Charlotte Alice Baker.

True stories of New England captives carried to Canada during the old French and Indian wars online

. (page 1 of 31)
Online LibraryCharlotte Alice BakerTrue stories of New England captives carried to Canada during the old French and Indian wars → online text (page 1 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook






3 1833 01086 2669

y^ f^/X^^ /^^^ ^^' J^^^^^t■j^£Jt^iJ



From a portrait sent to her mother in lyOr


Carried to Canada
During the Old French and Indian Wars




In Preparation



Copyright, 1897
By C. Alice BAiiKK

All rights reserved


Press of E. A. Hall Sl Co.





As often as I have read in the annals of the early settlers
of New England the pathetic words, "Carried captive to Can-
ada whence they came not back," 1 have longed to know the
fate of the captives. The wish has become a purpose, and
I have taken upon myself a mission to open the door for
their return.

It is just fifty years since that indefatigable Antiquary,
Mr, Samuel G. Drake, published at Boston his "Tragedies of
the Wilderness." I offer these narratives as a modest sequel
to the work of my illustrious predecessor, c. a. b,

Cambridge, Mass.
March, 1897.



Christine Otis. (A romance of real life on the frontier as

told in the records.) ....... 5

Esther Wheelwright. ....... 35

Story of a York Family. . . . . ... 69

Difficulties AND Dangers IN THE Settlement of a Fron-
tier Town 1670. . . . . . . . 89

Eunice Williams . . .128

Ensign John Sheldon. ....... 155

My Hunt for the Captives. ....... 193

Two Captives. (A romance of real life two hundred years

ago.) 223

A Day at Oka. 250

Thankful Stebbins. ........ 259

A Scion of the Church in Deerfield. Joseph-Octave
Plessis. (Written for the two hundredth anniversary

of the founding of the church in Deerfield.) . . 272

Hertel De Rouville. ....... 304

Father Meriel — Mary Silver. ...... 319


A Christinr Otis. ..... 333

B Esther Wheelwright. .... 335

C Eunice Williams. . . . . . 358

D Ensign John Sheldon. .... 394

E My Hunt for the Captives. . . 396

F Thankful Stebbins 399



Esther Wheelwright, Frontispiece.

Mother Superior of the Ursulines at Quebec from a

portrait sent to her mother in 1761.
Facsimile of the Baptismal Record of DoROTHeE

De Noyon. . ........ 52

Ursurline Convent at Quebec as Completed in 1723,

from a sketch made in 1842 by Rev. Mere Saint-

Croix. ......... 60

Wheelwright Coat of Arms, from a painting on silk

done by Esther Wheelwright. ..... 66

Mary Wheelwright, from a miniature sent to her daughter

Esther in 1754. . 68

The Junkins Garrison House Built in 1675, from a

painting by Susan Minot Lane. ..... 72

Fort Saint-Louis at Caughnawaga with Priest's House. 132
Old Indian House at Deerfield. ..... 166

Facsimile of the Marriage Record of Elizabeth Price,

with signatures of several captives. .... 206
Champlain's Trading Post at La Chine, later occupied

by Robert Cavelier de La Salle. .... 252

Homestead of Josiah Rising and Abigail Nims. . . 256

Fort Pontchartrain at Chambly. .... 268

Mgr. Joseph-Octave Plessis. ...... 272




The magnificent obelisks of Central America lay crumbling
to decay in the thickets of Yucatan. The mines of the Mound
Builder were deserted and silent. The eagle screamed un-
disturbed in the homes of the Cliff Dweller.

A race who possessed no traditions of these old civilizations
held the soil of North America, when, from Greenland poured
down a horde of those Norse pirates, whose name from time
immemorial had been a terror to every land. The story of
the first meeting of the white man and the red man on our
shores is an interesting one. Let us read it from the sagas
of the Northmen. They will be apt to tell it flatteringly to

In the year of our Lord 999, Leif the Lucky, son of Eric the
Red, spent the winter in Vinland, — wherever that may be, —
whether Nantucket, Narragansett, or Nova Scotia, we have
as yet no ken. "Leif was a mickle man and stout, most
noble to see ; a wise man, and moderate in all things."

Apparently he had no encounter with the natives. Whether


his mickleness, or his moderation and wisdom, had anything
to do with this, the chronicler saith not. Now tliere was
great talk about Leif s Vinland voyage, and Thorvald, his
brother, thought the land had been too little explored. Then
said Leif to Thorvald, "Thou shalt go with my ship, brother,
if thou wilt to Vinland,"

So in 1 002, Thorvald and his men came to Vinland, to Leif's
booths, and dwelt in peace there that winter. In the summer
they sent the long boat along to the westward to explore.
On the island they found a corn-shed of wood. More works
of men they found not, and they went back to Leif's booths
in the fall. "After that they coasted into the mouths of firths

that were nearest to them and to a headland that

stretched out, and they saw upon the sands within the head-
land three heights. They went thither, and saw there three
skin boats and three men under each. Then they divided
the people, and laid hands on them all except one, that got
off with his boat. They killed these eight, and then went
back to the headland, and saw in the firth some heights, and
thought they were dwellings. Then came from the firth in-
numerable skin boats and made towards them." Thorvald
said, "We will set up our battle shields, and guard ourselves
as best we can, but fight but little. So they did, and the
Skraelings shot at them for a while, but they fled, each as
fast as he could." Thorvald was killed.

Karlsefni came next, "And this agreement made he with
his seamen : that they should have even handed all that they

should get in the way of goods. They bore out to sea

and came to Leif's booths hale and whole After the

first winter came the summer, then they saw appear

the Skraelings, and there came from out the wood a great
number of men. At the roaring of Karlsefni's bulls the
Skraelings were frightened and ran off with their bundles.
These were furs and sable skins, and skin wares of all kinds.


Karlsefni had the doors of the booths guarded. Then the
Skraeling-s took down their bags, and opened them and of-
fered them for sale, and wanted weapons for them. But
Karlsefni forbade them to sell weapons. He took this plan :
he bade the women bring out their dairy stuff, and no sooner
had the}^ seen that, than they would have that atid nothing
more. Now this was the way the Skraelings traded : they
bore off their wares in their stomachs ; but Karlsefni and his
companions had their bags and their skin wares, and so they

parted Karlsefni then had posts driven strongly about

his booths, and made all complete."

"Next winter the Skraelings came again, and were more
than before, and they had the same wares. Then Karl-
sefni said to the w^omen, 'Now bring forth the same food that
was most liked before, and no other.' And when they saw it,
they cast their bundles in over the fence. But one of them
being killed by one of Karlsefni's men, they all fled in haste,
and left their garments and wares behind. ' Now,' said
Karlsefni, ' I think they will come for the third time in anger,
and with many men.' It was done as Karlsefni had said,
there was a battle and many of the vSkraelings fell."

The w^hole story of the dealings of the white man with the
red man is here in a nutshell. Thorvald goes ashore with
his company. "Here it is fair," he cries, "and here would I
like to raise my dwelling," but seeing upon the sands three
boats, and three men under each, "this iron-armed and stal-
wart crew," — thirty broad-breasted Norsemen, lay hands upon
the helpless nine and kill them. One escapes to tell the tale.
A fight ensues, and Thorvald pays the penalty of his mis-
deeds. The savage has felt the power of the white man's
weapons. He covets them. He comes the next year to
Karlsefni with sable skins and wants weapons in ex-
change. Karlsefni wisely refuses. The women bring out
the dairy stuff, and the simple savages trade. "They bear


off their wares in their stomachs ! " But Karlsefni had
their bags, and their precious skin wares. vSo they part.
The booths are palisaded. Winter bring's the hungry savage
once more to the white man's door. With reckless generos-
ity he throws his bundles in over the palisade. vSupplied
with food in return, he is going peacefully away, when, for
mere pastime, he is felled to the earth— killed by one of
Karlsefni's men. His followers flee. They come back.
There is a battle and many of them fall.

Here we might rest the case of the red man versus the
white man. But the evidence is cumulative against the lat-
ter. Columbus has left us an account of his reception by the
"Indians," as he names them. Native and Spaniard were an
equal surprise to each other. The savage thought that the
ships of the strangers were huge birds, that had borne these
wonderful beings down from heaven on their great, white
wings. They were "friendly and gentle" to the new comers.
Columbus gave them colored caps, beads and hawks bells,
in exchange for twenty-pound balls of cotton yarn, great
numbers of tame parrots and tapioca cakes. He coasted about
the island in the ship's boat, and some of the natives swam
after him, while others ran along on the shore, tempting him
with fruits and fresh water to land. He speaks of them al-
ways as decorous, temperate, peaceful, honest, generous and
hospitable. "They are very simple and honest," he says,
"and exceedingly liberal with all that they have, none of
them refusing anything he may possess, when asked for it,
but on the contrary inviting us to ask them. They exhibit
great love towards all others in preference to themselves ;
they also give objects of great value for trifles, and content

themselves with little or nothing in return A sailor

received for a leather strap as much gold as was worth three
golden nobles,^ they bartered like idiots, cotton and

'A noble is about $i.6o.


gold, for fragments of bows, glasses, bottles and jars ; which
I forbade, as being nnjust, and myself gave them many beau-
tiful and acceptable articles, taking nothing from them

in return They practice no kind of idolatry, but have

a firm belief that all strength, and all power and all good

things are in heaven, and that I had descended thence

Nor are they slow or stupid, but of very clear understanding.

I took some Indians by force from the first island

I came to These men are still travelling with me,

and they continue to entertain the idea that I have de-
scended from heaven, and on our arrival at any new place
they cry out to the other Indians, 'Come and look upon be-
ings of a celestial race,' upon which men, women and children

would come out in throngs to see us, — some bringing

food, others drink, with astonishing affection and kindness."

On every voyage Columbus carried back to Spain, men,
women and children taken by force from their homes. Worse
than that, he farmed out these poor children of the forest to
the indolent Spanish colonists of Hayti, and they died by
hundreds from ill treatment and overwork. Worst of all, to
satisfy Spanish avarice, he sent great numbers of them to be
sold as slaves in Spain for the benefit of that kingdom.

In 1498, Sebastian Cabot carried to King Henry the Seventh
three savages as trophies of his divScoveries in North America.

France had her share of the spoils. In 1524, John Verra-
zano, in his ship the Dolphin, reached the shore of Carolina.
Fires were burning along the coast and the savages crowded
to the beach making signs of welcome. The French were in
want of water and tried to land, but the surf was too high.
A sailor, carrying bells and other trifles, leaped overboard
from the boat. His courage failed and he threw the trinkets
towards the natives. The waves tossed him back upon the
shore, and the Indians, snatching him from the sea, dragged
him towards a ereat fire. The sailor shrieked with fear. His


comrades in the boat gazed with horror, expecting to see him
roasted and eaten before their eyes. But after tenderly
warming and drying him they led him back to the shore, and
stood aloof while he swam off to his friends. vShall I tell you
how this kindness was repaid ? Coasting north, a party of
them landed. The natives fled to the woods. Only two wom-
en and half a dozen children remained, hiding terrified in the
grass. These civilized Frenchmen carried off one of the ba-
bies and would have taken the younger woman, who was
handsome, but her outcries made them leave her behind.
There is no clue to the fate of Verrazano ; it may be true, as
Ramusio affirms, that on a later voyage he was killed and
eaten by the savages.

Ten years later, Jacques Cartier sailed into the mouth of
the St. Lawrence and bore away for France to tell the King
he had discovered the northwest passage to Cathay. He car-
ried with him two young Indians "lured into his clutches,"
says Mr. Parkman, "by an act of villainous treachery." I
suppose "the greasy potentate," whose sons they were, loved
his boys as well as any father loves his children, but the wild
Indian was no more than a wild turkey to the European ex-
plorer, and both were constantly carried over as samples
of the natural products of the New World. Cartier brought
back the boys the next year to guide him up the river. He
went up as far as Montreal, and coming back to Quebec
his crew were smitten with scurvy. There he might easily
have been cut off by the savages, but "they proved his salva-
tion." He learned from them a cure for the distemper, and
his crew were restored to health. "When the winter of mis-
ery had worn away," he seized Donnacona and his chiefs, to
carry them back to the French court. Mr. Parkman tells the
story: "He lured them to the fort and led them into an am-
buscade of sailors, who, seizing the astonished guests, hur-
ried them on board the ship. This treachery accomplished,


the voyagers proceeded to plant the emblem of Christianity.
The cross was raised, the fleur-de-lis hung- upon it, and
spreading their sails they steered for home." Cartier came
back once more, and told the natives that their chief, Donna-
cona, was dead, and the others were living like lords in
France ; — which information must have been very gratifying
to them, under the circumstances !

In 1602, Gosnold visited the Massachusetts coast. The In-
dians traded with him valuable furs and "their fairest col-
lars" of copper for the merest trifles. "We became great
friends," says one of the party. "They helped cut and carry

our sassafras, and some lay aboard our ship They

are exceeding courteous and gentle of disposition,"

"quick-eyed, and steadfast in their looks, fearless of others'
harms, as intending none themselves. Some of the meaner
sort, given to filching, which the very name of savages, not
weighing their ignorance in good or evil, may easily excuse."

In 1605, Weymouth entered the Penobscot river. He gave
the savages "brandy, which they tasted, but would not drink."
He had two of them at supper in his cabin, and pres-
ent at prayer time. "They behaved very civilly, neither
laughing nor talking all the time, and at supper fed not like
men of rude education ; neither would they eat or drink more
than seemed to content nature." They carefully returned
pewter dishes lent them to carry peas ashore to their women.
As Weymouth "could not entice three others aboard," whom
he wished to kidnap, he "consulted with his crew how to catch
them ashore." Then they carried peas ashore, "which meat
they loved" and a box of trifles for barter. "I opened the
box," says an actor in this tragedy, "and showed them trifles
to exchange, thinking thereby to have banished fear from
the other and drawn him to return. But when we could not,
we used little delay, but suddenly laid hands on them, and
it was as much as five or six of us could do to get them into


the light gig, for they were strong-, and so naked as by far
our best hold was by the long hair on their heads ; and we
would have been very loath to have done them any hurt,
which of necessity we had been constrained to have done if
we had attempted them in a multitude, which we must and
would, rather than have wanted them, being a matter of great
importance for the full accomplishment of our voyage." The
chronicler after praising the country, thus concludes his re-
lation : "Although at the time we surprised them they made

their best resistance, yet, after perceiving by their

kind usage we intended them no harm, they have never since
seemed discontented with us, but very tractable, loving, and
willing by their best means, to satisfy us in anything we de-
mand of them Neither have they at any time been

at the least discord among themselves, insomuch as we have
not seen them angry, but merry and so kind, as, if you give
anything to one of them, he will distribute part to every one
of the rest."

Mr. Higginson tells us that Weymouth's Indians were the
objects of great wonder in England, and crowds of people
followed them in the streets. It is thought that Shakespeare
referred to them in "The Tempest" a few years later. Trin-
culo there wishing to take the monster Caliban to Eng-
land, says: "Not a holiday fool there but would give a piece

of silver When they will not give a doit to relieve a

lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian."

John Smith's disasters in Virginia were due to the disor-
derly conduct of his men towards the natives.

It is true that an Indian arrow was "shot into the throat"
of one of Hudson's crew, but the chronicler who tells the tale,
says they found "loving people" on their first landing ; and
the disgraceful debauch in the cabin of the "Half Moon," does
not speak well for the conduct of the Dutch on that occasion.

John Smith narrates how Captain Hunt "betrayed" twenty



savages from Plymouth, and seven from Cape Cod "aboard
his ship, and most dishonestly and inhumanly, for the kind
usage of me, and all my men, carried them with him to Ma-
ligo (Malaga) and there, for a little private gain, sold these
silly savages for rials of eight." An old woman of ninety af-
terward told Edward Winslow, with tears and groans, that
her three sons, her only dependence, were among the number.

The un scrupulousness of Morton's followers at Merrymount,
who cheated, abused, and stole from the Indians, and sold them
liquor and weapons, came near being the destruction of the

It is an unwelcome task, while commemorating our ances-
try who suffered death or a cruel captivity at the hands of
the savage, to say a word in extenuation. I am no hero-wor-
shipper. I find more shrewdness than saintliness in Massa-
soit's friendship. It was for him a choice of evils. I see
nothing of statesmanship or valor to admire in Philip. No
more do I think there is any basis for a wholesale denuncia-
tion of his race. We have seen how from Maine to Cuba the
explorer was the aggressor. In later colonial times it was a
poor schooling we gave the red man, and he did credit to
our teaching. We know little of the savage before his con-
tamination by the white man. Revenge belongs to the child-
hood of nations as well as to that of individuals. To love our
enemies, — to do good to them that despitefully use us, is a
hard feat even for an adult Christian civilization. If, as John
Robinson wished, we had converted some before we had killed
any, we should make a better show in history. That w^as a
grim satire of old Ninigret, who told Mr. Mayhew, when
he wanted to preach to his people, that he "had better go and
make the English good first." We should not shrink from
tracing effects to their causes. The Indian trader from Karl-
sefni to Richard Waldron, (I may say to the frontier agent of
to-day,) was dishonest. He sold rum to the savage, and then


fined him for getting drunk. Was it truth the Indian ut-
tered, or a bitter jest on the diluted quality of the liquor, when
he testified before the court that he "had paid ;^ioo for a
drink from Mr. Purchas his well ? " The fine was not always
crossed out when it was paid till the exasperated savage
crossed it out with one blow of his hatchet, for which he had
paid ten times its worth in furs. The Government was not
always responsible, though the "Walking Purchase" and the
murder of Miantonomoh are rank offences. Usually the
frontier settlement suffered for the sins of individuals. There
is no more striking illustration of this fact than the story of


In 1623 some London fishmongers set up their stages on the
Piscataqua river.

Passaconawa5^ the sagacious sachem of the Penna cooks,
desirous of an ally against his troublesome neighbors, the
Tarratines, urged more English to come. He gave them
deeds of land in exchange for coats, shirts and kettles. The
natives continued peaceable, — the whites fished, planted and
traded unmolested. Feeling death approaching, old Passa-
conaway made a great feast, and thus addressed his chieftains :
"Listen to your father. The white men are the sons of the
morning. The Great Spirit is their father. Never war with
them. If you light the fires His breath will turn the flames
upon you and destroy you." Knowles, a tributary chief,
whose tribe occupied the region round about the settlers on
the Piscataqua, felt similar presentiments. Sending for the
principal white men, he asked them to mark out and record
in their books a grant of a few hundred acres for his people.
The old sachem's son Wannaloncet, and Blind Will, succes-
sor to Knowles, determined to heed Passaconaway's advice,
and keep peace with the whites, and the Pennacooks remained


neutral through Philip's war. At that time Cocheco, now
Dover, New Hampshire, was the main trading post with the
Indians of all that region. Major Richard Waldron was the
most prominent man of Cocheco. He held many offices of
trust under the Government, and a command in Philip's war.
He was naturally severe ; was a successful Indian trader, and
had the reputation of being a dishonest one. It was said that
he did not cancel their accounts when they had paid him, and
that in buying beaver he reckoned his fist as weighing a
pound. Though Philip's war began later in the Eastern
country, it raged there with terrible ferocity, "where," says
Mr. Palfrey, "from the rough character of the English set-
tlers, it may well be believed that the natives were not with-
out provocation." Troops were ordered out by the General
Court of Massachusetts to subdue the eastern Indians, but
the snow lay four feet on a level in December, and military
operations were impossible. The Indians, pinched with fam-
ine from the severity of the winter, and dependent upon the
frontier settlements for food, sued for peace through Major
Waldron, promising to give up their captives without ransom,
and to be quiet in the future. In July, 1676, Waldron, on be-
half of the whites, signed a treaty with them at Cocheco.
After Philip's death some of his followers fled to the Penna-
cooks. They were taken and put in Dover jail. Escaping,
they incited some of the Maine Indians to renew their dep-
redations. Two companies were sent to the East under Cap-
tains Sill and Hathorne. They reached Dover on the 6th of
September. There they found four hundred Indians, part
of them Pennacooks who had taken no part in the war ; others
who had been party to the treaty a few months before, and
the rest, southern Indians, who, fleeing to the eastward after
Philip's death, had been received into the tribes there. Why
they were at Dover we are not told, but evidently with no
hostile intent, as their women and children were with them.


The belligerent captains would have annihilated them at
once, as their orders were to seize all Indians concerned in
the murder of Englishmen, or who had violated the treaty.

Online LibraryCharlotte Alice BakerTrue stories of New England captives carried to Canada during the old French and Indian wars → online text (page 1 of 31)