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Margaret Smith's Journal

In the Province of Massachusetts Bay.


Boston, May 8, 1678.
I remember I did promise my kind Cousin Oliver (whom I pray God to have always ill his keeping), when I parted with him nigh unto three months ago, at mine Uncle Grindall's, that, on coming to this new country, I would, for his sake and perusal, keep a little journal of whatsoever did happen both unto myself and unto those with whom I might sojourn; as also, some account of the country and its marvels, and mine own cogitations thereon. So I this day make a beginning of the same; albeit, as my cousin well knoweth, not from any vanity of authorship, or because of any undue confiding in my poor ability to edify one justly held in repute among the learned, but because my heart tells me that what I write, be it ever so faulty, will be read by the partial eye of my kinsman, and not with the critical observance of the scholar, and that his love will not find it difficult to excuse what offends his clerkly judgment. And, to embolden me withal, I will never forget that I am writing for mine old playmate at hide-and-seek in the farm-house at Hilton,—the same who used to hunt after flowers for me in the [10] spring, and who did fill my apron with hazel-nuts in the autumn, and who was then, I fear, little wiser than his still foolish cousin, who, if she hath not since learned so many new things as himself, hath perhaps remembered more of the old. Therefore, without other preface, I will begin my record

Of my voyage out I need not write, as I have spoken of it in my letters already, and it greatly irks me to think of it. Oh, a very long, dismal time of sickness and great discomforts, and many sad thoughts of all I had left behind, and fears of all I was going to meet in the New England! I can liken it only to an ugly dream. When we got at last to Boston, the sight of the land and trees, albeit they were exceeding bleak and bare (it being a late season, and nipping cold), was like unto a vision of a better world. As we passed the small wooded islands, which make the bay very pleasant, and entered close upon the town, and saw the houses, and orchards, and meadows, and the hills beyond covered with a great growth of wood, my brother, lifting up both of his hands, cried out, ‘How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy habitations, O Israel!’ and for my part I did weep for joy and thankfulness of heart, that God had brought us safely to so fair a haven. Uncle and Aunt Rawson met us on the wharf, and made us very comfortable at their house, which is about half a mile from the water-side, at the foot of a hill, with an oaken forest behind it, to shelter it from the north wind, which is here very piercing. Uncle is Secretary of the Massachusetts, and spends a great part of his time in town; and his [11] wife and family are with him in the winter season, but they spend their summers at his plantation on the Merrimac River, in Newbury. His daughter, Rebecca, is just about my age, very tall and ladylooking; she is like her brother John, who was at Uncle Hilton's last year. She hath, moreover, a pleasant wit, and hath seen much goodly company, being greatly admired by the young men of family and distinction in the Province. She hath been very kind to me, telling me that she looked upon me as a sister. I have been courteously entertained, moreover, by many of the principal people, both of the reverend clergy and the magistracy. Nor must I forbear to mention a visit which I paid with Uncle and Aunt Rawson at the house of an aged magistrate of high esteem and influence in these parts. He saluted me courteously, and made inquiries concerning our family, and whether I had been admitted into the Church. On my telling him that I had not, he knit his brows, and looked at me very sternly.

Mr. Rawson,’ said he, ‘your niece, I fear me, has much more need of spiritual adorning than of such gewgaws as these,’ and took hold of my lace ruff so hard that I heard the stitches break; and then he pulled out my sleeves, to see how wide they were, though they were only half an ell. Madam ventured to speak a word to encourage me, for she saw I was much abashed and flustered, yet he did not heed her, but went on talking very loud against the folly and the wasteful wantonness of the times. Poor Madam is a quiet, sickly-looking woman, and seems not a little in awe of her husband, [12] at the which I do not marvel, for he hath a very impatient, forbidding way with him, and, I must say, seemed to carry himself harshly at times towards her. Uncle Rawson says he has had much to try his temper; that there have been many and sore difficulties in Church as well as State; and he hath bitter enemies, in some of the members of the General Court, who count him too severe with the Quakers and other disturbers and ranters. I told him it was no doubt true; but that I thought it a bad use of the Lord's chastenings to abuse one's best friends for the wrongs done by enemies; and, that to be made to atone for what went ill in Church or State, was a kind of vicarious suffering that, if I was in Madam's place, I should not bear with half her patience and sweetness.

Ipswich, near Agawam, May 12.
We set out day before yesterday on our journey to Newbury. There were eight of us,—Rebecca Rawson and her sister, Thomas Broughton, his wife, and their man-servant, my brother Leonard and myself, and young Robert Pike, of Newbury, who had been to Boston on business, his father having great fisheries in the river as well as the sea. He is, I can perceive, a great admirer of my cousin, and indeed not without reason; for she hath in mind and person, in her graceful carriage and pleasant discourse, and a certain not unpleasing waywardness, as of a merry child, that which makes her company sought of all. Our route the first day lay through the woods and along the borders [13] of great marshes and meadows on the seas shore. We came to Linne at night, and stopped at the house of a kinsman of Robert Pike's,—a man of some substance and note in that settlement. We were tired and hungry, and the supper of warm Indian bread and sweet milk relished quite as well as any I ever ate in the Old Country. The next day we went on over a rough road to Wenham, through Salem, which is quite a pleasant town. Here we stopped until this morning, when we again mounted our horses, and reached this place, after a smart ride of three hours. The weather in the morning was warm and soft as our summer days at home; and, as we rode through the woods, where the young leaves were fluttering, and the white blossoms of the wind-flowers, and the blue violets and the yellow blooming of the cowslips in the low grounds, were seen on either hand, and the birds all the time making a great and pleasing melody in the branches, I was glad of heart as a child, and thought if my beloved friends and Cousin Oliver were only with us, I could never wish to leave so fair a country.

Just before we reached Agawam, as I was riding a little before my companions, I was startled greatly by the sight of an Indian. He was standing close to the bridle-path, his half-naked body partly hidden by a clump of white birches, through which he looked out on me with eyes like two live coals. I cried for my brother and turned my horse, when Robert Pike came up and bid me be of cheer, for he knew the savage, and that he was friendly. Whereupon, he bade him come out of [14] the bushes, which he did, after a little parley. He was a tall man, of very fair and comely make, and wore a red woollen blanket with beads and small clam-shells jingling about it. His skin was swarthy, not black like a Moor or Guinea-man, but of a color not unlike that of tarnished copper coin. He spake but little, and that in his own tongue, very harsh and strange-sounding to my ear. Robert Pike tells me that he is Chief of the Agawams, once a great nation in these parts, but now quite small and broken. As we rode on, and from the top of a hill got a fair view of the great sea off at the east, Robert Pike bade me notice a little bay, around which I could see four or five small, peaked huts or tents, standing just where the white sands of the beach met the green line of grass and bushes of the uplands.

‘There,’ said he, ‘are their summer-houses, which they build near unto their fishing-grounds and corn-fields. In the winter they go far back into the wilderness, where game is plenty of all kinds, and there build their wigwams in warm valleys thick with trees, which do serve to shelter them from the winds.’

‘Let us look into them,’ said I to Cousin Rebecca; ‘it seems but a stone's throw from our way.’

She tried to dissuade me, by calling them a dirty, foul people; but seeing I was not to be put off, she at last consented, and we rode aside down the hill, the rest following. On our way we had the misfortune to ride over their corn-field; at the which, two or three women and as many boys set [15] up a yell very hideous to hear; whereat Robert Pike came up, and appeased them by giving them some money and a drink of Jamaica spirits, with which they seemed vastly pleased. I looked into one of their huts; it was made of poles like unto a tent, only it was covered with the silver-colored bark of the birch, instead of hempen stuff. A bark mat, braided of many exceeding brilliant colors, covered a goodly part of the space inside; and from the poles we saw fishes hanging, and strips of dried meat. On a pile of skins in the corner sat a young woman with a child a-nursing; they both looked sadly wild and neglected; yet had she withal a pleasant face, and as she bent over her little one, her long, straight, and black hair falling over him, and murmuring a low and very plaintive melody, I forgot everything save that she was a woman and a mother, and I felt my heart greatly drawn towards her. So, giving my horse in charge, I ventured in to her, speaking as kindly as I could, and asking to see her child. She understood me, and with a smile held up her little papoose, as she called him,—who, to say truth, I could not call very pretty. He seemed to have a wild, shy look, like the offspring of an untamed animal. The woman wore a blanket, gaudily fringed, and she had a string of beads on her neck. She took down a basket, woven of white and red willows, and pressed me to taste of her bread; which I did, that I might not offend her courtesy by refusing. It was not of ill taste, although so hard one could scarcely bite it, and was made of corn meal unleavened, mixed with a dried berry, which gives it [16] a sweet flavor. She told me, in her broken way, that the whole tribe now numbered only twentyfive men and women, counting out the number very fast with yellow grains of corn, on the corner of her blanket. She was, she said, the youngest woman in the tribe; and her husband, Peckanaminet, was the Indian we had met in the bridles path. I gave her a pretty piece of ribbon, and an apron for the child; and she thanked me in her manner, going with us on our return to the path; and when I had ridden a little onward, I saw her husband running towards us; so, stopping my horse, I awaited until he came up, when he offered me a fine large fish, which he had just caught, in acknowledgment, as I judged, of my gift to his wife. Rebecca and Mistress Broughton laughed, mad bid him take the thing away; but I would not suffer it, and so Robert Pike took it, and brought it on to our present tarrying place, where truly it hath made a fair supper for us all. These poor heathen people seem not so exceeding bad as they have been reported; they be like unto ourselves, only lacking our knowledge and opportunities, which, indeed, are not our own to boast of, but gifts of God, calling for humble thankfulness, and daily prayer and watchfulness, that they be rightly improved.

Newbury on the Merrimac, May 14, 1678.
We were hardly on our way yesterday, from Agawam, when a dashing young gallant rode up very fast behind us. He was fairly clad in rich stuffs, and rode a nag of good mettle. He saluted [17] us with much ease and courtliness, offering especial compliments to Rebecca, to whom he seemed well known, and who I thought was both glad and surprised at his coining. As I rode near, she said it gave her great joy to bring to each other's acquaintance, Sir Thomas Hale, a good friend of her father's, and her cousin Margaret, who, like himself, was a new-comer. He replied, that he should look with favor on any one who was near to her in friendship or kindred; and, on learning my father's name, said he had seen him at his uncle's, Sir Matthew Hale's, many years ago, and could vouch for him as a worthy man. After some pleasant and merry discoursing with us, he and my brother fell into converse upon the state of affairs in the Colony, the late lamentable war with the Narragansett and Pequod Indians, together with the growth of heresy and schism in the churches, which latter he did not scruple to charge upon the wicked policy of the home government in checking the wholesome severity of the laws here enacted against the schemers and ranters. ‘I quite agree,’ said he, ‘with Mr. Rawson, that they should have hanged ten where they did one.’ Cousin Rebecca here said she was sure her father was now glad the laws were changed, and that he had often told her that, although the condemned deserved their punishment, he was not sure that it was the best way to put down the heresy. If she was ruler, she continued, in her merry way, she would send all the schemers and ranters, and all the sour, crabbed, busybodies in the churches, off to Rhode Island, where all kinds of folly, in spirituals as [18] well as temporals, were permitted, and one crazy head could not reproach another.

Falling back a little, and waiting for Robert Pike and Cousin Broughton to come up, I found. them marvelling at the coming of the young gentleman, who it did seem had no special concernment in these parts, other than his acquaintance with Rebecca, and his desire of her company. Robert Pike, as is natural, looks upon him with no great partiality, yet he doth admit him to be well-bred, and of much and varied knowledge, acquired by far travel as well as study. I must say, I like not his confident and bold manner and bearing toward my fair cousin; and he hath more the likeness of a cast-off dangler at the court, than of a modest and seemly country gentleman, of a staid and well-ordered house. Mistress Broughton says he was not at first accredited in Boston, but that her father, and Mr. Atkinson, and the chief people there now, did hold him to be not only what he professeth, as respecteth his gentlemanly lineage, but also learned and ingenious, and well-versed in the Scriptures, and the works of godly writers, both of ancient and modern time. I noted that Robert was very silent during the rest of our journey, and seemed abashed and troubled in the presence of the gay gentleman; for, although a fair and comely youth, and of good family and estate, and accounted solid and judicious beyond his years, he does, nevertheless, much lack the ease and ready wit with which the latter commendeth himself to my sweet kinswoman.

We crossed about noon a broad stream near to [19] the sea, very deep and miry, so that we wetted our hose and skirts somewhat; and soon, to our great joy, beheld the pleasant cleared fields and dwellings of the settlement, stretching along for a goodly distance; while, beyond all, the great ocean rolled, blue and cold, under an high easterly wind. Passing through a broad path, with well-tilled fields on each hand, where men were busy planting corn, and young maids dropping the seed, we came at length to Uncle Rawson's plantation, looking well-nigh as fair and broad as the lands of

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