Printer’s Revolt Map: Nipmuc and neighboring territories, 1675
“A Revolter he was, and a fellow that had done much mischief, and staid out as long as he could, till the last day but one of a Proclamation set forth.”
- A True Account of the Most Considerable Occurrences that have happened in the Warre between the English and the Indians in New-England (London, 1676), on James PrinterThis map provides a guide to key locations in within James Printer's network of relations as the war spread through the Nipmuc country and neighboring territories. It centers James Printer's town of Hassanamesit and highlights adjacent Native towns and territories, as well as the trails and waterways that connected them. This map enables us to see Hassanamesit in relation to the other "Praying Towns," which Daniel Gookin hoped would provide a wall of defense for Massachusetts colony, to sanctuaries like Menimesit, where Nipmuc leaders gathered in deliberation at the initial outbreak of war, and to the first sites of raids on colonial towns like Mendon.
On June 24, 1675, Massachusetts colony sent interpreter and neighboring trader Ephraim Curtis to Hassanamesit to attempt diplomacy and assert control as war erupted to the south. Captain Tom Wuttasacomponom assured Curtis that they would “not assist Phillip,” countering his suspicion that the Wampanoag leader would create a coalition of Indians to oppose the English. They “did not know,” Tom said, “of any of their men that are gone” to Philip and moreover, as Christians and allies bound to Massachusetts, they “accounted themselves as the English, and they would not fight against themselves.” In July, Curtis traveled above Quaboag with several scouts to Menimesit to deliver a message from "the great Sachem of the Massachusetts English” to Nipmuc leaders. Several days later, after Matoonas of Pakachoag led a raid on Mendon, Nipmuc leaders, including Keehood and Willymachen of Webquasset, and Monoco and Shoshanim of Nashaway, conveyed to Curtis their own suspicions. “Black James, the constable of Chabonagonkamug," they said, "had told them that the English would kill them all without an exception, because they were not Praying Indians.” Although Curtis attempted to dispel the rumor, their suspicions could only have been fueled when Massachusetts magistrates and missionaries encouraged all "praying Indians" to gather together in a few towns, including Natick and Okkanamesit, for mutual protection, including James and his kin.
James also survived a subsequent "capture" by his own Nipmuc relations in November 1675, when warriors arrived at Hassanamesit to gather in the corn and to gather in their kin. The Nipmuc leaders were motivated in part by the recent Massachusetts colony order to round up "Praying Indians" and intern them on Deer Island, a deforested, isolated island in Boston Harbor, where many of their relations perished that winter due to exposure and starvation. Yet, even with this looming threat before them, some of the Hassanamesit men retained their ties to Massachusetts, Job Kattenanit escaping to relay the story to Gookin, who reported that his brother Joseph Tupukawillin "and his aged father Naoas," among others, "went away with the enemy with heavy hearts and weeping eyes."
"About the beginning of November, intelligence came from Mendon, by two of the principle Christian Indians that escaped, viz. James Speen and Job Kattenanit, how the enemy had seized upon, and carried away captive, the Christian Indians that were at Hassanamesit...among these were the eleven Indians that were so long imprisoned at Boston, and tried for their lives upon a pretended murder done by them at Lancaster...whereof they knew themselves innocent."
- Daniel Gookin, "Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England in the Years 1675-1677" (1677)
If “you go to the English again they will either force you all to some Island as the Natick Indians are, where you will be in danger to be starved with cold and hunger, and most probably in the end be all sent out of the country for slaves.”
- The "enemy Indians" to the "Christian Indians," according to the testimony of Job Kattenanit and James Speen, as recorded by Daniel Gookin in his "Historical Account"
Thus, James Printer and his family were already living among their Nipmuc kin at Menimesit when Mary Rowlandson arrived in February 1675 as a captive, taken in a second raid on her town of Lancaster, which was also led by Monoco. Printer later participated as a scribe in the negotiations that led to Rowlandson's release. Was James Printer a "captive," like Rowlandson? Or a "revolter," akin to Monoco? Or are those labels too simplistic to describe James's complex situation? What did it mean to be a teacher caught up in a whirlwind of war that arrived so suddenly at his door? How could he ensure his survival and that of his family?