Puritans v. Quakers

There’s a kind of sucker punch in many presentations of American history, wherein we are told that the Puritans left England for America because they had suffered religious persecution—and then the Puritans persecuted other religions here!  We’re given the impression that they were looking for freedom of religion and then denied it to others.

In the 1650’s several of our ancestors became Quakers and enduried escalating fines,  prison, banishment, whipping and ear cutting.   Some of these ancestors were closely involved when four Quakers were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs in Boston in 1659, 1660 and 1661.   Richard SCOTT’s daughter Patience, in June, 1659, a girl of about eleven years, having gone to Boston as a witness against ‘the persecution of the Quakers, was sent to prison; others older being banished.  Today we ask, “What kind of people put an 11 year old girl in jail? “

In our 2011 imagination, the Quakers are the conscientious objector good guys while the Puritans are the hypocritical tyrants.  Almost any book you read about the Massachusetts Bay Colony gives you the feeling that the moment those people set foot on shore in America they started betraying their own values. Objectivity is hard to come by when you’re reading about the Puritans.  Is our modern perspective accurate?

Navigate this Report
1. Puritan Perspective

2. Quaker Perspective
3. Trials & Tribulations

4. Boston Martyrs
5. Aftermath

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Posted in Dissenter, History, Storied | 8 Comments

Edmund Freeman Sr.

Edmund FREEMAN (1566 – 1623)  He was Alex’s 11th Great Grandfather; one of  4,096 in this generation of the Shaw line.

Edmund Freeman - Coat of Arms

Edmund Honington Freeman was born about 1566 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. (Also have birth as 1570 in Pulborough, Sussex, England).  His parents were John FREEMAN and [__?__] Isham.  He married Alice COLES 1 Jan 1591 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. . He signed a will on 20 May 1623.  He died on 6 Jun 1623 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.  He was buried on 6 Jun 1623 in St. Mary’s, Pulborough, Sussex, England.

Edmund and Aliced were married in St Mary's Church Pulborough The oldest part of the church dates from about 1180 or 1220.

Alice Coles was born about 1576 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. Her father was George COLES. She signed a will on 13 Nov 1650. She died on 14 Feb 1651/52 in Reigate, Surrey, England. She was buried on 14 Feb 1651/52 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.

Children of Edmund and Alice:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Ellen Freeman 30 Jul 1592
Pulborough, Sussex, England
2. Edmund FREEMAN 25 Jul 1596
Pulborough, Sussex, England
16 Jun 1617
Cowford, Sussex, England
Elizabeth Beauchamp
10 Aug 1632
2 Nov 1682
Sandwich, Mass.
3. Capt. William Freeman 1598
Pulborough, Sussex, England.
Christian Hodsoll
between 1617 and 1624
County Essex, England.
Jane Skinner
15 May 1638
Cowfold, Sussex, England.
15 Sep 1666
Cowfold, Sussex, England
4. Alice Freeman  1601
Pulborough, Sussex, England
John Beauchamp
27 Dec 1615
Pulborough, Sussex, England
Feb 1651/52
Reigate, Surrey, England
5. Eleanor (Elinor) Freeman before
25 Aug 1603
Pulborough, Sussex, England.
7 Apr 1618
Pulborough, Sussex, England
6. John Freeman bapt.
24 Jan 1604/05
Pulborough, Sussex, England
Mary Lloyd
Elizabeth Noyes about 1644
Sudbury, Middlesex, MA.
7. Elizabeth Freeman baptized
27 Aug 1609
Pulborough, Sussex,
8. Thomas Freeman 1611 Last record Abigail manifest 1636

Edmond Freeman, senior, yeoman, and his wife Alice Coles lived at Pulborough, county Sussex, England, where he was buried on June 6, 1623. His will, dated May 20, 1623, and administered June 18, following, made his sons Edmond and William his executors, and disposed of over £800 besides his various lands and tenements aside from a bequest to Edmond, it gave £20 to each of his children. The testator’s widow, Alice, sister of George Coles, of Amberly, county Sussex, spent her later years at Reigate, county Surrey, in the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Alice and John Beachamp; and her will, dated Nov. 13, 1650, and proved Mar. 5, 1651/2, included a bequest to Edmond Freeman and his wife.

Alternate spelling “Edmond”. Edmund was a well-to-do yeoman of Pulborough. Marriage date not found. Will dated 30 May 1623 made bequests to wife, £200 and benefit of copyhold wherein I dwell and thirds of my lands for life; dau Alice Beauchamp £50; son John Freeman, three tenements in Pulborough now in occupation of the widow Sommers, Wepham and named Fouks in fee, also £100; to youngest dau. Elizabeth, £300; by seven grandchildren, £20 apiece, to my sister Harte £5; to kindred 20/ apiece; to the poor of the parish £5; to servants and others; to wives brother George Coles, £5; Edmund Freemand and William Freeman, my two eldest sons, to be my executors; rest of goods and lands to my executors; to Ligh church at Chichester, 6d. George Coles of Amberley and Nicholas Bell of Arundel (County Sussex) were to oversee will and have £5. My wife to have benefit of the lease for her life of the “brookes.” Testator made his mark. Admininstration 18 Jun 1623 (P.C.C., Swann 59.) Buried in Pulborough church, as requested in his will.

There were a lot of Freemans on board the Abigail .

Freeman John 35, #45
Freeman Marie 50, #58 (Age is probably an error.  John’s wife Mary Lloyd Freeman was born in 1608 and would have been 27 years old.)
Freeman Jo: 9, #59
Freeman Sycillie 4, #60
Freeman Thomas 24, #91 (Only record)
Freeman Edmund 45, #107
Freeman Edward 34, husbandman #135 (Probably our Edmond as age and wife’s and children’s names line up.  Who, then, is the Edmond passenger #107 above born in 1590? Edmund Freeman Sr did not marry Alice Coles until 1591.
Freeman Elizabeth 35, wife of Edward #136
Freeman Elizabeth 12, #149
Freeman Alice 17, #150
Freeman Edmund 15, #152
Freeman John 8, #153


2. Edmund FREEMAN Jr (See his page)

3. William Freeman

William’s first wife Christian Hodsoll was born in 1601 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.  She was baptized 23 Apr 1602, All Hallows by the Tower , London.  Her parents were John Hodsoll and Anne Maundy. Christian died before 15 May 1638 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.

William’s second wife Jane Skinner was baptized 27 Mar 1611 in Henfield, Sussex, England.  She had first married William Gratwick on 14 Oct 1630 in Cowfold, Sussex, England.

4. Alice Freeman

Alice’s husband John Beauchamp was born in 1593 in London, England. His parents were Thomas Beauchamp (1550 – 1613) and Dorothy Clarke (1572 – 1613). John died in 1652 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.

John Beauchamp (wiki) was an influential member of the company that financed the Mayflower.  He was granted two large tracts of land in Massachusetts.  He also patented tracts of land in Virginia and there is evidence that he traveled to Virginia.

John Beauchamp Plymouth's Silent Partner

“William Paddy, skinner, merchant from London, came in the James April 5, 1636, deputy, 1639.  Rem. to Boston.  He was one of the lessees of the trade at Kennebeck up to 1650.  Mr. John Beauchamp, one of the partners in Plymouth Company, calls him cousin in letter in Plym. Deeds, II; refers also to bro. Freeman, Paddy’s father, and to bro. Coddington.  He m. 24 Nov 1639, Alice, dau of Edmund Freeman; she d. 24 Apr 1651″

Children of Alice and John:

i. John Beauchamp, d. 1615

ii. Thomas Beauchamp,

iii. Alice Beauchamp, m. John Doggett

John Doggett was the son of John Doggett (or Dogett), “Mercer and Merchant Adventurer of Hamburg” (from his will), who (according to his descendants) was English, born in Suffolk, but operated a textile business in Hamburg for many years; will proved 1653 in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. This senior John was a member of the Merchant Adventurers of England (London merchants organized to trade with Europe). I’ve never seen evidence that John Beauchamp was actually a member of the Merchant Adventurers, but he probably was. He is referred to as a Merchant Adventurer often enough, and as a young man he worked for his uncle John Beauchamp, merchant of London and Amsterdam (from Uncle John’s will). We know he had investments in the American colonies, so it’s entirely likely that he also had investments or traded with merchants in Europe.

The younger John Doggett, eldest son of his family, was born in Hamburg (proved by his will) and was also a successful merchant of London (he left Alice well fixed in her widowhood). He was very likely a mercer (textile merchant) like his father. John Beauchamp was a dry salter (chemicals and the production of dyes), so he no doubt had dealings with textile merchants or was himself involved in the textile trade, a booming industry of that era in England. He and the senior John Doggett might have been friends (so that young John and young Alice met), or perhaps the Beauchamps and the Doggetts all lived in St. Swithin’s Parish, London, and Alice fell in love with the boy next door, or two streets over. Possibly Alice and John moved into the Beauchamps’ house in London after her parents moved to Reigate, or maybe they found their own house in the neighborhood, but they lived in St. Swithin’s or at least had their children christened there between 1645 and 1663, at the same church where Alice’s younger siblings may have been baptized.

iv. Mary Beauchamp, m. [__?__] Woolsey

v. Edmund Beauchamp, b. 16 Dec 1625 in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire, England; d. Sep 1691 in Annamessex, Somerset, Maryland will executed April 10, 1691, probated October 12, 1691. m. 22 Jun 1668, to Sarah Dixon;

File:Somerset County Maryland Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Crisfield Highlighted.svg

Annemessex Neck now Crisfield, Somerset, Maryland

Sent to the Eastern Shore of Maryland by Governor Calvert in 1666.  Received 50 acres of land from Lord Baltimore.  Served as clerk to the court from June to August 22, 1666. Then became clerk and keeper of the records of the proceedings of the court of Somerset County until his death.  Took part in the expedition against the Nanticoke Indians.  Speaks of himself in his will as “weaver, of London”.  In Maryland by 1665.  In 1665 assigns 50 acres to William Smith.

Sarah Dixon  b. 1655  baptized April 21, 1671, previously Quaker
m.(2) John White d. 1730  Supposed to have died leaving 5 minor children:  Mary, Sarah, Henry, Rachel, and Martha White

Edmund Beauchamp, who arrived in Maryland well educated and well heeled (since he bought Contention outright, without headrights, and promptly signed it over to his wife), was also a mercer of London, involved in the textile trade, and he had a son named Doggett. If he was John Beauchamp’s son, he may have gone to work for his father or (perhaps with brothers) carried on John’s business after John died. Or he may have gone to work for his brother-in-law, John Doggett. He may have lived with John and Alice Doggett when, unmarried, at least in 1653, he set off for London to make his own mark. If Edmund was about age 21, when his father wrote his will, about 23 when his father died, then John Doggett may well have been the person who guided him as a young mercer on his own in London.

vi. Richard Beauchamp,

vii. George Beauchamp,

viii. Elizabeth Beauchamp.

6. John Freeman

John’s first wife Mary Lloyd was born in 1608 in London, England . Mary died 14 Jun 1633.

John’s sccond wife Elizabeth Noyes was born about 1624 in Penton, Southampton, England.  Her parents were Peter Noyes (1592 – 1657) and Elizabeth [__?__] (1594 – 1636). After John died, she married Josiah Haynes, son of Walter Haynes and Elizabeth Goure, on 13 Nov 1649 at Sudbury, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.   Elizabeth died 1649 in Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass.

Elizabeth’s father Peter Noyes was born about 1591 in Penton, Southamtpon, England He died on 23 Sep 1657 in Sudbury, Middlesex, MA. He is called Peter Nyoyes, Deacon of the Church at Sudbury, 23 Sept 1657. Beneath is: Rec’d of Ens. Thomas Noyes, Clerk, as attests Tho. Danforth, Recorder The children, other than Thomas and Elizabeth attached to Peter are speculative. They may be children of an unknown relative. Given their approximate birth dates, they were almost certainly born in England, as Peter and the rest of the settlers did not arrive before 1638. Their birthdates are also speculative, other than Thomas who is specifically mentioned as being age 15 when he arrived with his father.

In one record, it is said Peter the emigrant, came on the ship “Confidence” in 1638, age 47. With him were a son Thomas, age 15, and a daughter Elizabeth, no age mentioned. No wife is mentioned. In NEHG 47:72, “Walter Haynes and Peter Noyes,” however a heretofore unpublished document by an early Noyes, gives that he came with 3 sons and 3 daughters. No wife is mentioned. Those are listed as Thomas, Peter, Josephus, Dorithy, Elizabeth, Abigail.

Children of John and Mary

i. John Freeman b. 1626 –

ii. Cicely Freeman b. 1631 –

iii. Sucilla Freeman b. 1631 –

Child of John and Elizabeth:

iv. Sgt. Joseph Freeman. b. 29 Mar 1645 Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass. ; m. Dorothy Haynes, daughter of Deacon John Haynes and Dorothy Noyes, on 6 May 1680 at Sudbury, Middlesex County, Mass.; d. 2 Feb 1697/98 at Preston, New London, CT.

vi. James Freeman b. 10 Jun 1647, d. 18 Jun 1647

vii. Elizabeth Freeman b. 23 Jun 1648 in Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass.; d.  bef. 10 Jul 1723 in Norwich, New London, CT; m.  6 Jul 1670 Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass to Thomas Gates.

7. Elizabeth Freeman

Elizabeth’s husband John Coddington was born 1605 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. He died after 13 Nov 1650.

8. Thomas Freeman

Thomas was passenger #91, age 24 on  The Abigail left London, England April to July 1635 with her master, Robert Hackwell, arriving in Massachusetts Bay.





Posted in 13th Generation, Historical Church, Line - Shaw | Tagged | 4 Comments

John Bliss

John BLISS  (1561 – 1617) was Alex’s 12th Great Grandfather, one of 8,192 in this generation of the Shaw line.

Thomas Bliss – Coat of Arms

John Bliss was baptized 2 Feb 1561 in Daventry, England.  His parents were William BLISS b. ABT 1533 in Daventry, Northampton, England and Elizabeth OLIPHANT  b. 1540 in Daventry, Northampton, England.  His first wife was Agnes or Annes [__?__].  He married his second wife, Alice Smith in 1614.  John died 7 Sep 1617 in Preston Parva, England and was buried 8 Sep 1617 in St. Peters, Preston Capes, Northampton, England.

St. Peters, Preston Capes, Northampton

Agnes or Annes [__?__] was born in 1571 in Daventry, Northants, England. She died before 1614 in Preston Capes, England.

Alice Smith was born about 1553 in Preston Capes, Northampton, England.  Her father was Walter Smith (1525 – 1567). Alice died 26 Mar 1625 in Little Preston, Daventry, Northamptonshire, England.

Children of John and Alice:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Thomas BLISS c. 1588
Preston Parva, Daventry, Northamptonshire
22 Nov 1614
Holy Cross Church, in Daventry, Northampton, England.
7 Oct 1647
Rehoboth, Mass.
2. George Bliss 1591
Preston Parva, Northampton, England
Ann Shaw
30 May 1635
Holy Cross Church in Daventry.
 31 Aug 1667
Newport, RI
3. Elizabeth Bliss 1599
Preston Capes, Norths., England
4. Constance Bliss
5. Agnes Bliss 1593
Preston Capes, Norths., England
John Harding
12 Jul 1629,
Preston Capes, Norths., England
6. Joane Bliss 1595
Preston Capes, Norths, England
John Payne

John was a blacksmith at Preston Parva (a small village near Preston Capes)  His first wife, by whom he had all but one of his children, is unknown. His second wife, who he married in 1614, was Alice Smith, and she was the mother of John Bliss (born 1615, died 1616).


1. Thomas BLISS (See his page)

2. George Bliss

George’s wife Ann Shaw was born 1593 in Preston Parva, Northampton, Devon, England.

George  and his wife joined Thomas and his family in their crossing to America, landing probably at Boston around 1638.  George may have resided a short time at Lynn, then Sandwich, Massachusetts.  On April 16, 1640, George was granted 1.5 acres of land.  He later removed to Newport, RI where he practiced his trade as a blacksmith.  In 1650, George was appointed (along with others) to make and mend all arms in Newport.  In 1657, Gov. Benedict Arnold described George Bliss as one of the original purchasers of the Island of Quononicut.  Later, Gov. Arnold’s daughter, Damaris, married George’s son, John.  George is listed in the Colonial Records as a freeman in 1655/56.

George bought land in Newport March 22, 1660. On that date articles of agreement were made whereby Sosoa, an Indian captain of Narragansett, deeded (June 29, 1660) a large tract of land called Misquamicutt [the Indian name of salmon] to seventy-six of the colonists, George Bliss being one of the number.  In 1669 the territory of Misquamicutt was incorporated under the name of Westerly.

George Bliss died August 31, 1667 at Newport.

Persecuted Cousins

There was another Thomas Bliss who immigrated to Hartford, CT.  Several sources state that he was the cousin of our Thomas and George,  The relationship is unproven, but it is interesting coincidence that both family branches had a Thomas, Johns, George and Jonathan.  This Thomas was from Devon while our Bliss ancestors originated in Northampton.

Tradition has it that Thomas Bliss, the emigrant, was the son and name-sake of a well-to-do, locally influential citizen in the village of Belstone, county Devonshire. In the opening decades of the 17th century the father, Thomas, Sr. had become a determined advocate of the Puritan cause and had participated with like-minded neighbors in the acts of protest against religious oppression. On one particular occasion, he and three of his sons (George, Jonathan and Thomas, Jr.) had accompanied a party, led by the local member of parliament, in riding up to London to engage both king and archbishop in direct confrontation. The upshot was their imprisonment and the levying of heavy fines (said to have been in excess of £1000) in lieu of their freedom. Payment of the fines required the virtual liquidation of the family estate, and even then there was not enough money to free all four Blisses. Thus one of the sons, Jonathan, remained in jail some while longer, was severely whipped in the public square at Exeter, and never thereafter recovered his health.

Impoverished and broken in his own health, Thomas, Sr. subsequently returned to Belstone and lived in the household of his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Calcliffe. She was the wife of a knighted gentleman who had remained a regular communicant of the Anglican church (thus avoiding persecution). As the crisis of the realm deepened, the father summoned his sons, divided among them what patrimony he still retained, and advised them to remove to New England. Thomas, Jr. and George left soon thereafter; Jonathan was too ill to join them, but sent at least one of his sons in their care. During the years that followed, Lady Calcliffe sought to help her relatives across the sea by sending them periodic shipments of clothing and food. And it was in her personal correspondence — regrettably, long since lost — that this part of the Bliss family history was remembered for succeeding generations.

Thomas was born about 1590. The particular location of his birth is not known. He resided in Rodborough, Gloucestershire at one time, and a son Nathaniel was born there. However, there were very few Blisses resident at Rodborough at that time and in fact no Bliss testators lived there during Thomas’ stay. It was not the place of his birth nor the place of his ancestors. The reason for his presence was one Margaret Hulins (or Hulings) of Rodborough whom he married in about 1617. Numerous Bliss records are traced to the Painswick area which has been termed “Bliss Country” by other researchers.

Thomas’ wife Margaret Hulings was born 15 Jul 1595 Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England.  Her parents were John Hulings and Margaret Lawrence. She married Thomas Bliss 18 Oct 1620. Margaret died 28 Aug 1684 – Springfield, Hampden County, Mass., full forty years after the death of her husband, and nearly fifty after she emigrated.

Some sites say that Thomas Bliss Sr was the son of William BLISS, John BLISS’ father so maybe the two immigrant Thomas Blisses really were cousins. Thomas Bliss, Sr. was a wealthy landowner, and was a Puritan, persecuted on account of his faith, by civil and religious authorities, under the direction of the infamous Archbishop Laud, that he was maltreated, impoverished and imprisoned. He was reduced to poverty and his health ruined by the persecution of the Church of England. He is supposed to have been born about 1555-60, and he died about 1635.

When the parliament of 1628 assembled, Puritans or Roundheads, as they were called by the Cavaliers or Tories, accompanied the members to London. Two of the sons of Thomas Bliss, Jonathan and Thomas, rode from Devonshire on iron-grey horses, and remained for some time-long enough, anyhow, for the king’s officers and spies to mark them, and from that time they, with others who had gone on the same errand to the capital, were marked for destruction. The Bliss brothers were fined a thousand pounds for their non-conformity, and thrown into prison, where they lay for weeks. Even their venerable father was dragged through the streets with the greatest indignities. On another occasion the officers of the high commission seized all their horses and all their sheep, except one poor ewe, that in its fright ran in the house and took refuge under a bed. At another time the three sons of Thomas Bliss, with a dozen Puritans, were led through the market place, in Okehampton, with ropes around their necks and also fined heavily.

On another occasion Thomas Sr. was arrested and thrown into prison with his son Jonathan, who eventually died from the hardships and abuse of the churchmen. At another time the king’s officers seized the cattle of the family and most of their household goods, some of which were highly valued for their age and beauty, and as heirlooms, having been for centuries in the family. In fact, the family being so impoverished, by constant persecution, was unable to pay the fines and secure the release of both father and son from prison, so the young man remained and the father’s fine was paid. At Easter the young man received thirty-five lashes.

After the father died, his widow lived with their daughter, whose husband, Sir John Calcliffe, was a communicant of the Church of England, in good standing. The remnant of the estate was divided among the three sons, who were advised to go to America to escape further persecution. Thomas and George feared to wait for Jonathan, who was ill in prison;, and they left England in the fall of 1635 with their families. Thomas, son of Jonathan, and grandson of Thomas Bliss, remained in England until his father died, and then he also came to America, settling near his uncle of the same name. At various times the sister of the immigrants sent to the brothers boxes of shoes, clothing and articles that could not be procured in the colonies, and it is through her letters, long preserved in the original but now lost, that knowledge of the family was handed down from generation to generation.

Thomas Bliss sold his property in England and sailed for America, in 1635. The name of the ship has not been revealed. Thomas’ wife, Margaret, accompanied him, along with several of their children, born in England. The Bliss group landed in Boston, then settled for a while in Braintree, Massachusetts. In 1639 they accompanied the Thomas Hooker party to Hartford, Connecticut.

The street where they lived there was first known as Bliss Street but is now called Trinity Street. In 1646, Thomas Bliss was a member of the Hartford Train-Band but the family removed to Springfield, Massachusetts and he died there.

Thomas Bliss’ wife Margaret is said to have been a good looking woman, with a square chin, indicating great strength of character. After the death of her husband, which took place about 1638, she managed the affairs of the family with great prudence and good judgment. She was energetic, efficient and of great intellectual capacity. Her eldest daughter married Robert Chapman, of Saybrook, Connecticut., April 29, 1642, and settled in Saybrook, where Thomas Bliss Jr. also settled, removing to Springfield, Massachusetts, on account of the malarial fevers then prevalent in Connecticut. She sold her property in Hartford and purchased a tract a mile square in Springfield, in the south part of the town, on what is now Main street. Margaret Bliss died August 19, 1684, full forty years after the death of her husband, and nearly fifty after she emigrated.

A large “house lot grant” was given to the Widow Bliss in Springfield. In 1644 the widow Margaret Bliss became one of only two women recognized in her community as a “Freeman.” She earned the esteem of the people of Springfield. John Homer Bliss describes her as follows:

“The Widow Bliss was a handsome woman with broad brow, fair hair and blue eyes, who managed her family’s affairs with great prudence after her husband’s death (about 1639). She was considered a woman of unusual mental ability. She died in Springfield on August 26, 1688”

Margaret was then at least ninety at the time of her death. A long life indeed for her generation. She left her name “Widow Bliss” on many of the pages of the town records, dealing mostly with land acquitions and improvements that affected her properties. On one occasion she was fined two pence for having a defect in her fences, which allowed her cattle to range on other’s property.

One entry in the town records is interesting showing a concern on her part for the rights of the local Indians:

Here ffolloweth Severall Grants of Land, Made by this Towne Beginning wth ye Yeare, 1665″: “Widdy Bliss hath granted unto her soe much of the pond as is at ye end of her lott in Long meddow: provided ye Indians be not molested in comeing to or gathering of their pease”

The inventory of Thomas Bliss of Hartford , husband of Margaret afterwards of Longmeadow , MA was presented 14 Feb 1650 and appears in Longmeadow Centennial, as does his estate. His children, Lawrence, John, Samuel, Elizabeth, Hannah and Sarah are mentioned, as well as daughter Heather who is not mentioned elsewhere. Not mentioned are the children Nathaniel, Anne, Mary, and Thomas, all of whom survived their father. It is to be presumed that they had received their share of the estate upon their respective marriages.

Margaret Bliss house, Springfield. Built 1695, probably by Margaret’s grandson, Thomas Bliss. Photo circa 1890. Courtesy of the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts

Children of Thomas and Margaret:

i. Ann Bliss b. 1620 in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England; d. 20 Nov 1685 Saybrook, Middlesex, CT;  m. Robert Chapman b. 1 Jan 1616 in Hull, Yorkshire, England; d. 13 Oct 1687 in Saybrook, Middlesex, CT

ii. Nathaniel Bliss b. 1622 in Belstone, Devon, England or baptized 22 Dec 1622 at Rodborough, Minchin Hampton, Gloucestershire, England.   m. Catharine Chapin, daughter of Samuel Chapin, Deacon and Cicely Penny, on 20 November 1646 at Belstone, Devonshire, England.  He went to Springfield after his father’s death.  Nathaniel died on 8 Nov 1654 at Springfield, Hampden, MA, at age 31. He was buried on 10 Nov 1654 at Springfield, Hampden, MA.

After Nathaniel died, Catherine married Thomas Gilbert 31 Jul 1655.

iii. Samuel Bliss b. 1624 in Belstone, Devon, England; m. Mary Leonard Nov 10, 1665; d. 23 Mar 1720.

iv. Mary Bliss 16 Mar 1628 in Northampton, Hampshire, Mass.; d. 29 Jan 1712 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.; m. 26 Nov 1646 Hartford, CT to Cornet Joseph Parsons (1620 – 1683)

Mary Bliss Parsons, wife of Cornet Joseph Parsons, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Bliss of Hartford, Ct., both very prominent families, was born in England about 1628 and came to this country with her parents when she was about eight years old. She was eleven or twelve when they decided on still another move, to the rude little settlement of Hartford. There for a time life stablized, and Mary grew to womanhood as an average member of an ordinary New England community. In 1646 she married Joseph Parsons, a successful merchant, and went to live in Springfield. Henceforth, her life would be increasingly set apart from the average.

This painting is often referenced as Mary Bliss Parsons, but it is not.

In 1654 the Parsonses moved to Northampton. The family, which included eleven children, became members of the church. Local tradition has remembered Mary as being “possessed of great beauty and talents, but…not very amiable…exclusive in the choice of her associates, and…of haughty manners.”

In 1656, Mary was accused of witchcraft by some of her neighbors who were envious of their prosperity and endeavored in this way to disgrace them. She was vigorously defended by her mother, Margaret, but in 1674 a formal charge was made. She was sent to Boston for trial, where the jury gave her a full acquittal of the crime, and she returned home to Northampton. She and her husband removed back to Springfield in 1679. Soon after her acquittal in Boston , her son Ebenezer,was killed by the Indians at Northfield (Sept. 8, 1675). Those who had been instrumental in bringing her to trial said, “Behold, though human judges may be bought off, God’s vengeance neither turns aside nor slumbers.”

Samuel Bartlett complaint against Mary Parsons

Samll Bartlet of Northampton having lately lost his wife to his greate greife as he expresseth and ye rather for ye he strongly suspects yt she dyed by some unusuall meanes, viz, by meanes
of some evell Instruemt he presented to this Corte diverse evedences to shew the grounds of his feares & suspicioun Alsoe Goodman Bridgeman finding so ye Corte & Intreateing that
Diligent inquisition may be made concurring ye Death of ye sayd Woeman his Daughter for yt he also Strongly suspects she come to her and by some unlawfull & unatureall means
& for ye Diverse of ye testemonyes doe reflect on Goodwife Parsones Sen of Northampton yeCorte haveing read ye testemonyes doe thinks it meete yt ye case should be ffurther lookt into & therefore doe refferr ye sayd case & all other things Concerning ye sayd Goodwife Parsons yhave beene now Presented to ye ajournmt of this Corte which is to be kept at Northampton ye 18th Day of November next, for further Disquition & doe order yt she be warned thereto attend to answer wt shall be objected agst her & ye wittnesses are to be warned to appeare to testify before her viva vere wt they have already given in upon oath concerning her.

In 1656, soon after the Parsons family moved to Northampton, Joseph Parsons brought an action for slander against Sarah Bridgeman, charging that Sarah had accused Mary, his wife, of being a witch. On the docket of the Middlesex County Court, for its session of October 7, 1656, is found the following entry: “Joseph Parsons, plaintiff, against Sarah, the wife of James Bridgman, defendant, in an action of the case for slandering her [Parson’s wife] in her name. This action, by consent of both parties, was referred to the judgment of the Honored Bench of Magistrates.” A separate document records the magistrates’ finding in favor of the plaintiff and their order that the defendant make “public acknowledgment” of the wrong she had done. The acknowledgment was to be a dual performance – once in the town of Northampton and again at Springfield. Failure to fulfill either part of this requirement would result in a fine of £10.

The testimony against Mary Parsons was that following hard upon the heels of any disagreement or quarrel between Mary Parsons and any member of the Bridgeman family, a fatal disease would seize upon some horse, cow, or pig, belonging to the Bridgeman family and, as the disease could not be accounted for in any other way, it must be the result of Mary’s uncanny influence exercised by way of revenge.

The first set of testimonies was recorded at Northampton on or about the 20th of June. For example: Robert Bartlett testifieth that George Langdon told him the last winter that Goody Bridgman and Goody Branch were speaking about Mary Parsons concerning her being a witch. And the said George told to the said Robert that my [Langdon’s] wife being there said she could not think so – which the said Goody Bridgman seemed to be distates with. As also [according to Langdon] they had hard thoughts of the wife of the said Robert [Bartlett] because she was intimate with the said Mary Parsons.”

The other depositions in this early group enlarge on the gossip theme. The same Hannah Langdon mentioned in Bartlett’s statement testified that “Sarah Bridgman … told her that her boy when his knee was sore cried out of the wife of Joseph Parsons.” Bridgman had also alleged widespread “jealousies that the wife of Joseph Parsons was not right.” For a time Langdon herself had entertained suspicions of Mary Parsons, but recently “it hath pleased God to help her over them, … and [she] is sorry she should have [had] hard thoughts of her upon no better grounds.” These depositions converged on the issue of what Goody Bridgman had said.

The second major group of papers in the case carries a date several weeks later. They were taken before a different official, and probably in a different place (Springfield). They expressed a different viewpoint, as the recorder noted at the top of the opening page: “Testimonies Taken on Behalf of Sarah, the wife of James Bridgman, the 11th day of August, 1656.” The Bridgmans themselves supplied lengthy testimony on the events which had caused them to suspect Goody Parsons.

The previous summer the Bridgemans’ eleven-year-old son had suffered a bizarre injury while tending their cows: “In a swamp there came something and gave him a great blow on the had…and going a little further he…stumbled…and put his knee out of joint.” Subsequently, the knee was “set” but it would not heal properly – and he was in grievous torture about a month.” Then the boy discovered the cause of his sufferings: “He cried out [that] Goody Parsons would pull off his knee, [saying] ‘there she sits on the shelf.’ …I and my husband labored to quiet him, but could hardly hold him in bed for he was very fierce. We told him there was nobody…’Yea,” says he, ‘there she is; do you not see her? There she runs away and a black mouse follows her.’ And this he said many times and with great violence…and he was like to die in our apprehension.” At about the same time the Bridgmans had also lost an infant son:

“I [Sarah] being brought to bed, about three days after as I was sitting up, having the child in my lap, there was something that gave a great blow on the door. And that very instant, as I apprehended, my child changed. And I thought with myself and told my girl that I was afraid my child would die…Presently… I looking towards the door, through a hole…I saw…two women pass by the door, with white clothes on their heads; then I concluded my child would die indeed. And I sent my girl out to see who they were, but she could see nobody, and this made me think there is wickedness in the place.”

The decision of the court was in favor of the plaintiff and against Mrs. Bridgeman, and she was ordered to make public acknowledgment of her fault at Northampton and Springfield, and that her husband, James Bridgman, pay to plaintiff 10£ and cost of court.

But the charge of witchcraft against Mary Parsons did not end with the judgment in the slander suit. Her name was cleared, but only from a legal standpoint. In the years that followed, her husband prospered ever more greatly, her children grew in number and (mostly) flourished, her mother and brothers sank the Bliss family roots deep into the CT Valley. But her reputation for witchcraft hung on.

In 1674 the whole matter was renewed in court – with the important difference that now Mary Parsons was cast as defendant. Unfortunately, most of the evidence from this later case has disappeared. All that survives is the summary material from the dockets of the two courts involved. In August 1674, a young woman of Northampton, Mary Bartlett, had died rather suddenly. She was twenty-two, wife of Samuel Bartlett and the mother of an infant son. More importantly, she was a daughter of Sarah and James Bridgman. Her husband and father jointly believed, as they later testified in court, that “she came to her end by some unlawful and unnatural means, … viz. by means of some evil instrument.” And they had distinct ideas about the person most likely to have used such means.

On September 29, the Hampshire County Court received “diverse testimonies” on the matter. Mary Parsons was also there – on her own initiative: “She having intimation that such things were bruited abroad, and that she should be called in question…”the fact that Mrs. Parsons voluntarily appeared before the court desiring to clear herself of such an execrable crime, and that subsequently she argued her own case before the court must not be overlooked. On both these occasions she met her accusers boldly, protesting her innocence, and showing ‘how clear she was of such a crime.’ In this trial Mrs. Parsons was called to speak for herself and from the meager report upon record, undoubtedly did so most effectively.” The court examined her, considered all the evidence, and deferred further action to its next meeting in November. There followed a second deferral “for special reasons” (about which the court did not elaborate).

On January 5, 1675, the county magistrates conducted their most extended hearing of the case. The previous depositions were reviewed and (apparently) some new ones were taken. Both Samuel Bartlett and Mary Parsons were present in person once again.

Mary was “called to speak for herself, [and] she did assert her own innocency, often mentioning … how clear she was of such a crime, and that the righteous God knew her innocency – with whom she had left her cause.” The magistrates decided that final jurisdiction in such matters belonged not to them but to the Court of Assistants in Boston. Still, considering “the season” and “the remoteness” [i.e., of their own court from Boston] and “the difficulties, if not incapabilities, or persons there to appear,” they determined to do their utmost “in inquriing into the case.” Among other things, they appointed a committee of “soberdized, chaste women” to conduct a body-search on Mary Parsons, to see “whether any marks of witchcraft might appear.” (The result was “an account” which the court did not disclose.) Eventually, all the documents were gathered and forwarded to Boston.

At the same court, and apparently as part of the same proceeding, “some testimony” was offered “reflecting on John Parsons.” John was Mary’s second son: he was twenty-four at the time, and as yet unmarried. How and why he should have been implicated in the charges against his mother cannot now be discovered; but the evidence was in any case unpersuasive. The court did “not find…any such weight whereby he should be prosecute on suspicion of witchcraft” and discharged him accordingly.

Meanwhile, the case against Mary Parsons moved towards its final round. On March 2, Mary was taken to Boston, “presented” at the Court of Assistants, and formally indicted by the grand jury. Thereupon the court ordered her commitment to prison until “her further trial.” The trial came some ten weeks later (May 13, 1675). An imposing roster of Assistants lined the bench: the governor, the deputy-governor, and a dozen magistrates (including her husband’s old associate, John Pynchon). However, her fate rested with “the jury of trails for life and death” – twelve men, of no particular distinction, from Boston and the surrounding towns. The indictment was read one last time: “Mary Parsons, the wife of Joseph Parsons…being instigated by the Devil, hath…entered into familiarity with the Devil, and committed several acts of witchcraft on the person or persons of one or more.” The evidence in the case was also read. And “the prisoner at the bar, holding up her hand and pleading not guilty, …[put] herself on her trial.” The tension of this moment must have been very great, but it does not come through in the final, spare notation of the court recorder: “The jury brought in their verdict. They found her not guilty. And so she was discharged.”

The jury gave her a full acquittal of the crime. Of Mary’s life subsequent to 1674 there is little direct information. She and her husband would eventually give up their home in Northampton and move back to Springfield. Joseph would died in 1683, leaving a substantial estate of £2,088, and Mary would enter a very long widowhood.

She remained thereafter in Springfield, completed the rearing of her numerous progeny, and saw her sons – and then her grandsons – assume positions of prominence in several CT Valley towns. Death claimed her in January, 1712, when she was about eighty-five years old. She was not again tried for witchcraft, but neither was she ever free from local suspicion.

v. Lawrence Bliss b. 628 in Of Rodborough, Gloucestershire, , England; d. 8 Nov 1676 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.; m. Lydia Wright

vi. Thomas Bliss b. Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England went to Norwich. d. 15 Apr 1688 Norwich, CT  He went to Saybrook, CT after his father’s death.

vii. Hannah Bliss b. 1633 in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England; d. single 25 Jan 1660

vi. John Bliss b. 1635 in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England; d. 10 Sep 1702; m. Patience Burt.

vii. Elizabeth Bliss b. 1640 in Hartford, Hartford, CT; m. Miles Morgan (second wife) 15 Feb 1670 and had one child.

viii. Hester Bliss b. 1640 in Hartford, Hartford, CT, m. Edward Foster

Thomas Bliss Springfield – Bio









The first century of the history of Springfield: the official …, Volume 2 By Springfield (Mass.), Henry Martyn

http://ccbit.cs.umass.edu/parsons/hnmockup/ (Goody Parsons Witchcraft Case)


Posted in 14th Generation, Dissenter, Witch Trials | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Nine Men’s Misery – 1676

On March 26, 1676 during King Philip’s War, Captain Michael Pierce led approximately 60 Plymouth Colony colonial troops and 20 Wampanoag Christian Indians in pursuit of Narragansett Indians who had burned several Rhode Island towns and attacked Plymouth, Mass. as part of King Philip’s War.

Nine Men’s Misery Monument

Pierce’s troops caught up with the Narragansett Indians but were ambushed in what is now Central Falls, Rhode Island. Pierce’s troops fought the Narragansetts for several hours, but were surrounded by a larger force of Narragansetts. The battle was one of the biggest defeats of colonial troops during King Philip’s War with nearly all killed in the battle, including Captain Pierce and the Christian Indians (“Praying Indians”) (exact numbers vary by account somewhat). The Narragansetts lost only a handful of warriors.

Nine of the colonists who were among the dead were first taken prisoner (along with a tenth man who survived). These men were purportedly tortured to death by the Narragansetts at a site in Cumberland, Rhode Island, currently on the Cumberland Monastery and Library property. The nine dead colonists were buried by English soldiers who found the corpses and buried them in 1676. The soldiers created a pile of stones to memorialize the colonists. This pile is believed to be the oldest veterans’ memorial in the United States, and a cairn of stones has continuously marked the site since 1676.

A more personal and detailed account of the massacre of Pierce’s party by the Indians gives us a flavor of the emotion felt by the English:

“Sunday the 26th of March was sadly remarkable to us for the Tidings of a very deplorable Disaster brought unto Boston about 5 a Cloak that Afternoon, by a Post from Dedham, viz., that Captain Pierce (of) Scituate, in Plimmouth Colony, having Intelligence in his Garrison at Seaconicke, that a Party of the Enemy lay near Mr. Blackstones, went forth with 63 English and twenty of the Cape Indians, (who had all along continued faithful, and joyned with them;) and upon their March, discovered rambling in an obscure woody Place, four or five Indians, who, in getting away from us, halted, as if they had been lame or wounded.

But our Men had pursued them but a little Way into the Woods, before they found them to be only Decoys to draw them into their Ambuscade: for on a Sudden, they discovered about 500 Indians, who in very good order, furiously attacqued them, being as readily received by ours. So that the Fight began to be very fierce and dubious, and our Men had made the Enemy begin to retreat but so slowly that it scarce deserved that Name, when a fresh Company of about 400 Indians came in; so that the English and their few Indian Friends were quite surrounded, and beset on every Side. Yet they made a brave Resistance, for about two Hours: during all that Time they did great Execution upon the Enemy, whom they kept at a Distance, and themselves in Order.

For Captain Pierce cast his 63 English and 20 Indians into a Ring, and fought Back to Back, and were double-double Distance, all in a Ring, whilst the Indians were as thick as they could stand, thirty deep. Overpowered with those numbers, the said Captain, and 55 of his English and ten of their Indian Friends were slain upon the Place; which, in such a Cause, and upon such Disadvantages, may certainly be stiled ‘The Bed of Honour.’ However, they sold their worthy Lives at a gallant Rate; it being affirmed by those few that (not without wonderful Difficulty, and many Wounds) made their Escape, that the Indians lost as many Fighting Men, (not counting Women and Children,) in this Engagement, as were killed at the Battle in the Swamp, near Narraganset, mentioned in our last Letter, which were generally computed to be above three Hundred

The “Nine Men’s Misery” site was disturbed in 1790 by medical students led by one Dr. Bowen looking for the body of one of the dead colonists, Benjamin Bucklin, who was said to be unusually large with a double row of teeth. They were stopped by outraged locals. The site was desecrated several more times until 1928 when the monks who then owned the cemetery built a cemented stone cairn above the site. The cairn and site can still be visited on the Monastery grounds.

Pierce’s Fight was followed by the burning of Providence three days later, and then the capture and execution of Canonchet, the chief sachem of the Narragansetts. The war was winding down even at the time that Pierce’s party was destroyed, and in August, King Philip himself was killed.

John LOW (1629 – 26 Mar 1676)  died  at Nine Men’s Misery a site in current day Cumberland, Rhode Island where nine colonists were tortured by the Narragansett Indian tribe during King Philip’s War. A stone memorial was constructed in 1676 which is believed to be the oldest veterans memorial in the United States.  Cumberland was originally settled as part of Rehoboth, Mass  which is listed as the location of John’s death.

Our ancestors’ children, John Millard, son of John MILLARD , Benjamin Buckland, son of William BUCKLAND  and John Sprague, son-in-law of William BASSETT  also died in the battle.

Respecting Rev. John HOWSE‘ grandson Respecting Shubael Linnel little is known. He is named in 1667 as a guardian of the children of the second Thomas Ewer. A Samuel Linael of Barnstable was killed at the battle of Rehobeth, and as the only Samuel Linnel of Barnstable in 1776 was Samuel, son of David, and as he is named as living in 1688 he could not have been the man killed in 1676. To reconcile these conflicting statements Amos Otis supposed that there is an error in the records, that Shubael, the guardian, is the same person who is called Samuel in the returns of the killed March 26, 1676

John WHELDON served in Plymouth’s 4th expedition against the Narragansett Indians, March, 1675, otherwise known as Pierce’s Ambush, then was exempted from military training in October, 1677 “on consideration that hee hath three sons fitted with armes for publicke service.”.

The site is located on the grounds of the former Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Valley, now the Cumberland public library, and is an approximately 15 minute walk behind the main building on a rise in the woods.

Directions:  Follow the road to the right past the main building, you will come to a low white building on your left and at that point should see a break in the chain link fence that is on your right. There is a low metal guardrail in the break, step over and you should be on a walking path. Turn right and not far up the path will divid, take the left path, it will bring you through a field. In the field, it again branches out – take the left again and keep walking out of the field through the trees. From leaving the field to reaching the monument is about the same distance that you walked to get out of the field from the start. Coming down over a small rise, there is a path to the right that brings you to the elevated area that the monument occupies – you can see the monument from the rise when on the path.



Posted in History, Violent Death | 13 Comments

Battle of Havana – 1762

The Battle of Havana had by far the most America deaths of any battle up until that time, especially for Connecticut, but until I found family casualties in this genealogy project, I had never heard of it.

File:British fleet entering Havana.jpg

The British fleet closing in on Havana in 1762

The Battle of Havana (1762) was a military action from March to August 1762, as part of the Seven Years’ War. British forces besieged and captured the city of Havana, which at the time was an important Spanish naval base in the Caribbean, and dealt a serious blow to the Spanish navy. During the siege the British had lost 2,764 killed, wounded, captured or deserted, but by 18 October also had lost 4,708 dead from sickness. One of the most depleted brigade was transferred to North America where it lost a further 360 men within a month of his arrival.  Havana was subsequently returned to Spain under the 1763 Treaty of Paris that formally ended the war, but Spain was required to cede Florida and Minorca to Great Britain and pay the Manila Ransom. Spain received French Louisiana as a payment for intervening in the war on the side of the French and as compensation for having lost Florida.

Capt. Joseph SEXTON’s (1666 – 1742) son Charles Sexton died 16 Sep 1762 at sea on the expedition from Somers to “the Havannah”.   According to the Barbour Collection, his son Charles Jr appears to have died on the expedition a week later 25 Sep 1762.

-Two sons of Stephen GATES IV (1690 – 1782) died in October and November 1762.  A 19th Century genealogy said they died in the French and Indian War.  I was confused because the French and Indian War ended that September.  I found their unit and commanding officer and through Major General Phineas Lyman found that they were casualties of the Battle of Havana.

Azariah Gates (1725 – 1762) was a solider in the Seven Years War, Battle of Havana from 25 Mar 1762 until 14 Oct 1762 when he died, probably of Yellow Fever in Cuba.   He was in the First Connecticut Regiment under Major General Phineas Lyman, Fifth Company under Captain John Stanton.   In 1762 Lyman was sent with 2,300 men to command the colonial contingent of Lord Albemarle’s army in the capture of Havana.

Phineas Gates (1731 – 1762) was a solider in the Seven Years War, Battle of Havana from 20 Mar 1762 until he was died 30 Nov 1762, like his brother probably of Yellow Fever in  Cuba.   He served with his brother Azariah in the First Connecticut Regiment under Major General Phineas Lyman, Fifth Company under Captain John Stanton.

On 28 Jul 1762  1,400 militia from Connecticut arrived in time to aid in the defense of the batteries from the one Spanish sally. Prado gathered together a rather motley collection of 1,200 militia and threw them against the English lines. Although the opening attack was a surprise, the English recovered quickly and beat back three charges. On the 30th the engineers mining the walls finally had their charges set and blew a breach in the Morro’s walls. Albemarle’s two brothers led the English charge and they made short work of the defenders. Luis de Velasco, commander of the Morro, died defending his flag.

I counted 43 dead and 27 survivors in Azariah and Phineas’s 5th Company, 1st Connecticut Regiment from the Rolls of Connecticut men in the French and Indian War, 1755-1762, Volume 2 By Connecticut Historical Society.   Extrapolating this 61% casualty rate to the entire regiment gives 860 deaths.  I couldn’t find the actual total from this little remembered conflict.  The Connecticut Colony’s total population was 142,000 in 1760.  A similar casualty rate if applied today’s United States would equal 1.8 million deaths.  This was a lot of carnage for a fight not much in the interest of the Connecticut settlers, though maybe the commander did benefit.

William CLARK’S grandson Capt. Israel Loomis (b. 29 Sep 1715 in Lebanon – d. 2 Oct 1801 in Lebanon)  was on the 1762 pay role of  Capt. Robert Durkee’s Ninth Company, Major General Phineas Lyman’s First Connecticut Regiment

Campaign of 1762 - 1st Regiment - Rolls of Connecticut Men in the French and Indian War, 1755-1762, Volume 2  By Connecticut Historical Society

Rolls of Connecticut Men in the French and Indian War, 1755-1762, Volume 2 By Connecticut Historical Society.   As you can see on this page, the casualty rate in Israel Loomis’ group was almost 50%, mostly from malaria and yellow fever.

In 1763, Phineas Lyman went to England where he remained until 1772, endeavoring to obtain a grant of land in west Florida, a tract near Natchez (now Mississippi) being granted by royal charter in 1772. Lyman led a band of settlers to the region in 1773.

Posted in History, Veteran, Violent Death | 7 Comments

Pequot War

Pequot War  1634 – 1638

Maj. John MASON (1600 – 1672) was the commanding officer in the Pequot War.   At the time, he was a victorious hero who later became  Deputy Governor of Connecticut and founded Norwich, Connecticut.  Now, he is viewed by some as a war criminal due to his responsible for the Mystic Massacre.

Capt. William HEDGE (1602 – 1670)  is favorably mentioned by a soldier in the Pequot War , who served with him, as a gentleman, of Northamptonshire, England. He was several times captain of the military company in Yarmouth and of the council of war.

26 May 1637 -Participated in the Mystic Massacre. During the Pequot War, English settlers under Captain John Mason, and Narragansett and Mohegan allies set fire to a fortified Pequot village near the Mystic River. They shot any people who tried to escape the wooden palisade fortress and killed the entire village, consisting mostly of women and children, in retaliation for previous Pequot attacks. The only Pequot survivors were warriors who had been with their sachem Sassacus in a raiding party outside the village.

The Pequot were the dominant Native American tribe in central to eastern Connecticut. They had long competed with the neighboring Mohegan and Narragansett. The Pequot eventually allied with the Dutch, while the Mohegan and others allied with the British. European population growth led to greater land demands, leading to eventual conflict with indigenous populations.

The tensions erupted into the Pequot War when a trader named John Oldham was killed and his trading ship looted by natives suspected to be Pequot. Some retaliation raids by settlers and natives alike ensued, and Pequots responded in kin.

The Connecticut towns raised a militia commanded by Captain John Mason consisting of 90 men, plus 70 Mohegan under sachems Uncas and Wequash. Twenty more men, including William Hedge, under Captain John Underhill joined him at Fort Saybrook.

The Pequot sachem Sassacus, meanwhile, gathered a few hundred warriors and set out to make another raid on Hartford, Connecticut.

At the same time, Captain Mason recruited more than 200 Narragansett and Niantic warriors to join his attack force. On the night of May 26, 1637, the forces of English and Native American attackers arrived outside the palisade-surrounded Pequot village near the Mystic River, which had only two entrances/exits. The English attempted to attack the villagers by surprise, yet met with stiff Pequot resistance. Underhill gave the order to set the village on fire and block off the exits. The Pequot were trapped inside. Those who tried climbing over the palisade were shot; anyone who succeeded in getting over was killed by the Narrangasett forces

A Brief History of the Pequot War Page 9 -
The Fire was kindled on the North East Side to windward; which did swiftly over-run the Fort, to the extream Amazement of the Enemy, and great Rejoycing of our selves. Some of them climbing to the Top of the Palizado; others of them running into the very Flames; many of them gathering to windward, lay pelting at us with their Arrows; and we repayed them with our small Shot: Others of the Stoutest issued forth, as we did guess, to the Number of Forty, who perished by the Sword.

In reference to Captain Underhill and his Parties acting in this Assault, I can only intimate as we were informed by some of themselves immediately after the Fight, Thus They Marching up to the Entrance on the South West Side, there made some Pause; a valiant, resolute Gentleman, one Mr. HEDGE, stepping towards the Gate, saying, If we may not Enter, wherefore came we hear; and immediately endeavoured to Enter; but was opposed by a sturdy Indian which did impede his Entrance: but the Indian being slain by himself and Serjeant Davis, Mr. Hedge Entred the Fort with some others; but the Fort being on Fire, the Smoak and Flames were so violent that they were constrained to desert the Fort.

Thomas CLARKE (1605 – 1697) Headed list of volunteers to act against the Pequot Indians in 1637 in Plymouth being then mentioned as of Eel River now Chiltonville.

Robert  CROSS (1613 – 1693) was one of the young men of Ipswich, seventeen in number, who saw service as soldiers in the Pequot war. The war lasted six months and the men were paid at the rate of 20s. a month.

Posted in History | 4 Comments

Great Swamp Fight

The Great Swamp Fight on December 19, 1675 was the most significant battle of King Philip’s War, what has been called the bloodiest (per capita) conflict in the history of America.  It was a critical blow to the Narragansett tribe from which they never fully recovered.  In April 1676, the Narragansett were completely defeated when the Wampanoag sachem Metacom was shot in the heart by John Alderman, a Native American soldier.  The Narragansett tribe was not recognized by the Federal Government until 1983 and today includes 2,400 members.

As I worked out our family genealogy, the Great Swamp Fight kept appearing again and again.  Our family seems to have an especially intimate relationship with this battle, but I’m beginning to think that every family was equally involved.  Nine direct ancestors participated, four were officers and one was killed.  27 close relatives were part of the fight of whom 6 were officers, six were killed or died of their wounds and six were wounded and survived.  Of the three small regiments involved, eleven officers were our ancestors or their children.

Navigate this Report
1. Overview
2. Background
3. The Battle

4. General Staff
5. Massachusetts Regiment
6. Plymouth Regiment
7. Connecticut Regiment

8. Joshua Tefft – the Only American Drawn & Quartered

9. Aftermath

1. Overview

King Philip’s War  was an armed conflict between Native American inhabitants of present-day southern New England and English colonists and their Native American allies in 1675–76. The war is named after the main leader of the Native American side, Metacomet, known to the English as “King Philip”.

King Phillip by Paul Revere - Illustration from the 1772 edition of Benjamin Church's The Entertaining History of King Philip's War

The war was the single greatest calamity to occur in seventeenth-century Puritan New England. In little over a year, nearly half of the region’s towns were destroyed, its economy was all but ruined, and much of its population was killed, including one-tenth of all men available for military service.  Proportionately, it was one of the bloodiest and costliest wars in the history of North America.   More than half of New England’s ninety towns were assaulted by Native American warriors.

Great Swamp Fight Compared to Today’s Population


Today’s U.S. Equivalent





Killed Great Swamp Fight



Wounded Great Swamp Fight (Many later died)



Colonists Killed and Wounded



Naragansett Warriors Killed

30 to 40

180,400 – 240,500

Naragansett Old Men, Women, Children Killed



The Great Swamp Fight Monument is in the woods three or four miles from the University of Rhode Island Campus  (Google Maps Satellite View)

The Great Swamp Fight Obelisk - In 1906 a rough granite shaft about 20 feet high was erected by the Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars to commemorate this battle. Around the mound on which the shaft stands are four roughly squared granite markers engraved with the names of the colonies which took part in the encounter and two tablets on opposite sides of the shaft give additional data.

2. Background

In 1636, the Narragansett sachems (leaders), Canonicus and Miantonomi sold the land that became Providence to Roger Williams. During the Pequot War, the Narragansett were allied with the New England colonists. However, the brutality of the English shocked the Narragansetts, who returned home in disgust.   After the defeat of the Pequot, the Narrangansett had conflict with the Mohegans over control of the conquered Pequot land.

In 1643 the Narragansett under Miantonomi invaded what is now eastern Connecticut. The plan was to subdue the Mohegan nation and its leader Uncas. Miantonomi had between 900-1000 men under his command.  The invasion turned into a fiasco, and Miantonomi was captured and executed by Uncas’ brother. The following year, the new war leader Pessicus of the Narragansett renewed the war with the Mohegan. With each success, the number of Narragansett allies grew. The Mohegan were on the verge of defeat when the English came and saved them. The English sent troops to defend the Mohegan fort at Shantok. When the English threatened to invade Narragansett territory, Canonicus and his son Mixanno signed a peace treaty. The peace would last for the next 30 years, but the encroachment by the growing colonial population gradually began to erode any accords between natives and settlers.

In King Philip’s War, the Native Americans wanted to expel the English from New England. They waged successful attacks on settlements in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but Rhode Island was spared at the beginning as the Narragansett remained officially neutral.

The United Colonies of New England declared war against the Narragansett Indians on November 2, 1675, charging them, among other things, with “relieving and succouring Wampanoag women and children and wounded men” and not delivering them to the English, and also because they “did in a very reproachful and blasphemous manner, triumph and rejoice” over the English defeat at Hadley. They voted to raise a thousand soldiers to be sent against the Narragansetts unless their sachems gave up the fugitive Wampanoags.

On 2 Nov 1675, General Josiah Winslow led a combined force of over 1000 colonial militia including about 150 Pequot and Mohegan Indians against the Narragansett tribe living around Narragansett Bay.

Several abandoned Narragansett Indian villages were found and burned as the militia marched through the cold winter around Narragansett Bay.  The forces of the United Colonies under Governor Winslow marched across Rhode Island and on December 14 attacked the village of the Squaw Sachem Matantuck near Wickford and burned 150 wigwams, killing seven Indians and taking nine prisoners. The Narragansetts then began a guerrilla warfare, sniping Colonial troops wherever occasion offered. The tribe had retreated to a large fort in the center of a swamp near Kingston, Rhode Island.

A fort in the Great Swamp had been built by the Narragansett Sachem, Canonchet, as a place of refuge. Because of its location on a small island of dry land in the midst of a great swamp, he no doubt considered it impregnable. The massive fort occupied about 5 acres of land. It was, however, only partially completed and consisted of “pallisadoes stuck upright in a hedge of about a rod in thickness.” Two fallen trees formed natural bridges which were the only entrances and the principal one was guarded by a block house. Inside the fort the stores, harvests and accumulated wealth of the Narragansetts had been brought and there asylum had been offered the aged and infirm and the women and children of the Wampanoags of King Philip.

The building of such a defensive structure gives credence to the argument that the Narragansett never intended aggressive actions, thus the colonist’s preemptive attack may have been unwarranted and overzealous.

On the night of December 15 the Indians surrounded Jireh Bull’s large stone house on Tower Hill and massacred all but two of the occupants. The smoldering ruins of the house were found by English scouts the next day. It is possible that the Indians had learned of a plan for the Connecticut contingent to join the other forces at this house and had destroyed it in order to handicap the colonies. Three days later the two English forces joined at Pettaquamscutt and planned to attack the Indians the next day.

3. The Battle

Ordinarily the swamp was practically impenetrable, as it is to this day, but due to the severe December weather the marshy ground had frozen and the English soldiers gained easy access to the island. The Indian outposts retreated into the fort where they were followed by the English. The terrible battle which then began took place amidst ice, snow, under brush and fallen trees.

It had been at 5 AM that the white soldiers had formed up after their night in the cold snow without blankets, and set out toward this Narragansett stronghold. They had arrived at the edge of the Great Swamp, an area around , at about 1 PM. The Massachusetts troops in the lead were fired upon by a small band of native Americans and pursued without waiting for orders. As the natives retreated they came along across the frozen swamp to the entrance of the fort, which was on an island of sorts standing above the swamp, and consisted of a triple palisade of logs twelve feet high. There were small blockhouses at intervals above this palisade. Inside, the main village sheltered about 3,000 men, women, and children.

The Massachusetts troops had been enticed to arrive at precisely the strongest section of the palisade where, however, there was a gap for which no gate had yet been built. Across this gap the natives had placed a tree trunk breast height, as a barrier to check any charge, and just above the gap was a blockhouse. Without waiting for the Plymouth and Connecticut companies, the Massachusetts soldiers charged the opening and swarmed over the barrier.  Of the Massachusetts troops Capts. Mosely and Davenport led the van and came first upon the Indians, and immediately opened fire upon them,  Five company commanders were killed in the charge but the troops managed to remain for a period inside the fort before falling back into the swamp.

The Massachusetts men, now joined by Plymouth, gathered themselves for a second charge. Meanwhile, Major Treat led his Connecticut troops round to the back of the fort where the palisade had not been finished. Here and there the posts were spaced apart and protected only by a tangled mass of limbs and brush. The men charged up a bank under heavy fire and forced their way past the palisade. As they gained a foothold inside, the second charge at the gap also forced an entrance and the battle raged through the Indian village.

Great Swamp Fight Painting

It was a fight without quarter on either side, and was still raging at sunset when Winslow ordered the wooden lodges put to the torch. The flames, whipped by the winds of the driving snowstorm, spread quickly, burning 600 wigwams in the crowded fort. The “shrieks and cries of the women and children, the yelling of the warriors, exhibited a most horrible and appalling scene, so that it greatly moved some of the soldiers. They were in much doubt and they afterwards seriously inquired whether burning their enemies alive could be consistent with humanity and the benevolent principle of the gospel,” says one early account.

Winslow decided that the army had to fall back to the shelter of Smith’s Trading Post in Coccumscossoc (Wickford), where some resupply ships might have arrived. The English gathered their wounded, the worst being placed on horseback, and fell back toward Wickford. It would not be until 2 AM that the leading units would stumble into the town. Some, losing their way, would not get shelter until 7 AM.

The retreating Indians were driven from the woods about the fort, leaving the English a complete, though costly, victory. They had lost five captains and 20 men and had some 150 wounded that must be carried back to a house some ten miles distant. To the terrors of the battle and fire were added the bitter cold and blinding snow of a New England blizzard through which the English toiled back to Cocumcussa. The hardships of that march took a toll of 30 or 40 more lives. The Indians reported a loss of 40 fighting men and one sachem killed and some 300 old men, women and children burned alive in the wigwams.

Many of the warriors and their families escaped into the frozen swamp. Facing a winter with little food and shelter, the whole surviving Narragansett tribe was forced out of quasi-neutrality some had tried to maintain in the on-going war and joined the fight alongside Philip. The colonists lost many of their officers in this assault and about 70 of their men were killed and nearly 150 more wounded. The dead and wounded colonial militiamen were evacuated to the settlements on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay where they were buried or cared for by many of the Rhode Island colonists until they could return to their homes.

Great Swamp Fight 1906 Map - Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars' Record of the Unveiling of the Monument Commemorating the Great Swamp Fight, - The site of the Narragansett fort is marked with a red X

A portion of the high ground had been enclosed, and from a careful comparison of the most reliable accounts, it seems that the fortifications were well planned.  Mr. Hubbard says: “The Fort was raised upon a Kind of Island of five or six acres of rising Land in the midst of a swamp; the sides of it were made of Palisadoes set upright, the which was compassed about with a Hedg of almost a rod Thickness.” A contemporary writer says: “In the midst of the Swamp was a Piece of firm Land, of about three or four Acres, whereon the Indians had built a kind of Fort, being palisadoed round, and within that a clay Wall, as also felled down abundance of Trees to lay quite round the said Fort, but they had not quite finished the said Work.” It is evident from these, the only detailed accounts, and from some casual references, that the works were rude and incomplete, but would have been almost impregnable to the colonial troops had not the swamp been frozen.

At the corners and exposed portions, rude block-houses and flankers had been built, from which a raking fire could be poured upon any attacking force. Either by chance, or the skill of Peter, their Indian guide, the English seem to have come upon a point of the fort where the Indians did not expect them. Mr. Church, in relating the circumstances of Capt. Gardiner’s death, says that he was shot from that side “next the upland where the English entered the swamp.” The place where he fell was at the “east end of the fort.” The tradition that the English approached the swamp by the rising land in front of the “Judge Marchant” house, thus seems confirmed. This “upland” lies about north of the battlefield.

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