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The Attack at Oyster River

The sound of the shot echoed all along the river, prematurely signaling the start of the attack. The parties close to the falls were in position, but those whose targets were further down river had yet to reach them. This provided an opportunity for some settlers to escape or prepare for defense. The units not yet in position hastened toward their targets, pitching into whatever they came across. The carefully constructed plan quickly degenerated into wholesale slaughter.

The attack on the south bank of the Oyster River was pressed with brutal ferocity. The family of Stephen and Ann Jenkins tried to escape the carnage by fleeing into their cornfield. In a June 1695 deposition, Mrs. Jenkins described what happened: "in the morning about the dawning of the day my husband being up went out of the dore, and presently returning cried to me and our children to run for our lives, for the Indians had beset the town: whereupon my husband and myself fled with our children into our cornfield, & at our entrance into the field, Bomazeen, whome I have seen since . . . , came towards us and about ten Indians more: & the sd Bomazeen then shot at my husband and shote him down, ran to him & struck him three blows on the head with a hatchet, scalped him & run him three times with a bayonet. I also saw the said Bomazeen knock one of my children on the head & tooke of [f]her scalp & then put the child into her father's armes; and then stabbed the breast. And Bomazeen also then killed my husband's grandmother and scalped her." [119]Bomazeen took Ann and her remaining children captive. Binding them securely, he moved on to the next home.

The Drew garrison was the next to be struck. Francis Drew, the patriarch, made a dash for the Adams garrison to seek help, but was easily captured. He was bound and dragged back to within sight of his home, which he then surrendered on the promise of quarter. The promise of quarter was not upheld. Francis Drew was summarily tomahawked as his family was taken captive. Francis' wife was eventually abandoned by her captors and left to die in the woods. Nine year old Benjamin Drew was forced to run a gauntlet of Indians as a moving target for their tomahawks. Struck repeatedly, he could run no more. [120]Thomas Drew and his wife, Tamsen, were also taken prisoner. In 1698, Tamsen testified to her experience: "they heard a great Tumult and Noise of firing of Guns which awakened her out of her sleep, and she understanding that the Indians were in arms & had encompassed the House, willing to make her escape, she endeavored & att last got out the window and fled, but the Indians firing fast after her she returned to the House and her father-in-law [Francis Drew]took [her]by the hand and haled her into the House again, where upon she endeavored to get out at another window, but the Indians had besett that, so she returned to the other room where her friends were, and the window of that Room being open an Indian named Bombazine [Bomazeen]caught hold of her Arm and pulled her out att the Window & threw her violently upon the ground, she being then with child." [121]Tamsen's captors killed the child a short time after birth. However, after some four years of captivity, Tamsen was reunited with her husband.

Beyond the Drew garrison, near the mouth of the river, stood the garrison of Charles Adams. A party of warriors had just finished moving into position when they heard the shot that killed John Dean. They gained entry to the house undetected. In an instant, the warriors set upon the sleeping family. Within minutes, Charles Adams and fourteen members of his household had been tomahawked in their beds. The only survivor was a daughter named Mercy. Her captors carried her to Canada, where she remained for the rest of her life. [122]

Thomas Bickford's garrison was just a few hundred yards from the Adams home. Awakened by the sounds of battle, Bickford quickly saw what was happening to the Adams family. Gathering his family together, he led them down to the shoreline, where he saw them safely off by boat to join other refugees gathering across the bay at Fox Point. Determined not to let the Indians have their way, Bickford returned to his home and made preparations to defend it, alone. As daylight came, Thomas could see his attackers as they advanced. An English-speaking warrior, taking cover behind a stonewall, demanded that Thomas surrender. The Indian promised safety if Thomas accepted, or death by torture if he declined. In as many voices as he could fabricate, Bickford shouted insults back in defiance. As the shooting commenced, Thomas ran from window to window changing his clothes at each one. By appearing in different outfits, snapping off shots, and shouting orders to an invisible army, Bickford managed to give the impression that a well armed-garrison was held up in there with him. Losing heart, his attackers withdrew and left him in peace. [123]

The people on the north side of the river fared a little better than their fellow settlers on the south bank. The Beard garrison, near where Beard's Creek empties into the Oyster River, was attacked at the opening shot. The original owner, William Beard, had been killed by Indians during King Philip's War. His son-in-law, Edward Leathers, lived in the house, along with the rest of the family. At the first shot, Edward was able to barricade the front door, and with the rest of the family, slipped out the back before the entire Indian squad could attack. In their attempt to reach the safety of the Jones garrison, the family members were pursued and cut down in flight. Edward and his son William were the only ones who made it into the garrison. [124]

The Jones garrison occupied a good defensive position along the west side of Jones Creek. Sometime after midnight, Jones was awakened by the sound of his dog barking. Believing wolves were after his hogs, he went out to secure them. Finding nothing amiss, he returned to the house, taking care to make sure that everything was locked up. During the whole time, Jones was under the watchful eyes of Indian warriors hiding in the bushes. The signal had not yet been given, so they left him unmolested. A little while later, still feeling that something was not right, Jones again got out of bed. He climbed up into the flankart (a type of tower) and sat on the wall. After a few minutes, he heard the shot at the falls. Turning in that direction, he caught sight of the flash of a musket close at hand. Instinctively, Jones fell back into the flankart just as the musket ball struck the perch he had been sitting on. Since he had previously secured the house, the Indians were prevented from entering. Jones roused the rest of the household and mounted a desperate defense. After a few hours of hard fighting, the Indians withdrew without inflicting any casualties on those in the garrison. [125]

Downriver from the Jones garrison stood the Bunker, Smith, and Davis garrisons. The distances between these fortified houses were much greater than the distances between the garrisons on the south side. The warriors sent to attack these homes had much further to travel to get into position. The families inhabiting these garrisons were able to prepare and repelled several spirited assaults. All three garrisons were successfully defended with no loss of life. [126]

On a neck of land on the shore of Little Bay, directly opposite Fox Point, stood the garrison house of John Meader. The Meader family could see the flames from the burning houses steadily advancing in their direction. Taking stock of the situation, they found that they did not possess enough powder or shot to mount a successful defense. Locking the house up as best they could, the Meader family boarded a boat and crossed over to Fox Point. Many accounts tell of them stepping out of the boat and turning around to see their home go up in flames. [127]This is doubtful because soldiers impressed at Hampton were quartered in Meader's garrison in the days following the attack. [128]

At the prearranged time, the smaller parties disengaged and reunited at the Falls. Once everyone was together, they proceeded to move en masse upon the Woodman garrison. The garrison stood in a truly formidable position, occupying a hill nearly surrounded by creeks and ravines. The warriors found Captain Woodman well prepared to meet them. To give the impression that a strong company of militia defended the garrison, Woodman set a bunch of hats on sticks. The sticks were then positioned in such a manner as to look like soldiers. The Indians fired on these fake soldiers, doing very little damage to the garrison. [129]

Seeing that any further attempts would be futile, the Indians decided that they were satisfied with the day's work. It seems that Villieu's only real contribution to the attack was to apprise his companions of the possible danger that they would be in if they stayed much longer. Villieu as leery of being surprised by a pursuing force bent on revenge. Thury conducted a brief mass, asking God to reward his charges for their valiant efforts. The war-party then withdrew to a nearby hill where they could safely sleep until the next day. [130]The following morning, they deed for the return trip to Pennacook, leaving a ruined settlement in their wake. [131]The people Oyster River Plantation were left to mourn their losses and bury their dead.

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