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Agamenticus and Passaconaway

 Passaconaway and Agamenticus

Chapter IX
Stories of Maine
by Sophia Mariam Swett

GORGEANA, the first city of Maine, was planted in the wilderness. The ambition of its founder, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, to establish a colony in Maine had, as we have seen in connection with the Plymouth Company, been thwarted and disappointed at every point.

When he secured a private grant of twenty-four thousand acres on each side of York River, he determined to plant a small colony there at his own expense. He called his colony Agamenticus at first, from the name of the mountain, famous in the aboriginal legends, which looked down upon it.

" Agamenticus " signifies, in the Indian tongue, " the other side of the river." The name is applied to a beautiful elevation, or rather three elevations joined together, well wooded, and rising by gentle slopes, not rocky or steep like the Mount Desert mountains, but with a large crowning rock upon its summit. This mountain is a famous landmark for mariners, and is thought to have been the first land of the New World that revealed itself to Gosnold, in 1603. He is supposed to have landed at York Nubble and to have named it Savage Rock. The mountain is five or six miles from the shore, while Boon Island, the first land to be approached in that neighborhood, is seven miles farther.

It was to Agamenticus that Wonolancet, the peaceloving son of the great Passaconaway, is thought to have retired when he refused to take part in the long and bloody King Philip's War. St. Aspinquid, of Indian tradition, who died on the mountain, and whose gravestone is still to be seen there, is said to have been Passaconaway himself.

St. Aspinquid died May I, 1682, and is said to have been born in 1588, being therefore about ninety-four when he died. He was over forty when he was converted to Christianity, and from that time devoted himself to preaching the gospel to the Indians.

His funeral obsequies were attended by many sachems of various tribes, and celebrated by a grand hunt of the warriors, at which were slain ninety-nine bears, thirtysix moose, eighty-two wild cats, and thirty-eight porcupines.

That Passaconaway was living at as late a date as 1660 is shown by an anecdote of that year told of him in an ancient Indian biography.

Manataqua, sachem of Saugus, had made known to Passaconaway that he wished to marry his daughter. This being agreeable to all parties, the wedding soon took place, at the residence- of Passaconaway, and the hilarity wound up with a great feast.

According to Indian customs when the contracting parties are of high station, Passaconaway ordered a select number of his men to accompany the newly married pair to the husband's home. When they had arrived there, several days of feasting followed, for the entertainment of such of the husband's friends as were unable to be present at the ceremony, as well as for the escort, who, when the rejoicings were over, returned to Penacook.

Some time after, the wife of Manataqua expressed a desire to visit her father's house. She was permitted to go, and a select company was chosen by her husband to conduct her safely through the forest. When she wished to return to her husband, her father, instead of conveying her, as before, sent to the young sachem to come and take her away.

Manataqua was highly indignant at this message, and sent his father-in-law this answer: " When she departed from me, I caused my men to escort her to your dwelling, as became a chief. She now having an intention to return to me, I did expect the same."

The elder sachem was angry jn his turn, and sent back an answer which only increased the difficulty, and it is supposed that the connection between the new husband and wife was terminated by this disregard of ceremony on the part of her father.


Passaconaway's character was certainly like that ascribed to St. Aspinquid. In his youth he was supposed to have magic powers, and his people believed that he could burn a leaf to ashes and then restore to it nature's vivid greenness. They never doubted that he could raise a living serpent from the skin of a dead one, and many warriors testified that they had seen him turn himself into a flame to burn up his enemies.


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