KING PHILIP'S WAR CLUB



For inquiries contact Michael Volmar,Curator, Fruitlands Museums, 102 Prospect Hill Road, Harvard, Massachusetts

When and where the club, presently assumed to be Philip's, came from is something of a mystery. However, there is some information available.

In 1913 Dr. Warren King Moorehead learned that Mrs. Laura Daniels had in her possession King Philip's War Club. Apparently, she is descended from the Rev. John Checkley, a Church of England clergyman who became a missionary to the Indians in Providence. As the story goes, he secured the relic along with a pipe and a belt from the Indian (Alderman) who shot Philip in 1676. The club was handed down from person to person to Mrs. Laura Anne Daniels (maiden name Fuller) of Union, Maine. Miss Clara Endicott Sears purchased the club in 1930. It was stolen from the Fruitlands Museums in 1970. And, in the summer of 1995, it was returned to the museum.

There is no doubt that Rev. John Checkley worked among the Indians of the Mount Hope area during the first half of the eighteenth century. There is also evidence which suggests that he was in fact a collector of Indian relics and that he probably procured the club and handed it down to future generations of his family. He also may have had contact with an aged Benjamin Church (1639-1717) who may have introduced him to Alderman, the man who shot Philip.

There is, however, no record which mentions these events or the club until the mid-nineteenth century at which time its authenticity as being King Philip's war club was already assumed. It is known that Rev. John Checkley was born in 1680 in Boston and died in Providence in 1754. Apparently Checkley was educated at Oxford, and thus lived abroad until around 1710. King Philip's war club was known to be in the possession of his descendants by 1842. Family tradition contends that Checkley traded a gold watch for Philip's war-club, belt, and pipe (anonymous 1897:119).

The club is made from the ball root of a maple tree. The ball root develops when the root system of a tree hangs over a stream bank in such a way as to expose the roots and cause them to grow at an angle.

The club is inlaid with white and purple wampum. White wampum is made from the central column of a whelk shell. Purple wampum is made from quahog shell. There are also several triangular horn pieces inlaid along one side of the club. The holes were made to fit individual beads. There are two lines of wampum along the top width of the club, most of which are missing. Also, there are two bands of wampum along the adjacent surfaces of the handle, 44 beads to a side. Then on one side there are 15 triangular inlaid horn pieces, two of which are still there. Also, on the other side, there is a lower band of wampum beads, only partially completed. In fact, if you look at the club in the right light you can see two parallel lines made with something sharp to outline where the bead inlay should continue. It is evident that this line would have been continued. There are also three rectangular sections engraved into the club near the ball, perhaps for a brass inlay.

In my estimation the club was manufactured during the seventeenth century, in all likelihood by a Native American. One clear sign of its antiquity is the Wampum and the method of its manufacture. Another is the condition of the wood and style of manufacture.

Fruitlands Museum should be visited to learn more about Native American culture.

Bibliography:

anonymous. 1897. John Checkley; or the Evolution of Religious Tolerance in

Massachusetts Bay. Vol I and II. Publications of the Prince Society. Published
for the Society by John Will and Sons, Boston.

Church, Benjamin. 1865. The History of King Philip's War. Introduction by H.M.Dexter.

John Kimball Wiggin, Boston.

Church, Thomas Esq. 1822. The History of King Philip's War commonly called The Great Indian

Wars At the Eastward, In 1689, 1690, 1692, 1696, and 1704. with Notes and Appendix by
Samuel G. Drake. J.B. Williams, Exeter, New Hampshire.

Drake, Samuel G. 1822. The History of Philip's War. by T.Church with Appendix by S.Drake.

J.B.Williams, Exeter, N.H.

Horner, George R. 1995. Massoit and His Two Sons: Wamsutta and Metacom. In Bulletin

of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society. 56(1):20-22.

Leach, Douglas E. 1958. Flintlock and Tomahawk: New England in King Philip's War.

W.W. Norton & Co., New York.

Leach, Douglas E. (ed.) 1963. A Rhode Islander Reports on King Philip's War: The Second

William Harris Letter of August, 1676. Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence.

Mather, Increase 1862. The History of King Philip's War. J.Munsell, Albany.