SOLDIERS

IN

KING PHILIP'S WAR

Chapter 5, Part I 

V.

CAPT. THOMAS WHEELER AND HIS MEN; WITH

CAPT. EDWARD HUTCHINSON AT BROOKFIELD

THE genealogy of the Wheelers of Concord is a difficult problem, from the fact that as early as 1640-1 no less than seven heads of families of that name were in town, viz., George, Joseph and Obadiah among the first settlers. Ephraim, Thomas and Timothy settled in 1639, and a second Thomas who appears in 1640-1. All published accounts are defective, but the long and careful research of Mr. George Tolman, of Concord, has done much to clear up the mystery. By a diligent comparison of Mr. Tolman's papers, kindly loaned me, with all I am able to glean from other sources, I derive the following account.

Thomas Wheeler, first mentioned, removed to Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1644; his son Thomas settled on the farm he left in Concord, and married a wife Sarah before 1649. Mr. Savage erroneously identifies this latter with the Captain. But of Capt. Thomas, we know that he was the brother of Timothy, who mentions in his will, probated Sept. 7th, 1687, "Joseph, Ephraim and Deliverance my brother Thomas his sons." He married Ruth, daughter of William Wood, and from the record of deaths in Concord we find some account of their children. Alice died March 17, 1641; Nathaniel died January 9, 1676-7; Thomas died Jan. 17, 1676-7; Ephraim February 9, 1689. Joseph and Deliverance, mentioned in Timothy's will, were probably the sole survivors of the parents. It is possible that James Wheeler, who married Sarah Randall in 1682 and settled in Stow, was a son of Capt. Thomas and Ruth. "Capt. Thomas Wheeler, husband of Ruth, died Dec. 10, 1676." Ruth the widow administered upon his estate next year. Their son Joseph, in 1677, administered upon the estates of his brothers Thomas and Nathaniel. The estate of Thomas consisted of "a horse, pistols, cutlash and gun," and was prized at ś6 12s. 

This was the Captain's son who saved his father's life at the fight in Brookfield. The son Joseph married Mary Powers and settled in Stow, Mass. Deliverance married Mary Davis, and also settled in Stow. Capt. Thomas was admitted freeman in 1642, was sergeant of the foot company of Concord in 1662, was appointed, at its organization in 1669, captain of the horse company, made up of troopers from several adjoining towns. He was in command of this company in July, 1675, when it was called into the service of which some account is to be given. Of this the main facts are gathered from the very interesting "narrative" which he published in 1675, within a few months after the service was rendered. The title of this pamphlet has been transcribed by the kindness of A. C. Goodell, Jr., Esq., from a copy of the original edition belonging to the Essex Institute, which copy is bound up with the Rev. Peter Bulkeley's Sermon, and was perhaps published with it. It is as follows:

A True Narrative Of the Lord's Providences in various dispensations towards Captain Edward Hutchinson of Boston and my self, and those that went with us into the Nipmuck Country, and also to Quabaug, alias Brookfield. The said Captain Hutchinson having a Commission from the Honoured Council of this Colony to Treat with several Sachems in those parts, in order to the publick peace and my self being also ordered by the said Council to accompany him with part of my Troop for Security from any danger that might be from the Indians: and to Assist him in the Transaction of matters committed to him.

Of this valuable publication contemporary historians availed themselves. Mr. Hubbard evidently used it freely and followed it fully in his account. Major Gookin refers to and quotes from it in his "History of the Praying Indians." But Rev. Nathan Fiske, pastor of the Third Church in Brookfield, who preached a centennial historical sermon in 1775 (which was published in 1776), seems not to have known of it, but follows Gov. Hutchinson's history, who himself evidently had never seen it, at least does not notice it. And Rev. Joseph I. Foot delivered a Historical Discourse on Thanksgiving Day, November 7, 1828 (published first in the same year), which discourse (says the Editor of the enlarged edition of 1843) was compiled by the author "after much inquiry and laborious research," and yet Mr. Foot seems to have been entirely ignorant of the existence of the "narrative," and makes no mention of Capt. Wheeler, leaving the natural inference that he could hardly have read either Hubbard's, Mather's or Gookin's History. The edition of 1843 contains "Wheeler's narrative" in full; and by the Editor's statement and a letter from Lemuel Shattuck, of Concord, it seems that Mr. Foot became aware of the existence of the pamphlet but did not receive it from Mr. Shattuck, who possessed two copies, until July, 1829, some time after his discourse was published, and even then Mr. Shattuck appears not to have known that the N. H. Historical Society had published the "Narrative" in their Collections two years before, with valuable annotations. In the edition of 1843, however, the Editor plainly used the publication of the N. H. Society, word for word -- title, introduction, notes and all, without addition or omission, though omitting to make acknowledgment of the same. On July

4th, 1860, in his oration at the Bi-Centennial Anniversary of the Settlement of Brookfield, Rev. Lyman Whiting gives a complete and eloquent account of the fight and subsequent defence of the garrison by Wheeler's troopers. And later Mr. H. E. Waite has made valuable investigations and has kindly furnished assistance, advice and material to the present writer, while the late Rev. J. H. Temple has made exhaustive researches, going over the whole ground and making a complete and detailed history of the whole affair in his "History of North Brookfield;" publishing this account by Capt. Wheeler in full.

It may be in order here to recall the situation of affairs and some of the circumstances that led up to this expedition to Brookfield.

Having been twice warned of the designs of Philip, and his efforts to stir up the various chiefs of the Nipmucks, by Waban, the ruler of the Christian Indians at Natick, the Council at last began to realize that something ought to be done. And so, on June 13, 1675, an embassy was sent to the Quabaugs and the Nipmuck tribes to discover their intentions.

The messengers visited the various Indian towns of Pakachoog, Maanexit, Wabaquasset, Quantisset, Chabonokongkomun, Manchaug and Hassanamesit, and received satisfactory promises from all the rulers of these towns that they would remain faithful to the interests of the English. From the Quabaugs they received the following document, still preserved in the Archives.

The Ruler of Quabage being examined by us where his men were: he said they were at home. Then we asked him whether there were none of them gone to help King Philip to fight against the English of Plymouth; he said No; and neither would he help him: for he has been false to him already, and, therefore, I will not help him: but I will still continue our subjection unto the English of the Massachusetts Colony; neither will I suffer any of my men to go and help him; and in confirmation of the same I do set my hand, 25 : 4 : 75.

Conkcascogau, alias Conkganasco.

The sachems who signed these agreements, for all were of the same purport, meant doubtless, to keep them. They were not aware that war had already begun at Mount Hope. And when Philip with his war-party came amongst them, they were at first inclined to stand aloof. But the war fever soon spread among the young braves, and Philip's agents went about sowing the seeds of disaffection, and making promises of great things to be done by the general uprising of all the tribes. Philip made presents of wampum to several of these chiefs; and by the middle of July, four at least of them were in the great general war camp at Meminimisset, where Ephraim Curtis found them, on his first visit. This Ephraim Curtis was an important personage in the negotiations at this time and in the subsequent events.

He was the son of Henry, of Sudbury, about thirty-three years old at this time, a notable scout and hunter, well versed in Indian ways, and intimately acquainted with many of these tribes. He was also a trader, and had a house at Quansigamug (Worcester).

He gives a detailed and interesting account of this visit, to the Council. This account was published in full, in the "History of North Brookfield," by Rev. J. H. Temple. By this account it appears that Curtis was employed by the Council to go into the Indian country about Quabaug, and find out all he could about their present condition and probable designs.

Three Christian Indians, from Natick, volunteered to go with him, and when he arrived at Marlboro', the constable there furnished him with two men, mounted and equipped, and there also another Indian volunteered with him.

At Marlboro' he heard that his house at Quansigamug had been plundered, and that Mattoonas, the Nipmuck chief, with a large war-party, and some of Philip's men, was raiding the country to the southward. Holding their course through Brookfield, they came after several days to a place where the great body of the Indians were gathered. He says "These Indians have newly begun to settle themselves upon an Island containing about four acres of ground, being compassed around with a broad mirey swamp on the one side, and a muddy river with meadow on both sides of it on the other side, but only one place that a horse could possibly pass, and there with a great deal of difficulty by reason of the mire and dirt."

The savages were in an ugly temper, and it was with much trouble that he finally prevailed upon them to listen to his message, the Indians in his company pleading earnestly for him. At last he gained speech with the Sachems and found them to be Muttaump, Konkganasco, Willymachen, Upchattuck, Keehood, and Noncatonsoo. Of these Muttaump, the Sachem of Quabaug, was leader. Curtis judged that there were about two hundred warriors at the place. His conference with these Indians was on July 14th, and on that same day Mattoonas had attacked Mendon, and killed five men at work in the fields. This report of Curtis was made to the Council on July 16th, and greatly disturbed them, so that Curtis was at once despatched back to the Indians, with a message and with letters to Major Pynchon at Springfield. He returned from this second trip on July 24th, and reported that he was well received by the Indians who were at the same place, and that they had promised to send Keehood and another of the Sachems to Boston within four or five days to speak with the Governor. The Council, however, did not wait for this time to elapse, but determined to send a larger force to confer with the Indians, so as to enforce their demands if necessary. But they entirely misjudged the strength and temper of the savages, and were deluded by their supposed knowledge that Philip was securely shut up in the swamp at Pocasset.

At a meeting of the Council on July 26th, Capt. Thomas Wheeler, of Concord, was summoned to appear at Boston next day at ten o'clock, with twenty of his troop, to receive further orders.

Capt. Edward Hutchinson was also called into service again, and on the 26th the following commission was issued to him.

(Mass. Arch., vol. 67, p. 228).
Boston 27. July 1675

The Council beeing informed yt the narraganset indians are come downe with about one hundred Armed men into the Nipmuck country, Do order you Capt Edward Hutcheson, to take with you Capt Thomas Wheler & his party of horse with Ephraim Curtis for a guide & a sufficient interpreter, & forthwith to repaire into those parts & ther Laubour to get a right understanding of the motions of the Narraganset indians & of ye indians of Nipmuck: and for that end to demand of the leaders of ye narraganset Indians an acc'ot of ye grouns of yer marching in yt country & require to understand the orders of their Sachems, And also to demand an Account of the Nipmuck Indians why they have not sent downe their Sagamore according to their promise unto or messenger Ephraim Curtis, (???) And further let ym know yt wee are informed that there are some among them yt have actually joyned with our enemies in the murder & spoyle made upon the English by Philip, And that Matoones & his Complices who have Robed & Murdered our people about Mendon are now among ym And yt wee require them to deliver up to you or forthwith bring in to us those our enemies, otherwise wee must Looke at them to bee no friends to us, but ayders and abettors [sic] and unto all these things you shall require yer expr??sse answer; & as soon as you have dispatched the affayre, you are to returne home & give us an acct, so desiring the Lords prrsence with you & in prosecution of this affayre if you should meet with any Indians that stand in opposition to you or declare ymselves to bee yor enemies then you are ordered to ingage with them if you see reson for it & endeavr to reduce ym by force of Arms.

"Capt. Edward Hutchinson was the eldest son of William and Ann, and came to this country from England with his uncle Edward Hutchinson, probably in September, 1633, a year before his parents came. His family were much interested in the civilization of the Indians, and were widely known amongst them. Capt. Edward owned a large farm in the Nipmuck country, and had employed several of the sachems in tilling it. He was popular with the Indians, experienced in military matters, trusted by the colony, and had several times been sent to treat with different tribes, and was but lately returned from the treaty with the Narragansets."

 

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