Hanged till thou be Dead..

It is again my favorite month of the year, and not just because I was born on All Hallows Eve. This month I have decided to focus on the more macabre of our family stories. Today’s is all about murder and ‘justice’.

The first major war to occur in the New World involving the European’s was King Philip’s War of 1675-1678. It was named after the American Indian Metacomet, who was also known as King Philip. I won’t go into the details of the war, those can be read in any history book. Let’s just say relations between the New Englanders and the local tribes had gotten bad and war was the result.

The war had a devastating effect on New England colonies many towns were completely destroyed, the  economy was in ruin, a large percentage of the population had been killed. Over half of the towns that had been established had been affected in some way by the attacking American Indian warriors. No doubt all of this contributed to the actions described below:

About the 9th of August [1676] there happened a very sad accident, relating to the poor christian indians, viz. a horrid murder committed by some Englishmen upon two squaws, wives to two of our Indian soldiers…and one young woman, and three children, whereof one was a nursing infant…
These two squaws and their company aforementioned, being allowed (in this time of their straits for food) by the English authority, went forth to gather hurtleberries, as a place called Hurtleberry Hill, about four miles from Watertown Mill, within the bounds of that town; were the English, who were about eleven or twelve in number, and were on horseback, first met those indians. There was one Indian man with them called John Stoolemester, one that had been bred with the English; they disarmed him of a carbine belonging to the county, for he was newly come in from the army, and had not been delivered his arms. After they had disarmed this fellow, they threatened to kill him; but he, speaking english interceded strongly for his life, and so they dismissed him, and he came home; but the squaws being among the bushes not far off, he left them there; the english came to them and sat down, and smok’d[sp] it where they were, and exchanged with them bread and cheese for some hurtleberries; and then the English left the squaws and children, but being not gone a mile, four of the English left their company and went back to the squaws, and drove them before them unto the north end of the hill, into a secret place, and there murdered them all, and stript[sp] such as had coats on. Having committed the murder, these men went to their habitations.
The next day after the squaws were missing, and came not home to their wigwams, Capt. Pitimee, being then at home, came to Major Gookin at Cambridge and acquainted him with his fears, that some evil had befallen his wife, sister and their company, and desired an order and some help of Englishmen, two or three as least, to go and search for them; which being so reasonable a request, it was granted. So he went forth and searched a day or two, but could not find them; as last, having procured about fifteen or sixteen Indians, and two english, they made a more strict search, and at last found the dead bodies, not far from one another, cruelly murdered, some shot through, others their brains beat out with hatchets; to be short, this murder was afterward discovered, and the four murders seized, tried, and condemned, and two of the four executed, and the other two pardoned by the General Court. This murder was very much decried by all good men, and it was some satisfaction that some of them were make examples. I know the murderers pretended a law to warrant the act, but the juries and judge were not of their mind in the matter. I know, also, there are some among the English that have a very ill conceit of all the Indians, and will not admit them so much charity, as to think that any of them are sober or honest.
An Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England, In the Years, 1675, 1676, 1677, by Daniel Gookin; page 513, 514

Wartime situations can bring out the best and worse in humans beings. In this case I believe the worst showed its face in actions of one of my ancestors as two of the four men were relatives of mine. Daniel and Stephen Goble of Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts were two of the perpetrators of this atrocity. Daniel is my 8xgreat grandfather. Stephen was his nephew.

What makes things even worse for them is the fact that the war was over. King Philip had been killed. People had no more patience for these kinds of acts and so it was decided that these men were to be made an example of. The communities reaction was most likely a political ploy for the sake of peace. An act meant to prove to the Indians that any Whites committing such acts were treated as harshly as Indians. So the four men were promptly arrested, tried, and found guilty. The Reverend Mr. Rowlandson attended them in jail, wrote and witnessed their wills. Daniel’s nephew Stephen was the first to hang on a dreary and cold day in September. From all accounts it appeared that the whole of Boston had turned out to see the show including a Samuel Sewell who wrote the following:

“Mr. Mighil prayed. Four others sat on the gallows, two men and two impudent women, one of which as least, laughed on the gallows.” She was there to be whipped for adultery. The Hangman read the record which was the same for all four men, except for their names.: Stephen Goble of Concord thou art indicted by the name of Steven Goble for not having the fear of God before thy eyes and being instigated by the Devil and thy Accomplices at or on the seventh of August at or near Hurtleberry Hill in the woods in the vicinity of Concord or near thereabouts did murder and kill three Indian women and three Indian children contrary to the grace of our sovereign Lord thy king his crown and signity the law of land and of this Jurisdiction. After the libel testimony in the Case provided wear Read Comitted to the Jury and are remaining on file w/ the records of this Court the Jury brought in their verdict & the found him Guilty, Accordingly the sentence of Death pronounced upon him that he should Goe from hence to the place from whence he Came & thence to the Gallows and there be hanged till thou be Dead.”

A week later Daniel, too ill to walk, was drawn upon a cart to the place of execution and hanged in the company of five Indians.

During the trial of the four men, two of them got off because their families had money and influence. Our ancestral relatives were not so blessed. I have to say that I can not be sorry that they were punished for their actions. They committed murder and should have been punished for it. What is unfortunate is that the other two got away.

Daniel’s son Daniel, jr inherited land his father was awarded for his service in the war. He sold it off. His mother Hannah had married again so forfeited her inheritance of the property. She moved to Lancaster Massachusetts. In an unfortunate twist of fate, Hannah and her second husband Ephraim Roper were killed by Indians about 20 years later.

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