The Abduction of the Tarbell Children: Part 3

The account below is taken from Butler’s History of Groton, Pepperell, and Shirley, published in 1848.

It is the last of the historical accounts which I could find relating to the abduction of the Tarbell children, and it is both the oldest, and the least accurate.

For example, note that the author believed the mother of the boys was Elizabeth Blood. He was mistaken in this.  (It was Elizabeth Woods.) Also, note their abduction is said to have taken place on a Mr. Sanderson’s property. This may or may not conflict with the other stories, which place the event squarely on Tarbell property.

A brief note on language: The following is a historical account dating from the mid-19th century. There are instances here of the kind of language that typifies the ethnocentrism and rank prejudice of that period. These sentences are included – have been allowed to remain –  because they are integral to the meaning and substance of the document, and not because I as an individual in any way agree with or endorse these characterizations.


from Caleb Butler, History of Groton, Pepperell, and Shirley, Boston, 1848. pp.96-7


…Besides these instances of alarm, attack and suffering from a savage foe, others are known to have occured, of which there is more or less authentic evidence. One, of which the tradition is undoubtedly nearly correct, is that of the two lads, John Tarbell and Zachariah Tarbell, brothers, and sons of Thomas Tarbell, who were taken and carried to Canada. The story runs thus. One evening, a little after sunsetting, the Indians came suddenly upon the inmates of a garrisoned house, which stood where the Rev. Mr. Sanderson’s house now stands, or near that spot. They all escaped and got safely into the garrison except these two boys, who being on a cherry tree had not time to descend and save themselves from captivity. The precise time of this event is not known, but it is said that Zachariah was so young, that he entirely lost his native language, and the records of Groton show, that John was born July 6, 1695, and Zachariah January 25, 1700. So it was probably between 1704 and 1708. Some years after, they both came to Groton on a visit, but having become accustomed to savage life, no persuasion prevailed upon them to return and live with their friends and relatives. The present inhabitants of that name are their collateral kindred. Their descendants are still among the Indians in Canada.

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