El Cerrito Madera Hillside Property

El Cerrito’s Hillside Natural Area is a rare open space gem amid our crowded East Bay communities. With 90 acres of oak forest and grasslands cut by hillside creeks, the natural area is much loved by hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, nature lovers, and bird watchers seeking sweeping views of the bay and refuge from the busy-ness of urban life.


But for all its beauty, the Hillside Natural Area is a place divided, split into northern and southern portions by roads and development.

Between the two portions, there is only one undeveloped piece of land where that division can be healed and the natural area made whole. For years, residents have used the parcel as informal open space linking the two natural areas, despite its being privately owned.

Now the City of El Cerrito has a plan to purchase the Madera Hillside property and unite the Hillside Natural Area forever.
Some public money is available, but private funds are also needed. Please donate to the El Cerrito Open Space Campaign and help us create an unbroken 90-acre natural open space in the El Cerrito hills.

The Madera Hillside Property This valuable property below the Madera Elementary School and bordering Potrero Avenue was slated for development when open space advocates and the city learned that it might be for sale and asked The Trust for Public Land to acquire it on their behalf. In addition to linking the two portions of El Cerrito’s largest open space, the conservation effort will:

    • Make public an area already widely used as an informal open space
    • Protect water quality in local creeks
    • Extend and enhance existing hiking trails
    • Preserve habitat for birds, other wildlife, and native plants



Purple Needle GrassNassella pulchra, basionym,  Stipa pulchra,

Purple Needle Grass in Madera Open Space

Purple Needle Grass in Madera Open Space

A perennial bunch grass producing tufts of erect, unbranched stems up to 3.3 feet tall. The extensive root system can reach 20 feet deep into the soil, making the grass more tolerant of drought.

Purple Needle Grass

Purple Needle Grass

The open, nodding inflorescence is up to 60 centimeters long and has many branches bearing spikelets.

The plant produces copious seed, up to 227 pounds per acre in dense stands.  The pointed fruit is purple-tinged when young and has an awn up to 10 centimeters long which is twisted and bent twice.  The shape of the seed helps it self-bury.

Purple needlegrass (Nassella pulchra) was designated the official state grass of California in 2004. A widespread, native perennial bunchgrass that can live for 150 years, purple needlegrass ranges from the Oregon border into northern Baja California.

It is considered a symbol of the state because it is the most widespread native California grass, it supported Native American groups as well as Mexican ranchers, and it helps suppress invasive plant species and support native oaksIt also helps prevent soil erosion by establishing a large, fibrous root system which holds the soil in pla


Purple Needle Grass in Madera Open Space

Purple Needle Grass in Madera Open Space (Ignore the Pampas Grass in the background – lol)

Tolerant of summer drought and heat once established, the seeds of purple needlegrass were one of several grass species used by California Native Americans as a food source. Today purple needlegrass is used for habitat restoration, erosion and levee control (and continues to provide forage for California’s cattle and wildlife).


An isolated purple needlegrass bunch amid naturalized Mediterranean annual grass species in Solano County, California: photo courtesy Range types of North America

An isolated purple needlegrass bunch amid naturalized Mediterranean annual grass species in Solano County, California: photo courtesy Range types of North America

Prior to the import of Mediterranean annual grasses (which now dominate California grasslands), purple needlegrass was the major grassland cover type of California.



Layia chrysanthemoides -Tidy-tips

Layia chrysanthemoides -Tidy-tips

Layia chrysanthemoides -Tidy-tips


Hemizonia luzulafolia-  xx

Hemizonia luzulafolia

Hemizonia luzulafolia


California Poppies

California Poppy Madera Open Space

California Poppy Madera Open Space

Poppies endemic to the East Bay Hills have a darker center, while introduced varieties are more mono-colored.



Coffeeberry – Frangula californica (syn Rhamnus californica)


Coffeeberry – Frangula californica

In favorable conditions the plant can develop into a small tree over 6 meters tall. More commonly it is a shrub between 1 and 2 meters tall. The branches may have a reddish tinge and the new twigs are often red in color. The alternately arranged evergreen leaves are dark green above and paler on the undersides. The leaves have thin blades in moist habitat, and smaller, thicker blades in dry areas. The small greenish flowers occur in clusters in the leaf axils. The fruit is a juicy drupe which may be green, red, or black. It is just under a centimeter long and contains two seeds that resemble coffee beans. This plant can live an estimated 100 to 200 years.

Jim McKissock shows off one of the largest coffeeberry plants in the El Cerrito hills.

Jim McKissock shows off one of the largest coffeeberry plants in the El Cerrito hills.

Coyote Bush  –  Baccharis pilularis

Coyote Bush

Coyote Bush

Coyote brush is known as a secondary pioneer plant in communities such as coastal sage scrub and chaparral. It does not regenerate under a closed shrub canopy because seedling growth is poor in the shade. Coast live oak, California bay, Rhus integrifolia, and other shade producing species replace coastal sage scrub and other coyote bush-dominated areas, particularly when there hasn’t been a wildfire or heavy grazing.

In California grasslands, it comes in late and invades and increases in the absence of fire or grazing. Coyote bush invasion of grasslands is important because it helps the establishment of other coastal sage species.

Baccharis pilularis is cultivated as an ornamental plant, and used frequently in drought tolerant, native plant, and wildlife gardens; and in natural landscaping and habitat restoration projects. The cultivar ground cover selections have various qualities of height and spread, leaf colors, and textures. The upright forms are useful for hedges and fence lines, and year round foliage.

Coyote brush is usually deer-resistant. The plants are also drought tolerant after maturity, requiring watering once a week until established, and then about once per month during the first summer. They can mature in one to two years. The plants prefer good drainage.

Only male plants of Baccharis pilularis are cultivated for landscaping use. If these are substituted for Baccharis pilularis subsp. consanguinea in ecological restoration, there will not be as much seed set, nor recruitment of new individuals.

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Favorite Posts 2013

Fun Stuff

1. Passages All time hits thru
Jan 2, 2014


2. Artistic Works and Representation 2 3,923
3. Sir Richard Forester of Flanders 3,903
4. 17th Century Houses 3,758
5. College Graduates 2,354
6. Origins 2,054
7. Marcus Antonius 1,683
8. Famous Cousins 1,595
9. Family Cars 1924 – 2004 1,498
10. Henry I of France 1,479
11. Edward I 1,448
12. Artistic Works and Representation 1 1,177
13. New England Pioneers 1,176
14. Anarcher Great Forester of Flanders 1,237
15. 17th Century Premarital Sex 1,142
16. Charlemagne 884
17. Veterans 835
18. Colonial Tavern Keepers 813
19. Twins 559
20. Northern Slave Owners 515
21. A (False) Herauldical Essay Upon the Surname of Miner 496
22. Ship Captains 490
23. Our New Brunswick Loyalists 466
24. Shakespearean Ancestors 452
25. Cousins of the Golden West 381


1. Nantucket Founders 4,807
2. Witch Trials – Victims 3,751
3. Witch Trials – Accusers 3,672
4. First Comers 1,925
5. Great Swamp Fight 1,835
6. Hannah Dustin – Heroine or Cold Blooded Killer 1,776
7. Great Swamp Fight – Regiments 1,537
8. Lyon’s Whelp 1,504
9. Minutemen – April 19, 1775 1,461
10. Witch Trials – Witnesses 1,272
11. Scottish Prisoners 1,236
12. Puritans v. Quakers – Boston Martyrs 1,155
13. Maine Volunteers 1,130
14. Witch Trials 1,005
15. Witch Trials – Jury 1,001
16. Witch Trials – Supporters 932
17. New England Planters in New Brunswick 847
18. Esopus Wars 839
19. Raid on Deerfield – 1704 795
20. Thomas Miner Diary 745
21. Carolina in the Revolution 712
22. Stephen Minor’s Children – Unionist Slave Owners 692
23. Oyster River Massacre – 1694 685
24. Puritan v. Quakers – Quaker Perspective 682
25. Battle of Quebec 1690 & Quebec Expedition 1711 644
26. El Cerrito Neighborhood History 625
27. Second Esopus War 569
28. Uncas Legacy and Myth 542
29. First Esopus War 521
30. Nine Men’s Misery – 1676 486


1. Nathanael Greene 3,675
2. George Martin 3,540
3. John Proctor 3,070
4. John Clark 2,965
5. John Howland 2,740
6. Thomas West 3rd Baron de la Warr 2,674
7. Maj. John Mason 2,607
8. Sir Oliver Cromwell 2,589
9. Rev. John Lathrop 2,330
10. Francis Cooke 2,257
11. Richard Scott 2,251
12. George Allen the Elder 2,143
13. John Browne Sr. (Swansea) 2,127
14. Isaac Allerton 2,035
15. Mathijs Jansen Van Keulen 1,995
16. William Hilton Jr. 1,990
17. Rev. James Fitch 1,970
18. Walter Palmer 1,953
19. Capt. Matthew Beckwith 1,921
20. George Morton (Pilgrim Father) 1,881
21. Ralph Allen 1,876
22. Christopher Reynolds 1,848
23. Elder William Brewster 1,847
24. Rev Stephen Bachiler 1,832
25. John Parker Sr 1,828
26. Dr. Roger Parke Sr. 1,783
27. Hendrick Thomasse Van Dyke 1,675
28. Thomas Miner 1,659
29. George Miller 1,618
30. Domingo Lam-Co 1,608


About 2,938
Vassalboro 1,399
Division of North Field – Salem, Mass 580

New Posts

1. Stephen Minor’s Children – Unionist Slave Owners 692
2. Oyster River Massacre – 1694 685
3. Stephen Hopkins 682
4. William Payne Sr 591
5. Shakespearean Ancestors 452
6. Nicholas Snow 435
7. Stephen Minor – Last Spanish Governor of Natchez 434
8. Edward Fitz Randolph Sr. 414
9. William Payne 400
10. Edward Fitz Randolph 395
11. Moses Estey 390
12. Rev. John Howse 355
13. Gabriel Wheldon 336
14. El Cerrito Neighborhood History 319
15. Ralph Smyth 276
16. Thomas Blossom 269
17. Our Illiterate Backwoods Preacher from Maine 243
18. Thomas Dexter Sr. 209
19. William Heath 206
20. Jabez Snow 203
21. John Vincent 193
22. Thomas Hawes Sr. 179
23. Nellie Coleman 1890/91 Letters 172
24. Genealogy and the 2nd Ammendment 158
25. Anthony Payne 154

2013 Visitors 

Country Views
United States Flag1. United States 209,954
Canada Flag2. Canada 15,340
United Kingdom Flag3. United Kingdom 7,212
Philippines Flag4. Philippines 2,772
Australia Flag5. Australia 2,588
Germany Flag6. Germany 1,486
France Flag7. France 1,417
Ireland Flag8. Ireland 1,121
Netherlands Flag9. Netherlands 513
New Zealand Flag10. New Zealand 440

Back Links  

geni.com 454
en.wikipedia.org 112
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Scott_(settler) 33
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Swamp_Fight 33
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Richard_of_Flanders 16
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Wanton 11
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_article_candidates/1689_Boston_revolt/archive1 2
genforum.genealogy.com 88
genforum.genealogy.com/webber/messages/2271.html 40
genforum.genealogy.com/balcom/messages/358.html 11
genforum.genealogy.com/polley/messages/775.html 6
genforum.genealogy.com/saunders/messages/4252.html 3
genforum.genealogy.com/pease/messages/3091.html 2
genforum.genealogy.com/mccaw/messages/216.html 2
elcerrito.patch.com/articles/trekkers-hold-quintessential-trails-day-celebration 30
wikiworldbook.com 28
dontrivino.com/places/san-juan-nepomoceno-church-san-juan-batangas.html 15
scottishprisonersofwar.com/biographies-of-the-prisoners-from-the-unity/ 9

Also See 

2013 in Review

Favorite Posts 2012

2012 in Review

Favorite Posts 2010 

Favorite Posts 2011

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 250,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 11 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Our Illiterate Backwoods Preacher from Maine

A couple of minerdescent website visitors asked me Webber family questions this week.

I don’t think I ever shared this vignette about our 3rd great grandfather Charles WEBBER Jr  (1764 – 1737) or alternatively about his father, our 4th great grandfather  Charles B. WEBBER (1744 – 1719)

I’ve spent more time on the Webbers than any other ancestral line. Oliver WEBBER (1797 – 1864)  born in 1797 in Vassalboro, Maine is the oldest one I know for sure. The Webbers were original settlers in the area, Webber Pond is named for them and there are tons and tons of early records about the family. However, Oliver’s father is not recorded. Why are there no records for him, but there are lots of records  for  his many brothers and sisters?  Through the process of elimination using early census records, I determined that Oliver’s father was Charles Webber Jr. ((1764 – 1837) Why is there no record of his twelve children?  [Oliver deposed late in life that his grandfather was Charles B. WEBBER, so the early Webbers in the line are not in question. ]

Sorry to say, but Charles sounds he comes from the same american tradition as the the tea party. (though a preacher whose wife reads the bible for him is much cuter.)  I wonder how many bible verses he memorized.

The Second Great Awakening religious revival began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800, and after 1820 membership rose rapidly.

In the newly settled frontier regions,[Vassalboro was first settled in the 1760’s], the revival was implemented through camp meetings. These often provided the first encounter for some settlers with organized religion, and they were important as social venues. The camp meeting was a religious service of several days’ length with multiple preachers. Settlers in thinly populated areas gathered at the camp meeting for fellowship as well as worship. The sheer exhilaration of participating in a religious revival with crowds of hundreds and perhaps thousands of people inspired the dancing, shouting, and singing associated with these events. The revivals followed an arc of great emotional power, with an emphasis of the individual’s sins and need to turn to Christ, restored by a sense of personal salvation. Upon their return home, most converts joined or created small local churches, which grew rapidly.  I wonder where Charles Webber got his ideas.

The Wallace W. Gilbert (1839 – 1916) mentioned below is the  grandfather of Margaret E Gilbert (invitation required) who provided a lot of the Coleman and Webber photos that I have on the minerdescent site.

Wallace’s wife Elvira Brown Coleman (1845 – 1930) was my great grandfather Guilford Dudley COLEMAN‘s (1832 – 1903) sister.  Oliver’s daughter Ellen Celeste WEBBER (1835 – 1881) was GD’s wife.  Ellen had an identical twin Emma who went to Bates.   I have identical twin sisters Janet and Ellen and the twin genes come from Ellen.  Ellen’s grandfather Isaac HAWES (1765 – 1840) had six sets of twins in his family.

I wonder if the fact Charles Webber was a crazy preacher has anything to do with there being no genealogical records of the names of his twelve children?  There are genealogy records for all the other Webbers in Vassalboro at that time and Webber Pond is a local landmark.

Genealogical sources are also divided about the name of Charles’ wife .  He may have married Ruth THATCHER 2 Apr 1792 in Yarmouth, Maine. He also may have married 18 Apr 1793 in Yarmouth to  Mary STURGIS.    Concerning the Cortright and Webber families in America 1925 states he married Judith CHADWICK and had twelve children.

If Charles’ wife indeed was “Polly” as mentioned in the vignette below then perhaps his wife was Mary Sturgis.   Polly is a common nickname for Mary.   Maybe he also married Ruth and she died young.  I believe the Judith Chadwick reference is a confusion with someone else.

Normally, a preacher was a college graduate.  (And all college graduates became preachers)  See my post College Graduates.

Illustrated History of Kennebec County 1892 –

One other place and kind of worship will not be forgotten so long as the links of tradition can touch each other – –  the church and teachings of Charles WEBBER, who resided on the river road near Riverside, in the house now occupied by Wallace W. Gilbert. Across the road, on what is known as the James S. Emery place, Mr. Webber erected a small edifice in the last few years of the last century. Here he had preaching of his own, and constituted himself the pastor.

What was more conspicuous in this arrangement was the fact that said Webber could not read, and depended upon his wife for that important attribute. He could readily grasp the scripture reading of his wife and give wholesome explanation thereon; and only once was his knowledge clouded, when his wife read “log” for “lodge” in the wilderness. His manner of announcing a text was: ” If Polly tells me aright you will find my text, etc.” He urged sinners to repent, often saying that it was as impossible for one to enter heaven as it was for a shad to climb a tree. His eccentricities and goodness survive him, as does the old church, which, on another site, is the residence of Freeman Sturgis.

Here another more sober account from a different source of Charles Webber’s ecclesiastical doings in 1805 Vassalboro.  It clearly states “Charles Jr”  Could one account be about the father and the other son?  or are they both about the same person?

Churches.—The first religious organization in Sidney was formed in the southwest part of the town, in 1791, by the Calvinistic Baptists, who named their church Second Vassalboro. Asa Wilbur and Lemuel Jackson, then local preachers, were the leaders. The former became the pastor in 1796, and in 1808 he represented the town in the general court of Massachusetts. The church was diminished in 1806, when nineteen members left to form the Second Baptist church, and was increased by a revival in 1811.

A powerful revival in 1805, under the preaching of Rev. Asa Wilbur, resulted in the formation of a second Baptist church, February 7, 1806. The organization was perfected at the house of Benjamin Dyer, on the river road, and signed by seventeen members: Nathaniel Reynolds, jun., Edmund Hayward, Asa Williams, Benjamin Dyer, John Sawtelle, Charles Webber, jun., Henry Babcock, Mary Matthews, Mary Reynolds, Jemima Dyer, Mercy Matthews, Thankful Faught, Elizabeth Andrews, Eunice Williams, Abigail Tuttle, Sarah Ingraham and Susanna Hayward.

Posted in -7th Generation, Line - Shaw, Veteran | Tagged | 2 Comments

El Cerrito Neighborhood History

Here’s some fun history from my neighborhood in El Cerrito.  (Adding panoramas Sep 2013)

El Cerrito Neighborhood 1932

El Cerrito Neighborhood 1932 – Red X marks my house, not to be built for almost 20 years.  Harding School was rebuilt in 2010 and Kennel Club is now El Cerrito Plaza


Cerrito Creek from Albany Hill Annotated.  Red X marks my future house.  Friends of Five Creeks works every month to restore Cerrito Creek

Cerrito Creek from Albany Hill Annotated. Red X marks my future house.  Building below and slightly to the left may be Balra Dairy.  Friends of Five Creeks works every month to restore Cerrito Creek


Looking Southeast toward El Cerrito High and Albany Hill 1945

Looking Southeast toward El Cerrito High and Albany Hill 1945.  This view is about the same.  Portola Middle School has come and gone

1,500 Chickens on Navellier

Our Environmental Quality Committee recently helped sponsor changes in the city animal ordinance making it legal to keep chickens in the City.  Looking at history, it’s back to the future.

Mr. Reinecker, who lived in the 1500 block of Navellier not too far from Ernest Navellier, came to the city in 1904 to live with his uncle, Mr. Renkwitz, who lived here quite a few years before Mr. Reinecker. Mr. Reinecker lived on the property, which was 5-1/2 acres. The old farmhouse had been remodeled a number of times and was set among the big eucalyptus trees. They raised all kinds of vegetables for the market and had about 1,500 chickens, 3 horses, and a couple of cows.

He can remember walking several hundred feet south of his property, just south of Gladys Avenue to an old Indian mound and picking up wagon loads of clam shells to feed his chickens. He gave up the chicken business just after World War II as his stock had dwindled down to 104 chickens and one night on December 10, 1945 at 6:51 a.m. a bobcat got into his pens and killed 102 of them. He then decided to give up the chicken business entirely.

After Mr. Reinecker passed away, the ranch was demolished, the land subdivided and new modern buildings were constructed on the property. [Editor’s note: the Wildwood Subdivision.]

Potrero Hill Climb

The EQC is  working to restore and maintain the 90 acre El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area. battling sudden oak death and invasive French Broom.  90 years ago, the hillside was the site of the National Motorcycle Hill Climb.

On the north side of the Reinecker property, or to the left of the present Potrero Avenue, at the end of Blake Street, was the hill climb, about where the Schmidt Dairy stood. On Sunday, crowds of people would gather to see the motorcycle riders try to get to the top of the hill. This was a very rugged hill and few ever made it to the top.

Click for current view from the end Blake Street from Google Earth

In later years a fellow who started a garage on San Pablo and Cypress Avenues by the name of Corey, assembled a machine with which he tried to make the climb. The machine was able to travel only a very few feet as it was a very rugged hill.

You can see hundreds of cars in the background in some of these shots.

Indian Motorcyle- Peralta Hill Climb

Going up this hill climb the motorcycles would bounce like a cork on a strong sea. The steepest part of the hill climb course had an average 74% grade with cuts and ruts one to two feet deep in places. The course was rough and steep. The record time for the 650-foot climb was 27-1/5 seconds from start to going over the top to the finish line.

Orrie Steele, of Patterson, New Jersey, who held the eastern championship, attempted to ride and take the championship from Dud Perkins of San Francisco, who held the western championship. Dud Perkins was known as the Daddy of the Hill Climb and had been competing since 1916. He was always a consistent winner and held the record at the hill. This hill where the Oakland Motorcycle Club held their meets was often referred to as Peralta Hill, but later usually referred to as Thulin Hill.

The hill was marked in white lime and the date the hill climb was to be held was in big white letters that could be seen from all along the avenue. Cars would be parked for blocks and blocks around the area as thousands gathered to watch the fun and competition. At that time, most of the streets were not paved and were very dusty.

Dudley Perkins wins 1928 National Hill Climb in El Cerrito

The California contingent of motorcycle racers would go back East and really smoke the Eastern riders. This went on for decades (1925-1960). It’s a long and somewhat involved story with more than its share of intrigue. Some of the key players from 1910 to 1975 were Ray Elam, Dudley Perkins, and Bob Chaves. The above picture was taken at the National Championship hill climb at El Cerrito. You can see San Pablo Bay in the background.

Along about 1906, looking up at the hill area from anywhere along the avenue, one could hardly see any trees along the ridge at the top of the hills. Eucalyptus trees along about this time were planted all across the ridge and one of the workers was Louis Nickelson who drove teams horses that plowed the furrows so that when they planted the trees they would all be in a fairly straight line. Small trees were planted every so many feet. It is believed that most of the trees were planted so the owners of the property could call it timberland and get a grant reduction on taxes for property they owned at that time.

Oakland Motorcycle Club hill-climber

Oakland Motorcycle Club hill-climb, about 1924

Oakland Motorcycle Club hill-climb event, Sep 28, 1924 on Peralta Hill– Digging in with tire chains.

Oakland Motorcycle Club hill-climb, circa 1924.

oakland motorcycle club-hillclimb 1924

Sunset View Cemetery

This cemetery is just across the street from my house.   Occassionally sounds will waft through the breeze.  Amazing Grace on bagpipes is inspiring and brings a tear to the eye ….  the backup alarm on the backhoe –  beep, beep, beep, dust to dust, better to laugh than to cry.

In the early days most of the people had wells for their water supply and later water was purchased from Peoples Water Company, now the East Bay Municipal Utility District. The Sunset View Cemetery at the top of Fairmount Avenue still gets their water supply from half a dozen drainage areas that run into large wells at Carlson Boulevard near Lassen Avenue. They have tunnels that branch out in various directions accumulating the water. The water is pumped up Fairmount Avenue for over a mile through a 6″ pipe to serve some of the needs of the cemetery. It has been said that these wells once supplied water to the Judson Powder Company behind Albany Hill. Judson had employed a number of Welch coal miners to construct the wells for them. Welch coal miners were plentiful at that time as the Pittsburg-Antioch part of the county had a number of coalmines in existence.

San Francisco Bay from Sunset View Cemetery

The cemetery was started in 1908 and rock for their roads was from property near the site. This rock was crushed and had to be hauled several hundred yards to be in cemetery property. The cemetery had a horse drawn passenger coach wagon driven by Mr. Curry to carry the passengers who got off the streetcars at the County Line. Mr. Curry would haul these people up to the cemetery at Colusa and Fairmount Avenue. Later on in years they had a motor vehicle take its place.

Albany Hill from Sunset View Cemetery

The old crematory at the Sunset View Cemetery was constructed from rock gathered on the cemetery property as were the rock pillars on either side of the entrance and the fence. Both the crematory and the pillars have been torn down during expansion and remodeling at the cemetery. [Editor’s Note: The expansion and remodeling took place in 1962.]

The mausoleum is not connected with the cemetery. A portion of the cemetery property was sold and the Sunset Mausoleum constructed in l925. The founder was Arthur Edwards. They had about 7 acre of property, plenty of room for expansion and have added to the building from time to time. When the mausoleum was first built, they put a large electrical sign up that could be seen for miles around. Large eucalyptus trees soon grew taller than the sign, so they had the sign removed. The mausoleum and the cemetery are within Contra Costa County, but just outside the El Cerrito boundary line.

Hagen Ranch

The Chris Hagen family were old timers in this area and consisted of seven children who all lived on what is now cemetery property. They were, William, Sophia, Peter, Anna, Mollie, Josephine and Louis. All of the Hagen children were raised in this area and some of their offspring still live in the city and bay area.

John H. Davis married Sophia Hagen and they had 14 children. Some of the children were Eddie, Mary, Fred, John, Anna, George, Chris, Emma, Harry, and Louis. The Hagen family raised hay and grain and ranched all the way to the top and over the hill.

Josephine Hagen, who married Victor H. Belfils, was born at the Hagen Ranch in 1865 and died in l913. She was buried not too far from the location of her birth.

Louis Hagen was also born in the now Sunset Cemetery area on December 13, 1860. Louis was the son of Chris Hagen, one of the first white settlers other than the Spanish. Louis married a neighbor, Katherine Sullivan, daughter of Patrick Sullivan who came west in the sixties and finally acquired farming land in Wildcat Canyon. He raised wheat, oats, and cattle, and also raised a family, five sons and three daughters.

Patrick, who in March of 1881 was a victim of a slaying, was killed on his return from Oakland to Wildcat Canyon. Robert Lyle was accused of the killing and had to stand trial.

Katherine and Louis Hagen had two children who were named Louis and Blanche. Louis was the first man from this particular area who was killed during the first World War, and they later named the American Legion Louis Hagen Post #340 after him in his honor. Blanche had a daughter Florence who married Al Buchanan.

Katherine and Louis Hagen had their home off Arlington where the Mira Vista Golf Course has the third hole. The Le Strange family also had their home near this location, nearby a small lake that no longer exists. Katherine and Louis Hagen also owned the County Line Saloon at the south end of El Cerrito.

Later, after the Hagen and Le Strange families moved from these buildings near the golf course, they became occupied by seventy-five or eighty-five Hindu people. The Hindu’s worked at the Cap Works and the late Louis Navellier, old time resident, who was born in El Cerrito, says he can remember them climbing up the hill in a long line coming back from work with turbans wrapped around their heads. He says the children in the neighborhood would run away when they saw this group coming as they were afraid of them. The Hindu group only lived above the Arlington for a few years. Some of the Hindu people also worked at the Match Factory with groups of Chinese. The match factory was located in Stege and they made sulfur matches. These matches had a very strong odor but one could hardly see the flames. They were sold by five-gallon cans which could be purchased for about a dollar a can. The matches were all glued together and would have to be pulled apart when a person wanted to light them.

Sundar Shadi Nativity

Sundar Shadi Christmas Pagent Bethlehem in El Cerrito

Galpin Ranch and Peter Ostergaard’s Beer Garden

Not far from the Hagen property, across from the San Pablo filter plant where the catholic school is presently located between Colusa and Curry, stood the old Philip G. Galpin ranch.

Mamie Curtin moved to this ranch with her family from Oakland just before 1900 when she was just a little child. Her folks ranch reached all the way to Grizzly Peak raising hay, grain, cattle and selling milk. Mamie was enrolled in a catholic school in Berkeley and neighboring children would take turns in harnessing their horses and driving the wagons loaded with children to attend the classes in Berkeley.

Mamie later moved down to Fairmount Avenue near the present Harding School during the real estate boom in the Henderson Tapscott Tract. This was about l907 and the real estate men had told all of the property buyers that the Key Route right-of-way would be running trains by in a couple of years, but this was never done. The Key Route right-of-way later became Ashbury Avenue.

After the Curtin family moved from the old Galpin ranch the Chapman family moved in. This family had two children who died in a fire in one of the old barns. Not too long after, the whole ranch burned down. It had stood at the location of the former Livingood family house at 311 Colusa Avenue

Where the old Galpin buildings had stood, Ostergaard’s place of business was started, which proved to be a good paying business. His calling cards read “Peter Ostergaard’s Beer Garden, beautiful view, barbecue pit, best wines and liquors, Colusa at Fairmount, El Cerrito”. His place of business was well patronized and well known throughout the bay area. This is the location of the present St. Jerome buildings. He at one time managed the Monkey Saloon on Fairmount at Richmond Street. This building has since been remodeled and moved and now faces Richmond Street behind the present Gas Station.

Balra Dairy

At the left of the cemetery was a large dairy around Colusa Avenue north of Fairmount at the site of the present Weston Subdivision. This was the former McAvoy property. This dairy was owned by John Balra, and Balra Drive later was named for him. His spread ran down to where the present El Cerrito High School stands. Later on in years people would gather on Sundays to watch the polo matches or donkey baseball not too far from the riding stables. [Editor’s note: There were stables both at the Balra Ranch and at the northwest corner of Fairmount and Ashbury.]

Most of the land he owned was rolling, hilly ground, except that land where the El Cerrito High School and athletic field are now located. That portion of his property, next to Fairmount Avenue, from Ashbury Avenue to Colusa, or approximately where Rockway is, was a few acres of pear orchards. A large creek was situated where the El Cerrito High athletic field now stands. Along near the creek was a group of very tall eucalyptus trees, probably planted about the same time that they planted the eucalyptus trees along the edge of the cemetery property.

The Balra Ranch had once been the well-known McAvoy property as shown on the old county maps. All of the Balra Ranch was covered by wild rabbits, cottontail, squirrels, quail, and a variety of other wild animals. Kids hunting on the property had to be careful of the number of bulls roaming on the ranch.

At his ranch, Mr. Balra also ran the Sunset Dairy. Embossed on its milk bottles was “Sunset Dairy, El Cerrito, California, Telephone Thornwall 4100”, with an appropriate emblem of the bright sun going down behind the mountains. John, at one time, was considered fairly wealthy and had one of his many men who milked cows on the ranch chauffeur him around in his 12-cylinder Locomobile. But, his wealth soon dwindled due to the hoof and mouth epidemic and other problems. Balra Drive was named for this rancher.

During the period of dog racing in El Cerrito, a number of dog owners kept their racing hounds in the old Balra stables. Also, during the day, you could see men training their race hounds on a make-shift racing course, at what is now the El Cerrito High School athletic field

1924 was the year of the dreaded hoof-and-mouth disease epidemic throughout the State of California, and all of the ranches were quarantined. Huge trenches were dug and the cattle driven into them and shot and covered over. A number of local cattle ranchers lost their entire stock. Contra Costa County (which means opposite shore in Spanish, as it is across the bay from San Francisco) was one of the counties in the state which ranked high in the animal loss from the epidemic. Almost every rancher in the county was hit by it.

If anyone broke quarantine they were arrested, cattle were not allowed to cross any road, and all animals were forbidden to roam off their ranch. Various states forbid the buying of California meats and vegetables in fear of the disease spreading and anyone handling or tending to the cattle was under quarantine. There was nothing that could be done about the disease so the animals were shot and buried to keep the disease from spreading.

By April 19, 1924, $400,000 had been lost in Contra Costa County in the slaughter of cattle in this plague. By May 19, 1924 the State of California had completed payment of $180,000 to Contra Costa County as compensation for the herds destroyed in connection with the epidemic. This amount was to be at a later date matched by the United States Government. Hundreds of cattle were shot and buried in what is now the property of the El Cerrito High School not too far from where a large creek had run through the property.

Fairmount Avenue

Just east of the Wright property at Liberty Street was the Marion and Raymond Boles property where they made mint wafers and later the building was used for the library. Next door was Mr. Evans’ marble business where he supplied tombstones.

Across from the Wright property was an old chicken ranch where they sold fresh eggs and chickens. The buildings were later demolished and one portion moved to the northeast corner of Lexington and Potrero Avenues.

Behind the Victor Castro adobe one could see the old orchard where children would gather to pick fruit and take it home to their parents for canning. Between the orchard and Fairmount Avenue was a big field where the gypsies would meet once a year. Children were often afraid to go near them as older folks had warned them that they would be kidnapped.

Next to the tracks on the south side of Fairmount was the corral where cattle were stored for shipping by rail or were to be driven to the slaughterhouse on Central Avenue near Belmont.

Later on in years across Fairmount on the north side was a large gravel business and they had a railroad siding where they unloaded gravel cars that had been shipped in by rail. The gravel was raised by conveyor buckets up into the various large bunkers. They stored the gravel until trucks arrived to pick up the gravel for road projects.

At the northeast corner of Richmond and Fairmount stood the Monkey House Saloon whose owner had a couple of monkeys within the building inside of cages.

Near the corner of Behrens Street on the west side stood the Home Dairy operated by W. A. Hinds who in 1926, became the first fire chief and police judge. Across the street from the Home Dairy stood the Eckhart Dairy.

Further up Fairmount between now Ashbury and Colusa on the north side was a large pear orchard that on the property of the Sunset Dairy. This dairy belonged to John Balra who had his ranch building just north of the cemetery above Colusa Avenue.

Along about 1909 one could see Mr. Curry at Fairmount and San Pablo helping the ladies in their ankle length dresses and broad brim hats and men in their derbies, getting into the high passenger coach that he drove from the cemetery, at the end of Fairmount down to San Pablo Avenue to pick up passengers. The coach would carry six people and was rather high off the ground. It had two large wheels at the rear and two smaller on the front with a surrey type top that covered the passengers and driver in case it rained or to protect them from the sun. This spotless coach was pulled by two well-groomed horses who seemed to know every chuckhole up this unpaved street, which was known as Road 4 in those days.

The children would stand around San Pablo Avenue in hopes that he would have no passengers to haul back to the cemetery. If he had no passengers, he would let them ride back with him and Mr. Curry would always give them a chance to drive the team, which was a great thrill to them.

On May 30th (Decoration Day), for years there would be a parade up Fairmount Avenue and services were held on the cemetery grounds. On this day extra help was hired and extra equipment used to haul the hundreds of passengers, who chose this day to honor their loved ones, up to the cemetery.

Later when the automobile became the common means of transportation the cemetery eliminated the horse and coach to be replaced by the touring car which made this trip for years up the hill. They abandoned this service when transportation was no longer a problem.







Posted in El Cerrito | 7 Comments

Indian Kidnaps

Our popular imagination of Indian Kidnaps are framed by the red sands of Monument Valley in post Civil War times from movies like John Ford’s  The Searchers.   In reality, Indian kidnaps were common on the Massachusetts frontier two hundred years earlier.   I count at least 25 of our ancestral families that were impacted.

The French and Indian Wars is a name used in the United States for a series of intermittent conflicts between the years 1689 and 1763 in North America that represented colonial events related to the European dynastic wars.  For example,  King William’s War (1688–97) was the North American theater of the Nine Years’ War(1688–97, also known as the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg). It was the first of six colonial wars (see the four French and Indian WarsFather Rale’s War and Father Le Loutre’s War) fought between New France andNew England along with their respective Native allies before Britain eventually defeated France in North America in 1763.

Several kidnapped children converted to catholicism, married french and lived out their lives in Canada,  Some returned years later, only to be disowned by their brothers.

Natalie Wood as Debbie Edwards in The Searchers 1956

15 Sep 1655 Staten Island, New York  – As the representative of Baron Hendrick van der Capellen, Adriaen Crijnen Post led a group in settling a successful colony on Staten Island.   Captain Post  had cultivated friendly relations with the Indians and familiarized himself with their language, an acquisition which was destined to be of much service to him at a most critical period in his career.

The colony was attacked and burned by Hackensack Indians on 15 Sep 1655 as a result of the Peach Tree War. Among the sixty-seven prisoners were Adriaen, Claartje, their five children (Adrian, Maria (later daughter-in-law of Albert Andriessen BRADT), Lysbeth, and two unknown children) , and two servants of the Post family.

Chief Penneckeck sent Adriaen to bargain with Peter Stuyvesant for the prisoners’ release that October. Adriaen traveled to and from Manhattan and the Natives’ base at Paulus Hook, New Jersey several times before a negotiation was made. Many of the prisoners, including Claartje and the children, were exchanged for ammunition, wampum, and blankets.

By van der Capellen’s orders, Adriaen and the other survivors returned to Staten Island to build a fort. He gathered the cattle that had survived the attack, butchering some and using others for milk, in an effort to feed his group. By the next spring, Adriaen was too ill to perform his duties. Claartje asked that someone else be appointed agent to van der Capellen and, in April, she petitioned Stuyvesant to keep soldiers on the island. Stuyvesant decided against it since there were so few people there.

When Van der Capellen heard of the great havoc made by the Indians in his colony, he instructed Captain Post to gather together the survivors and to erect a fort on the Island and also  to keep the people provisioned. This, however, was impracticable, as the Captain with his starving family during the ensuing winter were obliged tocamp out under the bleak sky without any protection or means of defense. The authorities recognized the insurmountable difficulties in the way of protecting the colony, and decided to withdraw the soldiers and abandon him to his fate unless he would remove with his people and his patron’s cattle to Long Island.

The creditors of Van der Capelle, seeing the desperate condition of the colony, he began to harass Post for the payment of the Baron’s debts, and suit was brought by Jacob Schellinger and others against him as agent for the Baron for payment of a note; and Janneke Melyn claimed as hers some of the few cattle still in Post’s possession.

The attempt at colonizing Staten Island by individual enterprise having failed, the Island was purchased by the West India Company, to whom nineteen persons presented a petition, August 22, 1661, for tracts of land on the south side, in order to establish a village, which was allowed by the Company, Captain Post being one of the grantees. It is probable, however, that he did not avail himself of the grant, but removed to Bergen (now Jersey City)

21 Sep 1659 Esopus (Kingston), New York –Hildebrand PIETERSEN’S son  Pieter was kidnapped by Indians during the first Esopus War. Evert PEL’s son Hendrick was kidnapped,  adopted into the tribe, married among them and lived with the Indians the rest of his life.  (See my posts  Esopus War)

The city of Kingston was first called Esopus after a local Esopus tribe, then Wiltwijck (sometimes anglicized to Wiltwyck). Settled in 1651, it was one of the three large Hudson River settlements in New Netherland, the other two being Beverwyck, now Albany, and New Amsterdam, now New York City.

The city of Kingston was first called Esopus after a local Esopus tribe, then Wiltwijck  Settled in 1651, it was one of the three large Hudson River settlements in New Netherland, the other two being Beverwyck, now Albany, and New Amsterdam, now New York City.

The first Esopus War was a short-lived conflict between Dutch farmers and the Esopus, largely started by fear and misunderstanding on the part of the settlers. On Sep  20, 1659, several Esopus men were hired to do some farm work for the settlers. After they had finished and had received their pay in brandy, a drunken native fired a musket in celebration. Although no one was hurt, some the Dutch townsfolk suspected foul play. Although a group of soldiers investigated and found no bad intentions, a mob of farmers and soldiers attacked the offending natives. Most escaped, but one was killed. The next day they returned with hundreds of reinforcements, and Esopus forces destroyed crops, killed livestock, and burned Dutch buildings.

Completely outnumbered and outgunned, the Dutch had little hope of winning through force. But they managed to hold out and make some small attacks, including burning the natives’ fields to starve them out. They received decisive reinforcements from New Amsterdam. The war concluded July 15, 1660, when the natives agreed to trade land for peace and food. The peace, however, was tentative at best. Tensions remained between the Esopus and the settlers, eventually leading to the second war.

Dutch and Indians 1

Dutch and Indians 1

Sep 1659 – The bottle was passed twice, and the Indian said again, “Come, let us go; my heart is full of fears.” He went off and hid his goods in the bushes at a little distance. Coming back once more they heard the bushes crackle as the Dutch came there, without knowing who it was. Then this Indian went away, saying “Come, let us go, for we all shall be killed;” and the rest laid down together, whereupon the Dutch came and all of them fired into the Indians, shooting one in the head and capturing another. One drunken Indian was continually moving about, whereupon the Dutch fired upon him repeatedly, nearly taking his dress from his body.

Ensign Smith knew what the consequences of this outbreak would be, and he sought to ascertain who ordered the firing contrary to his express instructions. The Dutch cast all the blame on the Indians, saying that the latter fired first. The affairs of the colony being in such an unsatisfactory state, and finding the people would not respect his authority, Smith announced his intention of leaving for New Amsterdam next day. Great excitement was manifested when this became known. The people tried to dissuade him from his purpose by representing their exposed condition, and making assurances of future obedience on their part. Smith was intractable, and continued making preparations for his departure; but by an adroit measure of Stohl and Thomas Chambers [husband of Margriet HENDRICKSE] who hired all the boats in the neighborhood, he found himself unable to carry out his resolution. It was deemed expedient, however, to acquaint the Governor of the state of affairs, and accordingly Christopher Davis was dispatched down the river in a canoe for that purpose.

Davis was escorted to the river by a company of eight soldiers and ten citizens, under Sergeant Lawrentsen, Sept. 21st, 1659. On the return of the escort to the village they fell into an ambuscade near where now stands the City Hall; the Sergeant and thirteen men surrendered without firing a shot, the rest making their escape. War now began in earnest. More than five hundred Indians were in the vicinity of the fort, who kept up a constant skirmish with settlers. By means of firebrands they set fire to the House of Jacob Gebers; numbers of barracks, stacks and barns were in like manner destroyed. One day they made a desperate assault on the palisades which came near being successful. Failing in this, the Indians slaughtered all the horses, cattle and hogs they could find outside the defenses. Three weeks was a constant siege kept up so that “none dare go abroad.” Unable to take the town they vented their fury on the unfortunate prisoners.

Jacob Jansen Van Stoutenburgh, Abram Vosburg, a son of Cornelius B. Sleight, and five or six other were compelled to run the gauntlet; they were next tied to stakes, and, after being beaten and cut in the most cruel manner, were burned alive. Thomas Clapboard [Chambers], William the carpenter, Peter Hillebrants and Evert PELS‘ son Hendrick were among the captives.

These are the only names mentioned in the early records. Clapboard was taken by six warriors down the Esopus kill. At night he removed the cords by which he was bound, and successively knocked five of his captors in the head while they were asleep, killing the sixth before he could fly, and making good his escape. Another prisoner, a soldier, got home safely after a somewhat rough experience. Peter Laurentsen and Peter Hillebrants were ransomed; Hendrick Vosberg Pel, then a mere youth, was adopted into the tribe and married among them. Overtures were afterwards made to the Indians by the friends of the lad for his return; but the Indians answered that he “wished to stay with his squaw and pappoose, and he ought to.”

Dutch and Indians 2

Dutch and Indians 2

A  letter written by Derck Smit, Ensign, describes a try to ransom the boy of Evert Pels. It mentions that “the boy has a wife there and the wife is with child, who will not let him go and he will not leave her” It was written Feb. 24, 1660 at Esopus. He was taken captive Sept. 21, 1659. The announcement of the try at ransom would be five months later. So sometime in that time frame, there was a ceremony and then a conception.  Hendrick was not found until a year and a half later. By that time he had married an Indian girl and had a child. He lived among the Indians for the rest of his life.

7 Jun 1663 – Hurley, Ulster, New York – See my post Second Esopus War

Lambert Huybertse (BRINK)   who with his wife Hendrickje and children Huybert and Jannetje left The Netherlands 23 Dec 1660 aboard “de Trouw” (Faith). The entry upon the ship’s books is

” Lambert Huybertsen from Wagening [Wageningen], wife and two children.” To these must be added a son, CorneliusCornelis Lambertsen BRINK], born on the voyage..

Arriving at New Amsterdam Lambert  then his family traveled up the Hudson River to the Esopus (name of river and Algonquin Indian tribe) area to Wiltwyck (soon Kingston).   He was one of the first settlers at Nieuw Dorp (soon Hurley) and in 1662 signed a five year lease with the Dutch West India Company (GWC) Director Stuyvesant on land there west of the creek.

In the Spring of 1662, Peter Stuyvesant, Dutch Governor of Niew Amsterdam, established the village of Niew Dorp on the site of an earlier Native American Settlement. On 7 Jun 1663, during the Esopus Wars the Esopus Indians attacked and destroyed the village, and took captives who were later released. England took over the Dutch Colony on 6 Sep 1664. On 17 Sep 1669, the village, abandoned since the Esopus Indian attack, was resettled and renamed Hurley. It was named after Francis Lovelace, Baron Hurley of Ireland.

After Director Stuyvesant declared war on the Esopus Indians and attacked and killed and captured and shipped some out as slaves, the Indians retaliated with the 7 Jun 1663 destroying of Nieuw Dorp [Hurley] and Wiltwyck in which they burned and killed and took captives including Lambert’s wife Hendrickje (pregnant) and children Hytbert, Jannetje, and Cornelis who were rescued after about 3 months.

7 Jun 1663 – A band of two hundred Indians entered Wiltwyck and New Diep (now Kingston and Hurley) in the morning, from different points, and dispersed themselves among the dwellings in a friendly manner, having with them a little maize and a few beans; under pretense of selling these they went about from place to place to discover the strength of the men. After they had been in Kingston about a quarter of an hour, some people on horseback rushed through the mill-gate crying out-’ “The Indians have destroyed the New Village!”  And with these words the Indians immediately fired their guns, and made a general attack on the village from the rear, hewing down the whites with their axes and tomahawks. They seized what women and children they could and carried them prisoners outside the gates, plundered the houses, and set the village on fire to windward, it blowing at the time from the south. The remaining Indians commanded all the streets, firing from the corner houses which they occupied, and through the curtains outside along the highways, so that some of the inhabitants while on their way to their houses to get their arms were wounded and slain. When the flames had reached their height the wind veered to the west, otherwise the flames would have been much more destructive.  The attack was so rapid that those in different parts of the village were not aware of what was transpiring until they happened to meet the wounded in the streets. Few of the men were in the village, the rest being abroad at their field labors.

Sep 1775Theophilus SHATWELL’S son-in-law Charles Rundlet was captured by four Indians  and they left him in the custody of one of their number names James. Charles was successful in inducing him to connive at his escape.   That year in December Charles married Mary Smith , a widow, whose maiden name was Satchwell [Shatswell] Twins, Charles and Jane, were born to them on May 8, 1676 and according to the strict customs of those days, Charles and Mary had to confess to the sin of fornication before marriage and be forgiven by vote before they could partake of Communion and be members of the Church. They were taken to Court in Salem, Massachusetts and fined.

10 Feb  1675/76 Lancaster, Worcester, Mass.,  John PEARCE’S son-in-law John Ball  was killed in the Lancaster Indian massacre.

John Ball was a tailor. His first wife, Elizabeth Peirce, by whom he had four children, was insane in 1660 and probably had been for some time. In March of 1660/1661 John Ball resigned his three children to his father and mother “Peirse” as their own and gave them two oxen and two cows. He also yielded his wife to his in-laws and the use of his house and lands as long as she continued there, and if God took her before she returned to him, the said was property to be his children’s by his said wife, Elizabeth. The deed wasn’t recorded until 31 October 1664, which makes it likely that Elizabeth probably died shortly before that date.

On Oct 21, 1665, he sold his farm in Watertown and removed to Lancaster, where he was one of the earliest settlers. In the attack on the town by Indians, Feb. 20, 1676, he, his wife, and son Joseph were slain and two other children taken into captivity.

Lancaster, Worcester, Mass

Lancaster, Worcester, Mass

The town of Lancaster was destroyed by Indian attack on 10 Feb 1675/76 at the height of King Phillip’s War. Sholan had invited the English to the area and was their staunch friend. After his death, his nephew Matthew continued the friendship, but Matthew’s successor Shosanin apparently saw things a little differnetly. He was enlisted in Phillip’s cause to exterminate the colonists.

As a frontier town, Lancaster had no settlement between it and the Connecticut River. Groton was 15 miles to the north and Stow and Marlborough were on the east and south, respectively, making it a good candidate for attack. The townspeople had made some preparations for trouble during the Indian War. Four or five of the houses had been designated as garrisons. These were centrally located buildings that had been fortified. One of these garrisons was the house of Rev. Joseph Rowlandson, the minister of the town. The town was clearly fearful of the Indians and on the 10th of February, Rev. Rowlandson and two others were in Boston trying to get the General Court to send soldiers for the defense of the town.

On the morning of February 10th, 1500 Indians are said to have attacked the town in five different places at once. The Rowlandson garrison came under strong attack and was the only garrison overrun. Mary Rowlandson, wife of the minister, was taken prisoner and some weeks later ransomed back to her family.

Mary Rowlandson Mary Rowlandson from A Narrative of the Captivity, Sufferings and Removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, Boston: Nathaniel Coverly, 1770

Mary Rowlandson Mary Rowlandson from A Narrative of the Captivity, Sufferings and Removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, Boston: Nathaniel Coverly, 1770

Mary (White) Rowlandson (c. 1637 –  1711) was  held for 11 weeks before being ransomed. After her release, she wrote a book about her experience, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, which is considered a seminal American work in the literary genre of captivity narratives. It went through four printings in a short amount of time and garnered widespread readership, making it in effect the first American “bestseller.”

In it she writes, “Quickly it was the dolefullest day that ever mine eyes saw.” After some hours and several attempts, the garrison was finally set on fire with forty-two people inside. Many were shot or tomahawked as they tried to escape the flames. Those women and children who got out alive were herded off into the woods to be later sold for ransom if they did not die from their wounds or were killed for traveling too slowly.

Very early in the attack a house was overrun by the Indians before the inhabitants could escape to the garrison. “There were five persons taken in one house. The father and the mother and a sucking child they knocked on the head; the other two they took and carried away alive.” This was the family of a tailor named John Ball. John Ball’s estate was administered by his son John of Watertown 1 Feb 1677/78. The Ball homestead and the Rowlandson garrison were in the south part of Lancaster. John’s lands were never described in the town’s Book of Lands although he was one of the first inhabitants. His lands were sold in 1682 to Thomas Harris.

3 May 1676, Rowley, Mass,,  the house in Rowley Richard KIMBALL’S son Thomas Kimball received of another of our ancestors  George HADLEY was burned by the Indians, Kimball was killed and his wife and 5 children carried into captivity.

Rowley, Essex, Mass

Rowley, Essex, Mass

George Hadley came to this country previous to 1639; he resided. in Ipswich, Mass., until Dec 1655, when he moved to Rowley on the Merrimack River near Haverhill, Mass. In this remote frontier home he spent eleven years and without doubt had the hard experiences of New England settlers.  In Nov of 1666, he exchanged his Rowley farm with Thomas Kimball   of Ipswich and immediately removed there.  The Kimball farm was in the westerly part of Ipswich known as the Line Brook Parish near Topsfield.

24 Jan 1691/92 York, York,MaineSamuel WEBBER’s daughter-in-law Magdalene Hilton  first married 1691 in York, York, Maine to Nathaniel Adams (b. 1660 in York – d. 1692 in York) On 24 Jan 1691/92 Nathaniel was killed and Magdalene was captured by Indians. She was redeemed in 1695, and next married Apr 1697 in York, York, Maine. to Elias Weare (b. 5 Apr 1672 in York – d. 10 Aug 1707 in York) The next attack occurred about two years later, August 10, 1707, was a Sabbath evening. Sergeant Smith and Elias Weare, returning from evening service together with Mrs. Elizabeth (Hilton) Littlefield and her young son, were slain by the Indians between York Harbor and Cape Neddick. Joshua Hilton, brother of Mrs. Littlefield was taken captive. John Webber was her third husband. Magdalene died on 4 Feb 1725/26 in York, Maine.

18 Jul 1694 at present-day Durham, New Hampshire.  A force of about 250 Indians under command of the French soldier, Claude-Sébastien de Villieu, and “the fighting priest” Fr. Louis-Pierre Thury attacked settlements in this area on both sides of the Oyster River, killing or capturing approximately 100 settlers, destroying five garrison houses and numerous dwellings. It was the most devastating French and Indian raid on New England during King William’s war.  See my post Oyster River Massacre.

Durham, Strafford, New Hampshire

Durham, Strafford, New Hampshire

In all, 104 inhabitants were killed and 27 taken captive, with half the dwellings, including the garrisons, pillaged and burned to the ground. Crops were destroyed and livestock killed, causing famine and destitution for survivors.

Many genealogies say John DAVIS was killed in  Raid on Oyster River Massacre.  John actual died a few years earlier in 1686.   The actual toll to his family is bad enough; daughter Sarah, son John Jr, daughter-in-law Elizabeth, grandson James and grandson Samuel all killed, two to four grandchildren carried off to Canada, one to live for fifty years as a French nun. Another son and grandson were killed by Indians in 1720 and 1724.

Mary Smith Freeman

Mary Smith was born  24 May 1685 in Oyster River, Stafford,  New Hampshire.  Her parents were James Smith and Sarah Davis.   Her parents were killed in King William’s War,  her father in 1690 and her mother and two brothers in the Oyster  River Massacre  18 Jul 1694 in Durham, New Hampshire. Her grandparents were our ancestors Ensign John DAVIS and Jane PEASLEE.

She married 13 Nov 1707 Eastham, Barnstable, Mass to Thomas Freeman Jr. (b. 12 Oct 1676 Harwich, Barnstable, Mass – d. 22 Mar 1715/16 Orleans, Barnstable, Mass) His parents were our ancestors Thomas FREEMAN and Rebecca SPARROW.  Thomas had married first Bathsheba Mayo, but she died four months after their marriage.  After Thomas died, Mary married again aft. Mar 1717 in Eastham, Barnstable, Mass. to Hezekiah Doane (1672 – 1752) Mary died in  1732 in Eastham, Barnstable, Mass.

I wonder how Mary came the 150 miles from New Hampshire to marry and live in Eastham on Cape Cod. Around 1700, most marriages were within the same towns.

Here’s a romanticized version I found where Thomas was a mariner who had business at Oyster River where he met Mary, fell in love and brought her home to the Cape to be married.  I’m not sure of the author,but,  I’ve updated a little of the florid 19th Century language and omitted incorrect details like their mother scooping babes Samuel and James into her arms since they were actually 11 and 13 years old.

In the days of the French and Indian Wars, the  town of Durham,  [today home to the University of New Hampshire], was called Oyster River. The scattered farmhouses were guarded by six or eight garrison houses. Nothing lay between the settlements and Quebec, but the unbroken wilderness known only to the Indians, the fur traders and the marauding war parties which were sent out against each other by Catholic Canada and Protestant New England.

Mary Smith lived at the Inn which was kept by her father James Smith and her mother Sarah Davis in Oyster River N.H.  The people lived in constant terror of attack. Mary’s father was killed by the Indians, and Mary’s mother took her five children and moved into the garrison house near by with her brother Ensign John Davis.

July 18, 1694 some 200 Indians led by 20 French Canadians and 2 Catholic Priests burst, without warning, on the sleeping village.  The garrison house of Ensign Davis, Mary’s Uncle, was quickly surrounded. One of the French leaders and a Catholic priest promised safety for him and his household if he surrendered. He took them at their word, realizing all too well, that alone he could not hold out long. The instant he unbolted the door, he was rushed upon by the Indians, tomahawked and scalped, together with is wife and two of their children while the two older girls were seized as captives. When Mary’s mother saw what was happening, she  shouted for her  children to run for their lives out the back door. Somehow, Mary, her sister Sarah, and brother John made their escape and hid in the woods.  [Mary’s brothers James (1681 – 1694) and Samuel (1683 – 1694) were not so lucky.]

Twenty-eight of Mary’s closest relatives met death that morning.  In all, 104 inhabitants were killed and 27 taken captive,  with half the dwellings, including the garrisons, pillaged and burned to the ground. But Mary was not to be taken captive. In a few days Captain Tom Freeman from Cape Cod was heading his lumber schooner in toward Oyster River for a load of sawn boards. He found several frightened, bewildered people who told him of the massacre. He loaded no lumber that trip but began to search along the bank and in the woods for all those he could possibly save.

Among this group was our ancestor Mary Smith. She was taken to Tom Freeman’s father’s home which was in Harwich, Mass. Mary was reared and educated by those fine people and when she grew up she married the youthful sea captain who had rescued her – Captain John Freeman _ Mary Smith Freeman.

From the family Bible – we read in Mary’s own precise handwriting –

Mary Smith born May 24, 1685 Md Tom Freeman November 13, 1707

In a short ten years her husband was dead and she a widow at thirty-three with four little children. The final line of the record reads – My husband Thomas Freeman deceased March 22, 1718.

Mary’s sister Sarah came to Eastham to marry Joshua Harding in 1702. So a more likely scenario is that Mary came to visit, or even live, with Sarah and met Thomas then.

Judith Davis

Ensign John DAVIS‘ daughter  Judith, wife of Captain Samuel Emerson, was also taken by the Indians and remained in captivity five years.

Judah Emerson -- From - New England Captives Carried to Canada Between 1677 and 1760  By Emma Lewis Coleman

Judah Emerson — From – New England Captives Carried to Canada Between 1677 and 1760
By Emma Lewis Coleman

Mary Ann Davis

Ensign John DAVIS”s granddaughter, daughter of John Davis is one the most interesting of the captives taken at Oyster River, July 18, 1694.  According to a constant tradition in Durham, became a nun in Canada and refused to return home at the redemption of captives in 1699. This was Sister St. Benedict, of the Ursuline convent, Quebec, the first native of New Hampshire, if not of New England, to embrace the conventional life.

Mary Anne Davis was seven years old when the Indians, on the above-mentioned day, burnt her father’s house and killed him and his wife and several children, as well as his widowed sister and two of her sons. They spared, however, his two young daughters,- whom they carried into captivity, but who, unfortunately, were separated.

One of them, named Sarah, was afterwards redeemed, and was living at Oyster River October 16, 1702, on which day her maternal uncle, Jeremiah Burnham, was appointed her guardian and the administrator of her father’s estate. She afterwards married Peter Mason, but was left a widow before 1747.  Sarah inherited her father’s land at Turtle Pond and also his homestead on the south side of the Oyster River.  With true Davis tenacity to life she was still living in 1771, when she sold part of her homestead lands toJohn Sullivan (afterwards General  in the Revolutionary army, delegate in the Continental Congress, Federal judge,  and Governor of New Hampshire). How much longer she lived does not appear. She left one daughter, at least, whose descendants can still be traced.

Though John Davis was killed in 1694 no attempt was made to administer on his estate till after his daughter Mary Anne’s religious profession, September 25, 1701, when all hope of her return home was renounced.

But to return to her sister, who chose the better part. Mary Anne was carried away by the Abenaki Indians, but was rescued not long after by Father Rale, who instructed and baptized her and conveyed her to Canada. In 1698 she entered the boarding-school at the Ursuline convent, Quebec. At her entrance into this “Maison des Vierges” of which she had heard among the Abenakis, she was transported with joy. “This is the house of the Lord,” she cried; “it is here I will henceforth live; it is here I will die.” She entered the novitiate of that house on St. Joseph’s day, March 19, 1699; and received the religious habit and white veil, with the name of Sister St. Benedict, the fourteenth of September following—the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. She took the black veil and made her vows September 25, 1701. Mademoiselle de Varennes, whose father was governor of Trois Rivieres for twenty-two years, took the white veil with her and made her vows at the same time. The latter was only fourteen years of age when she entered the novitiate.

Sister St. Benedict is said not to have known her own age, but was supposed to be a few years older. The trials she had undergone, however, must have given her an air of maturity beyond her years The Durham tradition does not mention her age, but speaks of her as “young” when taken captive. She died March 2, 1749. Her death is entered in the convent records as follows:

“The Lord has just taken from us our dear Mother Marie Anne Davis de St. Benoit after five months’ illness, during which she manifested great patience. She was of English origin and carried away by a band of savages, who killed her father before her very eyes. Fortunately she fell into the hands of the chief of a village who was a good Christian, and did not allow her to be treated as a slave, according to the usual practice of the savages towards their captives. She was about fifteen years old when redeemed by the French, and lived in several good families successively in order to acquire the habits of civilized life and the use of the French language. She everywhere manifested excellent traits of character, and appreciated so fully the gift of Faith that she would never listen to any proposal of returning to her own country, and constantly refused the solicitations of the English commissioners, who at different times came to treat for the exchange of prisoners. Her desire to enter our boarding-school in order to be more fully instructed in our holy religion was granted, and she soon formed the resolution to consecrate herself wholly to Him who had so mercifully led her out of the darkness of heresy. Several charitable persons aided in paying the expenses of her entrance, but the greater part of her dowry was given by the community [i.e., by the Ursulines themselves] in view of her decided vocation and the sacrifice she made of her country in order to preserve her faith.

Her monastic obligations she perfectly fulfilled, and she acquitted herself with exactness of the employments assigned her by holy obedience. Her zeal for the decoration of the altar made her particularly partial to the office of sacristan. Her love of industry, her ability, her spirit of order and economy, rendered her still very useful to the community, though she was at least seventy years of age.

“She had great devotion to the Blessed Virgin and daily said the rosary. Her confidence in St. Joseph made her desire his special protection at the hour of death—a desire that was granted, for she died on the second of March of this year 1749, after receiving the sacraments with great fervor, in the fiftieth year of her religious life.”

Sarah Davis 1

New England Captives Carried to Canada Between 1677 and 1760 During the …
By Emma Lewis Coleman 1926

Sarah Davis 2
Sarah Davis 3
Sarah Davis 4

There was another Mary Ann Davis who became a nun in Canada in early times. She was, likewise, a captive from New England. She became a nun at the Hotel Dieu, Quebec, in 1710, under the name of Sister St. Cecilia. She was taken to Canada by the Rev. Father Vincent Bigot, S.J., who had ransomed her from the Indians at St. Francis. She is mentioned as leading ” a holy life” for more than fifty years in the religious state. She died in 1761, at the age of seventy-three. There is no record of her birthplace or parentage. She may have been the daughter mentioned by the Rev. John Pike, of Dover, N. H., in his journal:

“August 9, 1704, The wife, son, and daughter of John Davis, of Jemaico, taken by ye Indians in yr house or in yr field.” [Jemaico was part of Scarborough, Maine.]

7 Oct 1695 Newbury, Essex, Mass – In the afternoon, a party of Indians, not more than five or six in number, secreted themselves near John BROWN’S house; and, after the male members of the family had departed with a load of farm produce, the Indians left their place of concealment, and, stealthily approaching the house, tomahawked a girl standing at the front door, seized such articles of household furniture and wearing apparel as they could conveniently take away, and hastily departed with nine captives, all women and children. The names and ages of the children of John and Ruth Brown at this time were as follows:

John, born Oct. 27. 1683, twelve years old.
Isaac, born Feb. 4. 1685, ten years, eight months old. (died on that date)
Thomas BROWN, born Jan. 1, 1689, five years, ten months old.
Joseph, born Nov. 5, 1690, nearly five years old.
Abel, born April 4, 1693, two years, six months old.
Ruth, born July, 1695, three months old.

Only one inmate of the house, a girl, escaped capture; and, after the departure of the Indians, she gave the alarm. Colonel Daniel Pierce, of Newbury, immediately notified Colonel Appleton and Colonel Wade, of Ipswich, that assistance was needed, and requested that men be sent to range the woods toward Bradford and Andover, to prevent the escape of the Indians, if possible.

According to tradition, the captives were recovered on the northwesterly side of Pipe Stave Hill, near a small stream that empties into the Merrimack, now known as Indian River. The number killed or seriously injured is somewhat uncertain, as the reports of the attack and pursuit are contradictory and confusing.

Cotton Mather, in volume 2, book 7, article 23, of the ” Magnalia,” says : —

The Indians entered the house of one John Brown at Newbury, carrying away nine persons with them. Captain [Stephen] Greenleaf, [grandson of Edmund GREENLEAF] pursuing the murderers, was wounded by them, but retook the captives. The Indians, however, had beaten them so unmercifully that they all afterward died except one lad who was only hurt in the shoulder. Some of them lingered for six months, and some for more than a year, suffering from their wounds.

Judge Samuel Sewall in his diary says :  Oct. 7, 1695. Jn” Brown’s family of Turkey hill are led captive. All are brought back save one boy that was killed; knock’d the rest on the head, save an infant.

Rev. John Pike in his journal says, “The captives were all retaken, but some died of their wounds.”

Oct. 8, 1695, Colonel Thomas Wade wrote from Ipswich as follows: —

Honored Sir,
Just now Captain Wicom brings information that the last night Captain Greenleaf with a party of men met with the enemy by the river side, have redeemed all the captives but one, which they doubt is killed. Three of the Indians got into a canoe and made escape, and the other two ran into the woods. Captain Greenleaf is wounded in the side and arm, how much we know not, which is all at present from your servant.
Thomas Wadk.

On the 5th of March, 1695-6, Captain Greenleaf [grandson of our ancestor Capt. Edmund GREENLEAF] addressed the following petition to the General Court:

To the Honh1* William Stoughton Esqr Lieu’ Governr &c. the Council and Representatives of his Ma*” Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, convened in General Assembly, March 5″‘ 1695-6.
The Petition of Cap* Stephen Greenleafe of Newbury Humbly sheweth That upon the 7″‘ of October last, about three o’clock in the afternoon, a party of Indians surprised a Family at Turkey hill in sd town, captivated nine persons, women and Children, rifled the house, carrying away the Bedding and other Goods. Only one person in the House escaped; and gave notice to the next Family and they to the Town. Upon the Alarm your Petr with a party of men pursued after the Enemy, endeavoring to line the River Merrimack to prevent their passing over, by which meanes the Captives were recovered and brought back.
The Enemy lay in a Gully hard by the Highway, and about nine at night made a shot at your Petitioner and shot him through the Wrist between the bones, and also made a large wound in his side, Which wounds have been very painful and costly to your Pet’ in the cure of them and have in a great measure utterly taken away the use of his left hand, and wholly taken him off from his Imployment this Winter.
Your Petitioner therefore humbly prayes this HonrI,K’ Court that they would make him Such Compensation as shall seem fit, which he shall thankfully acknowledge, and doubts not but will be an Encouragemen’ to others speedily to relieve their Neighbours when assaulted by so barbarous an Enemy.
And your Petr shall ever pray, &c.
Stephen Greenleaf.*

In answer to this petition a vote was passed and approved March 7, 1695-6, and embodied in Chapter 63 of the Laws of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, as follows: —

Upon reading the petition of Capt” Stephen Greenleaf of Newbury, lately wounded and maimed in his maj’-vs service, praying some allowance and compensation for his smart, cure, loss of time and of the use of his left hand,—
Voted, a concurrance with the representatives, that the said Captain Stephen Greenleaf be paid, out of the province treasury, the sum of forty pounds, which shall be in full of what he hath been out upon cure and what yearly pension he might have expected had not this been granted.

Coffin, in his History of Newbury, says, “This is the only instance in which the Indians either attacked, captivated, or killed any of the inhabitants of the town of Newbury.

15 Mar 1697 Haverhill, Mass, George CORLISS (1617 – 1686)’s daughter Mary Neff was 15 nursing Hannah Dustin who had given birth the week before.  They taken prisoner by the Indians in an attack on Haverhill and carried towards Canada.

Haverhill, Essex, Mass

Haverhill, Essex, Mass

Hannah Duston (1657 – 1736) was a colonial Massachusetts Puritan woman who escaped Native American captivity by leading her fellow captives in scalping their captors at night. Duston is the first woman honored in the United States with a statue.

Hannah Dustin Statue Penacook New Hampshire

Hannah Dustin Statue Penacook New Hampshire

Today, Hannah Dustin’s actions are controversial, with some  calling her a hero, but others calling her a villain, and some Abenaki leaders saying her legend is racist and glorifies violence. As early as the 19th Century, Hannah’s legal argument had lost its Old Testament authority and came to be interpreted, or misinterpreted, as a justification for vengeance.  See my post Hannah Dustin – Heroine or Cold Blooded Killer


9 May 1698 Kittery, Maine – Enoch HUTCHINS  was killed by Indians at Spruce Creek,  near Oyster River Plantation (Kittery, York County, Maine.)  as he was at work in his field, and 3 of his sons carried away. The same day Joseph Pray of York was wounded.”

Hutchins Cove Road, Kittery Maine

Hutchins Cove Road, Kittery Maine

Tradition says the wife of Hutchins was also taken, but she was back in time to show his estate to appraisers on 7 June 1698.   Apparently she kept house for the next thirty years for Rowland Williams, for she billed his estate for this care after his death. Benjamin returned from Canada before May 29, 1701. Samuel returned in January 1699, and Jonathan returned in 1705.

Spruce Creek, Kittery, Maine

Spruce Creek, Kittery, Maine — Enoch was killed “in his own door” by Indians. He resided on the Eastern Branch of Spruce Creek, Kittery, in a garrison house

Enoch Hutchins bought of Thomas Withers, 7 July 1675, a tract of land “the one end facing upon Spruce Cricke, being twenty foure pooles in breadth, & runneng up by a brooke on the South side of It, one hundred & sixty pooles.” It thus contained twenty-four acres. Its location is more definitely stated in Hutchins’ will, wherein he speaks of his Garrison house and “about thirty acres more or less fronting the maine Creeck Bounded in breadth by Rowland Williams and Martins Cove.” This was in 1693. Enoch Hutchins was killed by Indians in his own door, 9 May 1698, and his wife, who was Mary Stevenson of Dover, was carried into captivity. This seems to locate Hutchins’ lot between Peter Lewis on the north and Nicholas Weeks and John Phoenix on the south, at Martin’s Cove, just south of Pine Point.

Old Kittery and her families By Everett Schermerhorn Stackpole

This long war [where Enoch Hutchins was killed]  reduced the population of Kittery to extreme poverty. The houses and barns of many were burned and their cattle killed. The schools were discontinued for fear that the children in going and coming would be exposed to hostile attacks. If religious services were held, they were attended by armed men. Petitions were sent to the General Court every year from 1694 to 1697, asking for relief from taxation and aid in paying the minister at Berwick. The following represents as well as any the sad conditions of the inhabitants.

To the Right Honorable William Stoughton Esqr Leiftt Governr & Commandr in cheif of his Maj ties Prouince of the Massachusetts Bay in New-England, Together with ye Honorable Council of the said Province. The Selectmen of Kittery humbly Petition That yor honors would Condescend to take thought concerning our poor Estate and accordingly be helpful to us. Tis more difficult abundantly plainly to represent our Calamity to yor Honors than solembly here to groan under it; the latter during Gods good pleasure we must endure; which we hope by your sensible acquaintance therewith may in some measure be alleviated, if it might please yor Honors to abate the whole set proportion in that Province Rate which was Granted Novbr 18 1696 amountting to 36 lbs according to ye Treasurers Warrant Mar. 17 1696/7 which (severall things considered) we think scarce possible to be collected within our precincts

1. May it be thought on the Town in Generall are allmost overcome & discouraged by the tediousness of the Warr finding their Estate daily decaying and Expecting Poverty to come upon them like an armed man.

2. As indeed (blessed be God) some and those very few that can wth much adoe Get a Comfortable livelyhood, so very many are in the greatest extremity not having a days Prouison to live upon nor any thing where by to procure sustenance insomuch that it’s wonderfull yt some do not perish for want, and they are destitute of money wherewithall to assist ymselues with things necessary, so we yor Honors humble supplicants cannot (with conscience) impose any burthen upon ym except yor honors after Consideration of ye Circumstances are pleased not to release yr Taxes.

Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, by Sybil Noyes; Charles T. Libby, and Walter G. Davis, 1928-1939:

Like his father, Enoch Hutchins Jr. had trouble with the Indians. The house he inherited from his father was attacked by Indians for the second time on May 4, 1705. Enoch was left wounded and helpless, probably later dying from his wounds. His wife was taken captive with 3 sons; was in Canada in 1706, gave birth to her fourth child while in Canada, but was back by Jan 13, 1706/7.  His son, William, born Aug 1, 1694 (called Nicholas in Canada), returned unexpectedly in Jan 1732 to be disowned by brothers, but accepted by mother. His son, Thomas, born Sep 20, 1696, and his brother Enoch were also captured but how and when they returned is unknown

History of the Town of Durham, New Hampshire (Oyster River Plantation) by Everett Stackpole & Lucien Thompson, 1913:

Enoch appears first in Maine as a signer of the Kittery Petition in 1662. Enoch and his brother John settled at Spruce Creek, Kittery in 1667. They were two of the first settlers of Kittery. He bought land of Thomas Withers at Spruce Creek on Jul 7, 1675 and built a garrison house and lived there the rest of his life. He made his will Jun. 7, 1693. In January 1690 the settlements of the English and French were encroaching on each other, and the French organized Indian war parties to attach these English settlements. This action started the King William’s War which was not settled until 1698, but not before Kittery, Maine was attached and Enoch Hutchins was killed.

He was called an old man when killed by Indians at Kittery while he was at work in his field, and three sons taken into Canada on May 9, 1698.

His son Benjamin was captured and returned before May 29, 1698, His son Samuel was captured but returned the next January. His son Jonathan was captured but still in Canada May 1701.

Feb 1703 Worcester, Worcester, Mass, Abenaki indians attacked the Sargent home, scalped Digory and killed him inside the home. They then took Digory’s wife and their 6 kids captive to Canada.   Supposedly the wife was to weak to travel and just outside town they scalped and killed her as well as the infant of the children. the 5 remaining siblings (John, Daniel, Martha, Mary, Thomas) were taken back to Canada. John, Thomas and Martha were ransomed back to the colony, while Daniel and Mary remained in Canada.

Digory Sargent Mural

Mural of the Indian attack on the Digory Sargent Family in Worcester, Mass. This mural was painted by artist Will S. Taylor in the main entry of Vernon Hill School in Worcester, Mass.

In his will, Digory Sargent (1651 – 1704) granted his entire estate to George PARMENTER of Sudbury to dispose of as he saw fit to raise Digory’s children.   Digory was scalped and killed by the Indians in Worcester and buried somewhere on his land at the foot of an oak tree by his belated rescuers.  A committee divide the estate into six equal parts.Sixty arce lot and another 150 arces .  Sudbury where George lived is about 25 miles away from Worcester.  There must not have been very many close neighbors on the frontier in those days.

Digory’s son Daniel Sargeant b. Aug 1699 in Worcester, Mass,  lived for a while with the Abenaki  Indians. It is said that they “gave” him to the governor,Philippe de Rigault Vaudreuil (or was perhaps “redeemed” by the him).

Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil (1643-1725) Governor General of New France (1703-1725)  redeemed Daniel Sargent from the Indians

Daniel was baptized  6 Nov 1707 Age: 9 in  Notre Dame Basilique, Montreal, Quebec, Canada as Louis Phillippe Sargent.   This became corrupted to Serien, which is how it would have been pronounced.   He had been given by this time, by the governor, to Robert Poitier to raise and he grew up in Poitier’s household. Naturalized May 170 Age: 12 Quebec, Canada Louis Phillippe Sargent; Inventaire des Insinuations du Conseil Souverain de la Nouvelle France by Pierre Georges Roy.   Later in time he begain using a “dit” name of Langlais which is French for “The Englishman” and thats the name he passed on to his children. He lived in Riviere Ouelle, Kamouraska Co., PQ and his “Langlais” descendants in number probably far surpass that of his brother, John.

; m. 22 Jan 1718 Riviere Ouelle, Kamouraska, Quebec, Canada to Marguerite Lavoie (1693 – 1773); d. bef. 3 Aug 1728 in Rivière Ouelle,Kamouraska, Quebec, Canada

Qc Kamouraska.png

Daniel Sargent became Louis-Philippe Serien Langlois and raised a family in Kamouraska Quebec

13 May 1704  Easthampton, Mass.  At daybreak, a combined attack was made on Pascommuck by the French and their Indian allies.  Amongst the first settlers in Pascommuck (now Easthampton), were  Thomas SEARLE’S grandson John and John’s second wife, Mary, with their large family. The only surviving son of his first marriage, John Jr., was now thirty, married to Abigail (Pomeroy), and had a family.

Easthampton, Hampshire, Mass

Easthampton, Hampshire, Mass

There was no watch at the garrison, and although the house of Benoni Jones was fortified, the Indians were able to creep up, put their guns through the port-holes, and fire on the sleeping inhabitants. In the ensuing massacre, John(3) Searle and three of his four children (Abigail, 6; John, 4; and Caleb, 18 months) were killed. John’s wife, Abigail was dragged off, but when the Indians discovered that she was pregnant, and would not survive the journey to Canada, they knocked her on the head, and left her for dead. Fortunately, she was not scalped (as was another survivor!) but was rescued and four months later gave birth to John’s fifth child, a girl named Submit.

The remaining child of John(3) and Abigail, nine-year-old Elisha, also survived the Massacre, but was captured by the Indians. Seeing that the Indians were systematically murdering the children, Elisha grabbed a pack, and ran off. At this, the Indians decided he might be useful, and recaptured him and took him off to Canada, where he was adopted by a French family, and brought up as a Catholic.

Benoni Jones, [who had been indentured as a young man to our ancestor  Lt. William CLARK ] and his two youngest children were also killed.

Years later Elisha Searle returned to Pascommuck to claim his inheritance but not intending to stay. With him came an Indian guide, but the local people persuaded Elisha to remain in Pascommuck, and after some months the Indian returned to Canada alone. Elisha married a local girl, Rebecca Danks, and had six children, one of whom he called Catherine, in remembrance of a French girl, his “Katreen”, who he had left behind in Canada.

1704 Pascommuck Monument

1704 Pascommuck Monument

In Easthampton, Hampshire,. Mass. (formerly Pascommuck), there stands a boulder  recording the 1704 Massacre, in which 19 of the 33 people there were killed. From this account it must be assumed that John (2) Searle, and the rest of his family escaped the attack, or were outside the area chosen by the attackers.

4 May 1705 Kittery Maine – Like his father,  Enoch HUTCHINS (See above) Enoch Hutchins Jr.  had trouble with the Indians. The house he inherited from his father was attacked by Indians for the second time on May 4, 1705. Enoch was left wounded and helpless, probably later dying from his wounds Apr 3, 1706.

His wife was taken captive with 3 sons; was in Canada in 1706, gave birth to her fourth child while in Canada, but was back by Jan 13, 1706/7.

His son, William, born 1 Aug  1694 (called Nicholas in Canada), returned unexpectedly in Jan 1732 to be disowned by brothers, but accepted by mother. His sons, Thomas, born Sep 20, 1696, and Enoch were also captured but how and when they returned is unknown.

No provision was made for son William. if he should return. His mother  deposed in 1732 that he was in his 12th yr. when captured,  in his 14th yr. when she left him in Canada. He won against his brothers in Court and in  Dec 1736, of Kittery, sold a double portion in father’s 1694 grant.  He married in 17 Oct. 1734  to Mary Keene.

Pike records the following,

4 May 1705: “Many persons surprised by the Indians at Spruce Creek and York. John Brown, H. Bams, a child of Dodavah Curtis and a child of Enoch Hutchins slain,—rest carried captive by ten or a dozen Indians. Also Mrs. Hoit [Hoel it should be], running up the hill to discern the outcry, fell into their hands and was slain.” Penhallow speaks of Mrs. Hoel as a “gentlewoman of good extract and education.” He says also, “The greatest sufferer was Enoch Hutchins in the loss of his wife and children.” The Dennett manuscripts afford further particulars. This Mrs. Hutchins is called the great-grandmother of Col. Gowen Wilson. The family were surprised by the Indians, her husband shot at the door and she was ordered to prepare to march with them. She pulled her husband’s body into the house and shut the door, and then with her two little boys was compelled to march. One of the boys was soon unable to keep up, when one of the Indians, thinking perhaps that the boy would be killed, kindly caught him up in his arms and ran away with him. Several days afterward the mother and boy were under the care of this kind Indian. One of the Hutchins boys is said to have split a wooden shoe from his foot with a hatchet, which feat won the admiration of the Indians. The other shoe was brought home from captivity and is still preserved. It was in the possession of Col. Gowen Wilson in 1869.

22 Apr 1708 Wells, York, Maine – John LITTLEFIELD’S son Josiah led a life beset by Indians. On 10 Aug 1707 on their way from Boston to Wells, with a four person escort and $200,  his wife, Lydia Masters and her group were set upon, robbed.  , Lydia Masters, and Josiah Jr. were killed.   His second wife Elizabeth was killed by Indians in 1738.

Josiah was captured by the Indians Apr 22, 1708 and taken to Canada.  He spent two years in Canada, writing letters arranging for his release, and returned in Apr 1710 to Wells.  On the 18 Apr 1712 (or 26 Apr 1713), he was shot down while working in his cornfield. He is buried in a small private lot on the easterly side of the Boston Post Road (Rt #1).which is now the Willow Tree Restaurant in Wells, Maine.   Samuel and Elizabeth Cole adopted the children of Josiah which were brought for baptism.  There were eight children surviving, three sons and five daughters.

April 22, 1708, Lieutenant (in the York militia) Josiah Littlefield and Joseph Winn were beset by Indians.  Josiah was captured and taken to Montreal, where he was allowed to write his family in Wells and Governor Dudley in Boston to petition a hostage swap (he and a white child for two Indians taken captive by the settlers).  He also wrote to his best friend  Joseph [Josiah?] Winn, asking him to take care of his estate and his minor children until Josiah could be rescued or if he died in captivity.  Neither the French nor the Indians were in a hurry to exchange Josiah, for they discovered his “mechanical services” and knowledge of mills and water courses most useful to their own needs.  While in captivity the court ordered that his estate and children be placed in charge of Josiah Winn, who had married his sister Lydia.

In the autumn of 1709, a prisoner swap was finally agreed upon, and Josiah was released into the wilderness to make his own way home.  In poor health, he hadn’t gone far when he was captured by another group of Indians who then sold him to an individual Indian.  This new master nursed Josiah back to health and agreed to help him broker a deal with the English for his release.  (Apparently, Josiah had convinced him his family had the means to buy him back.)  He was taken to the fort near Canso, but the governor had made it a policy not to buy back prisoners.  Thwarted, Josiah tried to go behind the governor’s back, appealing directly to his Wells relatives in hopes they might privately purchase his release…but his letter was intercepted and sent to the governor, thus setting back negotiations.

In the spring of 1710, the Indian surrendered Josiah to the fort in the hopes that Josiah, whom he had come to view as an honorable man, might do the right thing and compensate him after the fact.  Personal letters reveal that he did.

Having returned to Wells, Josiah’s troubles were not over.  Joseph Winn had taken good care of his friend’s estate, providing well for his second wife Elizabeth and his minor children…but Elizabeth was sorely put out that she had not been put in charge and accused Joseph of mismanagement of funds.  She used her marital position to cast seeds of doubt in Josiah’s mind about the fiscal loyalty of his best friend, and the friendship was ruined.  After Josiah’s death–he was killed by Indians as he and a party of men were working their fields–Elizabeth carried on the feud with Joseph by suing him.  She eventually married the lawyer representing her, and their children carried on the suit.  It came to be known as the longest running litigation and family feud in colonial Maine history.

Josiah's River at Logging Road, Cape Neddick, Maine

Josiah’s River at Logging Road, Cape Neddick, Maine

The Josias River is a 2.7-mile-long river in southern Maine in the United States. The river enters the Gulf of Maine in the town of Ogunquit where it and the Ogunquit River come together at Perkin’s Cove, a popular artist and tourist area.   Josiah Littlefield owned considerable property along the river, and he built and operated a saw mill at the falls on the river for several years.   The river was named in Josiah Littlefield’s memory.

26 Jul 1708 Westfield, Mass –   Seven or eight Indians rushed into the house of Lt Abel WRIGHT of Skipmuch (Skepmuck, later to become the present town of Westfield) in Springfield, and killed two soldiers, Aaron Parsons of Northampton and Benjah Hulbert of Enfield; scalped the wife of Lt Wright, who died Oct 19; took Hannah, the wife of Lt.Wright’s son Henry, and probably slew her; killed her infant son Henry in a cradle and knocked in the head of her daughter Hannah, aged 2 years, in the same cradle; the latter recovered.

Westfield, Hampden, Mass

Westfield, Hampden, Mass

The farm and residence of Abel and Martha was still on the exposed west side of the river, near a place bearing the indian name of Skepmuck, later to become the present town of Westfield. Apparently at least one of their sons, Henry, lived nearby with his own family. On 26 July 1708, indians again came upon the town and its outlying farms. After they had gone, Martha was found lying unconscious in the yard beside their ransacked house. She had been scalped. Martha lingered on until the 19th of October of that year, then died of her wounds. The indians also had killed in this attack an infant of Abel’s son, Henry, and captured Henry’s wife, who died soon after. Henry and his wife, Hannah, had been married only three years before.

The attack on the Wright family was part of  Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713),  the North American theater of the War of the Spanish Succession  fought between  France  and England in North America for control of the continent. The War of the Spanish Succession was primarily fought in Europe. In addition to the two main combatants, the war also involved numerous Native American tribes allied with each nation, and Spain, which was allied with France.

10 Jun 1724 Dover, NHEnsign John DAVIS’ son  Moses escaped the massacre of 1694 and accompanied his brother James in some of the expeditions to Maine and Port Royal. He lived in a clearing of the forest about a mile from Oyster river falls, where, 10 Jun 1724, he and his son Moses Jr. were killed by a party of Indians, who lay in ambush to attack the settlement. He was then sixty-seven years of age. A negro slave of his avenged their murder by pursuing the Indians and shooting one of the leaders.

Love Davis, daughter of Moses, in view of the fidelity of this slave, gave orders that at his death he should be buried at her feet. This was done, and their graves are still pointed out at a short distance from Durham village.

The Indian thus slain by the servant of Moses Davis is now generally supposed to have been a son of the Baron de St. Castin, who had married the daughter of an Indian sagamore of Maine. Dr. Belknap, whose account of the affair was derived from the Rev. Hugh Adams * —a man of extreme malevolence— His equipment, moreover, proves that he held the rank of a chief. Dr. Belknap thus describes him : ” The slain Indian was a person of distinction, and wore a kind of coronet of scarlet-dyed fur, with an appendage of four small bells, by the sound of which the others might follow him through the thickets. His hair was remarkably soft and fine, and he had about him a devotional book and a muster-roll of one hundred and eighty Indians.”  The scalp of this young chief was presented to the New Hampshire General Assembly at Portsmouth June 12, 1724, by Robert Burnham, son of Jeremiah before-mentioned, and a bounty of one hundred pounds was ordered to be paid to the slayer.

A few weeks later Father Rale himself, the deliverer of Mary Anne Davis from the Indians, was slain at the foot of his mission-cross in the attack on Norridgewock by the Massachusetts forces, August 12, 1724, and his chapel pillaged and burnt to the ground.

Love Davis may be considered an important link in the chain of  Davis  traditions, for she did not die till 1805, when she was about one hundred years ot age. Her nephew, Jabez Davis, furnished Dr. Belknap, the New Hampshire historian, with considerable information concerning his native town.

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Genealogy and the 2nd Ammendment

When I first started this genealogy project, I was thrilled to find our ancestors David WINGJohn COLEMAN and Seth RICHARSON “marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775”  celebrated today as the civic holiday Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts and Maine.

The rebellion’s leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock made a stop at our ancestor Francis WYMAN’S  home on the outskirts of Woburn, now part of Burlington on their flight from Lexington, ahead of the British troops, but that’s a different story.

As I continued the project I found more and more relatives who also “marched on the alarm of April 19.”  So far the count is up to 27 ancestors, sons and grandsons who “dropped their plows in their furoughs” and rushed to Lexington and Concord.  Maybe having minutemen in your family tree isn’t so unusual.  Maybe everyone from a hundred miles around rallied to surround Boston.

See my post Minutemen – April 19, 1775

I had a mental picture of a single company of Patriots meeting a regiment of redcoats at Lexington Green.  Indeed,  the engagement at Lexington was a minor skirmish. As the regulars’ advance guard under Pitcairn entered Lexington at sunrise on April 19, 1775, 77 Lexington militiamen emerged from Buckman Tavern and stood in ranks on the village common watching them.   Their leader was Captain John Parker, a veteran of the French and Indian War.  Of the militiamen who lined up, nine had the surname Harrington, seven Munroe (including the company’s orderly sergeant, William Munroe), four Parker, three Tidd, three Locke, and three Reed; fully one quarter of them were related to Captain Parker in some way.  This group of militiamen was part of Lexington’s “training band”, a way of organizing local militias dating back to the Puritans, and not what was styled a minuteman company

There were 77 militiamen at Lexington, 400 at Concord and 3,800 at the end of Battle.  By the next morning,  Boston was surrounded by a huge militia army, numbering over 15,000, which had marched from throughout New England.

Second Amendment

There are several versions of the text of the Second Amendment, each with capitalization or punctuation differences. Differences exist between the drafted and ratified copies, the signed copies on display, and various published transcriptions.  The importance (or lack thereof) of these differences has been the source of debate regarding the meaning and interpretation of amendment, particularly regarding the importance of the prefatory clause, especially since the first clause implies a collective right and the second clause implies an individual right.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

My genealogical insight is that in Colonial times, there wasn’t much of a distinction between the collective and individual rights to keep and bear arms.

Freeman – Initially, anyone first entering into a colony, or just recently having become a member of one of the local churches, was formally not free. Such persons were never forced to work for another individual, per se, but their movements were carefully observed, and if they veered from the Puritanical ideal, they were asked to leave the colony. If they stayed or later returned to the colony, they were put to death.There was an unstated probationary period that the prospective “freeman” needed to go through, and if he did pass this probationary period of time – usually one to two years – he was allowed his freedom.

Initially, all persons seeking to be free needed to take the Oath of a Freeman, in which they vowed to defend the Commonwealth and not to conspire to overthrow the government.

Captain- Each town  contained a company of soldiers. The soldiers of each town chose their own Captain and subalterns by a majority vote. The officers, when chosen, were installed into their place by the Major of the regiment.  The Court order, that all the souldiers belonging to the twenty-six bands in the Mattachusetts government, shall be exercised and drilled eight daies in a yeare, and whosoever should absent himself, except it were upon unavoidable occasions, should pay 5s. for every daie’s neglect.  Each regiment is to be exercised once a year.

Trainbands – Companies of militia, first organized in the 16th century and dissolved in the 18th. In the early American colonies the trainband was the most basic tactical unit. However, no standard company size ever existed and variations were wide. As population grew these companies were organized into regiments to allow better management. But trainbands were not combat units. Generally, upon reaching a certain age a man was required to join the local trainband in which he received periodic training for the next couple of decades. In wartime military forces were formed by selecting men from trainbands on an individual basis and then forming them into a fighting.  The exact derivation and usage is not clear.   The issue is whether the men “received training” in the modern sense, or whether they were “in the train” or retinue or were otherwise organized around a military “train” as in horse-drawn artillery.

At 16, males became eligible for military duty and were also considered adults for legal purposes, such as standing trial for crimes. Age 21 was the youngest at which a male could become a freeman, though for practical purposes this occurred sometime in a man’s mid-twenties.  Service was mandatory until age 60.  Genealogists use these dates to calculate birth years by counting backwards sixty years from when some one was excused from military service.

Lexington and Concord

The ride of Revere, Dawes, and Prescott triggered a flexible system of “alarm and muster” that had been carefully developed months before, in reaction to the colonists’ impotent response to the Powder Alarm. This system was an improved version of an old network of widespread notification and fast deployment of local militia forces in times of emergency. The colonists had periodically used this system all the way back to the early years of Indian wars in the colony, before it fell into disuse in the French and Indian War. In addition to other express riders delivering messages, bells, drums, alarm guns, bonfires and a trumpet were used for rapid communication from town to town, notifying the rebels in dozens of eastern Massachusetts villages that they should muster their militias because the regulars in numbers greater than 500 were leaving Boston, with possible hostile intentions. This system was so effective that people in towns 25 miles  from Boston were aware of the army’s movements while they were still unloading boats in Cambridge.  These early warnings played a crucial role in assembling a sufficient number of colonial militia to inflict heavy damage on the British regulars later in the day.

In the morning, Boston was surrounded by a huge militia army, numbering over 15,000, which had marched from throughout New England.

History of the Second Amendment

There was substantial opposition to the new Constitution, because it moved the power to arm the state militias from the states to the federal government. This created a fear that the federal government, by neglecting the upkeep of the militia, could have overwhelming military force at its disposal through its power to maintain a standing army and navy, leading to a confrontation with the states, encroaching on the states’ reserved powers and even engaging in a military takeover.

James Madison’s initial proposal for a bill of rights was brought to the floor of the House of Representatives on June 8, 1789, during the first session of Congress. The initial proposed passage relating to arms was:

1. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

On July 21, Madison again raised the issue of his Bill and proposed a select committee be created to report on it. The House voted in favor of Madison’s motion,[106] and the Bill of Rights entered committee for review. The committee returned to the House a reworded version of the Second Amendment on July 28. On August 17, that version was read into the Journal:

2. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.

The Second Amendment was debated and modified during sessions of the House in late August 1789. These debates revolved primarily around risk of “mal-administration of the government” using the “religiously scrupulous” clause to destroy the militia as Great Britain had attempted to destroy the militia at the commencement of the American Revolution. These concerns were addressed by modifying the final clause, and on August 24, the House sent the following version to the Senate:

3. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

The next day, August 25, the Senate received the Amendment from the House and entered it into the Senate Journal. However, the Senate scribe added a comma before “shall not be infringed” and changed the semicolon separating that phrase from the religious exemption portion to a comma, as highlighted in green below:

4. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

By this time, the proposed right to keep and bear arms was in a separate amendment, instead of being in a single amendment together with other proposed rights such as the due process right. As a Representative explained, this change allowed each amendment to “be passed upon distinctly by the States.”  On Sep 4, the Senate voted to change the language of the Second Amendment by removing the definition of militia, and striking the conscientious objector clause:

5. A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The Senate returned to this amendment for a final time on September 9. A proposal to insert the words “for the common defence” next to the words “bear arms” was defeated.  An extraneous comma added on August 25 was also removed.  The Senate then slightly modified the language and voted to return the Bill of Rights to the House. The final version passed by the Senate was:

6. A well regulated militia being the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The House voted on September 21, 1789 to accept the changes made by the Senate, but the amendment as finally entered into the House journal contained the additional words “necessary to”:

7. A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

On Dec 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights  was adopted, having been ratified by three-fourths of the States.

In the 21st century, a debate centered on whether the prefatory clause (“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State”) declared the amendment’s only purpose or merely announced a purpose to introduce the operative clause (“the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”).

The question of a collective right versus an individual right was progressively resolved with the Fifth Circuit ruling in United States v. Emerson (2001), along with the Supreme Court’s rulings in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), and McDonald v. Chicago (2010). These rulings upheld the individual rights model when interpreting the Second Amendment. In Heller, the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right   Although the Second Amendment is the only Constitutional amendment with a prefatory clause, such constructions were widely used elsewhere.

The majority opinion in Heller held that the amendment’s prefatory clause (referencing the “militia”) serves to clarify the operative clause (referencing “the people”), but does not limit the scope of the operative clause, because “the ‘militia’ in colonial America consisted of a subset of ‘the people’….”

The term “well regulated” means “disciplined” or “trained”.   In Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that “[t]he adjective ‘well-regulated’ implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training.”  Alexander Hamilton wrote “A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss.”

Nowhere else in the Constitution does a “right of the people” refer to anything other than an individual right. What is more, in all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention “the people,” the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset. .

The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved.

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