Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, April 11, 1989.
In 1620, when the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, they asked the Indians to conclude a treaty with them. Chief Massasoit agreed to do so, but it had to be with his “equal”, King James of England. Two of his sons were to succeed him as chief of his tribe, the Pokenokets. First to do so was Wamsutta, his oldest son, to whom was given the name of Alexander, on account of his prowess, reminiscent of that of Alexander the Great, of Macedonia, a territory now north of Greece. Having conspired in 1656 against the new settlers, he was caught by surprise. He became so enraged to be in captivity that he developed a very high fever, which finally got the best of him.
He was succeeded by his brother Metacom, to whom the Governor of Plymouth gave the name of King Philip, remindful of the lordly air, the ambition and the courage of King Philip, father of Alexander the Great. In 1675, he decided to gather as many Indians as he could from all parts of New England to recover the land that the Europeans had taken away from them. This was to be known in history as the King Philip’s War. Even though it lasted only one year, it was to be the most costly ever sustained up to that time, when devastation was spread from Maine to Connecticut. The English lost 600 men, 1200 houses, and 800 cattle, while 3000 Indians were killed. It ended practically by the death of “King Philip” from a bullet fired on him Aug. 12, 1676 (old style) by one of his own men.
While King Philip’s War was still raging, Major Richard Waldron of Dover, New Hampshire, gave a mandate to a merchant by the name of Henry Lawton, of Picataqua, Maine, to seize all the Indians “of the East” who so far had been plundering towns and villages. He was to be assisted by two able men; they were William Waldron, a close relative, no doubt, of Major Richard Waldron, and John Laverdure, a brother of the two “Mellansons”, Pierre and Charles, of Port Royal, now Annapolis, who were married to Acadian girls.
November 9, 1676 (old style), they hired a vessel, the “Endeavor”, and the next day, they asked Captain John Horton to accompany them. That same month, two other young men were hired, namely Francis Mason and Edmund Cooke, who had no idea of what was the purpose of the voyage, having been told by Horton that they were to take fish and oil in Maine for Faial Island, in the Azores, Madeira and Barbados, from where they were supposed to return to Boston.
One of their first stops was at Machias, Maine. We have no record of what took place here; all that we know is that they boarded here nine Indians. Then they sailed for Cape Sable, the name given then to the southern part of Nova Scotia. Three or four Indians came aboard. To give the impression that this was just a friendly excursion, John Laverdure, who could speak their language, took them to the kitchen, where they stayed all day. In the evening, he went ashore and brought back on board other Indians, among whom were the “Sagamos” or chief and his wife. It is said that they were seventeen Indians in all, men, women and children. When they felt that everything was ready, they left for the Azores. Here they sold their “cargo” of Indians.
Unfortunately for them, there were at the time at Faial Island two vessels from New England who saw what was taking place. As soon as they got back to New England, they notified the authorities. It did not take long for the guilty ones to be apprehended as soon as they returned to Boston. This was in the Summer of 1676, when Henry Lawton and William Waldron were put in jail. With regard to John Laverdure, he was left at liberty for the time being in return of a bail of 100 pounds that his mother Priscilla Mellanson had borrowed for the purpose from her landlord. But what happened, when the day for his trial arrived, is that John Laverdure was not there. He had jumped bail.
If this was to the despair of his mother, it turned out to be for us a blessing in disguise. In fact, Priscilla Mellanson sent a petition to the Governor of Massachusetts and to his Counsel, pleading that the 100 pounds she had put in bail would not be forfeited, in which she tells us of the origin of the French Acadian Melanson family, which we would never have known otherwise.
The French colonial Governor Cadillac had stated that the Mellanson family was Scotch, having arrived in Acadia in 1628. This was taken for granted and given by every author as a fact, until 1970, when I found documents stating that the family had arrived in Acadia in 1657, on the “Satisfaction” with the new English Governor Thomas Temple, and had settled in what is now St. John, New Brunswick. Then in 1973, I found in the Archives of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, in Boston, Priscilla’s petition in which she stated that she was an “English woman” [the family by the name Mellanson in England lived in the Yorkshires] and that her husband was “Pierre Laverdure of French origin and Protestant”. He must have left France during the siege of La Rochelle laid by Richelieu in 1627 against the Protestants. After the Treaty of Breda, in 1667, when Acadia was ceded back to France, she says that they took refuge under the Protestant government at Boston in order to escape “from the wrath of the Countrymen Papists [of her husband] at [Saint] Johns Fort and thereabouts”. Pierre Laverdure had gone to Port Royal, thinking that John might be with his brothers, Pierre and Charles. But his searches were in vain. Not finding his son, who “had been the staff of his age”, and being very old, “it went to his heart”; he died between 1676 and 1677. Unfortunately, Priscilla’s plea was refused by a decision of the magistrates, dated the 29th of May 1677. She had to live on charity up to the time that she married an innkeeper from Dorchester, a suburb of Boston, by the name of Captain William Wright.
What happened to John Laverdure? A few years later we find John Mellanson married to Sarah, no doubt our John Laverdure. To conceal his identity, he would have taken his mother’s name, just as had done his two brothers.
What about the others who had taken part in the sale of the Indians in the Azores? They were finally acquitted. Thus, John Laverdure, alias Mellanson, would not have had to go into hiding.
But the one who was most guilty in all this was Major Richard Waldron. I will let you know next week how the Indians took care of him.