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Corbitant, Pocasset Sachem

"Caunbitant, or Corbitant, a distinguished chief in the time of the settlement of Plimouth, whose residence was at a place called Mettapoiset, in the present town of Swansey. His character was much the same as that of the famous Metacomet. The English were always viewed by him as intruders and enemies of his race, and there is little doubt but he intended to wrest the country out of their hands on the first occasion.

When Mr. Edward Winslow and Mr. John Hamden went to visit Massasoit in his sickness, in 1623, they heard by some Indians, when near Corbitant's residence, that Massasoit was really dead, they therefore, though with much hesitation, ventured to his house, hoping they might treat [make peace] with him, he being then thought the successor of Massasoit. But he was not at his place.

The squaw Sachem, his wife, treated them with great kindness, and learning here that Massasoit was still alive, they made all haste to Pokanoket. When they returned, they stayed all night with Corbitant, at his house, who accompanied them there from Massasoits. 'By the way (says Mr. Winslow) I had much conference with him, so likewise at his house, he being a notable politician, yet full of merry jests and squibs, and never better pleased than when the like are re turned again upon him. Amongst other things he asked me, if in case he were thus dangerously sick, as Massasoit had been, and should send word thereof to Patuxet (their name of Plimouth) for maskiest, [that is physic,] whether their master governor would send it? and if he would whether I would come therewith to him ? To both which I answered, yea ; whereat he gave me many joyful thanks.'

He then expressed his surprise that two Englishmen should adventure so far alone into their country, and asked them if they were not afraid. Mr. Winslow said, 'where was true love, there was no fear.' 'But,' said Corbitant, 'if your love be such, and it bring forth such fruits, how cometh it to pass, that when we come to Patuxet, you stand up on your guard, with the mouth of your pieces presented towards us?' Mr. Winslow told him that was a mark of respect, and that they received their best friends in that manner; but to this he shook his head, and answered, that he did not like such salutations.

Previous to what has just been related, in the year 1621, the English heard that Massasoit had been taken by the Narragansets, and wishing to learn the truth of the report, sent Squanto and Hobbomok to Namasket, where they understood Corbitant was trying to influence the people against the English; 'storming at the peace between Nauset, Cummaquid and us, and Tisquantum [the same as Squanto] the worker of it.'

At Namasket, as they were in a house, they were suddenly set upon by Corbitant who seized them, but Hobbomok being a stout man, broke from them while Corbitant held a knife at the breast of Squanto, and brought news to Plimouth that Squanto was dead. Immediately upon this, Capt. Standish, with ten men, proceeded with warlike parade to Namasket, beset a house m which they expected to find Corbitant, but he had made his escape. As some were flying from the house the English fired upon them and wounded several, but by the help of Hobbomok they conciliated many, though they could learn nothing of Corbitant, only that he was fled with many others whom he had made believe that the English would murder them. Hobbomok got up on the top of the house and called for Squanto and Tokamahamon, who soon came with a company of others.

The English now returned to Plimouth, taking along with them two of those they had wounded, to heal them; at the same time leaving such threats against Corbitant, which together with their conduct, struck them with such fear and dread of them, that he interceded with Massasoit and became friendly again, in appearance, but was always suspected by the English."

 

— Indian Biography, by Samuel G. Drake, 1832

Historical Location:

Mattapoisett 
Main Street, Mattapoisett, MA 02739

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