Big Thunder’s “Indian’s Friend” tour of Sowams in 1860


Vintage postcard featuring a group of Penobscot Indian children pose in their native dress with a tepee behind, circa 1920. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

In 1894, Virginia Baker’s published “Glimpses of Ancient Sowams,” which contained the following:

In i860, a company of Indians, under the leadership of Father Beeson, the “Indian’s Friend,” made a tour of the United States giving a series of entertainments in the principal cities and towns. Among the towns visited was Warren, RI, where a prolonged stay was made. . .The Indians encamped upon some vacant lots on Franklin Street, just east of the railroad track. At their wigwams they sold bows and arrows, baskets and other implements of war and peace. Evening entertainments consisting of songs, dances, readings, and illustrations of various Indian customs were given at Armory Hall, and were at- tended by large audiences… The sojourn in Warren was made with a special purpose in view. A member of the company, Mr. Frank Loring , known also by the Indian name of “Big Thunder,” was a Penobscot by birth, but claimed descent from the Wampanoag [Pokanoket] tribe. The ancient traditions of his people declared Sowams to have been located within the limits of the town of Warren, and he sought for traces of the vanished home of his ancestors. He was provided with a rude chart of Sowams —the origin of which is unfortunately unknown —and by its means he was enabled to locate many of the most famous haunts of the aborigines. Click here for more.




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