GRAY LOCK (La Tête Blanche, The Whitehead, Wawenorrawot, Wewonorawed, Wawanolewat), an Indian chief at Missisquoi (near Swanton, Vt.); apparently fl. 1675-1740.
The bearer of the name Gray Lock seems to have belonged originally to the Waranoke tribe from the Westfield River region of Massachusetts; under this name are recorded activities spanning such a length of time that there may even be a father and son involved. The name Wawenorrawot first appears in a letter of 28 April 1727 from John Gyles to the governor of Massachusetts and is obviously the Abenaki name wawánolewát, meaning “he who fools the others or puts someone off the track.” It is so descriptive of Gray Lock’s exploits during Dummer’s War (1722–27) that it seems likely to have been bestowed at that time, replacing whatever Indian name he had previously borne.
Gray Lock (the name is said to have come from a streak of prematurely white hair) is reported to have been active in King Philip’s War (1675–76) against the Massachusetts colonists and to have fled to Mohawk country upon Philip’s defeat. More probably he was one of the refugees who fled after the war to the Hudson River region and were settled at Schaghticoke (near the mouth of the Hoosic River) in Mahican country during 1676 and 1677. The loss of his territory in the war has been assumed to account for his hostility towards the English.
The name Gray Lock reappears in the records some 35 years later. In 1712 this Indian attacked Northampton, Massachusetts, in one of the last raids of the War of the Spanish Succession. He was said to have come “from Montroyall” – possibly Sault-Saint-Louis (Caughnawaga, Que.) or Chambly, although even Missisquoi or Saint-François-de-Sales (Odanak) might have been considered as Montreal by the southern New Englanders.
During Dummer’s War an Indian by the name of Gray Lock achieved renown for his daring raids against Massachusetts and his elusive tactics. In the course of this war, Albany officials frequently served as intermediaries between Massachusetts and Gray Lock, since New York was not engaged in the war and since it maintained relations with the Schaghticokes, from whom Gray Lock had recruited much of his band. In the spring of 1723, Lieutenant Governor William Dummer of Massachusetts attempted to conciliate Gray Lock, who was living at Missisquoi, with a wampum belt and presents offered through Colonel Johannes Schuyler Of Albany. Dummer’s overture apparently did not reach Gray Lock, who in August fell upon Northfield and Rutland, Massachusetts, and escaped with captives. Scouts and cavalry were called out, but in October Gray Lock attacked Northfield again and again escaped safely. More troops were sent, and early in 1724 a blockhouse, Fort Dummer, was erected above Northfield near present Brattleboro, Vt., to guard against future attacks. The forts at Northfield were also strengthened.
In June 1724 Gray Lock left Missisquoi, and although the Albany government warned the Massachusetts frontier villages only two days after his departure, he made another successful raid. Scouts from Hatfield pursued him as far as Otter Creek (in present Vermont), but he eluded them and doubled back to spend the summer lurking west of the Connecticut River settlements and raiding Deerfield, Northampton, and Westfield. Haying and harvesting at Northfield that summer were done by large parties under arms, and scouting expeditions continued to probe northward even after Gray Lock had returned to Missisquoi early in November.
The last of these parties was out in March and April 1725, and as soon as it withdrew Gray Lock left his winter quarters and threw the settlements into a state of alarm. Intending retaliation, Captain Benjamin Wright recruited some men and set out in July for Missisquoi but was forced to turn back by lack of provisions. Gray Lock followed Wright to Northfield, and alarms and skirmishes continued around Fort Dummer and Deerfield the rest of the summer.
In the autumn of 1725, the Penobscot Abenakis brought word to Boston that a great council of tribes had taken place the previous summer at Saint-François and that all were in favour of peace. Word from Albany confirmed that the Canadian Abenakis were tired of the war and revealed that only two war parties – one of them Gray Lock’s – were out. In December 1725 the Penobscots negotiated a tentative peace treaty [see Sauguaaram], but the agreement did not include the other Abenakis, and in March 1725/26 Dummer learned that Gray Lock was mustering yet another war party at Otter Creek. Dummer asked the Penobscots to persuade Gray Lock to make peace and directed the Massachusetts frontier towns to encourage him to come in to parley. In January 1726/27 the Albany authorities sent Gray Lock’s brother Malalamet, who was apparently still at Schaghticoke, to invite the war chief to Albany to negotiate, but Malalamet reported that he had missed him. When the Canadian Abenakis sent word through the Penobscots that they wanted peace, some 20 warriors, including Gray Lock, Amaraguened, and Onedahauet (Comhommon), sent a separate belt and a letter stating that they were undecided. They were said to have been encouraged in their stand by Joseph Aubery, the missionary at Saint-François. It is not clear if their message ever reached Dummer.
In April 1727 a large group of Canadian Abenakis assembled at Ticonic (Winslow, Me.) to await conclusion of a treaty. In May a runner brought word that the dissenting warriors had set out against the English. Those who wished peace sent a party after the warriors and forced them to return. Peace with Massachusetts was finally established by the Penobscot and Canadian Abenakis together at Falmouth (Portland, Me.) in July 1727. None of Gray Lock’s party appears in reports of the transactions.
English accounts of Gray Lock stop in 1727. In the registers of Fort Saint-Frédéric (Crown Point, N.Y.) there is a baptismal entry dated 19 April 1740 for Jean-Baptiste, son of Pierre-Jean, dit La Tête Blanche, and his wife Hélène. Pierre-Jean was presumably Gray Lock himself. Nicolas Ouaouënouroué, one of the five chiefs at Saint-François in 1750, was probably a son of Gray Lock. Captain Louis, or Louis Wahawanulet, possibly a grandson, was known in the Lac Memphrémagog region and was killed at Châteauguay in 1813. Wawanolet is now one of the more common family names among the Abenakis of Saint-François.
Neither the death date nor the grave of Gray Lock is definitely known. His monument is Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, named for him by the descendants of his old enemies.
[Much of Gray Lock’s early career is known only through traditions preserved in New England town histories, and it deserves further research. French accounts take surprisingly little note of this important Indian leader, even during Dummer’s War. One reason may be that Missisquoi did not have a French mission until 1743 and then only for a year or two. Such ministrations as the Missisquoi Indians received came from the chaplains at Fort Saint-Frédéric, and therefore we lack the detailed vital records which would have been kept by a resident missionary. The loss by fire of the mission records of Saint-François-de-Sales in 1759 and again in 1819 has made it impossible to be certain that Louis Wahawanulet was a grandson of Gray Lock. g.m.d.]
“Mass. Archives,” XXXI, 520; XXXIIIA, 111. Private archives, A. G. Styan (Saint-Lambert, Qué.), E. Harrington, Notes made at St. Francis Indian village in 1869, 9, 21–22. H. S. Burrage, “Capt. John Wilson and some military matters in Maine in the war of 1812–15,” Maine Hist. Soc. Coll., 2nd ser., X (1907), 403–8. Documentary history of Maine, XXIII, 186–202. William Hubbard, The history of the Indian wars in New England . . . (Boston, London, 1677; new ed., 2v., Roxbury, Mass., 1865), II, 94, 98, 188. “Indian treaties,” Maine Hist. Soc. Coll., 1st ser., III (1853), 377, 407–47. JR (Thwaites), LXIX, 72–73. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), III, 561; IV, 575–77, 715, 743–44, 902–4, 990–92. J. H. Lockwood, Westfield and its historic influences, 1669–1919 . . . (Springfield, Mass., 1922), 342–49. P.-G. Roy, Hommes et choses du fort Saint-Frédéric, 271. J. H. Temple and George Sheldon, History of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts, for 150 years . . . (Albany, 1875), 191–215. J. R. Trumbull, History of Northampton, Massachusetts, from its settlement in 1654 (2v., Northampton, Mass., 1898–1902), I, 513. The Vermont historical gazetteer . . . , ed. A. M. Hemenway (5v., Burlington, Vt., 1868–91), IV, 962–63, 998–1000. T.-M. Charland, “Un village d’Abénakis sur la rivière Missisquoi,” RHAF, XV (1961–62), 319–32. Nathan Goold, “Col. James Scamman’s 30th regiment of foot, 1775,” Maine Hist. Soc. Coll., 2nd ser., X (1907), 337, 358–59, 371–73, 376–80, 385-–87, 391–92, 400. M. A. Safford, “Annual field day, 1897,” Maine Hist. Soc. Coll., 2nd ser., IX (1907), 321.
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Cite This Article
Gordon M. Day, “GRAY LOCK,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gray_lock_3E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Gordon M. Day|
|Title of Article:||GRAY LOCK|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1974|
|Year of revision:||1974|
|Access Date:||June 1, 2023|