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The Story of Lovewell's Fight

On a morning in May of 1725, the peace and beauty of the Saco River Valley was suddenly broken by the appearance of mighty Paugus, chief of the Pequawket Indians, with Wahowa and a band of eighty warriors, returning from a scouting trip down the Saco. They were bound for their homes, the wigwams of Pequawket, the only settlement for many miles in this wilderness, with the exception of a small one on Lake Ossipee. This was in the great bend of the upper waters of the Saco, near where the village of Fryeburg is now located. The Pequawket were a branch of the Sokokis tribe, driven north from the mouth of the Saco into the interior, by the coming of the English settlers. Their name means crooked place, which exactly described the location of their settlement.

Paugus and his men were armed with guns, knives and hatchets, their mighty forms and savage faces telling of cruel and relentless purpose. Their hearts were filled with bitterness toward the hated white men, who had driven their people from the land they had occupied.

As they came within a few miles of their wigwams, suddenly Paugus halted and gazed at the ground. Instantly Wahowa followed his look and saw a mark on the soft ground just at one side. ''White man! Trail!'' his fierce look said, and his men knew there was danger.

They advanced slowly, reaching a small brook, when suddenly the leader saw in the distance, under some tall pine trees, the packs of their enemies. From his hiding place, Paugus could count the packs, and found there were thirty-four. His heart leaped for joy when he found that his warriors far outnumbered those of the white men. When no movement was made, Paugus sent several of his men to bring the packs.

Suddenly, in the distance, a shot rang out, followed by several others. These shots came from Capt. John Lovewell and his thirty-four rangers from Dunstable, Massachusetts, 130 miles from the Indian village of Pequawket. How did these men happen to be in the enemy's country, so far from their homes?

Capt. John Lovewell was a fighter, known and feared by the Indians, as he and his band of rangers had been on various expeditions and had killed and scalped many of the red men.

Years before, some of the settlers had cheated the Indians. The hatred of Squando, one of the chiefs of the Sokokis tribe, had been aroused by a cruel act of some sailors, who, just to see if the papoose could swim, tipped over the canoe in which his squaw and papoose were coming down the river. The child sank to the bottom of the river, the mother rescued him, but the little boy soon sickened and died, and Squando and his tribe swore vengeance on the white man. Thus a few thoughtless and cruel men brought the hatred of the Indians upon the white settlers.

So many white settlers had been killed that John Lovewell and other men asked permission to form a company of rangers to hunt and kill Indians. The Legislature of Massachusetts granted their request and agreed to pay them one hundred pounds or $500 in our money, for every Indian whose scalp they brought home. John Lovewell was made captain of the rangers. Their uniform was like that of woodsmen, and each was armed with a firelock and a hatchet, carrying under his right arm a powder horn, and at his waist a leather bag for bullets. To each officer was given a pocket compass.

Chief Paugus of the Pequawket band had been called The Scourge of Dunstable, because he had made raids on the settlement and with his warriors had killed many of the men and women. Paugus was a mighty man, tall and strong. He could run like a fox and howl like a wolf, and do many other wonderful things. Capt. Lovewell and his rangers decided to go into that country and see if they could not kill some of the Pequawket Indians so as to prevent their coming to the settlements. So they started forth, a little band of forty-six men. Some became sick and were sent back. Those who were still active decided to build a fort on the west shore of Ossipee Pond, in New Hampshire. They planned to return thither after the battle, for protection. Only thirty-four men went on to the Pequawket country.
Twenty-two days after they left their homes in Dunstable they came to a pond near which they camped. It was later named Lovewell's Pond in honor of the captain of the rangers.

The next morning, May 8th, while they were still at prayers, they heard a gun, and, on going out to look, saw an Indian on the other side of the pond, shooting ducks. Suspecting some trap, the Captain said to his men, "Shall we go forward or wait behind the trees until the Indians come this way?''

The men talked it over and then said: "Let us go forward!"

Skulking behind trees they advanced cautiously about a mile and a half and surrounded the Indian, whom they had seen shooting. Shots were exchanged and the Indian succeeded in wounding Captain Lovewell and one other man before being killed by the rangers.

These were the shots which Chief Paugus and his warriors had heard, while they were examining the packs which Lovewell's men had left hidden among the trees in the deep ravine of the brook.

Captain Lovewell, although wounded, tried to make the rangers think he was not badly hurt and led the way back to the place where their packs had been left.

The rangers had just reached the brook, when, suddenly, the air was filled with the hideous yells of the savages, as they darted from behind trees and rushed upon the white men. Though taken completely by surprise, the rangers quickly formed into groups and ran toward the Indians. Paugus ordered his men to shoot high at the first volley, so that none of the rangers were injured, but the rangers aimed straight at the Indians and killed nine of them.

Paugus withdrew his men toward the ravine, but soon rushed out upon the rangers, firing when twice a gun's length away. The rangers were driven back. Captain Lovewell and six of his men were killed and several others wounded.
"Take quarter?" asked the Indians, holding up ropes, which meant they would bind the white men as prisoners.
"Only at the muzzles of our guns!" replied Ensign Wyman, who was in command after the other officers were killed.
The rangers fell back to the shore of the pond. Prom the protection of a bank, they shot at the Indians, who returned the fire. The sun rose higher and higher, but it was not very light in the thick woods. The men were faint and famished, having had no food since early morning. Only twenty-five of the rangers were capable of shooting, but they scattered as best they could and kept on firing wherever an Indian appeared from behind the trees or rocks.

The terrible battle lasted until sunset. The Indians kept yelling and howling, barking like dogs and making all kinds of wild and hideous noises. The rangers replied with yells and cheers.

Once the Indians held a pow-wow to keep up their courage. The rangers heard them beating the ground and uttering unearthly yells. Ensign Wyman crept up behind the trees and, taking careful aim, shot Chief Paugus through the heart. As it became dark, the Indians withdrew, leaving fully half of their number dead under the trees and beside the brook.
The rangers dared not move. They thought the Indians were planning to return and kill them all. The wind came up and, blowing through the pine trees, added its sighs to the anguished moans of wounded and dying men. At last, as the Indians did not return, the rangers tried to assemble their men. They had no food, for the Indians had taken it. They had no extra ammunition, for the Indians had emptied their packs. Their blankets also had been carried away and the night was cold. Of the twenty-two brave men surviving, two were so badly wounded they could not be moved and eight others were suffering from wounds.

A harassing question arose. Should the able-bodied leave their friends alone to die or to be captured by the Indians in the morning, or should they remain and all share the same fate! The wounded urged their comrades to go while escape was possible. One asked to have his gun loaded, so that he might protect himself if the Indians came before he died. All spoke bravely and sent messages to the dear ones at home.

With many misgivings and sick at heart, a remnant of the brave band of rangers started about mid-night on the journey to the fort, nearly 40 miles away. Chaplain Frye, their beloved young comrade, staggered along for a short distance, then sank down to die. They divided into three parties, so that the Indians could not trail them. Only nine were unhurt. Eleven were suffering from wounds of various kinds. Four were left along the way, the others promising to send men from the fort to assist them.

They were cheered on the journey by the thought of relief and refreshment at the fort. What was their bitter disappointment to find, on arriving there after several days' journey, that it was empty. Later on, they found that one of their number had deserted at the first of the battle, terror stricken, and had returned to the fort and told such terrifying stories that the others had fled. They left behind a birch bark message saying that Lovewell and all his men had been killed by the Indians.

The little remnant of Lovewell's band found shelter, however, and a little food and after they had gained sufficient strength, they began to make preparations for returning home. What was their surprise to see one of their comrades whom they had given up as dead, coming into the fort. He had received several wounds but would not stay and be scalped by the Indians, so crawled along the shore of the pond until he came to a canoe, in which he floated down the lake to a point near the fort, to which he finally managed to crawl.

Twelve of the men reached their homes in Dunstable. Several days later, four others came in. They had had no food for four days, excepting two mouse squirrels and some partridges which they had roasted. A party was organized to go to the assistance of the men left on the way, to visit the battlefield and to bury the dead. This party was not attacked by the Indians.

The Pequawket never rallied from this terrible battle. Only twenty-four of their warriors survived and these sadly left their village and retreated toward Canada. Their spirit was broken and while there were other battles between the Indians and the white men, in other places in Maine, the reign of terror of the Pequawket was over.

Should you visit Lovewell's Pond, a short distance from the village of Fryeburg, on the shores of which this battle took place; you will find, on the battleground, a bronze tablet, in honor of Capt. Lovewell and his band of rangers. This was erected by the Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, June 17th, 1904.

Sometime you may motor along a part of the trail which these Indians traveled, and which it is very likely Capt. Lovewell and his rangers followed on some part of their journey. It is known as the Pequawket trail, running along the banks of the Saco River and into the heart of the wonderful White Mountain region.

Bronze Tablet Erected in Memory of Lovewell's Fight, on Shore of Lovewell's Pond

Eva E. Shorey


Source: Maine My State, The Maine Writers Research Club, The Journal Print Shop, Lewiston, Maine, 1919

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