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Narrative of the Remarkable Escape of Widow Elizabeth Heard – Indian Captivities

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Widow Elizabeth Heard ((Mrs. Heard was the widow of a Mr. John Heard. She had five sons, Benjamin, John, Joseph, Samuel and Tristram, and an equal number of daughters. The last named son was waylaid and killed by the Indians in the year 1723. MS. Chronicles of the Indians.)), also taken at the Destruction of Major Waldron‘s Garrison in Dover, as Communicated to Doctor Cotton Mather, by the Rev. John Pike, Minister of the Place.

Mrs. Elizabeth Heard was a widow of good estate, a mother of many children, and a daughter of Mr. Hull, a reverend minister formerly living at Pascataqua, but at this time lived at Quochecho, the Indian name of Dover. Happening to be at Portsmouth on the day before Quochecho was cut off, she returned thither in the night with one daughter and three sons, all masters of families. When they came near Quochecho they were astonished with a prodigious noise of Indians, howling, shooting; shouting, and roaring, according to their manner in making an assault.

Their distress for their families carried them still further up the river, till they secretly and silently passed by some numbers of the raging Indians. They landed about an hundred rods from Major Waldron‘s garrison, and running up the hill, they saw many lights in the windows of the garrison, which they concluded the English within had set up for the direction of those who might seek a refuge there. Coming to the gate, they desired entrance, which not being readily granted, they called earnestly, bounced, knocked, and cried cut to those within of their unkindness, that they would not open the gate to them in this extremity.

No answer being yet made, they began to doubt whether all was well. One of the young men then climbing up the wall saw a horrible tawny in the entry, with a gun in his hand. A grievous consternation seized now upon them, and Mrs. Heard, sitting down without the gate, through despair and faintness, was unable to stir any further; but had strength only to charge her children to shift for themselves, which she did in broken accents; adding also that she must unavoidably there end her days.

Her children, finding it impossible to carry her with them, with heavy hearts forsook her. Immediately after, however, she beginning to recover from her fright, was able to fly, and hide herself in a bunch of barberry bushes, in the garden; and then hastening from thence, because the day light advanced, she sheltered herself, though seen by two of the Indians, in a thicket of other bushes, about thirty rods from the house. She had not been long here before an Indian came towards her, with a pistol in his hand. The fellow came up to her and stared her in the face, but said nothing to her, nor she to him. He went a little way back, and came again, and stared upon her as before, but said nothing; whereupon she asked him what he would have. He still said nothing, but went away to the house, whooping, and returned unto her no more. ((It will doubtless seem surprising to the reader that Mrs. Heard should be suffered to escape captivity, when she was discovered by a grim warrior, who, without doubt, was seeking for some white inhabitant, on whom to wreak his vengeance. The facts seem to be these: Thirteen years before, namely, in 1676, when the four hundred Indians were surprised in Dover, (in a manner not at all doubtful as it respects the character of their captors,) this same Mrs. Heard secreted a young Indian in her house, by which means he escaped that calamitous day. The reader of Indian history will not, now, I presume, harbor surprise at the conduct of the warrior. For the particulars of the event connected with this narrative, see The Book of the Indians, Book iii. Chap. viii. Ed.))

Being thus unaccountably preserved, she made several essays to pass the river, but found herself unable to do it, and finding all places on that side of the river filled with blood and fire, and hideous outcries, she thereupon returned to her old bush, and there poured out her ardent prayers to God for help in this distress.

She continued in this bush until the garrison was burnt, and the enemy had gone, and then she stole along by the river side, until she came to a boom, on which she passed over. Many sad effects of cruelty she saw left by the Indians in her way. She soon after safely arrived at Captain Gerish‘s garrison, where she found a refuge from the storm. Here she also had the satisfaction to understand that her own garrison, though one of the first that was assaulted, had been bravely defended, and successfully maintained against the adversary.

This gentlewoman’s garrison was on the most extreme frontier of the province, and more obnoxious than any other, and therefore more incapable of being relieved. Nevertheless, by her presence and courage, it held out all the war, even for ten years together; and the persons in it have enjoyed very eminent preservations. It would have been deserted, if she had accepted offers that were made her by her friends, to abandon it, and retire to Portsmouth among them, which would have been a damage to the town and land; but by her encouragement this post was thus kept up, and she is yet [1702] living in much esteem among her neighbors.


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