Petition of the Chappaquiddick Indians to the Governor and Council of Massachusetts

To His Excellency the Governor and the Honourable Council of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts                

The petition of the Indians and other People of Colour, inhabiting the Island of Chappaquiddick in the County of Dukes County, for and in behalf of themselves and other Coloured People of the said Island, do hereby humbly represent to Your Excellency and Honours that by a Special Law passed January 28, 1789,1 there was a certain part of the said Island set off and assigned to the said Indians, to be by them improved as tenants in common, the Patentees and other Purchasers on the said Island to be 2 at the sale, and whole charge and expense of making, maintaining, and repairing the divisional fence and fences between themselves and the said Indians in which law it is likewise provided that His Excellency the Governor, by and with the  consent of Council, is empowered and requested to appoint two White persons and one Indian as Guardians to have the care and oversight of the said Indians, and their interest on the said Island and that there has, from time to time, been Guardians appointed for that purpose.  Yet notwithstanding which, your petitioners humbly conceive that the present Guardians, (namely) Messrs. Jethro Worth, Martin Pease, and Johnson Peters, have not performed their trust therein as they ought to have done in the following particulars, namely:                 

They have neglected to order and see that there was a lawful and sufficient fence erected and kept in repair between the Patentees and Purchasers and the said Indians, agreeable to an additional act passed June the 19th 1790,3 by which neglect, the said Indians have repeatedly sustained great damages in their corn, rye, and pasturage by cattle, sheep, and other creatures getting [ illegible ] and upon their land and destroying the same.  And when the Indians have taken creatures, damage feasant, and impounded them, and made application to the Guardians, they, the said Guardians, took no notice of their grievances but ordered the said creatures to be liberated without rendering any compensation to the persons impounding them.  Also, the said Guardians have hived or rented out for pasturage a tract of woodland set off to the said Indians for their wood and firing, which land was partly enclosed with stuff taken off the said woodland by the persons who improved the same by the consent of the said Guardians, by which means or the pasturing of the said land, the growth of the wood was much damaged by the cattle and other creatures browsing the same, that your petitioners have often applied to George Johnson, one of the late Guardians, to perambulate the lines between the Patentees and Indians, which he has always refused to do, and which has necessitated the Indians to do the same at their own expense, and by which survey, they have found a certain tract of their land enclosed and improved by other people,4  that the present Guardians have assigned and set off to Isaiah Johnson, a tract of land within about sixteen rods of the house of Joseph Simpson, which the said Simpson cleared out, the said Johnson living about one mile from Simpson's house, which occasioned a lawsuit between them, which suit was supported on the part of Johnson by the Guardians, and in consequence of which suit, the said Simpson had two swine and his small boat taken from him to pay the damage and cost of suit, and in consequence of which, his family is much distressed, and he obliged to go to sea and run in debt for the support of his family, it being very large.                

That William Johnson and Fereba Boas were prosecuted under the direction of the Guardians by Welthan Wayman, the daughter of George Johnson, for tendering their cattle on land and meadow improved by Charlotte Mattison, and cleared out by William Mattison, her late husband, she being poor and having five children to support.5               

And Elisabeth Carter complains that she has been at the expense of clearing a tract of land which the Guardians have taken out of her improvement and assigned the same to Peter Belain, a son-in-law to the said George Johnson.6               

And, in general, that the present Guardian have shewed an undue degree of partiality in favour of the said George and his family by assigning to them several tracts of land for their improvement, of which your petitioners think they ought to have the benefit, as they have been at the expense and labour of clearing the same.                

Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that Your Excellency and Honours would take our complaint and petition into your wise consideration and grant us relief therein, so far that you would remove the present Guardians from their said trust, and would humbly purpose that Messrs. Jethro Daggett and Thaddeus Cook and Benjamin Smith may be appointed, in whom, we trust we should be better united, and from whom we should expect a more punctual compliance with the law, and a more equal distribution of the lands for our future improvement, and we would farther observe that it was not generally known or approved by the Natives of their being appointed.

All which is humbly submitted and as in duty bound shall ever pray,

Sarah Curdoody, her mark     
Martha Pepenu, her mark
Mary Cook, wife
Dated May 14, 1809

Endorsement:

Petition to the Governor and Council. Remonstrance

  • 1. An Act to set off to the Patentees, and other Purchasers, certain Lands on the Island of Chapequiddick, in the County of Dukes County, and finally to adjust and determine all disputes between the Patentees and other Purchasers, and the Indians on the said Island, and to prevent Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Goats and Swine from going at large, on the said Island, at certain Seasons of the Year. Private and Special Statutes (Massachusetts, 1789), 214-220.
  • 2. Deleted Text: Shall
  • 3. An Act in addition to an Act, entitled, "An Act to set off to the Patentees and other Purchasers, certain Lands on the Island of Chapequiddick, in the County, in the County of Dukes Country, and to finally to adjust and determine all disputes between the said Patentees and other Purchasers, and the Indians on the said Island, and to prevent Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Goats and Swine, form going at large on the said Island at certain Seasons of the Year, Acts and Resolves (Massachusetts, 1790).
  • 4. Since this line occurred at the bottom of the page in the original document, the instruction ” Turn over” was indicated there.
  • 5. The children were Samuel (b. 1791), Elizabeth (b. 1799), William (b. 1799), Love (b. 1801), and Michael (b. 1806).
  • 6. Belain married Johnson's daughter, Sarah, on November 24, 1805. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records (Edgartown), Ancestry.