Molly Ockett

Painting by Danna Brown Nickerson, Bethel Historical Society
Painting by Danna Brown Nickerson, Bethel Historical Society

Time Period

1750-1820

Subject Categories

Everyday Life, Medicine

Notable Facts

A trusted and well-known Pequawket healer for both Natives and newcomers to New England. Helped save the life of infant Hannibal Hamlin, who grew up to be Abraham Lincoln's first Vice President.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

c1740

Date of Death

1816

Primary Residence

Andover

Religion

Catholic/Methodist/Native American

Ethnicity

Pequawket

Historical Significance

Molly Ockett, an Abenaki doctor of the Pequawket tribe, was born in Maine's Lower Saco River valley about 1740 and baptized Marie Agathe by French missionaries. Skilled in the traditional herbal medicine skills of her people, she traveled through much of New England and Southern Quebec, treating both Native and non-Native people.

Throughout her childhood, Molly Ockett and her family moved constantly to avoid the perils of the French and British colonial wars taking place around them. During 1759, while taking refuge at the St. Francis Mission at Odanak near the St. Lawrence River, Molly reportedly witnessed the death of her parents and many other Abenakis during the famous Roger's Raid(some estimates put the numbers at over 200 people but many scholars use a lower estimate). After this, she moved about along the Missisquoi River, continuing to practice traditional skills with a small group of other surviving Native allies.

By 1764, Molly had married a Native hunter named Piel Susup (Peter Joseph). That year, the couple visited the rebuilt mission at Odanak to have their marriage consecrated and their new daughter baptised.

By 1772, Piel had died and records show Molly living with a Pequawket Abenaki named Sabattis near Fryeburg, Maine. In time, she quit that stormy relationship, but always maintained her link with Fryeburg and numerous other Maine towns. Andover, Rumford, Canton, Poland, Minot, Trap Corner, Paris Hill, Bethel, North Conway, Fryeburg, and Baldwin all proudly claim that Molly Ockett was a resident of their town. She had a particularly strong connection with Bethel, where she sometimes attended and spoke at Methodist church services. Some claim that she converted from Catholicism to Methodism. Whether or not that is true, she is quoted as having said Methodists were "drefful clever folks."

Molly Ockett was known to be a fine hunter. When she would make a large kill, she would gather whoever was nearby to help her drag the kill from the woods. Then she would share the meat with them. She was also known for her beautiful birch bark baskets and other small crafts that she sold or traded to settlers. But, most of all, she was known as a fine traditional healer, trusted by both Natives and newcomers. As the only doctor available to many of these early settlers, she played an important role in their lives.

In the 1770s, she treated a shady character named Henry Tufts who stumbled into her camp near Bethel seeking treatment for a serious knife wound. After she healed him, he remained in her company for three years, determined to become her apprentice in order to become an itinerant doctor. In the winter of 1810, she saved the life of infant Hannibal Hamlin in Paris, Maine and predicted that he would become a famous man. He grew up to be Abraham Lincoln's first Vice President.

In 1781, during the American Revolution, she saved the life of Col. Clark by warning him of a raid. When Clark tried to reward her, she refused. Years later, after an especially difficult winter, she accepted his offer to stay with his family in Boston, where she learned about European medicine. Missing the woods and her independence, she did not stay there long.

After leaving Boston, Molly resumed her itinerant life in Maine and Vermont, walking long distances and setting up camp near one town or another. Refusing to leave her ancient homelands, she continued to practice the ways of her people until she died in 1816, despite the many cultural changes that were taking place around her. She was buried in the town cemetery of Andover, where she died. Some time later, a head stone was placed on her grave. It reads, "MOLLOCKET Baptized Mary Agatha, died in the Christian Faith, August 2, A.D., 1816. The Last of the Pequakets."

Occupations

  • Healer

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • "The Last of the Androscoggins: Molly Ockett" Link

  • "Molly Ockett and her world" Link

  • Women of the Dawn Link

Additional Images

Birch-bark box, Molly Ockett, Maine Historical Society
Birch-bark box, Molly Ockett, Maine Historical Society
Molly Ockett's purse, ca. 1785, Maine Historical Society
Molly Ockett's purse, ca. 1785, Maine Historical Society