A “Reign of Terror” in Old Hadley

The year was 1675, almost eighty years before the French and Indian War and exactly a hundred years before the American Revolutionary War (29). “King Philip’s War,” or Metacomb’s Rebellion, a conflict between several Native Americans tribes was led by Metacomb, or “King Philip,” and the more recently arrived New England settlers, supported by the Pequot, Mohegan and Niantic tribes.

The supposed intervention of General Goffe in the previous post—as an Angel of God, saving helpless inhabitants from an Indian attack—is debunked in Alice Morehouse Walker’s Historic Hadley: A Story of the Making of a Famous Massachusetts Town, published in 1906. She writes, “the story is based only upon a tradition which has no real foundation,” but nevertheless poignantly describes the fear of the town at the time:

“…the air was full of rumors of war, and the panic-stricken inhabitants lived in constant expectation of slaughter and destruction. We can hardly realize the terror of those days in the unprotected hamlet, when the forests all about seemed filled with the shadows of unseen foes. Again and again, alarmed by some unknown cause, the cattle and horses came rushing into the clearing in a wild stampede, and the women and children hid in the darkest corners of their homes, and held their breaths for fear” (27).

Extrapolating from Walker’s words, losses from the conflict were heavy on both sides. She writes of a Major Pynchon receiving a “warning that five hundred of King Philip’s men were in readiness to fall upon Springfield” but before they could arrive, they saw “afar off the sky red with the flames of thirty-two blazing houses, only thirteen remaining unharmed” (28-29). The New England troops retaliated: “an old squaw was torn to pieces by dogs, and other cruel acts unworthy of a civilized people were committed” (29).

By the end of the war, its “demoralizing” effect had generated much concern and led to increased policing of Hadley town members (36). Certain inhabitants were fined for small transgressions—one had a pack of cards, two others traveled the night before the Sabbath (36-37). A more serious incident involved a young boy, who, after his horse shied from a dog, fell to his death. The grieved parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nash, brought a suit against the owners of the dog, Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin, and the court delivered a verdict which seems incredible now:

“It doth not appeare yt Mr. Goodwin or Mrs. Goodwin had sufficient notice given them of their dog’s curstness or any warning to restrayne their dog, and therefore the Corte doth acquit them, and accounteth Goodman Nash or his wife blameworthy in not having a more strict watch over their son, but letting him goe to fetch ye mare from pasture with such mean tackling” (37).

Following King Philip’s death in 1676, the war concluded, and life presumably settled down once more in Hadley and the surrounding area.

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