Wandering around New England today, it’s difficult to imagine this place as the frontier and a war zone. But you don’t have to look far to see evidence of ancient atrocities. In 1692 one of those atrocities took place in York, Maine. 200-300 Penobscot Indians led by sachem Madockawando and Father Louis-Pierre Thury, a French missionary but no man of God.
There were clearly a lot of horrific things done to the Native Americans over the years, but its simplistic to say that they were always the victims. Madockawando’s Penobscot warriors, like the Abenaki, were vicious warriors who would kill innocent women and children as quickly as they’d kill an armed soldier. There are stories of torturing and murdering prisoners that are as bad as any other atrocity I’ve heard about in history.
Candlemas is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which takes place 40 days after the birth of Jesus. It’s a holy day for Christians, and the faithful of York no doubt looked at it as a day of spiritual celebration. Unfortunately, York was the edge of the wilderness in 1692, and right in the middle of King William’s War between the English and the French. Raiding English settlers was considered fair game by the French and their Native American allies. Scalps were considered proof that they had killed someone, and they were rewarded for every scalp, whether it was a man, woman or child’s.
On January 24th, 1692, the morning after Candlemas Day celebrations, the Penobscot warriors left their snowshoes on a large, flat rock and raided the settlement of York. They burned 17-18 houses, killed 75 people and marched between 100-200 more to New France as prisoners. Several of these prisoners died during the march north, others were eventually set free when the English paid a ransom.
The rock that the raiding warriors used to lay their snowshoes on was preserved and used as a memorial for the victims of the raid. You could easily drive past it on Chases Pond Road without realizing what it is, a simple memorial set into the rock, on a small plot of land lined with stones and woodland behind it. It wouldn’t be hard to envision the Penobscot warriors walking through the woods and setting those snowshoes down. Walking around and placing a hand on the rock is a handshake with history, and a reminder of the harsh environment our ancestors lived in 327 years ago. In another nod to history, someone named one of the nearby side roads Snowshoe Spring. Otherwise this could be any other stretch of country road in New England.