Our Beloved Kin: Remapping A New History of King Philip's War

Nonotuck and Pocumtuck: War Enters the Valley

When war entered the Valley in the summer of 1675, the Indigenous community of Nonotuck was centered on a hill above a fertile bend in the Connecticut River, north of the colonial settlement of Northampton, west of Hadley and south of Hatfield. They had long held planting villages on both sides of the river, but had experienced dispossession similar to the Wampanoags and Nipmucs. Like James Printer and his relations, the people of Nonotuck came under the suspicion of surrounding settlers. As trader John Pynchon observed from Agawam, after the siege at Quaboag, the “remote towns” on the Connecticut River were “in great feares,” expecting “ye enymy” would “fall upon” them next. Because the Native people of Nonotuck were “cousins with ye Quaboag Indians," he noted, local settlers “suspect[ed] our Indians” would “be fearefull or false or both.” At the same time, according to Northampton minister Solomon Stoddard (who advocated for disarming his neighbors), the Nonotuck men who initially went out with Mohegan and colonial forces from Hartford, would not go into Nipmuc country: "they said they must not fight against their mothers, brothers and cousins (for Quabaug Indians are related to them)." [1] 

John Pynchon and others tied the siege at Quaboag to the Connecticut Valley; word spread that a coalition of Native forces might be encamped nearby. Pynchon observed that they “suspect[ed] ye enymy to be betweene Hadly & Squakeak, at Paquayag [Paquaug], about 10 miles from ye Grt River.” Both the suspicions of local Indians and the possibility of elusive warriors nearby drew reinforcements from Connecticut and Massachusetts. On August 9, 1675 Uncas’s son, Attawanhood (Joshua), who had been taken as a hostage at the beginning of the war, arrived at Hadley with a Mohegan company, released to help protect the settlements. At the same time, Uncas’s elder son, Owaneco arrived in Boston for council with the commissioners of the United Colonies (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Plymouth). Owaneco’s diplomacy, backed by Mohegan service, proved crucial to James Printer’s release.  Massachusetts colony subsequently sent their own troop of 180 men, led by Captains Thomas Lathrop and Richard Beers. By August 23, they had set up a military “headquarters” at Hadley, aiming to build a “stockade” that would stretch across the river. However, none of the scouting expeditions proved able to locate an encampment of “enemy Indians,” at Paquaug or anywhere nearby.[2] 
On August 24, they held a “Council of War” and determined to forcibly disarm the neighboring Nonotuck, “none of whom had committed any hostilities against the English.” Pynchon initially discouraged this plan, as it “might prove to be provoakeing or discourageing to our Indian neighbors.” But in their fear and frustration, colonial leaders overacted, pursuing the swift containment of their neighbors and the imagined possibility of violent action. The officers planned to surprise the people of Nonotuck before dawn, with a force of 100 men, but the families left their “fort” in the early morning hours, before they arrived, following the river north toward their relations at Pocumtuck. Lathrop and Beers pursued the Nonotuck families all the way to the foot of Ktsi Amiskw, the great beaver.[3]

Here, Native people had long told the story of Ktsi Amiskw, the Great Beaver, who built a great lodge and dam by felling the trees, holding back the river's flow and flooding the valley. They had told how Hobbomock, the great transformer, had restored the balance by battling with the Great Beaver, eventually breaking the beaver’s neck and releasing the dam, letting loose the flow of the river. As they fought off the colonial forces below the mountain, the people embodied the role of Hobbomock, attempting to protect those upriver and restore stability in the valley.
There has been much discussion over multiple generations of the exact location of this initial “fight,” on the south side of the mountain, as well as the subsequent ambush known as Bloody Brook, on the west side, where Captain Lathrop met his end. Yet from an Indigenous standpoint, it is the location of the standoff at the Great Beaver, which has great symbolic significance. Indigenous protectors enacted the story of Ktsi Amiskw, responding to the great greed that was swallowing the valley and using a decisive collective action to halt that course and attempt to rebalance power.
Indeed, after this fight at the foot of the Great Beaver, Indigenous protectors led reclamation raids on the recently built settlements in Pocumtuck (Deerfield) and Sokwakik (Squakeag/Northfield). In essence, they cleared colonial structures from their lands, then defended them from the military forces that moved north to bring both the settlers who remained and their harvest south to Hadley and Northampton. These raids included Nipmuc protectors who had recently been at Menimesit, the alliance extending through kinship networks. This alliance forged a blockade at Ktsi Amiskw, preventing military forces from pursuing Indigenous families to the north. It is important, as we consider this history today, to look beyond the obvious markers and to think together about what we might learn from this story today, to help us understand the violence of the past, and to look toward an alternative future.

What does this monument, located in South Deerfield, ask us to remember? What stories does it erase? Who makes the sacrifice? And why? How do these signs symbolize the replacement of one group’s history with another’s? What is left unsaid?


[1] J. Hammond Trumbull and Charles J. Hoadly, eds., The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut,1636–1776 (Hartford, CT: Lockwood and Brainard, 1850–90), 2:353. Sylvester Judd, History of Hadley(Northampton: Metcalfe & Co., 1863), 126-8, 141-2. Letter of John Pynchon to John Allyn, August 25, 1675, New England Indian Papers Project. Letter of John Pynchon to John Allyn, August 25, 1675, New England Indian Papers Project. Carl Bridenbaugh, ed., The Pynchon Papers (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1982), 1:149.
[2] Trumbull and Hoadly, eds., Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 2:348-9. Michael Leroy Oberg, Uncas: First of the Mohegans (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 171, 178. Pynchon Papers, 1:148.
[3] Trumbull and Hoadly, eds., Records of the Colony of Connecticut , 2:353-4. Eric Schultz and Michael Tougias, King Philip’s War: The History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict (Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 2000), 161-3.

This page has paths:

This page references: