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Subject: [GENMASSACHUSETTS] Captain John Chamberlain and the PaugusTradition.
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 16:06:37 EDT
Subject: The Chamberlain-Paugus tradition.
Source: Collections of the Maine Historical Society.
THE CHAMBERLAIN-PAUGUS TRADITION.
The Chamberlain-Paugus tradition was first published at Fryeburg, Maine in
the year 1799 by
Elijah Russell in his editon of Rev. Thomas Symmes' "Memoirs of the Fight at
It runs as follows:
Several of the Indians, particularly Paugus, their chief, were well known to
and conversed with each other during the engagement. In the course of the
battle, Paugus and
John Chamberlain discoursed familiarly with each other; their guns had
become fouled from
frequent firing; they washed their guns at the pond, and John Chamberlain
assured Paugus that
he should kill him - Paugus also menaced him, and bid defiance to his
insinuations. When they
had prepared their guns they loaded and discharged them - and Paugus fell.
This story was printed seventy-four years after the battle occurred, and one
year after, Noah
Johnson, the last survivor of the battle, had died. Was this story a
fabrication invented by
Elijah Russell? Did
p.6 Maine Historical Society.
it exist before 1799 in other parts of New England? Does it contain any of
the elements of
truth? In 1846, the Rev. Stephen Thompson Allen delivered an historical
address at the cent-
ennial anniversary of the town of Merrimack, New Hampshire. In that address,
which has the
appearance of being truthful and scholarly, he alludes to one of the early
settlers of that
town, a man whom I have traced in the state and provincial papers of New
Hampshire, as a
provincial representative of Merrimack from 1756 to 1775 inclusive.
That man was Captain John Chamberlain, who erected the first mills at
"Souhegan Falls" in
1734. He was a large landowner at "Souhegan Falls," "Naticook," "Benton's
Farm," and the
"Narragansett Township No. 5."
In his address Mr. Allen says: -
"It is by many, supposed that this Chamberlain is the same that killed
Paugus, the Indian
chief in Lovewell's fight. But such is not the fact. They were cousins, and
from a descend-
ant of the family I learn that to distinguish them from each other, one was
John Chamberlain" and the other, "Souhegan John Chamberlain." Continuing,
Mr. Allen says: -
Souhegan John Chamberlain married Hannah, a daughter of Lieutenant Josiah
Farwell, who died
of wounds received in Lovewell's fight. Souhegan John Chamberlain lived
until the year 1792.
Mr. Allen learned these facts of a descendant of Souhegan John Chamberlain,
and published them
within fifty-two years of his death. If they are true, they show what? That
Paugus John Cham-
berlain was so called during his lifetime. It is reasonable to suppose that
the name "Paugus"
should have been affixed after the
p.7 JOHN CHAMBERLAIN AT PIGWACKET.
year 1799 to John Chamberlain, who had then been dead forty-four years? If
it was not affixed
after 1799, but was an appellation of his lifetime, it could not have had
its origin in Elijah
Russell, but must have originated from some other source.
But Souhegan John Chamberlain's wife, Hannah, was the daughter of Lieut.
Josiah and Hannah
(Lovewell) Farwell. Her father was killed in the Pigwacket fight, as also
was her uncle, her
mother's brother, the intrepid Captain John Lovewell. May we not believe
that this woman fre-
quently heard the incidents of the battle related by those who were eye
witnesses, and may we
not suppose that she had more than a passing interest in every particular,
especially as her
father and her uncle both fell on that battlefield? May we not also suppose
that she knew
that Paugus John Chamberlain was so called because he shot Paugus?
In 1890, I found a tradition in the Chamberlain family concerning the origin
of that family in
America. It was told by one Jacob Chamberlain of Chelsea to his wife before
1735. About 1777
she related it to her grandson, General William Chamberlain, of Peacham,
Vermont, once a
Lieut. Governor of that state. He wrote it down in 1820. After six years of
research on the
earlier families of the name, I am prepared to say that that tradition
contains some of the
elements but truth, but is not literally true. A correspondence and
aquaintance with other
genealogists have brought to my attention other family traditions, not true
in letter, but
resting on the foundation of more or less of truth. From these facts I am
led to believe that
p.8 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
traditions of long standing contain some of the elements of truth. The
story of John Chamber-
lain would seem to have come to us from other sources. Caleb Butler, a
native of Pelham,
New Hampshire, a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1800, and a tutor there in
1801, removed to
Groton, Massachusetts in 1802. After many years of research he published his
Groton, in 1848. (a copy of the full book sent on request).
On p. 104, he gives the story of John Chamberlain and Paugus, mentioning in
a fott-note his
authorities. As the story is somewhat different from Russell's, I give it in
"Some time in the day the gun of John Chamberlain, of Groton, becoming foul
firing, he undertook to wash and cleanse it at the pond. While in this act,
he espied Paugus,
whom he personally knew, performing the same process upon his gun at a small
challenge was immediately given and accepted, each confiding in his own
dexterity, and pre-
dicting the speedy fall of his antagonist. Chamberlain, trusting to the
priming of his gun
by a thump on the ground, had time to take deliberate aim, while Paugus was
priming from his
horn. Chamberlain's ball reached Paugus' heart just as he was in the act of
firing. His ball
passed over Chamberlain's head.
Notice how Caleb Butler continues: -
"After this event there was a short respite. The Indians withdrew. Ensign
Wyman and John
Chamberlain crept, unperceived, after them, and found them formed into a
circle around one
in the center, whom they were qualifying, it was supposed, for a chief
instead of the de-
ceased Paugus. Wyman fired and killed this intended chief. Then both
hastened back to their
fellows at the pond."
Compare the above paragraph with one sentence from The New England Courant,
of May 24, 1725,
p.9 JOHN CHAMBERLAIN AT PIGWACKET.
referred to. It reads: "About two hours before night, the Indians drew off,
came on again." One cannot help thinking that Caleb Butler's relation
contains some truth.
As to authorities, his foot-note states that the general account of the
fight was taken from
printed sources, and some of the incidents were from the lips of the wife of
one of the men. In the same connection, he writes that this woman was
thirteen years old when
the battle was fought, that she lived in Woburn, where Johnson belonged, and
married to him. "In the latter part of her life," continues Caleb Butler,
"she lived in my
father's family (at Pelham), often told the story, and always told it
alike, agreeing with
the printed account in general and adding some particulars." From Caleb
as to how he obtained the list of Lovewell's men, it is inferred that he
never saw Russell's
edition of Symmes' "Memoirs."
It seems to me that we are warranted in concluding that this story was not a
vented by Elijah Russell, a newspaper editor of uncertain character. If we
Butler, may we not see that the part performed by Seth Wyman and the part
performed by John
Chamberlain would, in the absence of positive statements, end in confusion.
In 1824, ninety-nine years after that battle and twenty-five years after the
Paugus story had first been published in the Russell edition of Symmes'
"Memoirs of the
Fight," Farmer and Moore published at Concord, New Hampshire, in the third
p.10 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
volume of their "Historical Collections", a ballad entitled "The Song of
It is here stated that Seth Wyman "shot the old chief Paugus which did the
foe defeat." In
their introductory note, the editors affirm that the author of the ballad is
it is about one hundred years old, and that it was sung throughout a
considerable portion of
New Hampshire and Massachusetts for many years.
If Wyman shot Paugus, and everybody throughout New Hampshire and
Massachusetts sang this
ballad for many years, why did not the old people ascribe to Wyman this
fact? Why did Wyman's
neighbors accord that act - not to their own townsmen, who had received
praises from the news-
papers and a Captain's commission from the Commonwealth - but to John
Chamberlain, a private?
Why did not Sarah Wyman, the widow of Seth Wyman, in her petition to the
Great and General
Court, in 1726, in giving the particulars of her husband's military record,
to his Paugus combat if the ballad story were true?
As early as 1865, Frederic Kidder in his "Expeditions of Capt. John
Lovewell" asserted that
the ballad is true, and that not John Chamberlain but another slew Paugus.
In his sketch of
John Chamberlain, he gives these facts. Why did he not in his biographical
sketch of Seth
Wyman accord to him the honor which he denied to Chamberlain? Did it seem
to Mr. Kidder that
the ballad, which he would have his readers believe is the "very best
authority," is strong
enough for a destructive argument against the Chamerlain-Paugus story; but
that it was not of
p.11 JOHN CHAMBERLAIN AT PIGWACKET.
strength for a constructive argument for his Wyman-Paugus theory?
Consistency seems to
require that Wyman should have had not only a widely-extended tradition
among the common
people of such fact, but that his biography should also have contained such
The New England-Courant of September 11, 1725, gives ten lines on the death
of Wyman. Why
did it not refer to the killing of Paugus, if by that, Wyman did defeat the
foe? When it is
remembered that a great poet, a renowned professor in the most learned
university in America,
in writing what has become classic, places Priscilla, the wife of John
Alden, for her wedding
tour upon a "snow white bull" before a single bovine animal had been brought
to the Plymouth
Colony - the immortal Longfellow cannot be excepted in stating that poetry,
is not historic truth.
What value, then, shall we place upon a single statement of an anonymous
published ninety-nine years after the battle it describes occurred? One
statement of the
ballad is contrary to all contemporary accounts, viz., that by the death of
Paugus, the foe
was defeated. Since this ballad is untruthful on one fact, may we not
consider it untrust-
worthy on every fact not corroborated by the narrations of that time.
But Mr. Kidder prejudices his own argument by saying that "we trust that the
Chamberlain and Paugus will not again be republished as historical truth."
In the absence
of documentary evidence, reason dictates that circumstantial and traditional
suggestive and to some extent reliable.
p.12 JOHN CHAMBERLAIN.
John Chamberlain has such evidence. Seth Wyman was accorded by Symmes the
honor of killing
the chief of the powow during the respite, as Butler relates. Is it likely
that he shot both
Paugus and the new red chief, and that Symmes should have accorded him the
service without ascribing to him the more important act in the battle?
It is not claimed, however, that the other traditions relating to
Chamberlain and the son of
Paugus, and growing out of this one, are true; but the bottom fact that John
the old Chief Paugus on the shore of Lovewell's Pond, on that memorable May
8, 1725, must,
in my opinion, await a more critical investigation before the honor can be
After the Pigwacket fight, John Chamberlain, although reported by Symmes as
wounded during the
action, returned to his farm and corn-mill - the Chamberlain homestead - at
Groton, Massachusetts. On May 31, 1727, the township of Suncook (now
Pembroke, New Hampshire)
on the Merrimac River, was granted by Massachusetts to 60 grantees who
served in Lovewell's
expeditions. John Chamberlain was one of the Grantees, and on April 12,
1729, he sold all
his right and title to said lands to Joseph Gilson of Groton, for twenty
pounds and ten shill-
ings, equivalent then to the paltry sum of twenty-seven dollars and
eight-eight cents. His
deed to Gilson recorded at Middlesex Registry, Liber 30, p.106 - mentions
that the tract of
land described was recently granted "to the Officers and Soldiers lately in
the service of
p.13 JOHN CHAMBERLAIN AT PIGWACKET.
Province under the command of Captain John Lovewell, deceased, and others,
in an expedition
to Pigwacket against the Indian enemy, and which shall hereafter accrew and
fall to me as one
of the soldiers under said Captain Lovewell."
On the 5th of January of the same year, 1729, he sold the Baddacook
homestead to Samuel Woods,
Sr., of Groton and on February 19, 1730, he bought another farm from James
Lakin, at a place
called the "Four Acres" at Groton. Dr. Samuel Abbott Green, who is
authority on the History
of Groton, is unable to identify this place. He lived here until April 20,
1741, when he
deeded this farm at the "Four Acres" to Samuel Chamberlain of Chelmsford, a
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth
(a full book online with Google Books Online )
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