Introduction

The following material is excerpted from an exhibition that was on view at the Bethel Historical Society from July 2004 through May 2007.

Molly Ockett painting by Danna Brown Nickerson

Painting by Danna Brown Nickerson

This exhibit tells the story of Molly Ockett, an Abenaki Indian of the Pigwacket tribe whose lifetime (ca. 1740-1816) spans an important and particularly tumultuous period in this region's past.  Born at Saco, Maine, Molly Ockett—baptized "Marie Agathe"—is one of the best-known individuals from the local past in the mind of the average resident of western Maine.  As an itinerant healer and herbalist for both natives and newcomers, Molly Ockett established close relations with the early settlers in such communities as Andover, Fryeburg, Poland, Paris, and Bethel during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Such ties enabled her to gain an intimate view of white society as it spread throughout the vast wooded domain long occupied by her ancestors.


Since her death in 1816, Molly Ockett has become a legendary figure, the subject of fireside story-telling, of school pageants, and of popular magazine articles, many of which contain inaccurate information.  Renowned as "the last of the Pigwackets," she is honored annually at Bethel's "Molly Ockett Day" celebration, and her name is connected with numerous geographic landmarks, business ventures, and community organizations.  Molly Ockett's place in the consciousness of this region has been ensured by a certain "Indian mystique," complete with romance, curses, buried treasure, and near-miraculous cures.  But what of the real Molly Ockett?  By focusing on the most reliable information available about her life, this exhibit raises this Native American woman from the realm of myth and legend to the status of a documented personality in the colonial history of the northern New England frontier—a place that was truly Molly Ockett's world.

Introduction