Sunday, February 22, 2009


It seems as though my Willard and Sawyer relations had more than their share of
adventurous and sometimes fatal encounters with Indians well into the 18th century.

As I mentioned previously, Cyprian Stevens had married Mary Willard, one of
Simon Willard's daughters, and their family was prominent in the continuing
settling of the New England wilderness. Their son Joseph Stevens and his
family were living in Rutland, Ma. on the morning of 14 Aug, 1723
when tragedy struck:

"... after family devotions and breakfast, he and his four sons went to Meeting
and were surprised by five hostile Indians. While Captain Stevens made his
escape in the bushes, two sons, Samuel and Joseph, were slain and scalped,
and the other two Phineas and Isaac, carried away prisoners to Canada. The
pluck of Phineas, who carried his younger brother on his back when he was
exhausted, saved him from being slaughtered to get him out of the way or left
to die alone in the forest. It was more than a year before the boys were
redeemed. A subscription was taken in the Framingham church, where the
Stevens family had been members, April 19, 1724. The father made two trips
to Canada and returned finally with Isaac August 19, 1725. Isaac was much
attached to his Indian foster mother and would have preferred to stay with
her, it is said. The cost of this ransom and other misfortunes impoverished
Captain Stevens and he died in want, Nov. 15, 1769."

((Ellery Bicknell Crane, Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical
and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts N.Y. N.Y,
Lewis Publishing Company,1907 p 277 ))

Meanwhile their cousin, Reverend Joseph Willard, the minister of Rutland,
was out hunting when he was attacked by other members of the
Indian war party:

"Being out with his gun on August 14th, hunting, or to collect fodder for
the coming winter, he was surprised by two Indians, — one of the Indians'
guns missed fire, the other did no execution. Mr. Willard returned the fire and
wounded one of them, it is said, mortally ; the other closed in with Mr. Willard ;
but he would have been more than a match for him, had not other three come
to his assistance. And it was some considerable time before they killed Mr.
Willard. "

((Jonas Reed and Daniel Bartlett, A History of Rutland: Worcester County,
Massachusetts, from Its Earliest Settlement, with a Biography of Its First Settlers
Worcester, Ma, Mirrick & Bartlett, Printers, 1836))

Another account says the young Stevens boys witnessed his cousin's death before
being taken to Canada. Phineas was 16 years old and during his captivity learned
much about the Indian's methods of war and hunting, and in his adulthood would
become, as we'll see, one of the leading Indian fighters of the colony.

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