Francis Nims Thompson.

The story of Godfrey Nims, as read to the Nims family association, at Deerfield, Massachusetts, on August 13, 1914 (Volume 1) online

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The Story of Godfrey Nims



OF



OLD DEERFIELD.



i-Jl



"^ " The Story of Godfrey Nims,"



as read to



The Nims Family Association, >^



at



Deerfield, Massachusetts,



on



August 13, 1914,



by



Francis Nims Tliompson. "^



r



'Y yf






Copyright, 1914

/
Francis Nims Thompson '



A/i Rights Reserved



^



AUG 14 1914



GODFREY NIMS.



Often has Old Deerfield been the shrine toward which a band
of pilgrims has been drawn by some common interest; but never
before has the family of Godfrey Nims gathered in this way on
his home lot to honor his memory.

Children of his children, we have come home to tread the
soil upon which fell the sweat, tears and blood of our fathers
and mothers in those early days of labor, suft'ering and savage
murder. Periods of calm there w^ere too, when the spinning-
wheels hummed in the primitive homes of this little village and
the scythes swung and swished in the golden fields out yonder,
and the settlers forgot for a time that the dark bordering for-
ests hid wild beasts formed as men but fierce as fiends.

Here, Godfrey Nims builded — and, after fire devoured it,
builded anew — his home, as pioneers have built and will build
while there shall remain a frontier; and he and those about
his hearth loved it as we love that for which we have planned
and worked. As our minds revive the personality of our com-
mon ancestor, that common blood which inseparably links us
should thrill in our veins. This Nims lot was, not so long ago,
the stage upon which was enacted one of those pioneer tragedies
too blood-curdling and awful to adequately picture in words: —
the naked Indians — painted demons — slaughtering children by
the lurid light of a flaring home, amid the din of savage yells
and the shrieks of terrified women and of children butchered
or burned.

"Not so long ago" — for I remember my grandfather Nims,
big in both brawn and brain, and all heart; his grandfather
was the Greenfield settler, and his grandfather was the head
of that suft'ering household. So recently did the Great Spirit
release the first waves of civilization to break on the eastern
shore of this broad land, and so recently did his red children,
wild denizens of the wilderness, seek to turn that irresistible
flood back from the land their fathers had possessed for un-
counted generations.



4

Long enough ago, however, were these events, to be veiled
m that mist of time which, half concealing, half revealing,
lures curiosity and charms imagination. The Honorable
George Sheldon, in our well-thumbed bible of local history,
says: — "A family tradition places Godfrey Nims here, as
third settler before 1671." "Real estate here was sold to
such men only as were approved by Dedham. " He "bought
home lot No. 35, in 1674, but I do not find him living here
until the Permanent Settlement." In "True Stories of New
England Captives" Miss C. Alice Baker says: — "The third
settler, Godfrey Nims, came from Northampton to Deerfield
m 1670, living there 'in a sort of house where he had dug a
hole or cellar in the side hill,' south of Colonel Wilson's. At
the allotment of the homesteads in 1671, he built a house, on
what lot is not known." Mr. Sheldon says that in 1704 Thank-
ful Nims and her husband were living on this Wilson lot "in
a sort of side-hill cave, w^hich was so covered with snow as to
escape the observation of the enemy" and that the Nims
houses burned in 1694 and 1704 each stood "on the site of the
present Nims house."

Of the time earlier than these dates we find another tra-
dition, pointing back to France, and a colonial public record
not inconsistent with the tradition: David Nims, junior, told
his grandson, the late Brigham Nims of Roxbury, that he had
been told by David, senior, a grandson of Godfrey, that God-
frey Nims was a Huguenot, came to America as a mere lad
and at first spelled his name Godefroi de Nismes, but changed
the spelling to suit the colonial way of pronouncing it.
Deacon Zadock Nims of Sullivan received and transmitted a
similar tradition as to the spelling.

A few miles north of the Mediterranean and west of the
Rhone lies the ancient city of Nimes, or Nismes. Now a place
of seventy or eighty thousand people, and the capital of the
department of Gard, it was the Roman Nemasus. Con-
quered by the Romans 121 years before Christ, it became one
of the chief provincial cities; was plundered by the Vandals
in 407, sufiPered from the West Goths and Saracens, and was
in 1258 united to France. Nimes suffered in the Huguenot
wars, and was in 1815 the scene of reactionary atrocities
against the Protestants. The oity still retains the coat of
arms used when it was a Roman province: This represents a
palm tree, to which a crocodile is chained, and bears the ab-



breviation Col. Nem. for its old name Colonia Nemasus. Here
are notable Roman anticjuities, including an amphitheatre
which, although one of the oldest buildings in the world, is
still used in the good old barbaric way. Here, in 1787, was
born Guizot, the distinguished French historian and states-
man ; and here in Nimes, if we may credit tradition, was born,
sometime about 1650, Godfrey, whom the English in New Eng-
land called Nims.

What of the public record? Well, the records tells very
solemnly, but graphically, of a boy, much out of humor with
life in an English colony, conspiring with two other young
scamps to run away to the French; and, when all the good
folk had gone to meeting, 'ransacking about the house' to find
the wdierew^ithal to furnish the expedition. An Indian in it,
too! Can you beat that"? Boy all over; and French boy
at that. If he wasn't Godefroi de Nismes, where did he come
from and where were all the other Nimses?

So much for speculation and for sympathy with the boy:
Now^ here are the very cold facts, and no sympathy at all: —
(The first book of Hampshire probate records, at pages 88 and
91.)

"Att the County Courte holden Att Springfield Sept:
24: 1667: For holding this Courte there were Present Capt
John Pynchon One of ye Honnoble Assists of this CoUony:
Also Mr. Henry Clarke Leiut Willm Clarke Leiut Sam '11 Smith
And Eli Holyoke Recorder Associates and ye Jury w^ere" etc.
J. ***********

"James Bennet, Godfrey Nims & Benoni Stebbins, young
lads of Northampton being by Northampton Comissionrs bound
ouer to this Corte to answer for diverse crimes & misdemeanrs
comitted by them, were brought to this Corte by ye Constable
of yt Towne wch 3 lads are accused l\y Robert Bartlett for that
they gott into his house two Sabbatli dayes when all the family
were at the Pulilike INleeting: On ye first of wch tymes, they
vizt. Nims & Stel)bins did ransack about the house & tooke
away out of diverse places of the house vist. 24 shillings in
silver & 7s in Wampum wth the intention to run away to the
ffrench: Al which is l)y them confessed, w^ch wickednesse of
theires hath also been accompanyd with frequent lying to ex-
cuse & justify themselves, especially on Nims his pt, who it



secmes hath been a ringleader in their vilainys: ffor all wch
their crimes and misdemeanors this Corte doth Judge yt the
said 3 lads shalbe well whipt on their naked bodys vizt. Nims
& Bennet wth 15 lashes apeece & Benoni Stebbins with 11
lashes. And the said Nims & Stebbins are to pay Robert
Bartlett the summe of 41 being accounted treble according to
law, for what goods he hath lost by their meanes. Also those
psons that reed > any money of any of the said lads, are to
re!


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Online LibraryFrancis Nims ThompsonThe story of Godfrey Nims, as read to the Nims family association, at Deerfield, Massachusetts, on August 13, 1914 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 2)