Wednesday, April 6, 2011


(INDIAN RAID IN 1675, History of the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts: from the first settlement ... By Abijah Perkins Marvin Thomas Sawyer.)

Pg. 101-102
…What occurred in Lancaster [Massachusetts] comes properly into the history of the town…

The war broke out in June, 1675, by an attack on Swansey, near Mount Hope, the home of Phillip. Not far from this date an English spy among the Indians learned from Monaco, a one-eyed Indian, that in about twenty days the natives were “ to fall upon Lancaster, Groton, Marlborough, Sudbury, and Medfield, and that the first they would do, would be to cut down Lancaster Bridge, so as to hinder the flight of the inhabitants, and prevent assistance from coming to them.”

The storm of was actually burst upon this town on the twenty-second day of August, old style, 1675. On the day eight persons were killed in different parts of the town….This was probably a stealthy movement of the Indians, who killed as many as possible before an alarm was given, and then slunk away into the darkness of the forest or the swamp.

…There were several garrisons or block-houses, in different neighborhoods, to which the families could resort, on occasions of alarm…

It may be a convenience to the reader to have the locations of the garrisons pointed out in this connection. One was the minister’s garrison, D, its site being familiar to all. An other, called Sawyer’s, was just behind the house, E, of john A. rice. It was on Thomas Sawyer’s land, and the road was west of it in those days. A third was in Clinton, and on the land of John Prescott. The fourth was on the north side of the river, near the corner by the house, F, of Dr. Thompson. At the John White place, H, on the Neck road, was a fifth. There may have been one or two others remote from the central part of the twon.

When the first attack was made on Lancaster, in August….the savages fell on the inhabitants with ruthless vengeance….

Pg. 103-104
In about six months, on the tenth of February, 1675-6, the second act in the tragedy opened, more awful and bloody. It was in the depth of winter, and most of the colonial troops, exhausted by the last campaign, were at home, or in winter-quarters. Major Willard was engaged in civil affairs in Boston, and broken by hard service, he did not long survive after the ruin of the town h had loved and served so long and so faithfully. Thus it happened that Lancaster was almost as defenseless as in the preceding autumn. A few houses had been garrisoned, but the people were not very vigilant, supposing that the severity of the weather would keep the Indians in quiet till the opening of spring. In this they were deceived. The natives living in various parts of the town the number of twenty-five or thirty families, or from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and eighty persons, were now in league with, or under the domination of Philip. By their knowledge of the approaches to the place, the enemy were able to make a plan of attack.

On the evening of February 9, the people retired to rest, as usual, with perhaps some eye to watchfulness. Whether they gathered into the garrison, that night, or hurried thither, at alarming signs, on the break of day, is not known. But it is certain that early in the morning of the tenth, king Philip, followed by fifteen hundred warriors of the Wampanoag, Narragansett and Nipmue tribes, made a desperate assault on Lancaster. They invested the town in five different places. Three only of these can be fixed. The first was probably at Wattoquoddoc, southwest part of Bolton, where Jonas and John Fairbanks and Richard Wheeler were killed. Wheeler had a garrison house. The second known point of attack was at Prescott’s garrison, now in Clinton, about twenty-five rods east of the old counterpane mill, now called the Clinton Yarn Mill, and near the house of Dea. Parkhurst, on Walnut street. Here Ephraim Sawyer [son of Thomas SAWYER] was killed. Henry Farrar and a Mr. Ball and his wife, were slain in an unknown locality….

The main attack was on the house of the Rev. Mr. Rowlandson. This was the central, fortified house, and it was vulnerable on one side. The destruction of this house, and the murder or capture of its inmates and defenders, would be a mortal blow to the plantation….
Pg. 105
Into this house the people living in the neighborhood, and perhaps some from the Neck hastily ran for protection. The enemy tore up the planks of the bridge, to prevent passing, but doubtless they were boats then as well as now on the river. It may be observed that the meeting-house stood where it was visible from every habitation on both sides of the Neck, and in South Lancaster. It is believed that some had taken refuge in other fortified houses, and others had fled to the woods and swamps, as only about one in six of the inhabitants was killed and captured. The remained were in some way preserved from the fury of the savages.

There were at least forty-two persons, old and young, male and female, in the house of Mr. Rowlandson. This garrison was guarded only on the front, (which probably faced south,) and the two sides, with no flankers to cover the rear, and no port-holes in that direction. This is the statement of Mr. Harrington; but Hubbard, the historian, says that the “fortification was on the back side of the building, but covered up with fire-wood, and the Indians got near and burnt a leanto.”

The attack was made early in the morning, and says Mrs. Rowlandson, “quickly it was the dolefullest day that ever mine eyes saw.” The house was defended upwards of two hours with determined bravery. The Indians, “after several unsuccessful attempts to set fire to the building, filled a cart with combustible materials, and approached the defenseless rear. In this manner the house was soon enveloped in flames. According to Mrs. Rowlandson’s recollection of that “amazing time,: the Indians had been near the house about two hours before setting it on fire. The enemy from the barn, or behind the hills, or any shelter, watched every opportunity to shoot the defenders, if any one were exposed at window of loophote.

Pg. 106
“The bullets seemed to fly like hail.” soon one man was wounded, and then another, and then a third. The fire from combustibles in the cart seized on the house, when one brave man ventured out and quenched the flames. Would that his name was on record! But the fire was again lighted, and soon spread over the house. Some in the house were fighting for their lives, and some wallowing in their blood. The fire was over their heads, and the “bloody heathen ready to knock all who stirred out on the head.” Now might be heard mothers and children crying out for themselves and one another, “Lord, what shall we do?” Then, says Mrs. Rowlandson, in her touching narrative; “I took my children, (and one of my sisters hers,) to go forth and leave the house; but as soon as we came to the door, and appeared, the Indians shot so thick that the bullets rattled against the house, as if one had taken a handful of stones and thrown them, so that we were forced to give back.” Their six stout dogs, at other times brave, and ready to fly at an enemy, lost all spirit, and would not stir. The fire increasing behind them, they were forced out of doors, where the Indians were eagerly watching to shoot them. Immediately Thomas Rowlandson, (brother of the minister,) who had been shot in the neck while in the house, fell down dead, whereupon the enemy shouting fell upon him, and stripped him of his clothes. A bullet went through the side of Mrs. Rowlandson, and also through the hand and bowels of her little daughter, six years old, by her side. The son of a sister, Mrs. Kerley, wife of Henry Kerley, had his leg broken, when the Indians knocked him on the head. “Thus,” says her narrative, “were we butchered by those merciless heathens, standing amazed with the blood running down to our heels.” She goes on in these words; “My elder sister being yet in the house, and seeing those woeful sights, the infidels hauling mothers one way and children another, and some wallowing in their blood, and her eldest son telling
Pg. 107
Her that her son William was dead, and myself wounded, she said, ‘Lord, let me die with them;’ which was no sooner said, but she was struck with a bullet, and fell down dead over the threshold. Then the Indians laid hold of us, pulling me one way and the children another, and said, ‘come, go along with us.’” Of all in the house, whether thirty-seven or forty-two, only one, Ephraim Roper, escaped. Twelve were killed, some shot, some stabbed with spears, and some knocked on the head with hatchets. One was “chopped into the head with a hatchet and stripped naked, and yet was crawling up and down.” all of the dead were “stripped naked by a company of hell-hounds, roaring, ranting, singing and insulting as if they would have torn our very hearts out.”

All accounts speak of the great bravery of the defenders. One writer tells us that eight men sacrificed their lives in the effort to rescue Mrs. Rowlandson. The true statement is that ten or twelve men, with women and children, took refuge in the garrison with her family, and the men were victims, with one exception. The rest were either put to death on the spot, or were reserved for torture. Mrs. Harrington states that there were twelve men, and he gives the names of the eleven following, “ Ensign Divoll, Abraham Joslin, Daniel Gains, Thomas Rowlandson, William and Joseph Kerley, John McLoad, John Kettle and two sons of Josiah Divoll.” He adds an “&c.,” which completes the twelve. William Kerley was probably the brother of Capt. Henry Kerley. The wife of Ephraim Roper was killed in attempting to escape. Mrs. Drew, sister of Mrs. Rowlandson, was taken captive; also the wife of Abraham Joslin and other women and children to the number of about twenty.

The fight was over. How many of the savages were killed is not recorded, but it was supposed that many were slain or wounded. The remainder, who were numerous, immediately began to plunder the houses, strip the dead of their clothing, and remove every valuable with could be taken away.
Pg 108
They also drove off all the live stock that were at hand. Fearing the arrival of troops from Marlborough, they started before night for the summit of George hill. There the hours of darkness were spent by the Indians in savage revelry. The poor captives were kept awake, near the great boulder, by the singing and howling of the victors; and according to the intimation of the one writer, by the dying groans of some of the victims. Lurid lights rose from the burning timbers of numerous houses; and the flames where the husbands, and fathers, and brothers were enduring torture, gave a tenfold horror to the darkness.

The women and children were taken into captivity with the purpose of obtaining ransom….[about 11 months later some still living were released.]

Different accounts vary in regard to the whole number of the slain, and the captured. There were fifty persons at least, and one writer says fifty-five. Nearly one-half of them suffered death on the spot, or in the wilderness. When Mr. Rowlandson, Capt. Kerley and Mr. Drew, all brothers-in-law, who had been seeking aid from the general court, in Boston, returned, a scene of horror met their eyes. The anguish they felt cannot be described, yet the tradition is that the minister was sustained by a strong persuasion that his wife would be restored. But this was uncertain. One child was wounded; the whole three, with their mother were in captivity, and many of his friends as well as the friends of his two companions, were killed or taken. Their dwellings had been burned. The wife of one, though he knew it not,was buried in the ruins. The wives of the other tow were in the power of the savages, threading their way through the trackless forest in the midst of winter, with no comforts, and no friends to cheer them, either starving with hunger, or preserving life by eating the most loathsome offal, separated from each other, and with nothing but death or hopeless captivity in prospect….

Pg. 110-112
The survivors took shelter, with what they could gather, whether of goods, provisions, grain or stock, in the near two fortified houses or garrisons; one of them on the land of Lawrence Waters, not far from the house of Mr. Symmes, R, and the other at Thomas Sawyer’s, not far the rear of the house now occupied by J. A. Rice, E. In these circumstances, they sent a most moving petition to the governor and council, singed by the occupants of both garrisons. The names of those who were in the garrison on the east side of North river, were Jacob Farrar, John Houghton, sen., John Houghton, jr., John Whitcomb, Job Whitcomb, Jonathan Whitcomb, John Moore and Cyprian Stevens. The signers in Sawyer’s garrison were John Prescott, sen., Thomas Sawyer, sen., Thomas Sawyer, jr., Jonathan Prescott, Thomas Wilder, John Wilder, Nathaniel Wilder, John Rigby, John Roper, and widows Wheeler, Fairbanks and Roper. The absence of several names will be remarked, as White, James, Parker, Gates, Rugg, Kerley, Drew, Rowlandson, and others who were still a live. The probability is that many families who were “burned out of house and home,” left as soon as possible for the lower towns. The petition of those who remained implored the governor and council that a “guard of men with carts might be ordered to Lancaster, to remove them to a place of safety.” They go on to say; “Our state is very deplorable in our incapacity to subsist: as to remove away we cannot, the enemy has so encompassed us; other wise for want of help and cattle, being most of them carried away by the barbarous heathen; and to stay disenabled for want of food. The town’s people are generally gone, who felt the judgment but light, and had their cattle left them with their estates. But we, many of us here in this prison, have not bread to last us one month, and our other provisions spent and gone for the generality. We are sorrowful to leave this place. Our women’s cries does daily increase beyond expression; which does not only fill our ears, but our hearts full of grief.” The above was drawn up by those in garrison on the east side of North river. Those on the other side add touchingly, “We are in like distress, and so humbly desire your like pity and fatherly care, having widows and many fatherless children.” According to Mr. Willard, “more than a hundred and seventy births are recorded: before the year 1676, and many of these were young at the time of the massacre. The parents of others had died in their beds, so that the fatherless, as well as the widows, were numerous in proportion to the whole population.

The place being considered untenable, troops were went up with carts, who transported the people, with their remaining movable property, to the eastern towns, where they found homes with their friends. Then the Indians, who seemed to have been lurking around, came out of their lairs, and set fire to the buildings still standing: and with the exception of the house of God and one dwelling, when they ceased to burn, there was nothing left but smoking and blackened ruins in this lovely valley. The settlers in the outskirts of the town, as well as in the center, withdrew under the protection of the soldiers. The settlement was abandoned. The The town was destroyed. For a year or two it was without a white inhabitant. Thus closes the second act in this awful drama; this carnival of arson and murder….

(History of the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts: from the first settlement ... By Abijah Perkins Marvin
Thomas Sawyer


Apple said...

I know I'm connected to Rice, Kerley & Wheeler. I haven't looked at the local histories as well as I should have.

C Stoyle said...

Hi - it says here that Jonas and John Fairbanks were killed but Massachusetts Town Records show that it was Jonas and his son Joshua (b 1661) that were killed. Any ideas? Thanks!

Milton Davison said...

Yeah I read Daniel Hudson and his wife Joanna and children were supposedly killed too.