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EARLY MENDON &
KING PHILIP'S WAR

This unpublished manuscript, was written & read by Rev, Carlton Staples before the Mendon Historical Society, Mendon, Ma. three years before his death in 1901. The original is 8 pages long, although very interesting is here shortened, hopefully without losing too much on the life and times of the first 12 years in Mendon, Ma.

EARLY MENDON & KING PHILIP'S WAR by Rev. Carlton Staples:
(abridged for this writing, by APP -- also writings in parenthesis added by me for further explanation or update on the written article).

Let us turn back the pages of history to consider an event which ushered in the most distressing and bloody war New England has ever seen. It is commonly called King Philip's War which began in the Mass. colony with the attack on Mendon July 14, 1675. The place had been settled about 12 years and probably contained 20 or 25 families.

Mendon was then a lonely settlement in a dense wilderness as yet almost untouched by the woodsman axe, with only a horse and cart path connecting it with the civilized world. It is difficult to conceive of the loneliness and hardship, the suffering involved on such an existence. The houses were probably all built of unhewn logs, though there is a mention of a saw pit where boards were made by hand. They had a Blacksmith, a carpenter, a weaver, and a minister, among them , but no Doctor, lawyer or schoolmaster until many years afterwards. Domestic animals, oxen, cows, sheep, hogs and horses soon became common and added largely to their means of substance and comfort.

Their food must have been wild game. meat, corn, and rye, beans, berries and nuts and of these at first of a scanty supply; their clothing of the coarsest kind of spun and woven in their own homes. Their Books, the Bible, Pilgrims Progress and the New England Primer. Their Amusement was husking and quilting bees. Their holidays Thanksgiving and Sunday Meetings which constituted their principal social life. (the Puritans objected to Christmas and in 1647 by an act of Parliament the observance of both Christmas and Easter were abolished and also condemned by the New England Puritans.)

Let's look for a moment at the location of some of the families. On the Medfield Road (now Hartford Ave., East, Hopedale, Ma.) we find Benjamin Albee on Mill River where he built a corn mill; Before this the settlers carried their grain to be ground at Marlboro or Medfield both 15 miles away. Coming towards the village the next settler was John Rockwood. Thence crossing Muddy Brook 20 rods above the present bridge we come to the cabin of Matthias Puffer, whose farm included a part of the Samuel ALDRICH place bounded on the northeast by the rock just beyond the cemetery under which gushes a copious spring.

Below Puffer's on what is now the Providence Road, there were probably no inhabitants. But coming toward the village we pass the cabin of Ferdinando Thayer who wrote his name with two small f's instead of a capital letter, and who, tradition says, was a renowned wrestler.

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Further up we pass the houses of the Lovetts and near the old Burying ground that of Warfield, afterwards the first school master/ then the ALDRICH families, George & Joseph, Abraham Staples and Joseph Whites (where the aforementioned Saw mill was) which brings us to the corner above the Public Library where the Meeting House stood. a humble structure twenty feet square, the roof of which came to an 8 ft. square over the center. (today the Meeting House grounds are called Founder's Park and has a monument dedicated to the first settlers; George Aldrich's name is 2nd on the monument, with Ferdinando Thayer 1st; also the Library, mentioned above has been for the past 76 years the Mendon Historical Museum: -- 1997)

Up the North Road (now North Ave.) were probably a dozen other dwellings, ending with that of the contumacious old rebel Job Tyler, who wouldn't come to work on the Minister's house which the town was building for Rev. Joseph Emerson (Mendon's 1st Minister). And when the selectman sent the constable to warn him, he said, "If they had more to say to him than he had to them, they might come where he was," an audacious speech which they hreatened to report to the court and also his miscarriages on the Lord's Day.

Returning to our brief survey to the meeting house, we enter what is called the Country Road (now Route 16) leading to Nipmuc Great Pond and south meadows-- probably those near wig-wam hill, where the settlers went for hay. On this road at the Dr. Metcalf Place we find the House of John THOMPSON and further on, that of Walter COOK, near Mr. Adams house and above Mr. Winter and Probably Deacon Jones, the pioneer of what is now Hopedale (was Milford).

Continuing on this road to the pond we find there Col. William Crowne, the town clerk, the most notable man in the settlement, excepting the Minister. Probably he had been with Cromwell's army where he won military renown. He received from Parliament the province of Nova Scotia which he was never to get possession of. His son John Crowne, was a ribald poet and a boon companion of King Charles II and associated with his dissolute court. Col. Crowne's was the last house on this road; it stood in what is called on the records, FORTFIELD: indicating that there was some kind of fortification in the vicinity.

In addition to the homes and roads already mentioned there were what is known as the Back Lane and Birch Alley, laid out originally as a road eight rods wide. On this were the houses of John Harber. Mr. Emerson, John WOODLAND, and Deacon Moore at the Welcome Staples’ place. Doubtless there were others within the principle families living here in 1675, and located mainly on this road, leading from Medfield North to Marlborough over a distance of 2 1/2 miles, the houses widely separated and precluding much social intercourse between the people, Evidently they were men of public spirit and strong religious convictions.

They laid out this portion of the town a generous scale with the expectations of its growth and importance, In these 12 years since the settlement began, they had built a Meeting House, a parsonage, and maintained a Minister for most of the time, paying him 40 lbs. a year, one half in county produce. When we recall how few were in numbers, and how straightened their means ... how much larger the value of money was then, than it is now,
we partially comprehend the hard constant self denial which these facts show must have filled up their life. They had founded a town, a church here, forming a community of sturdy, intelligent Christian men & women, loving liberty, and walking humbly with God.

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From this hasty glance at the conditions of Mendon, two and one half centuries ago, let us look at the tribes of Indians around them inhabiting South Eastern, Central and Western Mass. or what are now the counties of Plymouth, Bristol, Worcester and a portion of R.I. There were the Wampanoag and the Nipmucks. The former occupied the country along the Taunton River and northern shores of Narragannsett Bay and about the Pawtucket River. The home of the Chief was at Mount Hope, a high ridge of land opposite Fall River, on the bay of the same name.

Up to the time early in July of 1675, Philip and his Wampanoags were the only Indians engaged in atrocities or that had shown any disaffection towards the English or disposition to break the peaceful relations.

But let us turn to the Nipmucks who inhabited very sparsely indeed, southern and Central Mass. They had always been friendly and peaceful with the settlers. There is no record of any instance, I believe, of any atrocity committed by these Indians and the English.

There was a much kindly intercourse between the natives and the settlers in mutual trade and helpfulness. The second minister here, Grindal Rawson, learned their language and used to preach to them on Sunday afternoons. Some were known as praying or Christian Indians.. At least one of these Christian Indians was living in Mendon in 1667, known as Caleb.

Therefore we can hardly conceive, of the consternation caused by the sudden outbreak of a war among the Nipmucks in the awful tragedy that occurred here 14th July 1675; it is surprising that scarcely anything should be found regarding an event which made as indelible impression on the history of Mendon, the beginning of a war that caused the entire destruction of the town. NOT A WORD, I believe, exists in the town records even mentioning, the massacre or the war, among the contemporaneous writings. President Increase Mather of Harvard in his brief History barely speaks of the five or seven slain in Mendon on that day.

Fortunately we are able to identify three of the victims and point to where they lived. We have even have a suggestion of what a few were doing when dispatched by the Indian tomahawk. (Mrs. Rachael (Farnsworth) Puffer and her son, a lad of 11 or 12 yrs. John Rockwood Jr. another lad of abt. 12 yrs. whom were probably out picking berries in the swamp along Muddy Brook when the Indians fell upon them and put them to their death. These three were the only ones positively identified, through petitions sent to the General Court. A Monument now stands near this site for those slain that fatal day. History of the area tells us, that John Albee, Richard Post (husband of Mary Tyler) John Garnsey, Joseph Stevens the Blacksmith, were some of the other settlers killed that day.)

A woeful scene it must have been, when their mangled bodies were found and brought to the homes from which they went out of, full of hope and happiness. No word of consolation or prayer, no hymn of faith and hope was heard as they were carried to their last resting place, we know not where… Funeral services were not tolerated by the Puritans at this time and unknown here until years afterwards. They regarded them as savoring of popery and prelacy. The English of the Catholic church, the prayer book and the cross, objects well- nigh as offensive to the Puritans as Satan himself. They embodied in his mind about everything ungodly and Satanic.

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He had crossed the sea and made his home in the wilderness with the wild beast and savages, to escape their power and influence. He would neither listen to or permit such popish or prelatic ceremonies where he was able to prevent them. Think of what it meant for the families in Mendon, exposed to more attack, far from immediate assistance, not very capable of defense. It was a time of awful darkness. The hearty men qualled at the prospects when they thought of their wives and children, and what they had provided for sickness, for old age and helplessness, laying at the mercy of the savages. Think of the terrors and consternation, when news of the awful tragedy ran like wild fire from house to house, through the town. We may very well believe there was little sleep for many nights following that bloody day. Horrid dreams alarmed "the curtained sleeper" the fancied sounds of warhoops, or the light of blazing homes, the shrieks of the their fleeing neighbors. A pall of anxiety and fear hung over the town in the expectation of a renewal of attack. An express was sent to Medfield giving alarm, and Rev. Emerson went to Boston to ask for military protection. It was readily granted and Capt. Henchman was dispatched with a military company to secure and save the place. The court has issued a decree forbidding the inhabitants to leave the settlement on pain of forfeiting all their rights in the lands they had subdued from the wilderness. But many soon gave up their homes and went to towns below. The remainder of the people finally gathered in two of the largest houses. A considerable force was kept here to maintain this frontier town. The deprivation and suffering became so severe that people could not endure it, and they gradually stole away. The troops were withdrawn six months after the first attack, the place was abandoned, In the words of Cotton Mather, "Another candle of the Lord extinguished"

Early the following year, 1676, the Indians burned the remaining buildings and for the tolls and sacrifices of twelve (12) Years little was left but charred logs and ashes. The attack on Mendon was led, it supposed by the Nipmuck chief Matoonas.

The deed of the original Mendon, eight square miles, embraces what are now Mendon, Uxbridge, Milford, Blackstone, Hopedale, Bellingham, Northbridge and Upton (Millville, & Whitinsville). (Mendon is now called MOTHER MENDON because of her many children and grandchildren :) ]

The Memorial Stone made of rough unhewn slate fittingly symbolizes the massive enduring character of the men and women who subdued the wilderness, conquered the savage and laid the foundation of the town in love of liberty and the service of God:

Inscription reads:

Near this spot
The wife and son of Matthias Puffer.
the son of John Rockwood
and
other inhabitants of Mendon were killed
by Nipmuck Indians
14 July 1675
The beginning of King Phillip's War in the colony of Mass.

THE END:
This manuscript was shortened, but nothing was left out concerning Mendon, or any of its settlers. .. A few paragraphs were changed or omitted for brevity, but I believe without taking away from the original text written by Rev. Carlton Staples. 1901:

Contributed by: Alice Palladini alicep@verizon.net

The documents are direct quotes and should not be taken and used as one's own work without identifying the source.

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Updated: 27 Jan 2014 01:02 PM