Twice Captivated

On November 13, 1728, two servants ran away from their employer, Lieutenant Mehuman Hinsdell of Deerfield, Massachusetts.  About two weeks later Hinsdell ran the following advertisement in the New England Weekly Journal:

Ran-away on the 13th. of Novemb. Instant, From their Master Mahuman Hinsdell of Deerfield, Two Men Servants.  The one John Griffin, a White young Man, about 16 years of Age, something pock broken, short brown hair, had on a Castor Hat, a Kersey Coat, homespun Jacket with Pewter Buttons, leather Breeches, and gray yarn Stockings.  The other a Pequot Indian, named Peter Put, alias Pompey, of midling stature, hair about 3 Inches long, has a remarkable Scar on the midst of his Forehead, had on a blue Broadcloth Coat, Kersey Jacket with Pewter Button, and leather Breeches, speaks good English.  They carried away with them 2 Guns, 2 Silver Spoons, & 2 Duffel Blankets.  Whoever will take up and convey the said Runaways, or either of them, to their abovesaid Master at Deerfield, shall have Five Pounds Reward for each of them, and all necessary Charges paid.  Boston, Novemb. 28. 1728. 

While the presence of a Pequot in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1728 is certainly intriguing, perhaps the more interesting person in this document is Mehuman Hinsdell.  The son of Samuel Hinsdell (Hinsdale) and Mehitable Johnson, and reportedly the first white child born in Pocumtuck territory, Mehuman Hinsdell was thirty-one years old when French and Indian forces raided the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts during the winter of 1704.  During the attack, he, his wife Mary, and Josiah Rising (the ten-year old son of his cousin) along with 106 other captives, marched to Canada, where he and Mary remained until being redeemed in 1706.

Captivity fell upon Hinsdell once more three years later.  The conventional story is that while driving a cartload of apple trees at Hatfield North Meadows in April 1709, he was taken by Indians he later described as “civil and courteous” and brought to Chambly in New France.  He was transferred to the fort at Oso near the Mohawk village of Kahnawake close to Montreal, where he ran the gauntlet for three quarters of a mile.  From there, Hinsdell, an officer in the New England militia, was taken to Quebec to be interrogated by the Governor-General of New France, Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, who knew Hinsdell from his previous captivity.  When pressed to reveal English military plans against the French, Hinsdell refused and was sent to the dungeon.  His rescue came in the form of a party of Kahnawake, who had convinced Vaudreuil that they wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to the French by killing an Englishman and thereby obtained Hinsdell’s release.  But instead of killing him, they informed him that they were plotting to defect to the English and wanted him to act as an intermediary with New England officials.  The plan was eventually foiled, and French authorities recaptured Hinsdell and sent him to France in a man-of-war.  He was later released as an exchange for a French captive and returned to Massachusetts in October 1712 by way of London with the assistance of the English Admiralty.  Back in Deerfield, Hinsdell became known as the man who was “twice captivated” by the Indians.  In fact, that reputation was engraved on his tombstone.

Thus, with such a personal history, it may seem odd that sixteen years later, Hinsdell would voluntarily have a Native among his household servants.  But, as many scholars have recently indicated, the life of a former captive was often complicated by the experience.  In Hinsdell’s case, it is quite interesting that several members of his family did not return to New England with him and Mary in 1706.  His cousin’s son, Josiah Rising, having been adopted into the Kahnawake with the name Shoentak8anni (“he who has his village taken away”), decided to remain. In 1715 Josiah married another adopted captive from Deerfield, Abigail Nimes, and both expressed a desire “to remain with the Christian Indians, not only renounce their nation but even wishing to live as Indians.”

One of Mehuman’s brothers-in-law, Martin Kellogg, the husband of his sister, Ann, and his four children were captured in the February 29, 1704 attack on Deerfield and taken to Kahnawake.  While Martin returned to Massachusetts by 1706, his seventeen-year old son Martin, Jr. remained at least six years longer among the Mohawk and, upon his return, acted as an interpreter.  Twelve-year old Joseph Kellogg became a fur trader during his eleven-year stay in New France, acquiring linguistic skills to make him an interpreter as well.  He once related of his experience, “I travelled two and fro amongst the French and Indians, learning the French language as well as those of all the tribes of Indians I traded with, and Mohawks, and had got into a very good way of business. . . to support myself.”  Eight-years old in 1704, Rebecca Kellogg lived with the Kahnawake, married a Mohawk man, and started a family.  In 1728, she was persuaded by her brother Joseph to remove back to New England, where she married Captain Benjamin Ashley, a school teacher at the Stockbridge Indian mission.  There, Rebecca, too, was an active interpreter, acquiring the name Wasuaunia (“the bridge”) by the local Native community.  Of all his children, Martin’s daughter Joanna, who was eleven when she was taken, remained permanently at Kahnawake, married to into a prominent Kahnawake family.

Thus, for Hinsdell’s larger family, there was an enduring relationship with Native peoples.  In fact, Mehuman’s son, Ebenezer, who was born at sea during the return from captivity in 1706 became a missionary to the Indians at Old South Church in Boston and later continued in that service as a chaplain at Fort Dummer in New Hampshire.  And one should not be too surprised to see families who experienced captivity continue a connection to each other.  Ebenezer married Abigail Williams, the daughter of the noted Rev. John Williams and the sister of Eunice Williams, the equally famous “unredeemed captive.”

As for Peter Put/Pompey, Mehuman’s runaway servant, his captivity story is less clear.  While it is unknown as to how he entered Hinsdell’s service in Deerfield, it is quite possible that Pompey may have been among a number of Pequots who joined the military as scouts to defend the Massachusetts frontier against French raids in 1724 and served with or among Hinsdell’s unit.  The documentary record is also silent as to whether John Griffin and Pompey were ever caught and returned to Deerfield, but the presence of a slave named Pompey in the household of Jonathan Wells, a neighbor of Hinsdell, in 1735 raises the possibility that the Pequot remained in Deerfield for at least twenty more years. From 1735 to 1750, Pompey was shared between three brothers-in-law—Wells, Ebenezer Sheldon, Captain Samuel Barnard—and Jonathan’s brother, Thomas.  In 1736 Pompey married a woman named Rebecca, and during the Great Awakening, perhaps stirred by the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, they both were baptized into the Deerfield church. 

For further reading about captivity, see Emma Lewis Coleman’s classic New England Captives Carried to Canada: Between 1677 and 1760 during the French and Indian Wars (Portland, ME: Southworth Press, 1925, reprinted 2012), Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney’s two books, Captive Histories: English, French and Native Narratives of the 1704 Deerfield Raid (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006) and Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005), Alden T. Vaughn and Edward W. Clark’s Puritans Among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676-1724 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), and John Demos’ The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (New York: Knopf, 1994).

The runaway advertisement is from the Yale Indian Papers Project’s newspaper collection.  To see a letter from Hinsdell to Captains Benjamin Wright and Timothy Dwight (1725) in the Beinecke’s Timothy Dwight Papers, click here.  

Photo credit:  Robert Griffing, The Taking of Mary Jemison, Lord Nelson’s Gallery  



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