The Last Skirmish of King Philip’s War, 1676 – Part II

Welcome to the ninth week of Bidwell Lore! Last week we read Part I of the essay  The Last Skirmish of King Philip’s War, 1676 from guest writer and local Berkshires historian Bernard Drew.  This essay has been adapted by Mr. Drew from a chapter in his book Henry Knox and the Revolutionary War Trail in Western Massachusetts (McFarland, 2012).  At the end of the essay is a footnote from Rick Wilcox that shows how this story connects to the Bidwell Family. 

One of the few period sources of information is William Hubbard. This description of the winding down of the conflict is from Indian Wars in New-England From the First Planting Thereof in the Year 1607, to the year 1677 (1775):  

“As for the rest of the Indians, whether Nipnet, Nashaway, Pacomptuck, Hadley, or Springfield Indians, it is not so certain what has become of them; but after their separation one from the other about July last, it was observed by all the tracks in those woods, they went still westward; and about the middle of August last, a great party of them were observed to pass by Westfield, a small town to the west of Springfield, and were judged to be about 200; News thereof being bro’t to Major Talcot, he with the soldiers of Connecticut colony under his command, both Indians and English, pursued after them as far as Ausotiunnoog river (in the middle way betwixt Westfield and the Dutch river, and Fort Albany) where he overtook them, and fought with them;* killing and taking 45 prisoners, 25 of whom were fighting men, without the loss of any one of his company save a Mohegin Indian: Many of the rest were badly wounded, as appeared by the bushes being much besmeared with blood, as was observed by those that followed them further.

It is written since from Albany, that there were sundry lost besides the 45 aforementioned, to the number of three score in all; and also that an hundred and twenty of them are since dead of sickness; so that vengeance seems to be pursuing them as well as the rest….”

The asterisk two paragraphs back is a later editor’s note: “This battle was probably fought in Stockbridge, near where the meeting house now stands.” Hubbard gives no basis for that statement. Topography suggests a tired group traveling westward would find it easier going to turn south, toward flat Sheffield, rather than north, toward the steeper entrance into Stockbridge.

Grace D. Wilcox [1], director of the Stockbridge Library, liked the Hubbard theory, however, and in the 1950s offered words from a manuscript by Oliver Partridge [2] that mentions bones found during the construction of a meeting house in 1784: “finally we built on this place… very uneven on which were a number of little hillocks in leveling of which we plowed up the bones of 13 Indians who were probably some of the Nipnet and Pacomtuck Tribes whom Maj. Talcot and company pursued from Westfield and killed on this spot in 1676 — 120 year ago — see Hubbard’s Indian Wars.”

Again, what was Partridge’s basis for that statement? What made them Nipnet or Pacomtuck bones rather than Mohican?

There are other sparse accounts, including a Council of Connecticut letter to Governor Edmund Andros, dated 19 August 1676, that said 40 Indians were slain and 15 taken captive. “This engagement was on Tuesday morning, August 15, and is supposed to have been taken place in or near the present township of Sheffield [which at the time included Great Barrington as the northern precinct]. Major Talcot was not stationed at Westfield, as intimated by [Benjamin] Trumbull [in his history of Connecticut], but had recently come from the east.”

John Pynchon of Springfield wrote to the governor of Massachusetts on 15 August 1676: “Last Saturday, Aug. 12, near 200 Indians were discovered within three or four miles of Westfield. The people and soldiers then went out and made several shots on them, and took a horse from them, but finding them so many they sent word to me. I presently gave order for thirty to march thither, but they came too late: and then also Major Talcot’s army came in, who, as they say cut down all the Indian corn about Quabaug, &c. They pursued them on the Sabbath about noon, a day after the Indians were gone, and provisions not being ready at Westfield, they hastened, somewhat short of provisions, and I doubt they will not overtake them till they come to Aussotinnoag.

“While I am writing, news comes that Major Talcot’s army are most of them returned; only himself and 60 men and as many Indians have gone on. Finding his want of victuals, Maj. Talcot sent back most of his men, taking all their victuals and discharging himself of his horses.”

In trying to figure out the exact spot the assault took place, Stockbridge historian Lion G. Miles (“Enduring myth of Indian massacre,” letter, Berkshire Eagle, 17 June 2000) decried Hubbard’s and Hoyt’s lack of documentation. He noted the only hint of direction of the fleeing Indians was their intention, by the later testimony of one of their number, toward present-day Saugherties, N.Y. This, Miles says, suggests they might have gone south at the Housatonic River, perhaps as far south as Sheffield.  

So the precise spot of the Talcott raid has become a matter of first-declared, most accepted.
A commemorative stone marker placed west of the Bridge Street bridge in Great Barrington is cited in some histories as sufficient proof of locale. The Berkshire Historical Society and the Thursday Morning Club took part in dedication of the marker in August 1904, during Great Barrington’s Old Home Week. The marker reads: “Twenty rods north of this stone was the old Indian Fordway on the Middle trail from Westfield to the Hudson River. Nearby was the site of the Great Wigwam where Major John Talcott overtook and dispersed a party of Indians, August, 1676.”

The marker’s deteriorated wording was reproduced on a bronze tablet that was mounted nearby in 1989.

From Rick Wilcox: 
For Bidwell Lore there is no connection so tenuous that we can’t find a way to create an article and in this case the fascinating story of the end of King Philip’s War taking place in the Berkshires:

Adonijah’s great grandfather John Bidwell (1641-1692) and wife Sarah Welles Bidwell (1659-1708) lived in Hartford, Connecticut and he was referred to as John Bidwell, Jr.  And it seems that Adonijah’s great-grandfather likely knew Major Talcott.

“John Bidwell, Jr. had the first sawmill in Glastenbury, 1667. He lived at Harford, as his father willed him all his land and buildings west of the Connecticut River. He had six saw or gristmills, three in Hartford, and one each in at East Hartford, Wethersfield and Middletown. He was an engineer and was selectedby the Town of Hartford to deepen the channel in the Connecticut River between Hartford and Wethersfield. Town Records of Hartford, 1686: The town by their vote made choice of Major Talcott, Ensign Nathaniel Stanley, Mr. Cyprian Nichols and John Bidwell to consider the best way to make a channel in the river between this town and Wethersfield.John Bidwell is buried at East Hartford and left an estate of 1081 pounds. His wife Sarah, in March, 1704, gave to her son John land on the west side of the Connecticut River and her son Thomas witnessed the deed. He and his wife Sarah were admitted to full communion at the Second or Center Street Church, Hartford, 21 Feb. 1685 Vol. 5, page 45, Hartford Co. Probate Records: ‘Mrs. Sarah (Welles) Bidwell was the administrator of John Bidwell (her husband) deceased and Daniel Bidwell (her brother in law) was appointed by the court to oversee the children as they were all young.” [3]

[1] Grace Bidwell Wilcox, a fifth generation descendant of Rev. Adonijah Bidwell

[2] Dr. Oliver Partridge was the brother in law of Jemima Bidwell Partridge, daughter of Rev. Adonijah Bidwell and husband of William Partridge

[3]Glastenbury for 200 Years, Chapin, page 129

Come back next week to learn about the wives of Reverend Adonijah Bidwell