Elizabeth Meader was born in 1684 in Oyster River to John Meader and Sarah Follett. She married John Hanson. She is best known as a survivor of an Indian attack who lived to testify that on August 27, 1725, Indians armed with tomahawks and guns were “skulking about the fields and watching an opportunity of our men’s absence.” She then 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.” After these men who had deliberately attacked helpless women and children had finished butchering many and robbing them, the remaining victims, including Elizabeth Hanson, who had just given birth, were forcibly marched to Canada, which took about a month, during which time they had “nothing to eat but pieces of old beaver-skin match-coats.” Two of her daughters who had been captured with her were separated from her before they reached Canada.
After arriving in Canada Elizabeth Varney feared for her life:
“…Hereupon his squaw and daughter broke forth in a violent fit of crying; which occasioned me to fear that some mischief was intended against us; and in consequence of this I instantly withdrew from his presence into another wigwam. He soon followed me; and in great fury tore my blanket from my back; then taking my little boy from me, he knocked him down as he went along before him. But the poor child, not being hurt, but only frightened with the fall, started up, and ran away without crying.
My Master then left us; but his wife’s mother came and sat down by me, telling me I must sleep there that night. After this she went out for a while, and then returned with a small skin to cover my feet; giving me to understand withal, that my master was now determined to kill us.
…The poor old squaw, his mother-in-law, was very kind and tender to me; and all that night would not leave me; but came and laid herself down at my feet, signifying her intention to use her endeavours to appease his wrath…”
According to Elizabeth’s testimony, it can be inferred that Indian women disapproved of this shameful violence against women and children, which indicates perhaps such behavior was contrary to usual tribal practices and their concept of societal order. After the threats on Elizabeth’s life by “Master,” he suddenly became very ill. While some have misinterpreted Elizabeth’s words to mean that she believed that God had saved her from Master’s wrath, the wording of the last sentence in the following paragraph suggests that Elizabeth understood that the Lord works in mysterious ways:
“…For instead of venting his fury on me and mine, the Lord, in whom I had put my trust, interposed in the needful time, and mercifully delivered us from the cruel purpose he had threatened to put in execution. Nor was he himself without some sense of the same, and that the hand of God was concerned therein, as he afterwards confessed to those who were about him. For a little time after he had got upon his feet he was struck with violent pains, and such a grievous sickness, that he uttered his complaints in a very doleful and hideous manner. Which when I understood (not having yet seen him) I went to another squaw, who was come to visit and could speak English, and asked her if my mistress (for so I used to call the Indian’s wife) thought my master would die? She answered, it was very likely he would; for he grew worse and worse. I then told her he had struck my little boy a dreadful blow, without any provocation; and had threatened, in his fury, to kill us all. The squaw confessed that the abuse he had offered to my child, and the mischief he had done him, was the cause why God afflicted him with that sickness and pain; and told me that he had promised never to abuse us in such sort again.”
After Master understood the wrath of God and certain others, he suddenly and completely recovered from the illness that the squaw thought might kill him. Master decided to sell Elizabeth to the French instead of murdering her and risking more wrath from God. But once he arrived in Port-Royal, he appeared to be a slow learner. Even his French allies appeared to regard his behavior with contempt:
“…I was exposed to sale, and the price my master put upon me was 800 livres. But nobody appearing disposed to comply with his demands, and a Frenchman offering no more that 600 livres, it threw him into such a rage, that he said in his passion, if he could not have his price, he would burn me and the babe in the view of the city of Port-Royal. The Frenchman bade him make the fire; and added, “I will help you, if you think that will do you more good than 600 livres;” calling him fool, and roughly bidding him begone: but at the same time he was very civil to me; and for my encouragement bade me be o good cheer, for I should be redeemed, and not go back with the Indian again.—I was obliged, however, to retire with my master that night; but the next morning I was redeemed for 600 livres.”
Elizabeth was more fortunate than most, because her husband found her about a month after she had been sold to the man identified as “Frenchman.” However, her husband died before he found his daughter. A male relative went to Canada and tried to obtain the daughter’s freedom. Elizabeth did not explicitly give the Indian women overt credit for this, but it is likely she knew they had influenced the tribe’s decision in her favor yet once again. Although the tribe refused to release the daughter to her family, they did release her from captivity and allowed her to marry another man named “Frenchman.”
Source: Bownas, Samuel. (1760). An Account of the Captivity of Elizabeth Hanson. Available online multiple sites, including http://www.vibertfamily.com/
Book in England written about her kidnapping and captivity.
Parents John MEADER 1660 – 1738 and Sarah FOLLETT 1664 –
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