This article has been archived from the now-defunct New England Genealogy site (http://www.historicforks.org) for educational purposes.
Contents are the sole property of the authors. Please visit our Article Archive Index for
further information. If you are the author of this article and would like to make changes to it, or if you are the author of another article you would
like us to add to our archives, please contact us.
Father Rasle's War 1724-1726
Father Rasle’s War occurred between the years 1721 and 1725. The conflict was also known as Dummer’s War, Grey Lock's War, and Lovewell’s War. While many think that the colonial wars of the 17th and 18th centuries were a battle between France and England over control of North America the interests and actions of the Indians complicated this rivalry.
The English were convinced that the French were the masterminds behind these frontier raids. They believed that the French provided the Indians with arms and ammunition in an attempt to drive them out of New England. The English settlers saw themselves as victims and viewed the Indians as savages and as pawns of the French, not as a people defending their land.
The French used the Indians as a buffer zone between Quebec and the more populous English settlements. They did provide them with weapons and often accompanied them on their raids. When war did break out between France and England, the French did not hesitate to use the Indians against the English.
The Abenaki Indians were concerned with their own interests rather then those of the French. They were not mere pawns of the French, but allied themselves with the French because they viewed them as the lesser of two evils. They wanted to protect their way of life and prevent the English from encroaching on to their land. This desire for freedom was complicated by the fact that the Indians were now dependent on the white man’s technology. They used guns, ammunition, iron knives, needles, kettles, clothes and many other items which they were unable to produce. While they wanted their lands back they were unable, or unwilling, to totally distance themselves from the white man and his technology. This ultimately doomed the Indians as they were unable to unite the different tribes.
Father Rasle was a Jesuit priest who dedicated his life to educating and converting the Indians to his faith. A " native of Pontarlier, France, he was baptized on 28 January 1652 and joined the Society of Jesus on 24 September 1675. He came to America on 13 October 1689 and, after spending some time with the native Americans in Illinois (1692-95) and at Becancour (1705-11) in Canada, he lived most of his life among the Abenakis of what is now the State of Maine. "
The English felt that Father Rasle was the mastermind who planned many of the Indian raids on their homes. They mounted a raid on the Abenaki village at Norridgewock, which is located on the Kennebec River in Maine. The raid was designed to stop these raids and to punish the Indians. It failed in one of its primary objectives, to kill or capture Father Rasle. While Father Rasle managed to escape, the English did capture the Abenaki dictionary he had been working on.
For the next few years there were raids on both sides. Finally, in 1724 the English again raided Norridgewock. " An expedition of 200 men in seventeen whale boats, under Captains Harmon, Moulton, Brown, and Bean, moved on Norridgewock with such celerity as to surprise the Indians and prevent any vigorous defence. A great victory was the result. Eighty are supposed to have been killed, or drowned in their attempt at flight. Among the slain was Ralle. The mission chapel, cottages, and canoes were burned and destroyed. Four Indians were taken alive, and three captives rescued. "
While the colonists rejoiced the French and the Indians were disheartened by the death of Father Rasle. The following is a quote from a letter written by Pierre Joseph de La Chasse, Superior of the Jesuit Missions of New France, only a few months after Rasle’s death.
"In the deep grief that we are experiencing from the loss of one of our oldest missionaries, it is a grateful consolation to us that he should have been the victim of his own love, and of his zeal to maintain the faith in the hearts of his neophytes . . .
"Father Rasles, the missionary of the Abenakis, had become very odious to the English. As they were convinced that his endeavors to confirm the native Americans in the faith constituted the greatest obstacle to their plan of usurping the territory of the native Americans, they put a price on his head; and more than once they had attempted to abduct him, or to take his life. At last they have succeeded in gratifying their passion of hatred, and in ridding themselves of the apostolic man; but, at the same time, they have procured for him a glorious death, which was ever the object of his desire, --- for we know that long ago he aspired to the happiness of sacrificing his life for his flock.
"After many acts of hostility had been committed on both sides by the two nations, a little army of Englishmen and their native American allies, numbering eleven hundred men, unexpectedly came to attack the village of Norridgewock. . . . At that time there were only fifty warriors in the village. At the first noose of the muskets, they tumultuously seized their weapons, ad went out of their cabins to oppose the enemy. Their design was not rashly to meet the onset of so many combatants, but to further the flight of the women and the children, and give them time to gain the other side of the river, which was not yet occupied by the English.
"Father Rasles, warned by the clamor and the tumult of the danger which was menacing his neophytes, promptly left his house and fearlessly appeared before the enemy. He expected by his presence either to stop their first efforts, or, at least, to draw their attention to himself alone, and at the expense of his life to procure the safety of his flock.
"As soon as they perceived the missionary, a general shout was raised which was followed by a storm of musket-shots that was poured upon him.
He dropped dead at the foot of a large cross that he had erected in the midst of the village, in order to announce the public profession that was made therein of adoring a crucified God. Seven native Americans, who were around him and exposing their lives to guard that of their father, were killed by his side.
"The death of the shepherd dismayed the flock; the native Americans took to flight and crossed the river, part of them by fording, and part by swimming. They were exposed to all the fury of their enemies, until the moment when they retreated into the woods which are on the other side of the river. There they were gathered, to the number of a hundred and fifty. From more than two thousand gunshots that had been fired at them only thirty persons were killed, including the women and children; and fourteen were wounded. The English did not attempt to pursue the fugitives; they were content with pillaging and burning the village; they set fire to the church, after a base profanation of the sacred vessels and of the adorable Body of Jesus Christ.
"The precipitate retreat of the enemy permitted the return of the Norridgewocks to the village. The very next day they visited the wreck of their cabins, while the women, on their part, sought for roots and plants suitable for treating the wounded. Their first care was to weep over the body of their holy missionary; they found it pierced by hundreds of bullets, the scalp torn off, the skull broken by blows from a hatchet, the mouth and the eyes filled with mud, the bones of the legs broken, and all the members mutilated. This sort of inhumanity, practiced on a body deprived of feeling and of life, can scarcely be attributed to any one but to the savage allies of the English.
"After the devout Christians of Norridgewock had washed and kissed many times the honored remains of their father, they buried him in the very place where, the night before, he had celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, --- that is, in the place where the altar had stood before the burning of the church.
"By such a precious death did the apostolic man finish, on the 23rd of August in this year, a course of thirty-seven years spent in the arduous labors of this mission. He was in the sixty-seventh year of his life . . . .
"Father Rasles joined to the talents which make an excellent missionary, the virtues which the evangelical ministry demands . . . We were surprised as his facility and his perseverance in learning the different tongues of the native Americans; there was not one upon this continent of which he had not some smattering. . . . From the time of his arrival in Canada his character had ever been consistent; he was always firm and resolute, severe with himself, but tender and compassionate toward others . . . .
"Three years ago, by order of Monsieur our Gouvernor, I made a tour of Acadia. I conversing with Father Rasles, I represented to him that in case war should be declared against the native Americans, he would run a risk of his life; that, as his village was only fifteen leagues from the English forts, he would be exposed to their first forays; that his preservation was necessary to his flock; and that he must take measures for the safety of his life. My measures are taken, he replied in a firm voice: God has confided to me this flock, and I shall follow its fate, only too happy to be sacrificed for it. He often repeated the same thing to his neophytes, that he might strengthen their constancy in the faith. We have realized but too well, they themselves said to me, that that dear Father spoke to us out of the abundance of his heart; we saw him face death with a tranquil and serene countenance, and expose himself unassisted to the fury of the enemy, --- hindering their first attempts, so that we might have time to escape from the danger and preserve our lives.
"As a price had been set on his head, and various attempts had been made to abduct him, the native Americans last spring proposed to take him farther into the interior, toward Quebec, where he would be secure from the dangers with which his life was menaced. What idea, then have you of me? He replied with an air of indignation, do you take me for a base deserter? Alas! What would become of your faith if I should abandon you? Your salvation is dearer to me than my life.
"He was indefatigable in the exercises of his devotion . . . Some native American families, who have very recently come from Orange, told me with tears in their eyes that they were indebted to him for their conversion to Christianity; and that the instructions which he had given them when they received Baptism from him, about thirty years ago, could not be effaced from their minds, --- his words were so efficacious, and left so deep traces in the hearts of those who heard him. . . .
"Notwithstanding the continual occupations of his ministry, he never omitted the sacred exercises which are observed in our houses. He rose and made his prayer at the prescribed hour. He never neglected the eight days of annual retreat; he enjoined upon himself to make it in the first days of Lent, which is the time when the Savior entered the desert. If a person does not fix a time in the year for these sacred exercises, said he to me one day, occupations succeed each other, and, after many delays, he runs the risk of not finding leisure to perform them.
"Religious poverty appeared in his whole person, in his furniture, in his living, in his garments. In a spirit of mortification he forbade himself the use of wine, even when he was among Frenchmen; his ordinary food was porridge made of Indian cornmeal. . . . Care was taken to send him from Quebec the necessary provisions for his subsistence. I am ashamed, he wrote to me, of the care that you make of me; a missionary born to suffer ought not to be so well treated.
"He did not permit any one to lend him a helping hand in his most ordinary needs; he always waited upon himself. He cultivated his own garden, he made ready his own firewood, his cabin, and his sagamité; he mended his torn garment, seeking in a spirit of poverty to make them last as long a time as possible. The cassock which he had on when he was killed seemed so worn out and in such poor condition to those who had seized it, that they did not deign to take it for their own use as they had at first designed. They threw it again upon his body, and it was sent to us at Quebec.
"In the same degree that he treated himself harshly, was he compassionate and charitable toward others. He had nothing of his own, and all that he received he immediately distributed to his poor neophytes. Consequently, the greater part of them showed at his death signs of deeper grief than if they had lost their nearest relatives. . . .
". . . his virtues, of which New France has been for so many years witness, had won for him the respect and affection of Frenchmen and native Americans.
"He is, in consequence, universally regretted. No one doubts that he was sacrificed through hatred to his ministry and to his zeal in establishing the true faith in the hearts of the native Americans. This is the opinion of . . . de Bellemont, Superior of the Seminary of Saint Sulpice at Montreal. When I asked from him the customary suffrages for the deceased , because of our interchange of prayers, he replied to me, using the well-known words of Saint Augustine, that it was doing injustice to a Martyr to pray for him, --- Injuriam facit Martyri qui orat pro eo.
"May it please the Lord that his blood, shed for such a righteous cause, may fertilize these unbelieving lands which have been so often watered with the blood of the Gospel workers who have preceded us; that it may render them fruitful in devout Christians, and that the zeal of apostolic men yet to come may be stimulated to gather the abundant harvest that is being presented to them by so many peoples still buried in the shadow of death!"
One of the last battles of the war was Lovewell’s defeat at the hands of the Pigwacket Indians at Fryeburg, Maine, on May 8, 1725. While this was a defeat for the English, they felt that the Indians had suffered severely in this battle and their ability for future raids curtailed.
A number of persons on my family tree fought in this war. Some of the particulars follow.
A militia unit was ambushed on September 4 (5?), 1724 at Thorton's Ferry, which is on the Merrimac River. They were responding to a raiding party consisting of Mohawk Indians and French Canadians which attacked two settlers, Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard. In this fight nine were killed and one escaped. Among the dead were Sgt. Ebenezer French, and Ebenezer Cummings. The only survivor of the attack was Josiah Farwell (Mary Cummings brother-in-law) who later served under Capt. Lovewell and died at Pigwacket. The following story of Thornton's Ferry was taken from "The New Hampshire Gazetteer";
"September 4, 1724, the Indians again fell on Dunstable, and took two captives in the evening. The persons taken were Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard, who had been engaged in the manufacture of turpentine, on the north side of the Nashua River, near where the city of Nashua now stands. At that time there were no houses nor settlements on that side of the river. These men had been in the habit of returning every night, to lodge in a sawmill on the other side. That night, not returning as usual, an alarm was given. It was feared that they had fallen into the hands of the Indians.
A party consisting of ten of the principal inhabitants of the place started in search of them, under the direction of one French, a sergeant of militia. In this company was Farwell who was afterward Lieutenant under Lovewell. When they arrived at the spot where the men had been laboring, they found the hoops of one of the barrels cut, and the turpentine spread upon the ground. From certain marks upon the trees made with coal mixed with grease, they understood that the men were taken and carried off alive. In the course of this examination, Farwell perceived that the turpentine had not ceased spreading and called the attention of his comrades to this circumstance. They concluded that the Indians had been gone but a short time, and must still be near, and decided upon instant pursuit.
Farwell advised them to take a circuitous route to avoid any ambush. But unfortunately, he and French a short time previous, had had a misunderstanding, and were still at variance. French imputed this advice to cowardice, and called out, ‘I am going to take the direct path; if any of you are not afraid, let him follow me.’ French led the way, and the whole party followed, Farwell falling in the rear. Their route was up the Merrimack, towards which they bent their course, to look for their horses upon the interval. At the brook, near Lutwyche’s (now Thornton’s Ferry,) they were waylaid. The Indians fired upon them and killed the larger part instantly. A few fled, but were overtaken and destroyed. French was killed about a mile from the place of action. Farwell, in the rear, seeing those before him fall, sprang behind a tree, discharged his rifle and ran. Two Indians pursued him: the chase was vigorously maintained for some time, without gaining much advantage, till Farwell passing through a thicket, the Indians lost sight of him, and fearing he might have loaded again, they desisted. Farwell was the only one of the company that escaped.
A company from the neighborhood mustered upon the news of this disaster, proceeded to the fated spot, took up the bodies of their friends and townsmen, and interred them in the burying ground. Blanchard and Cross were carried to Canada; after remaining there some time, they succeeded , by their own exertions, in effecting their redemption, and returned to their native town."
Farwell, who was married to Hannah Lovewell (Captain Lovewell’s sister) gave the following information in a petition to the government for compensation for items lost during the fight. He stated that " he was among the ten who were ambushed by the Indians, that many of the English were killed, the rest were overpowered and forced to fly, that he lost his gun, coat and three pounds in money, and prays an allowance, he thinks they killed some of the enemy"
Eight of the bodies were recovered and buried in a common grave. "The names of seven are given in the Boston News Letter as follows: Lieut. Ebenezer French, Thomas Lund, Oliver Farwell, and Ebenezer Cummings, of Dunstable, Daniel Baldwin and John Burbank of Woburn, and Mr. Johnson of Plainfield. The name of the other man was Benjamin Carter."
An inscription on a burial stone reads; "Memento mori. Here lies the body of Mr. Thomas Lund who departed this life, Sept. 5, 1724, in the 42d year of his age. This man with seven more that lies in this grave was slew all in a day by the Indians." Next to that one were stones bearing the same date and the names respectively of Mr. Benjamin Carter, aged twenty-three years, Mr. Ebenezer Cummings, aged twenty-nine years, and Lieut. Oliver Farwell, aged thirty-three years.
Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard were not rescued. They were taken to Canada as captives and succeeded in being ransomed a few years later.
The Indians of the Pigwacket valley were a vigorous and war-like people. These Indians were the Sokoki's of the Abenakis'. The valley is located on the upper reaches of the Saco River, which is in Maine. From the earliest days they were valuable allies of the French in their long struggle for control of the North American continent. The Indians had no means of knowing that they were pawns in a game played by two of the most powerful nations of the world. For them the motive of warfare was defense of the home against an invader. This motive was reinforced after the end of King Philip’s War. Some of the surviving Wampanoags joined the Pigwackets. They were bitter against the English because of their defeat and the destruction of their tribe. They undoubtedly shared their experiences with the Abenakis.
"During the grim and weary years of the French and Indian wars the Maine settlements were a particularly exposed frontier and suffered cruelly. Down the Saco came the Pigwackets to join the other eastern Indians, incited and often led by the French."
In 1724 the frontier towns along the Merrimac River decided to strike back against the repeated Indian raids directed against them. They decided to equip a force to seek out the hostile Indians on their own territory. Captain John Lovewell (who is my 1st cousin 9 times removed) was placed in command of this proposed expedition. A petition was made up asking Massachusetts for approval and the monies to cover a pay of 5 shillings a day per man. Massachusetts approved but with the provision that instead of pay, a bounty of 100 pounds be offered for every male Indian scalp brought in by the expedition.
The petition reads;
"The humble memorial of John Lovewell, Josiah Farwell, and Jonathan Robbins, all of Dunstable, sheweth:
That your petitioners, with near forty or fifty others, are inclined to range and keep out in the woods for several months together, in order to kill and destroy their enemy Indians, provided they can meet incouragement suitable. And your petitioners are Imployed and desired by many others Humbly to propose and submit to your Honors consideration, that if such soldiers may be allowed five shillings per day, in case they kill any enemy Indian, and possess his scalp, they will Imploy themselves in Indian hunting one whole year;
and if within that time they do not kill any, they are content to be allowed nothing for their wages, time, and trouble.
DUNSTABLE, Nov., 1724.
Upon reading this petition one may feel that this was an economic venture rather then a venture designed to protect the colonists on the frontier. It was probably a combination of hatred towards the Indians and a desire to make a profit.
Captain Lovewell formed the troops at Dunstable. Men came from Dunstable, Haverhill, Groton, Lancaster and Billerica. They were supplied out of Dunstable.
"Haverhill Nov. 26, 1724.
Pursuant to an order from his honor ye Lieut Governor to John White of Haverhill to supply Capt John Lovewell with bread of the Province stores, & now ye sd Lovewell being marching out with a company of Volunteers against ye Indian enemy he has appointed me Josiah Farwell of dunstable who am his Leut to receive ye sd bread & to meet him at Kingstown in order to march, I acknowledge I this day received of sd White four hundred & eighty-seven pound & one half of good bread for which I promise to be accountable for to Jeremiah Allen Esqr province treasurer and to pay for ye same as witness my hand
JOSIAH FARWELL Leut "
Captain Lovewell led the troops, a total of 87 men, towards the target area, the Indians living in the area of Fryeburgg, Me and Conway, NH.
Captain Lovewell’s troops went on three separate expeditions. The first two were moderately successful with the colonials winning an engagement on Feb. 20 when they surprised and wiped out a small force of Indians. The participants of the first raid were; Jno White, Sam Tarbol , Jer Hunt ,Eben Wright ,Jos Read ,Sam Moor ,Phin Foster ,Fra Dogett ,S Hilton , Jno Pollard , Ben Walker , Jos Wright , Jno Varnum , Robt Ford , Ben Parker , Sam Shattock , Jacob Ames , Jno Stephens , Jos Wheelock , Sam Sawyer , Jno Houghton ,Henry Willard ,Jacob Gates ,Joseph Whitcomb ,Sam Learned , Rob Phelps ,Moses Graves ,Moses Hazzen , Jno Levingston , Jere Pearly , Wm Hutchins ,Jacob Cory ,Oliver Pollard ,Sam Trull ,Ben Parker ,Wm Shalden ,Saml Fletcher ,Jno Duncan, Jethro Ames ,John Sawyer ,Moses Chandler ,Jos Wilson ,Jona Parks ,Joshua Webster ,Saml Johnson ,Stephn Merrill ,Jacob Pearly ,John Hazzen ,Ebn Brown ,Jona Ferren ,Sam Stickney ,Joshua Hutchens ,Benony Boynton ,Ephm Farnsworth ,Reuben Farnsworth ,Thos Farmer ,Rich Hall, Neh Robinson , Jona Parks ,Caleb Dostin .
Members of these two expeditions who are of interest to this family tree, either as direct ancestors or indirect, are Eben Wright, Joseph Read, Joseph Wright, Joseph Whitcomb, Joshua Webster and Josiah Cummings the son of Abraham and Sarah Wright Cummings and Captain Lovewell.
The third expedition was the last and the most famous. It has since been over shadowed by the French and Indian War and the Revolution but it was an important event of the time, especially to the settlers living on the frontier. This expedition started with 47 men and set out on April 16, 1725. The roster is as follows;
Captain John Lovewell, Dunstable, Killed
Lieutenant Josiah Farwell, Dunstable Killed
Lieutenant Jonathan Robbins, Dunstable Killed
Jacob Farrar, Concord, Mass. Killed
Joseph Farrar, Concord, Mass Killed
Chaplain Jonathan Frye, Andover, Mass. Killed
Ensign John Harwood, Dunstable, Killed
Sergeant Noah Johnson, Dunstable wounded
Robert Usher, Dunstable Killed
Samuel Whiting, Dunstable Wounded
Ensign Seth Wyman, Woburn Wounded
Corporal Thomas Richardson, Woburn Wounded
Timothy Richardson , Woburn Wounded
Ichabod Johnson, Woburn Killed
Josiah Johnson, Woburn Wounded
Eleazer Davis, Concord, Mass. Wounded
Josiah Davis, Concord, Mass Killed
Josiah Jones, Concord, Mass Wounded
David Melvin, Concord, Mass Wounded
Eleazer Melvin, Concord, Mass Wounded
Sergeant Jacob Fullam, Weston, Mass. Killed
Corporal Edward Lingfield, Nutfield Wounded
Jonathan Kittredge, Billerica, Mass. Killed
Solomon Keyes, Billerica, Mass Wounded
John Jefts, Groton, Mass. Killed
Daniel Woods , Groton, Mass Killed
Thomas Woods, Groton, Mass Killed
Elias Barson, Groton, Mass Wounded- missing during retreat, presumed dead.
John Chamberlain, Groton, Mass Wounded
Joseph Gilson , Groton, Mass Wounded
Isaac Larkin, Groton, Mass Wounded
Ebenezer Ayer, Haverhill, Mass. Wounded
Abiel Asten, Haverhill, Mass Wounded
Benjamin Hassell, Deserted
Sgt. Nathaniel Woods,Dunstable, left at fort prior to battle.
Ebenezer Hulbert , Dunstable, left at fort prior to battle.
Edward Spooney ,Dunstable, left at fort prior to battle.
Dr. William Ayer, Haverhill, left at fort prior to battle.
Benjamin Kidder,Nutfield, sick and left at fort prior to battle.
John Goffe, Nutfield, left at fort prior to battle.
John Gibson, Groton, left at fort prior to battle.
Issac Whitney, Concord, left at fort prior to battle.
Zachariah Whitney, Concord, left at fort prior to battle.
Zebediah Astin, Haverhill, left at fort prior to battle.
William Cummings, Dunstable, wounded left prior to battle.
Jonathan Cummings, returned with William Cummings.
Toby, Mohawk Indian, went lame and left prior to battle.
Lovewell’s last known correspondence reads;
Dunstable April ye 15, 1725.
Sir This is to inform you that I march from Dunstable with between forty or fifty men on the day above mentioned & I should have marched sooner if the weather had not prevented me. No more at present but I remain your humble servt.
The route Lovewell took to engage the Pigwackets is as follows; the starting point was Dunstable, he then followed the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers, then across country to either Squam Lake or Lake Winnipesaukee and then to Ossipee Lake.
During the first few days of the trip the numbers were lessened, as first an Indian guide Toby had to turn back due to an injury and later William Cummings of Dunstable was unable to continue because of a wound suffered in a earlier fight with Indians. William was sent back to the fort in the company of his cousin, Jonathan Cummings.
The following is an excerpt from "Pigwacket" which describes the Lovewell fight;
" Arriving at Ossipee Lake they paused to build a small fortification on what became known later as the Daniel Smith farm. Here they left Benjamin Kidder who had become ill. With him were stationed Dr. William Ayer, and a squad of seven privates under command of Serjeant Nathaniel Woods. A considerable quantity of provisions was also left. This reduced the effective fighting force to thirty-four men, But it provided within a day's march of Pigwacket a provisioned, garrisoned, and fortified base upon which the advance party could fall back. It was a wise and sound plan. It could not anticipate the craven conduct of one man. Even this unforeseen calamity did not utterly nullify its value, as the event shows. Without the base the ultimate disaster would have been more acute and complete. Thirty-four men in light marching equipment were to make the final dash.
On Thursday before the battle, which occurred on Saturday, the rangers became apprehensive that their presence was known to the Indians, and that they were followed by scouts. The watch aroused them Friday night because of alarming sounds, but in the extreme darkness of the forest they could discern no enemy. They were then bivouacking near Saco pond, the beautiful sheet of water so soon to be the background of the final tragedy, and in commemoration of the historic event to be re-christened with the name of the fallen leader.
In the early morning of Saturday while at prayers they heard a gun, and soon after saw an Indian hunter on a point of the lakeshore, They suspected that he was a decoy to lure them into ambush. A council of war was now held. The rangers were strongly in favor of forcing the issue. Lovewell seems to have been somewhat dubious of the wisdom of this course, and events justified his judgement. However he yielded to the consensus of opinion.
At this juncture the company made the tactical error of divesting themselves of their packs, leaving them to be recovered later. It was a fatal mistake. It appears that the savages were returning in force from a trip down the Saco. The presence of the white men became known to their main body when they came upon the packs. The Indians immediately recognized an unsurpassed opportunity for an ambuscade. They took advantage of it, laying a trap into which the rangers fell.
After leaving their packs the company had marched about a mile and a half when they came upon an Indian, apparently the same one they had seen on the shore of the lake. There was an exchange of shots. The Indian was killed, and Lovewell and another ranger wounded. (this second wounded ranger was Samuel Whiting. Ensign Wyman then returned fire and killed the Indian, who was then scalped by Mr. Frye) Lovewell made little complaint, and was not disabled. It was later believed, however, that it was this wound that ultimately proved fatal. After this encounter, and failing to find other Indians, the rangers countermarched toward the spot where they had left their packs at the northeast end of the pond. As they approached the spot about 10 o'clock in the morning the Indians, to the number of about eighty, rising from ambush, made a mass attack on both the front and rear. The battle was on. At such close quarters the casualties were severe on both sides. The Indians at first appeared to suffer most, and were temporarily repulsed. Their numerical superiority, however, soon made itself felt, and they continued to press the attack. Nine of the English including Captain Lovewell, met their death at the onset. Both Lieut. Farwell and Lieut. Robbins, having been wounded, the command devolved upon Ensign Seth Wyman, who acquitted himself with great credit. He executed an orderly withdrawal to a position where their rear was protected by the waters of the pond, and their right flank by a deep brook that emptied into the pond.
The engagement continued with great obstinacy throughout the day. The firing was punctuated with the taunts of the Indians, and spirited replies from the rangers. Paugus was well known to many of the white soldiers. He and John Chamberland indulged in mutual recriminations and defiances, and Chamberlain finally shot him in a personal encounter by the edge of the pond. At sunset the Indians, evidently discouraged by their heavy losses, and by their failure to annihilate their adversaries, withdrew. It was estimated that not more then twenty of the eighty retired unscathed.
About midnight the battered remnant of Lovewell's command began a retreat toward their base at Ossipee lake twenty-six or twenty-seven miles away. They were able to muster twenty men, of whom nine only were in good condition, and eleven were severely or desperately wounded. Four men, Lieut. Josiah Farwell, Chaplain Jonathan Frye, Eleazer Davis and Josiah Jones were unable to keep up with the party, and were left behind in the expectation that assistance would be sent back from the supporting squad at Ossipee lake. (Lt. Robbins and Robert Usher were also left behind. Lt. Robbins last words to his departing comrades were "As the Indians will come in the morning to scalp me, I will kill one more of them if I can") The main party divided into three for the purpose of confusing possible pursuit. One ranger was lost in crossing the Great Ossipee River. Those who succeeded in reaching the fort found a new misfortune awaiting them. The fort had been deserted by the garrison. One man had become panic stricken at the attack from ambush, and had bolted. Making his way back to the fort he had so alarmed the detachment there that they had beaten a hasty retreat toward home in the belief that the entire company had been wiped out. Fortunately they had left some food supplies. They also left a message written upon a piece of bark that Lovewell's company had been destroyed.
The four wounded men, who had been left behind waited several days for the expected aid, but finally, weak from wounds and starvation, struggled toward the fort. Chaplain Frye soon gave out. Feeling the approach of death he gave his companions a message to his father and prevailed upon them to leave him. Better to die by himself then imperil all. Lieut. Farwell was the next to succumb. These two died alone in the woods and were never found. Frye had in his possession the Journal of the expedition. It was never recovered. The land that was the scene of his lonely and tragic fate was later granted to his kinsman, Gen. Joseph Frye, as the township of Fryeburg and perpetuates his name.
Josiah Jones and Eleazer Davis became separated. Alone in the wilderness, without supplies, with maggot-infested wounds, and before them a deep river to cross, bank-full of spring floodwaters, they were indeed in desperate straits. Incredibly they survived. It took Davis seventeen days to reach Lovewell's fort at Ossipee Lake. Here he found food supplies, and returning strength enabled him to traverse the remaining stage of his journey to Berwick in two days.
Jones was in the woods fourteen days, and finally emerged at Saco.(The main group of survivors) arrived at Dunstable in two parties, eleven men on May 13, and the other four weaker ones, shepherded by Wyman, on the fifteenth.
For gallantry in action, and for masterly handling of an exceedingly difficult situation, Ensign Wyman was given a captaincy, and a silver hilted sword. He lived but a few months to enjoy his well-earned honors. Governor Drummer received word of this fight and, only two days after Wyman's arrival, dispatched Col. Eleazar Tyng and 87 men to advance to Pigwacket. " At the battlefield he found and buried the bodies of the twelve men killed there, among whom were Capt. Lovewell, Lieut. Jonathan Robbins, Ensign John Harwood, and Sergeant Jacob Fulham. He also found and identified the body of Chief Paugus, whom the Indians had paused to bury before leaving. "
Seth Wyman may have had a more prominent role in the battle then mentioned above. Seth may have been the one who killed Chief Paugus rather then John Chamberlain. This is the opinion of G.T. Ridlon in his book, Saco Valley Settlements and Families. He states that
"The tradition about John Chamberlain and Chief Paugus is unfounded and was not invented for half a century after the battle. But it has been repeated in song and story. I have personally examined four long muskets of French make said to have been the identical guns with which Chamberlain bored the savage's head. Each of these guns had a history, and their ownership could be traced to the original Indian-killer. It was Seth Wyman who shot Paugus, and the Chamberlain tradition, formulated when there were no survivors of the battle to contradict it, may as well be exploded. "
There are a number of members of Lovewell’s command that are related in some way to the tree presented in this website. Seth Wyman was of the Wyman branch in this website. Benjamin Hassell was another. His great-grandfather was Richard Hassell. Benjamin was present at the start of the battle but fled the scene without orders and retired to the fort. Hassell's version of the fight was given to Col. Tyng and is as follows;
"About nine or ten of the o'clock in the morning, Capt. Lovewell saw an Indian on the opposite side of Sawco Pond, & then they immediately left their packs and went about two miles before they came to him; they coming within five or six rods before they saw the Indian, and the Indian made the first shot at them, and wounded Capt. Lovewell & Sam Whiting, and they immediately killed the Indian, & returning back to their packs came within forty or fifty rods of them; the Indians waylaid them under the banks of a little Brook Capt. Lovewell's men being between the brook and the pond, it being a Pine Plain, the Indians fired upon them both in the front and the rear, shouting & running towards them. Capt. Lovewell fell at the first volley the Indians shot, and groaned; this man (Hassell) being clost by him, and then he saw several of Capt. Lovewell's men get behind trees. Upon seeing such a great number of Indians, thought it best to return to some men they had left with a sick man at a Fort they had made, about thirty miles back, by Osipee Pond, and he got to the fort the next morning about nine of oclock."
Colonel Tyng led a releif party to the scene of the fight. His men found and buried; Capt. John Lovewell, Ensign Jonathan Woods, Ensign John Harwood, and Robert Usher, of Dunstable; Jacob Fullam of Weston; Jacob Farrar and Josiah Davis, of Concord; Thomas Woods, Daniel Woods, and John Teffts, of Groton; Ichabod Johnson of Woburn; and Jonathan Kittredge of Billerica.
Upon hearing the news of the fight, the men left the fort to return to Dunstable. Both Hassell and the men who left the fort were condemned by the Militia commanders and the governor. Gov. Dummer, in fact, called Hassell and the men who fled the fort cowardly deserters.
Thomas Richardson was the great-grandson of Thomas Richardson and Katherine Duxford. He was born in Woburn in 1684. He was not wounded in the battle. He died in Woburn on June 29, 1735.
Two Cummings' were participants of this third expedition. William Cummings, the son of John and Elizabeth Cummings had been injured early in the expedition. He aggravated the wound and was sent back escorted by Jonathan Cummings , son of Thomas and Priscilla Cummings, his cousin.
The Battle at Pigwacket received much attention in its time. A number of interesting poems were written about the battle. I present two in this site. The first is the earliest poem or ballad printed on it and the second is the first published work of the famous poet, Longfellow.
A number of the survivors petitioned for compensation from the government. One such petition reads;
To his Exelency William Burnet Esqr Governour & Commander in chief of his Majesties Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England & To the Honble Council & the Honble House of Representatives in General Court Assembled at Salem, May 28th, 1729.
The memorial of David Melvin & Thomas Richardson for themselves and partners--
That upon the Petition of David Melvin & William Ayer in Behalf of themselves and others preferred to the Great and General Court or Assembly in May Anno 1727. They were pleased to Grant Six miles Square of Land Lying and being on both Sides of Merrimack River and adjoining to the new Town at Penicook unto the soldiers under the Command of the Late Capt. Lovewell in the Engagement with the Indian Enemy at Pigwacket and to Thirteen others Part of the Sixty-two who were in the first march with ye Said Lovewell &c, who should first offer and in their own persons settle thereon. In pursuance whereof your Memorialists have with the assistance of a Surveyor Layed out the Said Land The Charge whereof is very considerable, The Raising of money for Defraying of which is found verry Difficult, There being no person appointed by this Court Regulerly to Assemble the Grantees, or when Assembled Any Power to Raise money whereby the Burthen Lies very Heavy upon a Small number of the Society or Grantees.
Therefore your memorialists most humbly pray Your Exelency & Hons would please in Your Great Wisdom to Appoint Some Sutable person to Assemble the Grantees together, and that they may then have power to Chuse a clerk to be under oath faithfully to enter and record all votes and orders of the Society and Annually to chuse a Comtee who may be Impowered Equally to Assess the Grantees to the charge that has or may arrise in managing of the Affairs of the Society in Complying with the Order of the Court in Bringing forward the Settlement of the place, and that such Grantee as shall Refuse to pay his or their just and equitable part of the Said Charge shall have no benefit or advantage by the Grant of the Court and that all the Charges arrising as aforsd may be Levied and Assessed on the Lands and not on Polls and Estates till the Town be Settled.
Your Memorialists would further observe to Your Exelency & Honours that no person is Appointed as yet to admit of said Thirteen persons out of Said Sixty-Two whereby they apprehend an Inconvenience may arrise they therefore humbly pray that the Said Committee may be Impowered to Receive & admit them as associates according to the true intent or meaning of the order of Court, or Grant Reliefe in Such other way as to Your Exelency and Honours in Your Great Wisdom Shall seem meet.
And Your Memorialists as in Duty Bound Shall ever pray &c.
The government response was;
In the House of Representatives, July 5th 1729, Read & ordered that the Lands in this Plan Delineated and Described be and hereby are Confirmed to the Petitioners and their Associates Their Heirs and Assigns Provided it Exceed not the Contents of Six Miles Square nor interfere with any other or former Grant of this Court and for the more Effectual & Regular Settlement of the Grant that the Petitioners and their Associates be and hereby are obliged within the Space of five years to have actually settled on the Land Granted fifty families Each of which shall Build an House within that Space of the bigness of Eighteen feet Square at the Least and Shall Stock with English Grass and fit for mowing or break up & fit for Plowing five acres of Land Excepting only the Children or Heirs of those men that were killed in the fight with the Indian Enemy at Pigwacket (who are minors) who shall have the Privledge of Holding one Lott with proportionable Divisions for each man who Lost his Life as above, They only paying their Proportion of the Charge that has or may arrise in Settleing of the premises.
And that the Petitioners and their associates within the space aforesd Settle a Learned orthodox Minister and Build a Convenient House for the Publick Worship of God; and for the accomplishing of these ends, that David Melvin be impowered to assemble the Petitioners & their associates together at their first meeting who shall also there act as moderator At which meeting they Shall Chuse a Clerk who Shall be Sworn well and truly to enter all their votes and orders when they shall also Agree upon the future method & place of warning & assembling their meetings & Also at the same meeting shall Chuse a Committee for surveying and ordering the affairs of the Plantation and have Power to admit Thirteen more that actually settle in their own persons of those that were in Lovewell's first March and not in the second 4, which Committee shall be annually Chosen The Petitioners and their associates to have power to raise money on the Lands Granted for Defraying the Charges that have or may arise in Carrying forward the above Settelment and to chuse a Sutable Person to Collect it who shall be Sworn to the faithful Discharge of his Trust and make up his Accounts with the said Committee once every year at Least.