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NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTIVITY OF MRS. Jemima Howe, taKEN BY THE INDIANS, AT HINSDALE, NEW-HAMPSHIRE, JULY 27, 1755.
As Messrs. Caleb Howe, Hilkiah Grout, and
Benjamin Gaffield, who had been hoeing corn in the meadow, west of the river, were returning home a little before sunset, to a place called Bridgman's Fort, they were fired upon by twelve Indians, who had ambushed their path.
2. Howe was on horseback, with two young lads, his children, behind him. A ball, which broke his thigh, brought him to the ground. His horse ran a few rods and fell likewise, and both the lads were taken. The Indians, in their savage manner, coming up to Howe, pierced his body with a spear, tore off his scalp, stuck a hatchet in his head, and left him in this forlorn condition.
3. He was found alive the morning after, by a party of inen from Fort Hinsdale; and being asked by one of the party whether he knew him, he answered, Yes, I know you all. These were his last words, though he did not expire until after his friends had arrived with him at Fort Hinsdale. Grout was so fortunate as to escape unhurt.
4. But Gaffield, in attempting to wade through the river, at a certain place which was indeed fordable at that time, was unfortunately drowned. Flushed with the success they had met with here, the savages went directly to Bridgman's Fort. There was no man in it, and only three women and some children, Mrs. Jemima Howe, Mrs. Submit Grout, and Mrs. Eunice Gaffield.
5. Their husbands I need not mention again, and their own feelings at this juncture I will not attempt to describe. They had heard the enemies' guns, but knew not what had happened to their friends.
6. Extremely anxious for their safety, they stood longing to embrace them, until at length, concluding from the noise they heard without, that some of them were come, they unbarred the gate in a hurr to receive them; when lo! to their inexpressible disappointment and surprise, instead of their husbands, in rushed a number of hideous In
dians, to whom they and their tender offspring became an easy prey; and from whom they had nothing to expect, but either an immediate death, or a long and doleful captivity.
7. The latter of these, by the favour of Providence, turned out to be the lot of these unhappy women, and their still more unhappy because more helpless children. Mrs. Gaffield had but one, Mrs. Grout had three, and Mrs. Howe seven. The eldest of Mrs. Howe's was eleven years old, and the youngest but six months.
8. The two eldest were daughters, which she had by her first husband, Mr. William Phipps, who was also slain by the Indians, of which I doubt not but you have seen an account in Mr. Doolittle's history. It was from the mouth of this woman that I lately received the foregoing account.She also gave me, I doubt not, a true, though to be sure a very brief and imperfect history of her captivity, which I here insert for your perusal.
9. The Indians, (she says,) having plundered and put fire to the fort, we marched, as near as I could judge, a mile and a half into the woods, where we encamped that night.
10. When the morning came, and we had advanced as much farther, six Indians were sent back to the place of our late abode, who collected a little more plunder, and destroyed some other effects that had been left behind; but they did not return until the day was so far spent, that it was judged best to continue where we were through the night.
11. Early the next morning we set off for Canada, and continued our march eight days successively, until we had reached the place where the Indians had left their canoes, about fifteen miles from Crown Point. This was a long and tedious march; but the captives, by divine assistance, were enabled to endure it with less trouble and difficulty than they had reason to expect.
12. From such savage masters, in such indigent circumstances, we could not rationally hope for kinder treatment than we received. Some of us, it is true, had a harder lot than others; and among the children, I thought my son Squire had the hardest of any.
13. He was then only four years old, and when we stopped to rest our weary limbs, and he sat down on his
master's pack, the savage monster would often knock him off; and sometimes too with the handle of his hatchet. Several ugly marks, indented in his head by the cruel Indians, at that tender age, are still plainly to be seen.
14. At length we arrived at Crown Point, and took up our quarters there, for the space of near a week. In the mean time, some of the Indians went to Montreal, and took several of the weary captives along with them, with a view of selling them to the French. They did not succeed, however, in finding a market for any of them.
15. They gave my youngest daughter to the governour, de Vaudreuil; had a drunken frolick, and returned again to Crown Point, with the rest of their prisoners. From heuce we set off for St. John's, in four or five canoes, just as night was coming on, and were soon surrounded with darkness.
16. A heavy storm hung over us. The sound of the rolling thunder was very terrible upon the waters, which at every flash of expansive lightning seemed to be all in a blaze. Yet to this we were indebted for all the light we enjoyed. No object could we discern any longer than the flashes lasted.
17. In this posture we sailed in our open tottering canoes, almost the whole of that dreary night. The morning indeed had not yet begun to dawn, when we all went ashore, and having collected a heap of sand and gravel for a pillow, I laid myself down, with my tender infant by my side, not knowing where any of my other children were, or what a miserable condition they might be in.
18. The next day, however, under the wing of that ever-present and all-powerful Providence, which had preserved us through the darkness and imminent dangers of the preceding night, we all arrived in safety at St. John's.
19. Our next movement was to St. Francois, the metropolis, if I may so call it, to which the Indians who led us captive belonged. Soon after our arrival at that wretched capital, a council, consisting of the chief Sachem, and some principal warriours of the St. Francois tribe, was convened; and after the ceremonies usual on such occasions were over, I was conducted and delivered to an old squaw, whom the Indians told me I must call my mother.
20. My infant still continued to be the property of its original Indian owners. I was nevertheless permitted to keep it with me a while longer, for the sake of saving them the trouble of looking after it. When the weather began to grow cold, shuddering at the prospect of approaching winter, I acquainted my new mother, that I did not think it would be possible for me to endure it, if I must spend it with her, and fare as the Indians did.
21. Listening to my repeated and earnest solicitations, that I might be disposed of among some of the French inhabitants of Canada, she at length set off with me and my infant, attended by some male Indians, upon a journey to Montreal, in hopes of finding a market for me there. But the attempt proved unsuccessful, and the journey tedious indeed.
22. Our provision was so scanty, as well as insipid and unsavoury; the weather was so cold, and the travelling so very bad, that it often seemed as if I must have perished on the way.
23. While we were at Montreal, we went into the house of a certain French gentleman, whose lady being sent for, and coming into the room where I was, to examine me, seeing I had an infant, exclaimed with an oath, "I will not buy a woman who has a child to look after."
24. There was a swill-pail standing near me, in which I observed some crusts and crumbs of bread swimming on the surface of the greasy liquor it contained. Sorely pinched with hunger, I skimmed them off with my hands, and ate them; and this was all the refreshment which the house afforded me.
25. Somewhere in the course of this visit to Montreal, my Indian mother was so unfortunate as to catch the smallpox, of which distemper she died soon after our return, which was by water, to St. Francois. And now came on the season when the Indians began to prepare for a winter's hunt.
26. I was ordered to return my poor child to those of them who still claimed it as their property. This was a severe trial. The babe clung to my bosom with all its might; but I was obliged to pluck it thence, and deliver it, shrieking and screaming enough to penetrate a heart of stone, into
the hands of those unfeeling wretches, whose tender mercies inay be termed cruel.
27. It was soon carried off by a hunting party of those Indians to a place called Messiskow, at the lower end of Lake Champlain, whither, in about a month after, it was my fortune to follow them. And here I found it, it is true, but in a condition that afforded me no great satisfaction; it being greatly emaciated and almost starved.
28. I took it in my arms, put its face to mine, and it instantly bit me with such violence, that it seemed as if I must have parted with a piece of my cheek. I was permitted to lodge with it that, and the two following nights; but every morning that intervened, the Indians, I suppose on purpose to torment me, sent me away to another wigwam which stood at a little distance, though not so far from the one in which my distressed infant was confined, but that I could plainly hear its incessant cries, and heart-rending lamentations.
29. In this deplorable condition, I was obliged to take my leave of it, on the morning of the third day after my arrival at the place. We moved down the lake several miles the same day; and the night following was remarkable on account of the great earthquake, which terribly shook that howling wilderness.
30. Among the islands hereabouts, we spent the winter season, often shifting our quarters, and roving about from one place to another; our family consisting of three persons, only, besides myself, viz. my late mother's daughter, whom therefore I called my sister, her sanhop, and a pappoose.
31. They once left me alone two dismal nights; and when they returned to me again, perceiving them smile at each other, I asked what is the matter? They replied that two of my children were no more. One of which, they said, died a natural death, and the other was knocked on the head.
32. I did not utter many words, but my heart was sorely pained within me, and my mind exceedingly troubled with strange and awful ideas. I often imagined, for instance, that I plainly saw the naked carcases of my deceased children hanging upon the limbs of the trees, as the Indians are