The Pilgrims and Human Sacrifice Among the Wampanoag Tribe

Video: The Pilgrims and Human Sacrifice Among the Wampanoag Tribe
The Pilgrims and Human Sacrifice Among the Wampanoag Tribe
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Paul Jehle talks about human sacrifice in Plymouth colony in the 1600s.

The following legend is taken from the Scott Corbett’s book, Cape Cod’s Way: An Informal History of Cape Cod (New York: Thomas Crowell 1955). The information can be found in the Plymouth archives.

Once upon a time the old village of Monument nestled under the side of a hill near the Manomet River. That hamlet has now become the village of Bourne, and the canal has swallowed up the river as part of its route. The feeling of altitude, unusual on the Cape, remains, and somehow on a black night the spot reminds me of the Catskills in one of their pleasantly spooky moods. The village of Bourne is still a place where, on a murky, whispering evening, it is easy … to imagine what the frightful scene must have been like the night Richard Bourne called down the wrath of God on the Indians to stop their barbarous human sacrifices.

It was during this time [mid-1600s] that Richard Bourne was doing his good work among the Indians. His efforts met with great success, but apparently he had to cure the heathens of a few bad habits first. The legend of Richard Bourne and the Indian sacrifices involves a large rock north of the Bourne fire tower which was once called Sacrifice Rock, and later Chamber Rock. Tradition says it was here that the Indians offered sacrifices, sometimes human.

On one occasion, Bourne chanced upon the scene in the midst of a ritual of torture and death, and gave them a horrified warning to stop. When they would not, he called the wrath of God down upon them. A bolt of lightning instantly split the rock, killing an impressive number of Indians. After a home demonstration of that magnitude, the survivors must have been ready for speedy conversion to Christianity. At any rate, the first meetinghouse built for Indians in Plymouth County stood at the base of Indian Burial Hill in Bournedale and was well attended. Thomas Tupper, one of the “ten men of Saugus” who settled Sandwich, had charge of the meetinghouse. In 1696 he was preaching to one hundred and eighty Indians there.

NOTES:

Reverend Richard Bourne was born in 1610 in Barnstable, County Devonshire, England and died on September 18th, 1682 in Sandwich, Massachusetts. He came to Plymouth Mass about 1635. His ancestry traces back to Sir John Bourne, Secretary of State to Queen Mary (1553-1558). Richard, aged 24, left England, coming by way of St. Kitts & Barbados, arriving in America January 1st, 1635. He stayed with his brother Henry in Scituate Mass. Richard was one of the earliest settlers of Shawmee, Mass, later incorporated in 1637 as Sandwich, Mass. (Part of Sandwich became Bourne, Mass. in 1884.)

Richard Bourne had many interests but his work with the Indians is probably the most outstanding. The continued peace with the Indians was due more to his efforts than to the military forces. He learned the Indian language and began his work about 1658. He was ordained pastor of the Indian Church at Mashpee in 1670. Richard purchased at his own expense 16 square miles as a permanent home for the Mashpee Indians. He translated the Lords Prayer into the Indian language — copies are available at the Aptucxet Trading Post near Bourne. In 1919 Indians were still living on the land given them by Richard.

Thomas Tupper II was born at Sandwich, Mass., in 1638 and died in 1706. He became a freeman at the age of 20. He served on a jury in 1664, was an Exciseman in 1677 and Town Constable in 1669. He was a Selectman for 14 years, Town Clerk for 10 years, Deputy to General Court at Plymouth for 11 years. A Representative to the Court of Boston and in 1680 was appointed Lieutenant of the Military Company in Sandwich, becoming Captain in 1690. He had strong religious convictions and for many years was a Missionary among the Indians.

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