[Illustration © www.Granger.com] Sowams and Pokanoket were part of the Indian Empire led by the Massasoit Ousamequin, Chief Sachem of the Pokanokets. In 1621, two braves visited the Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts. A week later, the Massasoit visited with his retinue. He agreed to accept the King of England as the sovereign of his lands in return for English protection in the event of attack from the Narragansetts in the so-called “Wampanoag Treaty”, even though the name “Wampanoag” was not in use until after the King Philip War of 1675-76.
After meeting in the Pilgrim village of Patuxet, the Massasoit invited a Pilgrim delegation to meet him at his camp nearby . Myles Standish and Isaac Allerton volunteered, and, when they arrived, the Massasoit offered them ground nuts and tobacco as gifts when they arrived, and Standish and Allerton presented him with a kettle of peas.
A trip to Sowams was made by the Pilgrims, so that they could learn more about their neighbors and to make some additions to their treaty. This time, Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins were chosen to make the trip. Massasoit came out to see them when they arrived at the end of their several-days journey. They reaffirmed their peace with one another, and the Massasoit agreed to tell his people to stop making random visits to Plymouth looking for food and entertainment; and he also agreed to send a messenger to contact the tribe from whom the Pilgrims took corn from upon their first arrival–since they had thus far not been able to repay them. [from [MayflowerHistory.com]
In 1623, the Massasoit fell ill. Pilgrims Edward Winslow and John Hampden traveled to see him at what some believe to be present day Hampden Meadows in today’s Barrington. After giving him some jelly and water, Massasoit revived. Colonists from Plymouth were welcomed and began to settle in the area.
By 1653, Massasoit and his oldest son, Wamsutta (English Name Alexander) had sold to certain Plymouth Colony settlers what is now Warren and parts of Barrington, East Providence, Seekonk Swansea and Rehoboth. After the death of the Massasoit in 1661, relations became strained between members of the Pokanoket tribe and the colonists leading to King Philip’s War in 1675-76. The English settlements in Sowams were destroyed during the war but were rebuilt. In 1668, the township was officially incorporated with the name Swansea. In 1691, the Plymouth Colony merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. [Adapted from Wikipedia]
The back of a U.S. coin celebrates the Wampanoag Treaty of 1621. (Click on the coin for a 2010 Southcoast Today article.)