RJO’s Ancestors in American Colonial Wars, 1637–1763
On the obscure strife where men died by tens or by scores hung questions of as deep import for posterity as on those mighty contests of national adolescence where carnage is reckoned by thousands.
This is one of a series of genealogical pages on my ancestors who served in early American wars, including the Pequot War (1637–1638), King Philip’s War (1675–1676), King William’s War (1689–1698), Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713), Dummer’s War (1723–1726) and King George’s War (1744–1745), the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the American Revolution (1775–1781), and Shays’ Rebellion (1786–1787). Ancestors who belonged to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts (1637– ) are also noted, and an additonal page presents a special essay on Lexington and Concord and the Nineteenth of April.
Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713)
Queen Anne’s War was the American phase of the War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714), in which Catholic France and Spain allied to appoint Philip of Anjou as the successor to Charles II of Spain, who had no heir. England, Holland, Prussia, and Austria formed a Protestant alliance against them in an attempt to place Archduke Charles of Austria on the Spanish throne. In North America, the English attacked Spanish settlements in Florida, and the French and their Indian allies raided English settlements in New York and New England, destroying Deerfield, Massachusetts, in 1704. (See John Demos’ narrative The Unredeemed Captive for a modern account of the Deerfield raid.) English forces in turn attacked French settlements in Nova Scotia. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the Peace of Rastatt (1714) brought the war to a conclusion. Under the terms of these treaties, England received Gibraltar, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the Hudson’s Bay territories [Peckham 57–76].
JONAS PRESCOTT (Jun 1648–31 Dec 1723) — 9G Grandfather
Jonas Prescott was captain of the Groton military company at the time of Queen Anne’s War. Green [86–87] records an inspection visit to Prescott’s company by Governor Joseph Dudley on 28 October 1702:
Queen Anne’s War, as it is commonly called in America, broke out in the year 1702, when England declared war against France and Spain; and the American Colonies were drawn into the contest. The Indians in New England were in sympathy with the French; and they kept the frontier settlements continually on the alert. Strict vigilance, on the part of the colonists, was the price of their safety. Military companies were still held under discipline and drill, and from time to time were reviewed by the proper officers. In the year 1702, Chief Justice Samuel Sewall accompanied Governor Joseph Dudley through Middlesex County on a tour of inspection; and in his Diary, under date of October 28, he writes:—
Went to Groton, saw Capt. Prescot and his company in Arms. (Govr had sent to them from Dunstable that would visit them). Lancaster is about 12 Miles Southward from Groton. Concord is 16 Miles ¾ and Ten-Rod from Groton.
[Massachusetts Historical Collections, VI. fifth series, 67.]
The captain of this company was Jonas Prescott, an active man in the affairs of the town. He was a blacksmith by trade, and the ancestor of a long line of distinguished families. He was the grandfather of Colonel William Prescott, the commander of the American forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill; who was himself the father of William Prescott, the lawyer and jurist, and the grandfather of William Hickling Prescott, the historian.
JOHN DAVIS (10 Mar 1664/5–25 Oct 1704) — 8G Grandfather
Killed and scalped by Indians, 25 October 1704. (Is this record confused with that of a Samuel Davis? See Green [88–89] for further details.)
HANNAH (BRACKETT-KINGLSEY) BLANCHARD (bapt. 4 Jan 1634/5–3 Jul 1706) — 9G Grandmother
Killed by Indians in Dunstable, Massachusetts, as part of a large raid on 3 July 1706 in which Elisabeth Cummings (below) was also killed. Nason [35–36] provides this account:
On the night of the 3d of July, 1706, a party of two hundred and seventy Mohawk Indians suddenly assaulted a garrison house, in which Capt. Pearson, of Rowley, and twenty of his “troopers,” who had been ranging in the woods, were posted. The company was taken by surprise, for the door had been left open and no watch appointed. Mr. Cummings and his wife, it is said, had gone out at the close of the day for milking, when the Indians shot Mrs. Cummings dead, wounded her husband and took him captive. Rushing into the house, they were amazed to find it filled with soldiers, as these in turn were astonished to see themselves thus suddenly in the presence of the savages. After a bloody fight, during which several of Capt. Pearson’s men were either killed or wounded, the savages attacked and burned the house of Daniel Galusha, a Dutchman, living on Salmon Brook. Here one woman was killed, and another made her escape from the flames by loosening the stones around a small window, pressing herself through it, and concealing herself in the underbrush until the enemy had withdrawn. It appears, also, that a party of these Indians on the same fatal day entered the garrison house of Nathaniel Blanchard, and murdered himself, his wife Lydia, his daughter Susannah, and also Mrs. Hannah Blanchard.
JOHN CUMMINGS (say 1658–after 1732) — 8G Grandfather
ELISABETH (KINSLEY) CUMMINGS (say 1656–3 Jul 1706) — 8G Grandmother
John Cummings “is probably the John who is designated as ‘Serg’t Cummings,’ and was one of a small garrison in Dunstable established Dec. 25, 1702, under the command of Lt. Col. Jonathan Tyng. It is usually stated that it was the garrison at his own house which was assaulted, July 3, 1706, by a party of two hundred Mohawk Indians. His house stood on the right hand of the road from Dunstable to the present town of Tyngsborough, about a half mile from the former place. The stories of the attack are not harmonious in all particulars. It seems to be agreed that there was a company of soldiers in the garrison at the time and that they were surprised. ‘At sunset a Mr. Cummings and his wife went out to milk their cows and left the gate open. The Indians who had advanced undiscovered, started up, shot Mrs. Cummings dead (“Goody Cummings died July 3, 1706, at night.”) upon the spot, and wounded her husband who had his arm broken, but was so fortunate as to reach the woods while the Indians were engaged in the house. That night he lay in a swamp in the northerly part of Tyngsborough, about a quarter of a mile west of the great road, and a few rods south of the state line. The next day he arrived at the garrison near Tyngsborough Village.’ (1. N.H. Hist. Coll. 133.) He is spoken of as selectman in 1711 and in the same year the house of Mr. John Cummings was reported as one of seven fortified houses in Dunstable, having two families, two males, two soldiers, and twenty-one persons in all” [Cummings 10].
THOMAS TARBELL (6 Jul 1667–8 Oct 1715) — 8G Grandfather
ELIZABETH (WOODS) TARBELL (17 Sep 1665–24 Jan 1717) — 8G Grandmother
The family of Thomas and Elizabeth Tarbell was well-known in the history of early New England. Their children Sarah, John, and Zachariah were kidnapped by Indians on 20 June 1707 and taken to Canada. It was said that they had been up a tree picking cherries, and had no time to get down and escape before they were captured. The daughter Sarah was ransomed by the French and lived with the Sisters of Congregation of Notre Dame at Lachine, where she was baptised as a Catholic on 23 July 1708. The two sons, John and Zachariah, became prominent members of their adoptive tribe, and have many descendants living today among the Mohawk people of southern Canada and adjacent upper New York, particularly in the vicinity of Hogansburg, New York, in the community of Akwesasne. See Green [109–124] for a lengthy account of the history of this family. RJO is a descendant of their second child and son, William, born 1689.
JOHN SHATTUCK (6 Jun 1666–8 May 1709) — 7G Grandfather
This John Shattuck was the eldest son of the John Shattuck noted earlier for his service in King Philip’s War. On 8 May 1709 this John Shattuck and his son John, Green [105–106] reports, “were returning from the west side of the Nashua River, where Mr. Shattuck owned land, and were attacked just as they were crossing the Stony Fordway, near the present site of Hollingsworth’s paper-mills, where they were killed. At the time of his death Mr. Shattuck was one of the selectmen of the town. During the autumn of 1882 Messrs. Tileston and Hollingsworth, of Boston, the owners of the mills, caused a suitable stone to be placed by the wayside, bearing the following inscription:—‘NEAR THIS SPOT | JOHN SHATTUCK, | A SELECTMAN OF GROTON, | AND | HIS SON JOHN | WERE KILLED BY THE INDIANS, | MAY 8, 1709, | WHILE CROSSING STONY FORDWAY, | JUST BELOW THE PRESENT DAM. | 1882.’”
JERATHMEEL BOWERS (2 May 1650–23 Apr 1724) — 9G Grandfather
Jerathmeel Bowers served as a captain in Queen Anne’s War. Green [95–96] records an order he gave to one Samuel Butterfield, who was subsequently captured by Indians and held for over a year. Bowers had earlier service in King William’s War as well.
- Mooar, George. 1903. The Cummings Memorial, A Genealogical History of the Descendants of Isaac Cummings, and Early Settler of Topsfield, Massachusetts. New York: B.F. Cummings.
- Demos, John. 1994. The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America. New York: Knopf.
- Green, Samuel Abbott. 1883. Groton During the Indian Wars. Groton, Massachusetts: Published by the author.
- Nason, Elias. 1877. A History of the Town of Dunstable, Massachusetts. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son.
- Peckham, Howard H. 1964. The Colonial Wars: 1689–1762. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
© RJO 1995–2013