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Culture Conflict - Ebenezer Hall of Matinicus Island - 1757
Here we present two different perspectives of the same event.
The death of Ebenezer Hall in the year 1757, during the French & Indian War (1754-1763).
We at Ne-Do-Ba present you with these differing accounts of the event, not to pass judgement on Euroamericans of the time nor to put the Wabanaki People on a pedestal, but to teach you about research. Local, county, state, and regional histories are a wonderful place to start your research, but you must always keep in mind that they are written by Euroamericans about Euroamericans and are seldom "the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
We admit that we originally fell for the trap - accepting the first account which shows no previous involvement between Hall and his Native neighbors and finding no value for the Island except as a stepping stone in a travel route. Shame on us!!! Please learn from our mistake. Don't be willing to accept the first account you find of a person or event. Truth seldom comes without a price. Be willing to go beyond - the price may be high, but TRUTH is always worthy of our efforts.
On this page you will see a demonstration of one way our History has been shaped by historians to fit a Euroamerican viewpoint.
Our lesson begins when we noticed an Internet friend was a descendant of Ebenezer Hall "killed by Indians on Matinicus Island". We decided to look into this a bit and turned up the following account of Mr. Hall.
Transcribed by N. Lecompte for Ne-Do-Ba from;
"The History of the State of Maine; From its First Discovery (1602) to the Separation (1820), Inclusive" by William D. Williamson, Volume 2 (1832). Pg. 326-327
On the 1st of June, a party of Indians beset the dwelling house of Ebenezer Hall, on the Island of Matinicus, containing his wife and a young family of two sons, three daughters, and a son-in-law. He was a man of courage, and some destination, having been a lieutenant at the reduction of Cape Breton. The attacks were renewed several days, and the house resolutely defended by him and his wife, at the imminent hazard of their lives, until the 10th; when he was killed, his house broken up, rifled of its contents, and reduced to ashes. The brave Hall was then scalped, and his wife and children carried into captivity. At some place up the river Penobscot, she underwent the painful trial of being sperated from them; -thence compelled to take up the tedious journey to Quebec. The fair captive was a woman of piety and charms, which attracted every eye. Captivated by her uncommon abilities and beauty, Capt. Andrew Watkins, in a spirit of honor and generosity, paid her ransom, amounting to 215 livres, and finding a vessel bound to England, procured a passage for her thither. From that country she re-crossed the Atlantic, returning by way of New York to Falmouth, after an absence of 13 months. But notwithstanding her inquires were pursued for her captive children, through a long life, with energetic perseverance which marked her character, she never could gain the least knowledge of either. A son of 12 years old, by a former husband, Mr. Greene, who was in the house when it was assailed, escaped and hid himself, till the savages were gone; and after three days, he ventured with an old canoe into the bay, where he was taken on board of a vessel. Subsequent to the war, his mother and he returned to the Island, and dwelt there till her death*.
*He was living, A.D. 1825, aged 80, on one of the Fox Islands. His mother, Mary Hall, also lived to a great age - N[orM?]S. Letter - 11 Jour.House of Rep. p.236.
An interesting and somewhat typical account of an Indian raid on a poor settler, filled with bravery, romance, and hardship. Just what any descendant would like to hear about an ancestor that was "killed by Indians".
Now this Internet friend asked
"... why Indians would attack an Island 15 miles into the Atlantic? Was this their ancestral home, fishing or hunting grounds? Such a remote island would have little value that I can see."
Checking a few resources, we found nothing specific about the Island, but knew that the Wabanaki used coastal islands as stops along their travel routes and that this event occurred during a period of war. Our reply included some general background and stated,
"The Island was probably part of the Native coastal travel route. Most likely he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Well, some time after that we came across another account of Mr. Hall, which provided some interesting background information and a very different perspective of this event based on documentation. And we were reminded of our earlier laziness. We are indebted to the work of Emma Lewis Coleman and C. Alice Baker, for their dedication to discovering TRUTH and their willingness to put it in print for future generations.
Transcribed by N. Lecompte for Ne-Do-Ba from;
"New England Captives Carried to Canada; Between 1677 and 1760 During the French and Indian Wars" by Emma Lewis Coleman, originally printed 1925, reprinted 1989 by Heritage Books, Inc. Vol.II, pg. 278-281
Matinicus Island - "Beautiful Isle of the Sea." 1757, June 10
HALL, THE FAMILY OF EBENEZER
Marah (Bloom), his second wife, had previously married David Green, who was killed at Louisburg. She married Ebenezer in the summer of 1746.
Taken with her were four children; Sarah Green (Joseph Green, older, escaped), Peter, Phebe and Tabitha Hall. With these names, which she later sent to the secretary's office, (65) was that of Benjamin Magrage. Was he, perhaps, employed by Hall "in the fishing business"?
Ebenezer had a son of the same name, b. 1736. (66)
Williamson gives to Ebenezer a better character than can be accepted by what follows. He calls him "a man of courage and some distinction having been a Lieutenant at the reduction of Cape Breton."
The story of disaster begins, according to the affidavit of one of his men, in the summer of 1751 when two Indians came to the island and Hall, aided by his son, shot both and buried them in his garden. He burned their canoe and kept their guns. Another story is that Hall burned over a small island (Green's) that he might have better hay and paid no heed to the Indians' warning not to repeat the offense.
In October of the next year, at a grand conference at the truckhouse, Colonel Louis, a Penobscot chief - the Indians loved titles - complained that "one Hall and family, who live at Matinicus interrupt us in our killing seals, and in our fowling; they have no right to be there; the land is our own." Perhaps it was at this time that the Indians sent a letter to Boston, which is not found in our Archives, but on 25 April, 1753, another was forwarded from Fort Richmond by Captain Lithgow to Lieutenant-Governor Phips saying: "Brother, you did not hearken to us about the Englishman on the Island, he hurts us in our Seiling & fowling ; its our livelihood & yours too, for what we get we bring to your Truck house, we don't hinder him from fishing & if you don't Remove him in two months, we shall be obliged to do it ourselves. We have writ to you before and have had no Answer, if you don't answer to this we shant write again, its our Custom if our Letters are not answered not to Write again, but if you please we will bring a Living Letter. I salute you and all the Council . . .
In behalf of the Penobscot Tribe."
signed by four sachems." (67)
Then Massachusetts did "hearken," and His Honour was "desired to give orders that the Englishmen gott on Montinicus Island be Emediately removed from thence he having no right to sd island." (68)
And next we find an undated, rough draft of a warrant to be given probably to Lithgow: "You are therefore hereby required when you arrive at St. Georges River to go over to said Island of Matinicus & take the said Ebenezer Hall & his said son into your custody & bring them safe to Boston that so they may Answer before me & his Majestys Council for their contempt in Disobeying the orders of the Governor & likewise that you remove the said Family of the said Ebenezer from the island of Matinicus." (69) This shows that a previous effort to right the wrong had been made. So far as known this one accomplished nothing, but whether or no anything happened the Indians waited not two months, as they threatened, but four years before they brought the "Living Letter" and "Removed" the Englishman.
The widow Mary's petition, dated 14 Jan., 1760, (70) tells the manner of the removal. In June, 1757, the Indians beset the house, which her husband resolutely defended several days, but on the tenth, he was killed, the house broken up & rifled, she and four children carried away. First to the Penobscot, where she was separated from her children, "and has not seen nor heard any Thing of them since." She was then taken to Quebec, where having tarried some time, she interceded with one Capt. Andrew Watkins, a New England Gentleman, then a prisoner to pay her ransom, which he did. She then took passage to England and thence to New York, having been absent about eighteen months. Now she is called upon by the widow of sd Mr. Watkins for the money and having nothing to pay it with, nor anywhere to put her Head nor anything to subsist on, she begs for compassion and makes her mark. She was certainly at home in September, 1758, when she sends the names of her children to the secretary's office. They were probably lost among the Indians.
A local account adds some details to Mrs. Hall's story. When the Indians came the two Ebenezers were away fishing, and as the younger is not mentioned he probably did not come back with his father, whose return was the signal to attack. Hall within the house, when "near the door and parleying" was instantly killed. His wife threw open the door and asked for quarter, but she and the children were carried up the river in their own schooner.
Joseph Green, who was about twelve years old, escaped by hiding, and after he had "lived for a week on the milk of the family cow" put out into the bay in an old canoe and was picked up by a passing vessel, whose captain tarried long enough to bury Hall before he took the boy to Camden. The boy when a man lived on Green Island.
The General Court neglected Mrs. Hall's appeal of 1760 and Jane, the widow of Captain Watkins, sent in her Memorial.(71) She does not say as does Williamson that Mrs. Hall was "a woman of piety and charms which attracted every eye," and that Captain Watkins "was captivated by her uncommon abilities and beauty," but only that she was "a poor woman her husband had helped." He, taken at Oswego, was long detained in Canada and was then sent to France where he died of smallpox. While in Canada he obtained credit from some English gentlemen of fortune, who were fellow-prisoners, and used it, "not only for his own Subsistance; But also to ransome Several of his Poor Country people, who he found in Captivity there. That among them was a poor woman, one Mary Hall, belonging to the Eastern part of this province for whose ransom he paid 213 liv 15 sols which is 12, 16, 6 Lawful money . . . for which your petitioner has received nothing, nor is it likely she ever will. The said Mary Hall having lost her Husband in the present warr & by that means is reduced to the lowest state of Indigence." The Court paid the full amount.
Mary's charms did not leave her; she captivated Chipman Cobb and married him in 1765, moved from Portland to Gorham about 1775, and died there in her ninetieth year. (72)
(65) Massachusetts Archives 77, 657
(66) "Bangor Hist. Mag.," 7, 117
(67) Massachusetts Archives 32, 353
(68) In Council, 13 June, 1753. Massachusetts Archives 32, 364
(69) Massachusetts Archives 32, 412
(70) Massachusetts Archives 78, 757
(71) Massachusetts Archives 80, 190, dated 24 April, 1762
(72) "Bangor Hist. Mag.," 7, 117
NOW - here we see a substantially different picture! Documentation shows Wabanaki People trying to live up to previous treaty agreements by making use of proper channels to settle conflicts. They put forth a fair argument for Hall's removal and point out why this would also be in the best interest of the colonists - ie trade profits. They warn of their willingness to take this matter into their own hands if the authorities ignore their concerns, demonstrating that this matter is of great importance to them. We also see some attempt by the government to live up to it's obligations, but the attempt appears to fall short, for whatever reason. Discovering additional documents may shed some light on whether or not Mr. Hall was ever actually removed from the island or whether he obtained legal right (by colonial law) to remain there. In any event, he maintains a home on the island with his family in 1757 and the "Indians" have shown reason to remove him. He was disruptive to important Native subsistence patterns, apparently had little concern for "Indian rights", and was possibly a murderer who escaped justice. This is not at all like the man or event described in the first account!
Upon receiving this new information about Mr. Hall, our friend had this to say
"Well, I suspected that not all of my ancestors were of upstanding character ... I'll add your information to mine, to give history some balance ..."
We applaud our friend for being willing to accept alternate perspectives with grace.
If there is anyone out there who has additional information concerning the life or death of Mr. Hall or the history of Matinicus Island, we encourage you to contribute your material to this page. We also encourage anyone that finds this event of interest to do some more digging. There are still many holes to be filled before we can truly understand this series of events.