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V. THE STORY OF EPENOW AND ASSACOMET.
SIX years after Weymouth's kidnaping exploit, Captain Edward Harlow was sent from England to explore Cape Cod and the region round about it.
He sailed first to Monhegan, and, anchoring in its harbor, he enticed three Indians on board his ship, and seized them as captives. His methods were less ceremonious than Captain Weymouth's, and his avowed purpose was to sell them as slaves, or to make money by them in some other way. The names of the prisoners were Peckmo, Monopet, and Peckenine.
Peckmo was an athletic young brave, and after a fierce struggle he broke away from his captors, leaped overboard, and swam ashore. He aroused all the Indians within hail, and they rushed fiercely to the rescue of the captured Monopet and Peckenine. Canoes surrounded the ship; but arrows were no match for the firearms of the white men, who only mocked their efforts. But, sweeping the deck with their whizzing arrows, they succeeded in cutting away the longboat of the ship, that was floating at the stern. They carried the boat ashore, filled it with sand, and placed it in a position where they could defend it with their arrows.
When Harlow sent a band of armed men to recover the boat, the savages fought desperately; it is probable that some of them were killed, and three of Harlow's men were seriously wounded; but Harlow went away without his boat.
Sailing off with his two captives, he made his way to Cape Cod, and there lured more of the unsuspecting savages on board his ship by offering enticing wares for barter. He secured three more captives, locking the oaken doors of the cabin upon them, as he had done upon the others. The names of these Cape Cod Indians were Sackaweston, Coneconum, and Epenow.
It is strange to know that the Maine Indians and those from Cape Cod could not understand one another's language, and their habits and customs were almost as different as their speech. But the different tribes all over the country soon had one strong sentiment in common—hatred and distrust of the white man. Harlow carried all five of the kidnapped Indians to London, where he exhibited Epenow, who seems to have been the most clever and tractable of them, in a show.
Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who had interested himself in Weymouth's captives, finally took Epenow also under his protection. "There came one Harlow unto me," writes Sir Ferdinando, "bringing with him a native of the island of Capawick, a place seated to the southward of Cape Cod, whose name was Epenow. He was a person of goodly stature, strong and well proportioned. This man was taken upon the main by force, with some twenty-nine others, by a ship of London, which endeavored to sell them as slaves in Spain. But it being understood that they were Americans, and unfit for their uses, they would not meddle with them. This Epenow was one of them whom they refused, wherein they expressed more worth than those that brought them to the market. How Captain Harlow came to be in possession of this savage I know not; but I understood by others how he had been shown in London for a wonder. It is true, as I have said, that he was a goodly man, of a brave aspect, stout, and sober in his demeanor, and had learned so much English as to bid those that wondered at him, 'Welcome! Welcome!'"
Epenow by forming a shrewd plan to get back to his own country showed that his ability was not overrated. He and Assacomet, who was then still in England, and whom he met probably through the kindness of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, put their heads together and agreed to make the English believe that Epenow knew of a gold mine in America, in the hope that they might be employed to guide an expedition in quest of it.
They were successful in this deception, and Gorges himself sent a ship to Cape Cod, under command of Captain Hobson, with Epenow and Assacomet as guides to the gold mine.
Some suspicions seem to have been entertained of the sincerity of Epenow and Assacomet, for when the ship anchored in the harbor to which Epenow had guided it as being within convenient distance from the gold mine, the captain treated both Indians as prisoners and would not allow them to go ashore. The natives came on board the ship in great numbers, and some of the brothers of Epenow were among them.
The story of what happened is told by Gorges's son, who accompanied the expedition.
"But Epenow," he writes, "privately had contracted with his friends how he might make his escape without performing what he had undertaken. For that cause I gave the captain strict charge to endeavor, by all means, to prevent his escape. And for the more surety I gave order to have three gentlemen of my own kindred to be ever at hand with him, clothing him with long garments, fitly to be laid hold of, if occasion should require.
"Notwithstanding all this, his friends being all come, at the time appointed, with twenty canoes, and lying at a certain distance with their bows ready, the captain calls to them to come on board. But they not moving, he speaks to Epenow to come unto him where he was in the forecastle of the ship. Epenow was then in the waist of the ship, between two of the gentlemen that had him in guard. Suddenly he starts from them, and coming to the captain, calls to his friends in English to come on board. In the interim he slips himself overboard; and although he was taken hold of by one of the company, yet, being a strong and heavy man, he could not be staid. He was no sooner in the water but the natives, his friends in the boats, sent such a shower of arrows, and came, withal, desperately, so near the ship, that they carried him away in despite of all the musketeers, who were, for the number, as good as our nation did afford. And thus were my hopes of that particular voyage made void and frustrate."
Five years after this an English captain, sent by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, visited the island (supposed to be Martha's Vineyard) where this rescue of Epenow took place. He met Epenow, who told him triumphantly of his escape. Epenow and his friends thought that the object of the expedition was to seize him and carry him back to England; and when an armed boat's crew came on shore, a skirmish ensued, in which the English captain was wounded and, with his crew, driven back to the ship.
Squantum, the friendly Indian who himself had had the experience of being kidnapped, is said to have tried to prevent the hostilities. "The Indians would have killed me had not Squantum entreated hard in my behalf," writes the English captain.
A little later than this, one Thomas Hunt seized twenty-four savages at the mouth of the Kennebec, and sold them as slaves at Malaga. The price received is said to have been one hundred dollars each.
Assacomet made his way home to Pemaquid, and we hear that he was afterwards the friend of the settlers.