More than just an account of Hannah Eastman’s capture by Indians, this
is the story of Jonathan Eastman and his wife Hannah’s deep, enduring love and
devotion to each other and their true pioneering spirit that cast the seeds for
all future generations of Eastmans.
Although their dates of passing and final resting places have never been
found, we, their descendents, hold them in fond and honored remembrance.
HANNAH EASTMAN’S CAPTURE
Source: The Eastman’s of America, by Guy Rix,
Haverhill, Mass., was
first settled in 1640. It was the
thirtieth town within the limits of the state of Massachusetts, thirty-second
in the list of incorporated towns, and forty-ninth in New England list.
It was a frontier town for more than seventy years, and
there were few New England towns that suffered so severely from the
depredations of the Indians. It’s early
history is one long record of blood and misery. The early colonies suffered from six wars: first, the Pequot war; second, King Philip’s
war; third, King William’s war; fourth, Queen Anne’s war; fifth, the three
years, or Lovewell’s war; sixth, the second French war.
Hannah Eastman’s capture occurred during Queen Anne’s war,
which commenced in 1703, and ended in 1713. The foes with whom the colonist contended were the Indians and
It would be hard for the present generation to conceive of
the suffering of the inhabitants at that time.
Haverhill village at this date consisted of about thirty houses, and it
was rare to find a family that had not lost some of its members at the hands of
the Indians. The men went armed to
their daily labors, and went to church with a Bible in one hand, and loaded gun
in the other. They were safe from
Indian attacks nowhere; their fields, their dwellings and their churches were
alike subject to their stealthy and fiendish raids.
It was really an “Age of Terror” for those hardy and
courageous men. But history can show
none more heroic and none that exhibit a more fearless and undaunted spirit.
At this period Jonathan Eastman and his young wife Hannah
had made for themselves a home in Haverhill.
Jonathan was born in Salisbury, Mass., Jan. 8, 1680. He was the son of Thomas and Deborah
(Corlis) Eastman, and grandson of Roger.
Jonathan married Aril 8, 1701, Hannah Green, born Dec. 20, 1677, on the
historic “Dustin Hill,” in Haverhill, daughter of Peter and Elizabeth
Green. Their first child, Thomas, was
born March 17, 1702, and died July 20, 1703.
The second child was Abigail, born Feb. 1, 1704.
The Indians seldom made their appearance before the opening
of spring, and on this account less care was taken to guard against surprises
during the winter months.
But as a means of defence, the selectmen had appointed six
garrison and four “houses of refuge.”
These were either built of brick or had a single layer of brick between
the outer and inner wall. They had but
one outside door, often so small that a single person could enter at a
time. The buildings were of two stories,
with windows two and one-half feet long, and eighteen inches wide, secured
inside by iron bars. The glass was
extremely thick and very small, was cut in diamond shape and fastened with lead
instead of putty.
There were two rooms on the lower floor, and the entrance
to the chambers above was by a ladder that could be drawn up, should the lower
floor be taken by the enemy.
The fireplaces were of enormous size, and wood of sled
length was often burned in them. The
ovens opened on the outside of the building, generally at one side, behind the
fireplaces and were very large.
Late in March, 1704, Jonathan removed with his wife to the
fifth garrison, which was owned and commanded by Joseph Bradley. It was situated in the northerly part of the
town, and has long since been torn down and no trace of it remains.
In one of the upper chambers of this garrison, their little
daughter, Abigail, was born Feb. 1, 1704.
Eight days later (Feb. 8), Jonathan left the place to
attend to some necessary duties at their old home, intending to return before
nightfall. Before leaving, he stopped
for a moment at the bedside of his wife.
He was not a demonstrative man, but he bent down and kissed her and
turned away and carefully drew the covers over the dimpled hand of his tiny
daughter. Mrs. Bradley was in the lower
room engaged in soap boiling. He
stopped only to inform her when he expected to return and passed outside.
It was a lovely day; the air was crisp and keen, the sun
shone brightly, the snow was deep upon the ground, and drifted in many places
During the winter, the settlers had grown secure and
careless of danger, and sentries were absent from their stations and even the
gates were open. Little did Jonathan
think as he rode forth that he was watched by cruel eyes, far less did he think
that he was never again to see his infant child, or that many weary months
would pass before he again met his beloved wife.
Why the Indians allowed Jonathan to escape will never be
known. His powerful frame and commanding
presence may have deterred them.
However, they let him pass on, and waited until between three and four
o’clock in the afternoon before attacking the garrison. They then cautiously approached, and finding
the way clear, rushed through the open gates before they were discovered. Jonathan Johnson, a sentinel, who was
standing inside the house, shot at and wounded one of them, but the savage,
infuriated by the pain, made the air ring with terrific yells as he pushed
forward into the house.
With great presence of mind, Mrs. Bradley filled her ladle
full of boiling soap and threw it over him.
He was so severely burned that he soon died. The rest of the party rushed forward and killed Johnson, and made
Mrs. Bradley and some others prisoners.
Only three persons escaped from the garrison. Then they mounted the ladder and entered the room where Mrs.
Eastman was alone with her child; affrighted, she sat up in bed, but the
movement disturbed the child and it began to cry and she took it into her arms,
pressing it to her wildly beating heart.
With a fiendish yell, the foremost savage snatched it from
her clinging hands and brutally dashed it against the doorpost, beating out its
brains, when with a satisfied grunt, he threw it into a corner and ordered Mrs.
Eastman to arise and prepare to go with him.
The poor woman was so stunned and horrified by the shock of
seeing her child murdered before her eyes, that she could not move. The savage then seized her by her long hair,
and brandishing his tomahawk over her head, forced her to obey.
The party hastily collected their prisoners and plunder and
commenced a hasty retreat toward Canada.
The captives were separated, some going in one direction and some in
another. Night was coming on, the
weather was cold, and the snow was quite deep, the wind blew keenly over the
hills, yet Mrs. Eastman was compelled to arise from her sick bed. Her yearning eyes were fastened upon the
little heap in the corner, and her arms ached to clasp again the tiny form, but
it was not allowed.
Her captors were in a hurry, forcing her down the ladder,
and with threatening words and gestures compelled her to go forward in her wary
march towards Canada. They took her
first to Ossipee Lake, where she remained until spring, when they went on to
the “Ox Bow” in Newbury, Vt. Here they
planted corn and remained until it was in the second hoeing, when they were
visited by another party of Indians, who probably informed them that some
scouting party was in search of them, for the next day they hastily packed up
and left for Canada.
Pen cannot describe the tortures endured by Mrs. Eastman
during this terrible journey. Weak and
weary she dragged through the long days and the longer lonely nights. Often she tried to escape, but her captors
guarded her so closely that she found no opportunity. The memory of that journey to Canada remained with her through
It was a deep, unbroken, and seemingly inexhaustible
wilderness that daily grew between her and her beloved home and friends. Pathless mountains, swollen and almost
impassable rivers lay behind and before her.
No friendly smoke curled from the chimney of a white inhabitant, but she
sometimes saw the red flames leaping heavenward – flames kindled by her savage
captors, and telling the fearful story of other wrongs. When within a few miles of their
destination, Mrs. Eastman was too exhausted to go on; she was therefore left
alone to spend the night in the wilderness.
A kind squaw gave her a piece of punk-wood set on fire to make a smudge to
ward off mosquitoes. Their poisonous
bite had caused her face to swell so badly that the Indians called her “Fat
Hannah”. The next morning they sent a
squaw to find her. The swelling had
subsided, so as to show her extreme emaciation, and the squaw seeing her thus,
pitifully exclaimed, “Why, Hannah!”`
The tribe were encamped at Three Rivers in Canada, near to
a French settlement, and soon after their arrival there, a French woman became
interested in Hannah, seeing she was a captive, and was very kind to her, and
often gave her salt to season her food.
She finally proposed that Mrs. Eastman make her escape and
offered to secrete her from the Indians.
Mrs. Eastman gladly accepted the offer, but was obliged to keep out of
sight, lest she be again captured.
Winters passed with their snows and wind; springs succeeded with their
early buds; summers followed, filled with flowers and sunshine; autumns brought
forth their abundant harvest, but the heart of the lonely woman grew sick with
hope deferred. For nearly three years
she had been held captive, but she well knew that if Jonathan were living he
would search for her, but she fully understood how small his chance was of
A plan for escape began to take form in her mind, for she
felt an intense desire to return home.
The thought grew upon her, and finally took definite shape. She shuddered as she remembered the fearful
journey through trackless forests, invested by fierce wild beasts and ruthless
savages. Could she hope to pass such
One day she stood beside her chamber window, thinking
deeply on her plan of escape, when her attention was attracted to a man who was
passing the house. Her breath came
faster as she gazed upon the tall, deep chested, broad shouldered man, with a
strong, serious face.
In the whole neighborhood there was not as splendid a
specimen of manhood. He was fully six
feet four inches in height, and of powerful frame. He was dressed in a long jacket, or what was called a “fly coat,”
made something like a surtout, reaching half way to the thigh, a striped jacket
under a pair of small clothes, like the coat, made of flannel cloth, that was
fulled, but not shirred. His flannel
shirt was buttoned loosely at the throat, he wore woolen stockings and thick leather
shoes and a broad brimmed fur hat.
There was nothing unusual in the costume; similar costumes were
generally worn by men in moderate circumstances, when about their ordinary
But his unusual height, broad shoulders, and erect carriage
seemed strangely familiar. She was
almost certain that is was her husband that was passing. She called to him by name, “Jonathan,” when
he stopped and looked around, but seeing no one, passed on. She called again, but this time he did not
hear. She flew downstairs and informed
the French woman, who immediately sent a little girl to call him back. The child could speak no English, but by
motions and pulling his coat she persuaded him to return with her.
There were many changes in Hannah’s appearance, caused by
exposure and hardship, and at first Jonathan did not recognize her, but it was
the happiest moment of his life when he again clasped her in his arms.
It was the third time he had passed the house while
searching for her. He at once redeemed
his wife, and they started back to Massachusetts. Their journey was of long duration, for they had to walk the
entire distance, but despite its necessary hardships the journey was a
delightful one, and left in their minds impressions destined to bear future