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The Snow-Shoe Scouts. By George Waldo Browne. Read
February 12, 1908.

It is my purpose this evening to speak briefly of tha
band of men whose names have become enrolled on the h
pages of early New England as "The Snow-Shoe Scouts
men who were foremost among the pioneers in breakin
wilderness of the Merrimack Valley; the men whose log 1
were the homes of the first actual settlers north of this cit
men whose clearings were the windows in the primeval
to first let in the sunlight of these northern skies upoi
paradise of the red men; the men whose rough-walled m
houses, reared on the pine-templed hills, were the first to d
to the coming generations that their ancestors were a Goc
ing people.

Sitting here in the enjoyment of the pleasures and
leges of a civilized life, coming from the homes of a Ch
community, and protected by the laws of a free governm
is not easy to comprehend that within the span of twc
that scene was the heart of an unpeopled wildwood; whe
lofty pine lifted high its sombre plumes in defiance of the v
man's axe; where the sedgy vine bound in its relentless
the oaken freeman of the forest; where the Merrimack r
race unvexed from mountain to the sea ; where by da
hungry bear crept forth from its lonely lair, and by nig
stealthy panther prowled upon the footsteps of its prey; ^
from sun to sun, the timid deer followed its flight, unfeari;
shadow of a human being; when and where, unchalleng
the rumble of factory wheels or the thunder of street
the silence of the solitude was broken only by the myriad
of nature — the murmur of running waters, the soughing
winds, the trill of the forest songster, the plaint of a I
fox, the laughter of the loon — blending in harmonious C(
the softer notes drowned at intervals by the harsh trem
some wandering wolf.



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296 LOWELL HISTORICAL SOCIETY

If two hundred years ago only an occasional red man,
like a shadow of departed greatness, lingered around these old
familiar scenes, the Merrimack valley had been in truth the
great battle ground of the aboriginal races. Here, the natural
heir of Nature's realm, the lordly Penacook, had threaded the
dim aisles of its wild arcades, his snowy canoe had vied with
the foam upon its broken waters, his war-cry had awakened the
fastnesses of its far-reaching forests, his council fires starred the
Plutonian night of the barbaric wilderness long ere the white
sails of Columbus' caravels had dotted the distant main ; long ere
the ravens of the Norsemen had flaunted their dark wings on
the sedgy shores of Old Vineland ; ay, long ere the most learned
cosmographer of the Old World had dreamed of a land and
a people beyond the untraversed seas. Here, was sounded
up and down the country from the mysterious West, the wild
alarum of battle from their ancient and deadly enemies, the
Romans of America, the Mohawks. Here, from the Brave
Lands of the Penacook to the murmuring waters of Pawtucket,
from the pulseless breast of Uncannoonuc to the crag-castles of
Old Pawtuckaway, the invincible Abenakis bore aloft the tocsin
of war. Here wound the war-trails of nations that fought, bled,
and perished in the same cause which has wrung tears from the
old earth since it was young. This was in truth the Thessaly
of Olden New England.

Out from the misty background of Tradition rise the
stalwart figures of that heroic period. Among them the stately
Kenewa appears mustering his dusky legion, to lead it forth to
anticipated conquest only to be swallowed up by the hungr>'
wilderness as was Varus and his army in the old Germanic
forest. Then the valiant Winnemet rallied around him upon
the Brave Lands his gallant followers, in his desperate endeavor
to stem the tide of that disastrous Waterloo, falling at last
encircled by the fragments of his "old guards'* of the Penacooks.



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THE SNOW SHOE SCOUTS 297

Now the magnanimous Passaconnaway, reading in the signs
of the times, the destiny in store for his people, taught them
it was better to condone the wrongs done by a stronger race
than to combat a hopeless fate, leaving them with his parting
words impressed upon their minds, while he launched his frail
boat upon the placid waters of Massabesic, to the red men "the
eyes of the sky," to vanish from sight and story. What a
picturesque sight was presented by the tall, erect figure of the
aged sachem standing upright in the center of his fragile craft
while it was slowly wafted by the rippling water from the pine-
fronded shore, away from the landscape which swiftly dis-
appeared before the incoming of the white man, but whose
g-oing out was even slower than the disappearance of the race
of which this single chieftain was a noble representative ! Here,
the curtain fallen on the closing scene of pagan warfare;
Wannalancet, the last of the Penacook great sachems, called
about him his few scattered followers to lead them to that
rendezvous under French protection upon the St. Francis, to
return himself a few years later that his ashes might mingle
with the dust of his fathers. Here, sacrificing every hope and
ambition for his people, brave Merruwacomet, better known as
Joe English, fought and fell in the interest of an alien people,
an unhonored hero. Here, too, in the gloaming of that long
day came the lonely Christo to consecrate with the tears of a
warrior the graves of his sires, the ashes of his race. No mean
knights of chivalry these, every hero of them worthy to stand
shoulder to shoulder with the best of the Old World champions.
Of their rights or* wrongs I have little to say at this time,
but am free to confess that I have no patience with those who
declare they were hopeless savages, beyond the light of civiliza-
tion. I would remind that same judge that it was not so many
generations ago that his own ancestors lurked sullenly in caverns
of the earth and came forth clad in the skins of wild beasts.



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298 LOWELL HISTORICAL SOCIETY

It is related by one of the pioneers that while abroad one
night upon the river-bank, he discovered an Indian approaching^
upon his hands and knees. A friendly motion of the dusky scout's
hand caused the white man to await his approach. Then with
his fingers upon his lips to enjoin silence, he whispered: "Me
watch to see the deer kneel."

Then it occurred to the white man that it was Christmas,
and he realized that in the simplicity of his belief the red man was
expecting at that sacred hour to see the deer come forth from
the forest to fall upon their knees in silent adoration of the Great
Spirit. Truly that race cannot be lost to Omnipotent justice
which, in its honesty of faith, looks through Nature's eyes up
to God.

The condition between the red man and his white ccwn-
petitor reminds us of the story of the "talking turkey." A white
man and an Indian, hunting together, had agreed to divide
equally the spoils of their hunt which resulted simply in their
getting a good fat turkey and a worthless crow. In this dilemma
the white man proposed that the divide even by saying:

"I'll take the turkey, and you can take the crow, or you
can take the crow and I will take the turkey."

"Ugh!" exclaimed the red man, "you no talk turkey to
Indian at all."

The situation of the entire colonists in America at that
particular period was exceedingly critical. The English held
only a chain of settlements along the New England coasts here
and there fringing the banks of one of its many rivers; the
Dutch, a cluster of hamlets in New Netherlands, now New York ;
and the English another colony at Jamestown, Virginia. The
French meanwhile had obtained possession, in a large sense
speculative, of the entire interior stretching from Acadie on the
east, up the valley of the St. Lawrence past Tadousac, the
trading station at the mouth of the Saguenay, Quebec upon its
rock-throne, Montreal, on the site of the ancient Huron capital.



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THE SNOW SHOE SCOUTS 299

the rich country about the Great Lakes, and the fertile basins
running down to the Gulf of Mexico. This crescent-shaped
line of settlements, bounded on the north by the unexplored
wilderness, was maintained by a chain of fortresses, guarded
by a paid soldiery, encouraged by the prayers of zealous
missionaries, and supported by rich traders who desired to be-
come yet richer. In all this vast region there were only two
homes within sight and sound of the rock of Quebec.

The English held their limited domain by actual home-
building, clearing the wilderness and cultivating the soil wherever
they dared to venture, and the natural resources lured them
hence. They stubbornly defended their homes to their utmost.
The first was a military power, the latter a civil body; the one
constantly held aloft the sword, accompanied by the well-
thumbed prayer-book, the other wielded the axe, resorting to
the firearm when driven to do so, always laying this aside as
soon as the war-cry died down.

It can be readily understood that the Indians, situated in
the broad belt of debatable country between these rival powers
almost constantly at each others* throats, were like grains of
com between two mill wheels, sure to be crushed by one or the
other. None realized this fact better than they in their ignorance
and weakness, and this very fact served to make them suspicious
and revengeful. It was impossible for them to remain neutral,
and it was natural that they should be won over by the French
through their zealous priests and the dazzling glamor of their
armed forces. To the simple warrior of the wilderness the
soldiers of New France were dashing, courageous gallants, the
flashing of whose rapiers was the lightning and the roar of
whose firearms was the thunder of battle. When they saw
these gaily-bedecked sons of war, whom they knew to be their
superiors, lie down beside them in the wallow, and adopt with
apparent cheerfulness their methods of living, they were easily
induce'd to become their allies. In the words of Charlevoix:



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300 LOWELL HISTORICAL SOCIETY

**The savages did not become Frenchmen ; the Frenchmen be-
came savages." But with all their shrewdness the French did
not adopt the red man's tactics of warfare.

On the other hand, while the English scorned affiliation
with the Indians, they did not hesitate to imitate them in their
systems of border strife. In this respect they gained a decided
advantage over the French from the days of Captain Tyng and
his "snow-shoe scouts" to the close of the cruel drama under
Rogers and his Rangers. Compared with the cunning artifices
and hand-to-hand encounters of the veterans of those war-trails,
the personal prowess and valor of the mailed warriors of the
age of chivalry in European struggles become commonplace
combats. It is true the pomp of bannered columns, the eclat of
heraldry, the shimmer of burnished armor were wanting, but
in their place the stem, determined countenances of sun-browned
and weather-beaten men ; instead of the clangor of clumsy arms
rang the sharp twang of the bow, and the track of the hurtling
dart was sped by the feathered arrow; instead of the thunder
of hoofs was the stillness of foot-soldiers shod with silence.

Where, in the one case, was a Saviour's grave to rescue
from the infidels, on the other were human lives — mothers,
daughters, sons and sweethearts, over whose fates hung a
mystery and horror that passed the comprehension of man.
Everywhere the frontier had been ravaged by an enemy that
neither compassed the range of suffering nor knew the redeem-
ing grace of compassion. Not alone were young men fired with
the zeal of defense and rescue in those unwritten crusades, but
old men became knight-errants on those long, tedious, perilous
marches through the wilderness of debatable country lying be-
tween the blockhouses of the English and the strongholds of
the French — a pathless belt of forest three hundred miles in
width. These arduous marches had to be performed, not upon
the backs of eager war-horses, but upon foot, the shadowy



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THE SNOW SHOE SCOUTS 3OI

soldiery threading in silence lonely ravines, scaling broken foot-
hills, crawing over morasses, creeping under matted thickets
reeking with the sweat of centuries, the only relfef an occasional
canoe voyage across some sheet of water. More frequently
than in summer these journeys were made in the dead of winter,
when the wilderness was snow-clogged, and the water-ways
locked with the key of Nature. Resorting to the use of snow-
shoes, the intrepid scouts wound their weary way over huge
snow-banks, at times wading knee-deep in some turgid stream
whose silvery covering had proved too thin to bear their weight ;
anon dragging their loads over the icy surface of an inland sheet
of water ; at nightfall stopping to dig a hole in the snow for the
site of their camping-place, fearing to build a fire to thaw their
benumbed limbs lest some argus-eyed enemy, who was to be
expected at all times lurking in ambush, should spring upon
them; appeasing their hunger with bits of dried meat; lying
down on a layer of fir-boughs for their couch, and a bedraggled
blanket or frozen skin for a covering, — even in sleep the
mittened hand holding upon the stock of the trusty firearm,
and the trained ear alert to catch the first intimation of danger.
Wet, tired, stiffened by the day's march, after a night's unrest,
making a breakfast without a fire, these "snow-shoe scouts"
were up and moving again though the winter wind cut
like a two-edged sword, and the sleet pelted like shotted lead.
And ever the uncertainty of their quest, should they succeed
in reaching the end of their pathless trail, only an inkling of
whose sufferings can be conveyed by the tongue.

The treaty of Ryswick, September 20, 1697, closed
Frontenac's long series of aggressive campaigns on the part of
New France against New England, and a period of com-
parative peace between the settlers of these provinces succeeded.
The pride and the power of the Five Nations, always arrayed
against the French since the days of Champlain, had been
broken and humbled; their numerous acres of maize been



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302 LOWELL HISTORICAL SOCIETY

destroyed with ruthless hands, their great apple orchards ruined,
their large tracts of ripening melons devastated, and their
towns ravaged and given over to the torch of the despoiler.
The Abenakis, the constant allies of the French, were for the
time glutted of their vengeance and their appetite for blood
sated.

But the respite was not overlong. Soon the war-torch
was rekindled and the war-whoops of the Eastern Amerinds
again awoke the solitude of northern New England. This was
the coming of the twilight to the darkest night in the histor}^ of
New England warfare. England and France were again drawn
into an armed contest in that century and more of conflict
which marks that era of European history. This time Spain
was a part of the strife, largely the bone of contention, and
European historians have styled this "The War of the Spanish
Succession." In America it was called "Queen Anne's War,"
as that queen was the ruler of Great Britain, and, as usual, the
trouble in the old world was largely fought out in the new, and
its terrible warfare lasted for nearly ten years.

Hitherto the red men had carried on their predator)^
struggles mainly through their own leadership and arms. Now
they were not only armed but trained and advised by the
masters of French military tactics unceasingly to strike their
subtle yet terrific blows. Thus all the cruel cunning of the wild
savage was united to the merciless sagacity and ingenuity of
the then foremost military power in the world. Urged on by
this crafty ally, keeping constantly before his eyes the well-
thumbed prayer-book, while he held over his head the sword,
the Amerinds, in scouting parties numbering from half a dozen
to a score or more, raided every section of the wide belt of
wilderness lying between the more thickly settled quarters of
the English on the south and the French fortresses on the north.
The pioneers of Maine and New Hampshire were consequently
the greatest sufferers. According to the best information we



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THE SNOW SHOE SCOUTS 3O3

have, and which is all too meagre, more than two hundred
men, women and children were killed or taken into a captivity
worse to contemplate than even death at the hands of a barbaric
foe. The torch was applied to cabin after cabin home, until
it began to look as if the English settlers were doomed. By
the swiftness and frequency of their attacks upon the scattered
homes of the pioneers it seemed as if the dusky enemies were
omnipresent hanging "like lightning upon the edge of a cloud,"
about those lonely cabins fringing the wilderness.

In their hapless plight the people turned to the govern-
ment for assistance. The French were paying a bounty for
scalps of the English, and the courts of Massachusetts, in order
to encourage the pioneers of their domains, offered a bounty of
fifty pounds for every Indian scalp that should be secured.
This encouragement, in addition to the natural desire to re-
taliate for the inhuman deeds committed against them, caused
the whites to speedily organize several scouting parties along
the lower Merrimack valley for the purpose of driving back
the enemy and striking a blow in self-defence. About twenty
of these parties were organized, to see more or less of service,
but the first and most conspicuous of them was that gallant
band of which I am to speak, "Tyng's Snow-Shoe Scouts."

The depredations of the Amerinds occurred mostly in the
summer. It was not only easier for them to move about like
so many shadows under the forest shade, but the white settlers
were then occupied with their various duties about their new
homes, and less prepared to combat them. Upon the other
hand, the English made nearly all their retaliatory expeditions
against their wily foes during the winter seasons. If the
forests were snow-clogged then, the undergrowth was over-
laden with its heavy mantle, the streams and ponds bridged
with silver planking, and the red men, now segregated in groups,
more readily found than in the summer when they were scattered.
The whites, too, had more leisure in which to pursue this



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304 LOWELL HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Stubborn warfare. The addition of snow-shoes, upon which the
scouts could move with rapidity and ease where in the summer
they could penetrate only with difficulty, assured the success of
these wintry raids.

It is said that it was a woman's forethought which sug-
gested the snow-shoes, but be that as it may the idea found
favor, and no sooner had Capt William T3mg petitioned the
Massachusetts General Court for the privilege of organizing a
band of scouts than busy hands began to get in readiness a
supply of these useful objects. Belonging to one of the first
families of old Dunstable,* that had been prominent in the pre-
vious Indian wars, one of the selectmen of that town, and a
man of undoubted bravery and sagacity, the leader found no
difficulty in getting men to enlist under him. Within a week
forty-four had signified their willingness — ^ay, eagerness — to
accompany Captain Tyng upon his arduous expedition. Their
names and residences are as follows:

John Shepley, Chelmsford, Mass., son of John, born in
1677; died September 14, 1736. His family had suffered at the
hands of the Indians, his father, mother, two brothers and a
sister having been killed by them while he was taken a captive
and carried to Canada, where he lived among them for nearly
four years. Judge Ether Shepley of the Supreme Court of
Maine and a United States Senator, was among his descendants.

Nathaniel Woods, Groton, son of Samuel and Alice
(Rushton) Woods; born March 25, 1668; died June 20, 1738.
Gen. Henry Woods of Pepperell was a grandson.

Thomas Lund, Dunstable, son of Thomas, bom September
9, 1682; killed by the Indians at Naticook, September 5, 1724.



♦The original township of Dunstable contained several of the present
towns of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. - £</t7or.



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THE SNOW SHOE SCOUTS 305

Joseph Perham, Groton; son of John and Lydia (Shepley)
Perham; born in Chelmsford December 22, 1669.

John Spalding, Jr., Chelmsford, son of John and Hannah
(Hale) Spalding; bom February 15, 1659; died about 1710 in
Plainfield, Ct

William Longley, Groton, son of John and Hannah Long-
ley; bom March 12, 1669.

Joseph Lakin, Groton, son of Ensign John and Mary
Lakin; died April i, 1747.

Jonathan Page, Groton, son of John and Faith (Dunster)
Page; bom in Watertown June 24, 1677; died October 10, 175 1.
He was the ancestor of Gov. John Page of New Hampshire.

John Hunt, Billerica, son of Samuel and Ruth (Todd)
Hunt; bom in 1680; died January 22, 1740-41.

Peter Talbird (now Talbot), Chelmsford. Ancestry un-
known. Left a son George, who acquired his rights in the
future benefits of the expedition.

Benony Perham, Chelmsford. Date of birth not found;
died in 1723. Left son Samuel to inherit his interests.

Josiah Richardson, Chelmsford, son of Capt. Josiah and
Remembrance (Underwood) Richardson; born May 18, 1665;
died October 17, 1711.

James Blanchard, Groton, son of John and Hannah
Blanchard; date of birth not ascertained; died in Febmary
1704, following the expedition, from a sickness resulting from
the hardships and exposures of the trip. He was clerk of Groton
at the time.

John Richardson, Chelmsford, brother of Josiah, bom in
Chelmsford Febmary 14, 1669-70; died September 13, 1746.



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306 LOWELL HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Samuel Chamberlain, Chelmsford, son of Thomas and
Sarah (Proctor) Chamberlain; born January ii, 1679; died
April 12, 1767.

Paul Fletcher, Chelmsford, son of Joshua and Gustie
(Jewell) Fletcher; bom about 1670 and alive in 1740.

Joseph Paricer, Groton, son of Capt. Joseph and Margaret
Parker; bom March 30, 1653; died in 1725. He was active
throughout his life in Indian warfare.

Joseph Blanchard, Dunstable, son of Deacon John and
Hannah Blanchard; bom in 1669; died in 1727. His son Joseph
Blanchard was a colonel in the French and Indian war; was a
member of the Royal Council of New Hampshire; made the
survey for the first map of this state, which was considered of
great value. He was appointed Council of the state by man-
damus of the Crown, and succeeded Chief Justice Jaffrey as a
Judge of the Superior Court. He was prominent as a Pro-
prietor's Qerk and active in the surveys of the early townships
in southern New Hampshire.

William Whitney, Groton, son of Joshua and Abigail
(Tarbell) Whitney; bom Febmary 26, 1677-78; died in Plain-
field, Conn., in 1754.

Joseph Butterfield, Dunstable; son of Joseph and Lydia
(Ballard) Butterfield; bom June 6, 1680; died in Tyngsborough
in 1757. His daughter Deborah married Col. Samuel Moor of
Old Londonderry.

Ebeneezer Spalding, Chelmsford, Son of Lieut. Edward
and Margaret (Barret) Spalding; born January 13, 1683; died
in Nottingham West, now Hudson.

Nathaniel Blood, Groton, son of Nathaniel and Anne
(Parker) Blood; born January 16, 1679. His son William died
in the service of the French and Indian war.



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THE SNOW SHOE SCOUTS 307

Nathaniel Butterfield, Chelmsford, son of Nathaniel and
Deborah (Underwood) Butterfield; born in 1677 and died in
1749.

Jonathan Hill, Billerica, son of Jonathan and Mary
(Brackett) Hill; born August 21, 1669; died December 15, 1743.

Eleazer Parker, Groton, son of James and Elizabeth
(Long) Parker; bom November 9, 1660; died at Norridgewock
in the winter of 1705, while accompanying Captain William
Tyng upon an expedition the following winter into the wild
white woods of Maine.

Thomas Tarbel, Groton, son of Thomas and Anna
(Longley) Tarbel; bom July 6, 1667; died January 24, 1717.
His son Thomas became prominent among the early inhabitants
of Groton.

Henry Farwell, son of Henry and Mary Farwell, was
born in Chelmsford in 1665. His son Oliver, was one of the
victims of the ambush by the Indians at Naticook, September 5,
1724, and another son, Josiah, was a lieutenant under Lovewell
in his memorable campaign, being one of those killed in the
fight with the Sokoki, May 8, 1725.

Samuel Woods, Groton, son of Samuel and Alice (Rush-
ton) Woods; born in Cambridge January 3, 1660; died in 1712.

Stephen Peirce, or Pierce, Chelnjsford, son of Stephen
and Tabitha (Parker) Pierce, was born in 1768; died September



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