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Previous European Trading in New England
A brief look at the previous trading ventures and the items which were traded to the native people in New England, and especially in southeastern Massachusetts is necessary to understand the trading situation which was being entered into by the Plimoth colonists. Once previous trading voyages are understood, the choice of Manamet/ Aptucxet for the first trading house of the Colony can be more fully understood.
The first recorded trading encounter in New England occurred in 1524 and involved the Florentine sailor Giovanni da Verrazano who was sailing for France. Verrazanno arrived in Narragansett Bay in April of 1524 and traded with the natives (Parker1968f:14). He stated that the people were apparently unfamiliar with Europeans and were very willing to trade and host the visitors. The natives were first enticed to trade by tossing "some little bells, and glasses and many toys" (Parker1968f:14) to them as they came to Verrazano's ship in their own boats. The Europeans remained in the harbor until early May and Verrazanno stated that of all of the goods they traded to the natives "...they prized most highly the bells, azure (blue) crystals, and other toys to hang in their ears and about their necks; they do not value or care to have silk or gold stuffs, or other kinds of cloth, nor implements of steel or iron." (Parker 1968f: 16). It was also noted that the natives here possessed ornaments of wrought copper which they prized greater than gold. The copper may have come indirectly through trade with natives to the north who traded them from European fishermen or it may have been native copper from the Great Lakes or Bay of Fundy regions.
Leaving Narragansett Bay and traveling to the north, they came to a land where the people did not grow crops, this most likely was around the present area of the Saco River in Maine. Here the crew found that the natives were much more reluctant to have intimate trade with the explorers. "If we wished at any time to traffic with them, they came to the sea shore and stood upon the rocks, from which they lowered down by a cord to our boats beneath whatever they had to barter, continually crying out to us not to come nearer, and instantly demanding from us that which was to be given in exchange; and they took from us only knives, fish hooks and sharpened steel." (Parker1968f:22).
Obviously at this time, the natives in Narragansett Bay accepted trade items from Verrazanno which through European eyes were merely toys and baubles. They had no use for metal knives and appear to have been accepting European objects that enhanced the culture from decorative and probably spiritual aspects. Verrazanno himself writes that they did not want the gold because it was the color that was considered very ordinary, whereas blue (azure) and red were those held in the highest esteem. There was the extra attraction that these items were alien to them and came from strangers from unknown parts. The natives further to the north appear to have had more sustained relations with Europeans and they had moved past the phase where the Europeans instilled a certain sense of wonder. They now appreciated not items that spiritually or decoratively enhanced the culture but rather ones that were of a more functional nature, metal knives and fish hooks.
The next major explorer to visit New England was Bartholomew Gosnold who arrived in Maine in May of 1602. He immediately saw six natives "...in a Basque shallop with mast and saile, an iron grapple, and a kettle of copper...one apparelled with a waistecoat and breeches of black serdge...hose and shoes on his feet..." (Parker1968b:34). It would appear that between the time when Verrazanno had visited Maine and Gosnold's arrival, the natives in the area continued to be outfitted with European merchandise either through trade or other means. Later that month Gosnold arrived at the Elizabeth Islands off Martha's Vinyard. They traded with the first natives they encountered, giving them "certain trifles, as knives, points, and such like, which they much esteemed." (Parker1968b:38). Gosnold's crew, in return for the "trifles" received many different types of furs from animals such as beavers, luzernes, martens, otters, wild-cats, black foxes, conie (rabbitt) skins, deer and seals as well as cedar and sassafras which was much prized as a cure-all in Europe. Of particular note is his description of the great store of copper artifacts which he saw people wearing and using. He said that all of them had
" chaines, earrings or collars of this metall; they head some of their
arrows here with (it), much like our broad arrowheads, very
workmanly made. Their chaines are many hollow pieces semented
together, ech piece of the bignesse of one of our reeds, a finger in
length, ten or twelve of them together on a string, which they wear
about their necks; their collars they weare about their bodies like
bandoliers a handful broad, all hollow pieces, like the other but
shorter, foure hundred pieces in a collar, very fine and evenly set
together. Besides these they have large drinking cups, made like
sculles, and other thinne plates of copper, made much like our boar
head speares, all of which they little esteem, as they offered their
fairest collars or chaines for a knife or trifle....I was desirous to
understand where they had such store of this metall, and made signes
to one of them....who taking a piece of copper in his hand, made a hole
with his finger in the ground, and withall, pointed to the maine from
whence they came." (Parker1968b:44).
The native informant asked by Gosnold as to where they received the copper from was probably either signing that it came from the mainland, possibly he meant through trade with natives or Europeans or he may have been referring to a native historical tale as to the origin of the copper. What is interesting is the great store of copper possessed by the natives and the desire that was present to trade for metal knives. It would appear that between 1524 and 1602 they had begun to see a value in steel knives and they had expanded their use of copper to create beads and arrowheads, whereas in 1524 they were noted as having only breastplates of copper.
Samuel de Champlain, sailing for France, visited the area from Maine to Cape Cod in 1605 and 1606 and while his observations on native hairstyles and dress are invaluable, he says precious little about trade with them. He does state that they traded food such as biscuits and bagatelles as well as knives, paternosters (a religious medal), and trifles to the natives and received furs and tobacco in return (Parker 1968a: 80)
He also reports that he noticed that they were in the habit of stealing what they wanted. This is interesting to note since it is not noted by any of the other earlier explorers to the area. This may have been a result of failing relations between the southeastern New England natives and the Europeans. It appears that relations truly started to become strained when Martin Pring visited in 1603. At this time he stated that they brought along two mastiffs which they would release upon the natives if the English felt threatened (Parker 1968d57). It can be observed that after this rather negative experience with the Europeans only a few years before, the natives in 1605 would feel indifferent about stealing from them. This would symbolize a lack of respect towards the Europeans on the part of the natives, and previous feelings of wonder associated with the Europeans may have become strained by the time of Champlain's voyage.
Captain George Waymouth, in 1605, visited the northern regions of New England, fished and traded for furs. In return for the furs, they gave away many knives, combs, glasses (mirrors), bracelets, brooches, rings, chaines, peacock feathers, a shirt, tobacco pipes, biscuits and sugar candy (Parker1968g:113). Waymouth's visit appears to have gone better than Verrazanno's in 1524 and it also appears that he was well suited to trade with the natives, being stocked with many "trifles" to trade.
The final major trading venture that is recorded for the New England area was the voyage of Captain John Smith in 1614. Smith chronicles his travels in New England and stated the success that he had in fishing and trading. Relating his trading activities in Maine, Smith stated that ".wee got for trifles neer 1100 Bever skinnes, 100 Martins, and neer as many Otters; and most of them within the distance of twenty leagues....but Eastwards our commodities were not esteemed, they (the natives) were so neare the French who affords them better..." (Parker1968e:214). Looking back at the previous traders and explorers to New England, Smith's account strengthens the notion that there are riches in furs and fish to be taken in New England and these can be traded for what was seen as mere "trifles" and "baubles" in the European's eyes.
Generally, trading with New England natives in the century prior to the 1620 colonization initially took the form of a ceremonial exchange of gifts by explorers and the natives contacted. The Europeans with "trifles" and "baubles" consisting of bells and crystals reciprocated gifts of tobacco and skins to early explorers in the southern New England area. The natives in the Maine region were more interested in trading for less symbolic items. Their desire for knives and hatchets would soon come to characterize native to European exchange in New England. Smith states that the natives were shrewd traders favoring whatever trader could offer the best and most desirable merchandise to the natives. If the French had the materials most desired, then the natives would easily leave the English to trade with them and vice versa. This was the situation that would be encountered by the Plimoth colonists upon their arrival and throughout their trading relations with the natives whom they traded.
Trading Agreement in England
The Plymouth colonists needed to find financial backing for the emigration to the New World. Since most of them were not members of the upper class of English society, they needed someone or some group to provide them funding for ships and supplies. Thomas Weston, a trader in the Low Countries of Europe, eventually became interested in the colonists possibly, as McIntyre believes, to settle and provide a permanent post for fishermen in Northern Virginia (McIntyre 1963: 13). He introduced them to the Merchant Adventurers, a group of wealthy London investors in the New World trade. As the agreement was originally stated, the company the colonists formed with the Adventurers was to be a joint stock fund. Each person over the age of 16 was rated at 10 pounds, this was one share and each colonist who furnished himself with 10 pounds of provisions was worth 20 pounds or two shares. The joint stock company would continue for a period of seven years and all profits from " trade, traffick, trucking, working, fishing or an other means...remain in the company until the division." (Morsion 1984:40). By the time of the August 5, 1620 sailing of the Mayflower and the Speedwell, the colonists were already between 1200 and 1600 pounds in debt. Upon reaching the New World, the colony initially attempted to repay their debts by fishing but they found that they could not compete with the fishermen to the north. It was soon decided that trade with the natives would prove to be the means of repayment of the debts to the Merchant Adventurers.
The colonists attempts at trade began with their first face to face meeting with the native inhabitants in March 1621. On Saturday March 16, 1621, the colonists presented to Samoset, the first native to speak to them, a knife, bracelet, and ring and he promised to .."bring with him some of our neighbors, with such beaver skins as the had to truck with us." (Heath 1963:53). When the treaty was affirmed between Massasoit and the English later in the month, Massasoit was given a pair of knives and a copper chain with a "jewel" in it and his brother Quadaquina was given a knife and a "jewel" to hang in his ear (Heath 1963: 192). The colony continued throughout the early months of 1621 to encourage Massasoit and other natives whom they met with, to trade furs to them for what the colonists referred to as trifles; beads, knives, and bracelets.
The colonists made their fist voyage to actively seek out trade, on September 18, 1621, to the Massachusett, around present day Boston (Heath 1963:77). Here they only received a few skins. They sent their first shipment to repay their loan to the backers in November aboard the Fortune. This was a full store of clapboard and two hogsheads of beaver and otter skins. Bradford states that they were at a disadvantage when they initially began their trading here because "neither was their any amongst them that ever saw a beaver skin until they came here and were informed by Squanto." (Morsion 1984:94). The estimated that this first shipment was worth 500 pounds. Unfortunately, a French ship stole the shipment on its way to England (Morsion 1984:107).
Trading continued the next year with a return voyage planned to the Massachusetts Bay natives. It appears that in these early years of the colony, the settlers sphere of trading was limited to the areas around them that could be easily reached in a day or two of sailing. The years 1622 saw the settlers receive their first shipment of trading goods, although it was by somewhat surreptitious means.. The colony was able to dearly purchase a "...store of English-beads (which were then good trade) and some knives..." from an exploration and trading ship that was charting the harbors between Virginia and Cape Cod (Morsion 1984:112). The goods were purchased for the few beaver skins they had in their stores.
The Plymouth settlers soon realized that European goods were not the only items sought for by the natives far to their north. They learned that the natives on the "maine" desired corn and beans as well as European items. As a way of entering into trade with these natives, they began to purchase corn and beans from the native people around Plymouth and Cape Cod. . During one voyage to Cape Cod in 1622 the were able to trade for 26 or 28 hogsheads of corn and beans (Morsion 1984:114). These were to be used by the colonists for their own provisions and also were sometimes traded to the natives to the north for furs that would be sent back to England.
A second, more extended, trading visit to Cape Cod began in October of 1622. At this time Myles Standish and Tisquantum were to lead a party of men on a trading mission to Cape Cod, but Standish fell sick and Bradford took his place. They desired to round the southern tip of Cape Cod and trade for corn on the south side, possibly down into Narragansett Bay (Young 1974:299). Tisquantum was brought along as a guide because he said that he had "twice passed the shoals of Cape Cod, both with English and French." (Young 1974:300). As a result he would have known how to get by the dangerous shoals. Unfortunately, Tisquantum fell sick and died and with no one else able to navigate the shoals, they decided to trade on the northern side of the Cape at Manamet. There he traded for corn and left it there in the charge of the leader, or sachem, of the community, Canacum (Young 1974:305).
Standish and some others went to fetch the corn from Canacum in March of 1623 after he was fully recovered. This party probably traveled as far up the Manoscusset river, at the northern entrance to the present day Cape Cod Canal, as they could and then walked overland to Manamet. It was here that Standish found out that the natives of Cape Cod were in confederacy with those of Wessagusset (Weymouth, Massachusetts) where some other English colonists were abusing natives and provoking them. Later that March, Standish led a force against the natives at Wessagussett and slew several. Those natives on Cape Cod, fearful due to the fact that the English knew that they were in a confederacy with Wessagussett:
" forsook their houses, running to and fro like men distracted, living
in swamps and other desert places, and so brought manifold diseases
amongst themselves, where of very many are dead; as Canacum, the
sachim of Manamet, Aspinet, the sachim of Nauset, and Iyanough,
sachim of Mattachiest...certainly it is strange how many of late have,
and still daily die amongst them....because the fear they set little or no
corn, which is the staff of life, and without which the cannot long
preserve health and strength.... none of them dare to come
amongst us." (Young 1974: 345)
This incident would have seriously affected the native people on Cape Cod. The native economy would have been impacted by the fact that families were not planting corn and they would not have had enough to sustain themselves through the winter, let alone trade with the English. As a result, the English began searching elsewhere for trade.
The spring of 1622 marked the colonists first voyage to the coast of Maine, where they discovered that a vast quantity of furs were to be traded from the natives there (Heath 1963: 293). Eventually, they began using native trade routes that had been established among the Wampanoag and their Abenaki neighbors to bring native corn to those natives who lived north of the Saco River in Maine. These natives had acquired a taste for corn and readily traded for it. When it could not be traded for, they organized raiding parties to travel south to steal it. As early as 1622 some English noted the desire of the natives to acquire the corn for their winter stores (James 1963:19). After this initial foray into Maine, the colonists were not able to further prosecute the trade until 1625.
What they did do was to begin to explore to the south of Cape Cod for the possibility of trade there. Emanuel Altham led their first trading voyage there in 1623 (Altham 1622:99). Altham sailed around Cape Cod into the Narragansett's territory but returned saying that "...that they made a poor voyage of it. Some corne and beaver they got, but the Dutch used to furnish them with clothe and better commodities, having only a few beads and knives, which were not ther much esteemed." (Morsion 1984:139). The western shore of Narragansett Bay appears to have been the furthest south that the English had explored in their search for furs. It would still be a few years until they reached the Connecticut River's rich supply.
By the time of the arrival of the colonists, it appears that the natives in southern New England differed from those encountered by Verrazano with regards to trading. The items traded from Europeans may have no longer held the same mystical, spiritual quality which it did one hundred years earlier. The southeastern New England natives whom the Plymouth colonists encountered were now more like those whom Verrazano traded with in Maine. They knew which types of items they desired from the Europeans and no longer were satisfied with baubles. They now desired metal tools and "useful" items more often with beads and bracelets remaining as trade items of lesser value. Some natives also appear to felt it was acceptable to take what they wanted from the colonists, if they could get away with it. In 1623, Winslow recorded that while Standish was on a trading mission at Cape Cod, beads, scissors and other "trifels" were stolen out of his ship (Heath 1963: 304). This incident shows the types of items that the colonists had to trade. The natives were in the position to trade with whomever they desired and often times this meant the Dutch. This was due to the fact that the Dutch were better supplied for trade. The colonists often complained to their backers in England that they were not being supplied with any good items to trade to the natives, and how could they expect to repay their debts without them (Morsion 1984:99).
The first big break for the colonists in their search for furs appears to have occurred in 1625 with a very successful trading voyage to the Kennebec River in Maine:
"After harvest this year, they sent out a boat's load of corn 40 or 50 leagues
to the eastward, up a river called Kennebec.....God preserved them and gave
them good success, for they brought home 700 pounds of beaver, besides
some other furs, having little or nothing else but this corn which themselves
had raised...." (Morsion 1984:178).
Also in 1625, the Merchant Adventurers in England broke up because they did not see any profit to be made in the colony (Morsion 1984:165). This left the Plantation without any financial backing from England. The reasons why the colony was not turning a profit at this time had to do with the losses they encountered when sending goods back to England. Bradford stated that " the many losses and crosses at sea, and abuses of seamen, which have caused us to run into so much charge, debts, and engagements as our estates and means were not able to go on without impoverishing ourselves." (Morsion 1984: 173). The Adventurers were charging the colonists 40% interest to carry goods to the colony and 30% interest to return to England, in total the colony was paying 70% interest on the goods they received and sent (Morsion 1984: 175).
The losses and crosses cited by Bradford included two ships that were lost in 1625. One had been fishing and was ordered to go to Bilboa or Sebastians to sell their fish. It was stated that the haul of fish from the two ships would have brought them 1800 pounds sterling, but the largest of the ships put in at Plymouth, England for fear of the French war and they made hardly anything on the venture (Morison 1984:176). The smaller ship, which carried fish and 800 pounds of beaver and other furs, was taken off of Plymouth, England by a Turkish pirate ship and lost (Morsion 1984: 176).
The next year Allerton was sent to the few remaining Adventurers to secure a deal that would ensure the colony would not be lost by their lack of support in England. This was a continuation of the negotiations that were begun there by Standish the previous year (Morsion 1984:177). Allerton was commissioned with securing much needed provisions and trade goods for the colony at the same time. While he was away, the colony received word that a plantation at Mohegan was breaking up and that they were selling off their goods. The colony saw this as an opportunity to purchase trade goods and Bradford, Winslow and David Thompson of Piscataqua traveled there (Morsion 1984: 181). The total cost for the goods came to 400 pound sterling. It is not known what was purchased from this plantation. The colony also discovered that a French ship had been cast away at Sagadahoc (Kennebec River) in which were many Biscay rugs and other goods that had fallen into the hands of some fishermen at Damariscove. These were bought with Thompson for 500 pound sterling, and were mostly paid with beaver furs and goods which were trade the winter before (Morsion 1984: 182). Bradford states that "With these goods and their corn after harvest, they got good store of trade, so as they were enabled to pay their engagments against the time, and to get some clothing for the people." (Morsion 1984: 182).
The year 1627 represented a pivotal year in the colonists trading ventures in New England. The colony's seven-year contract with their London backers, the Adventurers, came to an end in this year. The settlers were to have paid back their backers by this time and would have been free from their debts. But, because of Isaac Allerton's unscrupulous business tactics, the colonists no longer owed several hundred pounds, they now owed 1800 pounds to the Adventurers. Bradford, Standish and Allerton decided to become Undertakers of the Plymouth colony in order to undertake the payment of this debt. The management of trade was no new matter to the Pilgrims. They had decided when they first landed that they would pursue trade for the purpose of paying off the debts. To this end, in 1623 when the Anne landed with more colonists, those in Plymouth told the newcomers what the rules were for living there. The fourth rule stated was "That (according to the agreement the merchants made with them before the came) they are to be wholy debared from all trade with the Indeans for all sorts of furrs, and such like commodities, till the time of the communallitie be ended." (Morsion 1984:129).
Allerton returned in 1627 with trade goods and a new agreement from the Adventurers (Morsion 1984: 185). The Adventurers responsibilities to the colony were to cease and the colony needed to only pay the 1800 pounds sterling owed to them and their debt would be considered paid. The chief men of the colony and eight others who had joined together for the discharge of the debt, supported the proposition. These men were William Bradford, Myles Standish, William Brewster, John Howland, John Alden, and Thomas Prence and they were known as the Undertakers (McIntyre 1963:47).
These Undertakers then reorganized the colony so that all free men would have a single share in the undertaking and every father was able to purchase as many shares as there were people in his family (Morsion 1984: 187). This essentially meant that all of the settlers in the colony could not leave until the debt was paid off, although many of them had hoped that after their seven years together the would have been now free to strike out on their own and leave the palisaded village. This trading partnership was to last for six full years beginning in September of 1627.
Once it was agreed that trade would be pursued the next problem was where to locate the site for the pinass to be built. They did state that " The chief places aimed at (for trade) were to the southward of Cape Cod." (Heath 1963: 299). The problem was that the shoals of Cape Cod did not allow them to pass easily to their south. The fact that they were not having a great deal of luck with their trading thus far, leads to the question of where to build a trading house. A strategic location was selected at the southern mouth of what is now the Cape Cod Canal on the Manomet River and :
"They resolved to build a small pinass at Manamet, a place 20. mile
from the plantation, standing on the sea to the southward of them,
unto which by another creeke on this side, they could cary their goods,
with 4. or 5 miles, and then transport them overland to their vessell:
and so avoyd the compasing of the Cap-Codd, and those dangerous
shoulds, and so make the voyage to the southward in much shorter time,
and with farr less danger. Also for the saftie of their vessell & goods, they
builte a house their, and kept some servants, who also planted corne, and
reared some swine, and were always ready to goe out with the barke when
ther was occassion." (Morsion 1984:193).
One of the problems with the location of the house at Manamet is the actual boundary of Manamet in the 1600s. What the Pilgrims referred to as "Manamet" was a large tract of land that was utilized by the native people of that village. The location of what the natives knew as Manamet and what the English recognized as such is important to note. Wampanoag village names seem to have referred to specific features of the natural environment to identify them. The name Manamet has been interpreted to mean" the place of the burden carriers", "the place of the watch tower", and "the place where there is a way between". The most likely interpretation may refer to a place where there is a watchtower or high promontory. This is believed because the area of White Horse Beach in present-day Plymouth, was also called Manamet. White Horse beach is at the bottom of a high cliff that in past times may have been used by the natives to watch for European ships. There is no reason why this area would have a name associated with carrying burdens or ways between.
On Cape Cod, Manamet referred to "Frenchmans Point" in present day Bourne. The village itself probably stretched from Buzzards Bay possibly to Cape Cod Bay. This would have encompassed both the Manamet river, which empties into Buzzards Bay, and the Monoscusset River, which empties into Cape Cod Bay. The principle summer quarters may have been at Frenchmans Point and the winter quarters at Herring Pond and Bournedale. This would have been an ideal place for a village, located between two navigable rivers, they could control access across to Cape Cod from the mainland. The main seat of the village that the colonist visited was probably in present day Bournedale.
The first reference that the Plimoth colonists make to Manamet was near the end of July in 1621. At this time a young boy by the name of John Billington became lost in the woods outside of the plantation and eventually ended up at Manamet. Both Bradford and Winslow relate these events (Morsion 1984: 87, Young 1974: 217). Canacum, the sachem of Manamet, sent the boy to Aspinet, the sachem of Nauset (present day Eastham). From this trip, Winslow described Manamet as thus:
"This town lieth from us south, well near twenty miles and stands upon
a fresh river...It will bear a boat of eight or ten tons to this place.
Hither the Dutch or French or both use to come. It is from hence to
the bay of Cape Cod eight miles out of which bay it floweth into a
creek some six miles almost direct to the town. The heads of the river
and the creek are not far distant." (Young 1974:307).
This report fully supports the idea that the town lay between the two rivers at Bournedale. If the distances given by Winslow are compared to a modern map, then the present location is very near the present day Sagamore Bridge and Bournedale. The fresh river referred to by Winslow was the Manamet River and the creek that flowed to the town was the Monoscusset (Scusset). Support for the translation of Manamet as the place of the watchtower comes from Winslows statement that the French and Dutch would come there to trade. The natives may have either erected a watchtower, or more likely used the a high point to watch for them in the spring.
Post-1627 Expansion of Trade
The situation concerning the colony's trade after 1627 was a very complicated matter. During the next ten years, various scandals involving Isaac Allerton's designs and an increased number of trading posts, created a complicated story. It was one that focused on Maine and Connecticut and left out the trading house at Aptucxet. This was probably due to the fact that the trading house at Manamet ceased to exist shortly after its creation.
The year 1628 saw a large shipment of otter skins being shipped out of Plymouth and bound for England. This shipment was made up of 220 otter skins, a few mink and a few muskrat with a total value of 78 pounds 12 shillings (Morsion 1984:197). This was one of the largest shipments of furs to actually make it to England in the 1620s. Allerton traveled to England again this year to prevail upon Mr. James Sherley to lessen the interest rates which the colony was being charged and it was agreed upon that if Sherley, Mr. Andrews, and Mr. Beauchamp were allowed to be stock holders in the company, they would eliminate the interest owed to them (Morsion 1984: 198). The Undertakers, who were willing to do almost anything to lessen the interest, readily agreed to this. They now felt that with Sherley as their London agent they could be guaranteed fair rates.
When Allerton returned to the colony in the spring he brought with him their supplies and goods for trade. The supplies he brought this time offer a glimpse into the needs of the plantation: shoes, leather, cloth and Irish stockings, pitch, tar, ropes, twine, knives, scissors, rowel (sic), rudge (coarse thick woolen cloth), lead, shot, powder, hatchets, hoes, axes, scythes, reaphooks, shovels, spades, saws, files, nails, iron pots, drugs and spices all amounting to 232 pounds sterling (Morsion 1984:200).
Allerton returned to England a second time this year and this time he returned with such a great deal of personal goods which were mixed with the colony's that Bradford stated that they truly began to dislike the course he was following (Morsion 1984:211). Most importantly for the plantation, Allerton brought the patent that the colony desired to set up a trading house on the Kennebec. Allerton had to return to England many times to enlarge and finalize it. The colony now erected a trading house on the Kennebec at the site of present day Augusta, Maine called Cushnoc. They "furnished the same with commodities as the fishermen had traded with them as coats, shirts, rugs and blankets, biscuit, peas, prunes, etc. And what they could not have out of England, they bought of the fishing ships..." (Morsion 1984:221). The expansion of the trade away from the colony to Maine was a pivotal step for the colonists. They recognized the vast potential for obtaining furs in this area and appeared to have focused all of their trading energies in Maine. The house at Aptucxet may have been abandoned at this time as it truly served no real purpose. The only use the house may have served is to obtain the wampumpeag beads from the Pequots and Narragansetts, or the colony may have obtained them from the Dutch. As Bradford stated when de Rasiere visited in 1627, it took them two years to trade away the wampumpeag they had been given by the Dutch, they did not view it as a hot commodity at the time. At the end of the year, Allerton returned to England to enlarge the patent because it was so poorly bound.
The year 1629 began with the colonists still not knowing about their patent to the Kennebec. It appears that Allerton was using his position as a go between with the backers, primarily Mr. Sherley, in England, as a means to further his own ends. The second installment on the Undertaker's debt was paid in this year (Morsion 1984:214). Allerton's dealing with the colony became even bolder in 1629, as he pushed the limits of the plantation's patience to extremes. He brought back Thomas Morton who the colonists had rousted out of his settlement at Merry Mount (Quincy) the previous year because he was instructing the natives in the use of firearms (Morsion 1984:204). Allerton went so far as to use Morton as his scribe within his house in the Plymouth (Morsion 1984:216). Allerton again brought many goods back from England which he sold for his own profit, charging the freight cost to the colony.
One of the most heinous actions on Allerton's part was to bring a Mr. Ashley who was " ...a very profane young man, and he had for some time lived among the Indians as a savage and went naked amongst them and used their manners, in which time he got their language." (Morsion 1984: 219). It appears that Allerton and Ashley desired to establish a trading house on the Kennebec further up the river from the plantation's trading house and cut off the trade from the colony (Morsion 1984: 220). After landing at Penobscot, in Maine, Ashley had the audacity to ask the colony for a store of wampumpeag and corn to establish himself and even asked the colony if they would join with him in the trading. The colony felt that the whole idea was Allerton's and, so as not to offend Mr. Sherley, who liked Ashley, they joined with him and sent Thomas Willet to look after Ashley (Morsion 1984:219). Allerton's intentions to make this trading house prosper over the colony's became obvious when, instead of delivering the trading goods he had brought back from England to the colony, he delivered them to Ashley (Morsion 1984: 220). The colony was forced to buy goods from fishermen and to buy cotton and kerseys, because they had no trading cloth, from Allerton. Allerton's final deal of the year was to procure a bargain load of salt from some fishermen in Maine, which he wanted to sell the salt immediately for approximately 113 pounds sterling (Morsion 1984:221). Winslow came up with the idea of storing the salt in Maine and building drying stages there. What they would then do was to hire a fishing ship from the West Country of England to come fishing there, fill the hold with trade goods such as bread, peas and cloth and have them come to the salt (Morsion 1984: 221). This would save them the freight charges. It seemed to be a worthwhile idea that would profit the colony. Unfortunately Allerton had other plans which again undermined them.
Allerton was sent back to England at the end of the year to secure a fishing ship to implement the plan. He sent the ship the Friendship back to utilize the salt but the ship was filled with two packs of Barnstaple rugs and two hogshead of metheglin (a fermented herb drink) when it arrived at Plymouth (Morsion 1984: 228). It seems that the captain was given instructions by Allerton to land at Saco and in Boston and unload most of the cargo on the ship (Morsion 1984:230). Allerton had purchased these goods for settlers in the Massachusetts Bay colony. Allerton also purchased a fishing ship called the White Angel with the Colony's funds which he desired to use to pursue bass fishing (Morsion 1984:229). Bradford responded to this by stating that "Bass fishing was never looked at by them....they looked at it as a vain thing, that would certainly turn a loss." (Morison 1984:229). The Colony directly told Allerton this when they saw him next. Allerton responded by selling off many of the goods on the White Angel for beaver and bought linen, cloth, bed ticks, stockings, tape, pins, rugs, and other goods for the colony presumably at higher rates that if he had purchased these goods in England (Morsion 1984:231). At the same time Allerton said that if the Colony felt these goods were not sufficient compensation, he would take them.
Mr. Sherley in England saw nothing amiss with Allerton's behavior and he even wrote to the Colony and told them that Allerton had fulfilled and even superseded his obligations by not just hiring a fishing ship, but buying a fishing and trading ship for the Colony's use (Morsion 1984:230). The Colony now saw "..plainly that Mr. Allerton played his own game and ran a course not only to the great wrong and detriment of the Plantation who employed and trusted him, but abused them in England also in possessing them with prejudice against the Plantation, as that they would never be able to repay their moneys, in regard to their great charge." (Morsion 1984:232). Debate would now have begun in Plymouth as to what shall be finally done with Allerton. Winslow had been told the previous year that if he felt that Allerton was not prosecuting their cause that he had the power to fire him, and now, serious solutions were sought.
Meanwhile, Allerton went bass fishing and had a new plan to make the Colony money. He felt that he could load the White Angel with fish and then travel to Oporto, Portugal and sell the whole thing (Morsion 1984: 232). The Colony said no, but it shows how far reaching connections with European countries could be.
Allerton's associate Ashley in Maine had been undermining the Colony's position there. Early in the year he had gathered together his first load of beaver, half of which belonged to the Colony, and shipped it to England for his own profit. He was furnished with more and better trade goods in England by Sherley at Allerton's insistence and was better stocked than Plymouth (Morsion 1984:233). Late that year, Plymouth's man Willet arrested Ashley for selling powder and shot to the natives (Morsion 1984:232). Ashley was sent back to England and then went to Russia to follow the beaver trade there, and died on a trip back to England from Russia (Morison 1984: 233). Plymouth now had control over the trading houses in Maine. This is very suggestive that they, now more than ever, would focus their attention north rather than south and west for trade. If one considers that fact that they knew that they could make a profit in Maine but were hampered from doing so by a lack of trade goods from 1628-1630, then it would be logical that they would have taken their goods and labor from Aptucxet and sent it to Maine . This would have allowed them to initially battle Allerton and Sherley for the trade and to attempt to turn a profit where it was obvious more profits were to be made.
1631 opened with Allerton being discharged from his employment for the Colony (Morsion 1984:237). Edward Winslow initially filled the position, and his younger brother Josiah later took over. Allerton's commission was now demanded of him as it had been in 1629, when he was initially suspected (Morsion 1984: 238). Allerton first said that it was among his papers and he would give it to them before he went, he then said that he would send it by boat from the eastward (from the north), but he could not find it and would find it while he was on a ship to England. It somehow ended up in England in the hands of Sherley who would not release it (Morsion 1984: 238).
The trouble with Allerton was far from over. It was determined that Allerton owned the White Angel and the whole story with this ship and the Friendship was finally straitened out (Morsion 1984: 241). Business now turned to Allerton's account books. It took two to three years to disentangle the logic of the books and it found that he had also "screwed up" his father-in-law Elder Brewster's accounts (Morison 1984 :242). Once all was said and done the Colony determined that it owed 4770 pounds 19 shillings 2 pence sterling and 1000 pounds for purchases yet unpaid (Morsion 1984: 243). This was up from the 400 pound sterling they owed in 1628. The Colony realized that Sherley was also to blame, for it was found that he had charged some things twice, once in the Colony and once in England. They also realized that the situation concerning the obtaining of the patent was just a ruse between Allerton and Sherley to have a pretense for Allerton coming to England (Morsion 1984: 243). Allerton had now wholly deserted them and was selling goods to any that would buy from him. Concurrently he established a trading house further up the Penobscot river from the Colony's other trading houses to supplant the trade there (Morsion 1984: 244). The French attacked this house with two traders being killed and the goods and the rest of the men being carried to France. The French then moved further down the Penobscot and attacked the Colony's trading house and carried away 300 pounds sterling in beaver and 100-200 pounds sterling in trading goods such as coats, rugs, blankets and biscuit (Morsion 1984: 246). It is interesting to note that wampumpeag was not listed among the lists of trade goods stolen.
After Allerton had been dismissed, the Colony's trading future and the prospect of paying off their debts seemed very hopeful. Bradford echoed these sentiments when he stated "Though the partners were thus plunged into great engagements and oppressed with unjust debts, yet the Lord prospered their trading, that they made yearly large returns and had soon wound themselves out of all if yet they had otherwise been well dealt withal..." (Morsion 1984:252). Plymouth grew and with the founding and prosperity of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth prospered by the trade in corn and cattle to them. Towns were founded to the north of Plymouth; Duxbury, Marshfield and Kingston. The Colony had one of their first large shipments of beaver to England this year as well with 800 pounds of beaver and some otter skins shipped out on the Lyon which arrived in Boston in September (Morsion 1984:254).
The following year, 1633, Plymouth Colony ventured upon a trading house on the Connecticut River. "Having had formerly converse and familiarity with the Dutch ...they seeing them seated here in a barren quarter (for trade), told them of a river called by them the Fresh River, but is now known by the name of the Connecticut River, which they often commended unto them for a fine place both for a plantation and trade, and wished them to make use of it." (Morsion 1984:257). The colony viewed the land and met with the Mohegan who wished them to settle and trade there to be allies against the Pequot. They seated themselves in such a way as to be able to receive the trade from the inland since there was no great trade on the coast.
Trade continued for the next two years but was not commented on to any extent by Bradford and the next year we have details of the trading ventures is 1636. This year it was decided that no more beaver was to be sent to England until they had come to a final agreement with their partners in London (Morsion 1984:288). They had sent 1150 pounds of beaver, 200 otter skins, 55 minks, and 2 black foxes at the end of the 1635 but this was to the last shipment for a while (Morsion 1984: 286). Presumably they had continued to be unfairly treated by their merchants and desired to have the matter settled. Bradford also states that there was a great sickness in London at the time and the merchants there could not deal with a great influx of skins (Morison 1984:288).
Trade between the Dutch and the Colony continued through this time. A Dutchman came to the colony from the Dutch West Indies Company in New Netherlands and gave them a good store of trading goods such as Dutch roll (tobacco), kettles and other goods totaling 500 pounds sterling (Morsion 1984: 286). Later in the year it appears that they were able to resume sending shipments to England. They sent 1809 pounds of Beaver, 10 otter skins at one time and 719 pounds of beaver and 199 otter skins at another time (Morsion 1984: 286). The magnitude of the number of skins sent back to England between the years of 1631 and 1636 can be seen in Bradford's tallying of their shipments:
Date sent Beaver (lbs) Otter skins
November 18, 1631 400 lbs 20
July 13, 1632 348 lbs 147
1633 3366lbs 346
1634 3738lbs 234
1635 1150lbs 200
June 24, 1636 1809lbs 10
1636 719lbs 199
Total 12,150lbs 1156 skins
The prices for the various skins fluctuated throughout those years, but Bradford calculated that they had sent close to 10,000 pounds sterling worth of beaver and the otter skins were used to pay the freight costs for shipping (Morsion 1984: 289). By the end of the year, the Colony felt that their debts were paid off. The main reason this was accomplished was that they had a new accountant without selfish interests (Morsion 1984:289).
The formal end of the trade was acknowledged by Bradford to have occurred in 1638. At this time cattle and corn were selling for high rates and Plymouth Colony was supplying Massachusetts Bay Colony with much of their needs "...so as other trading began to be neglected, and the old partners (having now forbidden Mr. Sherley to send them anymore goods) broke off their trade at Kennebec and, as things stood, would follow it no longer. But some of them, with other they joined with, being loath it should be lost by discontinuance, agreed with the company for it and gave them about a sixth part of their gains for it..." (Morsion 1984: 302).
Synopsis of the Aptucxet Houses Position 1621-1638
The position of the trading house at Aptucxet within the scheme of the trading ventures of the colony between 1621 and 1638 can be summarized as follows. Early in the Colony's trading experience they were limited by their uncertainty of the country and of the natives of other areas amiability for trade to remain with fairly close proximity of their Plantation. Ventures were fairly frequent into Massachusetts Bay and down to Cape Cod and occasionally they traveled to present day Maine, but they remained within the safety of a day or twos journey from the Plantation. The increase of interaction with the natives and their mounting debts encouraged them to formalize their trade relations.
As a result of this they constructed their first trading house in an area fairly familiar to them, in Manamet on Cape Cod. This house was established to go into Narragansett Bay to search for the source of wampumpeag and suckahock, which they had learned over the first few years was very valued by the natives in these southern parts, and that the Pequot and Narragansett were the primary makers of it. They desired to take these beads and bring them to the north to trade with the natives in the fur rich regions. The Aptucxet house was to act as a station to trade the beads from the southern natives and supply them to Plymouth. It does not appear that trade in furs with the natives in their immediate area was considered a profitable venture.
The arrival of the Dutch in 1627 may have supplanted their utilization of the Aptucxet house. The Dutch desired to be the suppliers of the beads to the Colony, there by eliminating the need for exploration into the southern regions. The Colony appears to have reacted to this arrangement favorably, although it took them two years to trade away the beads. With the need for the Aptucxet house supplanted by the Dutch, the house may have been abandoned within a year or two of its erection. Trading now focused on the northern regions and they began to turn a profit. Trading did not begin to be considered in the southern regions again until 1633 when the settlement of the Connecticut region began. Two years later the house which is referred to as having "belonged" to the Plantation at Aptucxet was destroyed by a hurricane.
The thoroughness which Bradford recorded details in his journal causes one to wonder why, after the house at Aptucxet was erected, do we not hear anything of it until it was destroyed. One reason may be that the events just described would have caused it to have been of no importance long before it was destroyed and as a result there was no need to speak of it.
Craig S. Chartier