News
HOURS 
Our Museum is closed for restoration work. We look forward to announcing our reopening soon.
Our new Research Library & Office is at 207 Union Street; please call for an appointment. Regular open hours will be announced soon. 
We are OPEN for public programs (see below).
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NEW!! Voice recordings of two original Natick Historical Society books available on one CD in MP3 format.

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Tuesday, July 17, 1:00-2:00 PM
History Book Club
Everyone welcome to join discussion of The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel.
We'll talk about the extraordinary story of "the last true hermit."
At Natick Community-Senior Center.
Sponosred by the Natick Historical Society and the Bacon Free Library.
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For more information on upcoming events, please visit our Events page.

 

John Eliot & the Praying Indians

Natick was established in 1651 by a Puritan missionary, Rev. John Eliot, who helped a group of "Praying Indians" settle here on land granted by the General Court. "Natick" may mean "a place of hills." In the area now called South Natick, the Indians settled on a bend of the Charles River. They built a wooden bridge with a stone foundation that was 80 feet long and eight feet high, and farms were established on both sides of the river. Streets were laid out along the north bank (now Eliot Street) and on the south side of the bridge (now Pleasant Street). The Indians built a meetinghouse with the help of an English carpenter. This two-story building was used as church, school, and warehouse, and as a place for Eliot to sleep on his fortnightly visits. The meetinghouse was erected about where the present Eliot Church stands.

For more than 20 years Eliot instructed and preached to the Indians. A school was set up, a village government was established, and the Indians were encouraged to convert to Christianity. Eliot learned their language and with the help of the Indians, who had no written language, Eliot transcribed the Bible into the Algonquian language. A copy of the 1685 (second) edition is on display at the Natick Historical Society Museum.

The prosperity of the village suffered when King Philip, son of chief Massasoit, attacked the white settlers throughout the colony, causing such fear among them that in 1675 the Indians were restricted to their villages. It was difficult for them to farm and tend their livestock. In October of that year, over Eliot's protests, the General Court ordered the Natick Indians sent to Deer Island near Boston. Many Indians did not survive due to lack of food during a harsh winter, and those who returned seven months later found their homes destroyed.

The Praying Indians did not flourish after their return to Natick. Eliot died in 1690. An Indian named Takawampbait had been ordained by Eliot and he carried on until his death in 1716. Two other Indians preached before the New England Company sent first two Puritan ministers, Rev. Oliver Peabody and later Rev. Stephen Badger, to fill the Indian church pulpit.

The land in the Natick Plantation was held in common by the Indians until 1719 when twenty men were named as Proprietors to oversee any division of land. By 1725 the Indians had sold most of their land to pay their debts and many drifted away or succumbed to disease. White settlers now outnumbered the Indians.