Did You Know (Masconomet)

Photos by E.J. Lefavour

That Masconomet, was a powerful but peaceful Sachem who ruled his people, the Agawams, in the lands of Essex County from Newbury to Haverhill to Beverly and all of Cape Ann to the Atlantic Ocean?  Debbie Clark took me on an interesting excursion yesterday to the burial site of Masonomet, Sachem of the Agawams, located at 305 Sagamore Street in South Hamilton, at the top of Sagamore Hill, the highest point in Hamilton at 180 feet above sea level.  These are a few photos from the site and a brief history taken from one of the plaques.  If you visit, do so with the reverence it deserves, and bring along a gift of nature to leave behind.  I didn’t know, so didn’t have anything to leave, but Debbie left her own version of a Paul Frontiero art rock.

A Brief History of the Agawams and Masconomet

 A peaceful but powerful Sachem who ruled his people, the Agawams, in the lands of Essex County from Newbury to Haverhill to Beverly and all the Cape Ann to the Atlantic Ocean.

 The Agawams were decimated by a plague lasting three years around 1617, probably introduced by foreign traders along the 200 miles of Northeast Coast.

 When John Winthrop arrived in what is now “Manchester-by-the-Sea”, in 1630, Masconomet paddled out to the “Arabella” to greet the white settlers.  He was very friendly and was able to converse in English even though his native tongue was Algonquin.

By 1638, the dwindled tribe existed mostly in the Ipswich area.  Masconomet sold his land that year to John Winthrop, Jr. for 20 pounds English.  Six years later he requested instruction in Christian ways and accepted protection from the Massachusetts Bay Colony under a signed agreement.

He was given 6 acres of planting ground in 1655. Three years later on March 6, 1658, he died.  He was buried with his gun and tomahawk atop Sagamore Hill, one of the highest and most significant hills in the area.

 A few years later, his remains were disturbed by a group of Ipswich youths who were immediately arrested, reprimanded and made to do penance.  The bones were returned to the hilltop gravesite. 

 In 1910, a stone was inscribed and placed there by friends.  In 1959, the Hamilton Historical Society’s curator, H. Daley, the Boy Scouts and Air Force personnel cleared the 4000+ sq. ft. site given to the town of Hamilton by Judge Standish Bradford.

In 1971, a memorial service by the Disabled American Veterans, under the directiokn of Robert Hogopian, was held and a larger stone monument was erected, but not until November 1993, was the gravesite consecrated by both Christian and Native American rituals.

 In Native American belief, when one changes worlds, their spirit stays with the body and then goes to meet the Great Creator.  When the burial site was desecrated, as by the delinquent Ipswich youths, the Indians believe the spirit of the person is called back to Earth to forever, roam looking for its bones.  Once found, they will not rest until a proper burial ceremony is performed by its own people.

 Thus for 355 years, Masconomet’s spirit has been roaming uneasily among us!

In the traditional way of their people, Oee-tash, Chief of the Ponkapoag People of the Massachusetts Nation, performed the Sacred Ceremony amidst a tremendous feeling of expectancy and thankfulness on Saturday, November 6, 1993.  The oneness of Masconomet,

Sachem of the Agawams, is once again at peaceful rest among us at the top of Sagamore Hill.

E.J. Lefavour



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