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Praying Towns


PRAYING TOWNS. The term "Praying Towns" generally refers to the Christian Indian communities set up by the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1651 and 1674, although similar settlements were created at Lorette, near Quebec by the French, at Mashpee in Plymouth Colony, and on Martha's Vineyard. The Reverend John Eliot and other Puritan leaders believed that these towns would allow them to isolate and manage potential converts in order to completely change Native ways. Natives who went to live in the towns gained material assistance, education, and deeper connections to the colonists and their god. Natick was the first praying town, followed by six others in a north-south arc west of Boston. Residents were required to follow a legal code designed to force them into English social and political patterns. Christian Indians led each town, although Eliot and Bay Colony officials supervised their actions. In 1674 this program (and Puritan influence) was extended to seven additional Nipmuc towns farther west, alarming other Native and colonial leaders and contributing to the tensions that resulted in King Philip's War. After the war, four of the towns—Natick, Hassanamisco, Chabanakongkomun, and Punkapog—became, until Plymouth and the islands were added in 1692, the only Indian villages in the Bay Colony. They survived into the nineteenth century, gradually becoming networks of scattered families as non-Indians moved into the villages and the Indians moved to nearby cities and towns.


Axtell, James. The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Mandell, Daniel. Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Daniel R.Mandell

See alsovol. 9:A Dialogue between Piumbukhou and His Unconverted Relatives .

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