Monday, October 29, 2012
Indians in the fields...
In September, 1697, one of the greatest calamities that ever befel the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts, was experienced. And the event seems doubly sad because peace had already been declared between the great belligerent parties (French and English) in Europe. Before dawn, on the eleventh of September, the treaty had been signed. But in those days of slow communication, war, like a wounded serpent, though killed in the head, could continue to strike with its far-reaching extremities. The good news of peace was many weeks in coming to our shores.
On the twenty-second of September, eleven days after the signature of the treaty, and eight days after London had hailed the event with bon-fires, bell-ringings and general rejoicings, the Indians entered Lancaster under five leaders, but one chief. They had been lurking in the woods for some time, sending in scouts by night to observe the posture of the town.
"Having done this, they determined to begin the attack on Mr. Thomas Sawyer's garrison." This was near the barn of John A. Rice, in South Lancaster. The firing there was to be a signal to all the other divisions "to fall on in their respective stations" When the inhabitants, on the morning of the twenty-second, "suspicious of no enemy," says Harrington, from whom we often quote, "were gone out to their labor, they came in several companies into the town, and were very near surprising said Sawyer's garrison, both the gates being left open; but that Mr. Jabez Fairbank, who was at his own house half a mile's distance, and designing to bring his little son from said garrison, mounted his horse which came running to him in a fright, and rode full speed into the gate, but yet nothing suspicious of an enemy."The Indians, who were just ready to rush through the open gates into the garrison, supposing they were discovered, desisted from their design upon Sawyer's garrison, but in their retreat, fired upon the people working in the fields.
Detached parties seem to have made havoc in different parts of the town, to such an extent, that at no time, according to "Willard, "excepting when the town was destroyed, was ever so much injury perpetrated, or so many lives lost." The Rev. John Whiting was met at a distance from his garrison, by the enemy, who surprised and killed him. He was offered quarter, but chose rather to "fight to the last than resign himself to those whose tender mercies are cruelty."
At the same time, twenty others were killed; two were wounded, but not mortally, and six were carried away as captives, of whom five returned. Here follow the names of those who were killed. Rev. Mr. Whiting, Daniel Hudson (my 9th great grandfather), his wife and two daughters (luckily my 8th great grandfather, Nathaniel, his son, was spared); Ephraim Roper, wife and daughter; John Skait and wife; Joseph Rugg, his wife and three children; the widow Rugg; Jonathan Fairbank and two children.
The captured were the wife of Jonathan Fairbank, widow Wheeler, Mary Glasier, and a son each of Ephraim Roper, John Skait and Joseph Rugg. The names indicate that the larger part of those killed and captured belonged to South Lancaster. At the same time two garrison houses and two barns were burned. "On this sorrowful occasion," says Mr. Harrington, "the town set apart a day for prayer and fasting." There was mourning in many households, and sympathy in all; and doubtless as the people crowded their house of worship, on that day, and joined with some neighboring minister who stood in their beloved pastor's place, leading them in their devotions, their tears fell fast. Their only comfort was unfaltering faith in God.
at 3:31 PM