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Mrs. North's Story
By SARA E. SVENSEN
"INDEED, I prefer to see Jeannette dead rather than married to Alexander Fossette!"
This remark addressed to me on the eve of my departure for America had been forgotten in the busy period that followed my arrival at Jamestown, Pemaquid. With the relief following the labor of settling,
I seated myself beside the comfortable fireplace in Jeannette s room. The girl, with pale face and closed eyes, lay on the cot opposite me and as I looked across at her, the cruel words and accompanying scene returned to my memory. Again I was at my sister's home in the north of Ireland, pleading for the lovers.
"Lydia North," the angry woman hurled at me in the broad Gaelic dialect, "Have you lost your wits entirely? A daughter of mine born of the aristocracy, united to a man without title and without lands! A disgrace to the name of Young!"
My sister, a tall, dignified woman, had inherited the beauty and grace of our Irish ancestors, and the high, richly furnished rooms made an eminently fitting frame for her, as she walked to and fro, clasping and unclasping her hands in the effort at self-restraint. When she had sufficiently mastered herself, she said in a cold voice, edged with sarcasm:
"You have encouraged the girl in this affair, but your husband is opposed to it. John North is a sensible man! Jeannette's father is as indignant as I, at the silly lovers, and declares that nothing but separation will effect a cure!" She came closer and added triumphantly. "When you and Mr. North sail for the new country, Jeannette goes with you!"
Tears and entreaty were useless. A month later, in a vessel owned by Mr. North, with our family, our servants, and our furniture, we set sail for the coast of Maine, where we had purchased land of David Dunbar, a native of Ireland and for a time, colonel in the army.
* * *
It was Christmas morn, the first we had spent in our Pemaquid home and all was ready for our Christmas guests. Without, the air was cool and bracing; within, all warmth and coziness. We viewed our surroundings with much satisfaction. At either end of the great room, wide fireplaces sent forth a welcome glow and a crackling "Merry Christmas!" Handsome tapestries and richly embroidered hangings made an attractive background for the dark, carved furniture. In the dining room the firelight shone upon dainty china and our decorations of evergreen and red berries were reflected from the silver and glass upon the heavy mahogany sideboard.
I approached the window. The scene without was equally beautiful. Our home was situated directly at the head of the western branch of the John's river with a fine view of Pemaquid Harbor beyond. In the past few months a number of houses had been erected at Pemaquid and adjacent places. Mr. Vaughn, a wealthy man and a friend of Dunbar's, had built for himself at Damariscotta Fresh Water Falls, a large house. "Well," I thought to myself, " I must admit this place is quite the equal of the Vaughn mansion."
Soon we were busy receiving and entertaining our neighbors.
As the guests seated themselves at the table, I took them all in at a glance. At the upper end of the board sat David Dunbar and wife. The Colonel was long-limbed and raw-boned, with hair decidedly red and keen gray eyes. I should judge he was about my husband's age. Mistress Dunbar was dark-haired, youthful and attractive. At the lower end of the table was seated the McFarland family. Solomon, the father, was somewhat past middle age, but with his strong build and ruddy complexion, he looked much younger. Mrs. McFarland was the direct opposite of her husband, short and plump, a woman of perhaps forty. George, the younger son, resembled his mother in form and feature. Walter, the elder, was the very type of his father, only slighter. The latter took little or no part in the light table talk and I missed his ringing boyish laugh. Often the sad blue eyes rested upon Jeannette's face with a questioning look.
"Indeed, sir," exclaimed Colonel Dunbar in answer to a discussion between Solomon McFarland and my husband, "I am of the opinion of friend North, that 'the only good Indian is a dead one'."
"I am afraid I do not agree with either of you," declared McFarland in the breadth of the Scotch brogue, "Samoset was a good Indian even when alive and made himself most useful to the whites in many ways. Probably there could be found more good Indians in the history of Pemaquid if an honest search were made."
"Sure, and the woods must have been full of them, if we are to believe all that we hear about their depredations," said the Colonel sarcastically. "At one time one of your good savages tore an infant from its mother's arms and burnt it on the fire before her eyes and carried the horrified parent into captivity. He was too kind to put the tortured woman out of her misery. Another time they took a mother and son captive, massacred the former and drove the latter along to the tune of his beloved parent's scalp across his face, whenever his feet lagged. I call that kindness personified," continued Dunbar in the same sarcastic strain.
"That, of course, was a long time ago and does not affect us now," added the Colonel as he noticed the nervousness of the women and children. Nothing daunted, the Scotchman continued his argument.
Grandson of Alexander Fossette, and Member of the Convention in 1819,
to Form the Constitution of Maine
"Think what the Indians have had to endure at the hands of the whites! Cheated out of their lands, treated with contempt, seized and sold as slaves into foreign countries, betrayed by men like Weymouth and Hunt, why should they not take revenge for such wrongs? 'Do an Indian a kindness and he will never forget it.' Abraham Shurte, a magistrate of influence and a resident of this place in the early part of the seventeenth century, always treated the Indians justly and kindly, and thus maintained their friendship and respect, even when they were enraged against others."
"May the saints preserve us from the bloody-handed villains," said my husband earnestly. "No one can make me think well of them. I believe I would do anything to keep out of their clutches." Then he continued in a lighter vein: "I am afraid I shall turn out another Chubb should the opportunity present itself. I think the poor man has been too severely criticised. It is true he surrendered without much effort, but that was better than holding out too long. Had Fort William Henry been carried by assault, he and the hundreds of people within its walls would have received no quarter from the Indians. Even I would not have dared run such a risk." My husband's eyes twinkled and I knew he was purposely challenging the Scotchman.
"I consider anyone who would surrender under such circumstances a coward!" answered McFarland emphatically. "The fort was in good condition, with sufficient supplies for a long siege. Chubb's conscience was weak. It accused him of wrong doing in regard to these vindictive people and he dared not hold out against them as he was not of the stuff of which heroes are made. Shortly before the siege, in a time of peace, Chubb and his men having engaged in a free and friendly conversation with the Indians, without any provocation, fell suddenly upon them with their weapons, killing some and wounding others. The Indians in the struggle acted only in self-defence."
The Scotchman glanced around the table as if he had made a point that no one could refute and then continued: "After the capture of Fort William Henry, the French soldiers, on entering, found an Indian in irons. The savage was half-starved and in a miserable condition, having suffered greatly from his long imprisonment. Had kindness and justice been meted out in these cases, what a return there would have been. I repeat it: 'Do an Indian a kindness and he will never forget it'."
"Chubb did a kindness to the Indians in surrendering the fort, and they never forgot it," said my husband with mock gravity. "Shortly after the siege the grateful savages visited Chubb and brought away his scalp as a reminder of his kindness."
"If the brutes would wreak their vengeance only on the ones who had injured them, it would not be so exasperating. But what excuse can they give for so brutally treating Thomas Giles and family?" said Dunbar. "The story is best told in the words of John Giles who was taken captive. He says: 'It was on the morning of that memorable day when Fort William Henry was captured, August 4th, 1696. With my father and two elder brothers I went up to the Falls to work at haying in a field which my father owned. We labored until noon and took our dinner at a farmhouse near. We had just finished our repast when suddenly firing was heard from the direction of the fort. My father was disposed to interpret the occurrence favorably, the and so remarked to us, but his conversation was cut short by a volley of bullets from a party of Indians, who had been hitherto concealed, awaiting the signal from the Fort to begin the massacre. The savages numbered some thirty or forty, who, now rising from ambush, finished their work in a few minutes, killing or capturing all except Thomas, my oldest brother, who made his escape unhurt. My father was mortally wounded. My brother ran one way and I another. Looking over my shoulder I saw a stout fellow, in war-paint, pursuing me with a gun and a tomahawk glittering in his hand. Just then I stumbled and fell, but the Indian did me no injury. Tying my arms he bade me follow him.
"'We soon came up to my father. He was deathly pale, the blood gushing from many wounds, and it was with difficulty that he staggered along. I saw two men shot down on the flats and one or two knocked on the head with hatchets. Then the Indians brought two captives, a stranger and my brother James, who, with me, had endeavored to escape by running from the house when we were first attacked. At length the savages were ready to start. We marched about a quarter of a mile and then made a halt. Here they brought my father to us. They tried to tell him that those were strange Indians who shot him and that they were sorry for it. My parent replied that he was a dying man and wanted no favor of them, but to pray with his children. This being granted, he recommended us to the protection and blessing of God Almighty; then gave us the best advice and took his leave from this life, trusting in God that we should meet in a better land.
"'The Indians led him aside. I heard the blows of the hatchet, but neither groan nor shriek. To behold my father, bleeding and suffering, and to know that his life had been ended so brutally, was nothing to seeing my mother and two young and tender sisters, the younger only four years of age, taken captives'." Here Colonel Dunbar paused.
"Did they escape?" queried John.
"They did, my boy, all but one," answered the Colonel. "After suffering much with the Indians for many years, the mother and daughters were finally restored to their friends. Of the two sons, James and John, the former, after suffering great hardships, made his escape. Unfortunately he was taken prisoner again by the Indians and tortured to death at the stake by a slow fire. John, the narrator of this story, was finally set at liberty."
The Colonel talked right on with no softening of the lines of the story.
"I hope they won't catch me," said little George McFarland with a horrified face, snuggling close to his mother. The fond parent placed a protecting arm about her child and whispered soothing words, and then said aloud, "I think death would be far preferable to captivity among the Indians."
My husband hastened to give the talk a humorous turn. Leaving the table and approaching the fireplace he said: "Draw. up your chairs, friends, and I will tell you how old Sim McCobb routed the Indians with a prayer. Sim was such a profane man he would make the shivers chase each other up and down your spine. His conversation made the war-whoop sound tame. When he passed along the street, people were tempted to close their windows.
"McCobb was in his back yard sawing wood one morning when he heard the yell of the Indians. Then and there he dropped down upon his knees. 'Dear Lord,' he said, 'I never prayed before, but if you will save me just this once, I'll pray more and swear less.' There was a pause in the prayer, and the savage cries drew nearer. Sim became impatient and continued his prayer quite emphatically. 'If you don't hurry up, Lord, there'll be a big row here soon., Then the prayer became so expressive that the Indians became terror-stricken and took to their heels."
"Now, Colonel," said my husband, after the laughter had subsided, "I'm going to ask you to tell us some more about Pemaquid if you will promise not to drag the Indians into it. The minute a redskin shows his head, I shall be tempted to use some of McCobb's ammunition on him."
"I promise," said the Colonel smiling, "and will try and give you the history from the beginning.
"The word Pemaquid, to whose waters the ships of the English nation came for business before Plymouth had a beginning, signifies 'long point., Here to the southeast is the large island of Monhegan; to the southwest, Rutherford's Island, so named from Rev. Robert Rutherford. Those who first became acquainted with the natives of this region, speak of a Bashaba or Great Ruler. The country over which he ruled was called Mavooshen. His chief residence is said, by some, to have been Pemaquid.
"The first fort was built in 1630 and seems to have been intended rather as a protection against the bold and reckless pirates who were beginning to infest the coast, than against the Indians, who were in the main, friendly.
"Dixy Bull and Captain Kidd were the most prominent of these sea-robbers. This fort was only a stockade but was well constructed and mounted with seven cannon. Its site, very probably, was the same as that on which all the other forts have been successively built. Fort William Henry, raised at a great expense in 1692 by Sir William Phipps, was of tremendous strength for those days. That we know, was partially destroyed by the French and Indians in 1696 I came over here in 1729, and, as governor of the place, considered it my duty to repair the Pemaquid Fort. The walls were found to be in tolerably good condition, and the work was finished the following year and called Fort Frederic, for the Prince of Wales. The work was done at the expense of the British government. plan I was aided in this work by a surveyor from Nova Scotia, by the name of Mitchell.
"Having completed the fort we formed a magnificent plan of operations for the improvement of the place, and began work upon it with great energy. We laid out the territory between the Muscongus and Sheepscot rivers into three townships, which I named after three English noblemen of the day, — Townsend, Harrington and Walpole. In the meantime, I caused a proclamation to be made in the King's name of my intention in regard to the place, inviting settlers from any part of the country, promising to supply them with lands on easy terms, and, in some cases at least, support for their families for a limited time. In the vicinity of Fort Frederick we laid out the plan of a city, named Jamestown, in honor of James II, and caused a considerable part of the territory in the three towns mentioned, to be divided into lots of convenient size, which were to be appropriated to actual settlers. Sales of land were frequent. Sometimes I gave away land to promote emigration. Some have found fault with the place, but we cannot expect to find the luxuries of home in a new, uncultivated country. Nevertheless there are plenty of opportunities here.
"Pemaquid has good harbors and bays; abundance of fish is found here; cod and shad are taken on the coast; salmon and alewives are found in the spring in most of the rivers, the catching and curing of fish being the chief industry. Wild fowl are common, both ducks and geese. Trading with the natives for beaver and other furs, adds something to the general business. The country affords immense stores of timber and wild fruits abound." The Colonel paused for an instant and then continued in the same optimistic strain: "Agriculture is not so successful on account of the sterility of the soil, but that when improve in time."
"When did the Rev. Robert Rutherford arrive in this country?" I inquired. "He came over as chaplain to me in 1729," answered Dunbar. "Rutherford was an Episcopalian and most of the people here are warmly attached to the Established Church." The Colonel paused, then looking at my husband said: "I think it would be safer to conclude my talk with this fact, so as not to waste any of McCobb's ammunition!"
The State Tower at Pemaquid
A tablet bears the following inscription: Commemorative to the Early European Settlement in this Locality which was the Resort of the White Men from the Earliest Period of the History of New England, this Tower was erected by the State of Maine in 1908, upon the Site of the Greater Flanker of Fort William Henry, built im 1692 and near the Spot where Pemequid Fort Stood in 1631, Fort Charles in 1677 and Fort Frederick in 1729.
Frederick O. Conant
Austin W. Pease Frank D. Nichols
Architect William B. Patterson
Old Fort William Henry, 1696, as described by Early Maine Historians
* * *
The balmy spring came on apace. Often Jeannette and I visited the little nooks and corners for Which Pemaquid is noted. We walked along the sand and pebbly beach enjoying the scenery; the clear blue heavens above, the great expanse of water beyond; verdant fields sloping to the sunny south and the huge ridges of granite ledges to the east and west. About this time the Youngs came to Jamestown. Jeannette was with her own family and I was feeling lonesome when my husband entered and started a conversation which was both interesting and diverting.
"Governor Belcher visited Pemaquid today," he said. "His object was to learn in person, the condition of the place and its strength; and especially to use what influence he might to keep the Indians quiet and to protect them from wrong on the part of the settlers." My husband hesitated, looking thoughtful, then he continued: "I believe Belcher will make a better governor than David Dunbar. The greatest mistake the Colonel made, was in not giving the settlers who held their possessions under him, clear titles to their lands; they received from him neither deeds nor leases."
My husband sighed and added: "Poor David, he met with many reverses. With the view of obtaining the governorship of New Hampshire he went to England but was not successful. He was thrown into prison but was later liberated by some of his friends. Broken by disappointment and disgrace, he soon after died.
"Today, Belcher spoke in warmest tones of the improvements he had witnessed here and of the natural advantages and future prospects of Pemaquid. At the governor's recommendation, provision was made by the Legislature for continuing a garrison at this place. For this purpose the fort at Winter Harbor has been dismantled and the officers and soldiers with the artillery and stores of all kinds, transferred to Fort Frederick. A number of the eastern Indians have been at the fort for the past few days, probably by previous appointment, and an informal conference has been held, the Indians expressing a desire for a long continued peace. The governor entertains them in the kindest manner, much to their satisfaction. They finally left for their homes in excellent good humor."
A few days later my husband was conversing again on the same subject; he said: "In spite of all his care Belcher cannot but observe a growing antipathy between the two races, and has begun to take measures of precaution against the coming struggle which he plainly foresees. Various measures have been adopted to pacify the natives in the hope of avoiding a rupture, but at the same time means are to be provided for repairing several of the forts along the coast including the one here."
In due time our family with all the household goods were installed in the fort. Among the families there we found the McFarlands.
"My husband is confined to his bed by a severe illness but is anxious to talk with you and your husband," said Mrs. McFarland.
We were surprised to find our friend so helpless. In answer to a remark made by my husband on the expected attack of the Indians the sick man said weakly, though bravely, with a twisted won't give up the fort but will fight the savages to a finish!"
Mrs. McFarland had been in the sick room some time when she said to me aside: "Would you mind remaining in the room a short time, as I wish to go to the garden for a few vegetables for dinner?" I readily consented, but could not forbear expressing my anxiety regarding her safety. "It is but a short distance from the fort, — just in sight, and I can easily get back," she remarked lightly. I could not shake off my fears, and approached the window. As I looked in the direction of the garden, imagine my horror when I saw an Indian partially concealed in the bushes, scarcely a gunshot from my friend. Mrs. McFarland did not appear to see her enemy, but stepped slowly away for a few seconds, as if to continue picking, and then began to run for her life. The Indian rushed from ambush and fired upon her. She fell forward upon her face. I stood by the window paralyzed, speechless, expecting every moment to see the prostrate woman's scalp removed by the hideous tomahawk that the savage was now flourishing madly. Imagine my surprise to see Mrs. McFarland spring to her feet; the next moment I was horrified to see the Indian sieze her by the arm, and to hear her frightful screams. I saw her break away and start again in the direction of the fort. She was now within range of the guns. The guards had been aroused by her shrieks, so that any nearer approach on the part of the redskin would have been particularly dangerous, and my friend was soon within the gates.
The bullet had merely grazed her shoulder, and as the slight wound was dressed, she exclaimed: "My apron became untied and stepping upon it, I stumbled." She paused for a moment, — very pale, and then added reverently: "I can only look upon my deliverance as the work of God!"
"I thought you did not see the Indian at first, you stepped away so slowly and with such apparent unconcern," I said.
"I knew that to attempt at once to run for the fort would be almost sure death," she answered quietly.
* * *
August brought its labors afield in Pemaquid and the grain was garnered again. The men worked at a distance with their muskets at hand in case of an attack. Excepting Solomon McFarland, only women remained in the fort. One day the Indians, expecting to gain admittance before the return of the men, came slyly upon us at noon and surrounded the enclosure. All within was confusion; we rushed hither and yon screaming hysterically and moving as if by no will of our own. Mrs. McFarland was the first to regain her composure if, indeed, she had ever lost it. 'The Lord's arm is not shortened that it cannot save,," she said, taking her station by one of the big guns, "Let us obey orders."
Somewhat calmed by this brave example, we became aware that the sick man was addressing us. "We have no need to fear for ourselves but for those outside. The savages can make no impression upon these stone walls in the little time they have. They will soon retire at a distance and lay in wait for the men when they come to dinner." Not noticing our despairing gestures at this last remark the Scotchman continued, partially rising. "Be brave, my lassies, the
Lord will surely help thee! Lend a hand to the loading and I will do the rest." Thus encouraged with the assistance of her daughter, Mrs. McFarland loaded the cannon. Mr. McFarland rose from his bed and discharged it at the barricade where the Indians had retired, killing one of them on the spot. Soon some of the men, probably alarmed by the report of the cannon, began to return, but to get into the fort in the face of the enemy was not an easy matter. However, they understood the character of the foe, and managed with so much caution, as well as courage, that all but one at length succeeded in gaining entrance without serious injury. One, James Little, was killed and scalped.
The latter part of the afternoon a lad about the size of my boy came running into the fort. At first I thought it was John returned from our home where, in the early morning, he had gone to get something I valued. I was beside myself with worry and listened to the strange boy's story with ever increasing fears.
"I was on a large fishing vessel with thirteen hands," said the lad. "We were lying in Pemaquid Harbor, waiting for a favorable wind, when we concluded to make an excursion to the Falls. While busily engaged in fishing, a party of Indians suddenly sprang upon us, killing all the men. I fled around the head of the bay and made my escape to the west side of the harbor. Several of the savages pursued me, but I concealed myself in a stack of hay on the Sproul place and they passed by without discovering me." Silence fell between us and then the lad added: "I suppose the two McFarland boys who were so brutally assaulted by the Indians on John's Island to-day were relatives of the McFarlands here."
"McFarland boys — brutally assaulted?" I repeated in bewilderment. "That must be Solomon McFarland's boys. Tell me all you know about it!" I exclaimed, as in my excitement I took the lad by the arm and shook him rudely.
"They were at work on the Island, when the Indians fell upon them. Walter, I believe that was the elder's name, was carried into captivity, the younger was barbarously butchered." Later in the day this story was confirmed. John, my boy, arrived home safely.
When Mrs. McFarland heard the fate of her children, she walked the floor wringing her hands. For the first time I saw my friend lose her self-control. "Oh, my precious babe! My little George so cruelly murdered!" she cried out. "And my dear Walter to meet such a fate! But my husband — how can we keep it from him?"
Too late for thought of that. Mr. McFarland in the next room had heard his wife's words. There came the sound of a fall and we found him half way to the door, unable to speak or move. That we had brought too many terrible things and he never rallied from this final shock to recognize even his half-crazed wife. The next week another newly-made grave was added in the green hillside by the sea.
The evening of the memorable day on which Fort Frederick was attacked, we missed the cows that always came home before dark. It was now late and William Fossette set out to search the woods for them. We afterwards learned that the Indians had purposely detained the animals and then lay in ambush where persons seeking for them would be likely to pass. The unfortunate man was found the next morning, only a little distance away, shot and scalped. He was interred near Fort Frederick with our other beloved dead. William Fossette had endeared himself to all who knew him.
During the next three years the savages continued their depredations. Houses were burned, crops destroyed and there was a great lack of food. Many fled to Falmouth. In the year 1748 by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, peace was restored between England and France. The fifth Indian war came to an end, occasioning much joy in this frontier region. The savages became peaceful and captives were restored to their homes.
* * *
The following week on a bright, sunshiny afternoon, as I was arranging flowers in the hall, the knocker sounded and I opened the door. I stood there dumb, but there was no need to fear. It was Alexander Fossette. "You!" I exclaimed, "safe and well?" Overwhelmed with relief and joy for Jeannette, I sank into a chair, motioning him to a place beside me. He bowed courteously, with the natural grace of the French Huguenot. He spoke with a slightly, foreign accent, and his voice was rich and pleasing, according well with the frank, handsome face.
"After your departure I became restless, and decided to follow you to this country," he said, "but it was some time before I could make up my mind" — there was an awkward pause and he added, — "some time before I could earn money enough. However, spurred on by faith and hope and an affection which no time could dim, toiled and saved sufficient means to come in search of Jeannette. On my way here I visited at Martinique, a branch of the Fossette family.
John and Mary, who fled to that place during the persecution of the French Huguenots. A descendant of this family, little Alexander Hamilton, I am pleased to claim as a namesake. At length I reached this country. At Philadelphia I met certain fur traders who had sold goods to Mr. North and learned from them that your family had moved to a place in Maine called Pemaquid. Not far from here I was captured by the Indians and carried along with them in the capacity of a truck horse. As they proceeded on their way, they pillaged and burned houses, and the slaughter was murderous."
He paused, and then added sadly: "While in Philadelphia, one of the traders told me of my brother's death at the hands of the Indians several years ago. We have all suffered much from them — but it is useless to dwell upon the past." He walked to the window looking out, then turning abruptly, said anxiously: "Do you think Jeannette's parents still retain their hatred for me and will continue to withhold their consent to our marriage?"
"Hardships have proved a blessing in disguise and cured them of their ancestral pride and folly," I answered. "They have not found the luxuries of their old home here at Jamestown, but — " I paused, debating in my mind how to proceed.
"Does Jeannette still care for me?" he interposed. "I realize that a girl with her attractions would naturally have admirers."
"I am not quite sure whether she has made a decision or not, but 'Faint heart ne'er won fair lady'," I laughingly said.
"Thank you, Madam North, I will try to be brave as well as true."
I then gave Alexander Fossette a cordial invitation to remain at my home until his love affair should be settled, promising him an interview with my niece as soon as it could be arranged. He gratefully accepted, but decided to remain at the fort until I had prepared Jeannette for the meeting. After his departure I called at the Youngs' to intercede for him. Hurrying home I met Jeannette and took her along with me for tea.
I was wondering how I should break the news of Alexander's return, when suddenly there was a rustling of the hemlock boughs and the lover swung himself to the rocks just below.
"Jeannette, I must know! Do you yet love me or is there another?"
The girl could not speak for tears.