The Plymouth Colony Archive Project

choose an archive room topic

Good Newes from New England
Chapter 2, 1624

Caleb Johnson, a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, provides the following comments on this hypertext version:

Written by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, Good Newes from New England was published in London in 1624.  It is a journal of events that occured between 1622 and 1623 at Plymouth Colony.  It includes information about Tisquantum's death (November 1622), the sickness of Massasoit, Thomas Weston's Wessagussett Colony, and much more.
This is a modernized-English version of the book as it was reprinted in the Mayflower Descendant, volume 25-26.  There really are no distinct chapters, but I have adopted the chapterization used in the recent Applewood Books edition of Good Newes from New England.

Our thanks to Mr. Johnson for presenting this hypertext version of Good Newes from New England. Go to Mr. Johnson's Mayflower History page.

Goode Newes, Introduction Goode Newes, Chap. 1 Goode Newes, Chap. 2
Goode Newes, Chap. 3 Goode Newes, Chap. 4 Goode Newes, Chap. 5
Goode Newes, Chap. 6 Goode Newes, Chap. 7 Goode Newes, Chap. 8

Chapter 2, Good News from New England

The Good Ship called the Fortune, which in the Month of November 1621 (blessed be God) brought us a new supply of 35 persons, was not long departed our Coast, ere the Great people of Narragansett, which are reported to be many thousands strong, began to breath forth many threats against us, notwithstanding their desired and obtained peace with us in the foregoing summer. Insomuch as the common talk of our neighbor Indians on all sides was of the preparation they made to come against us. In reason a man would think they should have now more cause to fear us than before our supply came: but though none of them were present, yet understanding by others that they neither brought Arms nor other provisions with them, but wholly relied on us, it occasioned them to sleight and brave us with so many threats as they did. At length came one of them to us, who was sent by Conanacus their chief Sachem or King, accompanied with one Tokamahamon, a friendly Indian. This messenger inquired for Tisquantum our Interpreter, who not being at home seemed rather to be glad than sorry, and leaving for him a bundle of new arrows lapped in a rattle Snakes skin, desired to depart with all expedition. But our Governors not knowing what to make of this strange carriage, and comparing it with that we had formerly heard, committed him to the custody of Captain .Standish, hoping now to know some certainty of that we so often heard, either by his own relation to us, or to Tisquantum at his return, desiring my self, having special familiarity with the other fore-named Indian, to see if I could learn any thing From him, whose answer was sparingly to this effect; that he could not certainly tell, but thought they were enemies to us.

That night Captain Standish gave me and another charge of him, and gave us order to use him kindly, and that he should not want any thing he desired, and to take all occasions to talk and inquire of the reasons of those reports we heard, and withal to signify that upon his true relation he should be set of his owne freedom. At first fear so possessed him, that he could scarce say anything: but in the end became more familiar, and told us that the messenger which his Master sent in Summer to treat of peace, at his return persuaded him rather to war; and to the end he might provoke him hereunto, (as appeared to him by our reports) detained many of the things were sent him by our Governor, scorning the meanness of them both in respect of what himself had formerly sent, and also of the greatness of his own person; so that he much blamed the former Messenger, saying, that upon the knowledge of his false carriage, it would cost him his life; but assured us that upon his relation of our speech then with him to his Master, he would be friends with us. Of this we informed the Governor and his Assistant, and Captain Standish, who after consultation considered him howsoever but in the state of a messenger, and it being as well against the Law of Arms amongst them as us in Europe, to lay violent hands on any such, set him at liberty, the Governor giving him order to certify his Master that he had heard of his large and many threatenings, at which he was much offended, daring him in those respects to the utmost, if he would not be reconciled to live peaceably as other his neighbors; manifesting withal (as ever) his desire of peace; but his fearless resolution, if he could not so live amongst them. After which he caused meat to be offered him, but he refused to eat, making all speed to return, and giving many thanks for his liberty. But requesting the other Indian again to return, the weather being violent, he used many words to persuade him to stay longer, but could not. Whereupon he left him, and said he was with his friends, and would not take a journey in such extremity.

After this when Tisquantum returned, and the arrows were delivered, and the manner of the messengers carriage related, he signified to the Governor, that to send the rattle Snakes skin in that manner, imported enmity, and that it was no better than a challenge. Hereupon after some deliberation, the Governor stuffed the skin with powder and shot, and sent it back returning no less defiance to Conanacus, assuring him if he had shipping now present thereby to send his men to Narragansett (the place of his abode) they should not need to come so far by land to us: yet withal strewing that they should never come unwelcome or unlooked for. This message was sent by an Indian, and delivered in such sort, as it was no small terror to this savage King, insomuch as he would not once touch the powder and shot, or suffer it to stay in his house or Country. Whereupon the Messenger refusing it, another took it up, and having been posted from place to place a long time, at length came back who again.

In the mean time, knowing our own weakness, notwithstanding our high words and lofty looks towards them, and still lying open to all casualty, having as yet (under God) no other defense than our Arms, we thought it most needful to impale our Town, which with all expedition we accomplished in the month of February and some few days, taking in the top of the Hill under which our Town is seated, making four bulwarks or jetties without the ordinary circuit of the pale, from whence we could defend the whole Town: In three whereof are gates, and the fourth in time to be. This being done, Captain Standish divided our strength into four squadrons or companies, appointing whom he thought most fit to have command of each; And at a general Muster or Training, appointed each his place, gave each his Company, giving them charge upon every alarm to resort to their Leaders to their appointed place, and in his absence, to be commanded and directed by them. That done according to his order, each drew his Company to his appointed place for defense, and there together discharged their muskets. After which they brought their new Commanders to their houses, where again they graced them with their shot, and so departed.

Fearing also lest the enemy at any time should take any advantage by firing our houses, Captain Standish appointed a certain Company, that whensoever they saw or heard fire to be cried in the Town, should only betake themselves to their Arms, and should enclose the house or place so endangered, and stand aloof on their guard, with their backs towards the fire, to prevent treachery, if any were in that kind intended. If the fire were in any of the houses of this guard, they were then freed from it, but not otherwise, without special command.

Long before this time we promised the people of Massachusetts in the beginning of March to come unto them, and trade for their Furs, which being then come, we began to make preparation for that voyage. In the meantime, an Indian called Hobomok, who still lived in the Town, told us, that he feared the Massachusetts or Massachuseucks (for they so called the people of that place) were joined in confederacy with the Nanohigganneucks, or people of Narragansett, and that they therefore would take this opportunity to cut off Captain Standish and his company abroad: but howsoever in the mean time, it was to be feared that the Narragansetts would assault the Town at home, giving many reasons for his jealousy, as also that Tisquantum was in the confederacy, who we should find would use many persuasions to draw us from our shallops to the Indians houses for their better advantage. To confirm this his jealousy he told us of many secret passages that passed between him and others, having their meetings ordinarily abroad in the woods: but if at home howsoever he was excluded from their secrecy, saying it was the manner of the Indians when they meant plainly to deal openly: but in this his practice there was no show of honesty.

Hereupon the Governor, together with his Assistant and Captain Standish, called together such, as by them were thought most meet for advice in so weighty a business, who after consideration hereof came to this resolution; That as hitherto upon all occasions between them and us, we had ever manifested undaunted courage and resolution, so it would not now stand with our safety to mew up our selves in our new-enclosed town, partly because our Store was almost empty, and therefore must seek out for our daily food, without which we could not long subsist; but especially for that thereby they would see us dismayed, and be encouraged to prosecute their malicious purposes; with more eagerness than ever they intended: whereas on the contrary, by the blessing of God, our fearless carriage might be a means to discourage and weaken their proceedings. And therefore thought best to proceed in our trading voyage, making this use of that we heard, to go the better provided, and use the more carefulness both at home and abroad, leaving the event to the disposing of the Almighty, whose providence as it had hitherto been over us for good, so we had now no cause (save our sins) to despair of his mercy in our preservation and continuance, where we desired rather to be instruments of good to the Heathens about us, than to give them the least measure of just offense.

All things being now in readiness, the forenamed Captain with ten men, accompanied with Tisquantum' and Hobomok, set forwards for the Massachusetts: but we had no sooner turned the point of the harbor called the Gurnets nose (where being becalmed we let fall our grapnel, to set things to rights, and prepare to row) but there came an Indian of Tisquantum's family, running to certain of our people that were from home with all eagerness, having his face wounded, and the blood still fresh on the same, calling to them to repair home, oft looking behind him, as if some others had him in chase, saying that at Nemasket (a town some fifteen miles from us) there were many of the Narragansetts, Massasoit our supposed friend, and Corbitant our feared enemy, with many others, with a resolution to take advantage on the present opportunity, to assault the town in the Captains absence, affirming that he received the wound in his face for speaking in our behalf, and by flight escaped, looking oft backward, as if he suspected them to be at hand. This he affirmed again to the Governor, whereupon he gave command that three piece of Ordnance should be made ready and discharged, to the end that if we were not out of hearing, we might return thereat. Which we no sooner heard, but we repaired homeward with all convenient speed, arming our selves, and making all in readiness to fight. When we entered the harbor, we saw the Town likewise on their guard, whither we hasted with all convenient speed. The news being made known unto us, Hobomok said flatly that it was false, assuring us of Massasoit's faithfulness; howsoever he presumed he would never have undertaken any such act without his privity, himself being a Pinse, that is, one of his chiefest champions or men of valor, it being the manner amongst them not to undertake such enterprises without the advice and furtherance of men of that rank. To this the Governor answered, he should be sorry that any just and necessary occasions of war should arise between him and any the Savages, but especially Massasoit, not that he feared him more than the rest, but because his love more exceeded towards him than any. Whereunto Hobomok replied; There was no cause wherefore he should distrust him, and therefore should doe well to continue his affections.

But to the end things might be made more manifest, the Governor caused Hobomok to send his wife with all privacy to Pokanoket the chief place of Massasoit's residence, (pretending other occasions) there to inform herself, and so us, of the right state of things. When she came thither, and saw all things quiet, and that no such matter was or had been intended, told Massasoit what had happened at Plymouth, (by them called Patuxet) which when he understood, he was much offended at the carriage of Tisquantum, returning many thanks to the Governor for his good thoughts of him; and assuring him that according to their first Articles of peace, he would send word and give warning when any such business was towards.

Thus by degrees we began to discover Tisquantum, whose ends were only to make himself great in the eyes of this Country-men, by means of his nearness and favor with us, not caring who fell so he stood. In the general, his course was to persuade them he could lead us to peace or war at his pleasure, and would oft threaten the Indians, sending them word in a private manner, we were intended shortly to kill them, that thereby he might get gifts to himself to work their peace, insomuch as they had him in greater esteem than many of their Sachems; yea they themselves sought to him, who promised them peace in respect of us; yea and protection also, so as they would resort to him. So that whereas divers were wont to relic on Massasoit for protection, and resort to his abode, now they began to leave him, and seek after Tisquantum. Now though he could not make good these his large promises, especially because of the continued peace between Massasoit and us, he therefore raised this false alarm, hoping whilest things were hot in the heat of blood, to provoke us to march into his Country against him, whereby he hoped to kindle such a flame as would not easily be quenched, and hoping if that block were once removed, there were no other between him and honor; which he loved as his life, and preferred before his peace. For these and the like abuses, the Governor sharply reproved him, yet was he so necessary and profitable an instrument, as at that time we could not miss him. But when we understood his dealings, we certified all the Indians of our ignorance and innocence therein, assuring them till they begun with us, they should have no cause to fear. And if any hereafter should raise any such reports, they should punish them as liars and seekers of their and our disturbance, which gave the Indians good satisfaction on all sides.

After this we proceeded in our voyage to the Massachusetts, where we had good store of Trade, and (blessed be God) returned in safety, though driven from before our Town in great danger and extremity of weather.

At our return, we found Massasoit at the Plantation, who made his seeming just Apology for all former matters of accusation, being much offended and enraged against Tisquantum, whom the Governor pacified as much as he could for the present. But not long after his departure, he sent a messenger to the Governor, entreating him to give way to the death of Tisquantum, who had so much abused him. But the Governor answered; Although he had deserved to die both in respect of him and us; yet for our sakes he desired he would spare him, and the rather because without him he knew not well how to Understand himself, or any other the Indians. With this answer the messenger returned, but came again not long after, accompanied with divers others, demanding him from Massasoit their Master, as being one of his subjects, whom by our first Articles of peace we could not retain: yet because he would not willingly doe it without the Governors approbation, offered him many Beaver's skins for his consent thereto, saying, that according to their manner, their Sachem had sent his own knife, and them therewith, to cut off his head and hands, and bring them to him. To which the Governor answered; Yet was not the manner of the English to sell mens' lives at a price, but when they had deserved justly to die, to give them their reward, and therefore refused their Beavers as a gift: but sent for Tisquantum, who though he knew their intent, yet offered not to fly, but came and accused Hobomok as the author and worker of his overthrow; yielding himself to the Governor to be sent or not according as he thought meet. But at the instant, when our Governor was ready to deliver him into the hands of his Executioners, a Boat was scene at Sea to cross before our Town, and fall behind a head-land not far off: whereupon, having heard many rumors of the French, and not knowing whether there were any combination between the Savages and them, the Governor told the Indians, he would first know what Boat that was ere he would deliver him into their custody. But being mad with rage, and impatient at delay, they departed in great heat.

Here let me not omit one notable (though wicked) practice of this Tisquantum, who to the end he might possess his Countrymen with the greater fear of us, and so consequently of himself, told them we had the plague buried in our storehouse, which at our pleasure we could send forth to what place or people we would, and destroy them therewith, though we stirred not from home. Being upon the fore-named brabbles sent for by the Governor to this place, where Hobomok was and some other of us, the ground being broke in the midst of the house, (hereunder certain barrels of powder were buried, though unknown to him) Hobomok asked him what it meant? To whom he readily answered; That was the place wherein the plague was buried, whereof he formerly told him and others. After this Hobomok asked one of our people, whether such a thing were, and whether we had such command of it ? Who answered no; But the God of the English had it in store, and could send it at his pleasure to the instruction of his and our enemies.

This was, as I take it, about the end of May 1622. At which time our store of victuals was wholly spent, having lived long before with a bare and short allowance: The reason was, that supply of men before mentioned, which came so unprovided, not landing so much as a barrel of bread or meal for their whole company, but contrariwise received from us for their ships store homeward. Neither were the setters forth thereof altogether to be blamed therein, but rather certain amongst our selves, who were too prodigal in their writing and reporting of that plenty we enjoyed. But that I may return.

This Boat proved to be a Shallop that belonged to a fishing ship, called the Sparrow, set forth by Master Thomas Weston, late Merchant and Citizen of London, which brought six or seven passengers at his charge, that should before have been landed at our Plantation, who also brought no more provision for the present than served the Boats gang for their return to the ship, which made her voyage at a place called Damarins Cove near Munhiggen some forty leagues from us North-eastward; about which place there fished above thirty sail of ships, and whither my self was employed by our Governor, with orders to take up such victuals as the ships could spare, where I found kind entertainment and good respect, with a willingness to supply our wants: But being not able to spare that quantity I required, by reason of the necessity of some amongst themselves, whom they supplied before my coming, would not take any Bills for the same, but did what they could freely, wishing their store had been such as they might in greater measure have expressed their own love, and supplied our necessities, for which they sorrowed, provoking one another to the utmost of their abilities: which although it were not much amongst so many people as were at the Plantation, yet through the provident and discreet care of the Governors, recovered and preserved strength till our own crop on the I ground was ready.

Having dispatched there, I returned home with all speed convenient, where I found the state of the Colony much weaker than when I left it: for till now we were never without some bread, the want whereof much abated the strength and flesh of some, and swelled others. But here it may be said, if the Country abound with Fish and Fowl in such measure as is reported, how could men undergo such measure of hardness, except through their own negligence? I answer; Every thing must be expected in its proper season. No man, as one saith, will go into an Orchard in the Winter to gather Cherries: so he that looks for Fowl there in the Summer, will be deceived in his expectation. The time they continue in plenty with us, is from the beginning of October to the end of March: but these extremities befell us in May and June. I confess that as the Fowl decrease, so Fish increase. And indeed their exceeding abundance was great cause of increasing our wants. For though our Bay and Creeks were full of Bass, and other fish, yet for want of fit and strong seines, and other netting, they for the most part brake through and carried all away before them. And though the Sea were full of Cod, yet we had neither tackling nor hawsers for our Shallops. And indeed had we not been in a place where divers sorts of shell-fish are that may be taken with the hand, we must have perished, unless God had raised some unknown or extraordinary means for our preservation.

In the time of these straits (indeed before my going to Monhiggan) the Indians began again to cast forth many insulting speeches, glorying in our weakness, and giving out how easy it would be ere long to cut us off. Now also Massasoit seemed to frown on us, and neither came or sent to us as formerly. These things occasioned further thoughts of Fortification: And whereas we have a Hill called the Mount, enclose within our pale, under which our Town is seated, we resolved to erect a Fort thereon, from whence a few might easily secure the Town from any assault the Indians can make, whilest the rest might be employed as occasion served. This work was begun with great eagerness, and with the approbation of all men, hoping that this being once finished, and a continual guard there kept, it would utterly discourage the Savages from having any hopes or thoughts of rising against us. And though it took the greatest part of our strength from dressing our come, yet (life being continued) we hoped God would raise some means in stead thereof for our further preservation.

dividing bar

Project Home PageArchive Home Page

Excerpts from The Times of Their Lives

Tributes to Jim Deetz (1930-2000)

Last Modified: December 14, 2007

© 2000-2007 Copyright and All Rights Reserved by
Patricia Scott Deetz and Christopher Fennell