Thursday, December 31, 2015


In my research for my posts about my Butterfield ancestors, I came across this story about a Samuel Butterfield. This Samuel was not my 8x great grandfather, but rather his nephew, a son of Nathaniel Butterfield, and therefore one of my distant cousins. The incident took place during the Queen Anne's War, and Samuel Abbott Green (another distant cousin) wrote about it in his book Groton During the Indian Wars:

Penhallow, in his History, gives several instances of extreme cruelty to the prisoners on the part of the savages, and mentions the following case of a man who was captured in this town: —

A third was of Samuel Butterfield, who being sent to Groton as a Soldier, was with others attackt, as they were gathering in the Harvest; his bravery was such, that he kill'd one and wounded another, but being overpower'd by strength, was forc'd to submit; and it hapned that the slain Indian was a Sagamore, and of great dexterity in War, which caused matter of Lamentation, and enrag'd them to such degree that they vow'd the utmost revenge; Some were for whipping him to Death; others for burning him alive; but differing in their Sentiments, they submitted the Issue to the Squaw Widow, concluding she would determine something very dreadful, but when the matter was opened, and the Fact considered, her Spirits were so moderate as to make no other reply, than, " Fortune L'guare. Upon which some were uneasy; to whom she answered, If by killing him, you can bring my Husband to life again, I beg you to study what Death you please; but if not let him be my Servant; which he accordingly was, during his Captivity, and had favour shewn him." (Pages 38, 39.)

pp 94-95
Groton During the Indian Wars,  John Wilson & Son, Universtiy Press, Cambridge, Ma. 1883

Samuel was able to escape eventually:

Butterfield remained a captive for more than a year. It is not known how he obtained his release. His petition to the General Court sets forth the fact that he was an inhabitant of Chelmsford, and was sent by Captain Jerathmel Bowers to Groton, in order to help Colonel Taylor, in August, 1704, when the enemy came upon the place. It is as follows: —

To his Excellency Joseph Dudley Esqr Capt. General and Governor in Chief and To the Honoble the Council and House of Representatives now in General Assembly convened at Boston within 6* for her Majesties Province of the Massachust. Bay April 10th 1706.

The Humble Petition of Samuel Butterfield Sheweth
That yor Petitioner is an Inhabitant of the Town of Chelmsford, and in the month of August 1704, when the Enemy came upon Nashoway & Groton &: yor Petitioner (with others) was sent out by the Capt Jerathmel Bowers to Groton to assist Col. Taylor, when yor Petitioner being ordered out with some others to Guard a Man who was going to work in the field, the Enemy came upon them, killd one man and took yor Petitioner and one other Prisoners, tho yor Petitioner made all the resistance possible, killed one, and knockt down two more after they had seized him, for which yor Petitioner was cruelly used by them afterwards & threatened to be burnt, several times. May it please this Great and Generall Assembly, yor Petitioner was very well accoutred in all respects when he was taken, and then was stript of all and was between fourteen and fifteen months a Captive exposd to great hardships, and has sustained great Loss and damage.

Yor Petitioner therefore humbly prays the favor of this great and General Assembly to take the premises into yor serious Consideration and Grant him such Recompense for his Losses and sufferings, as aforesd as to yor wisdom and Goodness shall seem meet.
and yor Petitioner (as in duty bound) shall ever pray &c.
Samuell Butterfield

Apri1 10: 1706, Read.
In the House of Representative Resolved That the Sum of Five Pounds be allowed, & Paid out of the Publick Treasury to Samll Butterfield the Petitioner in Consideration of his Losse, & service. Sent up for concurrence.
Thomas Oakes Speaker

April. 11. 1706.
In Council.
Read & concurr'd.
Isa Addington Secry.
[Massachusetts Archives, LXXI. 195, 196.]

Butterfield had previously received, October 27, 1704, a bounty of four pounds for killing the Indian mentioned in this petition; but the present award was for his services and personal loss.


It's always struck me as ironic and sad that the Puritans, who sought to establish a godly commonwealth here in Massachusetts, should offer a bounty on the lives of other human beings, a practice that continued across the continent until the late 19th century.

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