While the State of New Hampshire was constructing the highway to connect Conway and Lincoln, though the pathless National Forest, a proper name for this scenic route was debated.
The Sandwich Range borders its southern horizon,its rugged peaks bearing names of famous Indians thus honored in 1860 by the eminent geographer, Professor A.H. Guyot: Chocorua, Paugus, Passaconaway, Wonalancet and Kancamagus.
Since the highway skirts the base of Mt. Kancamagus, where the steep ascent rises, the name of this last Sachem of the Indians in New Hampshire, Kancamagus was selected, although his identity was unknown among the majority of the population of the state.
Traditions in Sandwich claim that Kancamagus guided a remnant of his Penacook Tribe theough this mountain range into the Connecticut Valley to unite with the St. Francis Tribe in Canada about 1725.
The biography of this Indian begins in 1623, the date when English fishermen established their first settlement on the seashore in the present town of Rye.
This figure represents the costume for Passaconway to illustrate the derivation of his name: papoose for child, awaso for bear- Child of the Bear
At that time his grandfather, the Bashaba of all of the braves in New Hampshire , was Passaconway, who reigned in the Valley of the Merrimack River , with wigwams on the present sites of both Concord and Manchester.
The title Bashaba, proved that this aged cheiftain was the commander of the twelve tribes who resisted the repeated invasions of their enemies, the Mohawk Tribe from the Hudson Valley.
When Pasaconaway saw the firearms of the Englishmen he realized that his bows and arrows could not compete with gunpowder. Wisely he decreed that Indains and Englishmen must live in peace together.
Passaconway died about 1670. His son, Wonalancet, followed the policy of his father. When Kancamagus became commander of the tribes, he attempted to follow the same course, although he was convinced that Englishmen were spreading into his hunting grounds to threaten his food supply of his Penacook Tribe. His cousin Paugus, son of Wonalancet, refused to surrender the forests to the encroaching Englishmen. In secret councils, he plotted with the eastern tribes, Pequakets, Ossipees and Sacos, with determination to protect their domains in the valley of the Saco River.
These tribes united with King Philip, Sachem of Mount Hope in Rhode Island , in his war in 1675 to exterminate the Englishmen from New England. During the seven months of warfare, 700 English settlers in New Hampshire were slain and only the death of King Philip ended the strife. Meanwhile, Kancamagus and the Penacooks refrained from hostilities.
The surviving settlers along the seacoast realized that they were living in imminent danger unless they punished the Indians.
Unfortunately they resorted to treachery. Knowing that the Indians were always ready to participate in sports, a field day was organized at Dover to which the neighboring tribes were invited.
On the appointed day the unsuspecting Indians attended, unarmed and joined in the games. After the Indians were crowded together they were suddenly surrounded and the settlers opened fire upon them, even with a cannon it is claimed.
Many Indians were killed; others were shackled, conveyed to Boston and shipped to England to be sold as servants to the English.
Kancamagus was outraged by such trickery. From being a friend he became an implacable foe until he gained the reputation of inhuman cruelty against the settlers.
The tribes bided their time. Years passed while the Indians pretended friendship until the inhabitants at Dover forgot to suspect danger. The gates of stockade were unguarded and squaws were permitted to sleep in the cabins on stormy nights.
Finally one evening in June 1689, the squaws requested the favor to sleep within the settlement and were granted permission. After all of the families were sleeping, the squaws opened the gates and the Indians rushed into Dover. The men and babies were killed, women and older children were captured and the cabins were burned. The captives were gathered into three separate groups and hurried by different pathways toward Canada, to be sold for slaves to the French.
The countryside was aroused. two of the groups of captives were rescued but the third was compelled to tramp to Quebec.
Fearing the vengeance of Kancamagus, the settlers persuaded the Mohawks to attack the Penacooks in the Merrimack Valley. A fatal disease had reduced the Penacook warriors to 200 braves, and the Mohawks in overwhelming numbers destryed their villages leaving but a remnant of the Penacooks who escaped to a fort that had been constructed on the shore of Lake Winnisquam.
This refuge was immediately discovered and attacked. During the night, the Penacooks fled across the lake to a shore now called Mohawk Point and with Kancamagus for their leader the refugees followed the Winnipesaukee River northward to hide in the Sandwich Mountains.
Even today a legend in Sandwich tells that such reverance for the bones of Passaconaway was cherished that these Penacooks transported them in their flight and buried them in a crevice on the side of Mount Passaconaway.
After months of recuperation, Kancamagus guided his tribe over the range, through the forests to Canada. Historians state that no records about Kaqncamagus exist after 1792. Only traditions in Sandwich echo through the centuries that preserve the name and fame of this last Sachem of the Abnaki Indians in New Hampshire
Indians of New Hampshire Eva A. Speare copyright 1965
Historic Indian Trails of New Hampshire Chester B. Price copyright 1967
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