The Wampanoag Language also known as Massachusett, Pokanoket or Natick is an Algonkian language of New England. The language is no longer actively spoken in Wampanoag communities today, although some Wampanoag people are trying to revive it. Narragansett is considered by some linguists to have been a Wampanoag dialect, by others a distinct language.

The Wampanoag people also called Massasoit, or W8panaak, are a Native American tribe. Many Wampanoag people today are enrolled in two federally recognized tribes, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) of Massachusetts, or four state-recognized tribes recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the beginning of the 17th century, at the time of first contact with the English, the Wampanoag lived in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as within a territory that encompassed current day Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Their population numbered in the thousands due to the richness of the environment and their cultivation of corn, beans and squash. Three thousand Wampanoag lived on Martha’s Vineyard alone. From 1615 to 1619 the Wampanoag suffered an epidemic, long suspected to be smallpox, but recent research alternatively theorizes that it was leptospirosis, a bacterial infection also known as Weil’s syndrome or 7-day fever. It caused a high fatality rate and nearly destroyed the society. Researchers suggest that the losses from the epidemic were so large that English colonists were more easily able to found their settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in later years. More than 50 years later, King Philip’s War (1675-1676) against the English colonists resulted in the deaths of 40 percent of the tribe. Most of the male survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies. Many women and children were enslaved in New England. While the tribe largely disappeared from historical records from the late 18th century, its people persisted. Survivors remained in their traditional areas and continued many aspects of their culture, while absorbing other people by marriage and adapting to changing economic and cultural needs in the larger society. Although the last native speakers of W8panaak died more than 100 years ago, since 1993 Wampanoag people have been working on a language revival project that is producing new native speakers. The project is also working on curriculum and teacher development.

WILLIAM BOWMAN (app. 1620-?)
William is the first documented Native Bowman.

William Bowman in 1656 was of Natick but prior to that year resided on land that eventually became part of Framingham. “Natick was first settled in 1651 by John Eliot, a Puritan missionary born in Widford, Hertfordshire, England who received a commission and funds from England’s Long Parliament to settle the Massachusett Indians on both sides of the Charles River, on land deeded from the settlement at Dedham. They were called Praying Indians Natick was the first and for a long time served as the center of Eliot’s network of praying towns. While the town’s were largely self-governing under Indian leaders, the praying Indians were subject to rules governing conformity to English Puritan culture (in practice Natick, like the other praying towns, evidenced a combination of traditional and English culture and practices). Eliot and Praying Indian translators printed America’s first written Bible in the Algonquian language. The colonial government placed such settlements in a ring of villages around Boston as a defensive strategy. Natick was the first and best documented of such settlements. The land was granted by the General Court, part of the Dedham Grant.”

Deed of John Stone
This witnesseth that William Boman, Capt. Josiah, Roger, & James, and Keaquisan, Indians, now living at Natick the Indian Plantation near Sudbury in the Massachusetts Bay in New England, for and in consideration of a valuable sum of Peage and other goods to us in hand paid by John Stone of Sudbury aforenamed to our full content & satisfaction, before the signing and delivery hereof have given, granted, bargained & sould, assigned, enfeoffed & confirmed, and by theis presents do give, grant, bargain & sell, assign, enfeoffe and confirm unto the said J. Stone, his Heyres & assignes, a parcell of Broaken-up and fenced in land, lying on the South side of Sudbury line, upon the Falls of Sudbury River, and bounded with the Common land surrounding. The said land containing by estimation about ten Acres more or less. To have & to hould the said land with the fences and all other the privileges and Appurtenances thereof be the same more or less, to him the said J. Stone, his Heyres and Assignes forever, to his and their only propper use & behooffe. In witness whereof wee the above named Indians have hereunto put our hands & scales this 15th day of May 1656.

2 97 2003.066.8.20 Deed of William Boman [et al., Indians] to John Stone for bland at the falls of the Sudbury River, in consideration of a valuable sum of peage and other goods : photocopy and typed transcription / original March 15, 1656. LINCOLN PUBLIC LIBRARY Bedford Road, Lincoln, Massachusetts ARCHIVES/ SPECIAL COLLECTIONS Stone Family Papers 2003.066

Indian William’s meadow, was the name of about three acres of land, near the falls of Cochituate brook, and was granted to Rev. Edmund Brown. It was originally owned by William Boman.

Roger’s Field was also at Saxonville, and took in the large tract bounded east by a line from the Falls along by Stone’s hall to the turn in the river, north by the river, south by the river and Boman’s brook, west by a ditch running from the brook to the river. Deeds of the property have been lately found.

Assuming that Boman and Roger were original proprietors, it is fitting that their names should be commemorated in the plain and brook which still mark the location of their ancient inheritance.

“Indian William’s meadow,” which lay near the old cotton-factory dam, was probably named for William Boman. Very likely he had his fishing-weir at this point in the brook. The laying out of this meadow to Rev. Edmund Browne of Sudbury, is thus recorded : “Item, one smale parcell of three acres, formerly called Indian William’s meadow, lying towards the falls of Chochittuat river.”

‘Indian History of the Plantation’, Boman and Roger have already been noticed as grantors of land near the Falls, and as commemorated in the names of Bowman’s Brook and Roger’s Field. Other Indian names of hills, ponds and streams, (and those in some instances corrupted), are meager, yet pleasant memorials transmitted to us, of the aboriginal race (Indian arrow-heads have been frequently found in ploughed fields in this town. Bowman’s Brook may be named after the Bowman Indian family who married into the Natick Wiser Indian family. – A History of Framingham, Massachusetts, Including the Plantation, from 1640 to the Present Time by William Barry, Boston: James Munroe and Company, 1847, p.18


ID: I4250
Given Name: John
Surname: Boman
Sex: M
Birth: Before 1685 in Natick Indian, Sudbury, Middlesex, MA
Death: Y
Reference Number: MISC.
Change Date: 6 Sep 2001 at 19:17
Note: NAT: Natick Indian

“JEHOJAKIM, John MAGUS, John MUSKQUA and his 2 daughters. Esther and Rachel, Benjamin BOHUE, John SPEEN and SARAH his wife, James SPEEN, Dorothy WENNETOO and Humphry BOHUE her son, Mary NEPPAMUN, Abagail the daughter of Josiah HARDING, Peter JETHRO, Peter MUSKQUAMOGH, John BOMAN, David MUNNOAH and Betty, signed deed.” “Wee saw Benjamin BOHEN, Dorothy WAUNETO, and Mary and Betty NEPANUM sign.” also “CHARLS JOSIAS, Sachem of Mass.” also “William STOUGHTON, Joseph DUDELY, Robert V. MONTAGUE, William W. AHANTON. Wit: Andrew PITTAMEE, James RUMNEY, Samuel GOFF, James BARNARD, Daniel SACONAMBATT.” – Registry of Deeds at East Cambridge, 11 JULY 1684: book IX p.344-352

Mary NEPPAMUN and Wee saw Benjamin BOHEN (also spelled BOHEW) could be potentially related forms of the Bowman name. However, further examples and research is needed to come to any substantial conclusion.

The above deed was not received until years after the grant was made by the Court, and the lands divided up and apportioned to the inhabitants. The records do not state what occasioned the long delay, but, as was the case elsewhere, perhaps the papers were not passed until, in process of time, the settlers questioned whether the claim to the territory was valid until purchased of the Indian proprietors. A similar instance occurred at Groton, where the deed came long after the lands were occupied. The grant was allowed by the Court as early as 1655, but no title was obtained from the natives till about 1683 or 1684.

From lands thus allowed, the Plantation of Sudbury was formed. It required, however, more than the allowance and laying out of the land and the settlement of it to make it a town. A separate act of incorporation was necessary to complete the work. This was done September 4, 1639, when the Court ordered that “the newe Plantation by Concord shall be called Sudbury.” – Colony Records, Vol. I., p. 271

Peter Jethro, Indian, appeared before me the fifth day of February 1684 & freely acknowledged this writing within to be his act & deed & ythe put his hand & seale thereunto. Daniel Gookin Sen. Affift

John Boman did sign seale & deliver the within written deed the 23rd of February in the year our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty & four in presence of us

John Balcom -^- Samuel Freeman his marke.

James Speen & John Bowman appeared before me in court at Natick & acknowledged they have signed & sealed this instrument among others May 13th, 1684. James Gookin Sen. Affist
Roxbury April, 1685.

James Speen and John Bowman appeared before me in court at Natick “acknowledged they have signed” sealed this instrument among others May 13th, 1684.
– APA: Hudson, Alfred Sereno. (2013). pp. 68-9. The History of Sudbury, Massachusetts. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1889)
– MLA: Hudson, Alfred Sereno. The History of Sudbury, Massachusetts. 1889. Reprint. London: Forgotten Books, 2013. 68-9. Print.

Samuel Bowman was born about 1690, probably in Natick and died about 1747 in Worcester, MA. He made his way to the Nipmuc homeland of Pakachoag Hill, in what was now the English town of Worcester, shortly after he was named a Natick proprietor in 1719. In an affidavit filed after he died in 1749, at the age of roughly fifty, his heirs stated that their deceased father lived in Worcester and places adjacent for more than twenty years before his death. Samuel was likely a great-grandson of William Bowman.

“Awaasamug, Bowman, Ephraim, Peegun, Rumneymarsh, Speen, Tray, and Waban. The surnames BOWMAN and Tray could be English. I counted towns with these surnames only if the record included the notation “Indian” or “Colored.” … This list could be greatly expanded if other Natick names with strong connection were included. This figure is presented to provide a sense and conservative estimate of the complex network of Indian places into which Natick Indians were connected.”

Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, By Jean M. O’Brie

Children of Samuel Bowman:

1. Martha BOWMAN who married Joseph Pegan. From the same article, page 57: ‘Daughter Martha had married Joseph Pegan, a Nipmuc Indian who owned real estate in Dudley, the English town that included Chaubunagungamaug reservation lands. They lived ‘in English fashion’ and were eager to receive their portion of the estate [of Samuel, her father] in order to make material improvements to their property.’

– Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, By Jean M. O’Brie 2. Ruth BOWMAN Married James Wiser. Ruth and James son Benjamin was born about 1743. When Samuel Bowman’s estate was probated in 1749, Benjamin was residing with his aunt and uncle, Betty and Zachariah Equi in Sturbridge, MA. Benjamin Wiser would marry Abigial Thomas, June 25, 1767 in Sturbridge. No other children are known for Ruth and James Wiser.

3. Betty BOWMAN who married Zachariah Equi. From Holly Izard’s article, page 57: Daughter Betty Equi and husband Zachariah were ‘dwellers on land belonging to others’ in the southern Worcester County town of Sturbridge, probably living on what was the Nipmuc homeland of Tantiusque.’ No children known.

4. Lydia BOWMAN. After the death of her father in 1749, it appears she lived with her mother in Worcester, MA. At this time, she was a young woman. From the same article, page 57: ‘When she reached adulthood Lydia Bowman had a relationship with, and possibly married, a man whose surname was Crosman; their only child, Hepsibeth, was born March 25, 1761. Hannah Hemenway [this is Hepsibeth’s daughter] variously told reporters that Hepsibeth was an ‘Indian maiden’ and that she was ‘half Indian and half white.’ Hepsibeth’s mother was of Nipmuc ancestry and her father may have been partially Indian, possibly the son of Mashpee Indian Dorkus Wicket and a white man named Samuel Croshman recorded in Rhode Island records. Hannah said her father died in the Revolution. His service cannot be confirmed in military records for Massachusetts, though he may have served from another colony. The lack of information on Hepsibeth’s father in public records, and the fact that local residents consistently attributed the Bowman surname to her even though she used Crosman, suggests her father was not of Worcester. Hepsibeth would have been fourteen when her father went off to war and probably in her late teens when he died. Drawing on the general experience of Native Americans at the time, she and her widowed mother Lydia probably supported themselves by gathering wild edibles, cultivating a small patch of ground, hiring their labor to white families, exchanging items they produced for needed supplies, and relying on the good will of others.’ Her only known child, Hepsibeth BOWMAN Hemenway died February 17, 1848, when she was eighty-six years old.


Hepsibeth Bowman’s photo is published here with the permission of the Worcester Historical Society Worcester, Massachusetts They are in possession of the original portrait Painted in 1840, Hepsibeth being in her 70s. Her portrait has been on display at the Worcester Historical Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. Hepsibeth BOWMAN’s portrait is one of only six actual known portraits of New England Indians. There is an article about her portrait in the ‘Old-Time New England Magazine’, Fall/Winter 1999 issue, pages 49 through 85, by Holly V. Izard.

Hepsibeth was a descendant of Samuel Bowman, who was one of the proprietors of the town of Natick. This town was an attempt by Plymouth Colony in 1650 to Christianize Indians into being more like their English neighbors. There were several of these villages in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but Natick was the first.

Shortly after the King Phillip war the Bowmans returned to their original homeland of Worcester, which was due partly to racial strife with surrounding towns.

Hepsibeth is referred to in early newspaper articles as an Indian maiden from Packachoag Hill. She was half white, on her father’s side. It was illegal for Indians to marry white people in Massachusetts and Hepsibeth is recorded on early town documents as Hepsibeth Bowman, daughter of Lydia Bowman.

source: Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England edited by Siobhan Senier

5. Samuel BOWMAN Jr.

Samuel BOWMAN Jr. is likely the gg-grandson of William BOWMAN

From page 57: ‘Son Samuel Bowman Jr. attested that he had learned the ‘English manner’ of husbandry through years of hiring his laborer to farmers, but because he did not have the money to purchase property of his own he decided to return to Natick to live on Indian common lands.’ Wife or children not known.

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