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Wessagusset Colony

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Surname/tag: Massachusetts
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A part of Plymouth Colony, 1622-1630

A part of Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1630

Succeeded by Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1635

Wessagusset Colony, 1622-1635

A failed colony

The site of Weymouth first saw European inhabitants in 1622 as Wessagusset Colony, a colony founded by Thomas Weston, who had been the main backer of the Plymouth settlement. The settlement was a failure. The sixty men taken from London were ill-prepared for the hardships required for survival. They also may have lacked the motivation of the Pilgrims as this colony was purely economic in motivation and the men had not brought their families.

By winter, poor planning and bad management led to supplies running out. With the Plymouth colonists having few supplies to share, the Weymouth men began to steal from the local Massachusetts nation. Foraging in cooperation with the Pilgrims and trading with Natives was insufficient, and some colonists began to steal from the natives. By now, many in the colony were ill and all forms of law and order had broken down. The lowest point came when a healthy settler was caught stealing supplies from the Massachusetts and the Massachusetts leaders demanded the thief's execution; the Weymouth men complied but either executed or failed to substitute for execution a dying, sick settler instead.

By April 1623, word of conflict between Native Americans and the Virginia colonists had reached the north and this increased the tension between the two groups. Massachusetts and other native groups began plotting to attack and destroy what was left of the floundering Wessagusset colony and possibly the more successful Plymouth Colony. Massasoit heard about it and sent word to Plymouth. Bradford, fearing that Plymouth would also be destroyed, sent Myles Standish to Weymouth with the Plymouth militia to end the threat. Under a banner of truce Standish lured five of the more bellicose Massachusetts Natives inside the stockade. There, after a brief struggle, the native leaders were killed. Ten of the original sixty had starved to death and two others had been killed in conflict with the Natives. Forty-five colonists went north joined Plymouth or went north to Maine, and from there most returned to England. The three who remained were subsequently killed by Native Americans.

Robert Gorges attempted to form a colony at the site later that year as the center of a more royalist and Anglican system of government for New England. He brought William Morrell as religious leader and expected Governor Bradford to acknowledge his supremacy and act as his agent Within weeks the New England winter caused Gorges to leave with most of the settlers. Those who remained formed the nucleus of the permanent settlement. In 1630 it was officially incorporated into the Massachusetts Bay Colony and in 1635 with the addition of 100 families under the leadership of Joseph Hull the name of the town was changed to Weymouth. While the integration of these groups did not commence without difficulty, especially due to conflicting pressures from the Puritans of Boston and the Pilgrims of Plymouth, Weymouth was a stable and prominent town with its current boundaries by 1635. [1]

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Categories: Wessagusset Colony