Praying Town is Available

Praying Town is the story of a brave experiment, a forgotten war, and a historic peace between New World Natives and Old World immigrants. Amid the confusion of colonization, two cultures found a way to live together in harmony and respect in communities that once dotted the landscape of what we now know as New England. They were called Praying Towns.

Author L. Gawenase Johnson is a direct descendant of both those who came over on the Mayflower and those who greeted them with mixed reactions. Digging deep into obscure history, she brings to light an all but forgotten story yearning to be told.

Working from verifiable historic figures and events, Gawenase weaves the story of Damaris and Jacob, Amie and Tispiquin, King Philip and John Sassamon from the peaceful Praying Town of Namasket, through love, murder, war, and ultimately back to a remarkable peace that lasted for almost one hundred years.

Of her work of historical fiction, Gawenase says, “There are shocking, unbelievable moments in the story. Surprisingly, those are all from actual eyewitness accounts. My fiction fills in the day-to-day moments that have been lost to time.”

Damaris Cooke’s Journal Disclaimer

The other day, I put out a plea to my friends on Facebook for some suggestions as to my book title choice. 

What I wound up with as a title is:


An epic story of lost Native American and Colonial history.

My friends were very helpful with their suggestions, questions, and support. One surprise came from Lori Brown Patrick, who is my editor for the book. Her words after reading the first 19 chapters, blew me away. 

Whatever its title ends up being, I believe Lisbeth’s book will be an affirmation to Native American peoples, finally bringing a little-known but significant piece of their history to light, and a revelation to others who are not so familiar with that history. Based on actual historical documents, including the journal of an eyewitness, the book plants you firmly in the experience of both Natives and European settlers in what we now know as New England in the late 1600s. If you had asked me if this were possible, I would have been very skeptical, but Lisbeth has managed to pull it off.

Her story takes what has always been dry and frankly skimpy history, at least in the mainstream, public school history textbooks, and creates empathy through detailed layers of her characters’ thoughts and emotions. Until I read it, I had no idea that such close relationships and harmony existed between the Natives and the European immigrants–that towns had even been created based on the intent to foster harmony and peaceful, diverse community. I find that a source of great hope and encouragement, still deeply relevant to current culture and the history we are creating daily now.

Sadly, also like today, not everyone at that time was interested in cultivating peace and harmony between all peoples. Then, as now, corruption also flourished, and some people hungered more for money, land, and power than for peace. Deep prejudices, racial hatred, and hideous oppression led to unthinkable acts of cruelty, murder, and war. The best and the worst in humanity showed itself on all sides of the conflicts.

I highly encourage anyone to read Lisbeth’s book once it is published. You will learn more than you ever absorbed in history class. It will be more accessible, easier to identify with the participants from all sides, and more memorable–and affecting–than you can imagine. It will change you.

Hold on until Lisbeth is finished with it. It will be worth the wait.

I was so excited after reading Lori’s words about the first half of Praying Town, that I almost forgot to tell her about Damaris’s journal. Sadly, it was not found in a dusty old box shoved under the table for a hundred years in an antique store. It was not passed down from generation to generation and discovered. Damaris’s journal was written by me in order to bring Damaris to life. She seemed to want to tell her story herself and so I let her do that in her journal.  

Even though the history actually happened, I have had to take writer’s liberty with the people who lived through it. There is no way of knowing for sure who actually knew who and how they felt about each other. If the friendships are believable, I have succeeded in my goal of bringing these people’s stories to life.

There are shocking, startling, unbelievable moments in the story. Surprisingly, those are all from actual eyewitness accounts. My fiction fills in the day-to-day moments that have been lost to time.






I was researching for the final chapters of Praying Towne when I read about the 1675 lunar eclipse.

The eclipse discovery happend around the same time that our 2017 solar ecipse was causing a great deal of excitement. Ours was being talked about on the news and the internet. Friends had made plans way in advance to travel to central Oregon to be able to see the full effect. My husband, Roger and I went out to the beach on Camano Island and watched a partial of the eclipse through special glasses. It was a memorable experience.

Back in the 1600’s, they did not have science, Google, and television to look to for explaination. I think that my charicters would have thought of an eclipse as some sort of sign or omen. Local Natives would have had some sort of story to tell, wouldn’t they?

There is a legend about the Black Squirrel eating the sun. A black squirrel? I had never heard of such a critter so I looked up black squirrel on the internet and found out that they exist and are rare like the albino.

The eclipse that happened in 1675 was lunar and the account about it said that there appeared in the sky a shadow that looked like a bow. I had already written the pre-war chapter, but because the eclipse happened only days before the King Philip war broke out, I felt that this chapter deserved the rewrite to include the lunar event.

Two of my main characters, Tispiquin, the political leader who was also known as the Black Sachem of Namasket, and the Colonial Jacob Cooke were neighbors whose wives were close friends. The two were not at the same place on the night of July 7, 1675. What effect might the experience have on each of these men when the moon began to dissapear? What impression would the sight of the shadow in the shape of a bow have had on them?

Was it a warning? Was it a sign? Was it an omen?

When I come across nuggets like the eclipse, I feel it would be unfair not to include them, even though these tid bits tend to slow the progress toward the press. I believe they are well worth the work.

The Peace Tree of 1676

Gentahacus was 94 years old at the time of this photograph, taken at the 2004 Green Corn Ceremony where he was teaching the members of the Eastern Woodland People’s Association the history of the Peace Tree that was planted at the end of the King Philip War in 1676 at old Schaghticoke, NY.

The Peace Tree at Schaghticoke marked the end of the King Philip War. It was planted for the protection of the Christian Indian refugees of that horrible war. The tree created the vale of peace, the Tawasentha, that allowed for the people to live undisturbed under the leaves of the white oak.

John Eliot’s Praying Towns were invited to join with other Christian refugees to settle in Schaghticoke where they and their descendants enjoyed peace for 90 plus years; from the end of the King Philip War up to the American Revolution.

I grew up in the village of Schaghticoke. My father had a way of filling the days with teaching moments.

One day he took me on a trek to visit the sacred Indian burial mounds. We had to negotiate our way past snapping turtles and cross the bog on hidden humps of compacted earth. We came to a small, secret island that held the burial mounds. He explained to me that back when “the people” were living in this place, the lake was not here and that they would have lived along the river in bark covered wigwams.

There was an ancient tree in the vicinity. My dad and I stretched out our arms around it and measured it. It would have taken five people with stretched out arms to reach all the way around its trunk. Then he pointed to a little sapling that was growing nearby. “To give you a perspective of how old these graves are, figure that the grand old tree would have been the size of this little sapling when the village was here.” He gave me time to think about that before we offered a prayer for the ancient ones. Then, before we left, he made me promise to keep the knowledge of the mounds a secret. “If the wrong people found out about the graves they might be tempted to come in and dig for artifacts,” he explained.

To my knowledge, some 50 plus years later, the ancient graves remain undisturbed.




This painting is titled:


By Gawenase Johnson

The Eastern Woodland women labor in

Springtime fields. A sturgeon has been buried in

An earthen mound to serve as fertilizer for the seeds of the

“Three Sisters”: the corn, the beans and the squash.

These are the crops that will provide sustenance during the cold of winter.

I decided to share this image of my painting Sustenance because it relates to Praying Towne, in that it depicts Native life as it was in the 1600’s.

I apologize because I have not been painting lately. Someday in the future, I might get back to it. If my friend Jean has anything to do with it, I will. She is off to Arizona for the winter and maybe when she returns we will bring out the paints, but for now I’m devoting more time to writing. I’m hoping to be able to get the editing done soon.

I’m excited and a bit apprehensive about getting Praying Towne out there. I wish everything in the book was built from substantiated facts. That would be impossible to accomplish. There is no proof that my ladies, Damaris and Amie, actually were such close friends. I almost didn’t write the book. Then I decided what better way to bring such intriguing history to life than through a lifelong friendship of two women who lived in that day and time. Fiction or no, I had to go with it.

My research brought to light so many actual facts such as: the first book ever printed in America was the Holy Bible in the Algonquin language. Now if that isn’t a huge, amazing curiosity. Of course I had to dig into the how and why such an unusual thing came to happen. Who were they and what would cause them to take on such an undertaking?

The Accidental Author of Praying Towne

When I first started to research my family tree, I came across a second generation Plymouth Plantation couple, Jacob and Damaris Cooke, living in a place that had a reference to it as a Praying Town.  Curiosity got the best of me and I just had to find out why Namasket/ Middlebourough were referred to as such. 

It truly bothered me that I had never heard of a Praying Town before, at least not anything to the degree I began to find out about.  That is when I dug deep into the scholarly research books and histories.  The more I read, the more intrigued I became with this place the way it had been before the King Philip War. It was simple, almost commune like, in the way the Christian Natives and Colonials were described as living. Then I read where King Philip’s sister, Amie, was a resident there also and the thought came to my mind that the two women knew each other.  Since they must have known each other, what was their life like back in the 1600’s?