The Wanaskwiwam Villagers: Where Did They Go?

Mary Ellen Lepionka July 20, 2017

Descendants with Hassanamesit Nipmuc Chief Cheryl Toney Holley in Mass.

Discovering a Native presence on Cape Ann during the Contact Period, I naturally wondered what had happened to them. On both their presence and their disappearance local Archives are mum, except to quote William Bradford of Plymouth and John Winthrop of Boston on the disease that decimated Native populations prior to 1620 and again in the first smallpox epidemic of 1633. Winthrop wrote in 1629: “God hathe consumed the natives with a miraculous plague, whereby a great part of the country is left voyde of inhabitants.” So it has been easy ever since just to say that the Indians had all died off before the English settled here.

But medical sources estimate a survival rate of 75 percent for the first disease (leptospirosis) on the North Shore and points north, mainly because people moved inland to avoid contact–above the fall line on rivers contaminated with the bacteria and away from its animal carriers. Also, in the north, about half the people survived the first smallpox epidemic and subsequently experienced population recovery because of acquired immunity. Survivors of the epidemic of 1633 had a higher chance of surviving subsequent exposures and passing on resistance to their offspring. Although there was a great “dying off,” there had to be more to the story.

When I got to the State Archives, the more I learned the more questions I had. If the Indians had disappeared, why are the records of the General Court and Governors and Indian Overseers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony so full of accounts, treaties, histories, policies, laws, decrees, deeds, and court cases pertaining to Native Americans? How could the 2010 U.S. Census report so many people living in Essex County identifying themselves as “American Indian/Alaska Native”? Could they have included living descendants of the Wanaskwiwam villagers and others of Masquenomenit’s people?

As it turns out, yes. Masquenomenit (Masconomet), Nanepashemet, Pappiseconewa (Passaconaway), Chickatawbut, Massasoit (Ousamequin) and the others all have living descendants. Some, with surnames Tyler, English, Wiser, Safford, Bent, Mitchell, to name a few, are living with Natick, Mashpee, Wampanoag, and Narraganset around Lakeville and Wareham, Cape Cod and the Islands. Others, Emertons for example, are from Gloucester. Jacqueline Emerton, known as Fire Woman, widow of Quiet Bear, was a matriarch of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki and the founder of the Inter-Tribal Council of Tolba Menahan. She organized the pow wows that took place here every August for years in Fisherman’s Field.

Fire Woman and Walking Fox

The pow wows were continued in Fire Woman’s honor after her death in 2004. The last was in 2012. The Council disbanded then and some of her family went to live with kin at the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation in Wisconsin, where Indians from Massachusetts had been forced to relocate in compliance with President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. The Removal Act called for forced migration of all Indians to lands west of the Mississippi. Pawtucket interned with Nipmuc, Pocumtuc, and Mahican families at the Stockbridge, Brotherton, and Schaghticoke reservations were moved to Wisconsin. At the same time, Pennacook-Pawtucket interned with Mohawk were absorbed into the Iroquois reservations in upstate New York and Canada, where they have living descendants today.

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I learned that the survival and resilience of the Native people who lived here took many paths. Some assimilated early. They fenced their farms and kept cattle and converted to Christianity. They spoke English and became literate. They apprenticed themselves to colonial trades and went to sea on English vessels. They indentured themselves to English families and adopted English names and intermarried. In 1650, for example, Great Tom of Quascacunquen (Kwaskwaikikwen) sold his 30-acre farm on the Parker River and indentured himself and his wife and children and their heirs and assigns for all time to William Gerish, Abraham Toppan, and Anthony Somerby of Newbury.

Those assimilating successfully did not live as Indians. They concealed their identities and became invisible, largely avoiding the terrible conflicts to come. Their descendants—except perhaps those with mail-order DNA kits—do not know who they are.

The later 17th century saw two major diasporas. The first was in 1676 during King Philip’s War (Metacomet’s Wampanoag War), when many Pawtucket in Essex County, unable to maintain neutrality, escaped en masse by canoe. They crossed the Merrimack River at Newburyport into New Hampshire and Maine. Some joined the Wabanaki resistance movement. Others sought refuge with former allies or with former traditional enemies. Some descendants of those Pawtucket are living today in Abenaki, Sokoki, Pequaket, Mississiquoi, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Malecite and Micmac communities in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Nova Scotia.

Descendants in New Hampshire

During and after King Philip’s War, captured survivors of many different cultural groups speaking different languages were thrown together in internment camps. Some were interned with Africans and shipped to Bermuda and Barbados as slaves. In 1676 Pennacook Indians and Africans were shipwrecked on St. David’s Island, for example, en route to a slave plantation in the Caribbean. They have living descendants on that island today.

Descendants on St. David’s Island

A second diaspora occurred in 1695 from the village of Wamesit (Lowell), a “Praying Indian” winter village where survivors of colonial military expeditions against the Indians had gathered for protection. Wamesit came under attack by local settlers, however, among them my own ancestors, who had founded Chelmsford in 1636. I try to imagine them as hardscrabble men incensed over gruesome Indian massacres in other towns they reached too late to defend. But I cannot. They scapegoated their ones at home. They set the wigwams ablaze and shot the people as they ran. Pawtucket who lived fled into the White Mountains and those who survived exposure reached sanctuary in St. Francis, Quebec. Their descendants are living there today with the Abenaki at Odanak and Becancour on the St. Lawrence River.

Descendants at Odanak

The 1690s is also the last recorded evidence of Indians in Gloucester until after the Civil War, except for the 1701 appearance of Masquenomenit’s grandchildren in General Court to receive Gloucester’s last payment for their land. Daniel Gookin, Indian Supervisor for the Mass. Bay Colony and a great protector of the Native people under his purview, died in 1687 and was greatly mourned by them. On a 1700 map, Essex County is triumphantly marked, “Cleared of Indians”.

Between 1689 and 1763, the government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony offered bounties on Indian scalps—men, women, and children—in an off-and-on campaign of state-sponsored genocide spanning three generations, a fact little known. Some Gloucester men, Andrew Robinson for example, enriched themselves in this way, especially during the French and Indian Wars when an enemy warrior’s scalp could fetch as much as 100 English pounds. Indian scalps were hung from the rafters of the Court House in Salem. They were taken down on the eve of Revolution only after barristers complained of unsightliness and falling dust.

As in any holocaust, survival depended either on escape and self-exile or invisibility. In this way, many Pawtucket and other Native people in New England gave up their homes and possessions, religion, language, culture, knowledge and skills, communities, gene pools, and identities as Native Americans. Today some descendants of Native Americans of the Northeast are working to reclaim or reinvent their remixed Native heritage. Theirs is a story of adaptation, resilience, and cultural creativity in the face of 400 years of persecution and catastrophic change. Times have changed, but prejudice and discrimination—and indifference—both casual and official are commonplace still.

There are pow wows in Beverly, Danvers, and Lowell. I asked the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness about having pow wows on Cape Ann again—you can now hire groups to lecture and perform—which is how I learned about Fire Woman. I’m told that Fire Woman’s people felt discouraged from trying to continue their pow wow tradition in Fisherman’s Field. The Council members had grown older, fewer, poorer—but in 2012 the City of Gloucester could not make an exception for them to be able to afford to park their campers and sell their crafts at Stage Fort Park.

You may remember that year’s howling and drumming as the loudest ever, lasting all night under Tablet Rock. But you did not hear it as appeals to the spirits of the ancestors of that place. And we did not know it would be the last public expression of Native culture on Cape Ann. Or is it?


Mary Ellen Lepionka lives in East Gloucester and is studying the history of Cape Ann from the Ice Age to around 1700 A.D. for a book on the subject. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with degrees in anthropology. She studied at Boston University and the University of British Columbia and has performed archaeology in Ipswich, MA, Botswana, Africa, and at Pole Hill in Gloucester, MA.  Mary Ellen is a trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and serves on the Gloucester Historical Commission.


Waterfront Facility Development

The City is planning to develop a waterfront facility.  The Seaport Economic Council awarded the City a grant to perform a study.  (see below)

On June 1st, the city contracted with Harriman Consulting to conduct the study which will be completed early this fall.

According to the plan of services submitted by Harriman Consulting, they will develop a Communication Plan which will describe methods that will be used to provide public information and the process that will be used to engage the public throughout the process.

This is an important opportunity to express to the consultant the needs of the community in the development of an important waterfront resource before recommendations are set forth in their draft report.

Anyone concerned and interested in participating in a public process and communicating the needs of the community should contact the Mayor, Harbormaster and Waterways Board with your concerns.

Comments can be sent to:



Gloucester – $80,000

Gloucester is the oldest fishing port in America, and it is critical to the economic health of the city that visitors – especially visiting boaters – feel welcome and have access to the resources they need. In order to advance Gloucester’s maritime and tourism economies, the City will use Seaport Economic Council funds for a site selection study that will examine co-locating a visiting boater support facility with the Harbormaster’s office, to offer resources and amenities including changing rooms, showers, laundry facilities, public restrooms, and common space with Wi-Fi access.



Patti Page, EG consultant, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.


Olga Lingard & Cape Ann: A Great War Enigma

World War I Poster    by Sidney H. Riesenberg (1885-1971)

By Holly Clay

Olga Lingard was known as a recluse. There’s more to her story, though. She lived on the hillside above Annisquam’s Lobster Cove, on the Dogtown side of Washington Street. Her brother Eric took on heroic missions as a WWI aviator, dying in Action. In his memory, Olga gave a parcel of land for “Soldiers’ Memorial Woods,” where Annisquam’s WWI war memorial stands in a peaceful grove alongside the Cove.  A plaque honors soldiers who lost their lives in that “Great War.” Three men’s names are etched there:  Eric Lingard, John Gossom, and Bertram Williams. All had strong Cape Ann ties.

“Soldiers’ Memorial Woods.”
A plaque in Annisquam honors soldiers who lost their lives in the “Great War.”
The three men’s names are Eric Lingard, John Gossom, and Bertram Williams.

Olga wanted to pay tribute to her brother and establish a memorial. He died in October 1918 in the aftermath of a successful aerial retaliation against a German U-boat threatening a South American freighter. Ensign Eric Lingard died of pneumonia at the Naval Air Base at Chatham, shortly after a plane on which he was “gunner,” crashed. He and his co-aviators were spotted and saved after 27 hours in the freezing, October waters off Cape Cod. Eric had stayed partially submerged, tending to his comrade and holding up the left wing of the plane. The encounter was one of the rare home-coast incidents in which a U.S. Navy plane successfully diverted a German U-boat.

Eric Adrian Alfred Lingard, Navy Pilot

In 1923, Olga, along with an Annisquam memorial committee commenced discussion. She hoped the Grove would bear Eric’s name. She had cause. Hollis French, a committee member, explained Olga’s point of view in a letter to Professor Charles Frederick Bradley. (Bradley would ultimately deliver an address at the unveiling.) Hollis said that Olga noted the custom of naming Legion posts after their most prominent member, and believed the same protocol was afforded war memorials. He continued, “he [Eric] was, she thinks, the only one who was lost in actual defense of his home land and particularly of his home section…She feels, therefore, that if the land in question is to be used as a memorial, it should be named after him, although it could be used as a memorial for all the boys who went from Annisquam.“

By 1929 the committee and Olga had resolved to dedicate the Wood to all those who fought, highlighting the three Annisquam men who died. Preparing for the July 7 dedication, Olga eagerly shared memories and highlights of Eric’s life and career in a letter to Professor Bradley. “Those Naval Patrol Fliers were pioneers of the air in the tradition of 1776. A meager handful – with shaky planes, scant equipment, worthless compasses and no ammunition – they set out against the odds of storm and deadly fog, to see their enemy. They too met death barehanded for the sake of the land they loved.”

Her words reflect an aching heart, as she goes on to describe Eric’s roots in Annisquam, “This Wood, these trees, and rocks, this cove, were part of Eric’s childhood.  Here he played Indian and learned to swim. And beyond all official data, there is one fact of particular significance to the people of Annisquam: The fact that Eric’s special service – the thing he individually could give – was his exact knowledge of this coast, gained from a boyhood spent cruising these waters. After he won his wings, his orders to France were issued but were delayed….as the Germans sent submarines over here.  Our coastwise shipping, even the coast itself was attacked. Pilots familiar with these shores were needed. And so it happened that Eric was chosen to guard this very spot.”

“Those of us who were in Annisquam during the summer and fall of 1918 could hear, almost daily, the throb of his plane as he flew over us on patrol. And death came to him as the result of his volunteered response to an SOS from a submarine attack.”

“Truly, and directly, he gave his life in defense of this Wood which you now dedicate,” she wrote with the passion of one who has lost the person most dear to her. She never fully recovered. In later years, she could be found sitting in Eric’s tomb in Annisquam’s Mt. Adnah Cemetery. Perhaps, she tried to reforge the bond that his tragic death severed.

Olga also had a role in securing the hull of the downed plane, H.S. 1L.1695, for Gloucester.  It was to be placed in Stage Fort Park as a tribute to the Gloucester men who fought in the Great War.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then Acting Secretary of the Navy, wrote to Olga, “Your letter concerning the hull of Seaplane 1695 has been received, and I am very glad to be able to tell you that the request you make in your letter has already been complied with.

“….I have given orders that the hull of Seaplane 1695 be turned over to the Park Commissioners of Gloucester…

“Knowing what a splendid young man your brother was, I can realize what a great loss you have suffered. Your brother lived up to the best traditions of the Navy and I cannot speak too highly of his gallant work.”

Lingard seaplane, Gloucester Harbor, 1919.     

Olga, like her brother, had backbone. Their childhoods could not have been easy, but certainly fueled loyalty to one another. Though newspaper accounts say Olga was born in Switzerland, ships’ manifests list Hungary.  It is not clear when they emigrated, but in 1900 Olga, Eric, and their mother Adele, this time claiming birth in Germany, were boarding with a family by the name of Boehme in Los Angeles.  Their father Henry R. Lingard’s birthplace is listed as Russia. The census form lists him as deceased, around 1898. In 1900 Olga was 13 and Eric was 10.

By 1905 the family had moved to Boston.  Eric attended Middlesex and Harvard, entering Harvard Law School in 1913. Then in January 1915, Adele died. Eric left law school to care for Olga. He was only half way through his second year. Coming home to Annisquam, to “Highland Cottage,” he established an ice business. Eric’s official Navy Registration card (May 1917) listed Olga as his sole relative. He wrote, “Yes. Am sole relative and guardian of invalid sister, …”

Olga Lingard.     Courtesy of the Annisquam Historical Society

Olga Lingard lived until August 1970. Her GDT obituary says she was educated in Europe and spoke several languages. The obituary speaks of her contributions, most notably of the WWI Memorial here in Annisquam. Though solitary up on the hill with her dogs, she maintained links to the community.  Below, she appears in a photograph of the cast of the Annisquam Village Players (first row, second from left).

Later in life, Olga sold the family house to the Crouse family (Sound of Music lyricist Russel Crouse) and moved into a smaller house on Bennett Street.  In December of 1964, a fire ravaged her home. Olga lost everything, including the manuscript for a book she had written about her brother. Not long after, she moved to an apartment in Rockport and ultimately to a nursing home. An eccentric, or not, Olga Lingard made her mark, dignifying the family name and drawing attention to the ultimate sacrifice paid by her remarkable and loyal brother Eric.



The hull of HS 1695 has disappeared, its fate a mystery. One clue surfaced. In 2012, Gloucester resident Bill Hubbard responded to a Good Morning Gloucester photograph of the seaplane Eric regularly piloted.

The photo jogged his memory. In regard to the other plane, the one that crashed, Hubbard said, “For years before and during WW-II, the hull of a similar plane was in the lower level of the Twin Light Garage on East Main Street. The garage was owned by the late Ray Bradley who lived on Rocky Neck. As kids, we often played around it and I remember Ray telling us that it had been a WW-I airplane – I believe it was an old Coast Guard bi-winged seaplane. There were no wings or rudder, just the hull which was shaped very much like the one in the picture. Not long after the end of the war, they dragged it out to the flats on Smith Cove and burned it.”

In response, Bodin confirmed Hubbard’s memory. “Thanks, Bill. I had heard that Eric Lingard’s aircraft was stored in the DPW barn on Poplar Street for years, and then went to someone’s basement or garage.”

Hubbard replied, “Fred, maybe that was Lingard’s plane in the basement of Twin Light Garage.”

What else could it have been?

Gloucester’s VFW Post 1620 ultimately took Eric Lingard’s name, now known as the Doucette-Lingard Post.


To learn more visit:

The Annisquam Historical Society Exhibition at the Annisquam Firehouse

Annisquam in World War I

4 July 2017 – 30 September 2017



Holly Clay is settled in Gloucester after many years of living overseas and in Washington, D.C. Holly is a member of the Gloucester Historical Commission and the Annisquam Historical Society.  With a background in education and writing, her professional energies are currently devoted to studying and teaching yoga and meditation.