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King Philip.  A Case of Mistaken Identity?

(Editors Notes: Our thanks to reader Sue Martin who noted that recent data might suggest alternative heritage theories for King Philip. In reviewing various documents, including early deeds, and New England Historical & Genealogical Registers, we update here the information found. See also Native Americans)

wpe87.jpg (8893 bytes)King Philip, (Metacomet) universally thought to be son of Massasoit, the Indian sachem who befriended the early pilgrims, may have mistaken origins.  Feared and reviled for his brutal attacks on the colonists which left entire towns sacked and their inhabitants ravaged, Philip met his untimely end in the Great Swamp Fight led by Captain Church at Mount Hope. His desperate battle to save his people and his land is said to have come to an end at the hand of another Indian.
Massasoit Sculpture By John Cote

According to history, Massasoit had (at least) two sons *Wamsutta ( alias Alexander) and Metacomet (alias Philip). Upon Massasoit's death Wamsutta, being the eldest succeeded him, but soon dying of natural (or unnatural, as some suspect) causes, Philip became Chief Sachem.

It is now claimed that Philip was the son of Moanam, son to Massasoit, thus, of course, making Massasoit, Philip's grandfather--a not insignificant historical blunder if held to be correct, since virtually all historians have held him to be son of Massasoit.  In giving proof of this relationship, (New England Historical Register, True Lineage of King Philip, Betty Groff Schroeder,144:211-214) the author, among other proof offerings,  cites the 1662 peace treaty (King Philip's War Narratives, 16,17) as having "specifically identified Philip as "the son of the aforesaid Moanam, and Grandson of Massasoit . . ."  

To further complicate matters, in elaborating on this article, there is the finding of Caleb Johnson, unpublished, Mayflower website), who states that in (Nathaniel Morton, New England Memorial, 1669) a marginal note  reads:  "He that is here called Mooanam, is the same that, afterwards, was called Wamsutta; it being usual for the Indians to change their name." 

As if to confound the already confusing, Philip in a Deed, refers to Massasoit as his father, as does a contemporaneous letter written to England when Philip is slain in 1676. 

In a quit claim deed of 30 March,1668, (NEHGR 94:346-: Dr. Thomas Starr, Surgeon In The Pequot War, and His Family Cousins, by Hosea Starr Ballou) confirming the grant of the township of Rehobeth, Philip states:  "...Whereas Osamequin, Sachem, deceased, did for good and valluable . . .a tract of land eight miles square . . . I Philip Sachem, eldest son, heir and successor to the said Osamequin Sachem, do hereby for my self . . ."

(NEHGR 94:346-) A letter written to Sir Joseph Williamson in England 12 Aug. 1676 (The date when Philip was slain) by William Harris of Rhode Island says:  "formerly I haue told phillip (after he plotted against ye English) that he aboue all other Indeans should loue ye English & be true to them, for, had it not bin for ye plimoth old plantors (now dead) ye Narrangansetts had then cutt of his father's head (then called Mas-sa-soyt, since was called Osa-mea-quen) whom I knew forty years since (in 1636)." 

Given The Three suppositions, the lineage would variously read:

Historical Schroeder Johnson
Massasoit(1) Massasoit(1) Massasoit(1)
(alias Alexander)
Moanam(2) Moanam(2) (alias Wamsutta, alias Alexander)
(alias Philip)
Wamsutta(3) (alias Alexander) Metacomet(3) (alias Philip)
  Metacomet(3)(alias Philip  

Do other readers have documented contributions to this area of research? If so, we'd love to receive them.  Email us.