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Full text of "Lucy Keyes, the lost child of Wachusett Mountain"

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LUCY KEYES, 



THE LOST CHIL'"' OF 



WACHUSETT MOUNTAIN, 



LUCY KEYES, 



THE LOST CHILD OF 



WACHUSETT MOUNTAIN. 



By FRANCIS Ec^^BLAKE. 



BOSTON : 

PRESS OF DAVID CLAPP & SON. 

18 9 3. 



yj- 






-Xv 



PREFATORY. 



In most of our New England towns the historian finds some 
traditions or legends which have been handed down from one 
generation to another until they form a part of the history of the 
town. They may relate to Indian invasions or other events of 
war, to exhibitions of bravery, to instances of suffering, or hardship, 
or even to personal peculiarities of some of its citizens. Some of 
them may be based upon truth and yet contain much error, and 
others may have no foundation whatever. 

The town of Princeton has its share of such traditions, among 
which the most familiar is the story of Lucy Keyes the "lost 
child." How often has this story been told, and how many 
speculations have been made as to her fate ! Many of the old 
people of to-day vividly remember sitting by the fireside and 
listening to the story which was ever fresh and thrilling. It has 
not only moved children to tears, but has awakened in older persons 
a tender interest in the mysterious fate of the child. Visitors to 
the town are shown the spot where the child lived, and again the 
story is rehearsed with more or less correctness in detail. Yet, 
notwithstanding it has been so often repeated, the writer, in view 
of certain facts he has discovered, has deemed it well to relate it 
again, in order that the truth may be made known, and as far as 
possible at this late day the character of one unjustly charged 
with crime may be vindicated. 



LUCY KEYES. 



Robert Keyes was born in Chelmsford, Mass., September 21, 
171 1, and when a young man removed to Shrewsbury, where 
December 24, 1740, he married Martha Bowker. They lived in 
Shrewsbury some ten or twelve years. On the 13th of June, 1749, 
he bought of his townsman Benjamin Muzzey, for £400 "old 
tenor," a tract of two hundred acres on the easterly side of 
Wachusett Mountain, which had been granted Mr. Muzzey by the 
General Court, on account of the losses and suffering sustained 
by him while held in captivity by the Indians, he having been a 
soldier of the Province at the time of his capture. In October, 
1750, Mr. Keyes sold his house in Shrewsbury, and the following 
May removed with his family to his new home on the mountain 
side. At this time there were but three or four families living in 
the whole territory now embraced within the bounds of Princeton, 
and they living widely apart, although it is probable that a few 
stray individuals without families were living in isolated places in 
the district. 

Thus Mr. Keyes and his family were practically alone in their 
mountain home, his farm being surrounded by unappropriated and 
wioccupied\2a\(\%. His nearest neighbor on the south was pro- 
bably Abijah Moore, who had a tavern on what is now called the 
Sterling Road, near "Russell's Corner." On the north it is 
possible the Willards or the Goddards had begun to build their 
sawmill, while on the southeast, four miles away on the "old 
Houghton place," was the "Wilder tavern" for the accommoda- 
tion of travelers to Nichewaug, the same road upon which, one 
mile farther north, Mr. Moore, above referred to, kept his place of 
"entertainment for man and beast." 



In Rutland " East Wing" there may have been one or two fam- 
ilies, but they were miles away from Mr. Keyes. In Westminster, 
four miles distant, there were probably two hundred and twenty 
five inhabitants in 175 i, but there was no settlement which could 
be called a village, and the same can be said of Barre fifteen miles 
south west, and of Hubbardston on the west. Southeasterly, 
seventeen miles away, lay the old town of Shrewsbury, Mr. Keyes' 
former home, while Rutland town was ten miles to the west, and 
Lancaster, probably the nearest settlement of any size, was twelve 
miles distant on the east. Rutland "East Wing," with the 
"farms adjoining on the north," which included Mr. Keyes', were, 
incorporated as the District of Princetoxvn October 24, 1759, and 
as the Toivn of Princeton April 24, 1771. 

Although no record furnishes evidence of any road near Mr. 
Keyes' farm, yet there was no doubt one following the old Indian 
path, and perhaps identical with the present Westminster road, 
connecting the road on which Mr. Moore's tavern was located 
with the older traveled road towards the west which passed by 
Wachusett Pond to some of the interior towns. 

Mr. Keyes was by trade a blacksmith, but one cannot readily 
conceive at the time of his settlement, or for many years after- 
wards, any demand for his services in that locality, except for his 
own personal needs. Miles from any village and away from the 
traveled roads, and even those roads used so little, we can under- 
stand that he was forced to lay aside his accustomed trade and 
give attention to clearing the land and tilling the soil. The wild- 
ness of the country, abounding in large areas of woodland, afforded 
him, also, facilities for. exercising his skill as a huntsman, for 
which he was famous. 



£ifm^A 



ee^c/l 



Mr. Keyes had ten children, of whom five were born in Shrews- 
bury, or at least before the parents settled at Wachusett. The 
principal event which has brought this family into notice occurred 



on Monday, the 14th of April, 1755. On that day his daughter 
Lucy, four years and eight months old, wandered away from home, 
and was never seen again by the family. It was at first surmised 
that the child lost her way in the woods while attempting to fol- 
low her elder sisters Patty and Anna, aged nine and seven years 
respectively, who had gone to Wachusett Pond, a mile away, per- 
haps as some have stated to get some sand for household purposes. 
As stated before, there were near Mr. Keyes only a few paths 
following the Indian trails, or such paths as he himself had marked 
through the woods, and a child of the age of Lucy could easily 
have wandered away and been lost. 

Disregarding tradition and the additions to the original story 
that would naturally be made, as it was reported from one to 
another year after year, we may well accept as correct the statement 
published in Whitney's History of Worcester County in 1793, at 
which time the father and the sisters named above were still 
living ; and it may be reasonably believed that this statement was 
obtained directly from the family : — - 

" It was in the month of May in the year 175 i, when Mr. Robert 
Keyes, now living, removed with his family from Shrewsbury, and 
fixed down near the foot of Watchusett hill, on the east side, being 
the fourth family which settled in the place. Upon the 14th of 
April, 1755, a child of his, named Lucy, aged four years and eight 
months, attempting, as was supposed, to follow her sisters, who 
had gone to Watchusett Pond, about a mile distant, and having 
nothing but marked trees to guide her, wandered out of her way 
in the woods, and was never heard of afterwards. The people for 
nearly thirty miles around collected immediately, and in companies 
traversed the woods, day after day and week after week, searching 
for her, but never made the least discovery. Many journeys were 
taken by the father, in consequence of reports, but all in vain. 
Various were and have been the conjectures of ^^eople respecting 
the fate of the child. Divers concurring circumstances render 
the following most probable, that she was taken by the Indians, 
and carried into their country, and soon forgot her relations, lost 
her native language, and became as one of the aborigines." 

The grief of the mother was exceedingly great. She mourned 
for the loss of this her dearest child and watched daily for her 
return, often going out into the woods and calling her by name 



with the wild hope of hearing a response. As the clays passed 
and the child did not appear, the sense of lonehness and loss became 
almost unbearable and her reason nearly forsook her. Even at 
the time of her death more than thirty years after, she had not 
recovered from the effects of the bereavement.* The loss of the 
child created a great excitement as the news spread about and 
reached the neighboring settlements, and plans were quickly made 
to commence a search. The old neighbors of Mr. Keyes in 
Shrewsbury, seventeen miles distant, came up to help ; Lancaster, 
twelve miles east, sent its contingent, while Rutland and other 
towns contributed their share of volunteers. Notwithstanding 
the lack of .regular means of conveying the intelligence, the news 
spread quickly, and a very large number of men were assembled 
together, the pond was dragged, and for many days a systematic 
search was carried on, even long after all effort seemed likely to 
be fruitless. Naturally the failure of the long search strengthened 
the suspicions to which Mr. Whitney alludes in his account, that 
the child was stolen by the Indians. 

The father, clinging to this theory, used every exertion to get 
some trace of the child, following eagerly every possible clue, but 
often misled by false reports. The means of communication were 
imperfect, and the expenses of traveling were large, especially 
for one in his condition of life, but nevertheless he appears to 
have spared no efforts within his power to find the child. 

Ten years after the event, feeling almost impoverished by the 
large expenditures he had been obliged to make in the search for 
the child, he petitioned the General Court of the Province, hoping 
to receive some measure of relief. In this petition he briefly tells 
the story of his efforts in behalf of his child. 

* "The mother was brought to the verge of insanity by the loss of her little 
girl, and for a long time after her disappearance she always went out at night- 
fall and called, Lu-cy ! but the echo from the aged forests was the only answer." 
Notes of Prof. Everett. 

"The conjectures as to its fate were various, the most prevalent being that it 
was carried off bj a straggling party of Indians on a visit to the mountain. 
This was made more probable by the story of tvyo men, who went some years 
after this occurrence from Groton, on a trading expedition among the Indians 
on Canada line. They related, on their return, that they found living among 
the Indians a white woman, who knew nothing farther of her birth or parentage, 
than that she once lived near ' Cluisett \V\\\.' "—RiisselVs History of Prii/cetoii. 



9 

" Province of the 
Massachusetts Bay 

To his Excellency Francis Barnard Esq"". Captain General and 
Governor in Chief in & over said Province the Honourable his 
Majesty s Council & house of Representatives in General Court 
assembled May 29th, 1765. 

Humbly shews Robert Keyes of Princeton in y^ County of Wor- 
cester that in y*" year Seventeen hundred & fifty five he lost one 
of his Children & was Supposed to be taken by the Indians & 
Carried to Canada when it was first lost it was apprehended to be 
in the woods wandring about & your Petitioner was at great Cost 
& trouble In Searching the woods for it but to no good purpose; 
after this he hears It was at Canada and that he could get further 
Information thereof at Porchmouth In New-Hampshire on hearing 
that He went there and also sent to Canada, afwards {sic) He 
advertised said Child In the New York papers ; * he had an ac- 
count of Such a Child's being among the Mohawks and determined 
to go after his Child the last fall but has heitherto been prevented 
by reason of Sickness & deaths in his family. And the Cost he 
hath been at In Searching for s'' Child is so Great being about 
one hundred pounds lawful money, that he is not able to bear it 
being in a new plantation, and as their is within Sixty rods of his 
door some Province land laying on y*" VVatchusett Hill which would 
be some advantage to him provided he could have it. Therefore 
your Petit'" humbly prays the Hono''"" Court to take his Case In 
your Compationate Concideration & make him a grant of y"-' East- 
erly half of said Watchusett hill & your Pet as in duty bound will 
ever pray. Robert -Keyes. 

For reasons which do not appear this petition was rejected, and 
Mr. Keyes was thrown back upon his old resources for the support 
of his family. He had sold in 1759 a part of his farm, the pro- 
ceeds of which were doubtless used in meeting the expenses of 
the search for the missing girl. But his' farm could yield him 
only a little ready money for this purpose. In 1767 he sold to 
his son in law Samuel Mossman, 45 acres of the farm ; in 1770, 
42 acres to William Dodd, and in 1773, 40 acres to his son Jonas, 
leaving but about 50 acres for himself. 

Mrs. Keyes died August 9, 1789, and her husband March i, 
1795. Both were probably buried in the old graveyard on ]\Ieet- 
ing House Hill, but the gravestone of the wife alone remains. 

* The writer has examined the New York papers from 1755 to 1764, but failed 
to find this advertisement. 



10 

This simple story of the loss of the child and the search made 
for her was told by one to another, and rehearsed by parents to 
their children, and would have gone down through the generations 
unchanged but for an incident which occurred at the Centennial 
celebration of Princeton in 1859. The poet of the day. Prof. 
Erastus Everett of Brooklyn, N. Y., having made reference in 
his poem to the loss of the child, was subsequently shown a letter 
written in 1827 by a native of Princeton, which placed the matter 
in an entirely different light. Interested in the new developments, 
he, by correspondence, succeeded in finding the writer of the 
letter, who confirmed the statements previously made, and the 
substance of her narrative with some comments by Mr. Everett 
were printed with the proceedings of the Centennial. 

The letter of 1827 I have never been able to find, although I 
have made diligent inquiry for it, and in fact I have not learned 
of any one who remembers it, except Mr. Everett, who only recalls 
the fact that at the time he saw it, it was in a dilapidated condi- 
tion, but he does not remember who handed it to him, or what 
became of it. Through the courtesy of Mr. Everett, however, I 
have a copy of the second letter, which is given in full : — 

Rockford, Bourbon Co., Kansas Territory, 

December 8, 1859. 
" Erastus Everett, Esq., 

Dear Sir : — A letter of inquiry, dated at Brooklyn, with your 
signature, after being remailed at different points, reached me 
quite recently, and I hasten to reply. To give publicity to the 
confession of a crime, with mere supposition for its basis, demands 
an abler pen than mine, while to stigmatize the dead or give un- 
necessary pain to the living betrays a character more abandoned 
than I wish to possess. You say the account given in a letter of 
1827 to my sister, Mrs. Hager (which I supposed had been given 
to the winds or the flames long ago), was to you " A myster}^ that 
is incomprehensible." Perhaps the organ of marvellousness is 
more fully developed in my head than in yours. Be that as it 
may, I believe the circumstances, as narrated to me in 1827, to be 
authentic ; nor have I heard anything since by which I have 
doubted their authenticity. I gave more credence to the report 
from the fact that all the years of my girlhood were spent within 
half a mile of Mrs. John Gleason of Princeton, whose name pre- 



11 

vious to her marriage was Patty Keyes, sister to the child ** Lucy," 
and one of the "Two sisters who went to the pond for sand"; 
and I have many times listened as she related the sad story of 
the child's disappearance, together with other incidents that in 
my opinion corroborated the truth of Mrs. Anderson's statement. 
Mrs. Anderson, of Deerfield, N. Y., witnessed the confession, told 
it to Mrs. Whitmore and she gave it to me. Mrs. Whitmore has 
been dead moi"e than thirty years. Mrs. Anderson I never saw, 
and whether she is still living I do not know. 

The name of the man, to whom allusion is made, was Littlejohn. 
His first name, his age, and the precise time at which he died, I 
disremember, if I ever heard. I cannot recollect how, or what I 
wrote in 1827, but probably some things were mentioned at that 
time fresh in my mind that the lapse of thirty-two years have 
effaced from my memory. However, the main points I recollect 
distinctly and will give them. I was told that Mr. Littlejohn was 
thought to be dying for three days — at length he arose in bed and 
speaking audibly, said he could not die until he had confessed a 
murder that he committed many years before — said he was for- 
merly a neighbor to Robert Keyes of Princeton, Mass., there was 
misunderstanding between the families. Mr. and Mrs. Keyes felt 
unpleasantly to live thus and went to Mr. L's to effect, if possi- 
ble, a reconciliation, which having been apparently accomplished 
and mutual pledges of renewed friendship exchanged they (Mr. 
K. and wife) returned home. But the enmity of Mr. L. had not 
subsided. He sought revenge, and afterward seeing their little 
daughter alone in the woods, to avenge himself on the parents, 
killed her by beating her head against a log, and then placed her 
body in a hollow log, and went to his house. When the neighbors 
were solicited to assist in searching for the lost, he was among 
the first, and being familiar with the forest, he volunteered to lead 
the party, carefully avoiding the hollow log till night. After dark 
he went to the hollow log, took the body and deposited it in a 
hole, which had been made by the overturning of a tree. 

The log had been cut from the stump, leaving only it and the 
roots, which he turned back in its former position and thought all 
safe. He said, the next day as a party Avere passing the hollow 
log, they found a lock of hair, which the family identified as that 
of Lucy's and he knew it to be hers, for as he was taking the 
body in the dark her hair caught and in his hurry he left this lock. 
After the search was given up as fruitless, he felt ill at ease there 
and sometime after left the town. He gave the locality of the 
stump, the particular kind of wood of which the tree was once 
composed, and requested some one present to write his confession 



12 

to Princeton, adding that he believed that the stump might then 
be in existence and, by digging, the bones of the child might be 
found. 

This appeared more incredulous to me at that time than any- 
thing" else, and I may have omitted to write it then, but as you 
have particularly requested so, I have given you all the particu- 
lars in my possession at this late day. 

Mrs. Anderson came to Eaton, N. Y., where Mrs. Whitmore 
resided, met her at the house of a friend, and learning that Mrs. 
W. was a native of Princeton, gave her the relation above and 
Mrs. W, requested me to write. Now, Sir, as you seem interested 
in the matter, and as doubt is implied respecting the truthfulness 
of the confession, allow me to suggest the propriety of ascertain- 
ing through some persons at Deerfield, where I think Mr. Little- 
john died, the time of his demise and the facts of his confession. 

You say " The substance of my letter will be embodied in a 
record that the people of Princeton will read." I wish you had 
been more explicit. I am a Yankee, Sir, and you know the 
Yankees are proverbial for natural curiosity. Am I to understanc 
that a work is to be published, or is it merely to be placed upo 
the records of the town .-* If the former is the case, I hope I may 
be apprised of it, for whatever may interest Princeton folks wil! 
interest your humble friend in southern Kansas. Even the nam 
of Princeton falls pleasantly on my ear. 

" I love her rocks and hills, 
Her meadows, plains and fields 

And healthful air : 
And though far off" I dwell, 
My heart shall ever swell, 

Her name to hear." 

The length and errors of this letter call for an apology, but I 
dislike apologies and will forbear. 

Most Respectfully Yours, 

Cornelia B, K. Brown. 

This letter, which gives us such minute details of the confession, 
appears to afford convincing proof of the fate of the child, silencing 
all other conjectures, and without conflicting evidence would 
apparently settle the question in the minds of the majority of 
readers. Could the first letter be found it might be seen that 
there were some variations between the statements of 1827 and 
1859, and some points might be more clearly defined, or new 



13 

impressions gained in view of what is now known, but in its 
absence we have nothing to rely upon but that of the later date. 

These statements, so far as known to me, were not contradicted, 
and they became more firmly fixed in the minds of those familiar 
with the original story, and interested many to whom the whole 
was new, by means of an article contributed by William T. Harlow, 
Esq., to the "Old and New Magazine" in 1874. Mr. Harlow 
made a very interesting and romantic story of the loss of the child 
and the subsequent confession of the murderer, in which he in- 
cluded statements which he had heard from the lips of his mother, 
who remembered some who joined in the search for the child. 
To adapt the story to interest magazine readers he apparently 
drew upon bis imagination, as some of the statements unfortunately 
will not bear the results of close investigation. In 1884, A. P. 
Marble, Esq., read before the Worcester Society of Antiquity a 
paper upon the same subject, which was published in the "New 
England Magazine " in 1886. The statements already printed 
formed the basis of his sketch, but his attempt to make a reada- 
ble romance led him still farther than Mr. Harlow to enlarge upon 
the facts and to introduce much fiction that the casual reader will 
accept as truth. Reference to the loss of the child may also be 
found in the Keyes Genealogy, 1880, and in the Worcester County 
History, 1879. 

After many perusals of this story in the varied forms in which 
it appeared, I felt a desire to look into the matter and to make 
clear some points which seehied to me to need explanation. I 
therefore commenced a thorough investigation, only to be sur- 
prised at almost every turn I made. 

I have been informed that Mrs. Brown, now deceased, whose 
letter furnished this strange story, was a woman of marked intel- 
ligence, of integrity and personal worth. She stood so high in the 
estimation of her acquaintances that it is impossible to do other- 
wise than believe that, as far as she was concerned, her statement 
was correct. Certainly the whole tenor of her letter gives evi- 
dence of intellectual abihty, as well as an earnest desire to state 
only that which she believed to be true. Of Mrs. Anderson I 
can find no trace in Deerfield, N. Y., or its vicinity, although I 



14 

have made inquiries personally and corresponded in many direc- 
tions. The children of Mrs. Whitmore, now living, can give me 
no information upon the subject, and the children of Mrs. Brown 
appear to have no papers or facts which add to the statement of 
their mother. The whole story of the alleged confession stands, 
then, upon the statement made by Mrs. Brown, which she de- 
clared she had received from her sister Mrs. Whitmore, who had 
heard it from the lips of Mrs. Anderson, to whom the murderer 
confessed. Thus passing through the minds of three individuals, 
it would not be strange if there were some mistakes, and if the 
imagination was drawn upon for some of the details. One natu- 
rally receives the impression that the first letter of Mrs. Brown 
(1827) was written at or near the time of the alleged confession, 
but a careful scrutiny of the second letter fails to determine that 
point. 

The results of my investigations were presented briefly in a 
paper read before the Worcester Society of Antiquity in 1891, 
and published in its proceeeings for that year. As the only basis 
of the story of the confession is the letter of Mrs. Brown's, in 
endeavoring to establish the truth, that must pass under criticism, 
and I must confine myself almost entirely to her statement, 
although I may refer incidentally to the statements of Mr. Har- 
low and Mr. Marble, but neither of these writers had any informa- 
mation about the confession except as published by Mr. Everett 
in 1859. 

Of the man charged with the crime we know something, and 
although not so much as we may wish, yet it is more than it might 
at first be supposed could be learned about one living a quiet life 
in a thinly settled community so many years ago. 

Mrs. Brown refers in her letter to Mr. Littlejohn, Mr. Harlow 
in his sketch iojo/m Littlejohn (which I believe he acknowledges 
to be an error) and Mr. Marble to Tilly Littlejohn. As the latter 
was, so far as can be learned by private or public records or by 
tradition, the only man bearing the name of Littlejohn who lived 
in Princeton, and he was once a neighbor of Mr. Keyes, and is 
regarded by Princeton people as the man concerned in this tragedy, 
we assume that he is the one alone whose character has been 
brought out so prominently in connection with Lucy Keyes. 



15 

Tilly Littlejohn was the son of Thomas* and Mary Littlejohn, 
and was born in Lancaster in 1735. After the death of the 
father, who was killed at Louisburg when Tilly was about ten 
years old, the mother and the children appear to have continued 
their residence in Lancaster or Bolton for some years. On the 
23d of April, 1755, at which time he appears to have been in the 
service (probably an apprentice) of Jonathan Wilder, Tilly enlisted 
in the company of Capt. Asa Whitcomb, and marched one hun- 
dred and sixty-five miles to Albany on the expedition to Crown 
Point. This company was in the "bloody morning fight," but 
Tilly escaped without injury, and after a service of six months 
was discharged on the 25th of October. 

The roll of Capt. Whitcomb shows that Mr. Littlejohn received 
for his services of twenty weeks and four days £S. 17/2, allow- 
ance for mileage being made of is. 6d. per day of fifteen miles travel. 
Under the head of "names of Fathers and Masters of Sons under 
Age and Servants " appears the name of Jonathan Wilder against 
that of Littlejohn, indicating that the latter was an apprentice at 
that time. 

On the 1st of December, 1757, he married Hannah Brooks, in 
Lancaster. 



* Thomas Littlejohn the father of Tillj is said to have come to this country 
from Scotland and soon after went to Lancaster, where he is found as early as 
1725, when he enlisted in the service of the Province in Capt. Blanchard's 
company. On the 17th of January 1726-27 he married Mary Butler, and they 
had five children, four of them recorded at Lancaster. 
Mary, May 10, 172S, died Dec. 14, 1748. 
Thomas, July 27, 1730. . 

Sarah, , died 1S17, in Bolton. 

Simeon. 

Tilly, May 26, 1735. 
During the French War Mr. Littlejohn again enlisted in his Majesty's ser- 
vice, and was among those who in 1745 was killed at Louisburg. His widow 
Mary died in Bolton in 176S, leaving quite a little property. By her will she 
gave to her sons Thomas, Simeon and Tilly five shillings each ("which is all I 
give them") and the balance of her estate to her daughter Sarah. Tilly was 
appointed executor, but he declined to serve. 

Thomas, Jr. went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, thence to the neighborhood of 
Portland, Me., where he died leaving a large number of descendants. 

Simeon, according to the statements received from his brother Thomas, set- 
tled in one of the southern states, but I have not been able to learn if he had a 
family. 

The descendants of Tilly are scattered throughout the United States, some of 
them occupying positions of honor and trust. 



16 

At what time he removed to Princeton I cannot definitely 
state, but he purchased from Mr. Keyes, for X27, a portion of his 
farm on the easterly side of the mountain, by deed dated January 
22, 1759, at which time he may have been living in that vicinity, 
although he is simply described as of the " same county and 
province " as the grantor.* It may be reasonably inferred that 
he was there in the fall of 1758, as the birth of his son Levi on 
the 2d of October of that year is not recorded in Lancaster, but 
does appear upon the Princeton records, although the entry was 
not made at the time, as the District records were not commenced 
until October, 1759. It is not unusual, however, to find at 
Princeton the records of births which occurred in other towns. 

The tract which Mr. Littlejohn purchased was dy^ acres (al- 
most one-third of the whole) on the westerly side, and Mr. Keyes 
reserved a right to "pass and re-pass " by "an open road to Wat- 
chusett Hill at the usual place of going up said Hill," while Mr. 
Littlejohn had also a right to pass through Mr. Keyes' land to 
"ye eastward." The accompanying sketch shows the approxi- 
mate location of the whole tract with the present roads indicated 
thereon. The location of Mr. Littlejohn's house is supposed to 
have been on the easterly side of his farm, near the road now 
known as the Roper road, and quite near Mr. Keyes' house. 

Of Mr. Littlejohn's six children, two lived to maturity, both of 
them married and removed to New York State during the time 
of the great emigration thither from Massachusetts. 

In 1764 he, with others, joined in the formation of the church 
in Princeton, being dismissed from Lancaster Second Church, 
now Sterling. He remained in town more than twenty years, 
during which time he added to his possessions by the purchase of 
a small lot of land at the corner of the Lower Westminster road 
and the Sterling road, west of the "old Russell place," on which 
spot he may have had a dwelling-house, although there is no 
record evidence of it. 

* The witnesses to this deed were Jonathan Wilder of Lancaster (Tilly Little- 
john's formei master), and Zachariah Harvey, who was living on the " Ebenezer 
Parker " place in the east part of the town. The deed was not acknowledged 
until December 2, 1760, and not recorded until Sept. 16, 1764. 




FARM OF ROBERT KEYES, 
On y'' easterly side of Wachusett Mountain. 



18 

About the year 1777 he removed to that part of Lancaster ad- 
joining Princeton, which was afterwards incorporated as Sterling, 
where he bought a farm. He was dismissed from the Princeton 
to the Sterling church in 1786, and died in the latter town No- 
vember I,' 1793, of "asthma and consumption," according to the 
church records. His gravestone, now to be seen in the old bury- 
ing-ground, bears the following inscription : — 

Memento Mori 

Erected 

In Memory of Mr. 

TILLEY LITTLEJOHN 

who departed this life 

Nov. 1, 1793, 

aged 58 years and 

5 months. 

O ye whose cheek the tear of pitj stains, 

Draw near with pious reverence and attend; • 

Here lie the loving husband's dear remains, 

The tender father and the generous friend. 

His will dated Nov. 19, 1790, was signed by him, and the sig- 
nature is identical with that of his appended to the church cove- 
nant in 1764, as will be clearly seen by the reproductions herewith : 

1764 1790 

His estate, including his land in Sterling, was valued at .£555. 
The following chronology will show how I have followed him from 
the cradle to the grave, and enable the reader more clearly to un- 
derstand the statements previously and subseqently made. 



ly 



TiLLEY LiTTLEJOHN. 

735 — May 26. Born at Lancaster, Son of Thomas & Mary (Butler) 
Littlejohii. 

755— Apr. 23. Enlisted at Lancaster in Capt. Asa Whitcomb's Co. 
marched to Albany on the Crown Point expedition. 

755 — Oct. 25. Discharged from service at Lancaster. 

757 — Oct. 20. Litention of marriage declared at Lancaster. 

757 — Dec. I. Married at Lancaster to Hannah Brooks. 

75S — Oct. 2. Son Levi born. Not recorded in Lancaster, but on 
Princeton records at a later date (died 1759). 

759 — Jan. 22. Then of " a farm on the easterly side of Wachusett 
Hill in no town, parish or district, in the county 
of Worcester," bought land of Robert Keyes. 

760 — Jan. 30. Daughter Hannah born in Princeton (died 1764). 

760 — Nov. 2. Admitted to Lancaster Second Church (Sterling). 

760 — Nov. 2. Daughter Hannah baptized in Lancaster Second 
Church. 

763 — ^Jan. 16. Son Levi born in Princeton (died 1764). 
763 — Oct. 6. Of Princeton, bought a small lot adjoining his first 
purchase. 

764 — Aug. 12. Signed covenant at formation of Ciiurch in Princeton. 

764 — Aug. 28. Dismissed from Second Lancaster Church to Prince- 
ton Church. 

765 — Feb. 14. Daughter Mary born in Princeton (died 1776). 

767 — Mch. 12. Daughter Pamela born in Princeton. 

769 — Son John born in Princeton. 

774 — Feb. 22. Of Princeton, mortgaged his real estate (including a 
lot near centre .of town, of the purchase of which 
there is no record). Mortgage discharged Apr. 

13. 1787- 

776 — Mch. 23. Daughter Mary died, — buried in Sterling, which in- 
dicates family residing there at that date. 

777 — Sept. 29. Of Lancaster, bought land tliere. (Sterling was in- 
corporated 17S1 •) 

77S— Nov. 23. Of Lancaster, with wife, and John, -Jabez & Thomas 
Brooks sold land in Lexington. 

779 — Mch. — Name not on tax list in Princeton. 

779 — iSlch. 7. Of Lancaster, bought land there. 



20 

lySi — Oct. iS. Of Sterling, sold his land in Princeton near the 
mountain. 

1784 — Feb. 16. Of Sterling, bought land there. 

1784 — Mch. 15. Of Sterling, bought land there. 

1784 — Dec. 17. Of Sterling, bought land there. 

17S6 — Jan. 30. Of Sterling, sold the land in Princeton near centre 
which he mortgaged in 1774 (where he may have 
lived before his removal to Sterling). 

1786 — Oct. I. Admitted to the Church in Sterling. 

1789 — Apr. 16. Of Sterling, bought land there. 

1790 — July 5. Of Sterling, signed his will. 

1793 — Nov. I. Died in Sterling, "of asthma and consumption" 
(church record and grave stone). 

1793 — Nov. 19. Will proved, wife Hannah, son John and daughter 
Pamela Priest named. Inventory £555. 

1794 — ^Jan. 13. Widow Hannah Littlejohn, with son John and daugh- 
ter Pamela, joined in transfer of real estate in Ster- 
ling formerly belonging to Tilly Littlejohn. 

It is charged that Mr. Littlejohn, as the result of a qtiarrel \\\\.\v 
his neighbor Air. Keyes, killed the child Lticy on the 14th of April, 
1755, and concealed the body, and, when an old man dying in New 
York State, confessed the crime and desired that the fact should 
be made known in Princeton. 

Let us see if the facts will substantiate such a charge or admit 
of a reasonable belief in its truth. 

First. Tilly Littlejohn was born in Lancaster, and if we have no 
proof that he was on the 14th of April, 1755, a resident of Lan- 
caster, we have proof that he was such only nine days later, 
when he was recorded as servant or apprentice to Jonathan 
Wilder. 
Second. Tilly Littlejohn was not a neighbor, and could not well 
have quarreled with Mr. Keyes about bounds of land, as Jie did 
not ozvn any lajid \\Q2iV Mr. Keyes or anywhere else, and could 
not legally have owned any, as he zvas not of age. 
Third. If he had been there, and if he had quarreled with Mr. 
Keyes, his disappearance nine days later to enlist in the army 
would have excited suspicion and led to a belief in his guilt, 
and probably to his arrest. 



21 

Fourth. Four years after the loss of the child Mr. Littlejohn did 
buy a part of Mr. Keyes' farm, where he lived for a number o'f 
years and brought up a family. It is possible, but certainly not 
probable, that the man who murdered Lucy Keyes on that spot 
would return and make there a home for his wife and his children. 

Fifth. Mr. Littlejohn did not have a family in 1755, as Mrs. 
Brown states, and did not leave Princeton " soon after" the loss 
of the child, but remained in the town some twenty years after 
his purchase of property there in 1759. 

Sixth. Mr. Littlejohn was not an old man at the time of his 
death, as he was but fifty-eight years of age. 

Seventh. He never lived in Deerfield, New York, or vicinity, if 
the statement of his grand-children can be relied upon. 

Eighth. He certainly did not die in Deerfield, N. Y., but yielded 
up the ghost in the quiet town of Sterling, Mass., in 1793, where 
to-day we may see his gravestone with an inscription recounting 
his virtues " as a loving husband, tender father and generous 
friend," — a case, I have no doubt, where the epitaph tells the 
truth. 

Ninth. Grand-children living to-day who were brought up with 
Mrs. Littlejohn, (who survived her husband many years,) affirm 
that they never heard a word of any wrong-doing on the part of 
their grandfather. 

Tenth. Admitting error in some of the details, if, as some have 
suggested, such a confession had been made by Mr. Littlejohn 
at Sterling, where he died, it certainly would have become 
quickly known throughout the town and the county. 

These statements, based so largely upon record evidence, are so con- 
tradictory to the alleged confession, that the reader must certainly 
feel that the case against Mr. Littlejohn is at least " not proven." 

Failing to find any evidence to implicate Mr. Littlejohn as a 
quarrelsome neighbor, I have carefully examined the records to 
learn who were the owners of land adjoining Mr. Keyes in 1755, 



22 

who might possibly have disputed with him the boundary lines 
between their estates. My research has resulted in finding that 
the land on the north, east and south of Mr. Keyes' farm was 
owned by Benjamin Houghton, Esq., of Lancaster, while the 
mountain on the west was in the possession of the Province. It 
is not quite clear whether the northerly corner of lot No. 12 of the 
"Watertown farms," then owned by Mr. Josiah Coolidge of Wes- 
ton, bordered on Mr. Keyes' south-westerly corner, but, if at all, 
it was only for a few rods between Pine Hill and the mountain, 
and was of no value to any one ; neither was there any resident 
on that lot No. 12 until many years afterwards. There appear, 
therefore, to have been no families near Mr. Keyes in 1755, and 
no boiindcifics to qiiari'cl about, unless we suppose them to be those 
of Mr. Houghton, a man of substantial worth, well known through- 
out the county, — a supposition not worthy of consideration, 

I have been asked how I reconcile the statements of Mrs. 
Brown with the facts here referred to, but I have been unable to 
reach any satisfactory conclusion. The character of the informant 
and the circumstantial details of the confession make the mystery 
so much the greater, and the problem the more difficult to solve. 
Whether she heard aright the story from Mrs. Whitmore, or the 
latter correctly received the statement from Mrs. Anderson, or 
whether Mrs. Anderson was at fault, the reader can judge as well 
as I. 

It is possible that some man, whose mind was wandering in the 
last hours of his life, may have confessed a crime, and the un- 
known Mrs. Anderson to whom the story was told may have sup- 
plied a nam€, either by accident or design ; or it is possible that 
Mrs. Whitmore or Mrs. Brown mistook the name of the confessor, 
or, forgetting the name, assumed that it was Littlejohn, because 
she remembered that a man bearing that name once lived near 
the mountain. 

We can make many conjectures, but, whatever point we take up 
to examine critically, we find ourselves in conflict with evidence 
which seems to demolish any theory connecting Mr. Littlejohn 
with the murder. 

In publishing these notes I have endeavored to give all the 



23 

facts that I have been able to gather, and only regret that the 
mists cannot be entirely cleared away, and the origin or occasion 
of the mysterious confession be fully made known. 

I am indebted to relatives of Mrs. Brown, and also to members 
of the Littlejohn family, for some suggestions, — the former anxious 
to assert the trustworthiness of their relative, and the latter 
equally anxious to remove the stain resting upon the memory of 
Mr. Littlejohn. 



NOTE. 

In making this investigation T discovered a singular bit of history 
that at first appeared to offer a possible solution of this problem. 

In the southerly part of Princeton there once lived Artemas May- 
nard, who removed thence to Temple, N. H., where, in 1769, his son 
Thomas, five years old, was lost. In relation to this event statements 
are made in every respect similar to those in the case of Lucy Keyes. 
The agony of the parents, the search for days by organized parties, 
and the final giving up, with no clue to the cause of his disappearance. 
But there is a tradition in the Maynard family that this child was 
murdered by a bitter enemy of the father. 

When it is known that the mother of this Maynard boy was a Keyes, 
— that Mrs. Brown, who wrote of the Littlejohn confession, was a 
Keyes, — that her father lived quite near the Maynards in Princeton, — 
that he was a connection of the Maynard family, and that Mr. May- 
nard died in Sterling, where Mr. Littlejohn also died, — it will not 
seem strange that at first, with all these facts- in view, I felt convinced 
that some one had got these two lost children badly mixed, and that 
it w^ould require a Solomon to solve the problem. But after receiving 
a copy of Mrs. Brown's letter, here published, T was constrained to 
admit that the one case probably had no connection with the other, 
though it is certainly a strange coincidence. 



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