03 June 2015

Battle of Great Falls or Massacre at Peskeompskut

Death came in the early morning hours on May 19, 1676. Hundreds of Native families were gathered under the Falls on the for the annual fish run. In May and June of each year, salmon, shad, eel, lamprey and herring made their journey upstream to spawn. The Connecticut River was thick with fish, making it an ideal time to gather food for the entire year. Annual corn fields were also growing nearby- come autumn, it would be picked and stored for the winter. And on this occasion, hungry Native refugees from war-torn Southern New England had also made their way to the Falls.
Looking north along the Connecticut River at Turners Falls

Both Native leaders and the the English authorities were at rest from the conflicts of the King Philip's War. Talks of peace had been ongoing for several months. The weary Nipmuc, Narragansett, and Pocumtuc warriors that had accompanied the families to the Falls gathered in nearby, separate camps.

Meanwhile, soldiers, residents and even the clergy occupying nearby Hadley, Massachusetts grew increasingly frustrated with the recent peace talks. Many were displaced from battles with Philip's men in Greenfield and Deerfield and wished to retaliate. After Native warriors raided nearby Hatfield and carried off cattle, Captain William Turner, commander of the Hadley garrison, decided to take action despite the instructions from his superiors.

Turner led more than 150 men on the 25 mile ride from Hadley to (what is now the town of) Gill. They gathered on the hill above the camp containing the families there to gather fish. The soldiers rushed down the hill and slaughtered the elders, women and children still sleeping in the early morning light. The noise of the assault woke the Native warriors camped nearby. The warriors gave chase to the English soldiers fleeing downriver but killed relatively few. Captain Turner was among those that perished and as a reward for his role in the deaths of those families, the area is now known as Turners Falls.

This one act was a turning point in King Philips War. By August of 1676, Metacomet (King Philip) was dead. Fighting continued in Northern New England until 1678 but Metacomet's death effectively ended the war in southern New England. Native survivors who participated in the fighting were either executed or sold into slavery. Native families dispersed, some going north to shelter with tribes up there. Others returned to their homelands where their descendants still remain.
The view across the Connecticut River. This is the likely area of the fishing camp.

I realize that this rendition of "The Battle of Great Falls" is a bit biased. But it is how I view the destruction of not only lives but an entire lifestyle. A way of life that had lasted for thousands of years before the coming of the English.

Until next time.

01 June 2015

Not Just YOUR Ancestor - Joseph Pegan, Revolutionary War Veteran

I heard some folks talking during a recent event about their ancestor, Joseph Pegan, and his Revolutionary War service. They sounded a little proprietary to me, as if he belonged only to their family. Which seemed strange because he is a claimed ancestor to hundreds of Nipmucs including those belonging to these families - Henries, Sprague, Nichols, White, Wilson, and mine!

Dudley, Massachusetts vital records state that Joseph Peagan (sic) died in Dudley on 11 December 1818. The U.S.Pension Roll of 1835 gives the same date of death along with the age of the veteran, 62 years. That places Joseph's birth around 1756.

Joseph Pegan was the son of Joseph Pegan (1718-1761) and Martha Bowman, the daughter of Samuel Bowman of Natick. He married Mary Sampson on 9 April 1787 and perhaps had two children, Edward Pegan and Betsey Pegan.
The marriage notation for Joseph Pegan and Mary Sampson can be found on the bottom of the left hand page.
A closer look at the marriage record.
By many accounts, Betsey Pegan was actually Betsey Caesar, the granddaughter of Samuel Pegan - a Dudley Indian and Patience David - a Hassanamisco Indian. Betsey married Henry White and their daughter, Angenette is my 4th great-grandmother. (I wrote about the Angenettes in my family here.)

The marriage record of Henry White and Betsey Caesar, 20 August 1827. It's the last entry on the page.
Edward Pegan is often associated with this Joseph Pegan. They are the right ages to be father and son and both lived in Dudley/Webster area. Both were Nipmuc Indians. Edward's death record names his parents as Joseph and Salome Pegan not Joseph and Mary. Also, Joseph's probate record did not name any children even though both Edward and Betsey were alive in 1818 when Joseph passed.

Edward Pegan's death record, 25 June 1868.

Of course this is not proof that Edward and Joseph are not father and son. But perhaps some of the family lines listed above should rethink who they actually descend from.

Below are a few more records for Joseph Pegan and his military service.

Joseph Pegan's enrollment and discharge dates - May 26, 1777 and May 26, 1780. 

Pay roll voucher for Joseph Pegan.

April 1778 payroll for Captain Child's company

Until next time -