For many years my Peter Pan loving children would shrilly say the name “Mr. Smead…” as they played make believe sword fights with Captain Hook's crew.
It was a few years ago, I learned my 10x great grandfather was a Mr. Smead.
William Smead, born in England in 1633, to William Smead and Judith Stoughton Denman Smead. Judith was a sister to Israel Stoughton. In 1635, she found herself, twice, widowed. She decided to head to America to join her brother. She made her way with her three children to Dorchester, Massachusetts. They had to travel via Barbados, since the English government had been starting is dissuade Puritan travel to the colonies. At this time many ships enroute to Massachusetts or other American colonies were stopped from leaving.
Little Mr. Smead spent many months on the ship Dorset, with his mother, half-brother, and half-sister, (John and Mary Denman, from Judith’s previous marriage). They eventually made it to Dorchester and Judith signed the covenant in 1636 with the church at Dorchester. She was given a grant of 20 acres there. There was hope.
Unfortunately, Judith died in 1639. She made provisions for her young son in the employee of John Pope. John was a prominent weaver in Dorchester. It appeared that he cared for William until his own death in 1646. John made provisions for him in his will, calling him his little boy, and leaving him his looms and tacking if he was willing to stay with Popes widow and learn the trade.
By the end 1658, Mr. Smead acquired a Mrs. Smead. He married Elizabeth Lawrence. The began a family. Mr. Smead became active in the protection of his home and his family. It was during this time he fought the Indians during King Phillips War.
Phillips war came about around 1675. It was named for Metacom, the Wampanoag Indiana chief, who adopted the name Phillip, due to the positive relationship, his father, Chief Massasoit, had with the Mayflower pilgrims. This relationship turned sour after the death of Massasoit. The colonist instated that their agreement with him required the Indians to give up all their guns. This he could not agree to. Making matters worse, three Wampanoags were hung for murder in Plymouth in 1675.
This war is little heard of in our American history books. Myself being a history buff, did not recall it at all, until I began my research into the Smead Family. It was extremely disruptive and devastating to the colonist, as well as the Indians. By the time it was over, many of the colonies were decimated and their populations cut in half. The Wampanoags and their allied the Narragansett were almost completely destroyed.
At the start of Phillips War, there were a core group of settlers attempting to colonize the area, known as Pocumtuck, where the Pocumtuck Indians had made their home. The English called it Deerfield. Raids were frequent. I can’t imagine, raising a family in a guerilla war zone, with frequent raiding, but that is what the Smead's did. By 1675, the family had grown to include seven children, William, 15, Elizabeth, 13, Judith 11, Mehitable 7, Samuel 6, John 5, and infant Ebenezer.
In September 1675, with winter looming, the settlers were all trapped in the fort near Deerfield. Crops in the area had been raided. They had very little food supply. Captain Thomas Lothrop was charged with taking a force of 80 soldiers and 18 teamsters to collect food at Hadley. The embarked the morning of Sept 18, 1675, the trip had been very quiet. Upon the return, the company enjoying the fall day, feeling nearly accomplished, they stopped. They put down their guns to enjoy some nearby grapes. Unbeknownst to them, they had been being tracked. Seeing this opportunity, with a quick motion, 700 Indians attacked. Only seven English escaped. The scene by the muddy river to forever by known as battle of bloody brook.
A contemporary described the group of men as “a choice group, the very flower of the county of Essex” Many of these men were young unmarried, the future…
One of these men was a young 15-year-old Mr. Smead. William Smead the oldest son of William and Elizabeth was murdered in the massacre.
One can only imagine what a devastating loss this was for the community and for the family itself. Deerfield was abandoned for two years until the conclusion of Phillips war. The community did not give up, it was resolved to see Deerfield a proper settlement.
Sadly though, this is far from the end of the trauma of the Smead family.
Next time we will go back to Deerfield…