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STEPHEN WILLIAMS    


1704 Raid on Deerfield and Captivity

Just before daybreak on February 29, 1704, the town of Deerfield was surprised by an attack from a force of about 300 French and Indians from Canada.  The Indians were from a number of tribes, including Kanienkehaka (Mohawk), Wendat (Huron), Abenaki, Pennacook, Sokoki, and Pocumtuck.  By the time the attack ended, 41 Deerfield residents and 6 attackers were dead and 17 houses and barns were in flames.  112 Deerfield men, women and children were abducted and force-marched to Canada in harsh winter conditions.

Reverend John Williams and his family were among those who were captured.   Two of his young sons and his female slave, Parthena, were killed during the raid and his wife (who was recuperating from childbirth) was killed 2 days into the march north. When they encamped in Greenfield, his male negro slave, Frank, was lashed to a tree and burned.  In Canada, the family was separated and Stephen Williams was taken by an Abenaki family to a village in present-day Vermont.

Eventually, all of the living members of the Williams family in captivity, except for daughter Eunice, were redeemed and returned to New England.  Daughter Esther was redeemed first, then Stephen Williams in late 1705.  Rev. John Williams and his sons Samuel and Warham were redeemed last, arriving in Boston on November 21, 1706.  Rev. John Williams and his son, Stephen Williams, wrote accounts of their captivity which were published and became best-sellers of their day.

The Williams family never stopped their efforts to redeem daughter Eunice and return her to New England.  However, Eunice, who had been adopted by a Mohawk family, refused all attempts at redemption.  She converted to Catholicism, married a Mohawk Catholic, and raised her family in Canada.  Eventually, she reestablished communication with her family and returned to New England to visit them during the summers of 1740, 1741 and 1761.  She and her family visited Longmeadow each of these years.

Even though Stephen Williams had witnessed so many brutalities inflicted by Indian peoples during the raid and his subsequent captivity, throughout his life he harbored no animosity towards them and strove tirelessly to convert and educate them.  Over the years, he took a number of Indian youths into his Longmeadow home whom he clothed, fed, and educated.   In addition, he, along with Rev. Samuel Hopkins (pastor of West Springfield) and Rev. Nehemiah Bull (pastor of Westfield), were instrumental in establishing the mission to the Mahican Indians on the Housatonic River in Stockbridge.   In 1771, he was recognized by Dartmouth College for his efforts towards Christianizing Indian peoples by the award of an honorary doctorate.

Sources

by Elizabeth Hoff


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