Exploring & Sharing the Wabanaki History of Interior New England
A Maine Nonprofit Corporation - 501(c)3 Public Charity
Updated August 2009
Her Christian name was Marie Agatha. She probably pronounced it "Mali Agit" which sounded like Molly Ockett to the English settlers. Molly is undoubtedly the most well known Abenaki who ever walked in the forests of Western Maine. Legend, romance, and mystery have always been favorite topics for writers and Molly definitely has received her share of these stories. It has been very frustrating to sort out truth from fantasy.
Who was Molly? She was once referred to as "Androscoggin Valley's Florence Nightingale". A romantic title for a lone Indian woman, but very well deserved. First and foremost Molly was an Abenaki healing woman. She wandered throughout the Upper Androscoggin and Connecticut Rivers in traditional Abenaki manner. She collected her healing medicines and provided for herself as she had been taught by her ancestors. Molly was a fine hunter. If she made a large kill near a settlement she would seek help from the locals in dragging the kill out and shared generously with her assistants. She administered her remedies to the settlers whenever and where ever there was a need, never accepting more than one copper penny for her services. Molly was the only doctor available to most of these early settlers. A story told by the Hamlin family of Paris Hill tells of her saving the life of the infant Hannibal Hamlin and predicting that he would become a very famous man. She touched their lives in many positive ways.
Molly was described as a "pretty, gentle, generous squaw ...possessed a large frame and features, and walked remarkably erect even in old age" and "kind in her disposition and unswerving in her devotion to truth". Molly generally got along well with whites but sometimes had problems understanding their attitudes. One Sunday Molly picked some blueberries and brought them to Mrs. Chapman of Bethel. The woman scolded Molly for picking berries on Sunday. When Molly returned several weeks later she said "Choke me! I was right in picking the blueberries on Sunday, it was so pleasant, and I was so happy that the Great Spirit had provided them for me." She is quoted as saying Methodists were "drefful clever folks" and at times she attended their church services.
One writer describes her normal dress as a "long one piece dress to her ankles, sleeves cut half way to wrists, fringed at hemline and sleeves, leather band around her forehead with single white feather in the back". Most accounts describe her as dressing in the fashion common to Indians and wearing a pointed cap. The first description sounds like a made up "Indian Princess". The second description, although vague, mentions the pointed cap that would be appropriate for an Abenaki woman of this time period.
Molly was well known in Poland where she often visited the springs. Molly claimed the springs had medicinal powers. The local residents paid little attention to her as many thought of her as an old drunken squaw or a witch. However, Molly often visited the modest Inn of Wentworth Ricker and always received a cordial welcome. Mr. Ricker's family must have paid some attention to her beliefs, for it was his descendants that established the famous Poland Springs Resort and promoted the healing qualities of their spring water.
Another man from West Poland also listened to Molly. He fondly remembered some thoughts she shared with him when he was a young boy. She told him "Never marry a woman who don't love flowers or trust a person who hates music or children. When you find yourself in bad company get out of it at once and remember that as you pass through life's journey your greatest troubles will be found to result from ignorance." Sounds like real good advice.
Molly definitely had a sense of humor. One story tells of how she coned Wentworth Ricker out of a bottle of rum one very cold night by convincing him that she was about to die from a tooth ache. Another tells how she fooled a priest out of $40 around 1774. She traveled to the Priest in Canada and explained that her husband had died without the benefit of absolution. After the priest performed the prayers, Molly asked if her husband was now released from purgatory. The priest replied that he was on his way to heaven. Molly scooped up the money she had offered. The priest became upset and said that he would send her husband back to purgatory. Molly replied "No you can't. Me sannap (husband), be cunning. Him no get in bad place but once. When him get in bad place once and get out safe he stick up stake so him know."
When Molly was in the Fryeburg vicinity she camped in a cave-like rock shelter near the base of Jockey Cap Mountain. She had a birch bark camp at Bethel on the North side of the Androscoggin River. At Andover she was known for her beautiful baskets and other small crafts that she sold to the locals. The histories of Andover, Rumford, Canton, Poland, Minot, Trap Corner, Paris Hill, Bethel, North Conway, Fryeburg, and Baldwin all proudly claim that Molly was a resident of their town. Molly's nomadic lifestyle would lead to establishing camp sites in these places and many others as well. Molly claimed the lands of these towns as belonging to her by birthright. Using white man's logic I guess they felt justified in claiming her as their own.
Molly has said that she was the daughter and granddaughter of chiefs. This has fueled a multitude of stories about Molly the "Indian Princess", daughter of Paugus (as if he was the only chief in this area!). It has been written that she was orphaned at a young age when Paugas was killed in the battle with Lovewell (Fryeburg) in 1725. If this is true she would have been at least 91 when she died. Another story states that she was 15 when she hid in the bushes during the raid by Roger's Rangers at Odanak (St. Francis) in 1759. This would put her birth around 1744 and her age at death around 72. This last story seems more likely and supported by a story Molly told of traveling to Canada when she was young and the trail was littered with the skeletons of her people. Around 1755 smallpox nearly wiped out the bands living in the Upper Androscoggin and Upper Connecticut River, which may have resulted in unburied bodies. This age question is a good example of how history becomes confused by writers who are interested in telling a good story.
Molly treated Henry Tufts for a serious knife wound around 1772. At that time they were with the Cowas Bands of Swassin, Philip, & Tomhegan in the Upper Androscoggin. Henry lived with these bands for 3 years. He recorded that they traveled to Quebec each spring to trade their winter furs for blankets, guns, and ammunition. Henry referred to Molly, Sabatis, and Philip as doctors. He was eager to learn about Abenaki medicine and asked many questions. He said "In general they were explicit in communication, still I thought them in possession of secrets they cared not to reveal."
Col. Clark of Boston was an early trader in the White Mountains and Molly's friend. She saved his life in 1781 and he was forever in her debt. Molly overheard Tomhegan planning a raid. The men were drinking heavily so she slipped away and traveled all night to warn her friend. In gratitude, Clark persuaded her to live in Boston where he could provide for her. She was not cut out for city life and soon returned to her homelands.
Captain Sussup (Molly's son?) was the head of a band that wintered near the headwaters of the Missisquoi River in Vermont during the winter of 1799-1800. Molly was with the band at this time. White settlers in the area remarked that the band was in an "almost starving condition...the deer and moose being destroyed by the settlers". Their principle means of subsistence was baskets, birch bark containers, and trinkets that they sold to the settlers.
Information about Molly's husband(s) and children is very confusing at best. It seems she was married to Capt. John Sussup about 1766. She is also reported living with Sabatis. It is believed she had children by both men. It is claimed Captain Sussup served with the French at the defeat of Braddock's English army in 1755 and with the Americans during the Revolution. But, she told Henry Tufts the story about getting absolution for her late husband before the Revolution, so it may be her son that served in the later war rather than her husband.
Sabatis was captured as a young boy by Roger's Rangers in their attack on St. Francis in 1759. It is said he was very fond of liquor and Molly eventually parted company with him because he was very foul when drunk.
We know that Molly had at least one daughter, Molly (sometimes called Molly Sussup and sometimes called Molly Peol) who married a Penobscot (possibly Peol Sussup). She attended school at Bethel and spoke fluent English. A man known as Captain John Sussup born about 1768 was probably Molly's son by Captain Sussup. It is likely a daughter was born around 1769 and was the child of Sabatis. In 1798 Molly traveled to Carritunk to assist a son known a Paseel (Basil) to recover from wounds he received in a fight. One daughter is thought to have married a white man and was living in Derby, Vermont by 1800.
In 1816 Molly was camped with Metallic at Lake Molechunkamunk (Upper Richardson Lake). She became ill while camped here. Metallic reportedly brought her to Andover and stayed with her until the Bragg family took over her care.
Molly is buried in the town of Andover where she died. Sometime after her death a head stone was placed on her grave. The stone reads: "MOLLOCKET Baptized Mary Agatha, died in the Christian Faith, August 2, A.D., 1816. The Last of the Pequakets". Her care-givers where the family of Thomas Bragg. Mr. Bragg made her a cedar camp in a clump of pines near his house. Just before her death, she asked to be carried out of her camp and placed on the ground under the sky. She was content that she had lived an honorable life and was beginning her journey to Heaven.
Today her spirit still wanders our country-side and her name appears on buildings and landmarks throughout Western Maine. She certainly made a lasting impression.
In the fall or early winter of 1799 a barrel of whisky, a half barrel of brandy and a half barrel of gin arrived in Troy, Vermont. As you can imagine, an arrival of this kind broke the monotony in the village awfully fast. There were a lot of drinking parties which often ended in a fight. Rev. Charles Stewart in 18l7 wrote about the present state of Eastern Townships: "Were they long to continue in this state, they would degenerate into barbarism"
Two guys from Potton, a short distance from Troy, named Perkins and Norris got into an argument at one of the parties and it finished in a fight. "In the contest Norris fell, or was knocked into a great fire that was burning in the huge Dutchback chimney which was in the room." Norris' hair and clothes were severely scorched, but the main injury was in one hand which was badly burned. The skin was hanging off his hand and the nerves were exposed. There was no doctor in the vicinity and no one could do anything for him.
Someone suggested going to get Molly Orcutt, the Indian doctress woman who lived on Lake Memphremagog which was quite close. Some friends went to get her and brought her back right away. She looked at Norris' hand, her medicine was an application of warm milk punch; bandaged up his hand and built her camp near by so she could be near until he got better and the hand was restored. At the time, it was believed that Molly was l22 years old. Molly's fame as a doctress was now raised.
The same winter the dysentery broke out with violence, particularly among children, and Molly's services were again solicited, and she again undertook the work of mercy and again she succeeded. But in this case Molly maintained all the reserve and taciturnity of her race, she retained the nature of her prescription to herself, she prepared her nostrum in her own camp, and brought it in a coffee pot to her patients, and refused to divulge the ingredients of her prescription to any one; but chance and gratitude drew it from her.
In March, Molly was on her way to Derby to see her daughter, who was married to a white man who lived on the Connecticut River. On her way there she met Josiah Elkins who lived with his wife in Peacham, Vermont. Mr. Elkins became one of the first white settlers in Potton Township and he had heard of Molly's exploits. He asked her what she had with her for food to make such a long trip; he found she had only a little bread.
Mr. Elkins, who was well known for his usual generosity, immediately cut a slice of pork of 5 or 6 pounds out of the barrel he was carrying home, and gave it to her. Molly, who was usually very reserved broke into a smile and could not stop thanking him for his generosity. "Now you have been so good to me", she exclaimed, "I will tell you how I cured the folks this Winter of the dysentery," and told him her receipt. It was nothing more than a decoction of the inner bark of the spruce. - At the time of these events the town of Troy was then called Missisco.
Molly was found dead on White Cap Mountain near East Andover, Maine in 1817. She had gone to the area to pick blueberries. When her body was found it had been partially eaten by wild animals.
Molly was born around 1677 and had lived on Lake Memphremagog for about l00 years before the arrival of the first white man. Her age was established by the late Reverend G.R. Hall, a Vermont historian who wrote that he often spoke with Molly during the years of the Canadian American War, 1812-1816 (Was she spying for the VIA - Vermont Intelligence Agency?). Hall was considered a scholar by Dr. Jon M. Currier another famous historian who lived in Newport. He said he knew Hall well and met him several times, and that he could vouch for his probity.
A pertinent fact remains in all this. Molly was a prominent figure in the history of our beautiful Lake Memphremagog, or Lake Mamhlawbagak as her ancestors called it in those days.
Ne-Do-Ba Comment - - - We feel the age and manner of death are inaccurate, but otherwise Mr. Boisvert appears to be writing about the woman known in Maine as Molly Ockett.