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She Scalped The Indians: Heroine or Villan

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Colonial history is full of danger and settlers trying to survive.

Hannah Escaping Her Captors

Hannah Escaping Her Captors

TheTown of Haverhill, Massachusettes

onHannah Duston was born in 1657 to Michael and Hannah Emerson in New Hampshire, the oldest of fifteen. When she was twenty, she married Thomas Duston, a farmer and a brickmaker. Sometime on the morning of March 15, 1697, the town was attacked by the Abernaki Indians. The Indians killed 27 people, set fire to the Duston home, and captured Hannah and her nurse, Mary Neff. Hannah had just given birth a week ago.

Hannah's husband was working in the field, heard the commotion, and rushed to help his family. As he approached he saw the two women being marched off and gathered his other children and herded them to the town.

As the Indians marched the women along, one of them grabbed the baby and slung it against a tree bashing its brains out. They told the women they would be stripped, scourged, and made to run the gauntlet. The Indians met up with another group of Indians to release the women to and hurried on. Hannah and Mary found that a fourteen-year-old lad, Samuel Lennardson had also been captured sometime earlier. They decided among them they would try to escape. As the Indians slept, the women and Samuel each grabbed a hatchet and clubbed ten Indians to death, including six children.

Hannah decided to prove their ordeal; they would scalp the Indians and take the scalps with them. They loaded a canoe, traveled only at night, and after several days reached the safety of Haverhill. The town called Hannah a hero and welcomed the group back.

A few days later, Thomas took Hannah, Mary, and Samuel to Boston to collect the bounty that Massachusettes had enacted of $50. for each Indian scalp, but they had reduced it to 25pds. in September of 1864 and repealed it entirely in December 1696. Since women had no rights at this time, Thomas filed on her behalf. It was decided to award Hannah 25pds., Mary and Samuel to each get 12pds.


Thomas Duston

Thomas Duston

Dotson House 1697

Dotson House 1697

Thomas Duston House

The Thomas Duston house was rebuilt in 1697 and in 1990 it was formally listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Authors and Memorials to Hannah Duston

One of the first authors to write of Hannah Duston was by Cotton Mather, a puritan minister in his Magnalia Christi Americana. First published in London in 1702 consisting of seven "books" in two volumes. he details the development of Massachusettes, the Salem witch trials, the escape of Hannah Duston, and the founding of Harvard College.

Hannah Duston was almost forgotten for over 100 years until authors such as Nathanial Hawthorn, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Henry David Thoreau wrote of Hannah putting her into American folklore. Her story was in countless books of American history, yet slowly the scalping of the Indian children was deleted from the books. It appears that part was too controversial, with some believing it to be racist and glorifying violence. It was also thought to be a thin line between "civilized" and "barbaric." Today, the Abenaki Indian Tribe of First Nations believe their story also needs to be told as they were the original people trying to keep their land.

A 35-foot statue of Hannah with a hatchet in one hand and ten scalps, on the other hand, was erected in 1874 and attended by 5000 spectators. This was the first publicly funded statue in New Hampshire, and the first in the U.S.to honor a woman. Unfortunately, the statue has been vandalized several times, the last in May 2020.

Even the Jim Beam Company made a whiskey decanter in the 1970s of Hannah Duston. It would be hard to judge her actions after she witnessed the attack on the town and the bone-chilling way the Indians killed her newborn.

Statue of Hannah Duston

Statue of Hannah Duston

Jim Beam Whiskey Decanter of Hannah Duston

Jim Beam Whiskey Decanter of Hannah Duston

Hannah Duston Marker

Hannah Duston Marker

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 13, 2020:

Thanks for reading I appreciate your comment.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 12, 2020:

This is a very interesting hub and she must have been a woman of great nerve and mettle.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 12, 2020:

Thanks for reading. She certainly had courage.

Rosina S Khan on September 12, 2020:

I wouldn't blame Hannah. Her newborn was brutally killed. And she was held captive and mistreated. So I think she did the right thing like a heroine, saving herself and the other two captives. Thank you, Fran, for a wonderful article.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 12, 2020:

Thanks for reading Mike. Not sure I would be so brave.

Readmikenow on September 12, 2020:

What a tough female! Very interesting story.