Thursday, April 25, 2013


I've been lucky finding information about a good number of my colonial
New England citizens but there are a few family lines where I haven't been
as fortunate. One of those are my Butterfield ancestors who lived in the
Middlesex County, Massachusetts  towns of Chelmsford and Dunstable. So
last week I was Googling the Butterfield name in conjunction with the town
Chelmsford and came across a surprising bit of information: some of my Butterfield
and Spalding relatives had been "snowshoe soldiers".

I'd run across references to the snowshoe soldiers before; they were militiamen
who'd adopted Native American methods in their fighting with the local tribes.
Benjamin Church had set the precedent back during King Philip's War. Historian
Wilson Waters gives this account of their creation in his History of Chelmsford :

This war began in 1702 when England declared war against France and Spain. The
French had the sympathy of the New England Indians, who made constant vigilence 

necessary in the frontier settlements to guard against raids and massacres. "For
the first time the Indians were well armed and guided by a superior intelligence."
The war ended in 1713 by the treaty of Utrecht. Newfoundland and Acadia came
into the possession of England, whose prestige was strengthened in North America.

1702. November 19. A bill was passed providing snowshoes for the men of the frontier
towns at the charge of the Province. The Indians were more active and troublesome
in the winter, and companies were organized for service upon the snow. William Tyng 

commanded the first Massachusetts company, and received for services from December
28 to January 25, 1703-4, £71. 11.0, 25 shillings of which was paid to a "chyrugion." The 

company brought back five scalps and received as bounty £200. In the Granite State  
Magazine, Vol. I, is a list, with personal sketches, of forty-four men in this company,
who, in 1735, with sixteen others named, were the grantees of Tyngstown, which 

included the greater part of the present Manchester, N. H. The adjustment of the 
province line in 1741 voided this charter, and Massachusetts gave the grantees the 
township now Wilton, Maine." (p138-139)History of Chelmsford, Massachusetts 
(Google eBook)  Wilson Waters, Courier-Citizen Company, Lowell, Ma. 1917

Another well known New England historian, Samuel Adams Drake, gave more details of
some of the combat. The "Old Harry" he mentions was the name the colonists gave an
enemy whose Indian name actually was "Black Plume":

"In the winter of 1703 Captain William Tyng, commanding a company of "snow-shoe men," 
made a successful expedition to the headquarters of "Old Harry," near Lake Winnipiseogee.
They succeeded in killing six of the enemy, among whom was the traitor, " Old Harry himself," 
who had led the assaults on Dunstable. For this act of bravery the General Court subsequently 
granted to the heirs of those composing this company a tract of land, at first called "Old Harry's 
Town," then Tyngstown, and afterwards Manchester.

In the winter following, Captain John Tyng, with another company, made an expedition to 

Pequawkett, or Pigwacket, and took five Indian scalps, for which they received £200. In 1710 
the gallant commander of this company was mortally wounded by the Indians between Concord 
and Groton, and was buried, August 18, at the former place. The celebrated Joe English, 
grandson of Masconomo, sagamore of Ipswich, was shot by the Indians, near Holden's Brook, 
in what is now Tyngsborough, on the 27th of July, 1706. He was acting as a guard to Captain Butterfield and wife, who were travelling on horseback. Killing the horse and taking Mrs. 
Butterfield captive, the Indians then pursued Joe English, firing at him and wounding him 
while attempting to shelter  himself behind a clump of trees. To escape the torture of the 
savages, he insulted them with taunting words, when they at once despatched him with their tomahawks. His widow "and his two children received a grant of money from the government, because "he died in the service of his country." "
History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts: Containing Carefully Prepared Histories of
Every City and Town in the County, Volume 2 (Google eBook),
Samuel Adams Drake 
Estes and Lauriat, Boston Ma. 1880 p393

I'll discuss what I've been able to discover so far about my snowshoe soldier ancestors.

To be continued  

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