Showing posts with label Hassanamisco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hassanamisco. Show all posts

22 April 2014

Unraveling Six Generations of Nipmuc Sarahs

Because land passed through the females of our matriarchal tribe, 

Sarah Robins (abt. 1689 – bef. 1750), 

Sarah Muckamaug (1718 – 1751), 
Sarah Burnee (1744 – 1812), and 
Sarah Boston (abt. 1787 – 1837)

all occupied the “Muckamaug Allotment” in what is now Hassanamesit Woods in Grafton, MA. The total allotment was approximately 197 acres including the 106 acre plot shown below.

Sarah Mary Boston (21 February 1819 - 10 February 1879) was born and raised on the Muckamaug parcel but married and moved to Worcester, Massachusetts as an adult.
Sarah Ellen Walker (abt, 1845 - 15 October 1892) is the daughter of Sarah Mary Boston and her husband, Gilbert Walker, and lived in Worcester her entire life. 

Sarah Robins is believed to be the daughter of Robin Petavit, the Nipmuc sachem who led the Hassanamesit Nipmuc community in the latter half of the 17th century. She married Peter Muckamaug and lived in Providence, Rhode Island until 1729 when she returned to Hassanamesit and settled on her land. Sarah participated in a 1744 petition to the MA Bay legislature to remove and replace the Hassanamisco guardians. The Nipmucs felt that the guardians were corrupt and stealing their trust funds. They also asked for the guardians live closer to Hassanamesit so that the Nipmucs did not have to travel so far to receive their monies. 

Peter Muckamaug died around 1744 and two years later Sarah remarried. She and her husband, Thomas English remained on the Muckamaug parcel until Sarah's death around 1749.

Sarah Muckamaug was the daughter of Sarah Robins and Peter Muckamaug. She lived in Providence, Rhode Island where she was indentured to the Brown family. After her father's death in 1744, she returned to Hassanamesit and settled on her mother's land. While living in Providence, she married Aaron Whipple and had 4 children - Rhonda, Abigail, Abraham, and Joseph. When she returned to Hassanamesit, she left Whipple (who was reportedly abusive to her) and her three eldest children in Providence. After her mother's death in 1749, Sarah took over the homestead and married African-American Fortune Burnee. One of the first things the young couple did was to sell off land to build an English-style house. It seems from the records that still exist, that the Burnee house was the first English-style house to be built by Nipmucs living on Hassanamesit. 

Sarah Muckamaug did not live in her new home for long. She became ill and was forced by the guardians to live with and be cared for by Hezekiah Ward. After her death, Hezekiah demanded payment for his services which necessitated the sale of some of the Muckamaug land.

Sarah Burnee was the daughter of Sarah Muckamaug and Fortune Burnee. She was only seven years old at the time of her mother's death. In 1768, her older brother, Joseph Aaron challenged Sarah for the right to the Muckamaug land. A long court battle ensued with Joseph winning half of the homestead. Joseph and his wife were childless so when Joseph died in 1808, he left his half of the land to Silas Fay, an English farmer.

Sarah Burnee married twice - to Prince Dam sometime before 1768 and to Boston Phillips in 1786. She had no known children with Dam but did have a boy and a girl with Boston Phillips - Ben and Sarah. Boston died in 1798 after a long illness that is much discussed in the existing guardian accounts. By order of the town selectman, Boston was removed from his home and cared for by English neighbors. After his death, Sarah was forced to sell 20 acres to pay for the debt incurred by his illness. Sarah Burnee herself died around 1812.

Sarah Phillips, or more often, Sarah Boston was now the matriarch of the Muckamaug parcel. She was quite famous and stories about her are still told. She had two children - Joseph who was born in 1813 and Sarah Mary who was born in 1818. She died in 1837, the last Nipmuc Sarah to live on that homestead. At the time of her death, the Muckamaug parcel had dwindled to less than 20 acres.

Sketch of Sarah Boston's home

In 1854, Sarah Mary Boston petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for permission to sell the remaining acreage. Sarah Mary had married prominent African-American barber Gilbert Walker and lived in Worcester. The land was sold and turned into an apple orchard. Sarah and Gilbert had one daughter, Sarah Ellen Walker. There is not nearly as much in the records about the two Worcester Sarahs as there is on the Hassanamesit Sarahs. It appears that Sarah Ellen never married and died in 1892 from epilepsy.

A team from the University of Massachusetts has for several years been excavating the Muckamaug parcel now known as Hassanamesit Woods. They have uncovered material culture that further illuminates the lives of these Nipmuc women. I look forward to learning more about these generations of Nipmuc Sarahs.



10 April 2014

Nipmucs in the Civil War

I have several direct and collateral ancestors that served in the Civil War. One of those relations was Christopher Vickers (sometime spelled Vicars). There are several Christopher Vickers that were born and died in the same parts of New England and around the same time periods. I'd like to tell you a little about the Christopher Vickers that was born in Thompson, CT on the 19th of June 1831.

His parents were Christopher Vickers and Mary Curliss. He married Celinda Dailey on January 30, 1852 in Killingly, CT and Diannah  Hazard Smith/Thomas on December 1, 1863 in Oxford, MA. Diannah was the mother of Christopher's sister-in-law, Fannie Thomas Vickers, and nearly ten years older than Christopher. Christopher had three known children, William Christopher (21 Feb 1855 - 9 Mar 1878), Henry A. (Jan 1858 - 19 June 1859), and Albert R. Vickers (4 June 1862 - aft. 1919).

Christopher volunteered for Company G, 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery on December 4, 1863. He was captured in Plymouth, North Carolina in April of 1864 and died while a prisoner of war. His military records each carry a variety of dates for his death- August 30, 1864 at Andersonville, Georgia, September 15, 1864 at Andersonville, and October 1864 in Charleston, South Carolina.

 His widow's pension application (and after her death, his son Albert's pension record) discuss the various dates and settle Christopher's date of death on August 30, 1864 from chronic diarrhea.

Diannah Vickers died on October 11, 1877. Her son, William, passed on March 9, 1878. Son, Albert Vickers successfully applied for the pension in his own right.

Christopher Vickers was not the only Nipmuc casualty of the Civil War. His older brother, Rufus Vickers (3 July 1824 - 6 November 1864), also perished at Andersonville. Others who did not return include Daniel Gigger, William H. Cady, and Hezekiah Dorous.

More the next time we meet...


22 August 2012

Hassanamisco Indians

I love this document. It's a survey of property allotted to Hassanamisco Nipmuc Sarah Robins who married Peter Muckamaug. Though Native, Peter was not from Hassanamesit so the land could not be allotted to (or owned by) him. When Sarah Robins died, the land passed to her children.

Image from the American Antiquarian Society

The Muckamaug allotment was originally 106 acres. The land came from the division of the Hassanamisco Praying Plantation. Praying Plantations, or towns, were the colonial Massachusetts equivalent to today's reservation system. The Praying Town at Hassanamesit was 8000 acres. In 1728, the MA Bay government allowed those 8000 acres to be divided up between 40 English proprietors and 7 Native families. Land was also set aside for a Native church and school and stipulations made for a minister and teacher. The 7 Native families received 1200 acres in separate parcels. The rest was sold to the 40 proprietors and monies from the sale deposited for use by the Hassanamiscos. Since it was not believed that Native people could control their own resources, guardians were appointed to oversee their assets. Native people throughout Massachusetts could not sell their land or spend even the interest on their money without asking their guardians to petition the legislature until 1869.

Another map from the collections of American Antiquarian Society showing part of the 1728 allotments. This was posted on a Grafton, MA town webpage.

Part of the Muckamaug allotment is now owned by the town of Grafton and is preserved as "Hassanamesit Woods".The Fiske Center for Archaeological Research is conducting an archaeological dig in Hassanamesit Woods where the Muckamaug's great-granddaughter's house stood from at least 1790 to 1923 when it was bulldozed over. The story of 4 generations of Nipmuc women living on this land will be coming to this blog soon!

(You may have noticed that sometimes I write Hassanamisco and sometimes Hassanamesit. Hassanamesit refers to the land and means "the place of many small stones". Hassanamisco refers to the people of that land.)

Until next time,

08 January 2012


On September 6, 2011, the National Register of Historic Places added the Hassanamisco Reservation to its list of national treasures. Known as Hassanamesit, the under 4 acre reservation serves as the cultural and spiritual center of the Nipmuc Nation, a state-recognized tribe in Massachusetts. Located on the reservation is the Cisco Homestead, which for two centuries served as home to Nipmuc tribal leaders and now houses the Hassanamisco Indian Museum.

Nipmucs occupied Hassanamesit since before recorded time. In the mid 1600s, missionary John Eliot established a "Praying Plantation or Town" in Hassanamesit in an effort to "Christianize" the native population. Metacom's Rebellion (June 1675 - August 1676) brought an end to the praying town era, and in 1728, English settlers divided Hassanamesit into lots reserving some parcels for the Nipmuc families still living there.
Hassanamesit Allotments - 1728
 The current reservation is all that remains of the Moses Printer allotment. A wood frame house was built in 1801 for Moses' great-granddaughter, Lucy Gimby. Lucy's granddaughter, Sarah Arnold Cisco, became the Nipmuc tribal leader in the mid 1850s and the house became known as the Cisco Homestead. In 1962, it became the Hassanamisco Indian Museum although the family still occupied the addition in the back of the building. The last member of the Cisco family to occupy the Homestead was Shelleigh Wilcox who moved from the reservation in 2006.
Cisco Homestead
Hassanamesit has meaning for all Nipmucs as it is the only land in Massachusetts that has never been occupied by non-Natives. And the Homestead is the oldest structure in southern New England to be continuously occupied by Native people.

Thanks to all who assisted and supported this journey, in particular Chief Natachaman of the Nipmuc Nation and the Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc Indians.
Many thanks and an abundance of gratitude to our ancestors who kept this land intact for our generations and those to come.