set them right; but this I have carefully avoided. My wish is, not to show what the same design would have been, in the hands of a skilful artist, furnished with proper tools; but what it really is, in the hands of the artist that performed it.
Among the variations, observable in this drawing, from the drawings made before it, the most remarkable is the omission of the figure of a bird, apparently of the crane species, which is very conspicuous in the drawing made under the inspection of Judge Baylies. But, though I had the advantage of conversing with this gentleman on the subject, and though I visited the rock on six or seven days successively, I was never able to discern this figure. Gentlemen, also, by whom I was more than once accompanied, were equally unable with myself to make the discovery. All, that in my drawing, is
seen of the bird, consists of two perpendicular strokes, toward the centre of the lower part of the rock, and which, in Judge Baylies's drawing, form the legs. It is true, nevertheless, that in a pretended tradition concerning the rock, hereafter to be related, there is mention of a bird.
In accounting for the diversities observed in the copies, a favourite resource is that of supposing that the stone moulders away; but this theory, which would well enough explain why sculptures, seen in the year 1700, were not seen in the year 1800, will by no means explain why those, seen in 1800, were not seen in 1700: it will account for disappearance, but not for variation. Professor Sewall's drawing, which is the earliest, Dr. Mather's excepted, contains no figures that I did not see on the rock; but the two later drawings contain several.
But, the question of decay in the sculptures affects the question of their antiquity; and Professor Sewall's drawing, and even Dr. Mather's, is evidence with me, that no perceptible decay has taken place within the last hundred years: and this evidence, added to that derived from the durable quality of the stone, and from the degree of the decay that is really observable, induces me to believe that the sculptures are very ancient.
As to traditions, there is, though but in a few mouths, an Indian tradition, which purports, that some ages past, a number of white men arrived in the river, in a bird; that the white men took Indians into the bird, as hostages; that they took fresh water for their consumption at a neighbouring spring; that the Indians fell upon and slaughtered the white men at the spring; that, during the affray, thunder and lightning issued from the bird; that the hostages escaped from the bird; and that a spring, now called White Spring, and from which there runs a brook, called White Man's Brook, has its name from this event.
This story believed, the inference is, that the rock, which is doubtlessly a monument of some event in Indian history, is a monument of the adventure of the slaughter of the white men of the bird; but, upon visiting the spring, which is at the distance of a quarter of a mile from the rock, on the farm of a Mr. Asa Shove, I could hear nothing of the affair: on the contrary, a son of Mr. Shove's related to me, that he had always understood the spring and brook to have received their names from the death of a white hunter, (a colonist,) who, being heated with the chace, drank freely at the spring, and died in consequence, upon the spot. In regard to the spring, one neighbour had told me that it was a
hot spring; and another, that it was remarkable for its intense coldness; and I found it neither warmer nor colder than springs in general. The spring is to the north-east of the rock, and the brook enters Taunton River a little above the rock. The rock itself is on the farm of a Mr. Deane ; and Asonnet Neck is said to have been a a place of banishment among the Indians. I was informed that another sculptured rock had been seen in the river, at times when the water was particularly low; but this account, on tracing it to its source, appeared to be untrue. The only sculptures on any rock, not on the Writing Rock, consist in two or three figures or characters, having some similitude to the letters X O O, and which are seen on the corner of a slab of stone, lying within a few yards of the Writing Rock. The Writing Rock is not a solitary instance of a sculptured rock in North America. Several are spoken of, exclusively of that attributed, in a preceding chapter, to Scaticook, in Connecticut ; and besides one or two that are said to be in Tiverton, in Narragansett Bay. Of the sculptures on the Tiverton rocks I have seen drawings, from which they appear to consist in rude imitations of whole human figures; but it is the view of some sculptured rocks on the Connecticut, at the foot of a cataract, called the Great Falls, or Bellow's Falls, and of which no
notice has been taken by any traveller before me, that has removed every doubt from my mind, as to the Indian origin of the Writing Rock. On this latter rock I shall add some remarks hereafter, when describing the rocks on the Connecticut. The sculptures of the latter have less design than those on the Writing Rock, and are comparatively insignificant; but they illustrate its history. The Writing Rock is by far the most important of the sculptured rocks in New England.
The banks of Taunton River, contiguous to the Writing Rock, have no small proportion of beauty; particularly where, below the rock, and on the west side of the river, some rocky hills adorn the landscape. The native rock, even that in the loftiest situations, is pudding-stone; but the scattered masses are granites. Dighton is a port of entry ; and ships are built both in Dighton and Berkeley. In Dighton, I saw three vessels on the stocks, of which one was of two hundred and eighty tons. The town of Dighton maintains about twenty poor.
On an eminence that commands the river, is the residence of Major Baylies, a gentleman of the most pleasing and polished manners, and to whom I owe no less for his personal attentions, than for his zealous assistance in all my undertakings and inquiries concerning the Writing Rock.
I was so fortunate, also, as to meet, at Dighton, Dr. Prince, a clergyman, of Salem, and inventor of an improved air-pump, known by the name of the American air-pump, and who visited Dighton on the same errand with myself.
My landlord, in Dighton, was an honest and laborious farmer; an antifederalist in politics, but one that only meant what was right. I was one day amused by a controversy that took place between this worthy man and a federal clergyman of the neighbourhood. The antifederalists in politics are all optimists in philosophy ; and every thing in the United States (federalism excepted) is the best of all possible things: "Every person in the United States," said my landlord, "is happy ; not one in ten thousand is unhappy."—" You are all unhappy," replied his reverend opponent; "not one in ten thousand is happy; you carry fire-brands in your bosoms ; you all want to be kings!"
Taunton, the town eastward of Dighton, contains a thriving manufacturing village, at the distance of seven miles from Dighton church. Taunton is a post-town, and the county-town of the county of Bristol, and is distant about thirty-six miles from Boston. Besides its church, court-house and gaol, it has a public building belonging to an academy or grammar-school, founded in 1792. Its manufactures are nail-
making and other iron-works. Oyster-shells, from the lower part of the river, are here burnt for their lime, and a dark yellow pigment is manufactured from the red ochre imported from Gay Head.
In New England, it is common to see solitary grave-stones, in fields, rick-yards and kitchen-gardens ; consecrated burial-grounds being here out of the question, with the prevailing religious sect; and families thinking proper to inter the dead each on their own land: a custom somewhat remarkable, in a country where the lands are not entailed, and where they are therefore daily liable to a transfer into hands that can have little respect for the graves that they may find on them.—In a garden near the river, in the village of Dighton, is a grave-stone, with this inscription:
" IN memory of Miss Polly C Bragg,
who died October 18th, A. D. 1805,
in the 27th year of her age.
" THE DYING WORDS OF MISS POLLY C. BRAGG :" Oh how beautiful it shines !
"It happifies this heart of mine,
" From my Father's glorious throne,
" Sweeter than the honey-comb.
" ' Mother,' she cry'd, 'how rich we be !'
" Expierd, and left us instantly."