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Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Ninegret

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NINEGRET, Indian sachem, lived in the 17th century. He was the uncle of Miantonomo, and his name was written in several ways. He was first known to the English settlers as Janemo, and was sachem of the Niantics, a tribe of the Narragansetts. He did not participate in the Pequot war of 1632, but aided the English in that of 1637. About a year after the death of Miantonomo (q. v.) he formed a plan for expelling the English, and sent a messenger to Waiandance, the Long Island sachem, to engage him in it. Instead of listening to the messenger, this chieftain bound and sent him to Saybrook fort, whence he was despatched to Hartford under guard. On their way the party was forced to put in at Shelter island, and here Ninegret's deputy escaped. Having passed the winter of 1652-'3 among the Dutch in Manhattan and the western Indians, he was suspected of plotting with them against the English, and after a special meeting of the commissioners in Boston, in April, 1653, they declared war with him, but, owing to the opposition of Massachusetts, it was not prosecuted. Meanwhile Ninegret waged war against the Long Island Indians, who had placed themselves under the protection of the English. In September, 1654, the commissioners sent a message to the chief demanding his appearance in Hartford, where they were convened, and also the payment of tribute that had long been due. He refused to appear, and sent them a haughty answer. War was again declared against him, and 270 infantry and 40 horsemen were raised, and placed under the command of Maj. Samuel Willard, whose instructions were to go to Ninegret's quarters, demand the tribute, and insist upon a cessation of the war with the Long Island Indians. On the approach of the troops Ninegret fled to a distant swamp, and was not pursued. On 13 Oct., 1660, with other chiefs, he mortgaged his territory to the colonists, and he gave them possession at Pettequamscot in 1662. He took no part in King Philip's war in 1675-'6, and so escaped the ruin that overtook the other tribes. The date of his death is not known, but it is said that he was buried at a place near Charleston, R. I., called “Burying Hill.” His daughter succeeded to the sachemdom, and was inaugurated with all the pomp and ceremony of the Indians. At her death she was succeeded by her half-brother Ninegret, who in 1709 granted a large portion of his people's lands to the colony of Rhode Island, which grant gave great trouble to the Indians in after years. This chief died about 1722, leaving two sons, Charles Augustus and George. The former, dying shortly afterward, left an infant son, who was acknowledged by some of the tribe as their sachem, while another portion adhered to his uncle, who assumed the entire government in 1735. George's son, Thomas Ninegret, who became chief in 1746, made further sales of the Niantic lands to Rhode Island, which caused discontent among his people, some of whom tried to depose him. One appeal to Sir William Johnson, superintendent of the Indians, takes the ground that the lands sold were necessary for the support of the families of many whose lives had been lost in the king's service during the French war of 1754-'61. In one of their letters to Sir William Johnson, in answer to an objection, that the Indians had no power to depose a sachem, they replied: “As it was in the power of the nation to put him in, we think it in the power of the nation to turn him out.” The controversy continued for several years, and Rhode Island ultimately obtained the lands. In a letter to Sir William Johnson, Ninegret speaks of having paid £500 sterling to a subordinate chief, when going to the war, for the quit-claim of his land, the money being intended for the support of his mother in the event of his fall. Little impression was made upon the Narragansetts or Niantics by the Puritans. Roger Williams spoke with discouragement about this, and, when Mayhew requested Ninegret to allow him to preach to his tribe, he replied: “Go and make the English good first.” A small remnant of the Niantics were living in Rhode Island in 1812.