The fevered swamps of New Hampshire

Site of the Brackett’s Lane Massacre, 1691, Rye, NH

As we head into fall weather, what better time to poke around the fevered swamps of New Hampshire looking for Pearson forebears? Especially when – count them – FOUR of our Pearson ancestors were murdered in said swamps within three years and six miles of each other.

To wit:

In June 1689, Isabella Craddock Holdridge was murdered by “Negro Jack” in the Mast Swamp of Exeter, New Hampshire. Negro Jack was hanged in Boston the following year. There is no explanation put forward for her murder, but Mrs. Holdridge seems to have been less than charming. In 1659, in Salem, she was the principal witness in the first witchcraft trial against John Godfrey of Andover, Massachusetts, who endured three trials in all. It seemed she owed Godfrey money. Two days after Godfrey appeared at their house demanding payment, she testified that she was tormented with shape-changing animals: a bumblebee, a bear, a great horse, a black ox, and a black cat three times as big as an ordinary cat. Clearly he was practicing sorcery. (Godfrey was acquitted.) The Mast Swamp no longer appears on maps, but it was said to lie where “Exeter, Stratham, and Hampton come together.” In a deed of 25 Aug 1710, James Sinkler sold to James Dudley a piece of land in Exeter “nigh a way that formerly went into the Mast Swamp nigh where Goodwife Holdrig was killed.” Isabella Holdridge was our 9G grandmother.  

Two years later, in the neighboring town of Rye, New Hampshire, the Brackett’s Lane Massacre took the lives of Francis & Christina Rand, our 7G grandparents, along with their son Nathaniel. Our ancestor Samuel Rand, another of their sons, was out fishing that day and so lived to procreate. The massacre began at noon on the 29th of September, 1691, when a party of 20 to 40 Indians landed their canoes on Sandy Beach and killed 20 settlers, burning their homes and taking some women and children captive.  “Massacre Meadow” is on on the Rye map today, just south of Brackett Road. The victims are buried there.

Nine months later and just down the beach in Rye, John Locke was killed by Indians as he reaped grain in his field. A party of eight Indians, possibly bearing grudges against Locke for his conduct toward them in King Philip’s War, ambushed him. Locke is said to have fought valiantly with his sickle, even slicing off the nose of one Indian before he was scalped. Legend has it that one of his sons ran into a nose-less Indian many years later and took vengeance on him. There is a marker on Locke’s Neck, now hosting some high-end realty, showing where he died. John Locke was our 9G grandfather.

The moral of this story seems to be that if you feel like going fishing, you should probably go.

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