b. ? d. 1616
Chief ? to 1616
Chief Bashabez was the first Penobscot leader documented by the Europeans. He is mentioned around 1568 by David Ingram, a shipwrecked English sailor. Ingram reported that Chief Bashabez was the Head Chief of “Norumbega,” a confederation of seven or eight Abenaki-speaking Indian nations. This may have been the confederacy that is historically called Mawoshen. Ingram also reported that the capital, or chief town, of this confederacy was called “Arembee.” It is believed to have been situated where Brewer, Maine is today.
Samuel de Champlain, sailing for France, met Chief Bashabez in 1604. Champlain followed the Penobscot River north and as far inland as Kenduskeag (now Bangor, Maine.) Chief Bashabez and thirty Penobscots aboard six canoes arrived in Kenduskeag a few days later from a northern village, and the local Penobscots sang and danced in greeting.
Chief Bashabez was killed as the final act of the Micmac Wars (1606-1616.) These wars began because of the death of Panounias, a Micmac warrior. He was killed by an Indian from the Saco River Valley. Membertou, a grand Chief of the Micmac led raids along the coast of Maine avenging the death of the Micmac warrior Panounias. The Micmac had a huge advantage due to the fire arms they obtained from Port Royal, the French settlement near the Annapolis Basin in Nova Scotia. Chief Membertou’s final act was to kill Chief Bashabez because Panounias was killed in Penobscot Territory.
Asticou b. ? d. ?
Chief 1616 to ?
Chief Asticou was the son of Chief Bashabez. There is little documentation about Chief Asticou other than his name. Chief Asticou, like many Chiefs of his time, obtained the position through his father. This system of hereditary Chiefs continued until the 1850s (See Joseph Attean.) It is assumed that Chief Asticou was either killed in the Beaver Wars (Mohawk Wars) in the mid-17th century or that he died from the diseases that plagued Native American communities throughout Maine and the Maritimes. Two major waves of diseases in his lifetime were from 1616 to 1619, directly after his father's death , and later from 1632 to 1634. Small pox, influenza and yellow fever killed 75 to 90 percent of Native Americans in Maine.
Madockawando b. ? d. 1698
Chief 1667(?) to 1698
The first documentation of Chief Madockawando was in 1669 when he was described as Chief of the Pentagoets (Penobscots). He was said to be living at Bagaduce near modern day Castine, Maine, which is on the eastern shore of the Penobscot Bay near the mouth of the Penobscot River. Madockawando married a Chief’s daughter from the Kennebec River Valley. This marriage produced many children, most wholly unknown to history except for his daughter Pidianiske. This daughter, later baptized as Marie Mathilde, married a French Nobleman, Jean Vincent d’ Abbadie, the Baron of St. Castin. The Baron was sent to Maine in 1670 and moved from Fort Pentagoet to the local Indian village. Madockawando and the Baron became friends and engaged in trade relations. This relationship, as well as the marriage, helped solidify the alliance between the French and Penobscot in the region.
During the time of King Philip’s War, Chief Madockawando sought peace between the Penobscot and the English and attended many peace meetings with Lt. Governor William Phips of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Phips drafted a treaty that called for the Penobscot to live under English rule and to cut all alliances with the French, but Madockawando and other Penobscot leaders could not agree to these terms. Chief Madockawando tried hard to stay out of King Philip's War, but after the death of his sister due to English attacks on Fort Pentagoet, he and other Penobscots joined the conflict.
On January 25, 1692 Chief Madockawando led 150 Penobscot warriors in an attack on village of York, Maine.
Wenonganet I – The name of Wenonganet, spelled in many different ways, first appears in treaties and council documents in 1701 and last in 1727. Wenonganet I was cousin and successor of Madockawando and probably died about 1725 when he was succeeded by another relative.
Wenonganet II -- This Chief lived for a short time. The last record we have of him is the Treaty of 1727.
Lolon Saguarrab – Official papers show Lolon Saguarrab to have been a great warrior, a greater diplomat, and an executive of ability. He had tireless energy. In council he once said that that summer he had been from Penobscot to Boston, then home and up to Quebec, from Quebec back to Penobscot again and on to Boston, having had but three days in the whole summer with his family. He definitely appears in records as late as 1751 and may have been living as late as 1760. In 1757, his two sons died of smallpox, and it is not certain whether or not he left descendents, although the name Lola or Lolar still exists in the tribe.
Lolon Saguarrab worked tirelessly for peace in the 1750s. In spite of his efforts, the Massachusetts Bay Colony issued the 1755 Proclamation. This scalp proclamation declares war on the Penobscot people and places a bounty on the scalps of Penobscot men, women, and children.
John Attean, (called “Bagamore[Sagamore] John”) – Very little is known about John Attean. He is mentioned in the History of Penobscot County as the grandfather of Governor John Attean, born 1778 and died May 14, 1858.
Joseph Orono, (the blue-eyed chief) – Probably no Chief of the Penobscot Tribe has attracted so much attention as Orono and none is so hard to learn about. Joseph Orono served as Penobscot Chief from approximately 1760 until his death in 1801. Chief Joseph Orono was known as the “Blue-eyed Chief,” and there is a fair amount of mystery surrounding this Chief, both because of his light eyes and because he is mentioned in records when he was a very old age. How long he lived is hotly debated. Some say that he lived to be somewhere between 110 and 113. Joseph Orono was the son of one of the Baron St. Castine’s daughters, which would make him the grandson of Molly Mathilde and the Baron of St. Castin. Orono was the great-grandson of Chief Madockawando and comes from a long line of hereditary Chiefs. He assumed the role of Chief at a time of turmoil for the Penobscot Nation. Around the Revolutionary War, Chief Orono received letters from George Washington. Orono was sympathetic to the American cause in the war. In a speech in 1775 Orono said, “Our white brothers (Americans) tell us that they came to our land to enjoy liberty and life. But their king (of England) is coming to bind them in chains and to kill them. We must fight him. We will stand on the same ground with our brother (the Americans).” The Penobscots had a strained relationship with the English which cemented an alliance with the Americans. This was an important time in Penobscot History. The Penobscot allied with the Americans, and from this time forward, many Penobscot fighters became American soldiers.
Orono died Feb. 5, 1801 and five years later the town of Orono, Maine was incorporated.
The image above is from the The Catholic Total Abstinence Fountain of the Centennial of 1876 which is located on the campus of Villanova University in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania. The fountain was erected to honor veterans of the Revolutionary War 100 years after the Declaration of Independance.
Attean Elmut - Since Joseph Orono’s son was dead and the tribe did not want any of his grandsons as Chief, or Governor as they now termed their rulers, a period of several years passed after the old Chief’s death in 1801. It was customary to wait at least one year after the death of the chief before choosing a new one, but Orono had been a leader of such marked ability and was so loved and revered by the whole Penobscot Nation that it seemed for a while no one could ever fill his position. Finally, according to the some historians, they elected Attean Elmut, son of Sagamore John Attean, about the year 1806. Attean Elmut must have died in 1809, for the receipt for supplies delivered to the tribe dated November 20, 1810 was signed by a new Governor.
John Attean was inaugurated Governor for life on September 19, 1816 with John Neptune as Lieutenant Governor. John Attean was born in 1778 and died May 14, 1858. Lt. Gov. John Neptune was born July 27, 1767 and died May 8, 1865 and was probably the son of Colonel John Neptune, Lt. Governor under Gov. Joseph Orono. These two men were born of families that had always held high rank in the tribe. Attean was a direct descendant of Madockawando and of Castine and therefore a close blood relative of Joseph Orono. He was the son of a governor and grandson of a high chief. Neptune was son of a lieutenant governor and descended from a younger branch of the Passamaquoddy, the Neptunes, who furnished chiefs and governors for that tribe for more than six generations from father to son in direct hereditary succession. By the time of his election as lieutenant governor, however, John Neptune’s family had become thoroughly adopted into the Penobscot tribe.
There were differences between Attean and Neptune that embroiled the tribe, eventually splitting it into two rival political factions. The reasons for this split are too involved to detail here, but may be found in Fannie Hardy Eckstorm’s biography of John Neptune or in Professor Jacques Ferland’s publication, "Penobscot Indian Dispossession" in Maine History, volume 43, August 2007. The feud in time became bitter and although John Attean and John Neptune made up their differences, the tribe could not and a discontented faction decided to depose their governor and lieutenant governor and elect new ones. After they had consulted with the chief men and councils of the Passamaquoddy and Malecite [Maliseet] Tribes and invited delegations of those tribes to Old Town, they began the process of deposing the same Penobscot officers they had elected 22 years before. In those days, it was the custom for all the tribes to participate when new chiefs of any of the confederated tribes were elected. It was thus that on Friday, August 31, 1838 the New Party elected as their first governor Tomer Soekalexis and as their first lieutenant governor Attean Orson.
There were now two political parties. The followers of Attean and Neptune refused to acknowledge the newly elected men as their leaders and firmly adhered to the old leaders of the tribe. From then on, this faction was called the Old Party. The Old Party maintained that Attean and Neptune had been elected according to the ancient custom of the tribe “for life.” The New Party just as strongly maintained that Attean and Neptune had forfeited their rights to their offices by their actions, and thus the tribe had the right, and the duty, to get rid of them and elect new ones. Several times the Maine legislature tried to get the tribe to work through their differences, but in vain. On the death of John Attean in 1858, the Old Party promptly chose his son, Joseph Attean, as his successor, and he was duly inaugurated by them, according to ancient Penobscot custom, for life. On the death of Lt. Governor John Neptune in 1865, his son Saul Neptune was named lieutenant governor in his stead by the Old Party.
The New Party Governor Tomer Sockalexis died at the age of 68 on Sept. 30, 1870, and on Jan. 12, 1874, Attean Orson, the New Party lieutenant governor, died. Since Joseph Attean was drowned in 1870 and the first Old Party governor we have after this date was elected in Sept. 1874, we are probably missing at least two governors in our list, an Old Party man elected in 1871 and 1873 and New Party governors for 1870 and 1874. It seems that in 1865 the parties agreed to alternate elections. and that the first year, the Old Party chose Joseph Attean to govern both parties. After he died, the New Party elected Tomer Sockalexis.
Joseph Attean – Elected by the Old Party in 1858 to succeed his father, he died in 1870. John Neptune remained Lt. Governor until 1865 and Saul Neptune held that post thereafter.
Tomer Sockalexis – Elected New Party governor in 1838, he died in 1870. His lieutenant governor Attean Orson died in Jan. 1874 after having been elected in fall of 1873. In March 1874, at a special election, Sockbeson Swassian was elected lieutenant governor for the remainder of the term.
To read about more Chiefs, please visit the Chief Line Modern Era, which starts with the most recent Chief, Kirk Francis, and documents all chief/governors through to Joseph Attean and Tomer Sockalexis.