Showing posts with label Cotton Mather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cotton Mather. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hannah Duston & The Duston Garrison Home Haverhill Massachusetts

Photo by W. R. Merryman DUSTON GARRISON HOUSE, HAVERHILL, MASS. The attention of visitors to Haverhill, Massachusetts, is attracted to a great granite boulder set in a place of honor in the old town. When they ask about it they are told the story of Hannah Duston, heroine. See New England Folklore 

There are many versions of the story and I have posted a potpourri of opinions. John Greenleaf Whittier "The Mother's Revenge"  and Nathaniel Hawthorne had a more sinister view of Hannah Duston than the glorified female pioneress of the old folk tales.
Read The JG Whittier News letter Spring 2003
John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Mother’s Revenge” From Legends of New England (1831)

From the Archives Written by Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Fellow of the American Geographical Society Republished 1918 by George H. Doran Company
Thomas and Hannah Duston were married in 1677, and at once built a humble house of imported brick on the spot where the boulder now stands. Frequently one of the bricks is uncovered on the site; those who examine it marvel at the thought of the building material brought across the sea. Hannah was born Hannah Emerson, daughter of Michael Emerson and Hannah Webster.
Hannah Webster was daughter of John Webster and Mary Emery
Later Thomas Duston uncovered deposits of clay near his home which led him to make experiments in brick making. He was so successful that his product was in demand; villagers said that the Haverhill bricks were fully as good as those brought from England.

Strong building material was needed, for hostile Indians were all about. In order to afford protection against them, Mr. Duston determined to build a new house, which should serve as a garrison in time of danger. By the village authorities he was appointed keeper of the garrison, as this commission shows: "To Thomas Duston, upon the settlement of garrisons. You being appointed master of the garrison at your house, you are hereby in his Maj's name, required to see that a good watch is kept at your garrison both by night and by day by those persons hereafter named who are to be under your command and inspection in building or repairing your garrison, and if any person refuse or neglect their duty, you are accordingly required to make return of the same, under your hand to the Committee of militia in Haverhill."

The new house was well under way when this command was given. As it is still standing, it is possible to tell of its construction. A Haverhill writer says that "white oak, which is to-day well preserved, was used in its massive framework, and the floor and roof timbers are put together with great wooden pins. In early days the windows swung outward, and the glass was very thick, and set into the frames with lead." On March 15, 1697, the watching Indians decided that their opportunity had come to attack the village. They knew that if they waited for the completion of the new garrison, there would be little chance of success. So they struck at once.

The story of what followed was told by Cotton Mather, in his "Magnalia Christi Americana," published in London in 1702:
"On March 15, 1697, the Salvages made a Descent upon the Skirts of Haverhill, Murdering and Captivating about Thirty-nine Persons, and Burning about half a Dozen Houses. In the Broil, one Hannah Dustan having lain-in about a Week, attended with her Nurse, Mary Neffe a Widow, a Body of terrible Indians drew near unto the House where she lay, with Design to carry on their Bloody Devastations. Her Husband hastened from his Employment abroad unto the relief of his Distressed Family; and first bidding Seven of his Eight Children (which were from Two to Seventeen Years of Age) to get away as fast as they could into some Garrison in the Town, he went in to inform his Wife of the horrible Distress come upon them. E'er he could get up, the fierce Indians were got so near, that utterly despairing to do her any Service, he ran out after his Children.... He overtook his children about Forty Rod from his Door, ... a party of Indians came up with him; and now though they Fired at him, and he Fired at them, yet he Manfully kept at the Reer of his Little Army of Unarmed Children, while they Marched off with the Pace of a Child of Five Years Old; until, by the Singular Providence of God, he arrived safe with them all unto a Place of Safety about a Mile or two from his House....

"The Nurse, trying to escape with the New-born Infant, fell into the Hands of the Formidable Salvages; and those furious Tawnies coming into the House, bid poor Dustan to rise immediately....
"Dustan (with her Nurse) ... travelled that Night about a Dozen Miles, and then kept up with their New Masters in a long Travel of an Hundred and Fifty Miles....
"The poor Women had nothing but Fervent Prayers to make their Lives Comfortable or Tolerable, and by being daily sent out upon Business, they had Opportunities together and asunder to do like another Hannah, in pouring out their Souls before the Lord."
The Indians were "now Traveling with these Two Captive Women, (and an English Youth taken from Worcester a Year and half before,) unto a Rendezvous of Salvages which they call a Town somewhere beyond Penacook; and they still told, these poor Women, that when they came to this Town they must be Striped, and Scourged, and Run the Gantlet through the whole Army of Indians. They said this was the Fashion when the Captives first came to a Town;...
"But on April 30, while they were yet, it may be, about an Hundred and Fifty Miles from the Indian Town, a little before break of Day, when the whole Crew was in a Dead Sleep ... one of these Women took up a Resolution to imitate the Action of Jael upon Sisera; and being where she had not her own Life secured by any Law unto her, she thought she was not forbidden by any Law to take away the Life of the Murderers.... She heartened the Nurse and the Youth to assist her in this Enterprise; and all furnishing themselves with Hatchets for the purpose, they struck such home Blows upon the Heads of their Sleeping Oppressors, that e'er they could any of them struggle into any effectual resistance, at the Feet of those poor Prisoners, they bow'd, they fell, they lay down; at their Feet they bowed, they fell; where they bowed, there they fell down Dead."
One old squaw and a boy of eleven escaped to the forest. The scalps were not taken at first, but soon Hannah Duston returned to the camp and gathered the trophies, in order that she might claim the bounty offered by the colony for the scalps of hostile Indians. Then all the Indians' canoes were scuttled, their arms were taken, and the party of three embarked.

Day after day they paddled down the Merrimac, the three taking turns in the unaccustomed labour. At night they paused to rest. Cautiously a fire was kindled, and food was cooked. Always they feared discovery by the bands of Indians. Two slept, while a third stood guard. But no Indians appeared.
At last the home village was in sight. The wondering villagers came out to see who the visitors could be. Their astonishment and delight can be imagined.
The General Assembly of Massachusetts voted Mrs. Duston twenty-five pounds' reward, while a similar amount was divided between Mrs. Neff and the boy Samuel Lennardson. Later the governor of Maryland sent Mrs. Duston a silver tankard.
The Duston descendants, who hold a reunion every year, prize these souvenirs. But most of all they prize a letter (the original of which is in the possession of the Haverhill Historical Society) written by Mrs. Duston in 1723, in which she gave a wonderful testimony to God's goodness to her and hers. This is the message she gave to children and grandchildren: 
"I Desire to be thankful that I was born in a Land of Light & Baptized when I was young and had a good education by my Father, tho' I took but little notice of it in the time of it—I am Thankful for my Captivity, 'twas the Comfortablest time that ever I had. In my Affliction God made his Word Comfortable to me. I remember ye 43 ps. ult. [probably meaning last part] and those words came to my mind—ps. 118:17—I have had a great Desire to Come to the Ordinance of the Lord's Supper a Great while, but fearing I should give offense and fearing my own Unworthiness has kept me back. Reading a Book concerning X's Sufferings Did much awaken me. In the 55th of Isa. beg [beginning] We are invited to come: Hearing Mr. Moody preach out of ye 3rd of Mal. 3 last verses it put me upon Consideration. Ye 11th of Matt., ending, has been encouraging to me—I have been resolving to offer my Self from time to time ever since the Settlement of the present Ministry. I was awakened by the first Sacramental Sermon [Luke 14:17]. But Delays and fears prevailed upon me: But I desire to Delay no longer, being Sensible it is my Duty—I desire the Church to receive me tho' it be the Eleventh hour; and pray for me that I may honer God and receive the Salvation of My Soul. "Hannah Duston, wife of Thomas" Mrs. Duston lived in the old house at Haverhill for many years after her remarkable escape.

                                                     Photo Wayne Marshall Chase 

From Dustin Cousins  Another version of story published by  Duston-Dustin Family Association, H. D. Kilgore Historian Haverhill Tercentenary - June, 1940

Other Reads to Check out 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Devil went down to Newbury

Newburyport News Witches were among us before 1692 by Melissa Berry

                                “Cotton Mather came galloping down

                                           All the way to Newbury town

                                 With his eyes agog and his ears set wide,

                                  And his marvellous inkhorn at his side;

                                       ... And the tales he heard and the notes he took

                                   Behold! Are they not in this Wonder-Book?”

                                                                           — John Greenleaf Whittier

Old Newbury had its share of spectral sensation way before 1692. The “unseen fury” of the Morse home held hostage by an evil presence is colorfully told by Cotton Mather, and court records reveal a herdsman shacking up at the Spencer-Peirce Farm who had “familiarity with the devil,” bewitching the entire countryside: cattle and citizens.

In 1679 the Morse home was the center of a rogue evil possession cooked up by grandson John Stiles whose “juvenile imposture” was “universally received as proof Satan resided there.” Stiles’ hoax “lithobolia attacks” are well documented by Emerson Baker in “The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England.”

The little scamp Stiles never did ‘fess up. Poor Caleb Powell, the only one not drinking the Kool-Aid in the matter, knew it was the little whippersnapper, and Coffin’s history calls it a “tragic-comedy” when his well-intentioned intervention turns into a witchcraft conviction. Powell was acquitted by spring; however, Goody Morse was brought up on charges for possessing her home and grandson. She managed to get out alive, but not without a grueling year of trials and jail time.

Another naughty knave coasted into town weaving an abominable web that no one could untangle. John Godfrey, wicked warlock of Essex County, supposedly “accompanied by an evil Spirit,” and “being instigated by the devil,” had “made much hurt & mischief by several acts of witchcraft to the bodies & goods of several persons as by several evidences may appear contrary to the peace” (court records). If truth be told, Godfrey was no more of a black arts augurer than Morse was a witch, but Essex County residents wanted him to get the rope.

Godfrey arrived on the ship Mary and John with John Spencer to work the farm in Newbury herding cattle. Spencer locked horns with the local Puritan posse and returned to England, leaving the estate to his nephew, John Spencer. Godfrey stayed on and mastered a position as local herdsman. However, his deviant lifestyle was more wolf than shepherd.

Godfrey’s plebeian nature (cursing, drunkenness, tobacco smoking, traveling on Sabbath, slander) was constantly landing him in front of the magistrates who administered heavy fines and public humiliation, one sentence ordering him to stand “upon pillory with inscription written in Capital letters upon a paper: for suborning witnesses.”

Godfrey had a side profession selling and deeding properties. His methods for collecting were anything but orthodox. He had filed 100-plus laws suits and counter-suits over property, goods and services. He won more than he lost, ticking off the community and earning a reputation as a bullying loan shark. Fed up with “the devilish rogue,” the town folk cried witchery on him.

The Spencer farm would be the subject of his witch convictions (1669) when William Osgood, a carpenter, was hired by Spencer to build a barn. Godfrey had words with Osgood and years later he bought land from him. Both transactions were not harmonious; and after 20 years of bad blood and Osgood’s relatives and friends getting the screws from Godfrey, they all came together to testify in a series of court appearances.

Godfrey became an infamous “perennial witchcraft suspect” often found “suspiciously guilty” but not “legally guilty” and was released with a verbal warning to discontinue his “blasphemous” way of life. He always returned to the nest of his accusers and almost immediately resorted back into his cheeky lifestyle and no one got free from his tyrant web. He did visit the gallows and was sentenced to stand with a halter about his neck followed with a whipping, but that was for setting fire to a home he had tried to foreclose on.

Baker points out that these earlier cases “demonstrated that witches could be held accountable for a wide range of evil deeds, not just unleashing their specters to harm people.” Furthermore, Baker adds, “the fact that all these earlier cases were convicted but spared shows just how reluctant the government of Massachusetts had become, by the 1680s, to execute a witch. These facts make the cases a most interesting contrast with the trial and execution of so many witches in Salem a decade later.”

Thanks Emerson Baker, And look for “A Storm of Witchcraft: The Trials of Salem and a Nation” in 2014.