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Narrative of Hannah Swarton

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A Narrative of Hannah Swarton, Containing Wonderful Passages, relating to her Captivity, and her Deliverance

This is Hannah Swarton's narrative of her experience from 1690 to 1695 as a captive of Indians in Maine and later in Nouvelle France.

The text below is the version of the Narrative published as an appendix to Rev. Cotton Mather's 1697 book Humiliations Followed With Deliverances.[1] A revised version of the Narrative appeared in Mather's 1702 Magnalia Christi Americana. No copy of the original narrative survives, and it is not possible to determine which elements are original and which were added or altered by Mather, but it is likely that the biblical quotations much of other religious and moral content are his work.[2]

Text was transcribed and electronically published by the Text Creation Partnership, Ann Arbor, Michigan, at https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N29523.0001.001/1:3 . The text includes a number of symbols in the place of individual letters that were unclear; these symbols may not render properly in this Wiki, and have been replaced with the presumed letter.

Notations regarding people and places mentioned in the narrative were informed by the book Puritans Among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676-1724, pages 147-158.[2]


APPENDIX. A NARRATIVE of Hannah Swarton, Containing Wonderful Passages, relating to her Captivity, and her Deliverance.

I Was taken by the Indians, when Casco Fort was taken, (May) 1690. My Husband being slain, and Four Children taken with me. The Eldest of my Sons they killed, about two Months after I was taken, and the rest Scattered from me. I was now left a Widow, and as Bereaved of my Children; though, I had them alive, yet it was very seldome that I could see them, and I had not Liberty to Discourse with them, without Danger either of my own Life, or theirs; for our Condoling each others Condition, and shewing Natural Affection, was so displeasing to our Indian Rulers, unto whose Share we fell, that they would threaten to kill us, if we cryed each to other, or discoursed much together. So that my Condition was like what the Lord threatned the Jews, in Ezek. 24.22, 23. We durst not Mourn or Weep, in the sight of our Enemies, lest we lost our own Lives. For the first Times while the Enemy feasted on our English Provisions, I might have had some with them: but then I was so filled with Sorrow and Tears, that I had little Stomach to Eat; and when my Stomach was come, our English Food was spent, and the Indians wanted themselves, and we more: So that then I was pined with want. We had no Corn, or Bread, but sometimes Groundnuts, Acorns, Purslein, Hogweel, Weeds, Roots, and sometimes Dogs Flesh, but not sufficient to satisfy Hunger with these; having but little at a Time. We had no success at Hunting; save that one Bear was killed, which I had part of; and a very small part of a Turtle I had at other time, and once an Indian gave me a piece of a Mooses liver, which was a sweet Morsel to me; and Fish, if we could catch it. Thus I continued with them, hurried up and down the Wilderness, from May 20 till the middle of February; Carrying continually, a Great Burden in our Travels; and I must go their pace, or else be killed presently; and yet was pinched with Cold, for want of Cloathing, being put by them into an Indian Dress, with a sleight Blanket, no Stockings, and but one pair of Indian Shoes, and of their Leather Stockings for the Winter: My Feet were pricked with sharp Stones, and prickly Bushes some times; and other times Pinched with Snow, Cold, and Ice, that I travelled upon, ready to be frozen, and faint for want of Food; so that many times I thought I could go no further, but must ly down, and if they would kill me, let them kill me. Yet then, the Lord did so Renew my Strength, that I went on still further, as my Master would have me, and held out with them. Though many English were taken, and I was brought to some of them, at times, while we were about Casco Bay and Kennebeck River, yet at Norridgawock, we were Separated, and no English were in our Company, but one John York and my self, who were both, almost Starved for want, and yet told, that if we could not hold up to travel with them, they would kill us. And accordingly, John York, growing Weak by his wants, they killed him, and threatened me with the like. One time, my Indian Mistress, and I, were left alone, while the rest went to look for Eeles; and they left us no Food from Sabbath day Morning, till the next Satureday; save that we had a Bladder (of Moose I think) which was well filled with Maggots, and we boiled it, and drank the Broth, but the Bladder was so tough, we could not eat it. On the Saturday, I was sent by my Mistress, to that part of the Island, most likely to see some Canoo, and there to make Fire and Smoke, to invite some Indians, if I could spy any, to come to Relieve us; and I espied a Canoo, and by Signs invited them to come to the Shore. It proved to be some Squaw's; who understanding our wants, one of them gave me a Roasted Eel, which I eat, and it seemed unto me, the most Savoury Food, I ever tasted before. Sometimes we lived on Wortle burries; sometimes on a kind of Wild Cherry, which grew on Bushes; which I was sent to gather, once in so bitter a Cold season, that I was not able to bring my Fingers together, to hold them fast: yet under all these Hardships, the Lord kept me from any Sickness, or such Weakness as to disenable me from Travelling, when they put us upon it.

My Indian Mistress, was one that had been bred by the English at Black point, and now Married to a Canada Indian, & turned Papist; and she would say, That had the English been as careful to instruct her in our Religion, as the French were, to instruct her in theirs, she might have been of our Religion: and she would say, That God delivered us into their Hands to punish us for our Sins; And, This I knew was true as to my self. And as I desired to consider of all my Sins, for which the Lord did punish me, so this Lay very heavy upon my Spirit, many a Time, that I had Left the Publick Worship and Ordinances of God, where I formerly Lived, (viz. at Beverley) to Remove to the North part of Casco-Bay, where there was no Church, or Minister of the Gospel; and this we did, for large Accommodations in the World, thereby Exposing our Children, to be bred Ignorantly like Indians, and our selves to forget what we had been formerly instructed in•; and so we turned our Backs upon Gods Ordinances to get this Worlds Goods. But now, God hath stripped me of these things also; so that I• must Justify the Lord, in all that has befallen me, and acknowledge that He hath punished me less than my Iniquities deserved. I was now Bereaved of Husband, Children, Friends, Neighbours, House, Estate, Bread, Cloaths, or Lodging suitable; and my very Life did hang daily in Doubt, being continually in danger of being killed by the Indians, or pined to Death with Famine, or tired to Death with hard Travelling, or pinched with Cold, till I dyed in the Winter season. I was so amazed with many Troubles, and hurried in my Spirit from one Exercise to another, how to preserve my self in danger, and supply my self in the want that was present; that I had not time or leisure so composedly to consider of the great Concernments of my Soul, as I should have done; neither had I any Bible or Good Book to look into, or Christian Friend to be my Counsellor in these Distresses. But I may say, The Words of God, which I had formerly heard or read, many of them came oft into my mind, and kept me from perishing in my Afflictions. As, when they threatned to Kill me many times, I often thought of the words of our Saviour to Pilate, Joh. 19.11. Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above. I knew they had no power to kill me, but what the Lord gave them; and I had many times Hope, that the Lord would not suffer them to slay me, but deliver me out of their Hands, and in His Time, I hoped, return me to my Country again. When they told me, that my Eldest Son was killed by the Indians, I thought of that in Jer. 33.8. I will cleanse them from all their Iniquities whereby they have sinned against me, and I will pardon all their Iniquities. I hoped, though the Enemy had barbarously killed his Body, yet that the Lord had Pardoned his Sins, and that his Soul was safe. When I thought upon my many Troubles, I thought of Jobs complaint, chap. 14 16, 17. Thou numbrest my steps, and watchest over my Sin; my Transgression is sealed up in a Bag, and thou sowest up my Iniquity. This was for my Humiliation, and put me upon Prayer to God, for His Pardoning Mercy in Christ; and I thought upon Davids complaint, Psalm 13.1, 2 and used it in my Prayers to the Lord; How Long wilt thou forget me, O Lord for ever! How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my Soul, having sorrow in my Heart! How long shall my Enemy be Exalted over me? I sometimes bemoaned my self, as Job; chap. 19.9, 10. He hath stripped me of my Glory, and taken my Crown from my Head; He hath destroyed me, on every side, and I am gone, and my Hope hath he removed like a Tree. Yet sometimes Encouraged from Job 22.27. Thou shalt make thy Prayer to him, and He shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy Vows. I made my Vows to the Lord, that I would give up my self to Him, if He would accept me in Jesus Christ, and pardon my Sins; and I desired and endeavoured to Pay my Vows unto the Lord. I Pray'd to Him, Remember not against me the Sins of my Youth; and I besought Him, Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an Ungodly Nation; deliver me from the Deceitful and Unjust man: Why go I mourning because of the Oppression of the Enemy? And by many other Scriptures, that were brought to my Remembrance, was I instructed, directed and comforted.

I Travelled over steep and hideous Mountains one while, and another while over Swamps and Thickets of Fallen Trees, lying one, two, three foot from the ground, which I have stepped on, from one to another, nigh a thousand in a day; carrying a great Burden on my Back. Yet I dreaded going to Canada, to the French, for fear lest I should be overcome by them, to yield to their Religion; which I had Vowed unto God, That I would not do. But the Extremity of my Sufferings were such, that at length I was willing to go, to preserve my Life. And after many weary Journeys, through Frost and Snow, we came to Canada, about the middle of February 1690, and Travelling over the River, my Master pitch'd his Wigwam in sight of some French Houses Westward of us, and then sent me to those Houses to beg Victuals for them: which I did, and found the French very kind to me, giving me Beef, and Pork, and Bread, which I had been without, near nine months before; so that now, I found a great Change as to Diet. But the Snow being knee deep, and my Legs and Hams very sore, I found it very tedious to Travel; and my sores bled, so that as I Travelled, I might be Tracked by my Blood, that I left behind me on the Snow. I asked leave to stav all Night with the French, when I went to beg again; which my Master consented unto, and sent me eastward, to Houses, which were toward Quebeck, (though then I knew it not:). So, having begged Provisions at a French House, and it being near night, after I was Refreshed my self, and had Food to carry to the Indians, I signified, as well as I could to make the French Woman understand, That I desired to stay by her Fire, that Night. Whereupon she laid a good Bed on the Floor, and good Coverings for me, and there I Lodged comfortably; and the next Morning when I had breakfasted with the Family, and the men kind were gone abroad, as I was about to go to my Indian Master, the French Woman stept out, and left me alone in her House; and I then staid her Return, to give her thanks for her kindness; and while I waited, came in two men, and one of them spake to me in English, I am glad to see you Country woman! This was exceedingly Reviving, to hear the voice of an English man; and upon Enquiry, I found, he was an English man, taken at the North West Passage; and the other was a French Ordinary Keeper. After some Discourse he asked me to go with him to Quebeck, which he told me, was about four miles off: I answered, my Indian Master might kill me for it, when I went back. Then, after some Discourse in French, with his Fellow Traveller, he said; This French man Engaged, that if I would go with them, he would keep me, from Returning to the Indians, and I should be Ransomed: and my French Hostess being now Returned in a doors, perswaded me to go with 'em to Quebeck; which I did, and was conveyed unto the House of the Lord Intendant, Monsieur Le Tonant, who was Chief Judge, and the Second to the Governour; and I was kindly Entertained by the Lady, and had French Cloaths given me, with good Diet and Lodging, & was carried thence unto the Hospital; where I was Physicked and Blooded, and very courteously provided for. And some time after, my Indian Master and Mistress coming for me, the Lady Intendant paid a Ransome for me, and I became her Servant. And I must speak it to the Honour of the French, they were exceeding kind to me at first, even as kind as I could expect to find the English: so that I wanted nothing for my Bodily Comfort, which they could help me unto.

Here was a great and comfortable Change, as to my Outward man, in my Freedom from my former Hardships, and Hard hearted Oppressors. But here began a greater Snare and Trouble to my Soul and Danger to my Inward man. For the Lady my Mistress, the Nuns, the Priests, Friars, and the rest, set upon me, with all the strength of Argument they could, from Scripture, as they interpreted it, to perswade me to Turn Papist; which they pressed with very much Zeal, Love, Intreaties, and Promises, if I would Turn to them, and with many Threatnings, and sometimes Hard Usages, because I did not Turn to their Religion. Yea, sometimes the Papists, because I would not Turn to them, Threatned to send me to France, and there I should be Burned, because I would not Turn to them. Then was I comforted from that in 2 Cor. 1.8, 9, 10. We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of Life; but we had the sentence of Death in our selves, that we should not trust in our selves, but in God, who raises the Dead; who delivered us from so great a Death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us. I knew, God was Able to deliver me, as He did Paul, and as He did the Three Children out of the Fiery Furnace; and I believed, He would either Deliver me from them, or fitt me for what He called me to suffer, for His Sake and Name. For their Praying to Angels, they brought the History of the Angel, that was sent to the Virgin Mary, in the First of Luke. I answered them, from Rev. 19.10. and 22.9. They brought Exod 17.11. of Israels prevailing, while Moses held up his Hands. I told them, we must come to God only by Christ, Joh. 6.37, 44. For Purgatory, they brought Mat. 5.25. I told them, To agree with God while here on Earth, was, to Agree with our Adversary in the way; and if we did not, we should be Cast into Hell, and should not come out until we Paid the utmost Farthing, which could never be paid. But its bootless for me a poor Woman, to acquaint the World, with what Arguments I used, if I could now Remember them; and many of them are slipt out of my memory.

I shall proceed to Relate, what Trials I met with, in these Things. I was put upon it, either to stand to the Religion I was brought up in, and believed in my Conscience to be True; or to Turn to another, which I believed was not Right. And I was kept from Turning, by that Scripture, Mat. 10, 32, 33: Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in Heaven, and whosoever denies me before men, him also will I deny before my Father which is in Heaven. I thought that if I should Deny the Truth, and own their Religion, I should Deny Christ. Yet upon their perswasions, I went to see, and be present at their Worship, sometimes, but never to Receive their Sacrament. And once, when I was at their Worship, that Scripture, 2 Cor. 6.14. to the end, came into my mind: What Communion hath Light with Darkness! What Concord hath Christ with Belial! What part hath he that believeth with an Infidel? and what Agreement hath the Temple of God with Idols? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye Separate, and touch not the Unclean Thing, and I will Receive you, and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my Sons and Daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. This Scripture was so strong, upon my Spirit, that I thought I was out of my way to be present at their Idolatrous Worship, and I Resolved never to come unto it again. But when the time drew nigh that I was to go again, I was so Restless that Night, that I could not sleep; thinking, what I should say to them when they urged me to go again, and what I should Do. And so it was in the morning, that a French woman of my Acquaintance, told me, if I would not be of Their Religion, I did but mock at it, to go to their Worship, and therefore bid me, That if I would not be of their Religion, I should go no more. I answered her, That I would not be of their Religion, and I would go no more to their Worship: and accordingly, I never went more, and they did not force me to it.

I have had many Conflicts in my own Spirit; fearing that I was not truely Converted unto God in Christ, and that I had no Saving Interest in Christ I could not be of a False Religion, to please men; for it was against my Conscience: And I was not fit to suffer for the True Religion, and for Christ; for I then feared, I had no Interest in Him. I was neither fit to Live, nor fit to Dye; and brought once to the very pit of Despair, about what would become of my Soul. In this Time I had gotten an English Bible, and other Good Books, by the Help of my Fellow Captives. I Looked over the Scripture, and settled on the Prayer of Jonah, and those Words, I said, I am cast out of thy sight, yet will I Look again towards thy Holy Temple. I Resolved, I would do as Jonah did: And in the Meditation upon this Scripture, the Lord was pleased, by His Spirit, to come into my Soul, and so fill me with Ravishing Comfort, that I can|not Express it. Then came to mind, the History of the Transfiguring of Christ, and Peters saying, Math. 17.4. Lord, It is Good for us to be here! I thought, it was Good for me to be here; and I was so full of Comfort and Joy, I even Wished I could be so alwayes, and never sleep; or else Dy in that Rapture of Joy, and never Live to Sin any more against the Lord. Now I thought God was my God, and my Sins were pardoned in Christ; and now I thought, I could Suffer for Christ, yea, Dye for Christ, or do any thing for Him. My Sins had been a Burden to me: I desired to see all my Sins, and to Repent of them all, with all my Heart, and of that Sin which had been especially a Burden to me, namely, That I Left the Publick Worship and Ordinances of God, to go to Live in a Remote Place, without the Publick Ministry; depriving our selves & our Children, of so great a Benefit for our Souls, and all this, for Worldly advantages I found an Heart to Repent of them all; and to lay hold of the Blood of Christ, to cleanse me from them all.

I found much Comfort, while I was among the French, by the Opportunities I had sometimes to Read the Scriptures and other Good Books, and Pray to the Lord in Secret; and the Conference that some of us Captives had together, about things of God, and Prayer together sometimes; especially, with one that was in the same House with me, Margaret Stilson. Then was the Word of God precious to us, and they that feared the LORD, spake one to another of it, as we had Opportunity. And Colonel Tyng, and Mr. Alden, as they were permitted, did speak to us, to Confirm and Strengthen us, in the wayes of the Lord. At length, the French debarr'd our coming together, for Religious Conference, or other Duties: And Word was sent us, by Mr. Alden, That this was one kind of Persecution, that we must suffer for Christ.

These are some of the Scriptures, which have been my Support and Com|fort, in the Affliction of my Captivity, among the Papists. That in Ezek. 16.6.— 8. I applyed unto my self; and I desired to Enter into Covenant with God, and to be His; And I Prayed to the Lord, and Hoped the Lord would Re|•urn me to my Country again, That I might Enter into Covenant with Him, among His People, and Enjoy Communion with Him, in His Churches, and Publick Ordinances. Which Prayers the Lord hath now heard, and graciously Answered; Praised be His Name! The Lord Enable me to Live suitably unto His Mercy, and to those Publick and precious Priviledges, which I now Enjoy. So, That in Ezek 11.16, 17. was a Great Comfort unto me, in my Captivity; Although, I have cast them far off among the Heathen, yet will I be a little Sanctuary to them; — I will gather you from the People,— where you have been scattered. I found, that God was a little Sanctuary to me there, and hoped, that the Lord would bring me to the Country from whence I had been Scattered. And the Lord hath heard the Prayer of the Destitute, and not despised my Prayer, but granted me the Desire of my Soul, in bringing me to His House, and my Relations again. I often thought on the History of the man Born Blind; of whom Christ, when His Disciples asked, Whether this man had Sinned, or his Parents? answered, Neither this man, nor his Parents; but this was, that the works of God might be made manifest in him. So, tho' I had deserved all this, yet I knew not, but one Reason, of Gods bringing all these Afflictions and Miseries upon me, and then Enabling me to bear them, was, That the Works of God might be made manifest. And in my Great Distress, I was Revived by that, in Psal 118.17, 18. I shall not Dy but Live, and Declare the works of the Lord: The Lord hath chasten'd me sore, but He hath not given me over to Death. I had very often, a secret per|swasion, That I should Live to Declare the Works of the Lord. And, 2 Chron. 6.36, 37, 38, 39 was a precious Scripture to me, in the Day of Evil. We have Read over, and Pray'd over, this Scripture together, and Talk'd together of this Scripture, Margaret and I; How the Lord hath Promised, Though they were Scattered for their Sins, yet there should be a Return, if they did Bethink themselves, and Turn, and Pray. So we did Bethink our selves in the Land where we were Carried Captive, did Turn, did Pray, and Endeavour to Return to God with all our Hearts: And, as they were to Pray towards the Temple, I took it, that I should Pray towards Christ; and accordingly did so, and hoped the Lord would H•ar, and He hath Heard from Heaven, His Dwelling Place, my Prayer and Supplication, and mentained my Cause, and not Rejected me, but Returned me. And Oh! how affectionate was my Reading of the Eighty Fourth Psalm in this Condition.

The means of my Deliverance, were by reason of Letters that had passed between the Governments of New-England and of Canada. Mr. Cary was sent with a Vessel, to fetch Captives from Quebeck, and when he came, I among others, with my youngest Son, had our Liberty to come away: And by Gods Blessing upon us, we Arrived in Safety, at Boston, in November, 1695. our Desired Haven. And I desire to Praise the Lord for His Goodness, and for His Wonderful Works to me. Yet still I have left behind, Two Children, a Daughter of Twenty Years old, at Mont Royal, whom I had not seen in Two years before I came away; and a Son of Nineteen years old, whom I never saw since we parted, the next morning after we were taken. I earnestly Request the Prayers of my Christian Friends, that the Lord will deliver them.

What shall I render to the Lord for all His Benefits?


  1. Mather, Cotton. Humiliations follow'd with deliverances. A brief discourse on the matter and method, of that humiliation which would be an hopeful symptom of our deliverance from calamity. : Accompanied and accomodated with a narrative, of a notable deliverance lately received by some English captives, from the hands of cruel Indians. And some improvement of that narrative. : Whereto is added a narrative of Hannah Swarton, containing a great many wonderful passages, relating to her captivity and deliverance. Boston in N.E.: Printed by B Green, & J. Allen, for Samuel Phillips at the brick shop., 1697.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Puritans Among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676-1724, edited by Alden T. Vaughan, Edward W Clark. Harvard University Press, 2009. Accessed at Google Books. Pages 147-158.
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