Created By: University of Massachusetts Boston
You are standing at the site of the so-called Eames Massacre. In the 1630s, the Massachusetts Bay Colony began to expand westward into Nipmuc, Narragansett, Pocumtuk, Mohegan, and Pequot lands. As a young man, Thomas Eames participated in the Pequot War, which included a pre-dawn attack on the Mystic Fort that left 500 adults and children of the Pequot tribe dead. Later called the Pequot or Mystic Massacre, it was the first defeat of the Pequot people by the English in their three year long Pequot War. In his middle age, Thomas Eames moved frequently. Thomas wrote a letter to the government of Massachusetts Bay and asked for land as a reward for his service killing Native people in the Pequot War. In 1669, he was granted Nipmuc land by the Massachusetts Bay Colony government on what was called Danforth's Farm (later Framingham) where he settled with his second wife Mary Paddleford and several children on Mount Wayte (named after Richard Wayte, whom Danforth bought the land from).
For years, colonists had been violating agreements with the Wamponoag and other Native nations. This included allowing their cattle to trample Native planting grounds and settling on land without permission of the local Native nations. When Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag died, his son Metacom (also known as King Philip to English settlers) would become leader. He had grown up aside English settlers and knew them well. He would routinely visit Boston, wore European style clothes, and spoke English. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony took away the Wampanoag's weapons, they realized that settler violence may be coming. As a result, Metacom waged war against the Massachusetts Bay Colony, later called King Philip's War. During this period, the war spread to across New England, including to Nipmuc country. The Nipmuc aligned with the Wamponoag (including their leader Muttawmp). Many Nipmuc people abandoned Christianity and left the Natick Praying Town to fight against the Massachusetts Bay militia. During this time, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stationed four soldier in Framingham to guard the settlers. All the remaining 500-1,100 Nipmuc members of the Natick Praying Town were forced into a prison camps on Deer Island, a peninsula in Boston Harbor, during winter; half of the people there died of starvation and exposure.
On February 1st, 1676, a fight occurred at the Eames Homestead between 11 Nipmuc men and the Eames family. Thomas Eames was in Boston where he was trying to secure more weapons and ammunition to fight Native people. Mary Eames was killed, along with five of his children. Four kids were taken captive by the Nipmuc. Yet, the story is more complicated than an unprovoked attack by Nipmuc people on the settlers. When Nipmuc people were incarcerated at Deer Island, they had to leave their harvest fields. As a result, the Eames family had been taking the Nipmuc crops for themselves. Netus was a Nipmuc leader who fled Natick with a group of men before they could be imprisoned. When he came across the stolen Nipmuc crops at Magunkagquog (nearby this site), he went to the Eames homestead to retrieve the crops. As the Framingham History Center stated about this event, "Perhaps for Netus, this was the last straw. Despite decades of adherence to English rules and conventions, he was repeatedly denied his means of survival." No one exactly knows what happened (although white settlers have long told a myth that Mary Eames through hot soap at the Nipmuc men) to lead to the killing of the Eames family members. When he returned to his homestead, Eames claimed he also lost 30 loads of hay, 10 bushels of wheat, 40 bushels of rye and 210 bushels of Indian corn that day.
The war continued with various fights between settlers and Native people throughout the region. Muttawmp would lead many victories against English militia and raids on settler villages. He would eventually be captured by the colonial militia and executed by the Massachusetts Bay government on Boston Common alongside Tantamous and several other Nipmuc men.
How should we remember the so-called Eames Massacre? In this telling, how might we better center the narratives of Nipmuc people?
To learn more about the Pequot Massacre, read this article: https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/pequot-massacre/
To learn more about attempts to more accurately portray the violence that occurred at the Eames Homestead, read this article: https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/story/news/2022/02/01/framingham-history-center-exhibit-studies-eames-massacre-king-philips-war/9055719002/
This point of interest is part of the tour: Framingham Local History Walking Tour