Experience teaches us
That resolution’s a sole help at need ;
And this, my lord, our honor teacheth us,
That we be bold in every enterprise.

On the fifteenth of March, 1697, a band of Indian prowlers broke into the house of Mr. Dustin, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and captured his wife, her nurse,* and a babe about one week old. The last was killed before leaving the town. The other two were marched through the wilderness for several days till they came to a halt on an island in the Merrimac river about six miles above Concord, New Hampshire. There they were placed in a wigwam occupied by two men, three women, seven children of theirs, and an English boy who had been captured about a year previous at Worcester, Massachusetts. The captives remained there till the thirtieth of that month before they planned escape. On that day the boy was requested by Mrs. Dustin to ask his master where to strike “to kill instantly;” and the savage was simple enough to tell, and also instructed him in the art of scalping. “At night,” to use the concise language of Mr. Bancroft, “while the household slumbers, the captives, each with a tomahawk, strike vigorously, and fleetly, and with division of labor, -and of the twelve sleepers, ten lie dead; of one squaw the wound was not mortal; one child was spared from design. The love of glory next asserted its power; and the gun and tomahawk of the murderer of her infant, and a bag heaped full of scalps were choicely kept as trophies of the heroine. -The streams are the guides which God has set for the stranger in the wilderness: in a bark canoe, the three descend the Merrimac to the English settlements, astonishing their friends by their escape, and filling the land with wonder at their successful daring.”

Mrs. Dustin had the happiness of meeting her husband and seven children, who had escaped from the house before the savages entered, and the honor of a very handsome present from Colonel Nicholson, governor of Maryland, as a reward for her heroism.*

* Eleven years after the capture of Mrs. Dustin, a party of French and Indians from Canada made an attack upon the inhabitants of Haverhill, and killed and captured about forty persons. Several women exhibited on the occasion a remarkable degree of sagacity, courage and presence of mind. We condense from Mirick’s History of Haverhill.

   Ann Whittaker escaped the tomahawk by hiding in an apple chest under the stairs, – A negro servant, named Hagar, covered a couple of children with tubs in the cellar and then concealed herself behind some meat barrels. The Indians trod on a foot of one of the children and took meat from the barrel behind which Hagar had hidden, without discovering any of them.-The wife of Thomas Hartshorn, took all her children except the babe – which she was afraid would cry -through a trap-door into the cellar. The enemy entered and plundered the house, but did not find the way into the cellar. They took the infant from its bed in the garret and threw it out of the window. Strange to say, though stunned, it lived and grew to rugged manhood. – The wife of Captain Simon Wainwright, after the enemy had killed her husband, let them into the house and treated them kindly. They at length demanded money, when she went out, as she pretended, to get it. They soon ascertained – though too late to find. her – that she had fled with all her children but one, who was taken captive.


Excerpted from Noble Deeds of American Women
(Patriotic Series for Boys and Girls)
Edited by J. Clement
With an Introduction by Mrs. L. H. Sigourney
BOSTON: Lee and Shepard, Publishers
Entered by Act of Congress, in the year of 1851,
by E. H. Derby and Co., in the Clerk’s Office of the Northern District of New York

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