Blind Joe Amos was the first ordained Mashpee Wampanoag Indian minister. He was a pastor with substantial credentials, a reputation for great sermons and a propensity to fiddle.
Blind Joe Amos “was born in 1805 in a little community on the wooded shore of Mashpee Lake on Cape Cod.
Blind from early childhood, he memorized complete chapters from the Bible, which his mother read to him, and soon began to conduct services in neighboring homes.
When the Baptist movement gained a foothold on Cape Cod in the early 1800s, Blind Joe was ordained in a private home, then organized at Mashpee the first Baptist congregation among the Indian descendants on the Cape.
In his time, Wampanoag Indians were not allowed to attend church inside the Old Meeting House, so he gave his sermons every Sunday under a big oak tree.
It is said he knew the entire King James Bible by memory and could recite it in both English and Wampanoag.
In 1832 he formed the second Baptist congregation among the Wampanoags at Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard and built the first Indian Baptist Church building in America. He became its first pastor.
He returned to Mashpee in 1833 and began holding meetings in the little schoolhouse in South Mashpee.
In 1834 Amos joined William Apes, a Pequot minister and led an insurrection against Whites coming to Mashpee and taking the plentiful and valuable wood. The State of Massachusetts called the peaceful removal of wood from the carts a “riot.”
The Mashpee began the first phase of true self governance thanks to Blind Joe Amos. The relationship with outsiders would never be quite right, but the intelligent and wise Amos initiated the tradition of questioning the insensitivity of those who were unfamiliar with the ways of the People of the First Light.
Blind Joe was married and had four children – many of his descendants are still living in the area. His last pastorate was among the Wampanoags on Chappaquiddick Island off the eastern shore of Martha’s Vineyard.
He died in 1869 and is buried in the Indian cemetery on Chappaquiddick. In the little cemetery there is also a gravestone with the name Saphronia Amos, who died in 1885 – maybe his wife or child.