Mary Fowler, formerly Mary Woodwell, now living in Canterbury in this state, was born in the town of Hopkinton, in Massachusetts, May 11, 1730. Her parents moved to Hopkinton in this state when she was about twelve years of age, and settled on the westerly side of what is called Putney’s Hill.
On the 22d day of April, in the year 1746, while in the garrison at her father’s house, six Indians, armed with muskets, tomahawks, knives, &c. broke into the garrison and took eight persons while in their beds, viz. the said Mary, her parents, two of her brothers, Benjamin and Thomas, Samuel Burbank, an aged man, and his two sons, Caleb and Jonathan. They carried them through the wilderness to St. Francis in Canada. Here Mary and Jonathan Burbank were detained for the term of three years, (though not in one family,) and the other six were carried prisoners to Quebec, where Burbank, the aged, and Mary’s mother died of the yellow fever in prison. The other four were afterwards exchanged.
The circumstances relative to their being taken were as follows: Ten persons, viz. the eight above mentioned, Samuel Burbank‘s wife and a soldier, were secluded in the garrison for fear of being attacked by the Indians, who had been frequently scouting through Hopkinton and the other adjacent towns. Early on the morning of their captivity, Samuel Burbank left the garrison and went to the barn in order to feed the cattle before the rest were up, leaving the door unfastened. The Indians, who lay near in ambush, immediately sallied forth and took him. From this affrighted captive they got information that the garrison was weak, whereupon they rushed in, and took them all, except the soldier who escaped, and Burbank‘s wife, who secreted herself in the cellar. During this attack Mary’s mother, being closely embraced by a sturdy Indian, wrested from his side a long knife, with which she was in the act of running him through, when her husband prevailed with her to desist, fearing the fatal consequences. However, she secured the deadly weapon, and before they commenced their march threw it into the well, from whence it was taken after the captives returned. Another Indian presented a musket to Mary’s breast, intending to blow her through, when a chief by the name of Pennos, who had previously received numerous kindnesses from her father’s family, instantly, interfered, and kept him from his cruel design, taking her for his own captive.
After having arrived at St. Francis, Pennos sold Mary to a squaw of another family, while J. Burbank continued in some remote part of the neighborhood under his own master. Mary’s father and brothers, after they were exchanged, solicited a contribution for her redemption, which was at last obtained with great difficulty for one hundred livres, through the stratagem of a French doctor; all previous efforts made by her father and brothers having failed. This tender parent, though reduced to poverty by the savages, and having no pecuniary assistance except what he received through the hand of charity from his distant friends, had frequently visited St. Francis in order to have an interview with his only daughter, and to compromise with her mistress, offering her a large sum for Mary’s redemption, but all to no effect. She refused to let her go short of her weight in silver. Moreover, Mary had previously been told by her mistress that if she intimated a word to her father that she wanted to go home with him, she should never see his face again; therefore, when interrogated by him on this subject, she remained silent, through fear of worse treatment; yet she could not conceal her grief, for her internal agitation and distress of mind caused the tears to flow profusely from her eyes. Her father, at length, worn out with grief and toil, retired to Montreal, where he contracted with a Frenchman as an agent to effect, if possible, the purchase of his daughter. This agent, after having attempted a compromise several times in vain, employed a French physician, who was in high reputation among the Indians, to assist him. The doctor, under a cloak of friendship, secretly advised Mary to feign herself sick, as the only alternative, and gave her medicine for the purpose. This doctor was soon called upon for medical aid; and although he appeared to exert the utmost of his skill, yet his patient continued to grow worse. After making several visits to no effect, he at length gave her over as being past recovery, advising her mistress, as a real friend, to sell her the first opportunity for what she could get, even if it were but a small sum; otherwise, said he, she will die on your hands, and you must lose her. The squaw, alarmed at the doctor’s ceremony, and the dangerous appearance of her captive, immediately contracted with the French agent for one hundred livres; whereupon Mary soon began to amend; and was shortly after conveyed to Montreal, where she continued six months longer among the French waiting for a passport.
Thus after having been compelled to three years’ hard labor in planting and hoeing corn, chopping and carrying wood, pounding samp, gathering cranberries and other wild fruit for the market, &c., this young woman was at length redeemed from the merciless hands and cruel servitude of the savages, who had not only wrested her from her home, but also from the tender embraces of her parents, and from all social intercourse with her friends.
Jonathan Burbank was redeemed about the same time became an officer, and was afterwards killed by the Indians in the French war. These sons of the forest supposing him to have been Rogers, their avowed enemy, rushed upon him and slew him without ceremony, after he had given himself up as a prisoner of war.
After six months’ detention among the French at Montreal, Mary was conveyed (mostly by water) to Albany by the Dutch, who had proceeded to Canada in order to redeem their black slaves, whom the Indians had previously taken and carried thither; from thence she was conducted to the place of her nativity, where she continued about five years, and was married to one Jesse Corbett, by whom she had two sons. From thence they moved to Hopkinton in this state, to the place where Mary had been taken by the Indians. Corbett, her husband, was drowned in Almsbury River, (now Warner River,) in Hopkinton, in the year 1759, in attempting to swim across the river was carried down into the Contoocook, thence into the Merrimack, and was finally taken up in Dunstable with his clothes tied fast to his head. Mary was afterwards married to a Jeremiah Fowler, by whom she had five children. She is now living in Canterbury, in the enjoyment of good health and remarkable powers of mind, being in the ninety-third year of her age. The foregoing narrative was written a few weeks since as she related it.