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.

Regicide Jurists in Hadley, MA

In the days when overcoats on sale cost $12.95 and “Laxative Bromo Quinine” was sold 25 cents a box and cured “a cold in one day, grip in 2 days,” William E. Curtis, a special correspondent of the Chicago Record-Herald, wrote an article regarding the fate of two jurists who condemned King Charles I of England to die.

The two jurists in question–“General Wiliam Goffe, son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, and General Edward Whalley, a cousin of the Protector”–had been members of the High Court of Justice, which sentenced King Charles I. After the Restoration, the two fled to the Colonies to escape “keen” royal vengeance. Originally, they settled in Cambridge, MA, then “New Haven, Hartford, and several other places” in efforts to “escape the hangman” who “searched for [them] in every corner of the world except the village of Old Hadley.” It was in this town where, in the winter of 1664, the two jurists “arrived secretly and in disguise.” Both Goff and Whalley stayed with a Reverend John Russell, who was the pastor of the Congregational Church in Hadley, until their deaths in 1679 and 1676, respectively.

According to journalist Curtis, the regicides had to live “in concealment in the parsonage and were not permitted to leave its shelter during the daytime for fear of spies.” The two had been pursued from England to the Colonies and actually journeyed on foot through the Holyoke Mountains “until their pursuers were thrown off the scent and returned to New Haven to try and pick it up again.” During their years in Hadley, Curtis imagined that the lives of the jurists were “lonesome and irksome, notwithstanding the cordial hospitality of Parson Russell and the neighbors who were in his confidence.” The two jurists stayed in a secret compartment in the parsonage attic, only accessible through a trap door. In case of an emergency, the ladder leading to the compartment could be “taken away and concealed,” leaving no evidence “to indicate the existence of a human being above.” A “closet in the cellar… fully stocked with provisions” was a fall-back “retreat for an indefinite time.”

The last incident of note in the history of the regicides in Hadley is best described in Curtis’ own words:

“In September 1675, while the citizens of Hadley were attending a long fast day service, the church was surrounded by a band of Indians. Before the savages could carry out their horrible intention of setting fire to the building, the congregation was warned by a stranger of venerable and commanding appearance wearing old-fashioned English garments and carrying a sword. He assumed command without question and conducted the defense in a military manner, as if he was familiar with warfare, and, under his leadership, the savages were repelled and many of them slaughtered. In the confusion of identifying the bodies of the dead at the close of the battle he suddenly disappeared and was never seen again. The inhabitants of Hadley could not explain the phenomenon except as divine interposition and called their rescuer an angel from God.”