For Massachusetts Lt. Gov. William Dummer, making peace with the Indians in 1727 required diplomacy, capable militia officers and letter-writing, letter-writing, letter-writing.
On May 27, 1727, the war was winding down between the English colonists and the Indians, aided by the French, in what is now Maine, New Hampshire, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The conflict was known as Dummer’s War or Father Rale’s War, after Father Sébastien Rale who led the alliance with Chief Gray Lock and Chief Paugus and died in battle.
Dummer, then acting governor, negotiated peace with Penobscot Chief Wenanganet in 1725, three years after the conflict began. Wenanganet agreed to take up the cause with the other chiefs by sending wampum, which represented peace, to the other tribes. Dummer kept up an active correspondence with his militia captains on the Maine frontier and with the Indian chiefs, as evidenced by the volume of correspondence in Baxter’s Manuscripts. He sent them presents — guns, blankets, signs of special respect — and responded to their concerns in detail.
On May 27, Capt. John Gyles sent a letter to Dummer from Fort George in Brunswick relaying a message from an Indian tribe: They wanted the governor to answer their letter. Gyles had been captured by Indians as a young boy at Pemaquid and enslaved, sold to a Frenchman and freed when he was 18. Gyles’ fluency in the Indian dialects of Acadia made him extremely useful in negotiations with the tribes. He wrote in his letter:
this day ye 2 Indian Messengers y’t brought ye Messuage or Letter from ye Ercegontegog Malcontent Party, Say that they Expect an answer to their Letter by ye furst & s’d Messengers further say they ar of Opinion if they have no answer sent them, they may be Incurridged to Do US sum Privat Mischief, for they ar not without Councelors to Do it. The s’d Messengers heartily salute your honour & ye honorable Council & say they will Do to their Uttermost for Peace & a Good Understanding Round ye Contenant.
John Gyles Enter’r
Dummer that day sent a letter to two other militia captains, Heath and Smith, advising them to assuage the Indians’ concern about the lower prices they were getting for beaver (‘bever’).
I rec’d your Letter by Cpt. Saunders, & observe what you mention of the Uneasiness of ye Indians upon the Fall of the Price of the Bever; To satisfy them in this matter, You must shew them by your Invoice that our Goods are likewise fallen especially Rum (c’ch is must lower in Proportion than Bever) That It was Agreed at ye Treaty that they she’d have the utmost for their Furrs that they would fetch in the market at Boston. That we then told them that the Prices of Goods were not fix’d but would frequently change according to the Circumstances of Trade, And when they Come to Boston They will have Liberty to try the Merchants & Shop Keepers here they will find that we have allowed them the full Price of every thing We have brought & sold our Goods to them at very easy & moderate Rates. And they will certainly find that no other People will give them so much for their Furrs nor sell Goods so cheap to them as we do.
Cap’t Heath and Smith
And he wrote to Gyles as well:
The Letter herewith enclosed was design’d to go in a Sloop bound for Falm’o but Cpt. Saunders being come in I have stop’d it till his Return to you: By him I have sent the Goods mention’d in the other letter, Wch you must deliver to the several Indians in my Name in the most proper Manner you can.
I have rec’d your Letter by Saunders; In answer to it You must acquaint Wenungenet That I take it well of him That he has sent a Message to the Canada Indians (with his Belt of Wampam) “That they must make no more Breaches “on the English, & if they do, that he will resent it & consult with me & have satisfaction of them. And that is what I have expected he would do. He being obliged by Treaty.