Thursday, July 31, 2008


I've written before about my ancestors' experiences and
encounters with the Native American peoples of New England.
In researching the Barker brothers I found several references,
including Mitch Barker's here, of them temporarily leaving the
Bethel, Maine area after an Indian raid. This turned out to be
what is considered the "Last Indian Raid" in New England and
it took place 227 years ago on 3 Aug 1781.

At that time Bethel was still part of Canada and was named
Sudbury. There has been many clashes between the English
settlers and Indians over the previous 150 years but there
had also been occasions when various tribes allied themselves
with the English against the French, but with the French
departure from Canada and then the American Revolution
the political landscape had changed. Neither the Indians
nor the Americans could count on the British as an ally
against the other.

While most of the Indians in the area were friendly with the
settlers, one leader, Tomhegan(supposedly an Anglicization of
Tumtumhegan) was not. One account cites a dispute over
lands near Rumford Falls as one reason for his animosity.
Whatever the reason for it, on the 3 Aug 1781 Tomhegan lead
a small group of followers on a raid that went through the areas
of Bethel and Gilead, Maine and then crossed over to the
vicinity of Shelburne, NH, where a settler named Peter Poor
was killed.

At Bethel the raiding party had killed a man named James
Pettengill and captured two of the prominent citizens,
Nathaniel Segar and Benjamin Clark, along with two other
men who managed to escape. Tomhegan kept Segar and
Clark as hostages, forcing them to carry the loot taken from
settler's homes as they went north. Eventually they reached
Canada where Segar and Clark were sold to the British.
The men were kept captive at Montreal until the following
year when they were released and returned to Boston on a

The families in the Bethel area had fled to safety at the
approach of the attack and eventually returned to the area
along with more families. The 1790 census for Sudbury and the
surrounding area shows my ancestors Amos Hastings and
Jonathan Barker(and his brothers) among the inhabitants.
The town incorporated itself as Bethel in 1796 and in 1931
held a celebration to mark the 150th anniversary of the

As for Tomhegan, he was eventually captured and killed. Benjamin
Willey in his "Incidents in White Mountain History " claims he was
tied to the back of a horse which was set loose in an apple orchard
so that the branches of the trees tore Tomhegan to bits but there is
no official account to verify what seems to me folklore.

The final irony is that Tomhegan's name mainly lives on not as the
leader of the Last Indian Raid in New England but in the names of
various places in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine, one of which
is the Tomhegan Wildlife Sanctuary.

You can view Peter Poor's headstone here at the First Mountain
Forest site. Brief entries on prominent Native Americans in the
Bethel area can be viewed here at their site. Willey's account
of the incident is here at Googlebooks.

Written for the 53rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.


Terry Thornton said...

Nice story wonderfully told. Poor Peter Poor.


Bill West said...

Thanks Terry,
And I actually had a short poem
running through my head as I wrote this:
"Poor Peter Poor
Isn't with us anymore"

That's all I have. And it's going to bug me all day at work!

wendy said...

Bill - always interesting to read these accounts. Thanks for sharing!