Charlemont — Pioneer Settlers

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      Other settlers joined the foregoing, so that in 1752 there were at least a dozen freemen living in Charlemont, who had to contend with many disadvantages, arising from a non-compliance with the conditions of the proprietorship. Aid came in response to a petition to the General Court, which voted a penny tax on every acre of land in the town, to build roads and mills, and to supply the necessary educational and religious facilities. When this tax was collected, and the proprietors were now required to attend more strictly to the affairs of their plantation, the humble home of the pioneer arose in every part of the valley, and even on the hills a colony was about to locate itself, a few having already come and built comfortable houses. But this prosperity was suddenly checked. The peace that had inspired the pioneers with dreams of a happy future was suddenly broken, and the country was again thrown on the defensive to ward off the blows of the savage foe. For the better protection of the people of Charlemont, Forts Pelham and Shirley were abandoned in 1754, and the settlers in the valley were advised to build forts around their homes or strengthen them for defense by surrounding them with pickets. This was at once done by the three families already named. Gershom, Joshua, and Seth Hawks moved the two houses they occupied nearer each other and "pallisaded from one house to the other on one side, and made a parade with boards on the other," and, after building a mount and watch-box, inclosed the whole with pickets. On the 17th of October, 1754, they asked the General Court to pay for this work, done and proposed, and that a garrison of soldiers might be provided for the defense of their fort, and to scout to the other forts, erected in a similar manner by Capt. Moses Rice around the house under the hill, and the Taylors. On the 18th of the same month Othniel Taylor presented a like petition to the General Court, stating that he had expended £10 4s. 4d. in preparing his defenses, and accompanid the bill with a plan of his fort. His house and that of his brother Jonathan were made to serve as the ends of the fort proper, the sides being inclosed by a stockade. At the end of Jonathan Taylor's house was the watch-box, so built-that it commanded a view of the road up and down the river. The whole was inclosed with pickets, the line being 140 feet long and 80 feet wide.
      The General Court did not regard the settlers on this frontier as being in immediate danger, and paid no heed to these petitions for protection, although the inhabitants lived in constant apprehension. Spring coming on, in 1755 they began work on their farms, not without fear, knowing that the enemy was lurking around and needed but a favorable moment to gratify his murderous desires. They carried their muskets with them when they went to work in their fields, and the women and children were not allowed to go outside the inclosure without guard. Thus had passed many weeks of that spring season, and, though the settlers had not altogether lost their vigilance, they had, perhaps, become less apprehensive of immediate danger, and had been lulled into a sense of security. But this illusion was soon and sadly dispelled.

      ""On Wednesday morning, the 11th of June, 1755, Capt. Moses Rice, his son, Artemas Rice, his grandson, Asa Rice,—a boy nine years of age,—Titus King, Phineas Arms, and others, went into the meadow which lies south of the road in the village, having Mill Brook on the east and Rice's Brook on the west, for the purpose of hoeing corn. Capt. Rice was plowing, and the boy riding the horse; the others were engaged in hoeing, except one who acted as sentinel, passing through the field from brook to brook with musket in hand, while the firearms of the others were placed against a pile of logs near the western brook. This, instead of flowing in a direct line to the river, as at present, entered the field at some distance below where the road now runs, and passed in a southeasterly direction nearly to the mouth of Mill Brook. Meanwhile, a party of six Indians, according to tradition, having carefully observed their victims from the neighboring hill, stole cautiously down the western brook (Rice's), and, concealed by the thick brushwood upon its banks, watched till the working-partywere near to Mill Brook and farthest from their firearms, when they suddenly fired and rushed upon the defenseless party.
      "Phineas Arms fell dead in the corn-field; Capt. Rice received a severe wound in the thigh, and was taken prisoner, together with the lad, Asa, on the horse, and Titus King, a young man related to Capt. Rice. Artemas Rice escaped after a hot pursuit, and reached Taylor's Fort at noon. The inmates of the house in the adjoining field, hearing the firing, fled into the fort, one of the daughters, Dinah, making jumps of from fourteen to eighteen feet in her flight.
      "The Indians, however, made no further attack, but withdrew with their three captives to the high plain in the rear of the present public-house. Here the aged and wounded man was left alone, with a single savage, to meet his fate. After a fearful struggle he fell beneath the tomahawk, and was left, scalped and bleeding, to die. Late in the day he was found yet alive, and was brought to his son's house, where he expired in the evening.
      "The other prisoners were led to Crown Point, and thence to Canada. The lad was ransomed after a captivity of six years.
      "King was carried to France, thence to England, whence he at length returned to Northampton, his native place."2

      "On receiving the news of the attack, Othniel Taylor at once hastened to Deerfield for help, and returned the same night with a force of 25 men. The next morning they proceeded up the river, but the enemy had fled, and nothing was left for them to do but assist in burying the dead. They laid them in graves dug on the hillside, near the dwelling of the fallen sire, where their remains repose to this day.

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15 Jul 2005