Our Beloved Kin: Remapping A New History of King Philip's War

The Journey South: the Raid on Hatfield and Deerfield

“I was now by my own house which the Indians burned last year and I was about to build up again…”[1]

The Raid

In total twenty-one captives were taken during Ashpelon’s raid, including four men, three women (of whom two were pregnant), and fourteen children.[2] Ashpelon’s party traveled down Kwinitekw and hit Hatfield before midday, when “twelve persons were killed,” “seven dwellings burned and sundry barns full of corn,” which was probably stored from the summer’s recent harvest.[3] With its captives the party moved upriver to Pocumtuck, or Deerfield, at dusk to raid again, taking a few more captives, including Quinton Stockwell and Benoni Stebbins. Stebbins later relayed that the party had been living in the valley for months before making their move: “They came fro Canada 3 Months agoe, &had bin Hunting & were doubtfull whether to fall on Northampton or Hatfield, at last resolved on Hatfield…[and] Deerfield.”[4] Local histories claim that English men from both settlements were actively engaged in the construction of new homes.[5] Stockwell’s recounting of his capture, that the Indians had burned his home the year before, reveals that Ashpelon’s raid was not an isolated event at the end of war, but rather the launch of a succession of Native acts of continuity and reclamation which endured long after King Philip’s War had been brought to a so-called close.

What were the motives behind the raid?

What was the motivation for the raid on Hatfield and Deerfield? Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney argue that “long-standing Native associations with and claims upon the region, the bitter legacy of King Philip’s War,” and “French policy” [6] were all at play in determining the continuous raids upon Deerfield and nearby colonial settlements. In returning to their homelands at Pocumtuck and Nonotuck, Ashpelon and his relations made deliberate, symbolic acts to display continued Native presence in places that were becoming colonized spaces. Ashpelon’s party did not take captives to replace relations, which was customary of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) to the west. Captives taken on the raid were profitable and allowed networks of trade to develop between Ashpelon’s party and the French in Quebec. The French would also “employ those Indians to kill them beaver, and moose, and other peltry, wherby they gain much.”[7] Stebbins related to the postmaster at Northampton upon his escape from Nashaway that his captors “had liued at the French & intended to return there again to sel the captiues to them” for “eight pound [a] peece.”[8] Abenaki historian and anthropologist Marge Bruchac suggests that New France was actively seeking white females to fulfill the roles as servants, nuns, and wives for fur traders, which would have been an incentive for Frenchmen to purchase English captives, especially women and girls.[9] Stebbins also noted that the “French Indians” intended to join the party the following spring or winter presumably to raid again “if they had sucses this time.”[10] It should be noted that French Indians here could refer to multiple peoples in the Northern territories, including those living at Winoskik, Missisquoi, Sorel, and Odanak. Having a specific sum designated for the ransom of each captive as well as tentative plans for future raids implies an economic and political relationship between the French and Abenaki, which offered them a stable source of income for purchasing many goods, including the weapons and ammunition they needed for Fall and Winter hunting, as well as defense and future raids.[11] The raid on Hatfield and Deerfield may have also provided an important decoy for another mission, the reclamation of relations from Wamesit and Nashaway.
[1] Stockwell, “Stockwell’s Relation,” 39.
[3] John Eliot, “Letter from Rev. John Eliot of Roxbury to Hon. Robert Boyle Oct. 23, 1677” in Memoirs of the Life and Character of Rev. John Eliot, Apostle of the N.A. Indians by Martin Moore (Boston: Flagg & Gould, 1822), 128.
[4] “Letter from Major John Pynchon,” 53.
[5] Hough, Papers, 20-1; Wells and Wells, History of Hatfield, 92.
[6] Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney,“Revisiting The Redeemed Captive: New Perspectives on the 1704 Attack on Deerfield” in After King Philip’s War: Presence and Persistence in New England, ed. Colin Calloway (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997), 30.
[7] Gookin, “Christian Indians,” 521.
[8] Eells, “Narrative of Benoni Stebbins,” 57.
[9] Marge Bruchac, personal conversation, July 23, 2015.
[10] Eells, “Narrative of Benoni Stebbins,” 57.
[11] Haefeli and Sweeney, “Revisiting The Redeemed Captive,” 38.

This page has paths:

This page references: