Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Hello, everyone. I’m Christopher Cummings and I’m a senior at Longmeadow High School. I’ve been interning at the Longmeadow Historical Society for about 3 months now. The task I have been given is to learn about, reflect on and tell the story behind a recently acquired gift to the museum. The gift is a statue called Deerfield by sculptor Jud Hartmann. I’ve become absolutely fascinated by the story of the 1704 Raid at Deerfield that is depicted in the statue. It depicts three native men attacking Englishman John Sheldon's door. This was an actual event that happened during the 1704 raid. Since I'm personally a huge fan of colonial history and native interactions I naturally felt interested in this piece. This story is important to Longmeadow’s history because our first minister, Rev. Stephen Williams was captured and marched to Canada during the raid. He was only a young boy at the time.
The statue tells the story of the French and Native raid on the northernmost English settlement of Deerfield in 1704. As a part of the Spanish Succession War, the French sought to defend their colony, New France, against the larger and more populated New England. Although not much fighting occurred in the colonial territory, the French figured it would be best to strike first, before the English continued to expand their colonial territories.
To take the initiative against the English, the French went on the offensive, using their native allies to their advantage. The raiding party was diverse, being made up of not only French soldiers, but members of several different native tribes. France attempted to bring many different native groups together and maintain alliances by launching a joint raid on Deerfield.
These natives were the Abenaki, Huron, Iroquois, Mohawks and Pennacooks, each with their own reasons for participating in the raid. The Abenaki and Pennacook supported the French, as they had already been struggling in a series of wars with England that hadn’t been going their way. The Hurons and Iroqouithen-ten-year-olds, in a tradition known as “mourning wars,” fought to bring captives to make up for the loss of dead family members. The Mohawks fought for this same reason as well, except allegedly with the notable extra motivation of reclaiming a lost bell they had bought from the French that was stolen by the English. From the website of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Museum in Deerfield I learned, “Kanienkehaka oral tradition tells that in Deerfield the Kahnawake raiders hoped to find a church bell that had been purchased by the people of Kahnawake and transported on a French ship from Europe. According to this tradition, the bell was stolen en route by English privateers and later bought by John Williams.” With all these parties combined, the raid was one of the most diverse attack parties ever assembled on the continent up to that point. See reference for additional information.
In 1703, a few months before the raid, the English actually had good reason to believe there would be an impending attack. English forces spotted the raiding party outside Fort Chambly on the Richelieu River. The English sent forces to reinforce Deerfield before the raid. However, as months passed and nothing happened the English militia departed. Aside from repairing the palisade and building a few minor fortifications, the English were caught vastly underprepared when the raid occurred in February 1704.
John and Stephen Williams
Two of the most famous individuals from this raid were Deerfield residents, John and Stephen Williams. John Williams (1664-1729) was a Deerfield minister. In 1706 his release was negotiated and he was returned to New England. However, he wasn’t happy to hear that his then ten-year-old daughter, Eunice, refused to come home with him. She instead stayed with the Mohawk family who had adopted her, and joined their tribe by marrying François-Xavier Arosen, or Amrusus, a Kanawake. When John Williams returned home he wrote and published a memoir of his experience, The Redeemed Captive, in 1707. It became one of the most popular captive retellings of its time.
Stephen Williams (1694-1782), the son of John Williams was only 10 years old when he was captured in 1704. He, too, recounted his experience in a handwritten account of his experience.
After the events depicted in the statue, the captured residents of Deerfield, including Stephen and John Williams, were forced to march this route in cold and brutal winter conditions.
In the sculpture we see three natives attempting to break down the Sheldon house door. The actual door still