Communities Remembered


Who Remembers 1704?

Descendants and Communities: At the same time that Deerfield historians and institutions used the story of 1704 to memorialize the town's role in the settlement of America, families and communities continued to pass their personal stories on through the generations. These stories were not always the same as those selected for public accounts. Some families knew of the 1704 attack through studying genealogy; others remembered individual ancestors; and still others understood the attack only as an event connected to their community. As time passed, the meaning of the 1704 raid to the descendants of the participants became complicated as some families no longer identified themselves solely as English, French, or Native.


Descendants of Deerfield families involved in the 1704 attack have actively kept its memory through family stories and genealogy. Family associations, such as Frary, Nims, Sheldon, and Stebbins, provide a forum for sharing stories of their ancestors. Interest in the story has led some families to reconnect with their Native "cousins" by traveling to Canada to see where the captives lived. In 1973, in an attempt to reunite Natives and English, about 75 Kanienkehaka were invited to participate in the 300th anniversary of Deerfield's founding.


The Canadians most familiar with the story of 1704 are the descendants of Deerfield captives who married into French families in present-day Quebec province. Some Canadian communities remember military leaders such as the Bouchers, who were among the French who attacked Deerfield. Other Canadian families, such as the descendants of Abigail Nims and Josiah Rising, originated with captives who were adopted by the Kanienkehaka, but who later became culturally French.


By the mid-18th century, the Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) who had specific connections to the Deerfield raid were living in the present-day communities of Kahnawake and Kanesatake. In some families the story of 1704 and the resulting adoptions were kept alive through oral tradition or family names, but oftentimes "captives" were so absorbed into their adopted community that their descendants did not remember their specific English ancestry. Nevertheless, the story of 1704 stays alive in the story of the bell in the Kahnawake Survival School's history textbook, 7 Generations, preserving the memory of the Deerfield raid to new generations of Kanienkehaka.


The Wendat (Huron) people did not keep specific memories of the Deerfield raid into the 20th century. They remember, instead, their experience in colonization and their many struggles to survive as a people. In thinking about the Deerfield raid today, some Wendat attribute their participation to their strong alliances with Kahnawake, the Wôbanakiak, and the French in the 18th century.


The Wôbanaki (Abenaki, Pennacook, Pocumtuck) communities connected to the story of the Deerfield raid are diverse. Some families, like that of Elizabeth Sadoques, have retained family names and preserved genealogies that connect them to specific captives. Other families have maintained memories of how their ancestors survived the colonial period. Some Wôbanaki families live on reserves in Quebec, such as Odanak and Wolinak, while others have remained in their traditional homelands in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and northern Massachusetts. Wherever they have settled, many Wôbanaki people are aware of their connections to the Connecticut Valley through oral traditions about particular landmarks, such as the Beaver Hill, or the many trails and sites throughout what is called "Ndakinna," or "homeland." For more information, see the essay: Schaghticoke and Points North: Wôbanaki Resistance and Persistence.

Captions for rollovers in the interactive scene illustrations.

Taken captive to Canada at age 12, Thankful Stebbins of Deerfield, married and raised a family in Chambly, Quebec. This plaque commemorates her life.

The family of Joseph Marchesseau is descended from Deerfield captive Martha French, and Jacques Roy, who married in 1711.

In the early-twentieth century, Deerfielders fancifully re-enacted the capture of Eunice Williams in three historical pageants.

Jean Paquet has written extensively about his Deerfield ancestor, Martha French, who was taken captive and spent her life in Canada.

Wôbanaki descendents of Eunice Kanenstehawi Williams lived in this house at St. Francis, which is present-day Odanak.

George Sheldon, shown here with his family, was a primary story-keeper of the 1704 attack on Deerfield, which his ancestors had survived.

Removed from the home site of Deerfield captives in Canada, this spruce tree was transplanted in 1889 at Memorial Hall Museum in memory of those taken in 1704.

Elizabeth Sadoques, a Wôbanaki descendent of Eunice Kanenstenhawi Williams, spoke to the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in 1922 about her ancestor.

Diplomacy remained a critical skill for Wendat men throughout the 19th and 20th centuries as they struggled to preserve their culture and rights.

Steve McComber, contemporary Kanienkehaka sculptor from Kahnawake, created this piece to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the raid on Deerfield.

In 1837, four generations of Eunice K. Williams's Wôbanaki descendents returned to "Williamsecook" (Deerfield) to visit their ancestors' graves and make baskets.

This bell sits in the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Kahnawake. Oral tradition says that it had been retrieved by the Kanienkehaka from Deerfield in 1704.

Dr. Williams was a beloved Kanienkehaka physician from Kahnawake and a descendent of Eunice Kanenstenhawi Williams and Arosen.

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