What is Phillip’s Run?

Phillip’s Run is a stream in the vicinity of the village of Siasconset.

In the mid-1660s, not long after the arrival of Nantucket’s first English settlers, Sachem Metacom (whom the English called King Phillip) is said to have come to Nantucket to punish a Nantucket Wampanoag named Assassamough, whose Christian name was John Gibbs, for breaking a taboo against speaking the name of the dead. In this case, Assassamough was accused of speaking the name of Metacom’s own father, Massasoit. The penalty for breaking this taboo was either death at the hands of the sachem himself or recompense. The English settlers took up a collection of all the English money they had among them. They ransomed Assassamough, and Metacom departed. A decade later, when King Phillip’s War engulfed the English settlements on the mainland, Nantucket remained untouched.

This incident is commemorated by three Nantucket landmarks: Massasoit Bridge, Gibbs’s Pond, and Phillip’s Run.

Phillip did not run fleeing to a waiting canoe on the South Shore. “Run” is an old English word for stream, more commonly used in the Mid-Atlantic states and the South. Think, for instance, of the Civil War battle of Bull Run.

To learn more about Nantucket’s Wampanoags, see Frances Karttunen’s book, The Other Islanders: People Who Pulled Nantucket’s Oars, available from the NHA Museum Shop and from Spinner Publications of New Bedford.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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