ANGEL OF HADLEY -- FACT OR MYTH?

Whalley and Goffe in Massachusetts make their home.
Then to Quinnipiac in haste pursue their way,
Nor know they where to rest, nor where to roam,
Until in Hadley concealed and lonely they stay.


from: The Story of Connecticut, Lewis Sprague Mills, 1932.


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Who were Whalley and Goffe? Why did they need to be lonely and concealed in Hadley? Let's begin the story September 1, 1675.

There were rumors of war up and down the Connecticut River. King Philip and his warriors were attacking the colonial outposts of Deerfield and Northfield. The inhabitants of Hadley (approximately 50 families) were observing a Fast Day service when the attack came. The villagers were unprepared. Even though they rushed out of the Meeting House, guns ready to fire, they were totally unorganized and ineffectual. Suddenly there appeared among them an elderly man, a man whom no one recognized. Who was he? Where did he come from? This stranger took command, arrayed the townspeople in a military manner, and helped them repel the warriors. As suddenly as he had appeared, he disappeared. The villagers could not explain what had happened so proclaimed their savior an angel sent by God.

What the good people of Hadley did not know was that their minister, John Russell, had been secretly housing two men, General Edward Whalley and General William Goffe, for eleven years - since 1664. These two men were on-the-run, dodging the King of England's agents, hiding out in the wilds of the recently settled colonies of New England.

THE GREEN IN HADLEY IN 1997. AT THE END OF THE GREEN IS THE CONNECTICUT RIVER WITH ARTIFACTS BENEATH ITS SURFACE.

What had these two respectable men done in England to gain the enmity of their king? The answer to this question is not hard to find. How would you feel toward someone who signed your father's death warrant? Generals Whalley and Goffe were 2 of the 76 judges of the High Court of Justice who ruled that Charles I of England was to be executed for the crime of treason and were 2 of the 59 men who actually signed his death warrant in 1649. In 1660, Charles II, son of the beheaded king, was restored to power. Immediately the hunt was on to find the judges, known as the regicides and to bring them to justice in England. Charles II was willing to pardon those who had fought against his father in England's Civil War (1642-1649). But there was to be no pardon for the Regicides!

Whalley and Goffe sailed from England as soon as possible. They arrived in Boston in July, 1660, and they lived there openly under assumed names. In August of that same year, Charles II issued a royal writ for their arrest and execution, the man-of-war bearing these warrants set sail for Boston. Friends of the two regicides found out and secretly chartered a fast sloop by which to send a warning. The sloop over took the King's man-of-war just off Cape Ann, pressed on to Boston Harbor where it arrived too late to reach the city that night. The ship's captain, taking his mission very seriously, manned his small boat with his strongest men and rowed to shore. Governor Endicott was having a party for the two regicides that very evening at the State House. The captain, still dressed in his seaman's clothes, refused to be turned away from the door, arguing his case at length. Governor Endicott overheard the discussion and listened to the captain's message. Realizing that Goffe and Whalley were facing apprehension, the governor ended the reception and sent the two men out of Boston that very night.

From 1661-1664, the two fugitives were housed in and around New Haven and Milford, Connecticut. When the King's men started looking for them in Connecticut, Whalley and Goffe decided to hide out at the back of beyond, in the small settlement of Hadley. Reverend John Russell hid them in his house in the center of the village until Whalley's death in ca. 1674 and Goffe's death some time around 1680. Although a few trusted people knew the two men were secretly hidden in Hadley, everyone involved kept the secret because if the truth were revealed, John Russell as well as the two fugitives would face death.

What in this story is fact and what is myth?

But ...

The myth seems to have been started in the following century in History of the Three Judges, written by Ezra Stiles, President of Yale College, and published in 1794. President Stiles based his statements on an anecdote printed in a footnote in a published work by Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts and published in 1764.

So, even though General Goffe did not save Hadley in 1675 and therefore was not the Angel of Hadley perhaps both Generals Whalley and Goffe would have thought Reverend John Russell was their special savior and, therefore, could be called the Angel of Hadley.

References:

Walker, Alice Morehouse. 1906. Historic Hadley. The Grafton Press, N.Y.

Judd, Sylvester. 1905. History of Hadley. HR Huntting and Co., Springfield, MA.

Durant, Will and Ariel. 1961. The Age of Reason Begins, Vol 7 of The Story of Civilization. Simon and Schuster, N.Y.