Near this location in 1741, Mary Wilkinson found Sarah Muckamug crying after a visit from the father of her four children, Aaron Whipple, an enslaved man living in Providence. Their relationship was over after more than a decade. The couple had never married, Aaron refused to live with Sarah or help "maintain" their children. He had also started a new relationship with another Native woman. Sarah had just left her older three children as indentured servants to Richard Brown of Providence. When Mary Wilkinson found Sarah, she had been passing through on her way to the Hassanamisco Reservation in Massachusetts with her infant child, Joseph. Mary Wilkinson and her husband Israel allowed her to build a wigwam and stay on their property. Although the women had only recently met, Sarah needed to share the cause of her sorrow with someone.
While the exact date of her birth is unknown, Sarah Muckamug was born in the early 1700s to Peter Muckamug (Narragansett) and Sarah Robbins (Hassanamisco Nipmuc). Both of her parents had been indentured in Providence after King Philip's War.
Starting in the 1720s, Sarah Muckamug was indentured in John Whipple's Towne Street home for at least a dozen years. In 1728 Sarah Muckamug entered into a "union" with Aaron Whipple, a black slave also living in John Whipple's home. They had at least four children between 1729 and 1740: Rhoda, Abigail, Abraham, and Joseph.
In 1729, Sarah Muckamug's mother, Sarah Robbins was allotted 100 acres at Hassanamisco, prompting her and Peter to take up full-time residence there. In addition to farming, Sarah Robbins and Peter Muckamug leased some of their land to local Whites, a common strategy for many Native landowners to secure additional income. This practice occasionally led to land disputes and land grabs (seizing of property through unscrupulous business/social practices). In 1740, Peter died.
The following year (1742) Sarah Muckamug left the Wilkinson's land and returned to Hassanamisco with her infant son, Joseph. By 1744, Sarah Muckamug was well established in Hassanamisco and had another child, also named Sarah, with Fortune Burnee, a free Black man living in the community.
Sarah Muckamug's mother, Sarah Robbins, died in 1749. The following year, Sarah Muckamug herself became ill with "a long sickness," dying the following year in the home of Hezekiah Ward, a White neighbor. The arrangement had been ordered by the Indian trustees for the Hassanamisco reservation. By the time of her death, Sarah Muckamug had accrued medical expenses totaling 13 pounds, not including her burial costs. Hezekiah Ward petitioned for payment. To settle these debts, some of her family's lands were sold and her 11-year old son Joseph was indentured. Debt accrual was a too common reality that often broke apart Native families and made them unwillingly part with ownership of ancestral lands.
Sarah Muckamug's story illustrates the larger issues at play for Native families through the 18th century where servitude, illness/death, debt, and land sales became vicious cycles, manipulated by colonial powers to continually subjugate Indigenous people on a number of fronts. Sarah's life also shows us the complex role that marriage or "intermarriage" between First Peoples and individuals of African descent, free or enslaved, played in Colonial Native life.