Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott) Green.

An historical sketch of Groton, Massachusetts. 1655-1890 online

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the outlying settlements were exposed to new dangers.
The inhabitants of this town took such precautions
as seemed needful, and trusted in Providence for the
rest. They were just beginning to prepare for the
workof anothe?seasl)n, when a small band of prowl-
ing Indians alarmed the town by pillaging eight or
nine houses and driving off some cattle. This oc-
curred on March 2, 1676, and was a sufficient warn-
ing, probably, to send the inhabitants to the garrison-
houses, whither they were wont to flee in time of
danger. These places of refuge w^ere usually houses
surrounded by a strong wall of stone or timber, built
up as high as the eaves, with a gateway, and port-
holes for the use of musketry.

In Groton there were five such garrison-houses,
and under their protection many a sleepless, anxious
night was passed by the inmates. Four of these
houses were very near each other, and the fifth was
nearly a mile away. The sites of some of them are
well known. One was Mr. Willard's house, which
stood near the High School ; another was Captain
Parker's house, which stood just north of the Town
Hall ; and a third was John Nutting's house, on the
other side of James's Brook. The fourth was proba-


bly north of John Nutting's, but perhaps south of
Mr. Willard's. There is a tradition that one stood
near the house formerly owned and occupied by the
late Eber Woods, which would make the fifth
garrison-house " near a mile distant from the rest."
Richard Sawtell, the first town-clerk, was living on
this site at that time, and his house would have been
a convenient rallying-point for his neighbors. With-
out doubt he was the Richard Sawtell who served in
Major Appleton's company during Philip's War.

It is recorded in the inventory of his estate, on file
in the Middlesex Probate Office at East Cambridge,
that Timothy Cooper, of Groton, was " Sleine by the
Indeins the Second day of march, 1675-6." Cooper
was an Englishman by birth, and lived, probably,
somewhere between the Baptist meeting-house and
the beginning of Farmers' Row. It is not known that
there was other loss of life at this time, but the affair
was serious enough to alarm the inhabitants. They
sought refuge immediately in the garrison-houses, as
the Indians were lurking in the vicinity. On March
9th the savages again threatened the beleaguered
town, and by a cunningly contrived ambush, man-
aged to entrap four men at work, of whom one was
killed and one captured, while the other two escaped.
This second assault must have produced great alarm
and consternation among the people of the town.
The final and main attack, however, came on the
13th, when the enemy appeared in full body, — thought
to be not less than four hundred in number. The
inhabitants at this time all were gathered into the
several garrisons for protection. During the previous


night the savages scattered throughout the neighbor-
hood^ and the first volley of shot on the morning of
the 13th was a signal for the general burning of the
town ; and in this conflagration the first meeting-
house of Groton was destroyed, together with about
forty dwelling-houses. This building, erected at the
cost of many and great privations, was the pride of
the inhabitants. With its thatched roof, it must have
burned quickly ; and in a very short time nothing was
left but a heap of smoking embers. Although it had
never been formally dedicated to religious worship,
it had been consecrated in spirit to the service of God
by the prayers of the minister and the devotion of t}\e
congregation. In this assault John Nutting's garri-
son was taken by stratagem. The men defending it
had been drawn out by two Indians, apparently
alone, when the savages in ambush arose and killed
one of the men, probably John Nutting himself, and
wounded three others. At the same time the garrison-
house, now defenceless, was attacked in the rear and
the palisades pulled down, allowing the enemy to
take possession. The women and children, compris-
ing those of five families, escaped to Captain Parker's
house, situated between James's Brook and the site of
the Town-House.

There is a family tradition, worthy of credence, that
John Nutting was killed while defending his' log-
house fort during Philip's War. His wife's name
appears a few months later in the Woburn town-
records as " Widow Nutting," which is confirmatory
of the tradition.

Several printed accounts of Philip's War appeared


very soon after it was ended, and these furnish all
that is known in regard to it. At that time there was
no special correspondent on the spot to get the news ;
and, as the means for communication were limited,
these narratives differ somewhat in the details, but
they agree substantially in their general statements.

With the exception of Hubbard's Narrative, the
contemporary accounts of this assault on the town
are all short ; and I give them in the words of the
writers, for what they are worth. The first is from
" A Brief History of the Warr with the Indians in
Newe England," by IncreaseMather, published in the
year 1676. This account, one of the earliest in print,
is as follows :

" March the 10th. Mischief was done, and several lives cut off by the
Indians this day, at Groton and at Sudbury. An humbling Providence,
inasmuch as many Churches were this day Fasting and Praying. (Page

^^ March lii. The Indians assaulted Grotow, and left but few houses
standing. So that this day also another Candlestick was removed out of
its place. One of the first houses that the enemy destroyed in this
place, was the House of God, h. e. which was built, and set apart for the
celebration of the jmblick "Worship of God.

" When they had done that, they scoifed and blasphemed, and came
to Mr. Willard (the worthy Pastor of the Church there) his house (which
being Fortified, they attempted not to destroy it) and tauntingly, said,
What icill you do for a house to pray in now tee have burnt your Meeting-
house f Thus hath the enemy Hone wickedly in the Sanctuary, they
have burnt up the Synagogues of God in the Land ; they have cast fire
into the Sanctuary ; they have cast down the dwelling place of his name
to the Ground. God, how long shall the Adversary approach f shall th«
Enemy Blaspheme thy Name for ever f why wtthdrawest thou thine hand, even
thy right hand f pluck it out of thy bosome.' ' (Page 24.)

Several accounts of the war appeared in London
in 1676, only a few months after the destruction of
this town. They were written in New England, and


sent '.o Old England, where they were at once
published in thin pamplets. The authors of them
are now unknown, but undoubtedly they gathered
their materials from hearsay. At that time Indian
affairs in New England atti acted a good deal of at-
tention in the mother country. One of these pamphlets
is entitled : " A True Account of the most Consider-
able Occurrences that have hapned in the Warre
between the English and the Indians in New Eng-
land, ... as it hath been communicated by
Letters to a Friend iu London." This narrative
says :

"On the 13th of 2Iarch, before our Forces could return towards our
Parts, the Indians sent a strong party, and assaulted the Town of €h-owton,
about forty miles North-west from Boston, and burn'd all the deserted
Houses ; the Garrison'd Houses, which were about ten, all escaped but
one, which they carryed, but not the English in it ; for there was but
one slain and two wounded." (Page 2.)

Another account, entitled : "A New and Further
Narration of the State of New England, being a con-
tinued account of the Bloudy Indian-war," gives the
following version :

" The 14th of 3Iarch the savage Enemy set upon a Considerable Town
called Gromjhton, and burnt Major Wilberds House first (who with his
family removed to Charls Town) and afterwards destroyed sixty Five
dwelling-houses more there, leaving but six houses standing in the
whole Town, which they likewise furiously attempted to set on fire ;
But being fortified with Arms and Men as Garisons, they with their
shot, killed several of the Enemy, and prevented so much of their
designe ; Nor do we hear that any person on our side was here either
slain or taken captive." (Page 4.)

A few pages further on it says : '•' Grantham and
Kashaivay all ruined but one house or two." (Page
14.) Few persons would recognize this town under
the disguise of Grantham.


A third one of these London pamphlets, bearing
the title of *' News from New England," says :

" The 1th of March following these bloody Indians march't to a con-
siderable Town called Croaton where they first set fire to Major Willards
house, and afterwards burnt 65 more, there being Seaventy two houses
at first so that there was left standing but six houses of the whole Town."
(Page 4.)

The details of the burning of the town are found
in " A Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in
New England," written by the Reverend William
Hubbard, and printed in the year 1677. It is the
fullest history of the events relating to Groton ap-
pearing near the time; and very likely many of the
facts were obtained from the Reverend Mr. Willard.
The account is not as clear as might be desired, and
contains some glaring discrepancies, but it is too long
to be quoted here.

The Indians were a cowardly set and never at-
tacked in open field. They never charged on works
in regular column, but depended rather on craft or
cunning to defeat their adversary. The red hell-
hounds — as they w^ere sometimes called by our pious
forefathers — were always ready to attack women and
children, but afraid to meet men. The main body of
the savages passed the night following the final at-
tack in "an adjacent valley," which cannot now be
easily identified, but some of them lodged in the gar-
rison-house, which they had taken ; and the next
morning, after firing two or three volleys at Captain
Parker's house, they departed. They carried off a
prisoner, — John Morse, the town clerk, — who was
ransomed a short time afterward. The following
reference to him in an undated letter, written bv the


Rev. Thomas Cobbet to the Rev. Increase Mather,
shows very nearly the time of his release :

"May ye 12th [167G] Good wife Diuens [Divoll] and Good wife Ketle
vpon ransom paid, came into concord. & vpon like ransom presently
[ajfter John Moss of Groton & lieftenant Carlors [Kerley's] Daughter of
Lancaster were set at liberty & 9 more w'out ransom." (Mather
Manuscripts in the Prince Collection, at the Boston Public Library,
L 76.)

The ransom for John Morse was paid by John
Hubbard, of Boston, and amounted to ''about five
pounds." Morse's petition to the Council, to have
Hubbard reimbursed, is found among the Massachu-
setts Archives (LXIX. 48).

Fortunately the loss of life or limb on the part of
the inhabitants of the town was small, and it is not
known that more than three persons were killed —
of whom one was Timothy Cooper, and another, with-
out doubt, John Nutting — and three wounded ; two
were made prisoners, of whom one escaped from the
savages and reached Lancaster, and the other, John
Morse, was ransomed.

The lot of these early settlers was indeed hard and
bitter ; they had seen their houses destroyed and their
cattle killed, leaving them nothing to live on. Their
alternative now was to abandon the plantation, which
they did with much sadness and sorrow. The settle-
ment was broken up, and the inhabitants scattered in
different directions among their friends and kindred.
In the spring of 1678, after an absence of two years,
they returned and established anew the little town on
the frontier.

In the autumn of 1879 the town of Groton erected
a monument to commemorate the site of the meeting-


house which was burned during this assault. It bears
the following inscription :

"near this spot


Built in 1666

and bttrnt by the indians

13 March 1676 "

The monument, in connection with two others
relating to the history of the town, was dedicated
with appropriate exercises in the Town Hall on Feb.
20, 1880, when an address was delivered by Dr. Sam-
uel A. Green, which was subsequently printed.

After Philip's War the colonists were at peace
with the Indians, but it was a suspicious kind of
peace. It required watching and a show of strength
to keep it; there was no good-will between the na-
tive race and the white intruders. The savages at
best made bad neighbors ; they were treacherous and
addicted to drink. The following entries in the town
records show that they were a shiftless and drunken
set :

" Jnneuary 31 1681 It [was] agred upon by the select men That the
ludanes shall be warned out of the Toune forth with and if the shall
ueiglect the warning and if any of them be taken drounke or in drinke
or with drinke Then these parsons ar to be sezed and brout be fours
the select men either by constable or by any other parson and be poun-
esed accordin as the law doth direct and the Informar shall be sattised
for his paines"

" March 28 1682 two Indian squaws being apprehended In drinke &
with drinke brought to y* select men one squaw Nehatchechin swaw
being drouncke was sentanced to receive & did i-eceive ten stripes the
other John Nasqunns sway was sentanced to pay S^ 4^ cash and loose
her two quart bottle and the Liquour in it awarded to Sargnt Laken who
seized them."

During this period the Indians began again to be


troublesome, and for the next fifteen or twenty-
years continued their occasional depredations by-
murdering the inhabitants, burning their houses,
destroying their crops or killing their cattle. Into
these garrison-houses the neighboring families gath-
ered at night, where they were guarded by armed
men who warned the inmates of any approach of

At times troops were stationed here by the Colonial
authorities for the protection of the town ; and the
orders and counter orders to the small garrison show
too well that danger was threatening. In the mean-
while King William's War was going on ; and the
enemy had material and sympathetic aid from the
French in Canada. The second attack on the town
came in the summer of 1694, and the accounts of it I
prefer to give in the words of contemporary waiters.
Sometimes there are discrepancies, but, in the main,
such narratives are trustworthy.

Theattack was made on Friday, July 27th, and Cot-
ton Mather, in his " Magnalia," thus refers to it :

" Nor did the Storm go over so : Some Drops of it fell upon the Town
of Gi-oton, a Town that laj% one would think, far enough off the Place
where was the last Scene of the Tragedy.

" On July 27. [1694,] about break of Day Groton felt some surprising
Blows from the Indian Hatchets. They began their Attacks at the
House of one Lieutenant Lalin, in the Out-skirts of the Town; but met
with a Eepulse there, and lost one of their Crew. Nevertheless, in
other Parts of that Plantation (when the good People had been so tired
out as to lay down their Military Watch) there were more than Twenty
Persons killed, and more than a Dozen carried away. Mr. Gershoni Ho'
hart, the Minister of the Place, with part of his Family, was Kemark-
ably preserved from falling into their Hands, when they made them-
selves the Masters of his House ; though they Took Two of his Chil-
dren, whereof the one was Killed, and the other some time after hap-
pily Rescued out of his Captivity." (Book YII. page 80.)


Governor Hutchinson, in his '' History of the
Province of Massachusetts Bay," i^ublished during
the following century, writes :

"Having crossed Merrimack, on the 27th of July [1694] they fell upon
Groton, about 40 miles from Boston. They were repulsed at Lakin's
garrison house, but fell upon other houses, where the people were off
their guard, and killed and carried away from the vicinity about forty
persons. Toxus's two nephews were killed by his side, and he had a
dozen bullets through his blanket, according to Charlevoix, who adds
that he carried the fort or garrison and then went to make spoil at the
gates of Boston ; in both which facts the French account is erroneous."
(11. 82.)

In the assault of July, 1694, the loss on the part of
the inhabitants was considerably greater than when
the town was destroyed in the attack of 1676. It is
said that the scalps of the unfortunate victims were
given to the Count de Frontenac, Governor of Can-
ada. A large majority, and perhaps all, of the pris-
oners taken at this time were children. The Indians
had learned that captives had a market vakie ; and
children, when carried off, could be more easily
guarded than adults. It was more profitable for the
savages to exchange prisoners for a ransom, or sell
them to the French, than it was to kill them. It is
now too late to give the names of all the sufferers,
but a few facts in regard to them may be gathered
from fragmentary sources. The families that suffered
the severest lived, for the most part, in the same gen-
eral neighborhood, which was near the site of the first
meeting-house. Lieut. AVilliam Lakin's house,
where the fight began, was situated in the vicinity of
Chicopee Row.

The following list of casualties, necessarily incom-


plete and in part conjectural, is given as an approxi-
mation to the lo?s sustained by the town :

Killed. Captured.

John Longley's family 7 3

Rev. Mr. Hobart's " 1 1

John Shepley's " 4? 1

JamesParker,Jr.'s " 2 3?

Alexander Rouse's " 2 1

Mr. Gershom Hobart, the minister, whose house was
captured in this assault, lived where the Baptist
meeting-house now stands. One of his boys was
killed, and another, Gershom, Jr., was carried off.
There is a tradition extant that a third child was con-
cealed under a tub in the cellar, and thus saved from
the fury of the savages. Judge Sewall writes in his
diary, under the date of May 1, 1695 :

"Mr. Hobarts son Gershom is well at a new Fort a days Journey
above Nerigavvag [Norridgewock], Masters name is Nassacombgwit, a
good Master, and Mistress. Master is chief Captain, now Bambazeen is

("Massachusetts Historical Collections," V. Fifth series, 403, 404.)

According to a letter written by the Keverend
John Cotton to his wife at Plymouth, and dated
" Election-night, Boston " (May 29, 1695), he was res-
cued from captivity during that month. The inscrip-
tion on the Shepley monument says that "the Indi-
ans massacred all the Sheples in Groton save a John
Sheple 16 years old who the[y] carried captive to
Canada and kept him 4 years, after which he returned
to Groton and from him descended all the Sheples
or Shepleys in this Vicinity ;'' but there is no record
to show how many there were in this family. Mr.
Butler, in his History (page 97), makes substantially


the same statement, but does not mention any num-
ber. In my list it is placed at five, which is conjec-
tural ; of this number probably four were slain.
Shepley Jived near where the Martin's Pond Road
starts off from the North Common. The knowledge
which the boy John obtained of their language and
customs, while a prisoner among the Indians, was of
much use to him in after-life. Tradition says that,
when buying furs and skins of them, he used to put
his foot in one scale of the balance instead of a pound
weight. In the summer of 1704, while he and thir-
teen other men were reaping in a field at Groton, they
were attacked by a party of about twenty Indians.
After much skirmishing Shepley and one of his com-
rades, Butterfield by name, succeeded in killing one
of the assailants, for which act they were each granted
four pounds by the Provincial authorities. He was
the direct ancestor of the late Honorable Ether
Shepley, of Portland, formerly chief justice of the
Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Maine,
and his son, the late Gen. George Foster Shep-
ley, formerly a justice of the Circuit Court
of the First Circuit of the United States.
John's petition to the General Court, asking
that an allowance be made for this service, and giv-
ing the particulars of the attack, is found among the
Massachusetts Archives (XXX, 496, 497) at the State-

Among the " Xams of thos Eemaining Still in
hands of the freuch at Canada," found in a document
dated October, 1695, are those of " Lidey Langly
gerl" and " Jn" Shiply boy." In this list the resi-


dences of both these children are incorrectly written,
Lydia's being given as Dover, New Hampshire, and
John's as Oyster River. They both belonged in this
town, and were taken at the assault of July 27, 1694.
The name of Thomas Drew appears in the same list
as of Groton, which is a mistake, as he was of Oyster
River. (Archives, XXXVIII. A 2.)

This expedition against Groton was planned in
part by the Indian? at a fort called Amsaquonte above
Norridgewock, in Maine. It was arranged also in the
plan of operations that Oyster River — now Durham,
New Hampshire — should be attacked on the way ; and
the assault on that town was made July 18th nine days
before the one on Groton. At Oyster River more
than ninety persons were either killed or captured;
the prisoners from the two towns appear to have been
taken to Maine, where they were brought frequently
together during their captivity. On January 21, 1695,
Lieutenant-Governor William Stoughton issued a
proclamation, in which he refers to the " tragical out-
rages and barberous murders" at Oyster River and
Groton. He says that several of the prisoners taken
at these places "are now detained by the said Indians
at Amarascoggin and other adjoining places."

Hezekiah Miles, alias Hector, a friendly Indian, at
one time a captive in the enemy's hands; made a
deposition before the Lieutenant-Governor and Coun-
cil, at Boston, May 31, 1695, which gives some details
of the preparation for the attack ; and Ann Jenkins,
in a deposition on June 11, 1695, adds other particu-
lars. These papers may be found among the Massa-
chusetts Archives (VIII. 39, 40).


The story of William and Deliverance Longley's
family is a sad one to relate. They were living, with
their eight children, on a small farm, perhaps a mile
and a quarter from the village, on the east side of the
Hollis road. Their house was built of hewn logs, and
was standing at the beginning of the present century.
The old cellar, with its w^ell-laid walls, w^as distinctly
visible forty years ago, and traces of it could be seen
even to very modern times. The site of this house
has recently been marked by a monument bearing the
following inscription : —




On THE 27th of July 1694





The monument was erected in the autumn of 1879,
at the expense of the town, on land generously given
for the purpose by Mr. Zechariah Fitch, the present
owner of the farm ; and it was dedicated with appro-
priate exercises on February 20, 1880.

On the fatal morning of July 27, 1694, the massa-
cre of this family took place. The savages appeared
suddenly, coming from the other side of the Merri-
mack Kiver, and began the attack at Lieutenant
William Lakin's house, where ^hey were repulsed
with the loss of one of their number. They followed
it up by assaulting other houses in the same neigh-


borhood. They made quick work of it, and left the
town as speedily as they came. With the exception
of John Shepley's house, it is not known that they
destroyed any of the buildings ; but they pillaged
them before they departed. They carried oflf thirteen
prisoners, mostly children, — and perhaps all, — who
must have retarded their march. There is a tradition
that, early in the morning of the attack, the Indians
turned Longley's cattle out of the barnyard into the
cornfield and then lay in ambush. The stratagem
had the desired effect. Longley rushed out of the
house unarmed, in order to drive the cattle back,
when he was murdered and all his family either killed
or captured. The bodies of the slain were buried in
one grave, a few rods northwest of the house. A
small apple-tree growing over the spot and a stone
lying even with the ground, for many years furnished
the only clue to the final resting-place of this unfor-
tunate family, but these have now disappeared.

William Longley was town clerk in the year 1687,
and also from 1692 till his death, in 1694 ; and only

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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenAn historical sketch of Groton, Massachusetts. 1655-1890 → online text (page 3 of 19)