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The Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history online

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the "Forbidden Hoosac Mountain" during the early summer

The Perry Elm, marking the site of Fort Massachusetts, built during summer

of 1745 on the ox-bow meadow at the northern base of Mount Williams

of the Greylock Range, North Adams, Massachusetts.

of 1745, and built the fort. The Schaghticokes and their
St. Regis and St. Francis kindred watched every movement
and forbade the carpenters to complete the blockhouse until
they first purchased the "Great Meadow\" Lieutenant
Catlin, 2d, evidently promised to negotiate for the land,
but in 1 75 1 the Schaghticoke chieftains complained that:
"The English were not as good as their word."^

' Note 10, at end of volume.

Fort Massachusetts and English Hoosac 129

Fort Massachusetts, according to Col, John Stoddard's
orders, ' was built sixty feet square. The walls were twelve
feet high, by fourteen inches thick, constructed of pine logs
hewn down to six x fourteen-inch face, placed upon a stone
foundation, one log above another. The timbers of the
comers and side walls were dove-tailed and spiked together
with dowel-pins of red oak. The fort gate faced northward

Fort Massachusetts Blockhouse, showing the garrison s barracks and the

watch-towers on the exposed angles of the Fort for the discharge

of the sharpshooters' rifles.

upon St. Francis Ledge, and the barracks were eleven feet
wide, with sloping "salt-box" roofs, located against the east
and south walls. The mounts consisted of platforms twelve
feet square on the northwest and southeast angles of the
blockhouse walls, upon which were built watch-towers seven
feet in height, pierced with loop-holes for the discharge of
rifles. The well with its huge sweep stood in the northeast
angle of the parade, which was forty-nine by sixty feet in

' Perry, Origins in Williamstown, p. 80.

I30 The Hoosac Valley

Two official letters of Lieutenant Catlin,^ dated Fort
Massachusetts in August, 1745, and addressed to the com-
missary, Maj. Israel Williams, at Hatfield, prove that he
had been advised to negotiate with the patroons of Dutch
Hooesac and St. Croix for garrison supplies. At that time
it was impossible to haul flour from Capt. Moses Rice's
Charlemont Mills, fourteen miles eastward, except on horse-
back over the Hoosac Mountain road. Bamardus Bratt of
Dutch Hooesac, fourteen miles below Fort Massachusetts,
and Capt. Garret Cornelius Van Ness of Fort St. Croix,
ten miles farther down the valley, operated the finest flouring
mills in the American Colonies.

In June, 1746, Capt. Ephraim Williams, Jr., removed his I
headquarters from Fort Shirley to Fort Massachusetts. His j
first muster-roll between December 10, 1745, and June 9, 1746, '
contains forty-two names, not including the Fort Shirley
reinforcements, who arrived in May, 1746. The Schaghti-
cokes and St. Francis kindred lurked constantly along the
river bank during the planting season, and Sergt. John
Hawks and John Mighills on May 9th, while riding on one
horse near the fort gate, were attacked by two savages.
Sergeant Hawks, although wounded, recovered his gun and
aimed it at the warriors, who begged for quarter and ran
for the woods.

The St. Francis chieftain, Cadenaret, with a party of his
warriors from the village of Becancour, on the river St.
Francis, lay hidden on the Hoosac's bank, awaiting an oppor-
tunity to attack the soldiers hoeing in the cornfield June
2d. Elisha Nims from Fort Shirley was shot and scalped,
and Gershorm Hawks of Charlemont, a nephew of Sergt.
John Hawks, was slightly wounded. The other soldiers ran
for the shelter of the fort, but another gang of savages rose
from ambuscade between them and the gate and attempted

' Note 2, at end of volume. ^Ibid., Note 3.

Fort Massachusetts and English Hoosac 131

to cut off their retreat. The sharpshooters posted in the
southeast watch-tower repulsed the enemy, although Benja-
min Taintor, a Fort Shirley recruit, was captured.

The savages sullenly retreated down the Hoosac Pass, for
they had left their beloved chieftain, Cadenaret, slain behind
them. The English discovered his hastily made tumulus
later on the river's edge, near the cornfield. Buried with
him was the long rope with which he intended to lead a string
of English captives to Quebec.

During April, 1746, the British Ministry rallied 8200 vol-
unteer troops from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hamp-
shire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Maryland, and Virginia, in order to besiege the French and
Indians of New France. Capt. Ephraim Williams, Jr., was
absent from Fort Massachusetts most of the summer, and
left the fortification under the command of Sergt. John Hawks.

After the volunteer troops were organized against Canada,
it was discovered that Fort Massachusetts' garrison was
inadequate to make a proper defence of the Hoosac Pass.
It was doubly afflicted also with an epidemic of bloody-flux
and it was necessary to send for Dr. Thomas Williams,
the Chaplain, John Norton, and fourteen Fort Shirley
soldiers. The relief party arrived at Fort Massachusetts
Friday, August 15th, and the following morning Sergeant
Hawks despatched Dr. Williams and fourteen soldiers to
Fort Deerfield with a letter addressed to Capt. Ephraim
Williams, Jr., asking for supplies and ammunition. He
reported that fresh Indian moccasin tracks had been observed
by the patrolling scout a few miles below the fort.

Only twenty soldiers, ten of whom were dangerously ill,
besides Sergeant Hawks and Chaplain Norton, were left
to defend Fort Massachusetts after the departure of Dr.
Williams's party. The muster-roll of those ill-fated sentinels
that defended the Thermopylae of New England for twenty-


The Hoosac Valley

seven hours against General Rigaud's army — a thousand
against ten in the unequal contest, from 9 o'clock on the
morning of August 19th, until 12 o'clock the following day —
must ever stand high among the heroic names emblazoned
on the pages of New England history :

John Hawks



John Norton



John Aldrich



Jonathan Bridgeman


Nathaniel Eames


Phineas Forbush


Samuel Goodman


Nathaniel Hitchcock


Thomas Knowlton

Unknown (Son of Thomas

Samuel Lovatt


John Perry


Amos Pratt


Josiah Reed


Joseph Scott


Moses Scott


Stephen Scott


Jacob Shepherd


Benjamin Simonds

Ware River

John Smead, Sr.


John Smead, Jr.


Daniel Smead


David Warren



Mary Smead, Wife of John Smead, Sr.

Elihu Smead
Simon Smead
Mary Smead
Captivity Smead

Born after surrender of Fort,
Aug. 21, 1746.
Miriam Scott, Wife of Moses Scott
Ebenezer Scott
Moses Scott, Jr.
Rebecca Perry, Wife of John Perry. '

Children of John Smead,

Children of Moses Scott.

Perry, Origins in Williamstown, p. 128.

Fort Massachusetts and English Hoosac 133

At the time Dr. Williams's party marched to the Hoosac
ford, General Rigaud's French scouts — Sieurs, Beaubassin,
and La Force, together with eight Schaghticokes, lay in
ambush beneath the ferns fringing the trail, less than forty
rods east of Fort Massachusetts. They could have easily
thrust their longue Carabines forward and touched the boots
of the passing soldiers, so near did they lie to the path.

While the English colonists were rallying troops to lay
siege against New France during the spring of 1746, the
' Governor-General of Canada also directed General Rigaud
i to rally an army of about 1200 French and Indians and seize
some Dutch or English post in the Mohawks' or Hoosacs'
valley during August. Rigaud's main army was composed
of 740 French regulars and Canadians; and Lieutenant
Demuy's detachment of 470 Indians consisted chiefly of St.
Francis warriors from Becancour and St. Regis villages
who challenged the headwaters of the Hoosacs' hunting-
grounds. A brother of the late Cadenaret, who was slain
on the bank of the upper Hoosac, June 2d, headed the
motley band, including Lenapes from Detroit, Sauteurs from
Mackinaw, Hurons, Pottawatamies, and seventeen fierce
Mississaugers from Lake Ontario.

Demuy's detachment of savages advanced ahead as a
scouting party and encamped near the junction of Poultney
River with East Bay, north of the site of Whitehall. Gen-
: eral Rigaud's detachment left Montreal on August 3d,
and later encamped near the mouth of Otter Creek with
Lake Champlain above Demuy's Indian encampment. At
that time it was General Rigaud'f intention to capture Fort
Schenectady in the Alohawks' valley.

"The white cunning," wrote Cooper in his Last of the
Mohicans, "had managed to throw the tribes into great
confusion, as respects friends and enemies." The Hurons
and the Mississaugers from Ontario were deadly enemies of

134 The Hoosac Valley

the Mohawks and Schaghticokes. The St. Francis war-
captain foresaw, therefore, that it was necessary to hold a
council of war with General Rigaud in order to keep peace
among his mixed tribes. The St. Francis and St. Regis
warriors were eager to avenge the death of Cadenaret and
burn the English Fort Massachusetts on the upper Hoosac,
instead of the Dutch forts in the Mohawk Valley of their

General Rigaud, observing the eagerness of Lieutenant
Demuy's savages to devastate Hoosac Valley settlements,
listened to the St. Francis war-captain, who drew upon the
floor of the council room a rough map of the Valley of
Mingling Waters, which he called Skatecook^ — known to
the French as Kaskekouke. ^ He located Fort Massachu-
setts on the Hoosac headwaters and said: "My Father, it
will be easy to take this fort, and make great havoc on the
lands of the English. Deign to listen to your children and
follow our advice." General Rigaud accordingly changed
his plans and invaded the Hoosac Valley.

The Indians, after the council of war, performed a cere-
mony of absolution — Kinte-kaye or Devil-dance to Ilobba-
mocko, the Fiend of Calamity, while chanting Manitou's
prayer of Wappanachki. The latter was preser\''ed by his-
torian Nicholas Heckewelder of New Amsterdam, and is
of local interest, since Cooper in his Last of the Mohicans
describes Uncus's chant to Manitou:

O poor me !

Who am going out to fight the enemy,
And know not whether I shall return again,
To enjoy the embraces of my children
And rti}'- wife.

' See Chap. II. on Origins of Skatecook, and Note i at end of volume.
2 Parkman, "Fort Massachusetts," in Half a Century of Conflict.

Cohoha Cornfield of Kreigger Rock tieighborJiood in Hoosac Pass above
junclion of Little Hoosac with Big Hoosac. General Rigaud's French and In-
dian army encamped in this intervale before the capture of the English Fort
Massachusetts on August 20, 1746. Kreigger Rock marks the Natural Dam
of the glacial Lake Bascom,


136 The Hoosac Valley

O poor creature!
Whose life is not in liis own hands,
Who has no power over his own body,
But tries to do his duty
For the welfare of his nation.

O thou Great Spirit above!

Take pity on my children

And my wife!
Prevent their mourning on my account !
Grant that I may be successful in this attempt,
That I may slay my enemy.
And bring home the trophies of war

To my dear family and friends,

That we may rejoice together.

O take pity on me !
Give me strength and courage to meet my enemy.
Suffer me to return again to my children,

To my wife!

And to my relations !
Take pity on me and preserve my life,
And I will make thee a sacrifice!

The following morning General Rigaud left the younger
Demuy and thirty men in command of his fleet of canoes
near the site of Poultney River bridge, north of Whitehall.
He marched around the base of Skene Mountain, then a
portion of Wood Creek hunting-grounds of the sachem Keep-
erdo, known as Hoosac or Mahican Abraham, who moved
to the Ohio Valley in 1730. About 1770, Keeperdo's Wood
Creek Tract was deeded by his kindred, and without his
consent, to the Tory, Maj. Philip Skene.

After General Rigaud's army left the Owl Kill trail at
Tioshoke village, near the present site of Eagle Bridge
hamlet, his troopers formed into two brigades, headed by
Sieur de La Volterie on the right bank, and by Sieur de

Fort Massachusetts and English Hoosacs 137

vSabrevois on the left bank of the Hoosac. Demuy's savages
were placed on the front, rear, and flanks of both brigades.
After marching fourteen miles up the valley, Rigaud's
army encamped about sunset on Bums's Cohoha cornfield
near the junction of Wash-Tub Brook with Hoosac River
in Kreigger neighborhood, now North Pownal, Vt., fourteen
miles below Fort Massachusetts.

Early Tuesday morning, August 19th, Beaubassin and
La Force with their eight Schaghticoke scouts reported to
General Rigaud's Kreigger Rock encampment little of impor-
tance, except the departure of Dr. Williams's party for Fort
Deerfield. Only a solitary sentinel meanwhile was posted
in the watch-tower, and the absolute quietude about the
stricken garrison assured Rigaud that Captain Van Ness
of Fort St. Croix had not sent a friendly warning to the
English. At that date there was ill feeling between the
Dutch and English Hoosactonians over the Twenty-Mile

General Rigaud soon roused the St. Francis war-captain
and addressed his warriors, saying: "My children, the time
is near when we must get other meat than fresh pork, and
we will eat it together." "Meat" referred to the ransom
money paid them by the Governor-General of Canada for
every English captive delivered at Quebec. After the two
chaplains said mass for the French and the St. Francis
warriors, Rigaud formed his army into two brigades and in
a pouring rain marched along both banks of the river through
the Pownal interval, for about ten miles, until they halted
at River Bend campground in Williamstown, Mass., four
miles below Fort Massachusetts. A council of war was
held, and it was agreed that General Rigaud's main army
should encamp in the woods west of the fort, and Lieutenant
Demuy's savages on the river bank southeast of the block-
house, and prepare scaling ladders and battering-rams.

138 The Hoosac Valley

About 9 o'clock Rigaud's and Demuy's detachments
surrounded Fort Massachusetts. The savages and Cana-
dians upon first beholding the watch-towers rushed forward
"like lions," firing aimlessly. After the first volley from
the English sharpshooters' guns, the French and Indians
retired to the shelter of St. Francis Indian Ledge, sixty rods
north of the fort. Sergeant Hawks, posted in the northwest
watch-tower, sent a fatal ball from his Queen's Arm flint-
lock flying to its mark, through the breast of the St. Francis
war-captain. General Rigaud also advanced within thirty
rods of the fort with his ensign to unfurl the lilied flag of
France, and received a painful wound in his arm. Mean-
while John Aldrich and Jonathan Bridgeman, in the north-
west watch-tower, received slight wounds in the foot and i
thigh from the French regulars' guns.

About 9 o'clock in the evening it became ver>' dark and
cloudy, and Chaplain Norton sent a volley of buckshot
whizzing aimlessly against the howling enemy. The whole
army soon appeared to surround the fort, after which they
gave three successive, hideous war-whoops. A guard was
later set about the blockhouse gate, and both Rigaud's and
Demuy's troops retired to their camps. The savages, how-
ever, performed their Kinte-kaye {Hobbamocko-dancc) until
late in the night, and greatly disturbed the sleep of the
garrison's sick soldiers.

At sunrise two English sharpshooters were stationed in
each watch-tower, and the savages opened fire from the corn-
field on the south, while the French kept up a constant fire
from St. Francis Ledge on the north. Thomas Knowlton,
in the northwest tower, was mortally wounded in the head
about eleven o'clock. An hour later General Rigaud hoisted
a flag of truce and desired to parley with Sergeant Hawks,
announcing that he would set a torch to the fort if he did
not surrender. He gave Hawks two hours in which to

Fort Massachusetts and English Hoosac 139

render his decision. The siege of twenty-seven hours had
exhausted the garrison's ammunition and only four pounds
of powder and an equal amount of lead remained. Sergeant
Hawks and Chaplain Norton, for the sake of the sick soldiers,
deemed it wisest to surrender the fort.

Chaplain John Norton, who was graduated from Yale in
1737, was descended from the Norman Constable, Le Seur
de Norville of the army of William the Conqueror in 1066.
He said:

Had we all been in health, or had there been only those
eight of us that were in health (two having been wounded),
I believe every man would have willingly stood it out to
the last. For my part I should; but we heard that if we
were taken by violence, the sick, the wounded, and the
women would most, if not all of them, die by the hands of
the savages; therefore, our ofRcer concluded to surrender
on the best terms he could make. ^

General Rigaud and his officers, therefore, entered Fort
Massachusetts about two o'clock, and about three o'clock

I the St. Francis warriors impatiently pulled down the foun-
dation wall and crawled, one after another, into the centre
of the parade. Although the French officers forbade them
to molest Knowlton, who was dying in the watch-tower,
they rushed forward, seized his body, and conveyed it out-
side the fort gate. According to Indian custom, they
scalped their unconscious victim, and severed an arm and

!i a leg to carry home as trophies of victory.

General Rigaud's ensign soon hoisted the Fleur-de-lis

I flag of France on the northwest watch-tower, and the Jesuit

'' chaplain unfurled the banner of St, Croix (Holy Cross) of
the Old Roman Church on the southeast watch-tower.

' Rev. John Norton, Journal of Captivity, 1748. Cited by Perry, Origins in
• Williamstown, p. 141.

140 The Hoosac Valley

Meanwhile the feeble English captives gathered up their |
belongings, and the blockhouse was turned over to the
savages to be plundered and burned, amid wild war-whoops.

The grim shadows cast by IVIount Greylock's ramparts
fell sadly over the Hoosac Pass, while the clouds of smoke
rising from the blazing fort ascended and received the last
rosy glow of the setting sun of August 20, 1746. Nature
transformed the savage scene of the St. Francis warriors of
the Cross into a spectacle of glorious beauty, as the evening
winds breathed over the ruins and fanned the smouldering logs,
lighting them with fitful flashes of flame. Meanwhile the
torch-lights in the enemies' camp indicated a general activity,
posting the English captives under their special guards pre-
paratory for their sunrise march down the Hoosac Pass.
Chaplain Norton was permitted to place a Notice^ of the
surrender of Fort Massachusetts' garrison on the charred post
of the well-sweep for Dr. Thomas Williams's returning party.

Rigaud, however, despatched sixty St. Francis and Schagh-
ticoke warriors over the Hoosac Mountain trail to capture
Dr. Williams's party. Not meeting them, they advanced to
Fort Deerfield Meadow, where the "Bars Fight" took place,
on the 28th of August. Among the slain may be mentioned
Samuel Allen, Sr., Eleazer Hawks, nephew of Sergt. John
Hawks, Adonijah Gillet, Constant Bliss, soldiers in Captain
Holson's militia, and two children of the widow Amsdel.
Samuel Allen's little son Samuel was captured, while his
brother Caleb escaped. The Indians were in the act of
tomahawking their sister Eunice when routed. She recov-
ered, and according to the Journals of Rev. Benjamin Doo-
little of Northfield and Deacon Noah Wright of Deerfield,
the return captive, Samuel Allen, and his brother Caleb,
and sister Eunice, all resided in Deerfield Valley in 1795.

Lieutenant Demuy and Chaplain Norton headed the

' Perry, Origins in Williamstnwn , pp. 42-175.

Fort Massachusetts and Eno^lish Hoosac 141

English captives at dawn, August 21st, down Hoosac Road
four miles, and they rested at River Bend Camp. War-
whoops often reached Chaplain Norton's ears and he feared
the worst, but he was full of admiration when he saw the
wounded John Aldrich approaching, mounted on the back
of his savage master. Benjamin Simonds and Josiah Read
were dangerously ill at the time, and the latter died a few
miles below in the Hoosac Pass of Pownal.

About sunset. General Rigaud's army encamped on the
Van Derrick meadow, near the junction of the Little Hoosac
with the Hoosac in Petersburgh, New York. Mrs. John
Smead, Mrs. Moses Scott, and Mrs. John Perr>^ and their
children tarried in the rear. The gallant French officers
made a seat for Mrs. Smead and bore her safely to the
shelter of the Van Derrick Mansion, where about ten o'clock
was bom her infant daughter, christened "Captivity."
The mother and child were the next morning conveyed ten
miles on a cot, prepared from poles covered with bear-skins,
to the Van Ness Mansion, near Fort St. Croix.

Four fleet horses were secured from the Van Ness stables
by General Rigaud for his couriers to convey a message to
the Governor-General, Marquis de la Galissoniere, at Quebec.
Other horses were caught in the pasture for Benjamin Simonds
and John Aldrich to ride to East Bay, near the site of White-
hall. The captives arrived at their destination about two
o'clock in the afternoon on August 26th and embarked in the
canoes for Fort St. Frederic, where they tarried until Septem-
ber 4th. The party arrived at Three Rivers, Canada,
September 13th, where General Rigaud's officers, Sergeant
Hawks and Chaplain Norton, were entertained by the
Governor of New France. The captives landed near the
junction of the St. Lawrence with the Loretto in Quebec,
September 15th, and were reviewed by the Governor-General,
who assigned them to the pestiferous Battery prison-houses.

142 The Hoosac Valley

The Fort Massachusetts captives on August 20, 1746,
numbered thirty souls — twenty-two men, three women,
and five children. Of these, Thomas Knowlton and Josiah
Read died, and "Captivity" Smead was bom the next day.
The twenty-nine EngHsh Hoosac captives, together with
seventy-six Dutch Hoosac captives, were assigned to the
prison-pens of Quebec, on September 15th, Most of them
died during their sad year of captivity.

Only fourteen of the twenty-nine English unfortunates,
including four children. Sergeant John Hawks, Chaplain
John Norton, Stephen Scott, David Warren, John Perry,
Joseph Scott, John Aldrich, Moses Scott, Benjamin Simonds,
and John Smead, Sr., returned to their homes. Those cap-
tives, on July 25, 1747, were placed on board the ship, j
Vierge-de-Grace (Handsome Virgin), by the Governor of
Canada, and arrived at Boston on the i6th of August. Col-
onel Winslow, great grandson of Gov. Edward Winslow of
Mayflower fame, welcomed Chaplain John Norton. The
returned captive hastened forward to meet his family at
Fort Shirley, and arrived soon after the burial of his little
daughter Anna. Her tombstone was recovered one hundred
and forty years later from the neglected "God's Acre" of
Fort Shirley by the late historian. Prof. Arthur Latham
Perry of Williams, and is now deposited in Perry's Historical
Collection at Clark Hall, in Williamstown, Mass.

During 1748, Chaplain Norton accepted the pastorship of
the Old East Hampton Church in Connecticut. His tomb-
stone in the burial-field bears the inscription:


The Rev. John Norton

Pastor of the 3d Church in Chatham

Who died with Small Pox

March 24th a.d. 1778
In the 63d year of his Age.

Fort Massachusetts and English Hoosac 143

Sergt. John Hawks, the "Hero of Fort Massachusetts,"
and Lieut. John CatHn, 2d, the builder of Fort Massachu-
setts, resided later in Old Deerfield. Sergeant Hawks,
during February, 1748, in company with Lieut. Matthew
Claesson and Sergt. John Taylor, delivered the French
captive, Pierre Rambout, to the Governor-General of Canada
in exchange for Samuel Allen, nephew of Sergeant Hawks,
captured during the "Bars Fight" at Old Deerfield, in 1746.
Sergeant Hawks's tombstone in the Old Burial-Field of
Deerfield bears the inscription:


Who died June 24, 1784
In the 77th year of his Age.

The Fort Massachusetts carpenter, John Perry, after his
return from captivity, petitioned the Massachusetts Legis-
lature, November 5, 1747' for reimbursement for his log

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