Eliot, Gookin, and the Magunkaquog
A common name
around Middlesex County is Eliot. You would be hard pressed not to see a
signpost in Ashland, Natick, or any other of our neighboring communities that
didn’t have “Eliot” in it somewhere.
Most of us
remember John Eliot as the Puritan that “converted the heathens and ministered
the settlers” around the middle of the 17th century.
A graduate of
Cambridge University, he first came to the colonies in 1631, settling in
Roxbury, Massachusetts. An ardent fan of the Pastor Thomas Hooker, Eliot took
to the cloth and became pastor of the local church, but quickly set his sights
on the Native Americans. He learned to speak Algonquian, and began preaching to
the Indians in their native tongue. He translated the Bible into the language
of the Nipmucs, obtained land for his new flock, and settled them (or at least
tried to) in the ways of proper English society. By 1674, there were 14
communities of his “Praying Indians”.
But all of this
was a difficult task for one man. A friend and neighbor of Eliot was Daniel
Gookin. Gookin came to Roxbury from Virginia in 1644 looking for a more Puritan
existence. They quickly became friends, and shared a common interest in the
Native Americans. Gookin, who was appointed Superintendent of the Indians of
Massachusetts, handled all the civil affairs while Eliot tended to the flock.
settlement was in South Natick in 1651. Many more followed, including the one
in Ashland called Magunko (many other spellings, like Magunkkaquog, Magunksquog,
Magunkook, Magwonkkommuk, etc.). The village was located on the south side of
the hill near Indian Spring Rd. Later more land was granted to them for what we
see today as Magunko Hill.
In 1674, Gookin
described Magunkkaquog as being the “7th of the old Praying towns”
located “upon a great hill which is very fertile” containing about 3000 acres
I found some of
the names of the locals a bit interesting. Pomhaman was the ruler of the tribe.
Job Kattanamit was the teacher. Other names included Apumatquin,
Jackananumquis, and William Wannekjow. Pomhaman received instruction directly
from John Eliot, but surprisingly did not join the church. I’m assuming that Eliot
must have had a lot of confidence in this man. Some of it might have been
misplaced, however, where Pomhaman joined forces with the renegade Indian Metacomet
or “King Philip” in 1675 against the colonists.
The King Philip
War, while lasting nearly 3 years (1675-1678), cast a dark shadow upon the
Indians. The colonists feared them, and they feared the colonists. All local
Indians, whether peaceful or not, were seized and sent to Deer Island with
little or no provisions. By the spring of 1677 the war had ended, but few
returned to Magunko. Those who did tried to plant and resume their lives, but
were driven out by rival tribes. The land was eventual sold to the trustees of
“The Hopkins Donation” in 1715 and became part of Hopkinton. After the
incorporation of Ashland in 1846, it became what we see today as Magunco Hill.
Wikipedia, Ashland Historical Society.
Steve Leacu for Ashland