Resolved to settle Deerfield


30 Dec
30Dec

Following King Phillip's war, the settlement of Deerfield was reoccupied. Many of the Englishman who fought in Phillip's war, were among those who settled here. The Smead family was among them, as well as the Stebbins, Nims, Hawks, Hoyt, Williams and Sheldon families.


The little settlement grew along with the Smead family. By the early 1700, William and Elizabeth had 7 rchildren grown to adulthood. Their daughters had married locally into the Hawks, Warner and Nims families. Their sons also remained. The next generation was being born.


Around this time though, another war was on the horizon. This time it was Queen Anne’s war. Once again, the boundaries and the settlements of both New England and New France came into play. The French and the Wabanaki Confederacy fought the English for territory control.


To set the stage, these colonial families were protected only by wooden houses with gun slots, some of the houses sat within a wooden palisade offer a little more protection, but not much. Attacks could come at any time.


In 1703, 70-year-old William passed away. He left behind his wife, 7 children and 19 grandchildren. A little over a year later though there would be less.


February 29, 1704


41 houses made up the settlement, at least 15 were inside the stockade. There were 291 souls present that night, 21 garrison soldiers, 268 residents and 2 visitors. The oldest was a widow Mrs. Allison, the youngest the 4-week-old infant John French. There were 3 slaves, 1 Indian, and 3 Frenchman from Canada, the rest English.


French and Indian troops lead by Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville waited on top a hill in the dead of night to attack. They had noticed a vulnerable spot in the palisade. Snow had drifted high enough, so the men could simply scale it. In the early morning hours, they scaled the palisades and opened the Northern gate.


250 The Indians and French flooded into Deerfield.  The battles were held inside the individual houses as they burned around their inhabitants. Doors were hatched open axes and hatchets, children were pulled from their beds. 


Elizabeth Lawrence Smead, the matriarch, was 68 years old, and living with her 35-year-old son Samuel, his wife Sarah, and their two children Sarah and William, ages 4, and 2. Samuel sent his family to the cellar and began hand to hand fighting. The Indians set their home ablaze. His mother, wife and children were all smothered to death while hiding in the basement. Samuel survived and later married Mary Weld Alexander who lost her husband and child in the attack as well.


Thankful Smead Hawks was the 26-year-old daughter of Elizabeth and William. Thankful, her husband and three children 7, 4, 2 were all killed in the raid.


Waitstill Smead Warner, 24-year-old daughter of Elizabeth and William. Waitstill was pregnant at the time. She was taken prisoner along with her husband Ebenezer and two daughters, Sarah 5 and Waitstill, 3. Waitstill died will on the march, Ebenezer and Sarah were recovered. What happened to little Waitstill was not known, she was presumed dead.


John Smead, 34 another son of Elizabeth and William fought bravely. He along with his pregnant wife and young son survived.


Mehitable Smead Hull Nims, 36, was the fourth child of William and Elizabeth, and my 9x great grandmother. Her family was a blended one. She married Godfrey Nims in 1692. She and her husband were both widowers when they married. She brought two children to the marriage, he had six. Together they had five. The family had ten living children in Deerfield at the time of the attack.


Godfrey was left standing outside his burning house.  Inside were the smoldering bodies of his 5 years old twin daughters Mercy and Mary, and 7-year-old Mehitable named for their mother. He had sent them to the basement to hide. They suffered the same fate as their grandmother and cousins. His adult daughter Rebecca Matton, 24, was among the dead as was his 21-year-old son Henry.


His wife, his 18-year-old son Ebenezer and little 4-year-old daughter Abigail were taken prisoner and were now facing a march to Canada in the ice and snow, along with them were his son in law Phillip Matton, and his infant daughter.


Godfrey was not alone, only due to one daughter. 20-year-old Thankful Nims Munn and her husband Benjamin were saved because their tiny cabin outside the palisades was covered in a snow drift and remained unseen during the attack. 

In a few hours Godfrey lost, a wife, nine children and a granddaughter.


Phillip Matton, his infant daughter and his mother in law all died on the March to Canada. Ebenezer married another captive Sarah Hoyt after she refused to marry a Frenchman, they returned to Deerfield in 1712. Abigail never returned. She was raised with another fellow captive Josiah Rising by the Indians. They were called Touatougouach and Shoentakouani, they were baptized in the Roman Catholic church and went by Joseph Razinne and Mary Elizabeth and settled in New France. They married at the age of 15 and raised 8 children. They are my 8x great grandparents. Josiah was visiting his Uncle in Deerfield the night of the raid.


This only encompassed the stories of the immediate family of William and Elizabeth Smead during the Deerfield Raid.

In one night, the family lost a grandmother, 4 sisters, 2 husbands, and 12 children. The surviving family was changed forever but continued on. 

The remaining families in Deerfield all had similar fates. Of the 291 souls that night, 48 were killed, 117 were forced to march to Canada and 126 were left with the carnage. In such a small a community, many of the families were intermarried and connected. It took great resolution to continue in such despair, but the survivors did just that in a variety of ways and we continue to persevere today.


Kind makes the weight loss resolution a little light doesn’t it? Happy New Year!


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