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Thursday, February 11, 2010

A SHOT IN THE DARK PT1

By the time John Prescott died in 1681 he owned over 700 acres of land in and
around Lancaster, Ma. which passed into the hands of his various children and
grandchildren. But as I've shown in a series of posts last year his descendants
didn't have an easy time of it due to the constant clashes with the Native American
of New England. Lancaster was still very much a frontier town with its garrison-houses
and sentries. And despite their vigilance the citizens occasionally still fell victim to
sudden attacks.

Here is one instance that took place on 11Sept 1697::

"In Massachusetts Archives, n, 257, is a letter from Governor William Stoughton to
the Governor and Council of Connecticut, from which this is an extract:

"Boston Sept. 14, 1697.

Upon ye it"' instant a party of Indians to y* number of about Forty as was judged,
about twelve o clock the same day, Surprized and kild about 26 persons at Lancaster,
of which the minister of the Town was one, burnt two Garrison houses and two Barnes,
the Garrisons being left open and y* Inhabitants surprized in their Fields: there is a
party
of men out in pursuit of y* Enemy"
-Early Records of Lancaster, Massachusetts 1643-1725 (page 133)


Among the dead were Jonathan Fairbank and his children Grace and Jonas. Jonathan
was a grandson of John Prescott and the son of Jonas Fairbanks who'd been killed in
the siege of Lancaster in 1676.

By the beginning of the period known as Queen Anne's War there were eleven
garrison-houses in Lancaster. One of these belonged to Lancaster's minister
Andrew Gardner and was manned by his neighbors during times of Indian
activity in the area. I can't imagine living under the constant tension the families of
Lancaster endured. Nearly thirty years of warfare that must have touched nearly
everyone, with homes destroyed, relatives killed, and loved ones carried off as captives.

On 30Jul 1704, Lancaster was once more attacked, its meetinghouse burned and
three people killed. Then in October a colonist was killed in the woods near Groton
and Lancaster went on alert. The expected force of Indians did eventually appear,
but they were preceded by a tragic death caused in part by their approach:

"On Thursday night the Reverend Mr Gardner Minister of Lancaster was unfortunately
shot by the Sentinel on the Watch, supposing him to be an Indian climbing over the
Walls of the Fortification: of which wound he died in an hours space or little more.

[Boston News Letter, October 30, 1704.]"
-(p 149)

I'll discuss the details in the next post.

2 comments:

Heather Rojo said...

I love this post! I grew up near Lancaster, but our favorite hangout in highschool was at Redemption Rock in Princeton, where some of the captives were redeemed by family members. Back then I wasn't interested in the history. All those names Prescott, Fairbanks, Gardner are straight out of my family tree.

Bill West said...

I'm glad you are enjoying it,
Heather!