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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Wannalancet’s Canoe

By Daniel Gookin (1612–1687)

[From Historical Collections of the Indians in New England. Written in 1674.]

WE met at the wigwam of one called Wannalancet, about two miles from the town, near Pawtuckett Falls, and bordering upon Merrimac River. This person, Wannalancet, is the eldest son of old Pasaconaway, the chiefest sachem of Pawtuckett. He is a sober and grave person, and of years, between fifty and sixty. He hath been always loving and friendly to the English. Many endeavors have been used several years to gain this sachem to embrace the Christian religion; but he hath stood off from time to time, and not yielded up himself personally, though for four years past he hath been willing to hear the word of God preached, and to keep the Sabbath. A great reason that hath kept him off, I conceive, hath been the indisposition and averseness of sundry of his chief men and relations to pray to God; which he foresaw would desert him, in case he turned Christian. But at this time, May 6th, 1674, it pleased God so to influence and overcome his heart, that it being proposed to him to give his answer concerning praying to God, after some deliberation and serious pause he stood up, and made a speech to this effect:

“Sirs, you have been pleased for four years last past, in your abundant love, to apply yourselves particularly unto me and my people, to exhort, press, and persuade us to pray to God. I am very thankful to you for your pains. I must acknowledge,” said he, “I have, all my days, used to pass in an old canoe” (alluding to his frequent custom to pass in a canoe upon the river), “and now you exhort me to change and leave my old canoe, and embark in a new canoe, to which I have hitherto been unwilling: but now I yield up myself to your advice, and enter into a new canoe, and do engage to pray to God hereafter.”

This his professed subjection was well pleasing to all that were present, of which there were some English persons of quality; as Mr. Richard Daniel, a gentleman that lived in Billerica, about six miles off: and Lieutenant Henchman, a neighbor at Chelmsford; besides brother Eliot and myself, with sundry others, English and Indians. Mr. Daniel before named desired brother Eliot to tell this sachem from him, that it may be, while he went in his old canoe, he passed in a quiet stream: but the end thereof was death and destruction to soul and body. But now he went into a new canoe, perhaps he would meet with storms and trials; but yet he should be encouraged to persevere, for the end of his voyage would be everlasting rest. Moreover he and his people were exhorted by brother Eliot and myself to go on and sanctify the Sabbath, to hear the Word, and use the means that God hath appointed, and encourage their hearts in the Lord their God. Since that time I hear this sachem doth persevere, and is a constant and diligent hearer of God’s Word, and sanctifieth the Sabbath, though he doth travel to Wamesit meeting every Sabbath, which is above two miles; and though sundry of his people have deserted him, since he subjected to the Gospel, yet he continues and persists.