Mendon Residents Defy Legislative Mandate: Threatened With Loss of Homes
make decisions on their own without giving in to outside pressures. This has been true in regards
to voting for political candidates, taxes, and town spending. There have also been times when the
state and federal governments have imposed laws that were not to the liking of voters. Perhaps
today's town citizens inherited this tendency because of a situation that their ancestors experienced
Mendon was a pioneer town of thirty-eight families when it came under attack by Nipmuc Indians on
July 14, 1675. The attack was a surprise to the residents of the eight year old town, because as far
as they knew, relations had been peaceful. The Indian deed of 1662 allowed Nipmucs to continue
to hunt and fish within the town boundaries. They were well aware of skirmishes that had taken
place in Plymouth and Swansea between Wampanoags and English settlers. These were due to
injustices directed at the Indians, but no such problems had been voiced by the Nipmucs.
King Philip, chief of the Wampanoags since his father's death in 1662, was outraged at the loss of
his people's land, religion, and way of life. He lobbied the Nipmucs and Narragansetts to join him
before they suffered a similar fate. The Mendon attack was the first outside of Plymouth Colony. It
meant all out war. It was the intent of the three tribes to force the settlers back to Europe in order
to preserve their native homeland and culture. The peaceful co-existence with the Nipmucs was
over. The attack, led by Matoonas, left five people dead and the town in terror.
People of Mendon lived in daily fear of a second attack. Some families moved back to Braintree
and Weymouth, and others prepared for military conflict by building a fort. The nearest town was
Medfield, separated by fifteen miles of forest. By October, only nineteen families remained. They
had defective guns and inadequate ammunition. It was clear that if they remained in the
vulnerable, isolated town, their survival would be doubtful.
In light of the desperate situation that they were in, the remaining residents hoped to get help from
the General Court in moving back to fortified Braintree and Weymouth. Instead, a letter was
delivered on November 3, ordering that all residents who had left were to return, and that all
remaining residents were forbidden to leave. The order further stated that all residents who did not
comply with this directive would forfeit their homes and property. The residents were stunned and
horrified, and they let Boston know that they would be defying the order. Shortly thereafter, they
abandoned the unprotected town.
The decision proved to be a wise one, because in February 1676, the warriors returned and
burned down every building in town. The war ended in August with King Philip's death. Families
returned over the next three years and reclaimed their charred properties. Their homes were
rebuilt, and by 1680, a new meeting house was constructed at what is now Founders' Park.
The King Philip War was devastating to both the Indians and the settlers. The towns in
Southeastern New England gradually recovered and were rebuilt, but the Nipmucs, Wampanoags,
and Narragansetts were never the same.
The strong-willed pioneers of the fledgling town of Mendon stood up to the General Court and
defied a mandate that would have put them in mortal danger. They exercised their right to
democracy, where people have input in how their government makes decisions. Their ancestral
lineage to today's Mendon residents would have been different had they succumbed to the
pressures of the 1675 legislature. Our founding fathers rest in peace in Old Cemetery, knowing
that they helped to set the framework of how we govern ourselves today.
Richard Grady, February 2012
King Philip’s War and the Towne of Mendon
By Paul Curran, December 11, 1974
“TO THE HONERED COUNCILL NOW SITTING IN BOSTON, THE HUMBLE PETITION OF
MATTHIAS PUFFER HUMBLY SHEWETH:
That whereas your petitioner hath been complained of for being absent from Mendon to ye
discouragement of those that remaine, my answer is that I departed, at first, with ye consent of
the Town provided I carried away the Widdow Gurney at my own charge, which I accordingly
performed, and since the Majors warrant to summon me to go againe, I have returned thither
againe and have been helpful to them by procuring them ammunition and otherwise..
Indeed I have been forced to return to Braintree to take care of my children who are left. My wife
was alaine by the Indians and my eldest son: severall of the best of my cattell killed to maintaine
the Garrison, many more of them I have left; my estate is lost; my Condition is desolate and I not
in ye capacity that others are whose families are not broken. I humbly beseech the Honered
Councill to consider my case & not expose my poor children to ruin, for I have not Estate to
maintain my Children without my labor and care. To him that is in affliction pitty should be
shewed, I think my case is the case of the Widdow if not worse. My humble petition is that I may
be suffered to Continue at Braintree that I may be a succor to my children which else will be
exposed to ruin and your petitioner will ever pray.
Matthias Puffer was a resident of the towne of Braintree when by order, “…of the Committee
Impowered by the General Courte to assist the ordering and settling the Plantation granted at
Netmocke.,…” on 22: 5: ’62, at Dorchester, accepted, him along with other residents of Braintrje
and Weymouth, as one of the original settlers provided it were done before the end of the
seventh month, 1663.
Puffer did move to “Nipmugg” as one of the seven original pioneers of the future Town of
Mendon, and before the 24th of March, 1664 there wre fifteen families in the settlement.
At a Town Meeting held on July 1st, 1667 we see Puffer serving with the Selectmen in dividing
“The Great Meadow” and he was a recipient of a portion thereof with some twenty others and
was, for the first time, referred to as “Goodman Puffer”.
Early in 1669, Goodman Puffer had his lot surveyed by Benjamin Alby and established it as a
thirty acre lot with the northeast corner being “…A great Rocke with A Springe Runninge from
under it into Muddy Brooke….”
Puffer was a very active founder of the town and during 1669 served on a committee that “…run
the lyne between the Towns of Dedham and Mendon…” , and later in the year is a signer of the
proposal to settle the Rev. Mr. Joseph Emerson, ancestor of Ralph Waldo Emerson, of Concord
and the first settled minister of the town.
Throughout the early history of the town, the name of Mathias Puffer is seen time and again and
in May of 1670 he was a signer of the petition to the Generall Court at Boston for relief from
taxes, “Country Rates”. for three years longer.
Finally, in 1671 he is chosen a Selectman of the Towne. And, later in the year, for service he was
to be paid 2s & 6d per day to “…easure the Meadows and carry the line or chain…”
Then in November of ’71, by an order of all of the Selectmen except Puffer he was assessed with
others for “…lotts of land lately sould (purchased)…”, and in this order reference is made that in
payment “…it was for him (Puffer) to build a Meetinge house…”
Citizen Puffer was a busy man. He served as a Towns Man, Survayor of hy ways, was a
Freeman, owned two thirty acre lots and had Proprietors rights with voting privileges.
It was in 1674, while serving as “Survayor of hy ways” that he was ordered to Natick “to fech”
John Anawasanauke to settle a dispute concerning the boundries of the Towne. Anawasanauke,
alias John of Blewe Hills, being one of the signers of the original deed to the Towne.
1675. Mathyas Puffer is granted “…a tract of land Lieing between John Bartlett’s hous lot and the
Mill and also twenty akers of land In som other place where he shall choose, and for the said
Tracts of land Mathias Puffer doth Ingage to carry on and to mannigge the work of the Towne….”
This was the only transaction recorded for the year in the Towne with the exception of the filing of
a statement concerning the last will, etc., of one widow Gurney and dated Chellmsford, 5 April
Matthias Puffer and the widow Gurney….
Indians Destroy Mendon
Historical Commission as part of Mendon's 300th anniversary in 1967. It was transcribed by
Sharon Cutler as part of her Mendon A – Z project.
the first tavern was established. Little did the people realize the devastation that lay ahead of
them, as they might have built a garrison house instead.
On July 14, 1675, a party of Nipmuck Indians fell upon our little frontier town with savage fury and
murdered five of its inhabitants – some records say six. Historically, it is of some interest to note
that Mendon was the first town in the Bay Colony to be attached by the Indians in King Philip’s
War. The very firs to be attached was Swansea, but that town was then in the Plymouth Colony.
The Indians were on the war-path and the long peace between them and the whites had come to
an end. Quite ironically, the leader of the Indians, King Philip, was none other than the son of
Massasoit, the great Wampanoag Chief of Mount Hope who joined in a peace treaty with the
Plymouth officials, a treaty that lasted some fifty years. So, when old Massasoit kept the peace,
his son, Matacom or King Philip, as the English called him, broke it. But more than that, he broke
the power of his own people forever, and all in one year’s time. He took them into a war that,
doomed them from the very beginning. As a result, they lost their identity. Many of them moved
away to join other tribes in New York and farther west, and some went to Canada.
King Philip, himself, was killed on August 12, 1676, not far from his home at Mount Hope, by an
enemy Indian. His age has been approximated at 37 years. It is sad to relate his wife and son
were sold into slavery somewhere in the West Indies.
Fearing other murderous attacks, the settlers left Mendon and returned to Braintree and other
towns nearby. Another attack did come the following winter (1675-1676) but no lives were lost,
the people having moved away. The Indians made a thorough sack of the town, burning the
meeting house, all the settlers’ homes, and practically every outbuilding such as sheds and barns.
These attacks on Mendon were made by Nipmucks, some of whom were former members of the
so-called “Praying Indians Towns” which had been Christianized by the Apostle Eliot and Major
Daniel Gookin. The two principal “Praying Indians Towns” in this area were Hassanamisco
(Grafton) and Pakachoag (Auburn), Sagamore John was the chief of both towns. The constable
was Matoonas whom Gookin described as “a grave and sober Indian.” It was he who led the
attack in which the Mendon inhabitants were murdered.
Of the ninety white settlements, fifty-two were attacked by King Philip. Twelve towns, including
Mendon were completely wiped out.
In a little triangle formed at Providence Street and the road to the left which goes by Swandale
Cemetery, there is a plaque bearing the following inscription:
families listed in the records of the town. After a few years, some of them began to return, so that
by 1680, there were twenty names listed as follows:
John Thompson, Jr.
Puffer’s Corn Mill
After the resettlement of the town, the same situation arose as before the Albee mill was built,
when the people had to cart their corn to Medfield for grinding. To remedy the annoying
situation, the town entered into an agreement in 1684 with Matthias Puffer to build a “Corne Mill”
in some convenient place “for the town’s use upon the same stream the former (Albee) mill stood
upon….”. He was to keep it in order for twenty years and provide a “Miller” for its operation to the
satisfaction of the town. For his encouragement, he was to receive “fifteen pounds – ten pounds
in current money of New England, and five in merchantable country pay.”
This mill, under a succession of owners, was a God-send to the Mendon housewives of long ago.
|Near This Spot
The Wife and Son of
The Son of John Rockwood
And Other Inhabitants of
Were Killed by Nipmuck Indians
14 July 1675
The Beginning of King Philip’s War
In the Colony of Massachusetts