The burning of Springfield by the Indians October 5, 1675, nearly forty years after its settlement, was the most startling and important event in its early history. King Philip had begun open hostilities which had spread to the region of the Connecticut valley. Hadley, Deerfield, and Northfield had suffered. Captain Lothrop and his brave men had been slaughtered at Deerfield, and terror reigned in every town and hamlet. Major John Pynchon had gone to Hadley with a small force on the 4th of October, leaving Springfield unprotected.
On Long Hill in the south part of town, overlooking the valley, a fort had been constructed for the protection of the friendly Indians, who were dwelling in peace in the neighborhood. Into this a large number of hostile Indians, including some who had previously been on terms of intimate friendship with the whites, had secreted themselves. Toto, a friendly Indian, who was living with a white family in Windsor, revealed the plot, and that night a messenger rode swiftly to Springfield, who roused the inhabitants and warned them of the threatened danger. Every one was notified who had not gone to Hadley, with Major Pynchon, and immediately took refuge in the three fortified houses. Among the numbers were some of the older men of the community, including Deacon Samuel Chapin, Rev. Pelatiah Glvoer, Jonathan Burt, Lieut. Thomas Cooper, Thomas Miller, and others. Mr. Glover at once carried his library to Mr. Pynchon's house for safety. A messenger was dispatched to Hadley to notify Major Pynchon of the great danger that was impending, but the morning of the 5th opened without any indications of an attack upon the town, and Toto's statements began to be discredited. Rev. Mr. Glover, confident that there was no danger had carried his library back to his house, and Lieut. Cooper, long engaged in trade with the Indians, and who well knew every Indian in this region, set out on horseback for the fort. Thomas Miller accompanied him. They had approached Mill river, within less than a half a mile of the fort, when they were fired upon by the Indians. Miller was instantly killed and Cooper severely wounded. The latter's horse galloped back to town and stopped in front of Major Pynchon's house, when Lieut. Cooper fell dead to the ground. The Indians then followed up this attack, and soon the dwellings, which had been temporarily deserted by the occupants, for places of greater safety, were set on fire and destroyed. Pentecost Mathews, wife of John Mathews, was shot and killed in the south part of the town, and her house set on fire and consumed. The work of destruction, now fairly begun, the prominent actors in this most startling frontier drama, no longer continued their disguise. They proved to be some of the hitherto friendly Indians,--one of them an old sachem who had been on the most intimate terms of friendship, almost from the first settlement. The house of correction, some of Pynchon's mills, and many dwellings and barns, were burned to the ground. Various accounts differ as to the actual number. Major Pynchon, who hurried back from Hadley as soon as informed of the contemplated plot, but did not arrive until the town was in ashes, stated that about thirty houses were burned. Capt. Samuel Appleton, who was at Hadley, in a letter put the number at thirty-three house, and twenty-five barns, while Jonathan Burt set down the number at "twenty-nine houses and barns." He was chosen one of the Selectmen the next February and entered a brief account in the third volume of the town records, which now occupies a fly leaf of that book, and this is the only account that has been preserved in Springfield.
During the attack Edmund Pryngrydays and Nathaniel Brown were severely wounded, and both died soon afterwards. Major Treat, of Connecticut, who had been stationed at Westfield with an armed force, and Major Pynchon and Captain Appleton with their two hundred soldiers prevented further destruction.
Mr. Glover's valuable library shared the common fate and was entirely destroyed with his dwelling. Fifteen houses on the street, and twenty or more in the outskirts of the town were saved.
Major Pynchon's letter to Rev. John Russell of Hadley, his letter to the governor, both of which are on flle in the State Archives at Boston, and one to his son then in England, contain some interesting statements concerning this entirely unexpected and startling event. His letter to Rev. Mr. Russell is given in full below:--
SPRINGFIELD, Oct. 5, 1675.
The Lord will have us ly in ye dust before him; wee yt were full are emptyd, But it is ye Lord & blessed be his holy name: we came to a Lamentable & woefull sight. The Towne in flames, not a house nor Barne, except old Goodman Branches, till we came to my house & then Mr. Glovers & John Hitchcocks & Goodman Stewarts, burnt downe with Barnes, corne & all they had: a few standing about ye meeting house, & then from Miricks downward, all burnt; two garrison houses at the lower end of ye Towne, my grist Mill, & corne Mill, Burnt downe; with some other houses & Barnes I had let out to Tenants: All Mr. Glovers library Burnt with all his corne, so yt he hath none to live on as well as my selfe, & Many more yt have not for subsistence; they tell me 32 houses ye Barnes belonging to ym are Burnt & all, ye Livelihood of ye owners & what more may meete wth ye same stress ye Lord only knowes; many more had there estates burnt in there houses, So yt I believe 40 familys are utterly destitute of subsistence; ye Lord shew mercy on us. I see not how it is possible for us to live here this winter, & If so the sooner we were holpen off ye Better. Sir, I Pray you acquaint our Honored Governor with this dispensation of God. I know not how to work, neither can I bee able to attend any Public service, the Lord in mercy speake to my heart, & so all our hearts is this
Reall desire of
Under date of October 8, Major Pynchon wrote Governor Leverett:--"I desire to give you an account of the sore stroke upon poor distressed Springfield, which I hope will excuse my late doing of it. On the 4th of October our soldiers which were at Springfield I had called off, leaving none to secure the towne because the Commissioners orders were so strict. That night a post was sent to us that 500 Indians were about Springfield intending to destroy it on the 5th of October. With about 200 of our soldiers I marched down to Springfield where we found all in flames, about 30 dwelling houses burnt down and 24 or 25 barns, my corn mill, saw mill and other buildings. Generally men's hay and corn are burnt, and many men whose houses stand had their goods burnt in other houses which they had carried them to. Lt. Cooper and two more slain and 4 persons wounded. That the town did not utterly perish is cause of great thankfulness. As soon as said forces appeared the Indians drew off, so that we saw none. Our endeavors here are to secure the houses and corn that are left. Our people are under great discouragement and talk of leaving the place. We need your orders and directions about it. How to have provisions, I mean bread, for want of a mill is difficult. The soldiers here already complain on that atcount, although we have flesh enough. Many of the inhabitants have no houses, which fills and throngs every room of those that have, together with the soldiers; indeed it is very uncomfortable living here. But I resolve to attend what God calls me to and to stick to it as long as I can. I hope God will make up in himself what is wanting in the creature, to me, and to us all.
To speak my thoughts--all these towns ought to be garrisoned, as I have formerly hinted. To go out after the Indians in the swamps and thickets is to hazard all our men, unless we know where they keep, which is altogether unknown to us."
Major Pynchon, referring to Mr. Glover's loss, says: "He had all his books burnt; not so much as a Bible saved; a great loss, for he had some choice books and many."
This was Springfield's first baptism in fire and blood, and although the settlers must have been greatly disheartened, they immediately set about repairing their broken fortunes. During this year, 1675, according to Judd, in his history of Hadley, 145 persons were killed within the limits of what was then Hampshire county, as follows: At Brookfield August 2, 13; above Hatfield, August 25, 9; at Deerfield, Sept. 1, and after 2; at Northfield, Sept. 2, 8; near Northfleld, Sept. 4, 16; at Muddy Brook, (Deerfield) Sept. 18, 71; of Capt. Mosely's company, Sept 18, 3; at Northampton, Sept 28, 2; at Springfield, October 5, 4; at Hatfield, October 19, 10; at Westfield, October 27, 3; and at Northampton, Oct. 29, 4. This great destruction of life in a single year brings to us some realizing sense of the danger that attended the early settlements, and the great insecurity of life.
...Jonathan Burt's account of the burning of Springfield, reproduced from the original record in the town book.
SOURCE: First Century of the History of Springfield, Vol. I, by Henry M. Burt, pub. 1898; pages 129-134
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