REDEMPTION OF THE HATFIELD CAPTIVES - 1677/78



If you have not already done so, read about the attack on Hatfield

On September 19, 1677, attacking Amerindians left Hatfield in chaos! Seventeen hostages were taken, 7 houses and barns burned, 12 villagers killed, and 4 wounded. How could the captives be rescued? Who had taken them? Where were they being taken? What to do?

One man, Benjamin Waite, a scout who knew how to survive in the woods, knew what he was going to do. After all, his wife and 3 young daughters were among the hostages. The first move was to get to Albany as quickly as possible to find out if the Mohawks were involved. By October 4, Waite was back in Springfield reporting that the New York tribe was not involved. He immediately left for Boston before Benoni Stebbins, who had escaped from the Amerindians, arrived in Hadley with his news about the captives. Finally, after bureaucratic delays in Boston, Waite managed to obtain an appointment as agent to secure the release of the captives and funds were set aside to meet the ransom demands. A parley with the Amerindians in mid-October failed. The only recourse left for the English was to track the hostages to Canada, through territory never traversed by the English colonists.

By October 24, over a month after the raid, Waite and Stephen Jennings (whose wife and her two children were also captives) began the monumental task of finding the hostages. After petty bureaucratic delays in Albany, Waite and Jennings were finally given permission to go after the captives on December 10. Now the rescuers were faced not only with traveling through unknown territory but with deep winter snows. A local warrior guided them to Lake George, helped them fashion a canoe, and drew them a rough map of Lake George and Lake Champlain -- and then departed.

December 16, 1677 - Lake Champlain was reached, the first time English colonists had set foot there. Strong winds and ice slowed their progress, their provision ran out and they were forced to live off the land. But nothing could stop these two men for long. On or about January 6, the trackers reached the frontier of Canada, nearly 4 months after the raid on Hatfield. In a nearby town Hannah Jennings and a few other captives were found. The other hostages were close by with their captors. Immediately Waite and Jennings started for Quebec to bargain with Governor Frontenac for the release of the hostages. With the governor's help, the payment of two hundred pounds secured the release of the English. Of the 21 captives, 17 were returned; 2 children had been killed during the long trek north, probably because they fell ill. Sergeant Plympton of Deerfied was burned at the stake in Canada. Two children were born in Canada. Martha Waite had a daughter on January 22 who was named Canada. Nearly two months later, Hannah Jennings had a daughter who was named Captivity.

The English remained in Canada until the winter weather was over. At long last, on May 2, 1678, the entire party began the long, slow trip back home. When they reached Albany, the following letters were sent off to Hatfield:

"Albany, May 22, 1678. "Loving wife-Having now opportunity to remember my kind love to thee and our child, and the rest of our friends, though wee met with greate afflictions and trouble since I see thee last, yet now here is opportunity of joy and thanksgiving to God, that wee are now pretty well, and in a hopeful way to see the faces of one another, before we take our finall farewell of this present world. Likewise God hath raised us freinds [sic] amongst our enemies, and there is but 3 of us dead of all those that were taken away - Sergt. Plympton, Samuel Russel, Samuel Foot's daughter. So I conclude being in hast, and rest your most affectionate husband, till death makes separation.
"Quintin Stockwell."

Excerpted from Wells and Wells (1910), p. 96

"Albany, May 23, 1678. "To my loving friends and kindred at Hatfield- These few lines are to let you understand that we are arrived at Albany now with the captives, and we now stand in need of assistance, for my charges is very greate and heavy; and therefore any that have any love to ourr condition, let it moove them to come and help us in this straight. There is 3 of ye captives that are murdered,-old Goodman Plympton, Samuel Foot's daughter, Samuel Russell. All the rest are alive and well and now at Albany, namely, Obadiah Dickenson and his child, Mary Foot and her child, Hannah Gennings and 3 children, Samuel Kellogg, my wife and four children, and Quintin Stockwell. I pray you hasten the matter, for it requireth greate hast. Stay not for ye Sabbath, nor shoeing of horses. We shall endeavor to meete you at Canterhook; it may be at Houseatonock. We must come very softly because of our wives and children. I pray you, hasten then, stay not night nor day, for ye matter requireth greate hast. Bring provisions with you for us. "Your loving kinsman,
"Benjamin Waite.
"At Albany, written from myne own hand. As I hve bin affected to yours all that were fatherless, be affected to me now, and hasten ye matter and stay not, and ease me of my charges. You shall not need to be afraid of any enemies."

Excerpted from Wells and Wells (1910), p. 96

On receipt of the letters, a party from Hatfield immediately set off to escort the exhausted group home.

References:

Wells, D. W. and R. F. Wells. 1910. A History of Hatfield Massachusetts. F.C.H. Gibbons, Springfield, Mass.

Judd, S. 1905. History of Hadley. H. R. Hunting, Springfield.