A Sad Day

11 04 2010

Hello Readers of Mike in New Hampshire.

This is Mike’s daughter, Jessica. This will be my first and only guest blog on my dad’s beloved blog.

Mike passed away yesterday April 10, 2010, from a heart attack. He was 51.

I know that there are some of you who visit here often, so I thought that instead of letting you wonder where he had gone and why he was not writing anymore, he would want me to let you all know.

In the past few months, I know that he worked really hard to put this blog together and to make it great. He loved New Hampshire and he loved History, so I am happy that he started this project to share these things with you.

Even if no one actually read this blog, I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t care, because taking pictures, “marker hunting”, writing about them and compiling this all made his last several months full and fun.

Thank you for reading his blog, and let it serve as a small memorial to my dad. He was a great guy, and he will be very missed.


#20 Captain Lovewell’s War

29 03 2010

Marker Text:

Was fought between 1722 and 1725 against several tribes of eastern Indians. The principal campaigns took place in the Ossipee region and led to the eventual withdrawal of the Indians to the north. Commemorated in Colonial literature by "The Ballad of Lovewell’s Fight." 

I was unable to locate this marker, erected in 1965, on a trip up Rt. 16.  It’s possible it was hidden behind plowed snow.  The map below represents a “best estimate” of the location.  The NH state description reads  “Located in a grassy plot about 2.5 miles north of Center Ossipee on NH 16 and 25, just north of the point where NH 16 combines with NH 25.”

As we have seen from the previous marker, Nottingham, the westward expansion of New Hampshire away from the seacoast began in earnest in the 1720s.  The same thing was occurring next door in Maine as English settlements were being established along the Kennebec River deeper into the frontier.

There were two groups of folks that weren’t too happy about all this.  The Indians, and the French.  But mostly the French.  They considered most of Maine their property and, following their tried and true tactics, goaded the local Abenaki Indians into the usual raids on frontier settlements.  For many years the French were operating out of Montreal and today’s Canadian Provinces with access to the Atlantic.  They also brought with them Jesuit Missionaries.  These missionaries went out into the frontiers and established small churches among the Indians, teaching them and converting many to Catholicism.  I bet you know what’s coming next.

Clipped image from 'Up' trailerFrance and England were in an uneasy peace for now, but the recent history of religious arguments and the English Civil War (posted about here and here) left the two countries polarized.  And that spilled over to New England.  The French, knowing the Indians were a superstitious people, convinced the Abenaki that the English were not interested in teaching them about God, and it was a sin to take their land (which of course the French were doing as well, but … Squirrel!  They didn’t want them noticing that.)

So the Indians, prodded by the French burned down farms, killed livestock, and generally made life hell on the frontier.  The English responded in the usual manner establishing Garrisons and Forts, and sending out hunting parties to track down the perpetrators.   By 1721 things had really gone downhill, and at a meeting on Arrowsic Island ME., three Jesuits accompanied by Indians delivered a letter from the various tribes to the English giving them 3 weeks to get out of Maine or they would Murder them all and burn down their settlements.

The English were having none of that.  One of the Jesuits, Sebastian Ralle was a particular troublemaker that had his little enclave near today’s Norridgewock ME.  That winter a party of men was sent to capture him, but he escaped in to the woods.  They took his strongbox which contained incriminating letters to and from the French Governor in Montreal, detailing the efforts to turn the Indians against the English.  It was time for war!

The 4th French and Indian War was known by various names and lasted from 1721to1725. The most common was “Dummer’s War” and it’s also referred to occasionally as “Captain Lovewell’s War” which brings us to our marker.

ONE of the few incidents of Indian warfare naturally susceptible of the moonlight of romance was that expedition undertaken for the defence of the frontiers in the year 1725, which resulted in the well-remembered "Lovell’s Fight."

Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his introduction to Roger Malvin’s Burial, from the collection of short stories “Mosses from an old Manse” 1854.  Hawthorne writes a story about two wounded survivors of Lovewell’s final battle.

The heroics and story of Lovewell and his final battle were told throughout New England, and he and his men became early American Hero’s for their deeds.  The centuries have dimmed the memories and stories, but they are still there to be found.

Lovewell commanded a group of militia from Old Dunstable (probably from what is today’s Nashua) known as “The Snowshoe Men.”  Originally tasked with protecting the town, they were recruited to run scouting missions up the Merrimack river and into the Lake Winnepesauke area.  They became so good at tracking and killing Indian raiders his contingent of men was increased to 70.

#20-2 In the Winter of 1725 Lovewell set out on another campaign north toward Winnepesauke.  When they arrived and scouted the usual Indian campsites they found that none had returned to the area.  He sent back 30 men, and led the rest east toward the Piscataqua and the lakes near today’s Wakefield.  The Indian raiders from the north frequently came by this area on their way to the coastal settlements.

On February 20th, just before sunset they spotted smoke from a campfire along the shore of a lake.  Lovewell hid until midnight, and quietly advanced on what was a fully equipped raiding party bound for Dover.  They made short work of the sleeping Indians.  Today, “Lovell Lake” in Wakefield (above) honors the Captain for his deeds.

The men then travelled south to Dover and Boston – scalps in hand – to collect the £100 per scalp bounty, and to resupply for their next mission.  In mid march they set out for a known hostile Indian village even further north named Pequacket.

46 men left Boston including a Chaplain and surgeon.  By the time they arrived at Ossipee Lake, 2 men had been forced to turn back, others were sick.  They stopped on the west side of the lake to construct a small fort.  Partially, it was in case they needed a place to retreat to from battle (there were no settlements this far north) and also as a place to leave the sick. 10 men remained behind at the fort, and 34 men resumed their march north in early May.


On the morning of May 8th, while encamped by a pond, Lovewell’s party heard the firing of a gun and saw a lone Indian across the pond.  After discussing strategy the men assembled and circled the lake.  They dropped their packs for easier movement and fighting, then followed and killed the lone Indian.


They returned to the place they dropped their packs, only to find them gone.  The Indians had taken them. Paugus, the Indian chief had been following the English tracks.  He determined that his tribe greatly outnumbered Lovewell and intended to fight.  About 10am, while Lovewell’s party was searching for their packs, Paugus attacked.


Almost as soon as the intense fighting began Lovewell was shot and killed along with 8 other men.  Paugus took casualties as well, but the English were seriously outnumbered.  Paugus moved in to try and surround them and force surrender or kill them all.  Lieutenant Wyman took over, and rallied the men to keep up the fight, having herded the men into a defensible position among rocks and logs with water offering protection from complete encirclement.

The fight raged on all day and to sunset.  Lovewell’s men made a mighty stand and continued to thin the ranks of Indians.  At nightfall the Indians retreated into the safety of the woods. Wyman waited until the moon rose and around midnight, began a retreat to the fort at Ossipee.


The retreat was initially 21 men, many mortally wounded.  Some would never reach the fort at Ossipee.  2 men were too wounded to retreat and were left at the battle site alive with freshly loaded weapons.  Of the 21, 5 would die before reaching a settlement due to lack of provisions or medical help.  Those that did reach the fort found it abandoned.  Some say as soon as the fighting started one man fled the field to warn the fort, and they all ran off.  So the survivors had no packs, no food, no supplies and a long way to go.  More than 50 miles to travel to the nearest settlements.

It’s hard to determine the actual number of Indians involved in the fight, but many put it around 80 (not just our poet friend above).  When a party returned to the site of the battle they found and buried Lovewell and his men, and found Indian graves, one of which contained the body of Paugus.

Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow

Cold, cold is the north wind and rude is the blast
That sweeps like a hurricane loudly and fast,
As it moans through the tall waving pines lone and drear,
Sighs a requiem sad o’er the warrior’s bier.

The war-whoop is still, and the savage’s yell
Has sunk into silence along the wild dell;
The din of the battle, the tumult, is o’er,
And the war-clarion’s voice is now heard no more.

The warriors that fought for their country, and bled,
Have sunk to their rest; the damp earth is their bed;
No stone tells the place where their ashes repose,
Nor points out the spot from the graves of their foes.

They died in their glory, surrounded by fame,
And Victory’s loud trump their death did proclaim;
They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast,
And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.

“These verses were written by Longfellow in his fourteenth year, and have interest as the first of his writing to appear in print. They were published in the Portland Gazette November 17, 1820.”

The Indians would abandon  Pequacket village after the battle and head north to Canada.  Today we know the place of this battle as Fryeburg, ME.  The Pond where the battle occurred is named Lovewell’s Pond.

The survivors and the families of the dead would be greatly rewarded for their actions.  The next marker will touch on that a bit.


Besides the books and sources linked in the post and the usual references linked in the sidebar, I used a few other on-line resources as well. 

  • An Interesting book first published in 1725 “The original account of Capt. John Lovewell’s "great fight" with the Indians” has all the names of the men involved and was the source of the map. 
  • The Hawthorne and Longfellow story and poem are appropriately linked to the original works.
  • The excerpted poem screenshots are from an unknown author, and are snips of a much longer “Ballad of Lovewell’s Fight”.  It’s in the volume “Poems of American History” written in 1922.
  • There is another poem “Lovewell’s Fight” by  Thomas Upham that can be found in a collection published in 1822.

Marker #31 The Chocorua Legend

22 02 2010

#31 The Chocuroua Legend

Marker Text:

In several versions the legend’s sequence relates the mysterious death of Chocorua’s son while in the care of a settler named Campbell. Suspicious of the cause, the Pequawket chieftain took revenge on the settler’s family. Then, in retaliation, Campbell killed Chocorua on the peak of the mountain now bearing the Indian’s name.

This marker is located on Rt 16 in Tamworth, near the northern end of Lake Chocorua.  It was erected in 1965.


Town-Seal-RGB[1]Anyone who has driven up Rt 16 toward Conway from Ossipee has probably seen the  bare rocky crag that is the peak of Mount Chocorua (Cho-KOO-roo-wa). It’s a favorite climb for day hikers and offers terrific views from the exposed summit.  The Mountain, the Chief and the Legend all pre-date the founding of the town of Tamworth in 1766.

The conflict of the French and Indian war of the early 1700s faded by1720, but tension remained between the French and British colonists over the Acadia region.  Begining in 1721 Dummer’s War would involve the Ossipee and Tamworth area.  That topic is for an upcoming marker, but it’s important to try to get the timing right on The Chocorua Legend.

There are many tellings of this legend.  In some Chocorua is a loner, in others a survivor of Dummer’s war. Sometime’s he has a son, and sometime’s he doesn’t.  He is Hero, villain, or innocent bystander. But the ending is always the same.

#31 zpic7 Mount Chocorua, looking north across a frozen Lake Chocorua.  January 2010

For 40 years before the legend of Chocorua the French and English colonists fought over land in New England. It was in this new environment of settlers and war that he lived most of his life as the local tribes gave way to – and were used by – the newcomers.

Chocorua, however had always had friendly relations with the English.  Richard Andros, in his poem from Chocorua and other sketches (1838) describes a weary, beaten and sick man who has lost all family and tribe to the pestilence and war, before finding a sympathetic woman living alone in her cabin.  She nurses him to health and he pledges eternal friendship with the white man.

In the 1835 Lady’s Cabinet Album  (a reader to excite the ladies of the day)  Chocorua is a local icon well known around the small settlement near the mountain with a young son.  He befriends a family with children his own sons age, the Campbell’s, before tragedy strikes.  Cornelius Campbell and his wife Caroline had fled England after the return of Charles II.  Soon after arriving in Boston they tired of the crowds of the city and set out to find a place a place to settle into a more peaceful life.


Chocorua spent his entire life on and around “his” mountain.  It happened that one day he was called to a tribal meeting and left his son in the care of the Campbell’s.  Chocorua’s son and the Campbell children were  fast friends and often were found sampling the treats and foods that Caroline prepared. 

Wolves and foxes were a problem in the area often terrorizing the livestock of the Campbell’s.  Despite his best attempts with traps and rifle, Cornelius had little luck in stopping them.  Finally he prepared a poison that would end the problem once and for all.  But it seems he forgot to heed the advice “Keep out of reach of children.”  Chocorua’s son, mistaking the bottle for a liquid treat prepared by Caroline, sampled the poison.

51866W6EBYL._SL500_AA240_[1] It was a slow death. The Campbell’s fretted over the boy all that day and through the night trying in vain to help him.  By morning he had fallen into a deep sleep from which he would never wake.  They  buried him near a stone at the edge of the forest.

On his return Chocorua was devastated.  He retreated to his mountain feeling betrayed. The anger inside him would build even as he grieved for his son and revenge became his only thought.  He would stay in isolation until the time was right.

One bright morning Cornelius loaded his wagon with corn to take to the mill some 10 miles away.  While he was away Chocorua struck.  He butchered  Caroline and the children in the cabin then retreated once more to his mountain.

Cornelius would return home to a forever changed life.

In such a mind, grief, like all other emotions, was tempestuous. … the remembrance of their love clung to him like the death grapple of a drowning man, sinking him down, down, into darkness and death. This was followed by a calm a thousand times more terrible—the creeping agony of despair, that brings with it no power of resistance.

These who knew and reverenced him, feared that the spark of reason was for ever extinguished. But it rekindled again; and with it came a wild, demoniac spirit of revenge. The death-groan of Chocorua would make him smile in his dreams …

There was no need to guess where Chocorua may have gone.  There was only one place he would go – his mountain. Campbell assembled a party of men to go after him and headed for the mountain. They pursued Chocura and drove him to the top of the mountain, finally cornering him at the edge of a cliff.  Campbell leveled his rifle and ordered Chocorua to jump.

choc1 Chocorua refused saying “The Great Spirit gave life to Chocorua; and Chocorua will not throw it away at the command of a white man!”  Campbell fired, wounding Chocorua in the neck. 

Chocorua reeled from the shot, teetering on the edge of the precipice, but he recovered enough to raise both hands bravely and in a defiant voice said, “A curse upon ye, white men!  May the Great Spirit curse ye when he speaks in the clouds, and his words are fire!  Chocorua had a son—and ye killed him while the sky looked bright!  Lightning blast your crops!  Wind and fire destroy your dwellings!  The Evil Spirit breathe death upon your cattle!  Your graves lie in the war-path of the Indian! Panthers howl, and wolves fatten over your bones!  Chocorua goes to the Great Spirit—his curse stays with the white men!”

His curse completed Chocura threw himself over the cliff and fell to his death.


The curse above is from the Lady’s Cabinet Album, and is repeated in a current book “Cursed in New England”.  There is another version in Andros’ poem that reads;

Great spirit, hear!
If innocence can aught avail with thee,
Let not my blood go down, without revenge,
To earth! but may my curse rest on this spot
Forever! and each thing—each living thing,
Perish upon these hills! and blight, and death,
And desolation wrap the scene!

The Lady’s album (The story by Lydia Maria Childs) speaks of Chocorua falling down dead and  Andros has him jumping. So it is with legends.  No doubt there was a Chocorua at the time, and the Campbell’s were certainly real enough.  Trying to track down the details is like playing “Telephone” across centuries.

Marker #58 Scotch-Irish Settlement – and Tartan!

19 01 2010

#58 Scotch-Irish Settlement

Marker Text:

In April 1719, sixteen Presbyterian Scotch-Irish families settled here in two rows of cabins along West Running Brook easterly of Beaver Brook. Initially known as Nutfield, the settlement became Londonderry in 1723. The first year, a field was planted, known as the Common Field, where the potato was first grown in North America.

Located about a mile east of the Derry rotary on East Derry Rd in front of the East Derry Church and site of the first meetinghouse. Marker erected in 1969.



The Scotch-Irish – also known as the Ulster-Scots – have  a pretty interesting history.  Back in the days of King James I and through the 1600s, there were settlers sent from Scotland to Catholic Ireland.  One of the first was in what came to be known as Ulster County.  The major town was … Londonderry!

Of course the native Catholics weren’t to happy about having land given to these immigrating Presbyterian Scotsmen. It didn’t take long before hostilities broke out. 

By 1641 The Irish Rebellion was in full swing.  This was pretty much the start of the centuries long strife between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland.  We don’t need to go through it all here.  Lets just follow the Scotch-Irish that came to New Hampshire.

As previously noted, the Scotch-Irish were Presbyterians.  They had splintered away from the official English church.  In 1688 the ascension of William to the English throne brought relative peace to Ireland.  The Scotch-Irish were allowed to practice their religion, but were required to pay the church of England 10% of everything they produced.  They land they lived on and worked was only leased to them by the crown – they could be evicted at any time.

Edward Parker, in his 1851 “History of Londonderry” quotes an earlier historian commenting on the feelings in Northern Ireland at the time between the Protestants and the Catholics:

"On the same soil dwelt two populations, locally intermixed, morally and politically sundered. The difference of religion was by no means the only difference, and was perhaps not even the chief difference, which existed between them. They sprang from different stocks. They spoke different languages. They had different national characters, as strongly opposed as any two national characters in Europe. They were in widely different stages of civilization. There could, therefore, be little sympathy between them ; and centuries of calamities and wrongs had generated a strong antipathy. The relation in which the minority stood to the majority, resembled the relation in which the followers of William the Conqueror stood to the Saxon churls, or the relation in which the followers of Cortez stood to the Indians of Mexico."

So there they were.  No real land ownership, taxed to support a church they didn’t believe in and surrounded by animosity from both the Irish Catholics and church of England.  And they had heard things.  Good things about new freedoms across the Atlantic.  It didn’t take long for them to realize leaving for the new world might not be such a bad idea.

Four Presbyterian clergymen gathered all the interested families from their churches. 217 signed the request that was sent to Boston in the hands of Reverend Boyd.  The colony said “sure, come on over!” and they did.  They arrived in Boston in August of 1718.

In the fall of that year a gentleman named MacGregor took 16 of these families to Casco Bay to find a place to settle, but arrived late in the fall.  They spent a miserable winter aboard ship, sick and hungry, iced into the bay.  Boston sent enough food to see them to the spring.

In the spring they explored the lands around Casco Bay but couldn’t find anything to their liking.  So they struck west into the Merrimack valley, arriving at the settlement in Haverhill, MA.  Once there they began asking about land that could be settled and were told of an area called Nutfield, about 15 miles northwest.  The men went to explore the new area and fell in love. 

#58 mid_plus_dark_tonemapped November 2009

They communicated the selection of the land to Boston – making their claim – and proceeded to build some crude huts before returning to gather up their families and few possessions for the trip to their new home.   As the marker notes, 5 years later they renamed the town after their old home in Ireland, Londonderry.

Now to important stuff.  Potatoes!  That’s quite a claim on the marker: “The first year, a field was planted, known as the Common Field, where the potato was first grown in North America.”  Could it be true?  This calls for some intense googling.

It seems that a few people brought some potatoes in the 1600s, but no one really established a potato plantation.  All of the most reliable Potato Historians do indeed place the first legitimate Potato farms in Londonderry, 1719.  Take that Maine!

Special bonus for all my Crafty readers, the Official State of New Hampshire Tartan!

Yes we do have one, approved by the state legislature in 1995 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the New Hampshire Highland Games.


Here is the Sett for the Tartan:

green 56, black 2, green 2, black 12, white 2, black 12, purple 2, black 2, purple 8, red 6, purple 28

tartan2The colors represent:

Green represents our forests, Black the granite of our mountains, White is the snow, Purple our state flower the Lilac and bird the purple finch.  Red represents all our state Heroes.

I’ll let some of our weavers explain how a list of colored string gets turned into tartan.  Looms scare me.

Marker #55 Baker River

12 01 2010

#55 Baker River

Marker Text:

Known to Indians as Asquamchumauke, the nearby river was renamed for Lt. Thomas Baker (1682-1753) whose company of 34 scouts from Northhampton, Mass. passed down this valley in 1712. A few miles south his men destroyed a Pemigewasset Indian village. Massachusetts rewarded the expedition with a scalp bounty of £40 and made Baker a captain.

Erected in 1968, this marker is located on Rt 25 in Rumney, about 8 miles west of I93 off exit 26, in a rest area and information station.  You’ll pass the world famous Polar Caves on the way there.


The Baker River is a quiet waterway about 36 miles long with its headwaters originating on the south side of Mount Moosilauke (4800 feet).  It parallels  Rt25 in Rumney before entering Plymouth and emptying into the Pemigewasset River.

To learn the full story of Thomas Baker we’ll need to go back 8 years before the event on the marker to 1704 and the town of Deerfield Massachusetts.  It was there that a key event in Queen Anne’s War would occur and chart Baker’s course in life.  The Deerfield Massacre.

At dawn on leap day, February 29th 1704, the settlement at Deerfield came under attack from a force of 300-400 Indians and their French commanders.  Two Garrisons protected the town, one surrounded by a high palisade.  Fearing attacks, many residents spent their nights within the garrison walls.  The attack force stealthily approached the town and climbed snow drifts to get inside the palisade and open the gates.  The massacre was on.  As dawn broke hatchets fell and guns fired.  The Indians ransacked and burned homes lighting up the skies and alerting settlements to the south.

The pattern would be the same as befell Hanah Dustin from Haverhill 7 years earlier:  Strike at dawn, pillage, burn the town, take captives and escape north.  The town garrisons and militia put up a valiant fight eventually driving off the attack. 48 were killed, 140 “alive at home” (wounded) and 112 people were taken captive.

Among the captives was the town minister John Williams, who would later write a book about the event The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion  and 22 year old Thomas Baker.  I’ll bet you thought I forgot about him by now!

To make a long story a bit shorter, Baker was taken to Montreal.  He would spend 15 months there before escaping.  In May of 1705, he and 3 others managed to get clear of Montreal making their way back to Deerfield where they arrived weak and hungry on June 8th.

The Deerfield Massacre, his capture and escape would define Bakers life.  Described as “somewhat rough in manner” he joined the King’s army and became a proficient scout.  Commanding soldiers scouting north for Indian raiding parties would be his day to day life, and he eventually earned a commission to Lieutenant.

#55-3 Now we can get to the event that earned Thomas Baker his promotion to Captain, and the naming of a river after him.  It’s not as exciting as the Deerfield massacre.

The Indians that raided Massachusetts and New Hampshire were using the Pemigewasset more often to make their escape.  Baker was assigned 30-35 men (accounts vary) for an exploratory mission up the Connecticut River Valley and then southeast to what is currently Plymouth NH.  Travelling north they went as far as what is currently Haverhill NH. On their arrival no Indians were to be seen.  Striking Inland and following the terrain the party would eventually arrive in what is today Warren, NH and the Baker River.

Baker River HDR

Baker River, at the marker with Rattlesnake Mt. in the distance, 12/09

The trip down the river was uneventful until the party arrived at the confluence of the Baker River and the Pemigewasset at today’s Plymouth.  There they encountered a small band of Indians who had made their home there.  Baker attacked, killing many including their chief, and scattering the rest.  After inspecting the village they took as many furs and supplies as they could carry, and burned the rest to the ground.  They finished their journey heading south to the Merrimack, and then to Boston to report.

The marker story ends here, but Captain Baker doesn’t.  In 1714, guiding negotiators to Montreal to gain the release of British Captives, Baker would meet his wife Margaret.  As a baby she had been taken from Dover, NH in an Indian raid in 1689.  She was given to the Catholic priests for upbringing.  She married a Frenchman named LeBeau and had three children before M. LeBeau died.

She returned to Massachusetts with Baker and they were wed in 1715.  He continued his scouting missions, became a local politician, and by 1735 had resettled in Margaret’s home town of Dover, NH.  Captain Baker died in 1735.  Mrs. Baker ran a tavern in Dover as a widow until her death in 1773.

Marker #49 Hannah Dustin

10 12 2009

#49 Hannah Dustin

Marker Text:

Famous symbol of frontier heroism. A victim of an Indian raid in 1697, on Haverhill, Massachusetts, whence she had been taken to a camp site on the nearby island in the river. After killing and later scalping ten Indians, she and two other captives, Mary Neff and Samuel Lennardson, escaped down the river to safety.

This Marker is at the “Hannah Dustin” Park n’ Ride on Rt 4, a mile west of I93 off exit 17.  It was erected in 1967.


The story of Hannah Dustin has been told many times in History books and through poetry and writings of many notable authors.  The first appeared in Cotton Mathers history of the New England colonies.


Mather had personally interviewed Dustin after her escape from captivity, and many of the other re-tellings of the tale are based on his account.

Thomas and Hannah Dustin lived in the then small frontier town of Haverhill, MA.  On Wednesday March 15th 1697 Thomas was about doing work while Hannah lay in bed recovering from the birth of her eighth child about a week earlier, with Mary Neff taking care of her.

The day was interrupted by the sudden war cries of an Indian raiding party.  Thomas grabbed his musket and ran for the house as the raid began. In her weakened condition, Hannah was in no shape to run, and begged Thomas to save the children.  The infant would have to stay with her and Mary.

Thomas gathered the children and told them to run for the Garrison house while he held off the Indians should they pursue.  And they did.  Accounts vary about the childrens escape and Thomas’ deeds, but all agree that Thomas held off the Indians with his rifle, killing at least one attacker and getting the children to safety.  His deeds that day would eventually be immortalized in a poem by Sarah Hale (who has her own marker) called “The Father’s Choice” which begins:

Now fly as flies the rushing wind!

Urge, urge thy rushing steed!

The savage yell is fierce behind;

And Life is on thy speed.

Meanwhile, Hannah was forced from her bed and taken captive along with her nurse and infant.  After gathering all their captives together the raiding party headed back to their canoes on the bank of the Merrimack.  On the way there, Hannahs infant son was murdered by having his head smashed against an apple tree.  On the trip to the river and up the Merrimack many that were too old, slow or sick would be killed and left behind as well.

It’s difficult to imagine what Hannah Dustin was feeling.  Rage?  Sorrow?  Many have speculated in the various versions of her story, including Nathaniel Hawthorne;


The raiding party and their captives covered 15 miles the first day and all struggled tocanoe keep up or die.  They travelled for 15 days all told, and as was the custom of the Indians at the time the captives were split between the participating Tribes.

Hannah and Mary Neff were given together to a band that made camp on what is today Dustin Island.  Along the way the Indians made their plans clear. After resting a few days they would travel North to Canada where the captives would be run through a gauntlet of the tribe, suffering greatly.  Afterward, if they survived, they would be sold in slavery to the French.  Not a very promising future.

#49 zpic3

At the island on their arrival were the families of the raiders, and a young man named Samuel Lennardson that had been captive for over a year and spoke the Indian language well. Hannah would concoct her plan.  She asked Samuel how the Indians killed with a single blow, and how they scalped people.  Not knowing, Samuel asked one of the raiders.  They viewed the women and boy as no threat so the Indian told him.

As the camp fire died away and the night deepened Hannah informed Mary and Samuel of her intentions.  She planned to kill the Indians and escape. 

camp Late in the night as the Indians slept the three captives took up Tomahawks and killed all the Indians but two.  One woman escaped into the forest, and a young boy was spared.  Ten lay dead.

It was time to make their escape.  On reaching the canoes, they scuttled all but one.  Mary and Samuel were anxious to leave, but Hannah had one more grisly task in mind.  She asked them to wait and disappeared into the woods back toward the camp.

She returned a short time later with ten scalps. Again, it’s hard to determine her emotions but there is no doubt revenge for the murder of her child certainly played a part.  They pushed off into the river and began the long trek back down the Merrimack to Haverhill.

Returning to Haverhill she learned that Thomas, for his brave deeds had been requested to build and run a new Garrison in town.  It’s at 665 Hilldale Ave in Haverhill, and is open occasionally as a museum. (click the picture for a web page).

Today the Monument erected to Hannah Dustin on June 17, 1874 still stands on the Island that bears her name.

#49 zpic4 Hannah Dustin Monument, December, 2009.

The complete proceedings of the unveiling of the monument is contained in the rear of the book “The Heroism of Hannah Dustin” By Col. Robert Caverly for those that may be interested.  Caverly was instrumental in acquiring the land, raising the funds and having the statue sculpted.  He delivered a historical address at the unveiling, part of which was;

To adorn and enliven such a history there are no better examples in all the events of the world, than are to be found in the lives and characters of the old New-England mothers. Try them; measure their faith, if you please, as in the days of dearth and disappointment. Measure them in the midst of conflagrations, war, and blood, or in the tranquil years of peace and plenty; or try them in the appalling perils of an Indian raid upon their houses, their little ones, and their lives. Stern in integrity, strong for endurance, firm in truth, and fervent in valor forever, they never faltered.

From the Parking area where the Marker is located, there’s a walking path down to the island and monument for those that may be in the area contemplating a visit.

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Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine Volume 15 1899

Marker #154 Packer’s Falls

28 11 2009

#154 Packers Falls

Marker Text:

These scenic falls, 1.6 miles west of here on the Lamprey River, once provided waterpower and industry for the early settlers. A deed dated April 11, 1694, shows that Capt. Packer, Jonathan Woodman, James Davis, Joseph Meder, and James Thomas were granted "the hole streame of Lamprele River for erecting a saw mill or mills." Thomas Packer of Portsmouth was a merchant, physician, judge, member of the King’s Council, and father of the famous Sheriff Thomas Packer.

Located at the corner of Bennett Road and NH 108 this marker was erected in 1985.


The actual falls are located 1.6 miles down Bennett Rd at the bridge on Packer’s Falls Road as shown above.

#154 zpic2The view downstream from the bridge.

As the marker notes, Thomas Packer was granted land to build sawmills and other structures for the purposes of  processing the resources of New Hampshire for trade and shipment back to England.  He was joined by multiple partners, but Packer retained about half the grant on the Lamprey River.

#154 zpic4 Packer’s Falls Bridge.

As this grant occurred in 1694, we’ve made quite a jump from the last Marker (1658).  As you can imagine, a lot happened between these two markers which I’ll document in my next post.  The point to take away here is that the settlers were pushing inland and claiming more land as the early expansion of New England accelerated.

We can learn a bit more from this snippet from Landmarks of Ancient Dover (1892) Page 190:

Packer’s Falls. These falls are in that part of Lamprey river which flows through the southern part of Durham. The name is now confined to the falls just below the bridge on the road to Newmarket—the first falls below Wiswall’s ; but it originally comprised the whole series of falls or rapids along this portion of the river. These falls were in early times generally called "the second falls" a name that included the falls where General Sullivan afterwards established his mills. (See Sullivan’s Falls and Second Falls.)

The name of Packer’s falls was derived, not from Thomas Packer, the sheriff who hung Ruth Blay, but from his father, Col. Thomas Packer, also of Portsmouth, who was at once physician, judge, lieutenant-colonel, and member of the governor’s council.

The town of Dover, Ap. 11, 1694, "granted to Capt. Packer, Jonathan Woodman, James Davis, Joseph Meder, and James Thomas, the whole stream of Lamprele River for the erecting of a sawmill or mills, that is to say, the one half to Capt. Thomas Packer, the other half to the other four men befour mentioned."

Packer’s Falls are so called as early as 1718.

There is a hidden clue in this marker however, with the innocent ending:

“and father of the famous Sheriff Thomas Packer”

And from the narrative above:

“Thomas Packer, the sheriff who hung Ruth Blay”

Oh yeah … my Historic Marker Radar was beeping like crazy!

The first executions ever in Portsmouth were carried out by Sherriff Packer in 1739, and involved two women accused of murdering an Infant.  Nearly 30 years later Ms. Blay, a 25 year old schoolteacher was similarly accused of murdering her newborn child.  It was later found to be stillborn.

Her friends made numerous attempts to stay the execution, and a reprieve was on the way, but too late to save her.  As the story goes, the Sherriff moved up the execution time by one hour, so he wouldn’t miss his dinner.  The reprieve arrived 20 minutes after her hanging.   She was buried in an unmarked grave at South St. Cemetery in Portsmouth, that some say she and her stillborn child haunt to this very day.

Only 3 women were ever executed in Portsmouth, all 3 by Sherriff Packer.  His execution of Ruth Blay was immortalized in a poem by Albert Laighton “The Ballad of Ruth Blay.” Perhaps the Historic Marker should read “the infamous Sherriff Thomas Packer.”

In the worn and dusty annals

Of our old and quiet town,

With its streets of leafy beauty,

And its houses quaint and brown,–


With its dear associations,

Hallowed by the touch of Time,–

You may read this thrilling legend,

This sad tale of wrong and crime.


In the drear month of December,

Ninety years ago today,

Hundreds of the village people

Saw the hanging of Ruth Blay;–


Saw her, clothed in silk and satin,

Borne beneath the gallows-tree,

Dressed as in her wedding garments,

Soon the bride of Death to be;–


Saw her tears of shame and anguish,

Heard her shrieks of wild despair

Echo through the neighboring woodlands,

Thrill the clear and frosty air;–


Till their hearts were moved to pity

At her fear and agony:

"Doomed to die," they said, "unjustly,

Weak, but innocent is she."


When at last, in tones of warning,

From its high and airy tower,

Slowly, with its tongue of iron,

Tolled the bell the fatal hour.


Like the sound of distant billows,

When the storm is wild and loud,

Breaking on the rocky headlands,

Ran a murmur through the crowd.


And a voice among them shouted,

"Pause before the deed is done;

We have asked reprieve and pardon

For the poor, misguided one."


But these words of Sheriff Packer

Rang above the swelling noise:

"Must I wait and lose my dinner?

Draw away the cart, my boys!"


Fold thy hands in prayer, O woman!

Take thy last look of the sea;

Take thy last look of the landscape;

God be merciful to thee!


Stifled groans, a gasp, a shudder,

And the guilty deed was done;

On a scene of cruel murder

Coldly looked the Winter sun.


Then the people, pale with horror,

Looked with sudden awe behind,

As a field of grain in Autumn

Turns before a passing wind;


For distinctly in the distance,

In the long and frozen street,

They could hear the ringing echoes

Of a horse’s sounding feet.


Nearer came the sound and louder,

Till a steed with panting breath,

From its sides the white foam dripping,

Halted at the scene of death;


And a messenger alighted,

Crying to the crowd, "Make way!

This I bear to Sheriff Packer;

‘Tis a pardon for Ruth Blay!"


But they answered not nor heeded,

For the last fond hope had fled;

In their deep and speechless sorrow,

Pointing only to the dead.


And that night, with burning bosoms,

Muttering curses fierce and loud,

At the house of Sheriff Packer

Gathered the indignant crowd,–


Shouting, as upon a gallows

A grim effigy they bore,

"Be the name of Thomas Packer

A reproach forevermore!"