Painting of Molly Ockett by Danna Brown Nickerson

BETHEL — Citizens in, around and from away have celebrated “Molly Ockett Day” for more than 60 years. Although the event is headlined with tasty food, games and a parade, have you ever wondered who Molly Ockett was, and how her name came to be used for one of Bethel’s most celebrated days all year?

She was born around 1740 in Saco, but spent much of her early life in Fryeburg, according to information from the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society (BHS).

During King George’s War (1744-1748), she and other Pigwackets gambled on a political alliance with the British and removed to a coastal location in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, according to the BHS. When Molly Ockett was here, she learned English and became acquainted with Protestantism. This gave Molly Ockett an edge over other tribespeople, who knew only French and spoke little to no English.

In the early- to mid- 1750s when the French and Indian War broke out, Molly Ockett and her kin group returned to Narankamigouak, which was a “fortified Abenaki Village on the Androscoggin River at Canton Point (about 40 miles downriver from Bethel).”

More facts 

She was 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,” according to the BHS.

Molly Ockett’s first husband passed away about 1770. By 1776, she was in Fryeburg with Jean Baptiste Sabattis, who was also a Pigwacket. Although nothing documents the two ever being married, they did have many children together, with one being “Paseel” (Basil), who came to Bethel often and as known by some of its early residents.

Molly Ockett’s generosity is “well documented by Henry Tufts, who met her in the 1770s,” according to the BHS.

“In Tufts’ autobiography, published in 1807, Tufts records an instance of her generosity to a white man from Pigwacket (Fryeburg), who found himself without food for his family.  The man journeyed to Bethel, as he had used sometimes to visit the Indians for the benefit of hunting, trading, etc., by which means he had contracted some acquaintance with them and had heard that Molly Ockett always kept on hand a considerable quantity of money,” according to the BHS.

It is believed that Molly Ockett might have known this person from recently having lived in Fryeburg. She loaned the man $20, but “she rallied him on the score of his coming to borrow of the poor Indians, who (she said) were generally despised by the white people,” according to BHS.

The next winter, she charged the man to come and hunt furs as repayment. The man did so, and got enough not only for Molly Ockett, but also for his family.

One of her best traits was her ability to “move in and out of the white communities.” During her life, Molly Ockett witnessed her people killed, land taken and their resources destroyed, however she “repeatedly showed kindness and sympathy toward individuals descended from the very people who had carried out these acts,” according to the BHS. It made many question if she held any suppressed resentment toward the white folk in general, though very little stories connect her to any conflict with the settlers. She had many meals with them and had a “particular fondness for rum.”

In 1863 Dr. Nathaniel T. True wrote about one time when Molly Ockett visited the Moses Mason House, which now belongs to the BHS.

Anyone interested in learning more about Molly Ockett can visit https://bethelhistorical.org/catalog/exhibits/show/mollyockett/introduction.

Molly Ockett gravestone.


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