Petition of Isaac James and Other Indians at Harwich to the Massachusetts General Court

To His Excellency Thomas Pownall, Esq., Governour and Commander in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England and to the Honorable His Majesty’s Council and House of Representatives in General Court Assembled


The humble petition of us, the subscribers, in behalf of ourselves and Indians, brethren Natives of the Towns of Eastham and Harwich in the County of Barnstable and Province aforesaid humbly sheweth that notwithstanding the care that the Legislative powers of the Province hath taken that we, the Indians Natives, should not be imposed upon by the English as to our Native rights and properties to our lands. Now, your petitioners humbly sheweth that we were never more in a distressing case than at present, as many of our nation have entered into the war with the English against the French and Indians in alliance with them and many of them have died in the service and left their squaws and children in distressing circumstances, and as there is many old crippled Indians among us that stand in great need of relief, all which bring us under a greater necessity of making the best improvements of what little lands that are still left in our hands for which reasons we humbly address this Court shewing that the town or proprietors of Eastham have, as we say, encroached upon our property, viz., upon a certain neck of beach and thatch ground or island within or near the town of Eastham known by the name of Billingsgate Point or Island. Now, your petitioners complain and say that the said point of beach or island is so situated and makes one side of a bay called Billingsgate Bay and that there is not it's like so convenient a place for whaling and other fishing within the County if within the Province and hath ever since the memory of man or any of us been improved to that use and no other.  Now, your petitioners say that Eastham Town or proprietors have conveyed said point or neck of beach to one Samuel Smith, Esq., and one Sylvanus Snow, both of Eastham, or said Snow under said Smith, as he says has gotten the possession of said beach and says that we nor other person shall build whaling houses or cut thatch on said point or beach without their allowance, and said Snow hath forbidden many of us, especially we that dwell or go from said Harwich, either to build or cut thatch or to whale from said beach and wholly denies most of our Natives of improving said beach to our advantage, as many of us are whalemen and might serve ourselves and the public. Now, your petitioners humbly pray that Your Excellency, Honours, and House of Representatives would in your goodness and wisdom in some way as you shall think best puts us in the improvement of what is our property.


As your petitioners in duty bound shall ever pray,


Isaac James

Joshua Ralph

Joseph Jethro, his mark

James Oliver

John Ralph, Sr.

John Ralph, Jr.

David Quanset

Thomas Rafee

Samuel Crook

Amos Lawrence

Dated at Harwich, November 19, 1757



I then served the adverse party, Silvanus Snow, with a copy of the original petition (by leaving the same with him) of which this is a copy, David Barry, Deputy Sheriff, Barnstable SS, [1] January 31, 1758 / Fees, 3 shillings

Legislative Action:

 In the House of Representatives.  December 12, 1757.  Read and ordered that the petitioners serve the adverse party with a copy of this petition.  That they make answer thereto on the second Tuesday of the next sitting of this Court.  Also that the Guardians of the Potanummecut be duly notified thereof that so they may give this Court the best information they can relative to the matters complained of.  Sent up for concurrence, Thomas Hubbard, Speaker. In Council.  Read and concurred.  Andrew Oliver, Secretary. Copy examined per Thomas Clarke,  Deputy Secretary

The Comptroller appointed to consider the petition and the answer thereto report that they have heard both parties who agreed and desired us to report that a committee of this Court be appointed (if the Court should judge proper) to view the premises, hear the parties thereon, and make report, submitted William Brattle by order in Council, March 15, 1758.  Read and not accepted and ordered that the consideration of this petition be referred to the next May Sessions. Sent down for concurrence, Thomas Clarke, Deputy Secretary.  In the House of Representatives. March 16, 1758. Read and non-concurred.  And ordered that the report be accepted.  And that Mr. Edward Bacon and Captain Joseph Robinson with such as the Honorable Board shall appoint be a Committee to view the premises, hear the parties, and make report.  Sent up for concurrence, Thomas Hubbard, Speaker. In Council, March 17, 1758. Read and concurred and Gamaliel Bradford, Esq., is joined in the affair.  Andrew Oliver, Secretary.  Consented to, Thomas Pownell


Copy.  Attest, Thomas Clarke, Deputy Secretary / Thomas Ralph, etc., Indians of Harwich, November 19, 1757 / Secretary's fees 6 shillings 8 pence/ Copy 2 shillings / Total 8 shillings 8 pence / March 17, 1758


785, 786, 787, 788 / 84, 84a, 84b, 84c, 85 / March 1758 / Massachusetts Archives Vol. 33/ 10-20


[1] Deleted Text: February