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

Peter Jethro and the Capture of Monoco

In his Relation, Increase Mather exclaimed, “That abominable Indian Peter Jethro betrayed his own Father and other Indians of his own special Acquaintance, unto Death. Many of the Nipmuc Indians who were wont to lay Snares for others, were at last themselves taken by a Stratagem, and brought to deserved Execution.” Mather referred to the capture of several key Nipmuc leaders, as well as Peter's father “Old Jethro” or Tantamous, who were sent down to Boston from Cocheco, then executed on Windmill Hill. However, in this statement, Mather obscured the complex context of their capture by attributing a singular betrayal to the Nipmuc convert, Peter Jethro, who was seemingly able to accomplish, through “stratagem” what the colonial troops and scouts under Captain Hunting could not. Peter Jethro’s story, as it unravels, raises more questions than answers about the "second company" that came down from Cocheco.[1]
 
On September 23, 1676, Samuel Sewall noted in his diary that “One-ey’d John [Monoco], with about 45 of your Southern Indians, have been apprehended since the Souldiers went Eastward. This group included “a Sagamore of Quapaug,” referring to Muttaump.[2] The passive voice is notable here, as none of these captives were taken by the “souldiers.” Both Increase Mather and William Hubbard placed the blame for this “betrayal” solely on Peter Jethro, displacing the role of Cocheco trader Richard Waldron as well as the Massachusetts leaders who recruited Jethro and other scouts. If Captain Hunting’s “soldiers” had such trouble locating Indians in their expeditions on the Wabanaki coast, ranging north of Cocheco, how is it that a singular scout was able to capture so many “southern Indians” who had taken refuge in the north, including three formidable leaders?

 

"Life and Liberty": Two Spies and an Offer of Amnesty

On August 28, 1676, the Massachusetts Council ordered Gookin to recruit at least “two Indians” to serve as “spies among the enemy.” These spies were empowered to give “assurance” to other Native people in the Nipmuc, Penacook and Wabanaki countries, particularly those who held English captives, that “in case they will come in & Submitt themselves to ye mercy of” the colonial “government” they would “have their lives given them & freed from foreign slavery.” This message was similar to the offer of amnesty that had been extended to James Printer and his relations, and was likely an immediate context for Shoshanim's effort to "obtain peace" at Cocheco, just days after this order. But it also offers an explanation for the capture of Monoco and Tantamous, or Old Jethro. Shortly after the “surprise” at Cocheco, Richard Waldron reported that two Native women came in to Cocheco “informing that one eyed John [Monoco] & [old] Jethro were designing ye Surprizing of Canonicus,” the Narragansett sachem, and that they desired to speak with “some of our old men” to seek their advice. Waldron reported that he sent someone, perhaps Peter Jethro, abroad to “further the design,” which may have included not only the capture of Canonicus, but of Monoco and the other leaders. Waldron later acknowledged in a letter to Daniel Gookin that he had given Peter Jethro incentive for the capture of Monoco, and Peter insisted he had been promised "life and liberty" for this service. Perhaps both Nashaway leaders, Monoco and Shoshanim, were induced to come in under the offer of peace and amnesty.[3]

If they came in under the promise of life and liberty, Monoco and “Old Jethro” may have offered Canonicus, a highly valued captive in exchange. Indeed, Waldron's report conflicts with another report from Cocheco, recorded by Samuel Sewell in his diary, that Mohawks had taken Canonicus, perhaps a cover for the more complicated context of captivity and coercion. While Monoco and Shoshanim had played highly visible roles in the war, Old Jethro had not. He merely escaped from Natick as Captain Prentice rounded up the residents for Deer Island, bringing his family with him. He found protection among the Nipmucs, but there is no evidence he participated in any raids or ambushes. Rather, he was likely among the many noncombatants who came in seeking peace and amnesty.[4]
 
Was Peter Jethro scouting with a large group, like Captain Hunting’s scouts? Or did he act on his own, with a small company, recruited by Gookin and Waldron? Were there groups of scouts that left with orders, from Cocheco, which were not reported back to Boston (or for which the records no longer exist)? Did Peter Jethro travel from Cocheco to the upper Merrimack, pursuing the Nashaway men at Penacook, where they may have been among the people sheltered with Wanalancet? Or were they among the resistance at Ossipee? Were they persuaded to come into Cocheco under the pretense of peace, or taken by ambush and force?
 
Peter Jethro’s relationship to the captured men is worth considering. Peter may have had a personal motivation for tracking down Monoco, in addition to the promise of his own “life and liberty.” Peter and his father were among those captives taken at Okkanamesit, along with James Printer, and imprisoned for the false charge of murdering settlers at Lancaster, a raid which Monoco had led. Moreover, both Monoco and Shoshanim had been at Weshawkim in 1674 when Gookin sent Peter Jethro to pursue missionary efforts at Nashaway, an overture that was not welcomed, especially given the missionaries’ efforts to influence governance at Nashaway through the guise of religious concern. Perhaps, in Peter Jethro’s mind, turning the Nashaway war leader in to the men at Cocheco and Boston signaled a kind of justice. Yet, Peter had also served as scribe for Shoshanim and the Nipmuc sachems, writing one of the letters that led to Mary Rowlandson’s release from Wachusett. Was Peter someone Shoshanim thought he could trust? And what role did his father play? Josiah Temple suggests the elder, a traditional spiritual man, resisted missionary overtures, a clear divide between father and son, and that Peter “had been so long under the instruction of the English, that he had become almost one of them.” Was there enmity between Peter Jethro and his father? Did he truly betray his own father, or did he imagine that he could also advocate for his father’s “liberty”? Did he know that “Old Jethro” would face execution, that the rest of his family would be shipped into slavery? Did he bargain their lives for his individual salvation? [5]
 
Even after this “betrayal,” Peter could not even guarantee his own “life and liberty.” When Daniel Gookin pressed Richard Waldron, the trader replied through correspondence that he had only promised that if Peter were “Instrumental” in bringing in Monoco, he “would acquaint ye Governor with what service he had done & Improve my Interest in his behalfe.” Monoco’s execution in Boston was not enough to guarantee Peter’s protection. However, with Gookin’s advocacy, Peter Jethro ultimately earned his life and liberty, later appearing on numerous deeds and other documents as Massachusetts colony sought to confirm its titles to land in Nipmuc country after the war.[6] 
 
[1] Increase Mather, A Relation of the Troubles Which Have Happened in New England, ed. Samuel G. Drake (Boston, 1864), 257-8. Diary of Increase Mather, March, 1675-December, 1676, ed. Samuel A. Green (Cambridge, J. Wilson, 1900), 47.  William Hubbard, A History of the Indian Wars in New England, ed. Samuel Gardner Drake (Roxbury, MA: W.E. Woodward, 1865), 133. George Madison Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip’s War (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1906), 307-9.
[2] The Diary of Samuel Sewall: 1674–1729, ed. M. Halsey Thomas (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1973), 23.
[3] Bodge, Soldiers, 307-9. Massachusetts Council to Daniel Gookin, August 28, 1676, Massachusetts Archives 30:214, 30:226. Samuel Gardner Drake, The Book of the Indians (Boston: Antiquarian Bookstore, 1841) 3:81. J. H. Temple, History of Framingham, Massachusetts (Town of Framingham, 1887), 51-2. 
[4]Diary of Samuel Sewall, 22-24. Temple, History of Framingham, 51-2.
[5] Drake, Book of the Indians 3:81. Daniel Gookin, Historical Collections of the Indians of New England (1674) (North Stratford, NH: Ayer, 2000), 53-4. Temple, History of Framingham, 51-2.
[6] Bodge, Soldiers, 309. Daniel Mandell, Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 32. See also Mary de Witt Freeland, The Records of Oxford, Massachusetts (Albany: Joel Munsell's Sons, 1894), 126

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  1. Richard Waldron's letter to Daniel Gookin regarding Mary Namesit & Peter Jethro
  2. Wabanaki-Close-View-Trails-MAP-PP6.jpg