On the bitter cold night of Feb. 29, 1704, the little town of Deerfield, MA, an English outpost on the western fringes of the Bay Colony, once again found itself in the cross-hairs of the imperial feud being waged between France and Great Britain for the dominance of the North American continent. The armed conflicts of the 18th century between the English colonies in North America and the French settlements that stretched into Canada were fought with the support of Native American allies.
In 1704, Mohawk Indians, converted to Catholicism by Jesuit missionaries, allied with the French settlers in Canada, attacked the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 50 of the very young and old and kidnapping 112 more. They then marched the prisoners to Canada, killing 20 more women and several children along the way as acts of mercy, including the wife and infant son of John Williams, a Puritan minister and a prize hostage. While he and his surviving sons were ultimately released, his daughter, Eunice, who was seven at the time of her capture, remained with her captors, converted to Catholicism, and at the age of 16 married an Indian, with whose people she chose to spend the rest of her life. A fuller account of Eunice’s saga can be found here:
The opinions expressed in the linked article are not necessarily my own.
The gravestone pictured above is located in the Nathan Hale Cemetery in Coventry, CT, and it marks the burial site of the sister of Eunice Williams. Esther Williams Meacham was one of the Deerfield captives who was released and returned to her life among the Puritans. Esther married a minister and relocated from Mass. to Connecticut, and local accounts tell of Eunice’s infrequent visits to her sister’s household, during which she refused to stay inside the house, preferring to pitch her own shelter on the village green.
Esther Meacham’s gravestone contains a summary of her ordeal among the Mohawk:
Here lies what was Mortal of
Mrs. Esther Meacham ye Pru
dent Pious & virtuous
Consort of ye Revd Joseph
Meacham she was ye Daugh
of ye Venerable John Will
iams of Deerfield & was
Carried Capture to Canada
with her Father & his Family
was wonderfully preserved
& Redeemed & lived an
Eminent Example of what
was amiable in a wife a
Mother a Friend & a Christian
Slept in Jesus March 12th
1751 in ye 60th Year of her Age.
Esther’s marker was carved by a local Coventry craftsman, Gershom Bartlett. Follow up to Eunice’s story:
6 thoughts on “Esther Williams Meacham: The Redeemed Captive”
I am relate the this Williams family. I was reading this book in my college american history class and was reading along when I realized that the date the book said that this Williams family came to america was approximately the same time my family came over. I asked my father to get me our family tree. And when I received it John williams, Eunice and the other children mentioned in the book were all there. I thought this was pretty cool that we have a book written about our family. My family history (at least on my fathers side) is very interesting. If anyone knows any more information on this book i would greatly appreciate the knowledge.
I am a descendant from the same line of Williams that Eunice Williams descends from. She was my 1st cousin 8 times removed. Eunice’s father, the Rev. John Williams, had a brother named Parke Williams, who I descend from. My 4G grandmother was named after her: my Eunice Williams married my 4G grandfather, Uz Wildman of Danbury, CT. I have done a fair amount of research on our Williams line and will gladly share it with you. You can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So interesting. A favorite book as a child was one about Mary Jemison – now I’ll have to look for it.
It’s a fascinating story- saga, really –
Thanks for reading and commenting, ml!