Letter from Mary Pray to Captain Oliver

 Courteous Sir, Captain Oliver,[1]
 
I received no letter from you since John[2] was at Boston. We long to hear some good tiding from Boston, if God so please.  We have but little here, but such news as increaseth our sorrows.  The Indians are very bold and have driven or ride away three horses from Seekonk since Daniel Smith came from Boston this last week, of which his horse was one.  So soon as he came home and pursued one lone man of our town, being going to Seekonk, but he out run them three and escaped.  They are often seen other while one taken, one of which was notable fellow as hath appeared since to the sorrow of the English.  He was well known to us here and, being examined, he related many things too much to trouble you with, but this one most nearly concerns your serious care, he being asked where those Indians that are out still had their supply of powder and shot.  He very readily told us that the Praying Indians secretly did supply them.  I desired Mr. Stanton’s sons[3] to inform yourself of it.  Because I had not time to write, they were in haste. We heard by an Indian from Warwick that about fourteen miles from us there is one hundred yet nigh together.  But our young men often see their track in the snow as they walk near our town.  We hear you lately sent twenty Praying Indians for so they be to Watchchusset and that there is five hundred Indians fighting men.  If so, our labor hath been and is in vain in thinking to hold these twenty houses, which now remain of six score and three besides our mill.   We shall be forced to leave our town if these wretches are suffered to take these cattle we now have lately bought for our money.  We must fly if the Lord help not for ought we can discern at present our condition will be sad if we cannot plant next spring.  We cannot subsist any longer.  We once were as rich as any town within forty miles of us round about but now are the poorest of all towns.  Were I near you, I could tell you the grand cause next to our sin and backslidings from our God, but letters often miscarry and, if truth be spoke or written, and men’s own selves be touched if many times stirs them more than the weal or woo of a town or two or many and petitions.  But however were I worthy to write to so most worthy deserving a gentlemen as your governor[4] is, I would humbly petition him to write to Rhode Island governor[5] that for the good of the towns upon the main, he would clear the island of those wicked Indians that are with them who will undoubtedly run away in the spring and rally in their forces together and destroy us and many others, if not our lives, our livelihood.  Just now came news that Connecticut men have killed twenty-four Indians and taken and some of Narragansett men, searched some of their woods and found two men and two women in a wigwam which four had sixteen pound of bullets and eight of powder.  They said that there is six score in our woods, as well furnished as they were.  Pray, Sir, let some serious course be taken to prevent your Praying Indians from such secret conveyance of powder and shot.  Truly, Sir, there in no trust in Indians. They are subtle to deceive.  I wish you knew them as well as we do.  Mr. Joseph Jencks told me that there is three hundred fighting men Indians up Rhode Island.  I pray, Sir, in our behalf stand now for us and though I am not worthy, yet you may speak to your governor and council to send to Rhode Island about those Indians that for the profit they hope to have by them are detained by them for servants, which may prove more injury to the country than all we can say will make them sensible of.  When I have as any time murmured against the Indians’ wickedness or the English neglect, the same moment I am ready to silence myself, calling to mind the Lord hath done if these afflictions come not out of the dust nor these troubles spring out of the ground.  But sin is the cause of our sorrow.  The Lord in much mercy make us as sensible of the cause as we are of the punishment.  The stroke is heavy, and I fear will yet be heavier except the Lord make us able to meet him by true repentance and reformation of life.  There is an Indian run away from us, which was a servant to Henry Fowler, who lived upon Joseph Wise’s farm near us,[6] and we have information he is about your parts.  We suppose he may be with Joseph Wise.  I hope you will look to him that he may have his due, which is a halter.   His running away by divers lies he told hindered forty or fifty Indians from coming to us that otherwise were resolved to come.  His common name was Surly Tom.  His Indian name I have forgot.  We hope you rulers are so judicious that they will not suffer any of these wretches to live among you.  It is greatly to be feared and undoubtedly will prove so that they will run away in the spring and join with such as themselves, and so the wretches encourage one another, and the next summer may prove worse than this.  Uncas’ own men accused him with falsehood and treachery.  Some here think that some of the eastward Indians are come into these parts and not without ground.  When I hear further concerning it, I will inform you.  The meantime I desire the Lord to keep and direct us all in his fear and to keep us so near to himself that we make not flesh our arm but hope in his mercy. 
 
Yours to command to my power called,
 
Providence, January 6, 1676
 
 
Notation:
Mary Pray’s letter to Captain Oliver
 
 
Cataloguing:
91, 92
 
 
 
 
 
 

[1] James Oliver, captain of Boston’s militia and a town selectman.
[2] Born in Providence, Rhode Island around 1658, John Pray was the son of Mary and Richard Pray.  He remained in Providence during the Indian attacks on the town during King Philip’s War.
[3] Thomas Stanton’s sons Robert, John, and Joseph were soldiers in the colonial forces.
[4] Josiah Winslow was Massachusetts’ governor in 1677.
[5] Walter Clarke was Rhode Island’s governor up to May 2, 1677.
[6] The house stood upon a hill called Neotaconquonitt in present-day Johnston, Rhode Island.  The Early Records of the Town of Providence III: 61.  Douglas-Lithgow, Native American Place Names, RI, 24.