William Waldron’s Defense: The Capture and Return of Wabanaki Noncombatants
The Capture at Machias: William Waldron’s Defense and DenialAt the time of Richard Waldron’s “surprise” at Cocheco, his nephew William Waldron stood accused of wrongly “Seizing and Carrying away 30 Indians" from “ye Eastward” and transporting them to the Fayal Islands (Azores) to be sold into slavery. Waldron, along with his shipmates on the Endeavor, took these captives from Wolastokuk (Passamaquoddy) territory at Machias and Cape Sables (Nova Scotia). Among those taken were “a Sagamore” and his wife. This act fomented war on the northern front, motivating Wabanaki resistance. The legal predicament of his nephew may have likewise been a motivating factor for Richard Waldron’s cooperation with the Massachusetts Council; perhaps his capture of more than 300 people at Cocheco would secure William’s release.
Waldron’s “partner,” Henry Lawton, who chartered the ship with John Lavedore, was also charged and arrested. On August 23, 1676, Edward Rawson, secretary for the Massachusetts Council, noted that Governor Leverett "desired me to issue" a "warrant for the apprehending of Henry Lawton & William Waldron" to be tried for "seizing & Carrying away 30 Indians where on Sagamore & his squa to ye Eastward." He reported that "Henry Lawton is fast in prison," where he was held in anticipation of his trial. Rawson noted his conviction that William Waldron would be imprisoned “by and by.” In this same letter, Rawson noted the Council’s receipt of Richard Waldron’s report “on ye Eastern Parts” and that he would write to this Waldron, on behalf of the Council, to “order him to be diligent in his endeavors & Speedy in his Intelligence.”
Despite existing references to his involvement in taking captives from the Wabanaki coast, William Waldron vehemently denied participation. In his petition to the Massachusetts Council, dated August 24, 1676, one day after Rawson’s letter, he stated:
This corresponded directly with William’s order from his uncle, Richard Waldron, to search out and take “Indian Enemies” on the coast above Cocheco. However, William stood accused of taking noncombatants who lived far beyond the northern front and were not involved in the war. In his petition, William Waldron pretended to condemn this act of treachery, attempting to deny involvement and deflect the blame to others:
Your petitioner is able to produce Sufficient Testimony to prove that…he was Ignorant that any was taken away, neither did he desire or wish or order any pſons [persons] whatsoever to molest or take away any Indian from any part to the eastward, except Indian Enemies…neither Could he order any such thing if he would.
William Waldron was indicted for the crime of “man stealing” in 1677, but it was his “shipmaster” who ended up taking the blame. William was charged with “being Instigated by the divil in November” 1675, with “his partner Henry Lawton,” to “unlawfully surprize & steale away seventeen Indians men weomen & children” and in the “vessell called the endeavour.” According to the indictment, Waldron and Lawton “Carried & sent them to ffyall & there made sale of them Contrary to the peace of our Soveraigne Lord the king his Crowne & dignity the lawes of God & this Jurisdiction.” The indictment noted that the law they breached was “entitled man stealing.” Not surprisingly, Waldron pled “not guilty.”
And if it be so that Any Indians is taken away, by any person or persons, whatsoever, unlegally, its fitt they should Suffer, and not I, that neither wished it, nor desired it nor could order it but am wholly ignorant of the same and also why should I be Retained, and kept in prison for my business, which is so great a prejudice to me that I Cannot express it.
John Haughton (or Horton), the shipmaster, was indicted for the same crime. The court accused him of “not having the feare of God before your eyes and being Instigated by the Divill” to “take into your vessel the endeavor seventeen Indians men weomen & children & Carried them away to ffyall.” Of these crimes, the jury found him not guilty of “man stealing” but guilty of “being shipmaster of the Catch Endevor wherein 17 Indians were received on board & carried away to ffyall.” They specifically noted “that he did not beare due testimony against the Imployers act therein.” Haughton’s punishment was a twenty pound fine to be paid to the treasury of the country. His “employer” may have been William Waldron, who was found “not guilty,” or Henry Lawton, who “broke prison.” Haughton’s refusal to testify likely influenced the verdict, but Waldron’s family connections, and his uncle’s role in the war, were more probable reasons for the court’s determination of his innocence.
Redemption and Return: From the Azores to PemaquidThe indictment and verdict came at a crucial point: the initiation of a treaty between Wabanaki leaders and the English, at Pemaquid, near the mouth of the Kennebec river. In July 1677, Kennebec River leaders had sent a collective letter from their council place at Taconnic to the Governor and Council at Boston, via an English captive. Despite the ongoing violence and deceit, they said, their “minds” were “always for peace.” This document included Madosquarbet’s individual statement, which recalled the violence that began the war, and included a compelling charge for the present:
He also specifically called out Richard Waldron:
Now we hear that you say you will not leave war as long as one Indian is in the country. We are owners of the country & it is wide and full of Indians & we can drive you out.
Despite several botched attempts to contain Wabanaki resistance in late winter and early spring, led by the now notorious Major Waldron, Wabanaki leaders made clear both their power and their willingness to cultivate diplomatic relations. But the Governor of Massachusetts would have to restrain men like the Waldrons and participate in more forthright diplomacy. Massachusetts magistrates regarded this message as “an overture of a treaty of peace” and they eventually agreed to negotiations, in large part because of the pressures on the northern front. Moreover, they accepted the offer of Governor Andros, of New York, to send a high ranking delegation to negotiate on behalf of the English, Andros being a more neutral party, having not “having not been concerned in any Act of Hostility against” Wabanaki people and their relations. The return of the captives taken at Machias was a crucial part of the treaty negotiations.
Governor of Boston this is to let you to understand how Major Waldin served us. We carried 4 prisoners aboard. We would fain know whither you did give such order to kill us for bringing your prisoners. Is that your fashion to come & make peace & then kill us? We are afraid you will do so again. Major Waldin do lie. We were not minded to kill no body. Major Waldin did wrong to give cloth & powder but he gave us drink & when were drunk killed us. If it had not been for this fault you [would have] had your prisoners long ago . . . Major Waldron has been the cause of killing all that have been killed this summer. You may see how honest we have been. We have killed none of your English prisoners. If you had any of our prisoners you would a knocked them on the head. Do you think all this is nothing?
Although they did not convict William Waldron of “seizing” and “stealing” noncombatants from Machias, the Massachusetts Bay government commissioned Captain Bernard Trott to sail to the Azores and recover some of those sold into slavery. Trott succeeded in his mission, but was not immediately compensated. A petition to the governor of Massachusetts requesting Trott’s pay stated,
This account makes clear that Trott’s mission successfully brought home at least two Indians, who were probably the Sagamore and his wife. Trott's petition also clearly identifies William Waldron as the culprit. The captives arrived in time for the treaty conference at Pemaquid in August 1677, which was fostered through diplomacy between the Kennebec leaders, who built a coalition among Wabanaki communities, and representatives of New York colony’s governor Andros, who were authorized by the Crown. In a letter to the governor and council of Massachusetts, Commander-in-Chief Anthony Brockholt and other New York treaty commissioners reported on the Wabanaki captives, noting that “Capt [Joshua] Scottow arrived here” at Pemaquid “with six Indyan Captives,” carrying a letter from Governor Leverett.” Of these six captives, two were likely the Machias sachem and his wife. Brockholt explained,
hee did procure the freedom of a Couple of Indians which came from fayal…due to your petition for Redeeming two Indians, viz. a Sagamore & his squaw stollen away from the Eastward by one Waldron & 13 Indians more & carried to Fyall and sold for slaves which made the first Indian Warr In those parts…Your petitioner sent his servant Samuel Turell [or in another copy, Joseph Burrell] on that account upon [or, with] Joseph Nash which he hired and brought home the said two Indians.”
The description of these two “miserable creatures” corresponds to the condition of the Sagamore and his wife, who were taken unjustifiably in a situation unrelated to the war. Their redemption was exceptional. The recovery of captives after they had been sold into slavery was incredibly rare, as evidenced by the story of Mary Namesit. The journey to the Azores was treacherous; to return, as a Native captive-turned-slave, was almost unprecedented. The remainder of the captives taken at Machias were presumably left in the Azores or transported as slaves to other countries, permanently separated from their relations and homelands.
Wee delivered up the six you sent by him [Scottow] (there being but foure of them really Captives or prisoners of warre, the other two (miserable creatures) had too long beene innocent sufferers, & your Charity in their Redemption, will without doubt have its Reward.
The return of the Sagamore and his wife from the Azores was diplomatically significant. William Waldron’s initial capture of the Wabanaki noncombatants contributed to the continuance of the war on the northern front, worsening already-tense relations between the English and Wabanakis. The return of two of these captives in 1677 ushered in the most comprehensive peace undertaken thus far in the war. Much like their travels to the Azores and back, the journey of the Wabanaki captives enabled the peace negotiations to come full circle.