Hobbamock was a Pokanoket pniese who came to live with the Plymouth Colony settlers during the first year of their settlement in North America in 1620. His name was variously spelled in 17th century documents and today is generally simplified as Hobomok. He is known for his rivalry with Squanto, who lived with the settlers before him. He was greatly trusted by Myles Standish, the colony's military commander, and he joined with Standish in a military raid against the Massachuset. Hobomock was also greatly devoted to Massasoit, the sachem of the Pokanoket, who befriended the English settlers. Hobomok is often claimed to have been converted to Christianity, but what that meant to him is unclear.

Life among the Pokanoket

Almost nothing is known about Hobomok before he began living with the English settlers who arrived aboard the Mayflower and settled at the location they called Plymouth in December 1620. That information is contained in the writings of Governor William Bradford and Edward Winslow (who would later become governor of the colony).

Hobomok was a member of the Pokanoket whose sachem Massasoit presided over a confederation of numerous smaller bands, villages and associations, which was named by the English the Wampanoag Confederation. The Pokanoket were a group of Algonquian peoples who lived in Southern New England with their principal village, Pokanoket, later called Sowams, located near what is now Bristol, Rhode Island. Like the other Algonquins from the area from south of the Saco river in Maine to around what is now the border between Connecticut and Rhode Island, the Pokanoket were organized under the leadership of a sachem, selected by the leading men from among a group within prescribed degrees of kinship to the previous sachem. At the time the Mayflower arrived the sachem was Massasoit. Beneath the sachem was a class of "principal men" (called ahtaskoaog in Algonquinian) which consisted of shamans (called pau waus or "pow-wows" or "powahs" by the English), who mediated between the people and the god of healing (Abbomocho, called "Hobbomock" or "Hobbamoqui" by the English) and the pniesesock, who were both advisors and administrative delegates of the sachem, who collected the annual tribute to the sachem, led warriors into battle and advised on the distribution or sale of land.[1] Hobomok was a Pokanoket pniese.[2]

Life among the Plymouth settlers

Pokanoket establish relations with Pilgrims

On Friday, March 16, 1620/21 o.s. Samoset, an Abenaki sachem from the coast region of Maine near the mouth of the Pemaquid River "bodly came" into the Plymouth settlement and greeted the startled men in English. He explained he was acting on behalf the Pokanoket, who were their neighbors to the west.[3] Through his and later Squanto's mediation, Massasoit with his brother Quadrquina and a train of 60 men arrive outside the settlement on Thursday, March 22 o.s.[4] It was during this encounter that the English settlers and the Pokanoket entered into a peace and mutual defense treaty. Hobomok is not noted to be among the 60 men accompanying Massasoit, but as a pniese it is more than likely that he was.

Hobomok comes to live with English

It was not until four or five months later that Hobomok's activities are recorded by the settlers, although Bradford makes clear that he had been living with them for a while, but how long he does not say. Bradford described him as "a proper lustie man, and a man of accounte for his vallour and parts amongst thed Indeans."[5] Squanto had been living among the English settlers since the establishment of amity between the English and the Pokanoket, and during that time had shown the settlers how to plant maize and other native crops, had acted as their guide and pilot to surrounding areas, facilitated understandings between the colony and its native neighbors and established trade relations with a number of villages. Both Bradford and Winslow first record Hobomok's actions in connection with a crisis in which Squanto was thought to have been kidnapped and possibly murdered. Bradford's and Winslow's accounts differ in important details, however.

Action to rescue Squanto from Corbitant

As Winslow told the story, word reached Plymouth that the Narragansett had driven Massasoit "from his country" and that a sub-sachem, tributary to Massasoit named Corbitant (written Coubatant by Winslow) (possibly conspiring with them) was at the nearby village of Nemasket attempting to disaffect the people their from their loyalty to Masassoit and attempting to foment hostility against the English and because of the recent peace treaty they made with the natives of Cape Cod, Squanto also because he effected the treaty.[6] Another Pokanet living among them, Tokamaham, set off to see Massasoit (or perhaps Corbitant, Winslow's account is not clear) but Squanto and Hobomok were afraid. Instead, they went to Nemasket to learn what they could about Corbitant's activities. When there Squanto was captured by Corbitant of whom Corbitant said "if he were dead, the English had lost their tongue." Hobomok saw Corbitant holding a knife to Squanto's chest, broke free of his restraints and ran to Plymouth, fearing that Squanto had been killed.[7] Bradford's account makes no mention of any threat to Massasoit> He only writes that Hobomok and Squanto returning from "bussines amonge the Indeans" met Corbitant at Nemasket where they began quarreling and Corbitant threatened to stab Hobomok, broke free and came running to Plymouth where he told Bradford that he feared Squanto had been killed, all on account of their friendship to the English. The Governor convened a council at which it was decided that this outrage could not go unavenged. They determined to send a group of armed men to Nemasket and if it turned out that Squanto had been kill, they would cut off Corbitant's head.[5]

The March of Myles Standish, ". . . with Eight of his Valorous Army Led by Their Indian Guide, By Hobomok . . ." Longfellow
The March of Myles Standish, ". . . with Eight of his Valorous Army Led by Their Indian Guide, By Hobomok . . ." Longfellow

Bradford commissioned a group of armed men (Bradford says 14[5]) under Captain Standish on a mission to raid Nemasket at night to round up Corbitant and any accomplices. The men set out on August 14, and Hobomok agreed to show them the route.[8] The day proved very wet, but they marched within two or three miles of Nemasket and hoped to rest before their midnight attack. Hobomok, however, lost his way in the night, which, together with the rain and fatigue, greatly discouraged the men. Fortunately, Winslow and Stephen Hopkins had been to Nemasket recently on their way to an embassy to Massasoit in Pokanoket. Though discouraged and wet, they arrived in time to eat what they brought, then fell on the town around midnight.[9]

Hobomok led them to the house where he suspected Corbitant would be found. The men burst into the house demanding to know where Corbitant was, but the occupants were too terrified to speak. They tried to explain that they were only looking for Corbitant and women and children would not be hurt, but several tried to escape and were wounded in the process. The English discharged their muskets at least twice "at random" which excited the entire village. Eventually, those in the house explained (to Hobomok) that Crobitant and his train had left. The English demanded a fire be built to search the corners of the house and commandeered it to stay the night. Hobomok mounted the roof and called for Squanto, who came together with Tokamahamon and others, who were disarmed by the English. The next morning the settlers gathered the village and warned them not to harbor Corbitant and threatened that if Massasoit did not return in safety or if Corbitant threatened or harmed him or his subjects (including Squanto and Hobomok), they would enact vengeance. They also apologized for the injuries they committed the previous night and offered to have those wounded be treated by the surgeon at Plymouth. Winslow said that a man and a woman returned with them to be treated, as well as Squanto and Nemasket villagers "offering all helpe that might be by carriage of anything wee had to ease us."[10]

Hostility of the Massachuset

Hobomok is next mentioned seven months later, in March 1621/22. Plymouth found itself in a precarious situation since the previous November when the Fortune brought an additional 35 settlers without any provisions. This required the colony to go on half rations throughout the winter.[11] The Narragansett soon learned of the weakened condition of the settlement and "began to break forth many threats against us," so much so that it was "the common talke of our neighbour Indians on all sides" that the Narragansett were making preparations "to come against us."[12] In January the Narragansett sachem Canonicus sent a messenger to deliver a declaration of war (a bundle of arrows wrapped in a rattlesnake's skin). But the Governor returned a threatening warning (the skin stuffed with powder and shot), and the Narragansett's resolve dissipated.[13]

The affair left the colony feeling exposed. They decided to impale the settlement by taking down tall trees, dragging them from the forest and sinking them in deep holes closely bound to prevent arrows from passing through. This they did while on half-rations. Moreover, Standish divided the men into four squadrons and drilled them on how to respond to an emergency, including instructions on how to remain armed and alert to a native attack even during a fire in the town.[14]

At the beginning of March, amidst this concern over possible attack, it came time for a promised visit to the Massachuset (a people to their north and outside the confederation led by Massasoit) to trade for furs. While they were preparing to depart, Hobomok advised the leaders that he had learned through rumors told to him while in the woods that the Massachusetts had joined with the Narragansetts, that the Massachusetts would cut off Standish and his men while abroad and that the Narragansetts would attack the settlement with Standish away.[15] Moreover, he claimed that Squanto was part of this plot. The Governor conferred with his advisors and determined that to cancel the promised trading trip was ill-advised both because they desperately needed to replenish their food stores and because it would project an image of fearfulness to "mew up our selves in our new-enclosed towne"[16] which might be invited attack. By the beginning of April Standish and 10 men set out in a shallop taking both Squanto and Hobomok with them (as Bradford put it) "in regarde of the jelocie between them."[17]

Later folklore

Hobbamock converted to Christianity and was beloved by the English until his death in 1642. He died from a European disease that he contracted from his close European friends. Hobbamock was part of the Wampanoag tribe, which, in the Algonquian language, means "People of the Dawn." Other Indians feared Hobomok so much that when they saw him in a battle, they would immediately leave. Hobbamock was specifically asked by Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoag) to help the Pilgrims. His memory lives on in several place names in modern-day greater Plymouth and surrounding regions.


Hobbamock's name may have been a pseudonym, as "Hobbamock" was the name of a powerful manitou. According to Quinnipiac tradition, the giant stone spirit Hobbomock, a prominent figure in many stories, became enraged about the mistreatment of his people and stamped his foot down in anger, diverting the course of the Connecticut River (where the river suddenly swings east in Middletown, Connecticut after several hundred miles of running due south). To prevent him from wreaking such havoc in the future, the good spirit Keitan cast a spell on Hobbomock to sleep forever as the prominent of the Sleeping Giant Mountain.[18]

A Pocumtuc story relates that Pocumtuck Ridge and Sugarloaf Mountain were the remains of a giant beaver killed by the giant spirit Hobomock.[19]

The Wangunk tribe attributed seismic activity to an angry Hobbamock.[20]

References and sources


  1. ^ Bragdon 1996, pp. 141–143; Robbins 1956, p. 61.
  2. ^ Mourt's Relation 1622, p. 53 reprinted in Dexter 1865, pp. 118–119 and Young 1841, p. 219.
  3. ^ Mourt's Relation 1622, pp. 31–32 reprinted in Dexter 1865, pp. 81–83 and Young 1841, pp. 181–182.
  4. ^ Mourt's Relation 1622, pp. 35–36 reprinted in Dexter 1865, pp. 90–92 and Young 1841, pp. 190–192.
  5. ^ a b c OPP: Davis 1908, p. 119 and Morison 1952, p. 88.
  6. ^ Mourt's Relation 1622, p. 53 reprinted in Dexter 1865, p. 110 and Young 1841, p. 219.
  7. ^ Mourt's Relation 1622, p. 53 reprinted in Dexter 1865, p. 120 and Young 1841.
  8. ^ OPP: Davis 1908, pp. 119–120 and Morison 1952, pp. 88–89.
  9. ^ Mourt's Relation 1622, p. 54 repriinted in Dexter 1865, p. 121 and Young 1841, pp. 220–221.
  10. ^ Mourt's Relation 1622, pp. 54–56 reprinted in Dexter 1865, pp. 121–123 and Young 1841, pp. 221–223.
  11. ^ OPP: Davis 1908, p. 125 and Morison 1952, p. 96.
  12. ^ Winslow 1624, p. 1 reprinted in Young 1841, p. 280.
  13. ^ Winslow 1624, pp. 2–4 reprinted in Young 1841, pp. 281–284; OPP: Davis 1908, pp. 125–126 and Morison 1952, pp. 96–97.
  14. ^ Winslow 1624, pp. 4–5 reprinted in Young 1841, pp. 284–285.
  15. ^ Winslow 1624, p. 5 reprinted in Young 1841, pp. 285–286; OPP: Davis 1908, p. 127 and Morison 1952, p. 98.
  16. ^ Winslow 1624, p. 6 reprinted in Young 1841, p. 286.
  17. ^ OPP: Davis 1908, p. 127 and Morison 1952, p. 98.
  18. ^ ""Legend of the Bobcat", Quinnipiac College Handbook" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  19. ^ "Sleeping Giant Park Association". Archived from the original on 2015-05-11. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  20. ^ "The Surprising Prevalence of Earthquake Activity in Connecticut", Connecticut History