Sidor som bilder

English neighbor was nearly thirty miles away. As may be supposed, it grew slowly, and in 1744 it had but nine or ten families. In the preceding year, when war seemed imminent, and it was clear that neither Massachusetts nor New Hampshire would lend a helping hand, the settlers of Number Four, seeing that their only resource was in themselves, called a meeting to consider the situation and determine what should be done. The meeting was held at the house, or log-cabin, of John Spafford, Jr., and being duly called to order, the following resolutions were adopted: that a fort be built at the charge of the proprietors of the said township of Number Four; that John Hastings, John Spafford, and John Avery be a committee to direct the building; that each carpenter be allowed nine shillings, old tenor, a day, each laborer seven shillings, and each pair of oxen three shillings and sixpence; that the proprietors of the township be taxed in the sum of three hundred pounds, old tenor, for building the fort; that John Spafford, Phineas Stevens, and John Hastings be assessors to assess the same, and Samuel Farnsworth collector to collect it.1 And to the end that their fort should be a good and creditable one, they are said to have engaged the services of John Stoddard, accounted the foremost man of western Massachusetts, Superintendent of Defence, Colonel of Militia, Judge of Probate, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, a reputed authority in the construction of backwoods fortifications, and the admired owner of the only gold watch in Northampton. Timber was abundant and could be had for the asking; for the frontiersman usually regarded a tree less as a valuable possession than as a natural enemy, to be got rid of by fair means or foul. The only cost was the labor. The fort rose rapidly. It was a square enclosing about three quarters of an acre, each side measuring a hundred and eighty feet. The wall was not of palisades, as was more usual, but of squared logs laid one upon another, and interlocked at the corners after the fashion of a log-cabin. Within were several houses, which had been built close together, for mutual protection, before the fort was begun, and which belonged to Stevens, Spafford, and other settlers. Apparently they were small logcabins; for they were valued at only from eight to thirty-five pounds each, in old tenor currency wofully attenuated by depreciation; and these sums being paid to the owners out of the three hundred pounds collected for building the fort, the cabins became public property. Either they were built in a straight line, or they were moved to form one, for when the fort was finished, they all backed against the outer wall, so that their low roofs served to fire from. The usual flankers completed the work, and the settlers of Number Four were so well pleased with it that they proudly declared their fort a better one than Fort Dummer, its nearest neighbor, which had been built by public authority at the charge of the province. But a fort must have a garrison, and the ten or twelve men of Number Four would hardly be a sufficient one. Sooner or later an attack was certain; for the place was a backwoods Castle Dangerous, lying in the path of war-parties from Canada, whether coming down the Connecticut from Lake Memphremagog, or up Otter Creek from Lake Champlain, then over the mountains to Black River, and so down that stream, which would bring them directly to Number Four. New Hampshire would do nothing for them, and their only hope was in Massachusetts, of which most of them were natives, and which had good reasons for helping them to hold their ground, as a cover to its own settlements below. The governor and Assembly of Massachusetts did, in fact, send small parties of armed men from time to time to defend the endangered outpost, and the succor was timely; for though, during the first year of the war, Number Four was left in peace, yet from the nineteenth of April to the nineteenth of June, 1746, it was attacked by Indians five times, with some loss of scalps, and more of cattle, horses, and hogs. On the last occasion there was a hot fight in the woods, ending in the retreat of the Indians, said to have numbered a hundred and fifty, into a swamp, leaving behind them guns, blankets, hatchets, spears, and other things, valued at forty pounds, old tenor, - which, says the chronicle, “was reckoned a great booty for such beggarly enemies."]

1 Extracts from the Town Record, in Saunderson, History of Charlestown, N. H. (Number Four), 17, 18.

But Massachusetts grew tired of defending lands that had been adjudged to New Hampshire, and as the season drew towards an end, Number Four was left again to its own keeping. The settlers saw no choice but to abandon a place which they were too few to defend, and accordingly withdrew to the older settlements, after burying such of their effects as would bear it, and leaving others to their fate. Six men, a dog, and a cat remained to keep the fort. Towards midwinter the human part of the garrison also withdrew, and the two uncongenial quadrupeds were left alone.

When the authorities of Massachusetts saw that a place so useful to bear the brunt of attack was left to certain destruction, they repented of their late withdrawal, and sent Captain Phineas Stevens, with thirty men, to reoccupy it. Stevens, a native of Sudbury, Massachusetts, one of the earliest settlers of Number Four, and one of its chief proprietors, was a bold, intelligent, and determined man, well fitted for the work before him. He and his band reached the fort on the twenty-seventh of March, 1747, and their arrival gave peculiar pleasure to its tenants, the dog and cat, the former of whom met them with lively demonstrations of joy. The pair had apparently lived in harmony, and found means of subsistence, as they are reported to have been in tolerable condition. Stevens had brought with him a number of other dogs, – animals found useful for detecting the presence of Indians and tracking them to their lurkingplaces. A week or more after the arrival of the party, these canine allies showed great uneasiness and barked without ceasing; on which Stevens ordered a strict watch to be kept, and great precaution to be used in opening the gate of the fort. It was time, for the surrounding forest concealed what the New England chroniclers call an “army,” commanded by General Debeline. It scarcely need be said that Canada had no General Debeline, and that no such name is to be found in Canadian annals. The “army” was a large war-party of both French and Indians, and a French record shows that its commander was Boucher de Niverville, ensign in the colony troops.” The behavior of the dogs was as yet the only sign of danger, when, about nine o'clock on the morning of the seventh of April, one of Stevens's men took it upon him to go out and find what was amiss. Accompanied by two or three of the dogs, he advanced, gun in hand, into the clearing, peering at every stump, lest an Indian should lurk behind it. When about twenty rods from the gate, he saw a large log,

1 Saunderson, History of Charlestown, N. H. 29. Doolittle, Nar. rative of Mischief done by the Indian Enemy, - a contemporary chronicle

* Ertrait en forme de Journal de ce qui s'est passe d’interessant dans la Colonie à l'occasion des Mouvements de Guerre, etc., 1746, 1747.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »