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Full text of "John Chamberlain, the Indian fighter at Pigwacket"

THE 



MAGAZINE OF HISTORY 



WITH 



NOTES AND QUERIES 



SExtra Numfor No. 5 



COMPRISING 

THE EXPEDITIONS OF CAPTAIN JOHN LOVE- 
WELL AND HIS ENCOUNTERS WITH THE 
INDIANS Frederick Kidder 

(ACCOUNT OF LOVEWELL S EXPEDITIONS, 

" 

Samuel Penhallow 
[JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, THE INDIAN FIGHTER, 

AT PIGWACKET - - - George W. Chamberlain, B. S. 



WILLIAM ABBATT 



141 EAST 25TH STREET, 



NEW YORK 



1909 



JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, 



THE INDIAN FIGHTER AT PIGWACKET 



Prepared by 

GEORGE W. CHAMBERLAIN, B. s., 

"> \ 

Member of the Maine Historical Society. 
Author of "Soldiers of the American Revolution of Lebanon, Maine,"* &c. 



WEYMOUTH, MASS. 
1898. 

Reprinted 

NEW YORK 

WILLIAM ABBATT 

1909 
(Being Extra No. 5 of The Magazine of History With Notes and Queries.) 



JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, THE INDIAN FIGHTER AT 

PIGWACKET 

SEVERAL historical writers in the vicinity of Boston have 
given to the public, during the years 1895 and 1896, long 
discussions relative to the part performed by John Chamber 
lain, of Groton, while under the command of Captain John Love- 
well in the Pigwacket fight of 1725. 

It is the purpose of this paper to give a summary of the 
life of this man in general, and of his part at the Pigwacket fight 
in particular. 

Born in the town of Chelmsford, March 29, 1692, he was 
the eldest child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Hall) Chamberlain, 
who lived first in Chelmsford, but later in Groton. His life had 
its beginning in the earlier half of the Indian war period of New 
England (1675-1725). 

His grandfather, Thomas Chamberlain of Chelmsford, who 
was both senior and junior, was a soldier in King Philip s war, 
being stationed at the frontier garrison in Groton on November 
30, 1675. He was probably the Thomas Chamberlain who served 
in Syll s Company and also in Poole s Company in 1676. Thomas, 
the father, and Thomas, the grandfather, were both stationed at 
the garrison in Chelmsford on March 16, 1691-92. 

In 1697, when John Chamberlain had reached the age of five, 
he first listened to the story of the capture of Hannah Dustin at 
Haverhill, less than twenty-five miles from his home. At the 
fireside he often heard rehearsed her heroic bravery in scalping her 
captors on the island at Penacook. In 1702, he was thrilled by news 
of the massacre of the Rev. Thomas Weld, the first minister of old 
Dunstable, within ten miles of his own home. 

[Reprinted from the Quarterly of the Maine Historical Society for January, 1898, 
with additions]. 

John Chamberlain was not the author s ancestor. 

Ill 



112 MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 

In 1704, in the same year that the fearful slaughter at Deer- 
field occurred, the Indians carried their guerrilla warfare into 
Groton, where they killed one or two men in the southwesterly part 
of the town. On May 8, 1706, at a town meeting held in Groton, 
" Thay ded by uot [vote] declare they would and doe desire Thomas 
Chamberill [Iain s] mill may bee uphelde by a solgar or solgars for 
the good of the town." Therefore, John Chamberlain was cradled 
and reared in the midst of Indian warfare and vigilant defense. 

Of his education nothing is known except that his signature 
to a petition to the judge of probate for Middlesex County was 
plainly written. It was probably as good as that of the average 
man of that time. 

Thomas Chamberlain, the father, removed from Chelmsford 
to Groton before March 10, 1699. He was a wheelwright, and on 
the last-mentioned date bought of John Cadey, Sr., fifty acres of 
land at " Baddacook " by " Brown Loafe Brooke," near " Cow- 
pond Medow " in Groton. The inventory of his estate was taken 
March 30, 1710. On the preceding day John Heald of Concord 
was appointed guardian to "John, son of Thomas Chamberlain, 
late of Groton, a minor in ye 18th yeare of his age." In 1713, 
John Chamberlain reached his majority, and on June 30 of that 
year the estate of his father was settled. Abigail, the widow (who 
was the second wife), received her dower. John received "two- 
thirds of the mill, housing, stream and lands in Groton," condi 
tional upon his paying the other ten children 2, 17s., 6d. each. 
Here at a place called " Baddacook," a little southeast of the vil 
lage of old Groton, John Chamberlain lived from 1699 to 1729. 

On September 4, 1724, Thomas Blanchard and Nathan Cross, 
both of old Dunstable, were captured within the limits of the city 
of Nashua, New Hampshire, by a band of Indians, who carried 
them captives into Canada. A small party of Dunstable men pur 
suing the Indians some distance up the Merrimack valley, the 
entire party was killed excepting Josiah Farwell. For this reason 
John Lovewell, Josiah Farwell and Jonathan Robbins, all of Dun- 
stable, petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts for leave to 

112 



MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 113 

raise a company "to keep out in the woods for several months 
together in order to kill and destroy their enemy Indians." Their 
petition was granted November 17, 1724, and they were promised 
for each male scalp brought in one hundred pounds, which, accord 
ing to Kidder, was equivalent to one hundred and thirty-six dollars. 

John Lovewell, a son of John Lovewell (who by some 
authorities is said to have been first of Weymouth), a native of 
old Dunstable, was commissioned captain, and conducted three 
expeditions northward in quick succession. John Chamberlain, how 
ever, is not named in the list of the sixty-two men of the second ex 
pedition, but all agree that he was one of the forty-six men who 
started on the third expedition, and that he was one of the thirty- 
three who met and resisted more than twice their number of In 
dians on the north shore of what is now LovewelFs pond in the 
town of Fryeburg, Maine, on May 8, 1725, O. S. 

Four accounts of this fight were published within one and 
one-half years of its occurrence. The first and second, published 
on the seventeenth and twenty-fourth of May, 1725, in the Boston 
News-Letter and the New England Courant respectively, make 
no mention of Paugus, the chief of the Pigwacket tribe, nor of 
any of the surviving English except Ensign Seth Wyman, who 
took command on the death of Capt. Lovewell, Lieut. Farwell 
and Ensign Robbins, near the beginning of the engagement. 
Wyman had returned to Boston and been granted a captain s com 
mission by the Lieutenant-Governor, William Dummer, before 
May 24, 1725. The New England Courant of that date states 
that " His Honour the Lieut.-Governour has been pleased to grant 
a Captain s commission to Lieut. Wyman, who distinguished 
himself with great courage and conduct during the whole engage 
ment." The other accounts were written by the Rev. Thomas 
Symmes of Bradford, Massachusetts, and by Judge Samuel Pen- 
hallow of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Each of these accounts 
is invaluable; both say that Paugus, the chief of the Pigwacket 
tribe, was killed during the action, but neither state by whom the 
deed was done. 

us 



114 MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 

If John Chamberlain killed the old chief, the evidence of such 
fact rests entirely upon widely disseminated traditions. If Ensign 
Seth Wyman performed the act resulting in the death of that 
"vile and bloody wretch," as Penhallow calls the chief, the evi 
dence for such conclusion is found in an anonymous ballad of un 
certain age and veracity; and I am asked to choose between 
Scylla and Charybdis. 

The Chamberlain-Paugus tradition was first published at 
Fryeburg, Maine, in the year 1799, by Elijah Russell in his edi 
tion of Rev. Thomas Symmes s "Memoirs of the Fight at Pigg- 
wacket." It runs as follows: 

Several of the Indians, particularly Paugus, their chief, were 
well known to Lovewell s men, and frequently conversed with each 
other during the engagement. In the course of the battle Paugus 
and John Chamberlain discoursed familiarly with each other ; their 
guns had become foul from frequent firing ; they washed their 
guns at the pond, and the latter assured Paugus that he should 
kill him ; Paugus also menaced him, and bid defiance to his insinu 
ations. When they had prepared their guns they loaded and dis 
charged them, and Paugus fell. 

This story was printed seventy-four years after the battle 
occurred, and one year after Noah Johnson, the last survivor of 
the battle, had died. Was this story a fabrication invented by 
Elijah Russell? Did it exist before 1799 in other parts of New 
England? Does it contain any of the elements of truth? 

In 1846, the Rev. Stephen Thompson Allen delivered an his 
torical address at the centennial anniversary of the town of Merri- 
mack, New Hampshire. In that address, which has the appear 
ance of being truthful and scholarly, he alludes to one of the early 
settlers of that town, a man whom I have traced in the state 
and provincial papers of New Hampshire as a provincial repre 
sentative of Merrimack from 1756 to 1775 inclusive. That man 
was Capt. John Chamberlain, who erected the first mills at 
" Souhegan Falls" in 1734. He was a large land owner at 



MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 115 

"Souhegan Falls," "Natticook," "Benton s Farm," and "Narra- 
ganset Township No. 5." 

In his address Mr. Allen says: 

It is by many supposed that this Chamberlain is the same 
that killed Paugus, the Indian chief in LovewelPs fight. But such 
is not the fact. They were cousins, and from a descendant of the 
family I learn that to distinguish them from each other, one was 
called " Paugus John " and the other " Souhegan John." 

Continuing, Mr. Allen says: 

Souhegan John Chamberlain married [Hannah] a daughter 
of Lieut. [Josiah] Farwell, who died of wounds received in Love- 
well s fight. Souhegan John Chamberlain lived until the year 
1792. 

Mr. Allen learned these facts of a descendant of " Souhegan " 
John, and published them within fifty-two years of his death. If 
they are true they show what? That Paugus John Chamberlain 
was so called during his lifetime. Is it reasonable to suppose that 
the name " Paugus " should have been affixed after the year 1799 
to John Chamberlain, who had then been dead forty- four years? 
If it was not affixed ofter 1799, but was an appellation of his 
lifetime, it could not have had its origin in Elijah Russell, but 
must have originated from some other source. 

But Souhegan John Chamberlain s wife Hannah was the 
daughter of Lieut. Josiah and Hannah (Lovewell) Farwell. Her 
father was killed in the Pigwacket fight, as also was her uncle, 
her mother s brother, the intrepid Capt. John Lovewell. May we 
not believe that this woman frequently heard the incidents of the 
battle related by those who were eye-witnesses, and may we not 
suppose that she had more than a passing interest in every par 
ticular, especially as her father and her uncle both fell on the bat 
tlefield? May we not also suppose that she knew that Paugus 
John Chamberlain was so called because he shot Paugus? 

115 



116 MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 

In 1890, I found a tradition in the Chamberlain family con 
cerning the origin of that family in America. It was told by 
one Jacob Chamberlain of Chelsea to his wife before 1735. About 
1777 she related it to her grandson, Gen. William Chamberlain 
of Peacham, Vermont, once a lieutenant-governor of that state. 
He wrote it down in 1820. After six years of research on the 
earlier families of the name, I am prepared to say that that tradi 
tion contains some of the elements of truth, but is not literally 
true. A correspondence and acquaintance with several genealo 
gists have brought to my attention other family traditions, not 
true in letter, but resting on the foundation of more or less truth. 
From these facts I am led to believe that traditions of long stand 
ing contain some of the elements of truth. 

The story of John Chamberlain would seem to have come 
to us from other sources. Caleb Butler, a native of Pelham, New 
Hampshire, a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1800,, and a 
tutor there in 1801, removed to Groton in 1802. After many 
years of research he published his History of Groton in 1848. 
On page 104 he gives the story of John Chamberlain and Paugus, 
mentioning in a foot-note his authorities. As the story is some 
what different from Russell s, I give it in Butler s words: 

Some time in the day the gun of John Chamberlain, of Groton, 
becoming foul by continued firing, he undertook to wash and 
cleanse it at the pond. While in this act, he espied Paugus, whom 
he personally knew, performing the same process upon his gun at 
a small distance. A challenge was immediately given and ac 
cepted, each confiding in his own dexterity, and predicting the 
speedy fall of his antagonist. Chamberlain, trusting to the 
priming of his gun by a thump on the ground, had time to take 
deliberate aim, while Paugus was priming from his horn. Cham 
berlain s ball reached Paugus s heart just as he was in the act of 
firing. His ball passed over Chamberlain s head. 

Notice how Butler continues: 

After this event there was a short respite. The Indians 

116 



MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 117 

withdrew. Ensign Wyman and Chamberlain crept unperceived 
after them, and found them formed in a circle around one in the 
center, whom there were qualifying, it was supposed, for a chief 
instead of the deceased Paugus. Wyman fired and killed this 
intended chief. Then both hastened back to their fellows at the 
pond. 

Compare the above paragraph with one sentence of the New 
England Courant, of May 24, 1725, already referred to. It 
reads: "About two hours before night the Indians drew off, and 
presently came on again." One cannot help thinking that Butler s 
relation contains some truth. 

As to authorities, his foot-note states that the general account 
of the fight was taken from printed sources, and some of the inci 
dents were from the lips of the wife of Josiah Johnson, one of the 
men. In the same connection he writes that this woman was thir 
teen years old when the battle was fought, that she lived in Wo- 
burn, where Johnson belonged, and afterwards married him. " In 
the latter part of her life," continues Butler, " she lived in my 
father s family [at Pelham], often told the story, and always told 
it alike, agreeing with the printed account in general and adding 
some particulars." From Butler s statement as to how he ob 
tained the list of Lovewell s men, it is inferred that he never saw 
Russell s edition of Symmes s " Memoirs." 

It seems to me that we are warranted in concluding that this 
story was not a fabrication invented by Elijah Russell, a news 
paper editor of uncertain character. If we accept Butler, may we 
not see that the part performed by Seth Wyman and the part 
performed by John Chamberlain would, in the absence of positive 
statements, end in confusion. 

In 1824, ninety-nine years after the battle, and twenty-five 
years after the Chamberlain-Paugus story had first been pub 
lished in the Russell edition of Symmes s "Memoirs of the 
Fight," Farmer and Moore published at Concord, New Hamp 
shire, in the third volume of their " Historical Collections " a bal 
lad entitled "The Song of LoveweTs Fight." It is here stated 

117 



118 MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 

that Seth Wyman " shot the old chief Paugus which did the foe 
defeat." In their introductory note the editors affirm that the 
author of the ballad is unknown, that it is about one hundred 
years old, and that is was sung throughout a considerable portion 
of New Hampshire and Massachusetts for many years. 

If Wyman shot Paugus, and many throughout New Hamp 
shire and Massachusetts sang this ballad for many years, why 
did not the old people ascribe to Wyman this fact? Why did 
Wyman s neighbors accord that act not to their own townsman 
who had received praises from the newspapers and a captain s 
commission from the commonwealth but to John Chamberlain, 
a private? Why did not Sarah Wyman, the widow of Seth 
Wyman, in her petition to the Great and General Court in 1726, 
in giving the particulars of her husband s military record, inci 
dentally refer to his Paugus combat if the ballad story were true? 

As early as 1865, Frederic /Kidder in his " Expeditions of 
Capt. John Lovewell," asserted that the ballad is true, and that 
not John Chamberlain but another slew Paugus. In his sketch 
of John Chamberlain he gives these facts. Why did he not in his 
biographical sketch of Seth Wyman accord to him the honor which 
he denied to Chamberlain? Did it seem to Mr. Kidder that the 
ballad, which he would have his readers believe is the "very best 
authority," is strong enough for a destructive argument against 
the Chamberlain-Paugus story; but that it was not of sufficient 
strength for a constructive argument for his Wyman-Paugus 
theory? Consistency seems to require that Wyman should have 
had not only a widely-extended tradition among the common peo 
ple of such fact, but that his biography should also have con 
tained such a statement. The New England Courant of Septem 
ber 11, 1725, gives ten lines on the death of Wyman. Why did 
it not refer to the killing of Paugus, if by that Wyman did defeat 
the foe? 

When it is remembered that a great poet, a renowned pro 
fessor in the most learned university of America, in writing what 
has become classic, places Priscilla, the wife of John Alden, for 

118 



MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 119 

her wedding tour upon a "snow-white bull" before any cattle 
had been brought to the Plymouth Colony, the immortal Long 
fellow cannot be excepted in stating that poetry, however beau 
tiful, is not historic truth. 

What value, then, shall we place upon a single statement 
of an anonymous ballad first published ninety-nine years after the 
battle it describes occurred? One statement of the ballad is con 
trary to iall contemporary accounts, viz., that by the death of 
Paugus the foe was defeated. Since this ballad is untruthful 
in one fact, may we not consider it untrustworthy on every fact 
not corroborated by the narrations of that time? 

But Mr. Kidder prejudices his own argument by saying that 
"we trust that the story [of Chamberlain and Paugus] will not 
again be republished as historical truth." In the absence of docu 
mentary evidence reason dictates that circumstantial and traditional 
evidence is suggestive and to some extent reliable. John Chamber 
lain has such evidence. Seth Wyman \vas accorded by Symmes 
the honor of killing the chief of the powwow during the respite, 
as Butler relates. It is likely that he shot both Paugus and the 
new red chief, and that Symmes should have accorded him the 
less important service without ascribing to him the more impor 
tant act in the battle? 

It is not claimed, however, that the other traditions relating 
to Chamberlain and the son of Paugus, and growing out of this 
one, are true; but the bottom fact that John Chamberlain shot the 
old chief Paugus on the shore of Lovew^ell s Pond, on that memor 
able May 8, 1725, must, in my opinion, await a more critical 
investigation before the honor can be consistently denied him. 

After the Pigwacket fight, John Chamberlain, although re 
ported by Symmes as w r ounded during the action, returned to his 
farm and corn-mill the Chamberlain homestead at " Baddacook," 
in Groton. On May 31, 1727, the township of Suncook (now 
Pembroke, New Hampshire), on the Merrimack River, was 
granted by Massachusetts to sixty grantees who served in Love- 
weirs expeditions. John Chamberlain was one of the grantees, 

119 



120 MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 

and on April 12, 1729, he sold all his right and title to said lands 
to Joseph Gilson, of Groton, for twenty pounds and ten shillings, 
equivalent then to the paltry sum of twenty-seven dollars and 
eighty-eight cents. His deed to Gilson recorded at Middlesex 
Registry, Liber 30, page 106, mentions that the tract of land 
described was recently granted "to the Officers and Soldiers 
lately in the service of the province under the command of Capt. 
John Lovewell, deceased, and others, in an expedition to Pig- 
wacket against the Indian enemy, and which shall hereafter accrew 
and fall to me as one of the soldiers under said Capt. Lovewell." 

On the fifth of January of the same year, 1729, he sold the 
Baddacook homestead to Samuel Woods, Sr., of Groton, and 
on February 19, 1730, he bought another farm of James Lakin, 
at a place called the " Four Acres " in Groton. Dr. Samuel A. 
Green, who is authority on the history of Groton, is unable to 
identify this place. He lived there until April 20, 1741, when he 
deeded this farm at the " Four Acres " to Samuel Chamberlain, 
of Chelmsford, a gentleman. 

In the meantime his wife s father, Thomas Woods, of Groton, 
had died and there was trouble in settling the Woods estate. On 
September 8, 1740, John Chamberlain and Amos Woods, two of 
the heirs, petitioned the Judge of Probate for Middlesex, to have 
Samuel Chamberlain, of Chelmsford, a gentleman, appointed ad 
ministrator. A lawsuit followed. On August 20, 1741, his wife 
Abigail, sold to this same Samuel Chamberlain of Chelmsford, and 
Josiah Sartel of Groton, her share in her father s estate, situated 
on the north side of Brown Loaf Hill. This Samuel Chamberlain, 
called captain, was, I conjecture, an uncle to Paugus John and 
the father of Souhegan John, and should be distinguished from 
Samuel Chamberlain, of Westford, called Lieutenant, a con 
temporary. 

However, John Chamberlain probably owned no real estate 
after 1741. In June, 1742, his name appears among the inhabitants 
and residents of the northerly part of Groton (now Pepperell), 
on a petition to Governor William Shirley. 

Of his family I will give but little. On October 13, 1713, the 

120 



MEMOIR OF CHAMBERLAIN 121 

year he reached his majority, he married Abigail, daughter of 
Thomas and Abigail Woods, of Groton. To them were born at 
Groton four daughters and two sons, viz.: 

i. ELIZABETH, 5 b. 27 Oct., 1714; m. 23 Mch, 1736, Jeremiah, 

son of Zachariah and Abigail Lawrence. He was b. 7 

Dec. 1713, became deacon of First Parish in Pepperell, 

where he d. 29 Aug., 1759. She d. 1 Feb., 1774, ce. 60 

years. 

ii. HANNAH, 5 b. 18 Jan., 1716. 

iii. JOHN, Jr., 5 b. 24 Mch., 1720; m. 3 Dec., 1746, Rachel, daug. of 
Zachariah and Abigail Lawrence. She was b. in 1727, and 
d. 6 Oct., 1756. He served in Capt. J. Shattuck s Co. in 
1758 in the French and Indian War, (Green s Groton 
During Indian Wars, p. 167). Children : 

1. Rachael, 6 b. 10 July, 1747 ; d. 13 Oct. 1756. 

2. Abigail, 6 b. 8 Sept., 1749; m. in Pepperell, 7 June, 1770, 

Edmond, son of Dr. Benjamin and Dinah (Hunt) Shat- 
tuck of Littleton, Mass. He b. 20 July, 1744, removed to 
Groton, Mass., abt. 1773, where she d. 17 Mch, 1796, ae. 
47 y. 6 m. 9 d. He was selectman, town clerk, repre 
sentative, postmaster, justice and removed to Cockermouth, 
(now Groton), N. H. where he d. in 1816. 

3. John, 6 Jr., b. 27 Feb., 1752, 

4. Ede, 6 b. 9 Oct., 1754. 

iv. SARAH, 5 b. 27 April, 1727. 

v. AsiGAiL, 5 b. Jan., 1732. 

vi. TnoMAs, 5 b. 2 Sept., 1735; m. (?) 9 May, 1769, Lydia 
Adams, of Groton, Mass. Perhaps the Thomas, a cooper, 
who purchased 160 acres of the Great Farm belonging to 
Hon. Samuel Waldo s heirs, 28 Jan., 1762, situated in Pep 
perell (Middlesex Deeds, Liber 60, p. 221). 

On March 31, 1756, Jeremiah Lawrence, then of the district 
of Pepperell, a son-in-law, was appointed "administrator of the 
estate of John Chamberlain, late of Groton, Husband-man." The 
last resting-place of this man is unknown; but his service rend 
ered at Pigwacket outlives the skepticism of the ages. 

MALDEN, MASS. GEORGE W. CHAMBERLAIN. 

121 



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