Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I've been thinking the last few days about the discovery that my ancestor Nathaniel Wilder was sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of six Indians three women and three children. Tthere is always the possibilty that  the two men who were hung were the actual murderers while Nathaniel Wilder and Daniel Hoare merely looked on and so gained clemency.

I have a degree in history and was taught in college that we should not impose our present day beliefs and ethics when examining the events of the past. It's hard not to sometimes do that, though, when it's your own family history. Some of the Wilder genealogies published in the 19th century show that later generations changed the facts a little, saying it was only one Indian killed, a brave that had surrendered. One male Indian was easier to swallow than six women and children.

I took a course in philosophy at college and one day the professor asked us if world peace was possible.(This was back in the 1960's.) I said no, because we were all humans and had emotions like hate, greed and jealousy. The professor said I was a cynic and moved on to the next student.

Nathaniel Wilder's family and neighbors in Lancaster, Ma. had been attacked and besieged by Indians. Some had been wounded, some killed. So it's probable his involvement in the deaths were prompted by hatred. It was a human reaction, It doesn't excuse it, but it helps in understsanding what happened. He was only human.

And it's only human for me to wish he had been able to control his emotions.




Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

I feel the same way about many ancestors. They accused their neighbors of witchcraft, beat their wives, neglected their children, drank too much, and other stuff that is tough to read about. Owning slaves is the worst. We'll never know why they acted like this, and it shouldn't bother us, but it does. We are only human, too.

Pam Beveridge said...

My granddaughter has Wilder ancestors. Will look for a link to yours.

Marian B. Wood said...

Very difficult to think of an ancestor doing such harm. But I agree with you that we can't impose 21st century thinking on decisions made many generations back. Only human!

Thomas W Tufts said...

Kind of like my Henry Tufts criminal relation and my Great Grandfather trying to keep his book out of libraries but certainly not as severe. I think it's important to realize the Indians were brutal to each other before Europeans arrived too. I agree with Heather too, civilization has come a long way.