Certainly the brick-lined walls and general structure of this venerable
3 See baptismal record of the First Church, Charlestown, in Historical atid Gemalogicai
Register. Vol. XXVI, p.
114 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
building represent the architecture of that period, and probably they
are the same within which five families kept their drear}^ and painful
watch and ward, in 1675. Timoth}' Brooks owned the mill at the
falls of the Shawshin, in the east part of Bedford. Mr. Daniel, who
had leave to fortifj' his own house, was on the south side of the
Wobum Road, near the Shawshin River ; and Job Lane, who bought
the Winthrop Farm, lived very near, if not in the same ancient
house, just north of Huckins Street, in Bedford, where Mr. Hiram
Button now lives.
How much labor was spent in fortifying we may gather some
idea by gleaning from the record the fact that the work done on
Mr. Whiting's house, under the charge of Peter Bracket, employed
thirty men, with several cattle, a little more than two days each, and
the amount credited was eight pounds, six shillings, and nine i>ence.
But the blow so long dreaded and guarded against did not fall, and
the town was mercifully spared more than its common share in the
burdens and losses of Philip's War. That share was sufficiently
trying, and bore heavily upon the inhabitants.
Chelmsford was not quite as exempt. A letter from that town,*
dated "25: 12*". 1675," rejwrts that scouts found three dwellings
burnt, "near where Joseph Parker was formerly shot," (he with
others having been fired upon by Indians, but not killed,) and other
signs of hostile Indians, and the more remote inhabitants had fled
into the body of the town. Indians had been seen from Billerica on
the west side of the Concord River, and fires, which were suspected
to be signs of their presence. The letter asks an order to Billerica,
"or otherwise," to secure "the bridge between them & us," and
adds that some of their men are out, on Major Willard's order, and
some on the other side of the Merrimack, to secure the corn of
Colburn and others residing there, which Lieutenant Henchman had
orders to do, and carry it over to his own house.
A petition from Groton illustrates the situation of Billerica as
well, during this anxious-and tedious winter of 1675-6.^ It " humbly
shows" : —
''That, whereas it seemeth meet to your worships to cOmmerid unto
our honored Major Willard and impose upon hiui the maintaining a con-
tinued scout of forty troopers and dragoons, to i-ange between Groton,
Lancaster, and Marlborough and those parts; we make bold humbly to
* Massachuttits Archives. Vol. LXVIIl, 1-14. ° Sec History of Groton, p. 71.
THE INDIANS AND WAMESIT. 115
present our conceptions upon that account. For Marlborough we do con-
ceive the present supply left there in garrison do answer the end more
fully, and will also render our scout an unnecessary burden ; for Lancaster
and Groton we find by experience that the safety is little advanced in this
way, by reason of so long absence and so great distance of this scout,
necessary in this method. Besides the incumbrance lying upon us for
quarters for horse and men, besides the drawing up of our men from
several towns to such a limit, seems to carry inconvenience with it; the
towns from whence our forces are raised, especially Chelmsford and
Billerica, being weak and in want of more strength at home, and danger
occurring to them by the sudden and suspicious removal of the Weymessit
Indians, whose troopers do hereupon desire a release. Moreover, the con-
ceptions of the towns related, conceive humbly, that a scout of garrison
soldiers, though of a less number and these footmen, whom the towns may
out of themselves make dragoons, by order from authority as occasion
may present, would be more for the security of the towns; besides the
hazard in which so small a number must needs go in, as we have sufficient
gi"Ound to suspect by experience, and many emergencies which may sud-
denly fall out before address be made to your worships. We humbly
present to your honors consideration, and if it seem rational, to alter or
add to this matter, according to your discretion.
'•Your honors humble supplicants,
"Groton, Feb. 6, 1675-6. Henry Woodhouse."
Mr. Parker had been an early citizen of Billerica, and this
petition was dated only three or four days before the burning of
Lancaster, and five weeks before that of Groton. It was written by
Rev. Samuel Willard, of Groton, afterwards President of Harvard
College, and son of Major Simon Willard, who was now devoting
the last energies of his useful life to the defence of the Colony ; his
death occuring April 24th. On March 29th he was in Chelmsford,
and ordered the fortifying of Billerica bridge at the request of the
At the same time Jonathan Danforth was in Cambridge, employed
as the following paper shows : — ^
" Cambridge, 28 : 1 : 1676.
"In obedience to an order of the Honorable Council, March, 1675-6,
appointing us whose names are underwritten as a committee to consult the
several towns of the County of Middlesex with reference to the best means
of the preservation of our out-towns, remote houses and farms, for their
» Groton, p. 72.
116 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
security from the common enemy ; we having sent to the several towns to
send us their apprehensions by some one meet person of each town, this
day we consulted concerning the same and have concluded to propose as
f olloweth :
"1. That the towns of Sudbury, Concord, and Chelmsford be sti'ength-
ened with forty men apiece, which said men are to be improved in scouting
between town and town, who are to be commanded bj- men of pnidence,
courage, and interest, in the said towns, and the parties in each town are to
be ordered to keep together in some place commodious in said towns, and
not in garrisoned houses ; and these men to be upon charge of the country.
"2. That for the security of Billerica there be a garrison of a number
competent at Weymessit, who may raise a thousand bushels of corn upon
the lands of the Indians in that place ; ma}^ be improved daily in scouting
and ranging the woods between Weymessit and Andover and on the west
of Concord river, on the east and north of Chelmsford, which will discover
the enemy before he comes to the towns and prevent lurking Indians about
our towns. Also, that they shall be in a readiness to succor any of the
three towns at any time, when in distress ; also, shall be ready to join with
others to follow the enemy upon a sudden, after their appearing.
"3. That such towns as Lancaster, Groton, and Marlborough, that are
forced to remove, and have not some advantage of settlement (peculiai") in
the Bay, be ordered to settle at the frontier towns that remain, for their
strengthening ; and the people of the said towns to which they are appointed
are to see to their accommodation in the said towns.
"4. That the said towns have their own men returned that are abroad,
and their men freed from impi-essment during their present state.
•'S. That thei-e be appointed a select number of persons in each town
of Middlesex, Avho are, upon any information of the distress of any town,
forthwith to repair to the relief tliereof ; and that such information maybe
seasonable, the towns are to dispatch posts, each town to the next, till
notice be conveyed over the whole country, if need be.
"And in reference to the line of stocadoes proposed to the serious
consideration, after our best advice upon it. it is conceived by ourselves and
by all the persons sent by the several towns, that it is not admissible for
the reasons following :
'•1. The excessive charge to effect it, maintain and keep it, tlie line
being conceived, by those that know it best, to be longer than is proposed ;
neither can several fords fall in the line, unless it be run so crooked that
it will be more disadvantage than profit.
'••2. The length of time before it can be accomplished, in which time
it is to be feared that many of the towns included will be depopulated,
unless other means prevent.
''3. The damage it will be in taking off laborers, which in this season
of the j^ear had need be improved in sowing and planting, help in many
places being very scarce.
"4. The usefuhiess of it, when it is done, it being so easy a matter
to break through it, and the rivers which ai-e to fence a great part of these
THE INDIANS AND WAMESIT. 117
towns are fordable in several places, and in all other places passable by-
rafts, &c., which is much in use by the Indians at this day. We might add
the great discontent and mourning of the people in general, so far as we
have had opportunity to discover concerning it, that we fear the imposing
of such a thing would effect an ill consequence. These things considered,
besides several other reasons of weight that might be added, cause us to
present our apprehensions, as in the first place we did, that the drawing of
this line at this time is not admissible ; but all with humble submission to
your Honors in the case.
"•Your humble servants,
The share that Billerica took in the military service is suggested
by items like these 'J Samuel Whiting is enrolled among the troopers ;
Job Lane is impressed ; and Daniel Rogers, from December to Feb-
ruar}', 1675. And wben, fifty years after, Massachusetts rewarded
the soldiers in this war somewhat tardily by laud-grants, the following
Billerica men or their heirs shared in these "Narragansett" grants,
proving that they had been in the service : Samuel Hunt, John
Needham, James Paterson, Nathaniel Rogers, John Shed, John
Sheldon, John Stearns, Joseph Thompson.
These and possibly others are the men alluded to in the following
action of the town, in June, 1676: "The selectmen, considering
the necessity of some speedy care to be taken that y" corne of those
souldiers that are now in the country service should forthwith be
dressed, do order the constables to take special care of y^ same, &
* * to impress persons into that worke, as need shall require ;
& that y® constables lay not the burden of this worke upon some few
particular persons, but as much in general as may bee, only taking
them most that may bee in y^ best capacity to attend it with least
The position of the Christian Indians at Wamesit and other
"praying towns" was one of especial embaiTassment and hardship
during these dark days. Gookin was their candid judge, as well
as their true friend, aifd his estimate of their attitude was amply
vindicated by later developments.* They were honestly friendly,
and desired to act on the former advice of Passaconaway. Gookin
wished that advantage be taken of this fact, and that their forts at
7 Massachusetts Archives. Vols. LXVni, LXIX, and CXIV, p. 104.
8 See his account of the Christian Indians, in Archeologia Americana. Vol. II, p. 411.
118 HISTORY or BILLERICA.
Fort Hill and elsewhere should be manned by a few English soldiers,
who could direct and use the activity of the Indians in the public
defence. But the excited imaginations of the English, generally,
could appreciate no distinction of friendly and hostile Indians, and
every red man was a foe to be dreaded and distrusted, if not shot at
sight ; and Captain Gookin's wise plan of defence stood no chance
of being accepted. The hostile Indians, of course, sought every
opportunity^ and found manj', to foment this jealous}', if they could
not win the Christian Indians to their side.
Wannalancet, the Wamesit sachem, had retired at the beginning
of the war to the vicinity of Penacoock (Concord) , and subsequently
to the region of the upper Connecticut, resisting overtures from the
English to induce him to return. A portion of the tribe remained
at Pawtucket. James Richardson, of Chelmsford, was for a time
in charge of them ; and a barn or haystack belonging to him was
burned by skulking hostile Indians, as were two or three houses in
the same town. The unfortunate Wamesits were falsely charged
with these acts ; and a party of fourteen Chelmsford men, under
pretence of scouting for Philip's forces, went out to assail them.^
Calling the unsuspecting Indians from their wigwams, two of the
party fired. Five women and children were wounded, and one boy
was killed. The others were restrained from their murderous
purpose, and the outrage was severely condemned by the better part
of the English. The murderers were tried ; but the juries, swayed
by the popular feeling, would not convict them. The Indians saw
that however friendly they might be their lives were in peril, and
fled to the woods for safety. The Council sent Lieutenant Henchman
to persuade them to return, but at first without avail. After three
weeks of great suffering for want of food, most of them, however,
did return. The Council directed Major Henchman to treat them
kindly, and sent Rev. John Eliot, with Majors Gookin and Willard,
to encourage them and try to persuade the Chelmsford people to
treat them better.
It is not easy to determine the order of events, and the following
incidents were probably concurrent with or prior to some of those
above mentioned. The Court, as well as the Chelmsford men,
undertook to punish the Wamesits for wrongs of which not these
but others were guilty. They were summoned, and brought down
to Boston ; convicted, on no good evidence, of the Chelmsford fires,
» FelVs Annals. Vol. II, p. 578.
THE INDIANS AND WAMESIT, 1X9
and for a time imprisoned. Most of them were soon liberated and
sent home, under conduct of Lieutenant Richardson. But a military
company was encountered at Woburn on their way, and one of the
soldiers against orders fired and killed a young brave. The murderer
was acquitted by a jury. The Indians, alarmed by these repeated
wrongs, again fled. They left behind six or seven persons too old
or invalid to accompany them ; and the wigwam in which these
unfortunates were left was set on fire by inhuman white men and
consumed with all its inmates. The wretched remnant of the
Wamesits, convinced at last that there was no peace for them in
their Pawtucket homes, finally joined their chief in the depths of the
forest, and did not return until the war was oA^er.
It would not be strange if in retaliation for their wrongs some of
the "Wamesits were responsible, as was charged, for later assaults.
Mr. Hubbard, the pastor of Ipswich, in his Indian Wars, thus
explains an attack at Andover. He records the burning of a house
there and wounding of one Roger Marks, and adds: "Two more
houses about Shawshen, beyond the said Andover, were burned
about March 10 ; also they killed a young man of the said Town,
April 8, the son of George Abbot. And another son of his was
carried away the same day, who yet was returned some few months
after, almost pined to Death with Hunger." Mr. Abbot lived on
the Shawshin, in the west part of Andover, and the inference which
has been drawn from Hubbard's language, that the houses "about
Shawshen" which were burned were in Billerica, has no good foun-
dation and is improbable.
Joseph Abbot, of Andover, was slain, as we have seen, on
April 8. The next da}^, which was the Sabbath, a special alarm
occurred in Billerica, and troops from below were summoned to the
defence of the town. Increase Mather tells us :" "This day, being
the Lord's Day, there was an alarum at Charlestown, Cambridge, &
other towns, by reason that sundry of the enemy were seen at
Billerica, and (it seemeth) had shot a man there." A letter from
John Cotton is also quoted, saying, "the Indians beset Billerica
round about, the inhabitants being at meeting."
Read Mather's doubtful statement about " a young man murdered
there," in the light of Hubbard's record that Joseph Abbot was killed
at Andover the day previous, and it becomes clearly probable that
10 History, (Reprint of 1862,) p. 133.
120 HISTORY OF BILLEPJCA.
the trouble and bitterness of that anxious daj' were not intensified by
the actual death of any one here. This probability is strengthened
by the fact that Danforth, who records carefully by name all the
victims of the massacres in 1692 and 1695, makes no such record
at this time, as he sui'ely would not have omitted to do, if one of
the sons of Billerica had then fallen, in circumstances so sad and
Another glimpse of this Sabbath alarm is preserved in the
following curious paper. John Seers, constable of "Wooburne,"
petitions the Court, 1676, May 10, complaining of John Wiman,
"for resisting his impressment of a horse, when some time last
April, Capt. J"". Cottier marched through oburn with several soldiers
to go to bilerekye against the Indians, he having a warrant from our
honred. ma3-gor Willard, late deseased, to m^'selfe & the constable
at bilerekye, to impress horses or anything. * * because of the
stir at bilerekye, about 20 of the best of our horses & men were
gone up to help them, & horses were veiy scare." He goes on to
recite the hard words and resistance of Wyman, and prays "for
such action as will prevent such abuse, * * that soe I & other
constables may not goe in fear of our lives, when we are upon the
execution of our ofess," etc.
Plainly the dsij when twenty troopers from Woburn came to the
rescue of Billerica was one of serious alarm and agitation here. But
the days of this dark trial were approaching an end, and, August 1,
it was ordered, "that the gai'ison soldiers of Billerica, Chelmsford,
& Groton be dismissed," unless those towns should within six days
make the necessity of their continuance appear to the Council.
Philip was killed on the 12th of August, and peace ensued, except
on the eastern border, where the war dragged on another season.
But its alarms no longer thrilled the homes of Billerica. Families
could return to their houses and resume their accustomed duties.
Farmers could plant and reap without expecting to hear a warwhoop ;
and Mr. Whiting could write his sermons undisturbed by a sentinel's
tread, and preach without having guns stacked at the church.
Groton was less fortunate, in its greater suffering, and it was not till
the spring of 1678 that its exiled inhabitants were able to reoccupy
their deserted homes.
Of the condition in which the town was left at the close of
the war, we have fortunately a description in the language of the
THE INDIANS AND WAMESIT. 121
selectmen, whose petition to the General Court, "167G, 8™, 12,"
is preserved : — "
'^ Whereas, by an order of this Hon^d Court, May the last, for the
levying of 10 single country rates, it was ordered that the frontier towns,
which wei-e considerably Aveakened in persons or estates by reason of y
enemie, should represent their condition to this Court.
"•These are humbly to entreat this Hon'^'^ Court to consider the condition
of our towne, being weakened both in psons & estates by reason of the
distress of the war. by reason of some persons removing from us the last
winter & spring into other inland towns, & have paid their last 10 rates in
those places to which they went ; others put off their cattell or took them
to other towns, (for fear of losing them here by ye enemie.) & so are
lyable to pay rates where they are, or else have spent great part of them in
billetting gamson souldiers.
''Six persons & their families removed out of town & paid elsewhere,
so that. Whereas, our single country rate in Aug.. 1675, was 14. 07. 09;
when we took an exact list of all, according as the law directs, y^ whole
was but 11, 10, 3. We humbly intreat this Hon^d Court to give order to the
country treasurer to abate us such a proportion as our rate falls short of
what it was, that so our inhabitants may not be burthened beyond the true
intent of y^ law, especially considering that part of that estate that paid
in our town the last year, do pay these 10 rates in other towns, & we
nevertheless pay o^ full rate, according to law. Also, we humbly intreat
this Hon'"'^ Court to consider o'^ poor towne in reference to the great charge
we have been at in keeping garrison soulders for the defense of towne &
country, both the last j^ear & this sumer, which in all does amount to as
much as 12 men's billet 35 weeks, or 120 weeks of one man, the bm-den of
the same lying upon some few men, others there not capable to do it ; also
many of our inhabitants are grown very low, several persons at this time
having no bread corne; yet considerable families to provide for; & in
genei-al we all drew very heavily, not knowing how to pay our dues &
maintain our families.
'"We humbly intreat this Hon""*! Court to consider our low condition &
abate us in our after rates, as in your wisdom you shall see meet; so shall
you further oblige your
The Selectmen of Billerica.''''
Chelmsford and other towns presented similar appeals for relief,
and were answered favorably ; but for some reason which does not
" Massachusetts Archives. Vol. LXIX, f>9.
122 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
appear, answer to Billerica was not made until 1677, October, and
after a second petition had come from the selectmen. Then the
Town Record says :^^ "the Court ordering that those families which
did depart y* towne should pay their ten rates to us, notwithstanding
their payment of them elsewhere." Seven names follow of the
persons concerned: "John & Robert Blood, Mih : Bacon, Tim:
Brooks, Josia Bracket, J"° Poulter, & Jos : Foster" ; and the sum
which the constables are ordered to collect was thirty-one pounds,
"and to add or abate for transportation."
In June, 1677, an expedition, numbering two hundred Indians
from Natick and forty English soldiers, was sent, under Captain
Benjamin Swett, of Hampton, to the Kennebec, where the Indians
were reported to have six forts well furnished. It ended in disaster ;
and one Billerica soldier who was involved has left a record of it in
his petition for relief. ^^ Thomas Button states that he "was imprest
from Billerica and sent to the eastward." He was in "that fatal
scirmish in which Capt. Swett, the worthy commander, was slain,
and almost all his offisirs, with about 50 men and 21 more wounded."
Button was one of the wounded ; "shot through the side of my belt
& through the left knee, «&; fell down not able to help" himself. He
recites a long story and asks, with apparent justice, for relief from
the General Court.
" See also Records of Massachusetts. Vol. V, p. 173.
IS Massachusetts Archives. Vol. LXIX, 209.
INDIAN AND MILITARY HISTORY.
From the close of Philip's War, in 1676, a period of peace with
the Indians ensued for fifteen years. These j^ears were not, however,
free from anxiety and frequent alarms. The most interesting incident
in the Indian history of Billerica during this period was the procuring
of an Indian Deed. It is found in the Middlesex Records, Vol. IX,
p. 274, and, omitting much legal phraseology, affirms, "that Sarah
Indian, daughter of John Tahattawan, John Thomas and his wife
Robert, John Nomphow and his mother Bess, all of Weymesitt, and
Thomas Waban and his mother, the relict of old Waban, of Natick,
deceased ; For and in consideration of the full and just sume of 13
pounds sterling, silver. New England coj^ned, to them well and truly
payd, by Jonathan Danforth, of Billerica, for the use of said town
of Billerica ; i. e. to Sarah aforesaid, 5 p., to John Thomas and his
wife, 50 shillings, to John Nomphow and his mother, 3 p., to Thomas
Waban and his mother, fift}- shillings, etc.. Have granted * * all
and all manner of Indian right and claim to that whole parcel of
land, granted b}^ the General Court of this Colony, to be called by
the name of Billerica, lying on both sides of the Shawshin river, and
on both sides of Concord river, bounded by Merrimac river North,
Andover North east, Woburn South, and Concord West, to have and
to hold * * without the lawful claim of any Indian whatsoever."
The date of this deed is, 5 June, 1685. Whether the motive
which led to the acquisition of an Indian title at this late day was
purely benevolent may be doubted. A conflict of claims as to the
bounds of the town on the west side of Concord River had arisen.
The bounds of the grant from the General Court were obscure, and,
in 1684, the Bloods had obtained an Indian deed to quite a large
tract, claimed also by Billerica, in the vicinity of the present Carlisle
124 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
Village. The line described in the deed to Blood was "to begin at