HOW CAPTAIN MILES STANDISH MET
the rock came Captain Miles Standish, with his wife Rose and their
ON one of the boats that ferried across shoal water
Captain Miles Standish was a" character"!
He was about forty years old. He was short, sturdy, and stout, as
quick of temper as he was of eye; in fact, the Indians called him the
"little pot that soon boils over." But they also called him
the "strong sword," which shows how much they feared and
respected his valor.
He was courageous, energetic, and determined, a man
of sound ideas, of good common sense, and ripe military knowledge based
on real experience. He was gentle of heart, sparing of words, strong of
purpose, and of excellent judgment. It was a great
good fortune that gave to the first Massachusetts colony so valiant a
defender, so faithful a comrade, and so excellent a soldier as Captain
Though one of the Puritan Pilgrims, he was no
Puritan. He came of the old Roman Catholic family of Standish of Duxbury
Hall, in the English county of Yorkshire. Defrauded of his rights and
his inheritance when a young man, he went across the sea to Holland, and
there enlisted, like other English soldiers, in a Dutch regiment. He
made friends in the Separatist colony at Leyden, became interested in
their plans, and, being of a restless and adventurous disposition,
joined himself to the company of Pilgrims, and embarked with them on
their uncertain voyage to the New World.
He was a fine soldier, and was looked upon by his
companions as the one best fitted as a leader in all affairs of danger
or of defense. He had signed the compact for mutual protection in the
cabin of the Mayflower; he led the first exploring party at Cape
Cod; and had headed the landsmen who made that bolder voyage across the
bay to Plymouth. Even before the landing of the Pilgrims at the rock, he
had seen and scattered at Eastham, on "
the cape," certain of the scarce and
unreliable Indians who had spied upon, threatened, and, on one occasion,
really attacked the newcomers on the Massachusetts shores; in memory of
which this place for years retained the name the Pilgrims gave it—the "
These Indians were members of one or another of the
twenty tribes of red Americans who then inhabited the present State of
Massachusetts. But their numbers were small, and it was because of this
that the Pilgrims of Plymouth were able to occupy and hold without molestation
the fertile fields that lay about the place of landing and settlement.
once upon a time that section had been fairly well
peopled with Indians. But a few years before the coming of the Pilgrims
a fatal epidemic had swept across southeastern Massachusetts, and but
few Indians had been spared. Those who lived had joined other tribes,
leaving their corn fields and hunting grounds uncared for and
Of these the Pilgrims took possession, and after they
had built the half-dozen log huts of their little settlement upon a
street (now known as Leyden Street) starting from the rock and running
up to the hill, Captain Miles Standish had raised on this hill a strong
platform, upon which he mounted a few cannon, to protect the little
settlement below. They passed their first terrible winter there on
Leyden Street, It was really
not a terrible one, as New England winters go, but it was fatal to those
English people unused to the climate, the changes, and the quick
consumption and deadly pneumonia they led to. Then as soon as spring
fairly opened, the little remnant of fifty-two seasoned ones set about
planting and farming the Indian plantation.
In this farm work they were greatly helped by an
Indian with a story. His name was Squantum. He had belonged to the tribe
that owned and occupied the site of Plymouth; but a few years before he
had been kidnapped by a roving party of English sailors, taken to Spain
in captivity, rescued by a philanthropic Englishman, taken to London,
where he had lived as a servant, and finally had drifted back to his old
home and hunting ground at Plymouth.
But while he had been abroad the fearful epidemic
had killed or scattered all his tribe; so Squantum
became a wanderer, and at last joined himself to the warlike tribe of
the Wampanoags, who lived in what is now the
region of Taunton, New Bedford, and Bristol.
Squantum was brought to Plymouth and introduced to
:the Pilgrims by a wandering Indian named Samoset. He became very
because they were Englishmen,— countrymen of the good Englishman who
had rescued him from slavery, rather than of the wicked Englishmen who
had kidnapped him.
Squantum proved a great help to these inexperienced
Englishmen who wished to become American farmers
and fishermen. He told them all about the Indians
in that country, helped them to make friends, and afterwards to arrange
a treaty with Massasoit, the chief of the warlike Wampanoags. He sold
them the land which they had " squatted
upon" at Plymouth, and which they looked upon as belonging to
Squantum as the last living male heir of his lost tribe.
He told them what to plant and how to
plant it; he explained to them all about Indian corn, which
was a new cereal to the
English Pilgrims, but which often became the mainstay and salvation of
the colony. In fact, Squantum proved of so much
value to the Pilgrims as friend, guide, farming expert, interpreter,
go-between, and companion that one recent historian declares that
Americans owe a great debt to the Indian Squantum, and that he better
deserves from Mas-
sachusetts a memorial and a monument than does
Leif, the fabled Norseman, whose statue stands in Boston’s stately
Back Bay, or any of the early heroes of colonial America ;
for an acquaintance with Indian corn and the
knowledge of how to live in America, both of them brought about by this
very friendly and "traveled" Indian, made the colony of
Plymouth not only possible, but permanent.
It was Squantum who brought into friendly relations
with the white men the big chief of all the Indians thereabouts,—Massasoit
the Wampanoag, —and we can picture to ourselves Captain Miles Standish
and his six musketeers following Squantum along the town brook to the
point where Massasoit and his dusky bodyguard waited to be received. A
salute was fired, and after that the "guest of the colony"
went back with Standish and Squantum to the town, where, in a house
especially fitted up for his reception with cushions and a green carpet,
the governor met the chieftain and concluded that treaty of peace and
friendship of which I have spoken. This treaty was
faithfully kept, both by the red men and by the
white, for more than fifty years. It was finally broken by bad white men
who were newcomers in the colony, and thus brought about a bloody war.
But the real Pilgrims and the honorable Wampanoags kept it loyally, and
in this the Pilgrims of Massachusetts set an example which William Penn
followed to such excellent advantage when lie attempted the peaceful
founding of Pennsylvania.
Probably the "moral influence" of Captain
Miles Standish and his "thunder-making" muskets counted for
considerable with Massasoit, for these were present at the making of the
treaty. The Indians, indeed, had a wholesome fear of the "little
captain of Plymouth" and
his slim guard of matchlock men.
Later, when the bad boy of the colony, young Jack
Billington, broke the rules and wandered off, only to fall among the
Indians, Squantum and Captain Standish found him and brought him back.
After that, when Squantum was captured by certain
rebellious braves of Massasoit’s tribe who objected to friendship with
the white men, and proposed to kill Squantum,—the "mouth of the
Englishmen," as they called him,—Captain Miles Standish led his
picked soldiers against the rebels, and forced them to give up Squantum
and obey Massasoit.
When an Indian conspiracy aimed at the destruction of
the white men’s settlements, —which began to extend along the coast
after Plymouth had proved itself a success,—Captain Miles Standish
straightway led his little army of a dozen men against the hostiles, who
were not of Massasoit’s tribe, seized the ringleader of the con-
spiracy, killed two Indians who attempted to interfere, and by his
stern and determined manner so surprised and overawed the conspiring
savages that they quickly fled, leaving their leader a prisoner in the
"little captain’s" hands, and never again attempted to
interfere with those whom the "strong sword" protected.
So, with firmness, decision, fairness, and friendship, with a show of
force when necessary, and with real fighting if pushed to it, but always
with justice and for the ends of peace and security, Captain Miles
Standish met the Indians of Massachusetts, and always came off
It was because of his courage and firm front, quite as much as
because of the honor of the Pilgrims in treaty keeping, that the Indians
of that section were for so many years peaceful and friendly. It was
because of the valorous captain of Plymouth, the trusted defender of the
colony in its days of weakness, its honored representative in England in
the days of its firm establishment, that the English colonists along the
south shore of Massachusetts were enabled to gain and keep a footing in
the section which their pluck, their faith, and
their persistence first colonized and afterwards developed.
But, in spite of his courage and firm front, Captain Miles Standish,
if we may believe the legends, had not the pluck to plead his own cause
when he wanted a wife. I have told you that there
came to Plymouth with Captain Standish his wife Rose. But she did not
live through that first dreadful winter, when the harsh, Massachusetts
east wind laid so many of the unseasoned Pilgrims low.
The colony, to succeed, must be a colonyof homes; and
in such an association it was, as the Bible assured the Pilgrims,
"not well for man to live alone. So Captain Miles Standish decided
to take another wife, and his choice fell upon Priscilla Mullens,
daughter of one William Mullens, who with his wife and two children came
over in the Mayflower.
But Captain Standish’s wife Rose had only been dead
about three months, and the captain, either for this reason or from some
other cause, did not feel like him self asking Mr. Mullens for his
daughter; so he prevailed upon his young friend John Alden, the cooper,
who had joined the Pilgrims at Southampton, to interview Mr. Mullens.
The interview with Priscilla’s father was entirely
satisfactory. Mr. Mullens was perfectly willing to have the main
reliance of the little band of colonists as his son--
in-law. But the Puritan maiden had no desire to
marry the fiery little captain, especially when she greatly preferred
the handsome young cooper, and was certain that he was proffering the
captain’s request, not from choice, but from
duty, and because the captain had asked him, as a friend, to be his
deputy. So when her father said yes to the captain’s suit, Priscilla
looked at John Alden and asked that famous question, "Why don’t
you speak for yourself, John?
Evidently John did speak for himself, for the records
tell us that in the spring of 1621,
after that deadly first winter
had left Priscilla Mullens an orphan, she married John Alden,—the
second wedding in the colony. Evidently, too, the
captain bore no hard feelings
toward his friend because Priscilla Mullens became
Mrs. Alden rather than Mrs. Standish, for we read that the fifth
wedding in the colony was that of Captain Miles Standish and "a
lady named Barbara," said to have been a sister of his wife Rose.
We read, too,
that John Alden and his wife built a house near
to that of Captain Standish and his wife, and that
in after years John Alden’s daughter married Captain Standish’s son.
That is the true story of John Alden and Priscilla,
and of Miles Standish’s courtship, concerning which Massachusetts’s
most famous poet wrote an equally famous poem. Though it may be wrong as
to details and dates, the poem is what makes these three persons of the
Pilgrim days historic. For, more than dates and dry facts, Longfellow’s
delightful romance gives to the age it cele
brates in verse an atmosphere of gentleness,
kindliness, purity, and
peace that glorifies those days of hardship which suggested it, that
ennobles the lovers, and makes the doughty little captain of Plymouth an
honored and heroic figure.
Honored and heroic he certainly was,—the colony’s
strong arm, its defense and sword; and the tall shaft on Captain’s
Hill in Duxbury, which commemorates his valor and recites his praise, is
not more a landmark than is Captain Miles Standish himself to us who,
to-day, read of that age of effort, privation, and persistence.
Governor Carver died from an April sunstroke, and William
Bradford, the runaway Austerfield boy, was elected by his
fellow-colonists, in "town meeting assembled, "
Carver’s successor as governor of Plymouth.
The colony grew slowly,—but it grew. Colonists came
over the sea to begin a new life in the Plymouth plantation; a new
charter was obtained that gave them permission from the king to live in
Massachusetts instead of Virginia; in twenty years the colony was free
from debt; new settlements were started as offshoots along the shore;
and for all its growth and strength no two men deserve more credit, or
should be held in higher esteem by Americans, than Governor William
Bradford, of beautiful character, and Captain Miles Standish, the