Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our 9th Great Grandfather and the Battle of Narragansett Swamp. 1675

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
Tonight we take a moment to learn about our 9th Great Grandfather, John Harmon.
John fought in the Narragansett Swamp Fight in 1675. An outline of the battle is below, along with other events from the life of John and Sarah Harmon.


Relationship Chart

9th Great Grandparents John Harmon Sr. married Sarah Roberts
Samual Harmon married Mercy Simpson
John Harmon married Mary Hasty
Martha Harmon b. 1740 and William Williams B. 1740 Prince George Maryland.
Nancy Ann Williams married William Cantwell
Martha Cantwell married Jacob George
Frances George married Henry Fiddler
Eldora Elizabeth Fiddler married Edwin Sherman Pierce
Walter Edwin Pierce married Vesta Althea Dennis
Violet Mae Pierce married Walter Albert Mattson
Luella, Linda, John, Marvin

John Harmon was a soldier in the Narragansett Swamp Fight in 1675. On November 2, 1675, Josiah Winslow led a combined force of over 1000 colonial militia including about 150 Pequot and Mohegan Indians against the Narragansett tribe living around Narragansett Bay. The Narragansett tribe had not yet been directly involved in the King Philip's War, but had allegedly sheltered many of King Philip's men, women and children and several of their warriors had reportedly been seen in Indian raiding parties. The colonists distrusted the Narragansett and feared the tribe would join King Phillip's cause come spring, which caused great concern due to the tribe's location. The decision was made to preemptively strike the Narragansett before an assumed uprising. Several abandoned Narragansett Indian villages were found and burned as the militia marched through the cold winter around Narragansett Bay. The tribe had retreated to a large fort in the center of a swamp near Kingston, Rhode Island. The building of such a defensive structure gives credence to the argument that the Narragansett never intended aggressive actions, thus the colonist's preemptive attack may have been unwarranted and overzealous.

Led by an Indian guide, on December 19, 1675 on a bitterly cold storm-filled day, the main Narragansett fort near modern South Kingstown, Rhode Island was found and attacked by the colonial militia from Plymouth Colony, Connecticut Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony. The massive fort occupying about 5 acres (20,000 m2) of land and was initially occupied by over a thousand Indians was eventually overrun after a fierce fight. The Indian fort was burned, its inhabitants, including women and children, killed or evicted and most of the tribe's winter stores destroyed.

It is believed that about 300 Indians were killed (exact figures are unknown) in the fighting. Many of the warriors and their families escaped into the frozen swamp; there hundreds more died from wounds combined with the harsh conditions. Facing a winter with little food and shelter, the whole surviving Narragansett tribe was forced out of quasi-neutrality some had tried to maintain in the on-going war and joined the fight alongside Philip. The colonists lost many of their officers in this assault and about 70 of their men were killed and nearly 150 more wounded. The dead and wounded colonial militiamen were evacuated to the settlements on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay where they were buried or cared for by many of the Rhode Island colonists until they could return to their homes.

The following is a first hand account of the battle: The close of the "Swamp fight," or "Storming of the Naragansett fort," in 1675, is thus described in Stiles' History of Windsor:

"Amid the shrieks of women and children and rattling of musketry . . . . the Indian defences were fired . . . . a dense column of smoke, which rose from the smouldering ashes, was all that was left of some 4,000 once brave and happy souls. It was a glorious victory for the English, but it brought sorrow as well as safety to their homes. 6 captains and 80 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded, and 150 wounded. Two days of exposure and three hours of hard fighting were followed by a distressing march through sleet and deep snows bearing with them their dead and wounded. The next morning the snow was exceedingly deep and the cold intense, and the jaded and frost bitten army could scarcely move. 400 troops were unfit for duty. (Capt. John) Mason was so badly wounded that he died in a
year after." Not only was John Moses in this battle, but we can fancy the feelings of a father when we know that he had two wounded sons with him on that terrible night march, boys of only 17 and 19 years. William and Thomas would both die in 1681 of wounds they received at the Swamp fight on December 19, 1675.

The Great Swamp Fight was a critical blow to the Narragansett tribe from which they never fully recovered. In April 1676, the Narragansett were completely defeated when their chief sachem Canonchet was captured and soon executed. On August 12, 1676 the leader of King Philip's War the Wampanoag sachem Metacom was shot in the heart by John Alderman, a Native American soldier in Benjamin Church's company. One of the greatest native uprisings in the New England failed.

John Harmon appears next in Wells, Maine, in 1677, when he received a grant of fifty acres of upland from the town. In 1679 he was engaged in the lumbering operations of the Curwen family of Salem and Wells, boarding with Francis Littlefield. At about this time he married Sarah Roberts, whose father, William Roberts, had been a victim of an Indian attack at Oyster River, New Hampshire in 1675. Their first child was born in 1680. On October 20, 1680, he bought from John Wentworth of York a farm of one hundred acres in Wells in the deed for which he is described as a planter. [York Deeds III:84] This farm was the family homestead during their residence in Wells. In 1714, Harmon deeded the property to his son Samuel, reserving a life estate in fifty acres. [York Deeds IX:3] He was received to full communion in the Wells church on June 26, 1726.

In 1726, Samuel Harmon, who had apparently developed unusual business ability as a millwright, bought a large tract of land in Scarborough and settled there, taking his father and mother with him.

In January, 1727, our great grandmother Sarah Harmon journeyed to Biddeford to sign a deed conveying her share of her father's property in Oyster River to Thomas Harris, but, John Harmon being too ill to leave Scarborough, it was necessary to take the deed home for his signature. He was one of the original members of the Scarborough church, founded June 26, 1728.

Recognition of his services in King Philip's War came in 1728, when John Harmon of Scarborough, "alive," received a grant in Narragansett No. 3, Souhegan West, now known as Amherst, New Hampshire. He was still living, at what must have been an advanced age, in 1734, when he sold to Phineas Jones of Falmouth
"all Right, Title and Interest in any of ye Lands Granted to the Narregansett Solgers or that may or shall hereafter be granted by ye General Court to ye sd Narregansett Soldiers which belongs to ye sd. Harmon by virtue of his being in the Narragansett Warrs." [York Deeds XVII:30.]
John Harmon's name appears in a list of Hampton and Salisbury soldiers at Black Point Garrison, Oct. 12, 1676, under command of Lieut. Tippen or Tappan. This was after the Narragansett Fort fight in which he took part on Dec. 19, 1675. It is said that during a parley with the Indians, who appeared at the Garrison 100 strong, the inhabitants took the opportunity to escape to the westward towns of Wells, Portsmouth, etc. John Harmon settled in Wells to which place he probably escaped with the other inhabitants of Black Point. In this attack the Indian chief, Mugg, or Mog Hegon, was killed by Lieut. Tippen, who was sent from Boston with a company of soldiers.

John Harmon, at Wells, took the Oath of Allegiance to the Massachusetts Government, Nov. 6, 1677. In 1677 grants of land were made to John Harmon upon condition, "that he build a house and lives therein." His name appears in a list of inhabitants of Wells from 1641 to 1687. In 1698, 50 acres were granted to John Harmon, the same lying between Webhanet and Ogunquit rivers, on the King's highway. In 1686, John Harmon, of Wells, made a complaint before the grand jury that Richard Rogers had entered upon his land at Wells and carried off 18 loads of candle wood. Rogers was found guilty of trespass and fined, "5 barrels of tar at 5 gallons per barrel." (This term, "candle wood", applied to pitch knots which were used in place of candles.) (History of Wells by Bourne.)

In 1694 a grant of land was made to John Harmon in Kennebunk. The earliest permanent settlers of Wells when it included Kennebunk, were the ancestors of the Harmons and others who were here prior to 1653. (Kennebunk by Remick.)

"To all People to whom these presents shall Come, that I John Harmon do Send Greeting. Know ye that I ye said John Harmon John Harmon to his son of ye Town of Wells in ye County of York in ye Province of Mass. Bay in New England for and in Consideration of ye love good Will and affection, which I bear towards my well beloved Son Samuel Harmon Now living in ye Town of Wells, husbandman have given granted and by these presents do Absolutely give grant unto my sd. Son Samuel Harmon his heirs Exrs. Admrs. halfe my sd. Land lying and being in ye Township of Wells containing 100 acres of Upland butting upon Mr. Wheelwright's land and So runs up into the Country Twenty poles in breadth till ye 100 acres be Accomplished with 5 acres of Meadow lying at Merryland And after my decease do give unto my sd. Son Samuel Harmon his heirs ye other halfe of My sd. Upland and Hadow Lying and being in ye Township of Wells and County aforesd. To have and to hold all ye sd. land as afore Mentioned unto ye sd. Samuel Harmon his heirs Exrs. Admrs, forever In Witness Whereof I have hereunto Set my hand and Seal this thirty day of April in ye thirteen year of ye reign of our Soveraign Lady Anne of Great Brittaine ffrance, Ireland Queen and ct. Anno Dom. 1714."
Signed Sealed and Delivered John Harmon (A seal)
In ye presence of us his J:H mark.
James Wiggins.
James Tanner.

1 comment:

  1. John Harmon is related to us through my Grandmother, who was a Truman. Interesting account of his life.