Hannah was born December 23, 1657, the eldest child of Michael Emerson and Hannah Webster. The Emersons were early settlers of Haverhill, which, at that time, was a frontier town in Massachusetts. They were neighbors of Robert Swan and his sons. The Swans could be contentious men who used the courts to get their way, and who also were adept at settling scores outside court. Michael Emerson, a cordwainer by trade, was found guilty of kicking and beating his daughter Elizabeth Emerson with a flail (used to pound flax) when she was a child. In an age when corporal punishment was usual, court censure for child beating certainly suggest that Michael Emerson's behavior was unacceptable, even for that harsh frontier time.
When brutalized daughter Elizabeth became pregnant out of wedlock, she claimed that Timothy Swan had dragged her upstairs and silenced her as he raped her. At that time it was believed that women could not become pregnant by rape, and Timothy was found not guilty. In spite of the "not guilty" verdict on this dubious technicality, Timothy was nevertheless ordered to support the child, which he did only occasionally. The fact of sentencing following a "not guilty" verdict may have reflected the sentiment against the Swans, and Timothy in particular. After Robert Swan's son-in-law was found culpable for an illegitimate child, Robert made derogatory comments and threats against the Court. Son Timothy then developed a mysterious fatal chronic illness, and accused multiple female “witches” of causing his illness. Several of the accused witches “confessed” that they had indeed tormented him with witchcraft—a fact which suggests that Salem woman were unsympathetic to Timothy Swan and if they were obliged to confess to witchcraft, it might as well be an admission of harming someone who many thought "got what he deserved."
In 1693 Timothy died of his mysterious illness and Hannah's sister Elizabeth was hanged for concealing an illegitimate birth, which was a capital crime back then.
At the time of the Trials and her sister's execution, Hannah was a married woman living in Haverhill with her husband Thomas Duston (aka Dustan, Dustin—spelling was not a Colonial forte) and their several children. The Salem Trials ended, but horror of the murders of innocent persons and the guilt of some of the perpetrators did not immediately fade. Simultaneously, in about 1690 attacks on settlers increased in frequency. At first individuals disappeared. Then in 1692, just after the trials began, the Abenakis descended on York, Maine, in what would become known as the infamous Candlemas Massacre. The Candlemas Massacre was no more about the Abenakis' attempts to gain back their “rightful territory,” than Salem was about “hysteria.” The Abanaki Indians, led by Madockawondo, came from tribes headquartered in Canada at the head of the Kennebec river, which (before modern transportation) was days away from York, Maine.
The Abenaki antipathy towards the English Colonists must be understood in light of the historical relationship between the French and certain native tribes. It is unfortunate that the French and the English brought their age-old conflict with them to the New World. The Abenakis resided in the part of the New World claimed by France, and many had been converted to Catholicism by missionaries sent to New France. The statements about the Abductors "praying three times a day" (see Notes below) refers to the aggressive attempts of French missionaries to convert the Abenakis to Catholicism. Madackawondo’s daughter was the wife of Baron Jean Vincent de Castin, who was the French commander in Pentagoet, New France (which would become Castine, Maine). Although the Abenakis did not leave a written record to communicate their position, documentation from New France officials certainly suggests that the Abenakis were incited to violence by French missionaries. As in Salem, the complicated relationships among the participants must be appreciated in order to understand the motivation for Abenaki atrocities against the English.
Thus, the actions of Hannah Emerson Duston must be considered in the context of her home background, the psychological after effects of the Salem debacle, the execution of her sister, as well as the constant terror of living on the frontier when Indian attacks were a frequent occurrence. What happened to Hannah was by no means uncommon, nor can there by any doubt that the Indian attacks were terrorism, as opposed to legitimate acts of war. One famous victim, Elizabeth Meader Hanson, who lived to testify about her abduction, terrorization and sale in a French slave market at the hands of the Abenaki Indians, described how they attacked, and one was so provoked by the screaming of her terrified child that he “knocked out its brains” and scalped two of her children as she looked on in horror—acts specifically done to “strike the greater degree of terror into the minds of us who survived.” Ahem ....
On March 15, 1697, about one week after delivering another child, Hannah's worst fears were realized when the Abenakis staged a surprise attack. Husband Thomas managed to get the older children to safety, but Hannah, her newborn and her nurse Mary Neff were abducted. They were subjected to a forced two-week march. Other survivors such as Elizabeth Hanson testified how she was starved, threatened with death and then sold to the French. It is most likely that Hannah was similarly in fear of her life.
What is remarkable about Hannah Emerson is that she did not opt to meekly accept abuse and cooperate with her tormentors, as most abductees did. Instead, Hannah transcended her circumstances, and in so doing, she saved herself, Mary Neff, and the 14-year-old fellow abductee Samuel Leonard. Even more impressive is the fact that she exhibited such an amazing degree of internal fortitude and physical stamina in a semi-starved state following childbirth and a two-week forced march. While it is true that she murdered her aggressors, it is highly likely, given the accounts from numerous survivors of Indian abductions, that she did so in self defense and had a reasonable belief that her life was in grave danger. At the time she killed her kidnappers, she could not have known whether her other children were alive and safe. She would have been desperate to free herself and get home to her children.
If Hannah did indeed scalp the perpetrators, one must wonder how she even knew how to scalp someone. After all, Hannah was a housewife and a mother, not a soldier. It is unlikely that she had ever used a tomahawk for any chores. She certainly did not conduct an Internet search on "how to scalp with a tomahawk." One must then entertain the possibility that she got the idea from her captors, as she said In any case, the scalping was most likely an afterthought. Both sides paid bounty money for scalps, and the Abenakis certainly availed themselves of French rewards for the scalps of English settlers. Furthermore, it is likely that Hannah's husband Thomas--and not Hannah—applied for and received the reward money for any scalps, because at that time married women's finances were controlled by their husbands. Scalping must be interpreted in the context of the time and place where it occurred, and not distorted by presentist views of persons who should be grateful that they were not women living in Massachusetts in the 1690s.
Hannah Duston was the first woman in the US to have a statue erected in her honor. She has two, in fact: the one in Haverhill (1861), and one in Boscawen, New Hampshire (1874). And she deserves them both. I do not personally know any contemporary woman who has demonstrated the courage, presence of mind and physical stamina that Hannah did (although I also do not personally know any woman who has been cast into into such horrible circumstances through no fault of her own).
Kudos to Hannah Emerson Duston, an exemplary survivor, a good mother and a good woman who refused to tolerate any more abuse! Although Hannah is the most well known of women who fought back, she was not the only one. Hannah Heath Bradley, who was first captured with Hannah Emerson Duston survived three terrorist attacks on her life.
In memoriam to the unfortunate victims murdered in the brutal Haverhill massacre:
- On March 15 , 1697 in Massachusetts, Thomas Dustin saw the Indians coming.
- He saved his kids but was too late to save Hannah, his wife. After a 100 mile walk they were in Boscawen, NH. She was still mad about the death of her kid and wanting to kill the indian who slammed her baby's head against a tree. She was planing to kill all the Indians.She meet a young boy named Smith who was also taken by the Indians. At midnight they found some tomahawks and scalped 10 out of 12 Indians. One of them was a boy, the other was a man that had escaped.
- The Escape
- They were on their way to Massachusetts, Hannah remembers that you can get 10 pounds for a Indian scalp, so she wrapped the scalps in cloth. They slept by the day and went down the river at the night time. After a couple days they were home, Hannah got 25 pounds by selling the Indians scalps. Martha and Smith had to split the other 25 pounds.
- The monument was made by Mister Brenum. The monument is in the town of
- Boscawen. The Indians that she killed are buried under the monument . It's 25 feet tall and made of solid marble.
Boscawen is located near Concord, New Hampshire
- The historical marker is just west of the Merrimack River bridge on U.S. Route 4, south of Boscawen, and about a mile west of the junction with I-93. Dustin's Island, where the events descibed took place, is just south of Rt. 4 at this point
The monument reads:
- Hannah Dustin
- Famous symbol of frontier heroism.
- A victim of an Indian raid in 1697,
- on Haverhill, Massachusetts, whence
- she had been taken to a camp site
- on the nearby island in the river.
- After killing and later scalping
- ten Indians, she and the two other
- captives, Mary Neff and Samuel
- Lennardson, escaped down river
- to safety.
Following was found in World Family Tree, Volume 3 
Boscawen, Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA
Inscription: HANNAH DUSTIN 1657-1737 Famous symbol of frontier heroism. A victim of an Indian raid in 1697, on Haverhill, Massachusetts, whence she had been taken to a camp site on the nearby island in the river. After killing and later scalping ten Indians, she and the other two captives, Mary Neff and Samuel Lennardson, escaped down the river to safety. Photograph by Craig Michaud http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/76/Hannahdustinma- ker.JPG Hannah Duston (born Hannah Emerson, December 23, 1657 c. 1736) was a colonial New England woman who, having been captured during an Indian raid, escaped from her captors by killing them in the night and fleeing in their canoe. She is believed to be the first woman honored in the United States with a statue. (Due to the phonetic spelling of her time, her last name has also been written Dustin, Dustan, and even Durstan.) Hannah, her husband Thomas Duston, and their nine living children were settlers in Haverhill, Massachusetts when in March 1697 the town was attacked by Abenaki Indians. Thomas fled with eight children; Hannah, her baby Martha, who was only six days old, and her nurse Mary Neff were captured and forced to march into the wilderness. The Indians took the baby from Hannah and killed her by smashing her against a tree. Hannah and Mary traveled with a family group north, during which time they were joined by Samuel Lennardson, a 14-year-old white captive. Along the way, they stopped at an island 43°17'16?N 71°35'28?W in the Merrimack River at the mouth of the Contoocook River near what is now Penacook, New Hampshire, where the party stayed some days. Hannah there led Mary and Samuel in a revolt after all the others were asleep, using the Indians' tomahawks to kill ten of the twelve Indians, including six children. (A young boy and a woman escaped.) The former captives immediately left in a canoe, taking with them scalps as proof of the incident and to collect a bounty. They traveled down the river only during the night, and after several days returned to Haverhill. The Massachusetts General Court later awarded them a reward for killing the raiders. Hannah received 25 pounds, and Mary and Samuel split another 25 pounds. (various accounts say 50 or 25 pounds, and some accounts allege that only Duston received the award). The event became well known, due in part to the account of Cotton Mather in his Magnalia Christi Americana. She became more famous in the nineteenth century as her story was retold by Henry David Thoreau and in many genealogical histories. In 1879 a bronze statue of Hannah grasping a tomahawk was placed in Haverhill town square (now GAR Park), where it still stands, and another on the island in New Hampshire. Some of her artifacts are displayed at the Haverhill Historical Society. Hannah was the daughter of early colonist Michael Emerson and his wife, the former Hannah Webster. In contrast to her celebrated story, Hannah's sister Elizabeth Emerson (1664-1693) was hanged after being convicted of murdering her illegitimate twin infants; the married father was not charged. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Dustin
The Dustin boulder -- Old Postcard of the Jonathan Dustin House Site, Monument Street, Haverhill, MA. Local history tells us that Haverhill's immense Dustin boulder marks the site of Jonathan Dustin's home, where Mrs. Dustin lived her final years with a son. Haverhill public library records say it took 30 horses with 14 drivers to haul it to the present location. Its weight is estimated at from 30 to 60 tons. Hannah Dustin died at this location in 1736.
December 23, 1657 – c. 1737)
was a colonial Massachusetts Puritan mother of nine who was taken captive by Abenaki First Nations Canadians from Québec during King William's War, with her newborn daughter, during the Raid on Haverhill (1697), in which 27 colonists were killed. While detained on an island in the Merrimack River in present-day Boscawen, New Hampshire, she killed and scalped 10 of the First Nations Canadian family members holding them hostage, with the assistance of two other captives. Duston's captivity narrative became famous more than 100 years after she died. Duston is believed to be the first American woman honored with a statue. During the 19th century, she was referred to as "a folk hero" and the "mother of the American tradition of scalp hunting". Some scholars assert Duston's story only became legend in the 19th century because the United States used her story to defend its violence against Native Americans as innocent, defensive, and virtuous. Biography Hannah Emerson was the oldest of 15 children. At age 20, she married Thomas Duston, a farmer and brick-maker. The Emerson family had previously been the subject of attention when Elizabeth Emerson, Hannah's younger sister, was hanged for infanticide. During King William's War, Hannah, her husband Thomas, and their eight children were residents of Haverhill, Massachusetts. In March 1697, the town was attacked by a group of Abenaki First Nations Canadians from Quebec. (In this attack, 27 colonists were killed, and 13 were taken captive to be either adopted or held as hostages for the French.) When their farm was attacked, Thomas fled with eight children, but Hannah and her nurse, Mary Neff (nee Corliss), were captured and forced to march into the wilderness, Hannah carrying her newborn daughter, Martha. According to the account Hannah gave to Cotton Mather, along the way the First Nations Canadians killed the six-day-old Martha by smashing her head against a tree. Hannah and Mary were assigned to a First Nations Canadian family group of 12 persons and taken north. The group included Samuel Lennardson, a 14-year-old captured in Worcester, Massachusetts the year before. Six weeks later, at an island in the Merrimack River at the mouth of the Contoocook River, near what is now Penacook, New Hampshire, Hannah led Mary and Samuel in a revolt. Hannah used a tomahawk to attack the sleeping First Nations Canadians, killing one of the two grown men (Lennardson killed the second), two adult women, and six children. One severely wounded First Nations Canadian woman and a young boy managed to escape the attack. The former captives immediately left in a canoe, but not before taking scalps from the dead as proof of the incident and to collect a bounty. They traveled down river, only during the night, and after several days reached Haverhill. The Massachusetts General Court later gave them a reward for killing First Nations Canadians; Hannah Duston received 25 pounds, and Neff and Lennardson split another 25 pounds (various accounts say 50 or 25 pounds, and some accounts mention only Duston's receiving an award). Hannah lived for nearly 40 more years. Legacy Written accounts The event became well known, due in part to Cotton Mather's account in Magnalia Christi Americana: The Ecclesiastical History of New England (1702). Duston became more famous in the 19th century as her story was retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Henry David Thoreau. Memorials There are six Memorials to Hannah Duston. Aborted first memorial (erected 1861-1865) The campaign to build the first monument in Haverhill, Massachusetts began in 1852, at a time when building public monuments was still a somewhat rare occurrence. The monument chosen was a simple marble column that would cost about ,350, and by 1861 the necessary funds had been raised. The monument was erected in June 1861, at the site of Duston’s capture, but it was never fully paid for. After successfully suing the association, the builders removed the monument in August 1865, erased the inscription, engraved a new one, and resold it to the town of Barre, Massachusetts, where it stands to this day as a memorial to that town’s Civil War soldiers. First successful memorial (erected 1874) The first Duston memorial actually executed was sculpted by William Andrews, a marble worker from Lowell, Massachusetts. It was erected in 1874 on the island in Boscawen, New Hampshire, where Duston killed her captors. Huge crowds overwhelmed the island on the day of its dedication, with speeches presented all day long. It was the first publicly funded statue in New Hampshire. Second memorial (erected 1879) In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston grasping a tomahawk was created by Calvin H. Weeks (1834–1907) in Haverhill town square (now Grand Army Park), where it still stands. The monument stands on the site of the Second Church, of which Hannah Duston became a member in 1724 Third memorial (inscribed in 1908) The third memorial was created in 1908, when an inscription was placed on a boulder in memorial to both Hannah and Martha. The boulder was placed on the site of Hannah's son Jonathan's home, where Hannah lived her final years. Hannah Duston died at this location circa 1736 or 1737. Fourth memorial A mill stone was placed on the shores of the Merrimack River where Hannah, Mary, and Samuel beached their canoe upon their return to Haverhill. Fifth Memorial A memorial has been placed at the site of James Lovewell's Home, in Nashua, New Hampshire, where Hannah, Mary, and Samuel rested on their way home from captivity. Duston hatchet The original small axe or hatchet held by Hannah Duston can be found today in the Haverhill Historical Society. The Duston hatchet is not a tomahawk; it is usually called a Biscayan or biscayenne, a common trade item of the late seventeenth-century New England frontier. Commemorative structures Other commemorations include: • Dustin House, where Hannah lived in the years after the raid and which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places • Hannah Dustin Elementary school • Hannah Dustin Health Care Center[ • Hannah Dustin Rest Home[ Controversy Today, Hannah Duston's actions in freeing herself from captivity, such as killing the Abenaki family she was staying with, are controversial. Some Americans celebrate her as a hero, while others are more tempered in their commemoration of her, given her killing of her abductors. Some commentators have said her legend is racist and glorifies violence.
CHILDREN: 13 children
PARENTS: Michael Emerson & Hannah Webster ( John Webster B Dec 23 1657, died before 6 Mar 1736. & Mary Shatswell)
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