Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Jane Merritt

Committee Member

Annette Finley-Croswhite

Committee Member

John Weber


This thesis studies the rise, maintenance, and decline of New England praying towns from 1643-1675. Nestled between the Pequot War and Metacom’s War, the mid-seventeenth century was a period of relative peace between Indians and English settlers. Despite this supposed peace, violence continued between the two sides. The decades of peace were uneasy, and marked by increased tension over land and resources. Missionaries went to natives in Massachusetts and established towns aimed at converting large numbers of Indians. These towns would become a volleying point for local authorities, missionaries, and royal governors as natives, missionaries, settlers, and elites vied for power. Facing rapid depopulation, natives went to the mission towns to ensure their survival. This thesis seeks to understand why mission towns ended so rapidly, and how a period of relative peace could result in extreme violence. It argues that it was the overall misunderstandings on the part of missionaries and natives as to why they joined the other that led to the quick end of the mission system and ultimately to war. With legal disputes, fights over sovereignty, the English Civil War, lack of cultural knowledge, and inability to communicate with one another, the proclaimed peace of the mid-seventeenth century was really a period of exhaustive plays for power between waves of settlers in inhabited lands and those who sought to create a future that brought together natives and English.