Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: KING WILLIAM'S WAR, 1689-1698

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The Eastern Indians generally appear to have observed the treaty made at Casco, in 1678, conducting themselves for several years peaceably towards the English settlers, who, in the meantime, had been gradually recovering from their losses in the late disastrous war; but, partly through fault of the English themselves, the peace was at length broken and ravages committed, beginning with several places in the province of Maine.

The first sufferers in New Hampshire were in Dover, on the 28th of June, 1689, when the aged Major Waldron and more than a score of others were killed, and nearly thirty were taken captive. About a month later the savages feel upon the settlement at Oyster River also, and killed or carried off nearly twenty persons.

On the 8th of July the town of Hampton voted "that all those who were willing to make a fortification about the Meeting House, to secure themselves and their families from the violence of the heathen, should have free liberty to do it." A fortification was accordingly built, which, about three years afterward, the town voted to enlarge so as to afford room "to build houses in it according to custom in other forts." How many houses were built is not known, but it was voted that a small house (14 by 16 feet) should be built there for the use of the minister, and when not occupied by him to serve as a schoolhouse.

From information derived from one who had been in captivity among the enemy, fears were entertained that an attempt would be made in the latter part of September to destroy the towns of Hampton, Exeter, Salisbury and Amesbury, and it was said that four hundred Indians were to be sent for this purpose. In confirmation of the report in circulation, Indians ("skulking rogues," as they were termed) were seen in these towns almost every day, sent, it was thought, to reconnoiter. Whether they found that their design had been discovered, and that the people were too much on their guard to be easily overcome, or whether the rumor of their intended attack was unfounded, is uncertain; but the month of September wore away, and the four towns still remained.

In March, 1690, the military officers in commission before Cranfield's administration, were restored to office. Those for Hampton were: Samuel Sherburne, Captain; Edward Gove, Lieutenant; John Moulton, Ensign.

During the month of July more than thirty persons were killed by the savages, in Exeter.

Thus far no attack had been made upon any part of Hampton, but the people were living in constant dread. So secret and so sudden had been the movements of the enemy, that none knew where to expect their next assault. The men dared not go abroad to their ordinary labors without being armed. Their families were collected in the forts and in garrisoned houses, which were carefully guarded. On the Sabbath, indeed, they ventured to attend public worship, but, as we have seen, the meeting house was surrounded with a fortification, the men went armed, and sentinels were stationed to give an alarm, if the enemy should appear during the services.

At a town meeting held the next winter, Mr. Henry Green, Capt. Samuel Sherburne and Henry Dow were chosen a committee to agree with and send out two men, as scouts, to see what they could discover, so long as they could go upon the snow, or so long as the neighboring towns sent out; and so much of their wages as should not be paid by contribution, was to be paid out of the next town rate. The committee was also directed to keep an exact account of what the town or any of the inhabitants would expend in carrying on the war.

This vote suggests what was then considered the most effectual method of preventing the Indians from committing depredations, viz.: the employment of scouts to be constantly scouring the woods, to discover them, if possible, in their lurking places. Still, besides scouts, a large number of soldiers were employed on different occasions, and sometimes for several months in succession, under officers of skill and experience.

But, notwithstanding the vigilance of the scouts, the Indians sometimes succeeded in finding hiding places, even in the immediate vicinity of a garrison, where they lay concealed, watching the movements of those belonging to the garrison, ready to seize the first opportunity to kill or capture anyone who might happen to venture a little too far away. An instance of this kind occurred in Salisbury, adjoining Hampton, on the 23d of June, 1691. About half an hour after sunset, one John Ring went out of Jacob Morrill's garrison, to drive in a cow, and was captured within a little more than twenty rods of the garrison. The next day a great many men of Salisbury and Hampton went into the woods to search for him, but, as some one wrote at the time, "with very little hope of recovering him." Justly did the same writer add: "The truth is, we are a distressed people."

At the very time of this occurrence, a company of men, about thirty-four in number, under Capt. Stephen Greenleaf, of Newbury, was out in that vicinity searching for Indians. Ring was captured on Monday; Captain Greenleaf's company went to Haverhill on the Saturday previous, came to Hampton on Sunday, and went to Exeter on Monday, in the morning.

A little past midsummer a small army was sent out under the command of four captains, one of whom was Samuel Sherburne, of Hampton. The forces landed at Maquoit, near Casco, and marched up to Pechypscot (now Brunswick, Me.), but finding no signs of the enemy, returned to Maquoit, where they had left their vessels. While the commanders were on the shore, waiting for the soldiers to get aboard, a great number of Indians suddenly poured in upon them, and they were obliged to retreat to their vessels; but this was a difficult matter, as, the tide being down, the vessels were aground; and before it could be accomplished Captain Sherburne was slain. He had been a resident of Hampton ten or twelve years, and was well known as the keeper of the ordinary, or tavern. He was a captain in the militia; three years a selectman of the town; was once chosen to represent the town in the General Court; and in January next preceding his death, as has been stated, he was on the committee to employ and send out scouts, and to keep an account of the expenses incurred in the war. The vacancy made by his death was afterwards filled by the choice of Lieut. John Smith, the cooper.

On the last Tuesday of September, 1691, a party of Indians, variously estimated from twenty to forty, came from the eastward in canoes and landed at Sandy Beach (now Rye) a little after noon. The garrison there they left unmolested and fell upon a few defenceless families living about half a miles from the garrison; killed some of the members and took captive some others, and burned one or two houses. The severest blow fell upon "ould goodman Brackett's and goodman Rand's families."

Two messengers brought the sad intelligence to Hampton the same afternoon. On their return in the evening, about the time of the moon's rising, on reaching Ragged Neck, about half a mile south of Sandy Beach garrison, they saw, "as they adjudged, about forty Indians coming towards Hampton, with five or six canoes on their heads."

Having made this discovery the messengers quickly retraced their steps and gave the alarm at Hampton. Henry Dow, one of the town committee, immediately wrote and dispatched a letter to Salisbury, conveying the intelligence to Maj. Robert Pike, who commanded the militia of the county of Norfolk. Major Pike, having added a hasty note, forwarded the letter to Mr. Saltonstall, one of the magistrates, who was then at Ipswich "on court service," and by him it was sent to the governor.

The next morning, September 30, a company of men from Hampton hastened to the scene of carnage, where they met Capt. John Pickering with a company from Portsmouth. The enemy had gone. They were probably preparing to embark at the time they were discovered at Ragged Neck, the evening before. Their tracks were distinctly traced in the sand, as were also "the tracks of two women and one child," whom, with others, as is supposed, they carried into captivity. The companies found the dead bodies of ten persons, and thought from what they found in the ashes, that three had been burned with the house. Seven others were missing. The whole loss was twenty persons, two of whom were very aged men; the others, women and children. "We are in a sad condition," wrote one of our citizens; "the enemy so violent; the Lord give us all wisdom to teach us what we ought to do."

Soon after this occurrence it was proposed that delegates from the four New Hampshire towns should meet in Portsmouth, to consider what measures should be taken for defense against the common.

The proposition having been brought before this people in town meeting assembled, October 26, it was agreed to, and Nathaniel Weare, Henry Dow and Joseph Smith were chosen to represent the town in the proposed meeting. The town engaged to furnish their due proposition of men and money for the defense of the Province by such methods as should be agreed upon at the meeting, provided the plan adopted should be consented to, and subscribed by at least two of their committee, or delegates.

No documents have been found to show what was done or agreed upon by the convention in Portsmouth. Even the time of holding the convention has not been ascertained. But some transactions of our town, about to be related, may have been in accordance with a plan adopted, or with suggestions made at the convention. The record of these transactions is on a detached paper, and the year is torn off; but there are some considerations which render it probable that it was in 1691. If so, it was five days after the town meeting, when delegates to the convention were chosen, as the record itself shows that this was on the 31st day of October. Assuming this to be the true date, we shall now proceed to give an account of those transactions.

They chose a Committee of Militia and clothed them with extraordinary powers. They were to have the charge of all the military affairs of the town; to order all watches and wards and garrisons; and were authorized to appoint, if they should see fit, some one garrison in the town to be regarded as the principal garrison. In fine, whatever a majority of the committee might agree to, the inhabitants obligated themselves to "yield all ready obedience thereto according to their order." They also authorized the committee to impose such fines for neglect of duty as they might think proper, with this restriction: That no fine should exceed three shillings for the neglect of a day's warding; nor two shillings, of a night's watching, to be paid in, or as, money.

The committee was to consist of five men, and to be constituted in this manner: Two members were to be from the south side of Taylor's river, and three from the north side; three of the men were to rank as FIRST, SECOND and THIRD; and were to have command of the soldiers in opposing the common enemy in any emergency or case of assault. Henry Dow, John Smith (the cooper), Ensign Jonathan Moulton, Sergt Benjamin Fifield and Joseph Swett were chosen as the committee; the first three to command the soldiers in the order in which they are named.

The committee was given full power to call out the soldiers whenever they might think it necessary, and to see that they were properly armed and equipped; and supplied with ammunition. Any soldier who should fail to be thus armed, equipped and supplied was fined five shillings a month so long as the deficiency should continue.

The town was induced to give such power to the committee on account of the exigency of the situation. At the seizure and imprisonment of Governor Andros, the province had been left without any regularly constituted government, and the people were virtually thrown upon their own resources, and no instructions as to their future government had since been received from England. Exposed as they now were, to the tomahawk and the scalping knife, their only safety seemed to be in confiding in the ability and integrity of a few men whose word should be their law; and happy was it for them that there were in the town men, on whom they could unite in bestowing such a mark of confidence.

Nearly two years later a treaty of peace, or rather a truce, was formed, articles of "submission and agreement" being signed by a considerable number of chiefs and other Indians at Pemaquid, August 11, 1693. From that time the people had a respite from hostilities for nearly a year. But the next blow inflicted in New Hampshire was one of great severity. On a summer morning, about daybreak, a large number of Indians fell suddenly and unexpectedly upon the settlement at Oyster river; took three garrisons, burned thirteen houses, and killed or carried into captivity ninety-four persons. Other outrages followed.

Less than two years after the treaty, a body of Indians made an attack at Portsmouth Plains, about two miles from the town. They had come from York to Sandy Beach in canoes, which they secreted among the bushes near the shore. Early in the morning of June 26, 1696, they simultaneously made an onset upon five houses. Fourteen persons were killed, one other was scalped and left for dead, but recovered, and four were taken prisoners. The Indians, having plundered the houses, set them on fire, retreated through the "Great Swamp" about four or five miles, and then stopped to prepare a breakfast on the declivity of a hill, near the line, as it then was, between Portsmouth and Hampton. In this situation, they were found by a company of militia sent from Portsmouth, and the four prisoners were rescued, but the Indians escaped into a neighboring swamp and succeeded in reaching their canoes, in which they put to sea and saved themselves from merited punishment. The hill where the prisoners were rescued from the enemy, receiving its name from the circumstances related, has ever since been called BREAKFAST HILL.

Just two months later Indians surprised and killed Lieut. John Locke, while at work in his field. His residence was at Jocelyn's Neck, which sometime after his death took the name of Locke's Neck; then a part of Hampton, but thirty-four years afterwards annexed to Rye.

Hostilities were continued a year or two long. Depredations were made and persons killed, wounded, or taken captive, in Dover and in several places in Massachusetts and Maine; but as the enemy did not again appear in this immediate neighborhood, it is not necessary that any further details should be given.

The war in Europe was terminated by the treaty of Ryswick, in 1697, and after it was known here, the French no longer gave aid to the Indians, and the governor of Canada advised them to make peace with the English. To this they at length agreed, and another treaty was made at Casco near the beginning of the year 1699. A few of the captives were restored immediately, and assurance was given that the others should be returned in the spring. Some, however, had died in captivity, and some of those who were still alive -- especially such as had been taken in childhood, -- having adopted the manners and customs of the Indians, intermarried, and spent their lives with them.

During this war, and in succeeding years till his death, in 1724, Bomaseen, a sachem of the Kennebecks, bore a prominent part. Mr. Drake, in his History of the Indians, says of him: "Whether Bomaseen were the leader in the attacks upon Oyster River, in New Hampshire, Groton, in Massachusetts, and many other places, about the year 1694, we cannot determine; but Hutchinson says he was 'a principal actor in the carnage upon the English,' after the treaty which he had made with Governor Phips in 1693 . . . . . . . He is mentioned as a 'notorious fellow,' and yet but few of his acts are upon record." Traditions have been handed down, of Bomaseen's frequent appearance in Hampton, both in peace and in war.

It is said that one dark night, during hostilities, an Indian was discovered gazing in at a window of Thomas Lane's house (near the house of the late Moses A. Dow). Lane seized his gun and sprang toward the door, but stumbled over a kettle on the hearth and fell, thus giving the savage time to slink into the darkness and escape. Afterward, Bomaseen, for it was he, openly boasted that, if Goodman Lane had shown himself outside the door, he was ready to shoot him.

We hear of Bomaseen on the war path in this vicinity in 1706, and at other times. His name and mark are affixed to a treaty with the Indians, concluded at Portsmouth, July 13, 1713. He was killed in war at Taconnet Falls (near Winslow, Me.), while attempting to make his escape by swimming.

In closing the narrative of some of the events of King William's war, it is gratifying to be able to present so full a list of Hampton men, who were employed as soldiers, scouts or messengers. Many of them served on several occasions, particularly in the years 1694-5-6. This list is gathered from various reliable sources, but it cannot be claimed that no names are omitted. Probably some who suffered the hardships and braved the dangers of the war, and perhaps some who were slain are lost from record. The account of the committee of expenditure, mentioned on a previous page, were it not mutilated, would, perhaps, furnish a list nearly complete, but evidently more than forty names have been torn from the paper, while a partial statement of the sums paid for their services remains. This account show the sum of £211 19s. 3d. expended in paying men at a low rate, for their services as scouts and soldiers in different places and under different commanders, and for their rations, and for going post to Portsmouth, Exeter, Salisbury and other places. Many of the soldiers here named did garrison duty at Oyster River, Exeter and Hampton, and some at Fort William and Mary. "Daniel Tilton's Garrison in Hampton" is specified.

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