Echtrae Standish, or the Story of Merrymount
“Why do they call this part of Quincy ‘Merrymount’? Why not just call it Wollaston after the T
“Oh, that one’s not hard to tell, my Ansa.
Merrymount meant exactly what it said. The first
English colonists had such a good time here that they named this seaside hill the Merry Mount.
The colony’s leader, Thomas Merton, wrote that the natives called the area “Passonagessit”
and that the inhabitants translated this to “ma-re mount.” At least one of those things is not
Unlike the theocratic colonies at Plymouth and Boston, the colonists at Merrymount enjoyed
being neighbors to the native Massachusett people. They traded goods, shared meals, shared
knowledge of the land and of technology, and – if you believe Plymouth’s Billy Bradford –
invited “the Indian both men and women for their consorts, dancing and frisking together, like
so many fairies, or furies rather, and worse practices.” Now, that sounds like a classic good time
in Quincy, doesn’t it?
Those theocratic Puritan colonies officially named the area Mount Wollaston, but it didn’t stick
outside of their congregations.
On Bealtaine 1627, Morton invited English colonists and Masscahusett natives alike to a revel
around the may pole. A good time was had by all, which surely enraged the Puritans.
In 1630, the Puritan leader and slaver Governor John Winthrop brought 900 more Puritans and
written orders from King Charles to these shores. King Charles commanded Plymouth’s Miles
Standish to remove both Merton and the natives. Standish arrested Merton and exiled him
from the colony back to England.
Then, he invited the Massachusett people’s most powerful warriors to a peace talk through a
Wampanoag intermediary, whose daughter the English held hostage. It was a trap. Standish
and his men massacred the peace talk attendees and the surrounding villagers at Wessagusset
in present day Weymouth, where Kody grew up.
Standish displayed a severed Massachusett head on a pole at his Plymouth settlement.
Plymouth’s Puritans found this severed head pole far more acceptable and Christian than
Merton’s pagan May Pole. But, their native neighbors saw the head on the pole for what it was.
The natives then refused trade with the Plymouth colony. Tribes once friendly with the
Plymouth settlers instead bonded with their own ancient rivals to oppose the English’s
undeniable, ruthless inhumanity. These hostilities and rival alliances evolved into what was
later called King Philips War, but that’s another dindshenchas for bout the name of a high
school.Anyway, deed done, the Puritans turned to the legality of it all and officially dissolved the
colony of Mount Wollaston aka Merrymount. First, Winthrop’s Boston colony claimed the lands
that had been Chickatawbut’s summer camp and the joyous colony of Merry Mount both. Then,
the Puritans incorporated it into their new Braintree colony. They gave ownership of the land to
the Adams family, who gave it another name and kept it through two nations, two presidencies,
and three centuries. Even today, the nation that family once led maintains a national park there
to preserve an Adams’ compound, at the foot of the hill that was once the Merry Mount.”
“Oh, that is a good story. I can see why you like telling that one, old man,” said Ansa after a
“But, how could you just breeze by Braintree like that?”
“What do you mean?”
“Braintree? Brain. Tree. You just mentioned a place called Brain! Tree!. What’s the story
“Ansa, ansa. That is a harder tale to tell.
Braintree was a proud English name brought to these
lands by the first of the Adams family to colonize America. Do you recall the Plymouth Pole?
The one for the displaying of severed heads?”
“Yeah. I can’t unhear that, though I would like to.”
“Well, you imagine the process from pole to tree, from head to brain. You contemplate how
exactly such a thing would be done, what kind of person would dare, and by what reasoning
they would do it. You ask how long they planned it, how long they took to do it, and how long
the brains lasted.”