Biography: Captive Histories

by Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney


haefeli_sweeney_300In 1704, a French and Indian coalition raided the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, destroying property, killing 50 of the inhabitants, and kidnapping 112. Forced to march in the dead of winter to Canada, many of the captives died along the way. Many survived, however, and later printed narratives of their ordeals. The most famous victims of this raid were members of the Williams family, and much has been written about them in subsequent centuries. In Captive Histories, Sweeney and Haefeli have gathered primary documents pertaining to the Williams survivors and those less famous. The difference in this book is the inclusion of multiple perspectives, including the Abenaki and Mohawk stories that have been passed from generation to generation via oral tradition. Letters, military reports, oral narratives,and memoirs are collated and evaluated in such a way as to compare and contrast the English, French, and Native American points of view, and to assess belief systems, traditions, the the reliability of the evidence. Captive Histories does not read like a historical novel; it is an important and valuable piece of research and socio/political/cultural commentary on one of colonial New England’s most notorious events.

Unredeemed Captive – Williams House and Gravestones

Williams House in Deerfield, no longer standing.

Rev. Mr. John WILLIAMS, Pastor of this place, d. 12 Jun 1729, in the 65th year of his age

Mrs. Eunice WILLIAMS, wife of Rev. John WILLIAMS, & daughter of Rev. Eleazer & Mrs. Esther MATHER, of Northampton. She was b. 2 Aug 1664, and “fell by the rage of the barbarous enemy,” 1 Mar 1703/4