The Abduction of the Tarbell Children: Part 2

This article, From Groton During the Indian Wars, by Samuel A. Green, Groton, 1883, pp. 109-124, is written more from the point of view of a historian. Many of the primary records relating to the incident are included, as are alternate versions of the story as it had come to be told in 1883. Apparent misspellings, punctuation abnormalities, and other errors have been checked and simply are period usage.

A brief note on language: The following is an account from the 19th century that draws on and quotes primary material written in the 18th century. There are multiple instances here of language that ranges from racially insensitive to downright repugnant, when read from a 21st century perspective. These passages are included – have been allowed to remain –  because they are integral to the meaning and substance of the unique and irreplaceable historical documents being referenced, and not because I as an individual in any way agree with or endorse these characterizations.

_________________________

from Samuel A. GreenGroton During the Indian Wars,  Groton, 1883, pp. 109-124

II.

IN a list of prisoners held by the French and Indians in Canada, March 5, 1710-11, are the names of “Zech. Tarbal, John Tarbal, Sarah Tarbal, Matt. Farnsworth [and] Lydia Longley” (Archives, LXXI. 765), all of Groton, though no date of capture is given. Lydia Longley was taken by the Indians on July 27, 1694, and the particulars of her case have already been told. The Tarbell children were carried off on June 20, 1707; but it is unknown when Mathias Farnsworth was captured, and this entry appears to be the only record of the fact. Sarah, John, and Zechariah were children of Thomas and Elizabeth (Wood) Tarbell, who, with a large family, lived on Farmer’s Row, near where James Lawrence’s house now stands. Sarah was a girl nearly fourteen years of age, John a lad of twelve years, and Zechariah only seven, at the time when they were taken. They were near kindred of the Longley family, who had been massacred thirteen years before. The father was unquestionably the Corporal Tarbell who commanded, in the autumn of 1711, one of the eighteen garrisons in the town.

The story of their capture and captivity is a singular one, and sounds like a romance. They were picking cherries early one evening,—so tradition relates,—and were taken before they had time to get down from the tree. It should be borne in, mind that the date of capture, according to the new style of reckoning, was July 1,[1] when cherries would be ripe enough to tempt the appetite of climbing youngsters. These children were carried to Canada, where, it would seem, they were treated kindly, as no inducement afterward was strong enough to make them return permanently to their old home. The girl, Sarah, was sold to the French, and placed in a convent at Lachine, near Montreal; but what became of her subsequently I am unable to say.

Thomas Tarbell, the father of these children, made his will September 26, 1715, which was admitted to probate six weeks later, and is now on file at the Middlesex Probate Office in East Cambridge. After making certain bequests to different members of his family, he says:—

…all the rest & residue of my Reall Estate I give to be Equally divided between my three children, John, Zachary, & Sarah Tarbell, upon their return from Captivity, or In Proportion unto any of them that shall return, & the rest, or the parts belonging to them that do not return, shall be Equally divided among the rest of my children.

During my visit to Montreal in the summer of 1877 I saw, at the Congregation of Notre Dame, the French record, of which the following is a translation:

On Monday, July 23, 1708, the ceremony of baptism was performed on Sarah Tarbell, who was born at Groton in New England, October 9, 1693. Her parents were Thomas Tarbell and Elizabeth Wood, both Protestants, and she was baptized by the minister shortly after her birth. Having been taken by the savages on Monday, June 20, 1707, she was brought to Canada; she has since been sold, and has lived with the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, established at Lachine, where she abjured her religion on May 1. Her godfather was M. Jacques Urbain Robert de Lamorandiere, Secretary of M. L’Intendant; and her godmother was Madame Marguerite Bonat, wife of M. Etienne Pascaud, the deputy treasurer of the King in this country. Her name Sarah has been changed to Marguerite.

MgTE DONAT,

PASCAUD,

LAMORANDIERE,

MERIEL, PRETRE

The boys remained for many years with their captors at Caughnawaga, an Indian village on the right bank of the St. Lawrence River, directly opposite to Lachine. It is supposed that they left this place about the year 1760, when they moved up the river, in order to establish another settlement.

In the year 1713 John Stoddard and John Williams were appointed by Governor Joseph Dudley, to go to Quebec and treat with the Governor‑General of Canada for the release of the New England prisoners. They were accompanied by Thomas Tarbell,—probably the elder brother of the boys,—and we find his petition presented to the House of Representatives, June 1, 1715, “praying consideration and allowance for his Time and Expences in going to Canada. with MajorStoddard  & Mr. Williams, Anno  1713, to recover the Captives.”

The petition was referred, and, on the next day,—

Capt. Noyes from the Committee for Petitions, made Report on the Petition of Thomas Tarboll, viz. “That they are of Opinion that nothing is due from the Province to the said Tarboll since he procceded as a Volunteer in that Service to Canada, & was not employed by the Government, but recommended him to the favour of the House.”

The report was accepted, and, in consideration of Tarbell’s services, he was allowed ten pounds out of the public treasury. Captain Stoddard’s Journal, giving an account of the negotiations, is printed in “The New England Historical and Genealogical Register”  (v. 26), for January, 1851 , and Tarbell’s name is mentioned in it.

We find no further trace of these boys, now grown up to manhood, during the twenty‑five years following this attempt to release the New England prisoners. In the winter of 1739 John and Zechariah Tarbell came back to Groton in order to visit their kinsfolk and see their native town. They were so young when carried away that their recollections of the place were of course very indistinct. It is not known now under what circumstances or influences they returned. An itemized bill of the expense incurred in bringing them back from Canada was made out against their brothers, Thomas and Samuel, and perhaps paid by them Shortly afterward Thomas Tarbell petitioned the General Court for means to enable him to meet the necessary charges of the journey, besides the expenses of an interpreter; and a conditional loan was granted. The record does not say whether it was ever paid back by him. The papers relating to the subject are as follows:—

[Blogger’s note: Typed list not reproduced. —LSL]

The Petition of Thomas Tarbell of Groton Elder Brother To his Two Unfortunate Brothers Taken into Captivity in the former Wars humbly Sheweth That he does with utmost thankfullness acknowledge The Great favour of this Court Expressed towards his said Brothers and for ye Great encouragement you have been pleased to give In order to Excite them to come over & settle amongst us.

But in as much as the Charges of their coming down and ye Interpretor who attended them amounts To one hundred & Twenty one pound  14’9 [The italicised words in the petition are erased, and “fourty pound new tennor Bill” interlined.] which your petitioner must Pay & not being in a Capacity to Raise so much mony at this time he most humbly prays your Excellency & Hon. would of your Great Goodness be pleased to make him a Grant of so much or to allow him to receive ye same out of the Publick Treasury and Grant him, such time for Repayment thereof again as to your Excellency & Hon. in your great Goodness shall seem meet, your petitioners giving good security therefor & as in Duty bound shall Ever pray &c

Tho’ Tarbell

[Massachusetts Archives, XV. A 17.]

In the House of Repres. April 24th 1739

Read and in answer to this petition

Voted that Mr. Treasurer ffoye be & hereby is empowered and directed to advance to the petitioner Thomas Tarbell the sum of Thirty Nine pounds Eleven shillings and seven pence out of the publick Treasury provided the said Tarbell give good security for reimbursing the Treasury the said sum within the space of two years at the farthest, in Case his two Brothers do not within that time return with their families & dwell among us in this government

Sent up for Concurrence

J. Quincy Spkr

In Council April 24 1739 Read and Nonconcurr’d

Simon Frost Dept Secry

[Massachusetts Archives, XV. A 17.]

In Consideration of that Clause in His Excellency’s speech for inducing some English Captives lately come from Canada to return hither again by giving them some proper Encouragement Ordered that the sum of Forty pounds new tenor bills be granted & allowed to be paid out of the publick Treasury to Joseph Kellogg Esq, and by him to be paid and disposed of to & for the use of the two Captives viz’ John Tharbell and Zechariah Tharbell in the following manner viz’ Sixteen pounds thirteen shillings and four pence part thereof to be laid out at their discretion as a present to their wives in the purchase of such things as they are desirous of, and that the like sum of sixteen pounds thirteen shillings & four pence be given to be at their own disposall, and the remainder thereof viz. six pounds thirteen shillings & four pence be given them to bear their charges homewards and further the assurance of this Government is hereby given them that if they shall return with their families to live among us they shall be put & kept in the pay of the province as Soldiers at Fort Dummer during Life to give them bread for their Families without being obliged to the duty of the Garison only behaving themselves peaceably and Orderly among us; and that each of them shall have a right in some new township, or two hundred acres of land a piece for an Inheritance to them, and their heirs, where it shall be, found most fit and convenient and also that on their return again with their families to dwell here as aforesaid this Government will pay to their Brethren namely Thomas & Samuel Tharbell the amount of Mr. William Rogers Junr his accompt for the Charge of their Journey down & now exhibited being forty pounds, eleven shillings & seven pence.

J. Quincy Spkr

In Council April 24, 1739

Read and Concurr’d

25: Consent to

J. Willard  Secry

J. Belcher

[Massachusetts Archives, XV. A 18, 19.]

On April 20 Governor Belcher brought the case of these captives to the attention of the Council and the House of Representatives; and this action on his part prompted the petition of Thomas Tarbell. The Governor then made a speech, in which he said:—

There are lately come front Canada some Persons that were taken by the Indians from Groton above thirty Years ago, who (its believed) may be induced to return into this Province, on your giving them some proper Encouragement: If this Matter might be effected I should think it would be not only an Act of Compassion in Order to reclaim them from the Errors and Delusions of the Romish Faith; but their living among us might, in Time to come, be of great Advantage to the Province.

This subject was referred the same day to a Committee consisting of John Read, of Boston, William Fairfield, of Wenham, Thomas Wells, of Deerfield, Benjamin Browne, of Salem, and Job Almy, of Tiverton. On the next day, April 21—as we read in the printed Journal of the House of Representatives—the chairman of

The Committee appointed to consider that Paragraph in His Excellency’s SPEECH relating to the Encouragement of two English Captives from Canada, viz. John and Zachariah Tarbell made report thereon, which he read in his Place and then delivered it at the Table; and after some debate thereon the House did not accept the Report; and having considered the same Article by Article, the House came into a Vote thereon, and sent the same up to the honourable Board for Concurrence.

On the 23d, we find—

A Petition of Thomas Tarbell of Groton, Elder Brother of the two Mr. Tharbells lately returned from Captivity in Canada, praying he may be allowed the Loan of some money to enable him to pay William Rogers, jun. his Account of Charges in bringing his Brethren to Boston Read and Ordered, That the Petition be considered to morrow morning:

On the next day,—

The House pass’d a Vote on the Petition of Thomas Tharbell of Groton, praying as entred the 23d current, and sent the same up to the honourable Board for Concurrence.

All these efforts, however, to reclaim the two men from the savage life proved unavailing; for it is known that they remained with the Indians and became naturalized, if I may use the expression. They married Indian wives, and were afterward made chiefs at Caughnawaga and St. Regis, villages in Canada. Their descendants are still living among the Indians, and the Tarbells of the present day, in this town are their collateral kindred. Nearly forty years after their capture, Governor Hutchinson met them in New York State, and in his “History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay” refers to them thus:—

I saw at Albany two or three men, in the year 1744, who came in with the Indians to trade, and who had been taken at Groton in this, that is called Queen Ann’s war. One of them, ____Tarbell, was said to be one of the wealthiest of the Cagnawaga tribe. He made a visit in his Indian dress and with his Indian complexion (for by means of grease and paints but little difference could be discerned) to his relations at Groton, but had no inclination to remain there. (II. 139.)

This is another account from “The Galaxy“ magazine, for January, 1870:—

It is related that, about a century and a half ago, while a couple of boys and a girl were playing in a barn at Groton, Massachusetts, some Indians suddenly appeared, seized the boys and fled, carrying them to the village of Caughnawaga, nine miles above Montreal, where they grew up with the Indian habits, manners, and language, being finally adopted as members of the tribe; and married Indian brides selected from the daughters of the principal chiefs. (IX.124.)

Some years after this time, these two young men—now occupying the position of chiefs—moved up the St. Lawrence River, accompanied by several others, all with their families and established the village of St. Regis. This Indian settlement is pleasantly situated on the right bank of the St. Lawrence, the boundary line which separates the  State of New York from Canada running through it. From its peculiar position, it was agreed, during the last war with England, that the Indians should remain neutral, but the compact was often broken. In the summer of 1852 the tribe numbered about eleven hundred persons, of whom it is said that not one was of pure Indian origin.

Many interesting facts concerning the Tarbells at St. Regis are found in The History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, New York  (Albany, 1985 by Dr. Franklin B. Hough. A part of the village comes within the limits of Franklin County; and the author has gathered up some of the stories still told about these two brothers in that neighborhood. He gives the following accounts, which are largely traditional, but with some truth at the bottom:—

About a hundred and thirty years ago, three children (a girl about twelve or thirteen years of age, and two younger brothers) were playing together in a barn, in the town of Groton, Massachusetts, and being absent from the house longer than was expected, their mother became solicitous about them, and went to find them. The girl lying on the floor, with a limb broken, and the boys were missing.

She related that seeing some Indians coming, she fled to the upper part of the barn, and fell by accident from the beams above, and that they had seized the two boys and carried them away. The stealthy manner of this seizure, and the time that had elapsed, forbade pursuit with any hope of success, and the distracted parents were left to mourn the loss without consolation or hope. The probable motive for the seizure of these children was the expectation that a bounty would be offered for their ransom; or perhaps they might be exchanged for French prisoners.

As afterwards appeared, these boys were taken by the Caughnawaga Indians to their village near Montreal, where they were adopted as their own children, growing up—in habits, manners, and language— as Indians, and in due time they married the daughters of chiefs of that tribe. The names of these chiefs were Sa‑kon‑en‑tsi‑ask and Ata‑wen‑ta.

But they possessed the superiority of intellect and enterprise which belonged to their race; and this led to a series of petty quarrels, growing out of the jealousy of the young Indians of their age, which disquieted the village, and by the party spirit which it engendered, became a source of irritation and trouble in the settlement, and of anxiety on the part of their missionary, who labored in vain to reconcile the difficulties between them.

Failing in this, he advised the two young men (one of whom they had named Ka‑re‑ko‑wa) to remove with their families to a place by themselves, where they might enjoy tranquillity, and be beyond the reach of annoyance from their comrades.

This advice they adopted; and taking with them their wives, and followed by their wives’ parents, these four families departed in a bark canoe with their effects, to seek in a new country, and in the secluded recesses of the forest, a home.

They coasted along up the St. Lawrence, and at length arrived at the delightful point on which the village of St. Regis now stands, where they landed and took possession.

The name of these youths, was Tarbell, and their descendants have always resided at St. Regis, and some of them have been distinguished as chiefs and headmen of the tribe. One of these named Lesor Tarbell, and a son of his name, was a prominent chief, about fifty years since, and very much esteemed by the whites for his prudence, candor, and great worth of character.

The name of Tarbell is said to be very common in Groton to this day.

Another traditional version of the account differs in some particulars from that just related, and is as follows:

Three lads and an elder sister were playing together in a field, when they were surprised by a small party of Indians. One of the boys escaped, but the rest were seized, and marched that day about fourteen miles into the woods, towards Canada, when it coming on dark, they came to a halt, and camped for the night. Thinking their prisoner secure, the Indians were less watchful than usual, and finally all fell asleep.

The girl, about twelve years old, kept awake, and seeing the rest asleep, her first thought was to awaken her brother, and attempt to escape; but fearing to disturb the Indians, should she attempt this, and thus prevent any possibility of escape, she crept carefully out from among them, and struck off in the direction of her home, which she at length reached after undergoing great hardship.

One of the lads on growing up went off to the Northwest; the other married, and subsequently, with his wife and one or two other families, moved off; and made the first settlement at St. Regis.

From the abundance of partridges which the thicket afforded they called it Ak-wis-sas-ne, “where the partridge drums,” and this name it still retains.

These families were living very peaceably together, and had made small clearings for cornfields, when they were joined by Father Anthony Gordon, a Jesuit from Caughnawaga, with a colony of these Indians, in 1760.

The year of this settlement is known by the fact that they were met, near Coteau du Lac, by Lord Amherst, who was descending the St. Lawrence, to complete the conquest of Canada. Gordon called the place St. Regis (Pages 111-113.)

In former years the St. Regis Indians had certain rights in a land reservation in the State of New York; and more than once treaties were made between the Governor of the State and the chiefs of the tribe, among whom were descendants of these Tarbell boys. A treaty was signed on February 20, 1818, in behalf of the Indians, by Loran Tarbell and Thomas Tarbell, and two other chiefs. Another treaty was sighted on September 23, 1835, by eleven chiefs and trustees of the tribe, including Peter Tarbell, Thomas Tarbell, Mitchel Tarbell, Louis Tarbell, and Battice Tarbell. Some of these names, I am sure, will sound familiar to the older inhabitants of Groton. It is very likely that Battice is the same as Sabattis, an Indian name, which is said to be a corruption of Saint Baptiste.

Dr. Hough writes about one of the earlier members of the family as follows:—

A half breed Indian, who usually was known as Peter the Big Speak, was a son of Lesor Tarbell, one of the lads who had been stolen away from Groton by the Indians, and who subsequently became one of the first settlers who preceded the founding of St. Regis.

He was a man of much address and ability as a speaker, and was selected as the mouthpiece of the tribe on the more important occasions that presented themselves. (Page 182.)

The statement is wrong, however, that Lesor was the name of one of the captured boys. It is perfectly well known that their names were John and Zechariah, but it is not improbable that one of their sons was named Lesor. If this was the case, it was intended, doubtless, for Eleazer, the name of their youngest brother, who was less than two months old when they were carried off. It certainly would be a very touching tribute to their childish recollections if they had remembered this little babe at home, and carried him in their thoughts for so many years.

In the year 1772 the Reverend Mr. Ripley and Lieutenant Taylor went on a mission to Canada, in order to induce some Indian children to join the Charity School at Hanover, New Hampshire. They returned September 21, bringing with them eight boys from Caughnawaga, and two from Lorette, a village near Quebec. Among these lads was a descendant of one of the Tarbell captives. An account of this visit to Canada is given in the appendix to a pamphlet entitled “A Continuation of the Narrative of the Indian Charity School,” by Eleazer Wheelock, D.D., and published in the year 1773. The following extract is taken from it:—

The same day a council of the chiefs of that tribe [Caughnawaga] was called to consider of the proposal of sending their children to this school, which Mr. Ripley had left to their consideration, in which they were to a man agreed in the affirmative, and acknowledged with gratitude the benevolence and kindness of their offer: They continued united and firm to the last in that determination against the most warm and zealous remonstrances of their priest, both in public and private; in consequence of which determination, nine of their boys were made ready to accompany Mr. Ripley hither; three of which were children or descendants from captives, who had been captivated while they were young, and lived with them, till they were naturalized and married among them. One was a descendant from Rev. Mr. Williams who was captivated front Deerfield in 1704, but the boy was taken sick with the measles, and thereby his coming was prevented; but may be expected in the spring. Another was a descendant from Mr. Tarbull, who was captivated from Groton, in the year 1700 [1707?], who is now a hearty and active man, and the eldest chief, and chief speaker of the tribe. He expressed great affection to his relations in New England, sent his love to them, and desired they might be informed that he had a grandson at this school. The other was son to Mr. Stacey, who was captivated from Ipswich, and is a good interpreter for that tribe. (Pages 39, 40.)

Another reference to the same subject is found in that first volume of Farmer & Moore’s “Collections,” published at Concord, New Hampshire, in the year 1822. It is as follows:—

In 1772, Rev. Sylvanus Ripley and Lt. Joseph Taylor, who acted as interpreter, went on a mission to the Indian tribes in Canada. They returned to Hanover on the 21st of September, and brought with them ten children from those tribes, to receive an education in the school at Dartmouth College. Two of these children were taken by the Indians in former wars, while they young, and were brought up in the language and customs of the natives. One of them was a grandson, about eight years old, of a Mr. Tarbell, who was taken from Groton, in Massachusetts, in the year 1704 [ 1707?], when he was about ten years old. Mr. Tarbell was then in vigorous health and the oldest chief in the village. He expressed much joy in seeing Messrs. Ripley and Taylor, and earnestly encouraged his grandson in leaving his Indian relatives to receive the benefits of education. There was another youth, a grandson of Mrs. Eunice Williams, who was taken captive with her father, the Rev. John Williams, of Deerfield, Feb. 29, 1704, that would have accompanied them, but was prevented by indisposition. (Pages 63, 64.)[2]

A Frenchman by the name of Fovel visited St. Regis in the year 1826, and induced one of the Tarbell family, whose Indian name was Joseph Torakaron, to accompany him to Europe. Torakaron was to travel in the character of an Indian chief, and Fovel was to act as interpreter and agent. The story is thus told by Dr. Hough, in his History:—

In 1826, a young Frenchman, by the name of Fovel, who had been for some time at Montreal, visited St. Regis, and induced one Joseph Tarakaron (sometimes known by his English name of Tarbell,) to consent to accompany him to Europe. Torakaron was to travel in the character of an Indian chief, (Which office he then held at St. Regis,) and his companion in that of interpreter, solicitor, treasurer, and agent. The motives held out to the chief were that they should be able to obtain donations for the endowment of their church, and doubtless large sums as presents to themselves. Having made all necessary arrangements, and being furnished with letters from St. Regis, Montreal and Quebec, certifying the standing of Torakaron at home, the two proceeded by way of New York and Havre, to Paris. The conductor here obtained an interview with Charles X, and so favorable an impression was made upon the mind of the king, that he presented them with three fine paintings, and a large sum in money, and other valuable articles. Thence they proceeded by way of Marseilles, to Rome, and obtained an interview with the pope.

During a conversation, the pope asked the Indian if he could converse in another language than his own, and finding him able to use the English and French to some degree, he invited him to a second interview alone. The result was, that a set of books and silver plate, for the service of the church, a rosary of jewels and gold, worth it is said $1400, and other articles of value, were given him. They thence returned to Marseilles, where they spent the winter, and in 1828 returned by way of Paris and Havre to New York. Here the, treasurer, or interpreter, or whatever else he might be called, evinced his true character by absconding with every article of value, except the rosary and paintings, leaving Torakaron without means even to return home. He was enabled to do so through the charity of friends, and the paintings were soon after deposited in their destined place. Two are now at St. Regis, and the third in the church at Caughnawaga. Of the former, those who visit the church will recognize in a painting over the altar, the portrait of St. Regis, and in the one to the left, near the pulpit, that of St. Francois Xavier. (Page ~66.)

In the summer of 1877 I visited St. Regis, where I met a grandson of one of the Tarbell captives. He was more than eighty years old, and could speak only Indian; and I had to talk with him through an interpreter. I learned that he was aware that his grandfather had been taken when a boy, from a town near Boston, and that he had kinsfolk still living there. What interested me exceedingly was the physical resemblance between him and some of his collateral relations, who lived and died at Squannacook within my recollection. He was a man of ordinary size, with a sunburnt face and gray hair, though somewhat bald. There was but little appearance of Indian blood in his veins, and he would have passed anywhere for a good‑looking old man. He lived with one of his sons in a small house that was clapboarded and painted,—and one of the best in the village,—where, surrounded by his grandchildren, he was passing the declining years of his life in comfortable ease.

I was also interested to learn from the Reverend Francis Marcoux, the parish priest, that the Tarbells were among the most prominent families of the settlement, where there are, perhaps, forty persons who bear the name. They keep up, in a great measure, the same given names that are common among their kindred in this neighborhood. The inhabitants of St. Regis, for the most part, retain the English names of their fathers, and besides, have Indian ones.

In tracing the career of these boys and their descendants down nearly to the present time, the account sounds more like fiction than the sober truth of history. The trail of their adventures is covered up with so many improbabilities that the mere narration of them excites marvel and wonder.

During the War of the Rebellion [aka the Civil War— LSL], Louis Tarbell, a son of Thomas, of St. Regis, who was descended from one of the captives, served two years in the Thirty‑fourth New York Volunteers, and subsequently in the Eleventh United States Infantry. After his discharge from the army he died at Norway, Herkimer County, New York.

During the present summer of 1883 Mr. Lawrence, the owner of the Tarbell farm, proposes to place in the wall by the wayside a stone bearing this inscription:—

NEAR THIS SPOT

THREE CHILDREN

SARAH, JOHN, AND ZECHARIAH TARBELL

WERE CAPTURED BY THE INDIANS

JUNE 20, 1707

THEY WERE TAKEN TO CANADA WHERE

THE SISTER WAS PLACED IN A CONVENT

THE BROTHERS BECAME CHIEFS OF THE

COUGHNAWAGA TRIBE, AND WERE AMONG

THE FOUNDERS OF ST. REGIS WHERE

THEY HAVE DESCENDANTS NOW LIVING.

1883.[3]

 

Footnotes:

[1] Old Style and New Style dates refer to a major adjustment that had to be made in the calendar, after centuries of failing to account for the fact that the number of days required for the earth to complete one revolution around the sun is in fact fractional, and not just 365.25 days either. As a result, eleven days were dropped from the calendar, and a complicated system of leap years was instituted. Lucia C. Stanton of the Monticello Research Department, in a webpage devoted to the subject  mentions that “The reformation caused many citizens to feel cheated of eleven days’ pay, and they chanted, “Give us back our eleven days.” Adding to the confusion, this change in the world’s system of recording dates was first instituted by Pope Gregory in catholic countries in the 1500’s, but not in Britain till the mid-1700’s. This then means that dates of events prior to 1751 have to be re-interpreted, depending on the part of the world in which those events occurred. The following is a practical example of how all this has affected things. Ms. Stanton continues: The hawthorn or “may tree,” long a fixture of May Day festivities, is now seldom found in bloom on May Day. It blooms around Old May Day, May 12.” And it is this phenomenon, the rolling forward of time and almost the changing of seasons, that the author above is referring to. So, the Old Style date of the Tarbell’s abduction, June 20, is right, that is when the family’s diaries might have recorded the event, but the actual time of the year is wrong. They were really taken closer to our July 1. Finally, I will briefly mention that the use of double dates before 1752, i.e. 1695/1696, is not a manifestation of confusion over dates, although that sometimes is the case, but reflects a difference of custom among European peoples as to when the first month of the year started. Some groups used January, others March. According to Ms. Stanton, “In Britain under the Julian calendar the legal beginning of the year was Lady Day, March 25. Thus, dates from January 1 to March 25 before 1752 were often given both their Old Style and New Style years.”

[2] Williams is the subject, among others, of the book The Unredeemed Captive, by John Demos, mentioned in the first post on the Tarbells.

[3] For anyone who has not been to the Lawrence Homestead in Groton, MA, the placque is still in place.

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