loves stories, loves history
, loves New England
, loves genealogy
. When my father was born, they got his name from a tombstone
in the Old Deerfield
Cemetery - which is right next to the mass grave
for victims of the Deerfield Massacre
. The big wooden be-plaque
d houses and histories 'round there are speckled with our name. But my uncle's middle name makes a more symbolic connection between those two graves.
He's named Dustin after a distant relation: Hannah Dustin, always cast as a heroine in grandpa's stories. She was forty and living in Haverhill in March of 1697, the month she bore her eighth child and, a little later, entered history.
Hannah and Thomas Dustin and their children lived in a house slightly separated from the settlement at Haverhill, and were thus perhaps an easy target for attacking natives*. On March 15th, Hannah was still abed after bearing a child a week earlier - her children were around the house and Thomas was out working when an attacking band approached. The children were sent packing toward the village and when daddy came to protect his family, he was sent after them, leaving Hannah, the baby, and the midwife Mary Ness in the house.
The attackers followed Thomas and the children but Thomas fired back and they managed to get to town. So the "salvages" turned back toward the house. They roused Hannah out of bed, ransacked and torched the house, and started their retreat with the captives. As the infant slowed the party's progress, they brained it against an apple tree (some accounts say they laughed at Hannah's horror) and left it in the bloody leaves as they marched on to what is now New Hampshire, camping on an island. Some versions of the tale imply that there were other hostages that were killed as they faltered in the march, but both Hannah and Mary survive - either by force of prayer or, alternately, thirst for bloody revenge. Or, in true New England Old Testament style, both.
At any rate, Hannah resolved to escape one night when they were encamped on an island; apparently she'd been told that on their arrival in Pennacook they'd be forced to run the gauntlet before they could be integrated as slaves and didn't relish the idea, especially after a sixteen-day forced hike sans shoes in March, thinking about her family that she could only assume were dead. She got the cooperation of Mary Ness and an English boy (Samuel Leonardston, also captive), stole a few hatchets, and killed ten of the twelve sleeping indians in the camp. The escaped two were a woman and a boy, who woke and ran. The fugitives then took a canoe and set off back down the Merrimack river.
Before too long, however, Hannah decided to turn back to the scene. She wanted proof of her deeds - whether to prove that she had gone with them against her will, or avenged her baby's death, or just to get the reward, we'll never know. She turned the canoe around and they gathered the ten scalps, which they brought to Boston and were rewarded fifty pounds for, along with other awards and honors.
Hannah is the first woman in the U.S. to have a statue erected to her: the statue in Haverhill was erected in 1879. There is a second statue in Duston Island, N.H. In 1973, there was a commemorative Jim Beam bottle in Hannah's image. She's engrained in our memory. Some of the stories say that her bloody actions may have given indians second thoughts about taking colonial women hostage.
Living at the raggedy rough edge of a cultural collision, in this instant no one was at their best. I don't really feel that her actions should make me proud as a woman or a relative or a human, but who would know what they'd do after a forced march with visions of baby brains playing out over and over? My dad and i thought it might make a disturbing and gritty historical movie: it's already been written up in so many histories.
I just don't know why anyone would name their child after her.
* No accounts i could find specify which tribe - they're mostly called "furious salvages" and "formidable tawnies". However, http://www.hiddenhistory.com/PAGE3/swsts/nuhamp1.HTM says that the Pennacook (or Merrimac) lived near Haverhill and accounts of Hannah's story say they were going to be taken to a settlement at Pennacook.
(gosh, i wonder why they were angry and attacking?)