Petition of John Hector to the Massachusetts General Court
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General Court Assembled
The subscriber, a descendant from the Hassanamisco tribe of Indians,1 residing in the City of Worcester, would respectfully represent that his ancestors were a powerful and wealthy tribe of Indians, who owned and occupied the whole town of Hassanamisco (now Grafton) by reason of the constant encroachments and duplicity of the English planters, the tribe became reduced in numbers and in resources. Massachusetts, subsequently by an act of her General Court, assumed guardianship over them by appointing Trustees2 and transferring all their property into their hands to be held for the benefit of them and their descendants forever.3 But through the negligence and want of fidelity of some of the Trustees, over whom your petitioner or his ancestors could have no control, their lands were all sold, and a large amount of the money lost and wasted without any fault of the petitioner or his ancestors, thereby leaving him penniless and powerless. The truth of the above will be verified by reference to the ancient records of the Commonwealth.4
Your petitioner would further represent that he is sole heir to a relative who died several years ago,5 leaving ninety acres of land in New Hampshire, which is now in the occupancy of persons unknown, and to which no claim has ever been made by your petitioner or by anyone on his behalf. That an estate in Worcester formerly belonging to the deceased relative aforesaid, and which your petitioner legally inherited, who was sold in the year 1850, and the avails distributed among persons who were not entitled to them, that he has a just and equitable claim upon a valuable estate in Paxton that formerly belonged to another deceased relative to whom he is sole heir, which claim will not be recognized unless legal proceedings are instituted. That he is now aged and infirm,6 destitute of the necessaries of life, with a family dependent upon him for support.7 That he is entitled to valuable rights but has no power nor means to secure them. Finally, your petitioner believes that inasmuch as he has been reduced to his present condition mainly by the fault and neglect of Trustees appointed by the General Court, that this appeal for some slight remuneration on his own behalf and on behalf of his family will not be made in vain.
Your petitioner, therefore, hereby prays that the Commonwealth may appropriate such sum of money as may be necessary to secure to him and his family a comfortable home and support, and may also employ some suitable agent to ascertain the nature and value of all property or claims thereto which should inure to his benefit with power to sell and dispose of the same or otherwise, as may best secure the just fights of your petitioner and all others concerned.
Petition of John Hector, a descendant of the Hassanamisco tribe of Indians, asking remuneration for property lost and wasted by former Trustees of the tribe who were appointed by the State. And also for the appointments of an agent to investigate and prosecute his claims to other property. Mr. Rogers of Worcester.8 Committee on Claims / House of Representative / March 7, 1855 / Referred to Committee on Claims / Sent up to for Concurrence / H. A. Marsh, clerk / In Senate, March 9, 1855 / Concurred/ P. L. Cox, Clerk
- 1. Hector descended from Moses Printer, one of the original Nipmuc proprietors of Hassanamisco.
- 2. The Massachusetts General Court appointed the Hassanamiscos' first trustees--Captain Edward Goddard, Captain Ephraim Curtis, and Spencer--on June 9, 1725. Connole, The Indians of the Nipmuck Country, 248.
- 3. See the Indian deed to the Town of Hassanamisco Frederick Clifton Pierce, History of Grafton, Worcester County, Massachusetts (Worcester, MA: Press of Chas. Hamilton,1879), 36-40.
- 4. John Milton Earle discusses some of these instances in his 1861 report. Because the original 1727 sale of Hassanamisco was conducted with "old tenor" money, whose value fluctuated, the tribe lost $1,330.39 to the benefit of the government. Furthermore, the tribal funds were further reduced at the end of the Eighteenth-Century by the malfeasance of two of the community's trustees, Benjamin Heywood and Captain Isaac Harrington. Earle Report, 89-93.
- 5. The identity of this person is currently unknown.
- 6. Hector was 63 at this time.
- 7. The Worcester, Massachusetts State Census for 1855 indicates that John and Susan had four children living with them: Asa E (19), Susan J. (17), Corneilia A. (15), and Esther E. (9). Mary Woodward, an 80-year old black woman, also resided in the Hector household. Missing are two elder sons, Moses C. and William H. Massachusetts State Census (Worcester, 1855). Family Search.
- 8. Deleted Text: Joint Special Committee.