Charles Wilbar Utter, retired Editor and Co-Publisher of the Westerly Sun passed away on October 12, 2010. Charlie was not only the editor of the Westerly Sun but he was a great friend and supporter of Scouting in the Narragansett Council. He was also a good friend to Gus Anthony. I’m sure Charlie won’t mind me re-printing his article – THE LEGEND OF THE CHIEFS – YAWGOOG, QUEQUATUCK AND KITCHTAU. Here is Charlie’s editor’s note and article that appeared some time ago in the OLD RHODE ISLAND MAGAZINE.
Some of your residents, especially both former and present Boy Scouts in Narragansett Council, might be interested in a piece of local Indian legend. It is a mixture of what did happen and what could have happened many years ago. Start with Yawgoog Pond outside of Rockville, RI, and the site of one of the finest Boy Scout camps in the country. The Wincheck Indians, named after a nearby pond, is the camp’s Junior Honor Society (now national as the Order of the Arrow). The Senior Honor Society is the Knights of Yawgoog. Salmon used to come up the Pawcatuck River to spawn – and in recent years have returned. The Ashawog Camp ground is today a portion of I-95 as it enters Rhode Island from Connecticut. The boulder is still up there on a ledge off Route 3 into Ashaway and south of I-95 intersection. It was probably left there by the glacier and is now hidden by billboards. Quequatuck is the name of a Boy Scout Campsite on the Pawcatuck River in the Westerly area, part of an area known to Boy Scouts as Quequatuck District. Kitchtau is the name of another Boy Scout campsite in Pawcatuck, CT, part of Narragansett Council (RI). “Live, Work and Play” was a slogan used by the tourist committee of the former Westerly Chamber of Commerce, which was replaced back in the 1950’s by the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce. The long river? Let your imagination be your guide! Was it the nearby Thames in New London, the Connecticut River, the Hudson River? Probably not the Mississippi – too long a hike and too many other tribes in between. “Marauding Indians”? It is known that the Montauks from Long Island made occasional raids on the mainland, canoeing into the quiet waters of Watch Hill beach to the west of a hill known as “Watch Hill” – for obvious reasons. Did it actually happen? Probably not – but that is what Indian Lore is all about.
Charles W. Utter, Editor Emeritus
The Westerly Sun
THE LEGEND OF THE CHIEFS – YAWGOOG, QUEQUATUCK AND KITCHTAU
By: Charles W. Utter
Now it came to pass as the winter’s snow dwindled to nothing, the lakes released their ice and the rivers ran madly to sea, that Chief Yawgoog of the tribe of Wincheck under the Narragansetts gathered his braves – for it was the time for catching the salmon that were returning by the Pawcatuck to their birth places, to lay their eggs and then to die.
Wincheck canoes, loaded with braves, squaws, children and all the fishing gear necessary to gather the salmon, headed down the swollen brooks into the Wood River and thence into the Pawcatuck River, where the braves paddled upstream into Ashawog.
There they would camp in wait of the salmon. Wires erected teepees for the tribe and drying racks for the freshly smoked salmon soon to arrive. Meanwhile the braves and children frolicked in the fields in anticipation of the catching of the delicious salmon soon to come.
But the braves were young, their sinews at their best of development, and their energies ran to a high peak. It was near the end of the day when Chief Yawgoog noted that his braves were first playing – and then fighting amongst themselves.
When fishing had finished the next afternoon, Chief Yawgoog gathered his braves together and said: “Break yourselves into two even groups and follow me to the top of yon hillock!” There he found a huge boulder atop a granite outcropping and bade his braves to take equal positions on opposite sides. He then directed them: “Push with all your might!” They pushed and strained, but the boulder remained unmoved.
He then bade his braves to gather together on the uphill side of the boulder and gave the same instructions: “Push with all your might!” The boulder teetered and finally started to roll – down the hillock and came to rest close by the campsite of the Winchecks on the Ashawog.
Chief Yawgoog then deeply intoned: “When you pushed against each other, you could achieve nothing. But see what you did when you all pushed together!” The braves cheered their Chief upon their own accomplishment. Chief Yawgoog then replied: “So that you will never forget what you can accomplish by working and pushing together, roll that boulder up to the top of the hillock and replace it where it was earlier this morning!”
That boulder is there today as witness to the wisdom of Chief Yawgoog and the strength of his braves in the tribe of Wincheck.
Chief Yawgoog was a great and compassionate Indian leader. His squaw bore him two sons – and possibly a daughter. The fate of the Princess in the tribe of Wincheck has long been lost as became the fate of many princesses and squaws in those days. But the two sons, Princes within the tribe, lived as stalwart leaders of their people. Chief Yawgoog realized that when his days were numbered, only one son could become Chief. That would be the eldest son, known to the tribe as Prince Quequatuck. Chief Yawgoog’s younger son, Prince Kitchtau, could not stay with the tribe of Wincheck. He must leave and settle his own domain – somewhere outside of the reaches of hills, brooks and streams – his present home – soon to be the domain of his older brother, Prince Quequatuck.
Chief Yawgoog was an understanding chief in the tribe of Narragansetts. He held his tribe of Wincheck together. He smiled when his braves played. He lustily approved the hunters who brought meat and fish to the campground for all to eat. But in the evening, in the quiet of his own teepee, he prayed to his Great Spirit to guide his older son when he was to become Chief of the Winchecks – and he cried for his lost son, Prince Kitchtau, who had bade his father farewell and moved into the setting sun from their campfires around Yawgoog. He yearned for the younger son’s return, knowing full well that that son could not come back to the tribe of the Wincheck, but must establish his own tribe.
Prince Kitchtau loved his older brother, Prince Quequatuck, and knew that he could not return to the family campfires. He must find himself a new home, a new family, a new life away from the pines and hemlocks so familiar to him where he had played as a young and boisterous brave at Yawgoog.
He continued to move westward toward the setting sun, looking for a river of sweet water, where he might pitch his teepee and continue his life within a new forest.
Many moons passed as Prince Kitchtau gained new friends, and he became the leader of these braves who lived within forests closer to the setting sun than the campfires of his youth at Yawgoog. He remembered his older brother, Quequatuck, and their fishing together along the Ashawog, where the salmon came out of the Pawcatuck from the great salt water beyond, to lay their eggs and die. He vowed at this time to take his new people to somewhere near the great salt water, near his brother’s land – but not on this brother’s land – where his people and his brother’s people could live, work and play in peace with each other. He would follow the trails away from the great straight river by the sunset, and follow a course towards the rising sun, hopefully finding a stream that would lead to the river he knew best from his youth, the Pawcatuck. He would stay on the setting sun side of the river, away from his brother’s teepees – but close enough so both camps could learn to be friends.
Thus, Chief Kitchtau came to the west banks of the Pawcatuck River where his braves fished for the salmon, dug the clams, and ate of all forms of sea food supplied by the great salt water only a league away.
He made a clearing in the forest – not so close to the river that his tribe might be surprised in attacks by unfriendly tribes of marauding Indians from the far away islands, nor the white men who had started to make their presence known – and yet not so far from the stream that food in abundance from the Pawcatuck and the great salt water would be a burden for the squaws to carry to the village.
Thus, Kitchtau’s new home, the home of his tribe, was born – near the Pawcatuck where there was an abundance of food and only a small stone’s throw across the water to his brother Quequatuck’s teepees. There both tribes became eternal friends, one on the sunrise side and one on the sunset side of the river, on which the Great Spirit smiled so happily.