American History and Genealogy Project


The Voyage of the Archangel

On a pleasant day in May, 1605, more than three centuries ago, a white-winged ship came to anchor off the rocky shores of the island now known as Monhegan. It was the Archangel, commanded by George Weymouth, forty-five days out from England.

Fuel and water being scarce upon the ship, Weymouth, with several of his men, went on shore to procure these necessaries. "Mayhap we shall see some of the savage people whom others have seen on these shores,'' said one of the men as they neared the coast. No trace of human habitation could be seen. Where now may be found the gray fish-houses, piles of lobster-traps, neat cottages, and the great light-house standing over all like a lone sentinel which never sleeps, then were only great, gray rocks half hidden beneath riotous masses of wild rose and yew, and an unbroken stretch of primeval forest.

When the Englishmen had obtained wood and water sufficient for their needs, they made their way toward the shore. Suddenly one of them stopped near a pile of loose stones. "What have we here?" he cried. "Look! these are the ashes and charred remains of a fire. Those who built it must have fled at our approach.''

All eyes eagerly scanned the landscape, but no unfamiliar face or form appeared. Amid the screaming of seagulls, they planted a cross, naming the island St. George, then rowed back to the Archangel.

The Archangel remained at her anchorage that night, and on the following day, because the vessel ''rode too much open to the sea and winds,'' Weymouth weighed anchor and brought his vessel to the other islands nearer the mainland in the direction of the mountains.

With great interest Weymouth and his crew landed upon one of the islands (probably what is now known as Allen's Island, in St. Georges Harbor.) Very soon a discovery was made by the mate, Thomas Cam, which brought all around him. "Here has been a fire!" he exclaimed, "and see the great shells lying all about! " Pieces of large shells and bones littered the ground; evidently a feast had been held there not long ago. A careful search, however, failed to reveal any further trace of human beings.

The next week furnished plenty of work; the building of the shallop went speedily forward. The neighboring islands were explored. On the twenty-ninth of May, the shallop was finished and, leaving fourteen men on the Archangel, Captain Weymouth, with, thirteen others, started on an exploring expedition inland.

"There does not seem to be much treasure on these islands," said Thomas Cam to one of his comrades, Owen Griffith, as they gazed from the side of the ship over the island dotted expanse of water which Weymouth, because of the season, had called Pentecost Harbor.

"Neither of treasure nor of people have I had a sight,'' replied the man Griffith, "and yet the fires would show the land to be inhabited. Perhaps the sight of our goodly ship has filled them with fear, so that they flee from us."

"Tis a noble land in which the king may build a powerful empire," said the other, "and mightily enrich himself in so doing." Suddenly he stopped, shading his eyes with his hand. "Ha, Master Griffith," he cried, "at least one wish is about to be gratified; yonder come three canoes filled with savages!"

With excited shouts the crew lined the side of the vessel, watching eagerly while the savages landed on an island opposite, staring in wonder at the strange vision of the white-sailed ship and the white-faced, bearded men who stood upon its deck. Presently, in answer to the inviting gestures of the white man, a canoe in which were three natives was paddled boldly toward the ship. As they came alongside one raised an oar and pointed fiercely toward the open sea, at the same time exclaiming loudly in a harsh, unknown tongue.

"They do not seem to like our company," said the mate, "tis a pity we can not speak their language. Show them some knives and glasses and the rings and other trinkets we have with us."

These were quickly brought and displayed to the delighted eyes of the natives who brought their frail canoe still nearer to see these wonderful toys at closer range. It was now but an easy step to induce the three to climb over the side of the Archangel. Sounds of wonder and delight burst from them as they wandered freely about the vessel, one even venturing below. Food was offered them and they gladly ate the cooked, but the raw disgusted them. They hung joyously over a collection of combs, kettles and armor, but the sight and sound of the matchlocks filled them with unmeasured fear.
It was with equal surprise and pleasure that the Englishmen gazed at their strange visitors, representatives of this vast New World. They were well formed, of medium build, bodies painted black, faces red or blue and eyebrows white, and clothed in mantles and moccasins of deerskin. By signs the white men told them that they wished to trade knives and trinkets for furs, which seemed to satisfy the savages and with many a backward glance they at last took their departure.

About ten o'clock the shallop bearing Capt. Weymouth returned. He bore the news of the discovery of a great river and the stories which each party had to relate were heard with eager interest.

"Tomorrow," said Capt. Weymouth, "We will go on shore and trade. Let us do nothing to frighten these savages who seem peaceable enough."

This plan of trade was carried out. The natives were delighted to exchange beaver and otter skins for worthless trinkets, and now wholly without fear crowded closely about the white strangers. Presents were brought of tobacco, of which these natives cultivated small quantities and smoked it in pipes made of lobster claws.

"Let us show them some wonders,'' said Weymouth, and, with the point of his sword previously touched by a magnet, he picked up a knife holding it high in the air. The wonder of the savages was intense. Presently one of the boldest seized the knife and drew it away, then hastily dropped it as if fearful of coming to harm. Holding the sword point close, Weymouth caused the knife to turn in different directions; the same bold native tried to imitate the act with his bone-headed dart, but failure of course resulted.

"Let us try to get some of them to go back to the ship with us," said the mate to Weymouth. "Those who came yesterday went away much pleased and others will doubtless hold it a high honor."

The captain agreed and with very little urging two of the natives entered the shallop and the crew returned to the Archangel. As they sprang upon the deck one of the ship's dogs ran forward sniffing and barking furiously. With every sign of fear, the natives turned and seemed about to fling themselves into the sea.

"Tie those dogs!" roared Weymouth, then with kind tones and gestures reassured his dusky guests until their confidence returned and they wandered as freely over the ship as the visitors of the day before. Of the food offered them, peas seemed to please them most. By signs they expressed a wish to carry some back to their friends, and a quantity was given them in a metal dish which they returned later with great care. At their departure others came and finally three were persuaded to remain on board all night, one of the white men being left on shore as a sort of guarantee of good faith, although the trust of the Indians was so great that none was needed.

That night Weymouth stood in' the soft June starlight and gazed on the dark forms of the sleeping savages as they lay on the deck covered with an old sail. "How great would be the pleasure of the king and certain noble gentry of England to behold these strange people," he thought. "They are ever interested in tales of this great New World.'' Then of a sudden he smote his palms softly together and turned sharply to Thomas Cam who stood near. "Cam!'' he said, "what say ye, shall we take some of these knaves with us when the Archangel turns her prow toward England? What easier task, see how the poor fools trust us!" and he gave a half contemptuous laugh.

The mate whistled softly in his beard. "Twould surely bring us great notice and reward," he said at last. ''His majesty ever listens eagerly to adventurers from over seas, and 'twere easy enough to be done; yet," he spoke hesitatingly, ''it seems but a poor return and not half honorable."

"What know they of honor," cried Weymouth impatiently, "they are but beasts. Canst talk of honor with a dog! Be sensible, man, and think of the great good we may give our countrymen by thus turning their eyes to this new land."
"Tis doubtless as you say," replied Cam, beginning to yield, "yet methinks even a dog knows gratitude and will repay treachery. However, if you wish it, we are bound to obey your commands, and perchance no harm will come of it."
At this point one of the savages stirred in his sleep and tossed a dusky arm above his head.

"Tis as if he held a weapon ready to strike!" muttered Cam drawing back a step.

"Away with such fears!" cried Weymouth striking his comrade a resounding blow between the shoulders. "What spirit is this for discoverers in unknown worlds! Come, let us discuss the plan."

A week later the Archangel had completed her work and had shipped a large quantity of furs. The thoughts of all now turned homeward. One afternoon two canoes with three Indians visited the ship, while two other savages remained on the shore of a nearby island seated by a fire built on the rocks.

"This is our chance," said Weymouth to his men. "Get some of them to go below and do not allow them to come back on deck."

Two painted faces at that moment appeared over the side of the vessel. Griffith walked up to them with a pleasant smile. "Come below with me," he said, "I have something new to show you." The simple natives understood his signs but not his words and readily followed him below. The others would not leave their canoes. A plate of peas was passed down to them which they received with exclamations of pleasure and hurried to the island to share the dainty with their relatives. The peas were rapidly eaten and a young savage, seizing a pewter plate, leaped into a canoe and returned to the ship, joining the others below where he found himself a prisoner. Three other savages were now held captive on the Archangel. As this number did not satisfy Weymouth, the shallop with eight men was sent to the shore as if to trade.

At their approach three of the natives retired to the woods, but the other two advanced and received the proffered gifts of some combs and another plate of their favorite eatable. All made their way over the rocks and seaweed and sat down around the fire.

Allen Island Cross
Cross on Allen's Island
Erected on 300th Anniversary of Weymouth's Visit

Never had the white men been more courteous and peaceful in their behavior; never had the simple natives showed more fully their gratitude and trust. Then as suddenly as the tiger springs upon its prey did the treacherous Europeans fall upon their unsuspecting hosts. As fear rushed in to take the place of confidence, it required the strength of all the eight to hold the slippery, struggling bodies of their captives and bear them to the boat.

In high spirits Weymouth greeted the return of the crew. "This will be enough," he said. "Take them below with their comrades. I have just learned that one of them is a special prize, a chieftain named Nahanada. Now we will go home.''
With despairing hearts these victims of Weymouth's treachery were dragged from the deck of the Archangel never expecting to behold their native shores again. How little could they imagine the strange life which for the next three years was to be theirs; to be transplanted to a foreign land and gazed at by the curious eyes of a great metropolis; then, when the new tongue was mastered, to relate to the wondering ear of royalty the story of a mighty land with its unbounded riches of sea and shore; and finally to be restored to their own people to act as guides to future voyagers!
Note. - Some authorities hold that the mountains seen by Weymouth, or Waymouth, as his name is often spelled, were the White Mountains and that the harbor into which he sailed was Boothbay and the river, the Kennebec. The White Mountains, however, are seen from Monhegan only under the most favorable conditions. There seems little doubt that the mountains were the Camden Hills, and the islands which the Weymouth party explored after leaving Monhegan were the islands in George's Harbor, near Thomaston, including Allen's and Burnt Island.

In July, 1905, the Maine Historical Society celebrated the tercentenary of Weymouth's voyage, and on Allen's Island erected and dedicated a memorial cross.

Could Weymouth have foreseen the acts of bitter revenge which were to be heaped upon the heads of the innocent as well as the guilty as the result of this unfriendly deed, perhaps he would have repented and released his captives to return to their forest homes. But repentance was now too late, the Archangel was swiftly cleaving her way through the blue waters toward the longed for shores of old England.

Thus was committed, near the magnificent harbor of St. Georges, the deed which was to cause the Indians to regard all Englishmen with hatred and distrust; and was to turn the attention of all England to the splendor and riches of the coast of Maine.

Charlotte M. H. Beath

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

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