Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pratt Stories-Phineas Pratt III

In 1662, our ancestor Phineas Pratt presented to the General Court of Massachusetts a narrative entitled "A Declaration of the Affairs of the English People That First Inhabited New England." This extrordinary document was written nearly 350 years ago to support his request for financial assistance. I don't know whether he got any help but I am pleased that it has survived and proud of how it evidences the state of his literacy and his bravery and stamina.
I am going to qoute that part of his narrative that tells of his run to Plymouth. He is talking in secret to some of his fellow settlers at Wessagusset who are in danger of being massacred. These are his words with [...] to mark missing parts. Spelling and punctuation have been regularized:
Then I said to our company, "Now is the time to run to Plymouth. Is there any compass to be found?" They said, "None but them that belong to the ship." I said, "they are too big. I have born no arms of defense this 7 or 8 days. Now if I take my arms they will mistrust me." Then they said, "The savages will pursue after you & kill you & we shall never see you again." Thus with other words of great lamentation, we parted. Then I took a hoe & went to the long swamp nearby their houses & dug to the edge thereof as if I had been looking for ground nuts, but seeing no man, I ran southward til 3 o'clock, but the snow being in many places, I was more distressed because of my footsteps (footprints). The sun being clouded, I wandered, not knowing my way; but at the going down of the sun appeared red; then hearing a great howling of wolves, I came to a river; the water being deep & cold & many rocks, I passed through with much ado. Then was I in great distress--faint for want of food, weary with running, fearing to make a fire because of them that pursued me. Then I came to a great dell or hole, there being much wood fallen into it. Then I said in my thoughts, "This is God's providence that here I may make a fire." Then having made a fire, the stars began to appear and I saw Ursa Major & the [...] pole yet fearing [...]clouded. The day following I began to travel [...] but being unable, I went back to the fire the day [...]sun shone & about three o'clock I came to that part [...] Plymouth Bay where there is a town of late time [...] Duxbury. Then passing by the water on my left hand [...] came to a brook & there was a path. Having but a short time to consider [...] fearing to go beyond the plantation, I kept running in the path; then  passing through the James River I said my thoughts, "Now I am as a deer chased [...] the wolves. If I perish what will be the [condit...] of distressed Englishmen."  Then finding a piece of a [...] I took it up carried it in my hand. Then finding a [...] of a jerkin, I carried them under my arm. Then said in my [...] "God has given me thse two tokens for my comfort, that now he will give me my life for a prayer." Then running down a hill [J...] an English man coming in the path before me. Then I sat down on a tree & rising up to salute him said "Mr. Hamden, I am glad to see
you alive." He said "I am glad & full of wonder to see you alive, let us sit down, I see you are weary".
 Thus Phineas Pratt arrived at Plymouth but the Pilgrims had already been warned and Miles Standish was getting ready to take action. In my mind, that does make him one iota less of a hero. 

Emailed Sept. 7

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