MEET MRS. MARY ROWLANDSON~ THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
When I was a student at Wachusett Regional High School (class of 1960) the library's large windows faced north, toward Mount Wachusett. I probably spent more time looking at the mountain than studying. There is something innately awesome about a mountain - even one barely tall enough to be classified as a mountain. I went to college in Ohio and lived there for thirteen years before returning to Massachusetts to practice speech and language pathology and raise my three children.
Now I've lived in Princeton, Massachusetts for almost thirty years. As a Princeton resident, I drove past a state historical marker on Route 140 many times before I actually stopped to read it.
I read the marker and drove on in my car. I was never particularly interested in history but now, as a storyteller, the sign haunted me. What had taken place at that rock? "... she was redeemed...." I know that when I was a child, we used to "redeem" Green Stamps for appliances. Route 140 is named "Redemption Rock Road" because of the huge rock where Mary Rowlandson was ransomed and returned to the English. "Redemption Rock". "Redemption." That sounded like a religious experience of some sort. Could it mean "saved", as in "to be saved by Jesus"?
My curiosity grew.
What had happened at Redemption Rock?
What happened before Mary Rowlandson was released from captivity
What happened afterward?
What had taken place before her captivity?
Who was King Philip?
What church was Mary Rowlandson's husband affiliated with?
What was life like for the English settlers?
What was it like for the Native Americans to have their homeland taken over by English colonialists?
Through the years, I have told stories at Mount Wachusett. These stories include the disappearance of Lucy Keyes in 1755; the "Last Bear Hunt in Princeton", based upon a1895 newspaper story. I read a little more about King Philip's War, and learned that Mary Rowlandson was an English settler who was captured by the Nipmuk people in 1675 during King Philip's efforts to send the English settlers back to where they had come from. I found it intriguing that King Philip (Metacomet) was the son of Massasoit, the Indian who had "welcomed" the Pilgrims decades before!
When Princeton began to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the town charter, I was asked to develop and tell a historical story about Princeton. I was delighted. Here was an invitation to learn more about Mary Rowlandson and King Philip's War.
I began to study in earnest. I read and re-read, and continue to read, Mary Rowlandson's book, The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Clarence Burley, a member of our Quaker Meeting in Worcester, is a knowledgeable and helpful man. He directed me to Robert Wilder in Brookfield. Mr. Wilder is an expert on King Philip's war, and I was fortunate to spend two afternoons listening to his formidable stories about the "land wars" of the Colonial times. I spent weeks researching at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. I "dug into" Mary Rowlandson's life before and after she wrote the book. I added several books on the subject to my library. There was so much to be learned! I studied; I dreamed; I talked with friends and fellow storytellers.
When I began to shape the story for performance, I knew that I would have to tell the story in Mary Rowlandson's voice. I would need to become Mary Rowlandson. This would present many challenges because Mary Rowlandson was a Puritan woman. She held beliefs that I find objectionable. I knew that I would have to include historical events and the perspective of the Native peoples. This is a complex story with many historical, political and religious perspectives. It is a challenge for me, as a teller, to include the necessary background and still create a vibrant oral story with integrity in Mary Rowlandson's voice. I must trust my intuition and "artistic license".
Mary Rowlandson's story is now "going out in the world" as Meet Mrs. Mary Rowlandson ~ A One Person Show - Researched, Written, and Performed by Katie Green.
I look forward to telling this story as often as I can. I want to tell it in towns where Mary Rowlandson traveled with the Indians. I want to tell it in towns that were affected by King Philip's War. This story is especially relevant today. Mary Rowlandson's experiences give us opportunities to examine prejudice, theocracy, sexism, racism, injustice, and the seeds of war.
Katie visits Redemption Rock Princeton, Massachusetts. The inscription on Redemption Rock invites more questions. It reads: "Upon this rock May 2nd 1676 was made the agreement for the ransom of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson of Lancaster between the Indians and John Hoar of Concord. King Philip was with the Indians but refused his consent."
This photo was taken on May 2, 2009, 333 years later.
Click on these links to see more about this program for schools, libraries, and historical societies.