Indian Alarms in Woodstock, Connecticut

Thus in ten years the Roxbury colony was comfortably established, but clouds were gathering. The long-continued war between France and England incited their Indian allies to shocking atrocities. New England was exposed to constant alarm and assault from the fierce Mohawks and restless Canadian Indians. An isolated, frontier town like Woodstock was especially exposed, and the insubordination of its own Indian residents added to their uneasiness. These Wabbaquassets were inimical to Massachusetts and her authority, but most fortunately at this epoch they were willing to yield allegiance to Lieutenant John Sabin, half brother of Deacon Sabin, who had established himself just over Woodstock line, within Connecticut limits. Under his leadership Woodstock’s military position was greatly strengthened. Watch houses were fortified, scouts maintained, military discipline enforced, the Indians looked after and brought within Sabin’s fortifications.

Woodstock’s first serious alarm occurred in the August of 1696, just ten years from the date of settlement. A band of marauders fell suddenly upon the helpless Huguenots of Frenchtown (now Oxford). John Evans and John Johnson were shot, the children of Johnson dashed against the chimney jamb, their mother managing to escape to the river by the aid of her brother. Stealing down the stream and through the woods, she reached Woodstock in the morning with her tale of horrors. Quickly the news flew through the Woodstock settlements. The inhabitants huddled within the garrisons, tidings were sent to the authorities of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and bands of armed men scoured. the woods and guarded exposed positions. The arrival of Major Fitch with a few English soldiers and a band of friendly Indians relieved immediate apprehension, especially as he was able to exercise authority over the Wabbaquassets. He found they numbered twenty-nine fighting men, and as their headquarters were with Lieutenant John Sabin, he was able. to furnish them with arms and ammunition under certain restrictions.

This beginning of tribulation was followed by a long period of insecurity and alarm. In October, 1696, by act of assembly, Woodstock was accounted a frontier and comprehended within the act to prevent the deserting the frontier, by which its inhabitants were forbidden to leave the town without special license, under very severe penalties. John Sabin was now made captain and Peter Aspinwall lieutenant of the company, the latter :serving many months in command of a company of scouts or rangers, patrolling the woods of Massachusetts.

A very serious panic occurred early in 1700, arising from the very suspicious conduct of the Wabbaquassets, who went away mysteriously with their families and the treasure of the tribe, pretending fear and danger from the Mohegans. Other indications pointed to a general combination and insurrection of what were deemed friendly Indians in -New England, and there was great apprehension that these Wabbaquassets had started for the rendezvous. A hasty message brought to the relief of Woodstock Captain Samuel Mason, with twelve English soldiers and eighteen Mohegans. He found Woodstock in great excitement. James Corbin’s well-known cart was on the way from Boston, laden -with ammunition, and great fear was entertained lest this military store might be captured by the enemy. After holding counsel with Mr. Dwight, Captain Sabin and leading men of the town, it was thought best to dispatch three faithful Wabbaquassets, viz., Kinsodock, Mookheag and Pesicus, as messengers to the fugitives, urging them to return and assuring them of their friendship and protection. A pass was sent with them forbidding people to take their arms from them. News came during the day that Corbin’s cart was drawing nigh, and sixty armed men went out to meet it and brought it in with great rejoicings. The friendly messengers were probably successful, as nothing farther was heard of the “resurrection and revolt of his Majesty’s subjects,” and Captain Mason returned peacefully to New London.

The state of alarm continued several years. Major Fitch visiting Woodstock in 1704, reported affairs there in bad condition, the people poorly provided and much exposed, the women and children gathered into garrison with but one man to guard them. Other inhabitants were out scouting or laboring in the fields under arms. The families on the westward hill he found in very difficult and disheartening circumstances, too remote to come into town, and having no adequate fortifications. He thought needful to leave fifteen men for the defense of the place, to serve alternately as scout and guard, and desired the government of Massachusetts ” to provide the standing part at the several garrisons as to diet, and the marching part with supper and breakfast when they came in.” The sums levied upon Woodstock for her subsistence and maintenance of this defense told heavily upon her slender treasury.

Public affairs were much neglected during these anxious years. Town meetings were almost wholly intermittent, common land left unfenced, highways to run to waste, mill house out of repair. A few families removed from town. A number of the older settlers were removed by death, viz., John Leavens, John Butcher, Deacon John Chandler, William Bartholomew, Sr., Nathaniel Johnson, Sr., and others. By 1704 tranquility was so far restored that the first school house was ordered, ” 21×16, six or seven feet high, on the hill southwest of John Carpenter’s. . . . . to be finished by Michaelmas next,” Jonathan Peake, Jacob Parker, Arthur Humphrey committee to manage the work (site on town land near the present Plaine Hill cottage). John Holmes, John Johnson, Philip Eastman, Samuel Perrin, Smith Johnson now served as selectmen; Matthew Davis, constable; John Chandler, town clerk; Thomas Lyon, Thomas Eaton, surveyors. Philip Eastman was sent as deputy to the general court. John Picker taught the first school in the new school house, and was succeeded by Thomas Lyon. Samuel Paine, Zachariah Richardson, James Hosmer, John and Peter Morse, John Payson, John Child and other new settlers had come into possession of home lots, made vacant by removal to growing settlements in Aspinock and Mashamoquet. Deacon Benjamin Sabin and his large family of sons, Nathaniel Gary, John Carpenter, Nathaniel Sanger, John Hubbard, Peter Aspinwall, the sons of John Leavens, Samuel Paine and Samuel Perrin were among these emigrants.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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