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Passaconaway Statue Found



Our search for New Hampshire’s greatest Indian chief has taken us to Manchester and Concord, to the Seacoast and the White Mountains. We’ve been told that his ancient bones lie in a French museum. Some say he died on Mt. Agamenticus in Maine. But his statue stands in Massachusetts.



Passaconaway Memorial
Edson Cemetery
Lowell, MA

We’ve been complaining for decades that no New England memorial honors the 17th century leader of the Penacook Confederation, Passaconaway. A reader emailed recently to say he recalled a larger-than life-sized bronze sculpture just inside the gate of a large cemetery in Lowell. As a boy he believed that the Indian leader was buried there. Passaconaway is not there; the date and place of his death are unknown. But we drove down on a brisk December day just to see the memorial.

Indian StatueThe statue to Passaconaway is imposing, crudely sculpted, green with age, and set on a tall granite pedestal. He is wearing an unlikely suit of leader, but also has a necklace of bear claws, since his Aenaki name translates roughly into "Son of the Bear". Whatever Passaconaway was carrying has been broken off, likely by vandals, and his left arm is missing.

According to the attached brass plaque, Passaconaway was also known as Saint Aspinquid, a legend we have tried put to rest elsewhere on this web site. Passaconaway is, as always, renowned here as "a friend of the white man" and a Christian convert. Passaconaway may been, instead, a consummate politician who was doing what the times required to keep his dwindling race alive. He likely did not live to the age of 122 as the inscription says.

The statue was created by the "Improved Order of Red Men", a patriotic, charitable and fraternal organization that traces its origins to the Sons of Liberty who disguised themselves as Indians during the Boston Tea Party. The group revived in the mid-19th century and once had active "tribes" in 45 states (now 17). Besides promoting American values, the group honors, in its own unique way, the legends of Native Americans.

GOseacoast.comThe organization still uses "Indian" terms in its rituals. It’s leaders, for example, are called Incohonee, Sagamore and Chief. The treasurer is "Keeper of Wampum". Female members are called "the Pocahontas". Members of the order, traditionally mostly white males, wear Indian-like regalia in certain fraternal ceremonies. The group keeps a museum in Waco, Texas and celebrates the mid-week of December as National Red Men’s Week. This event is focused on the Boston Tea Party, not on Native Americans.

Local Masonic Orders in New Hampshire and Maine have also adapted Passaconaway and his alter ego Saint Aspinquid into their fraternal structure. Indian practices fascinated these early "secret societies". It is likely that their 19th and 20th century meetings have helped weave stories of the imaginary saint with the historic figure. While the group has no affiliation with actual Native Americans, it does claim to be the nation’s oldest fraternal organization. -- JDR

SEE: Passaconaway Bones in France?
READ: St. Aspinquid Poem
OUTSIDE LINK: Improved Order of Red Men

Edson Cemetery, Lowell

Edson Cemetery

Red Men Memorial Plaque

Passaconaway Statue

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