Deerfield Old Burial Grounds
During the second French and Indian War, the people of
Deerfield suffered brutal death or captivity.
The Indians were allowed to treat enemy captives in the customary heartless way.
No mercy was shown for age or situation.
Also known as the Old Albany Cemetery, this lovely, historic, tree-lined/shaded cemetery sits up on a hill, overlooking Deerfield Academy’s playing fields. Tom and I visited this historic burial ground. Just inside the entry gate, there is an informative sign, listing all who were buried here. Being owned and maintained by the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts, it is in terrific shape, with well-cared for green grass, that grows around many beautiful and one of a kind grave stones, marking the final resting place of folks who lived and died during a large period of time; from the town’s formation in the 17th century, through to the end of the 18th century. It is a very peaceful place, with benches for visitors to sit on and rest.
From the very young, to the very old, several generations of various families are laid to rest together in this lovely little cemetery. Walking around this burial ground, the visitors see graves of those who succumbed from causes that have longed plagued human beings in this world, including women who died in childbirth, people of all ages who died of natural causes and the common deadly diseases of the day, as well as those who died at the hands of others in a rather violent manner.
In the late 1600s, Deerfield Village was founded on the former site of the English settlement, Pocumtuck, that had been destroyed in 1675 by French and Indian attack because of the first French and Indian War, known as King Phillip’s War. While the site was ideal for a farming town, it was on the edge of British settlements, the frontier, about fifty miles from nearest help. Knowing full well of the risks of settling here, Deerfield Village British settlers created a close-knit farming community, hoping to stand up together against any trouble from England’s political enemies. Around the early years of Deerfield Village, trouble was a brewing, brought on by a long-standing power struggle between the British and the French. There were 4 French and Indian Wars in America, from 1689-1763, mirroring what was going on in Europe.
Like many British colonists in Britain’s American colonies, Deerfield Village suffered an attack from French and Indian raiding parties, at a time of year that they thought it was safe to let down their guard a little; in the winter. Disaster hit Deerfield Village on a cold day, February 29th, 1704, just two years after the very beginning of the second French and Indian War, called Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713). One source thinks that Rev. John Williams, who was installed as pastor in Deerfield in 1686, was the main target for ransom, because Boston authorities were holding in jail a Canadian, by the name of Jean-Baptiste Guyon. Another cause of the attack was the pressure put on the French by their Indian allies, who were really annoyed with New England settlers, taking over their land. So, they picked a settlement on the far western edge of British settlements in the area.
The Indians were allowed to treat enemy captives in the customary way that they usually did with their enemies, according to their own customs, with no interference from the French; Death by scalping and tomahawk, and taking captives for ransom money. Indians looked at colonists as pests who usurped on their lands, and had no qualms in causing bodily harm and suffering, no matter what the age of the colonist. They were just commodities to be harvested, good for their scalps, for their ransom value, and kept as slaves/replacements for dead loved ones.
The people of Deerfield Village were overrun by 200-300 French soldiers and Abenaki and Mohawk warriors, in an early morning raid, bringing a horrible, savage death to 56 men, women and children. The surviving 242 villagers were taken captive. 110 of these villagers were left in Deerfield, with a garrison of 10 French soldiers, while 112 others were forced to endure a 300 mile hard winter march to Canada, so a ransom could be paid for their release. Stragglers and the weak were disposed of quickly by a tomahawk; no mercy was shown. Twenty-one of the captive villagers of a variety of ages were killed or died along the way to Canada:Three babies(out of the 4 infants), four children (out of 35 youngsters), four men (out of 26 gentlemen) and ten women (out of 26 ladies). The only age group that suffered no deaths on this march, were the 21 teen prisoners.
The bloody remains of 56 men, women and children killed in this raid were put into a mass grave by the surviving townspeople allowed to stay. There is a stately marker on top of the mound, simply labeled, “The Dead of 1704”. When Massachusetts Governor Dudley paid the ransom money to the Indians and French two years later, 90 of the survivors, minus several young girls who bonded with Indian and French families, came back to what was left of Deerfield Village.
Reverend John Williams, who is buried in the Williams family section, next to his wife, Eunice in the Old Deerfield Burial Ground, was one of these 90 surviving captives who returned, and he wrote a book about their ordeals, and how they got through it all. They encouraged each other, and stood fast to their faith, despite efforts to get them to convert to Catholicism. The book was called, “The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion”. He purged his emotional feelings and negative reactions by writing a book about the horrible treatment the captives received on their long trek to Canada. Plenty of violence hurt his own family. He lost his wife, his two youngest children, and a daughter who decided to stay with the Indians, young Eunice, who was adored by her adoptive tribe.
After returning to Deerfield, the former captives rejoined the Deerfield Village, rebuilt their homes and carried on bravely with life. They mourned their dead loved ones, picked up the pieces of their lives, forever changed in how they look at life. For example, Reverend John Williams married his wife’s cousin, and had 5 more children. Other former captives did the same in rebuilding their lives.
This grueling experience bonded the survivors into a strong unit, who were able to teach their children and influence future generations, promoting the faith and perseverance needed to survive other trials and tribulations, that happened throughout the many years. Descendents faced and tackled such issues as being on guard for other Indian attacks, locust attacks, floods, fires, disease outbreaks and hard economic realities; making lemons out of lemonade. Even today, this faith and perseverance is evident. When The Deerfield Inn suffered a damaging flood because of Hurricane Irene, they have resolved to rebuild and make their inn even better, with support from the Deerfield Town Association.
It is not surprising then that the town of Deerfield has been able to preserve and restore all of the structures in this historic village, drawing tourists who take the various house tours, see the museums, and spend money to help the town’s economy. They also have a private school in town, Deerfield Academy. They have found ways to carry on life in this small village of Deerfield.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
People who die a violent, painful, death at the hands of another, suffering loss and dying before they were ready, sometimes are restless spirits, trying to make things different, still mourn and are filled with “IF ONLY” regret, or seek justice in this world.
In the Williams home, there was an underground tunnel leading to the Deerfield River. When the Indians attacked the Williams’ home, their black pregnant maid escaped with two of the youngest Williams children through the tunnel. However, when they were soon caught, the two children that the maid was responsible for were slain probably in front of her. One of them might have been the newborn Williams baby. The maid who had been looking forward to having her own child, was tortured by being scalped alive and while still breathing, her baby was killed while she was being hacked to death with a tomahawk, either by a Frenchman or an Indian.
Women who unexpectedly die before, during or after giving birth, have been known to be unable to leave this world, and mourn and/or worry for their children.
Eunice Williams had just given birth a week or two before the attack. She was in a weakened condition when the villagers were forced to begin the march to Canada. When she stumbled in the Deerfield River, an Indian killed her quickly with his tomahawk. She had really wanted to be with her husband, and comfort their 5 children who were on the march She also must have been worried about what had happened to her two other missing children who had been with the maid.
What is fascinating is that out of all the people who were killed in the raid, only two spirits remain with issues in this world, that spend a little time in the Old Deerfield Burial Ground. However, as just about all the historic homes in Deerfield are listed on Deerfield’s 2011 ‘SPRING PARANORMAL TOUR”, perhaps some of the murdered Deerfield villagers have decided to stay in the homes or other buildings in historic Deerfield instead, living out what should’ve been their lives if they had not been murdered.
Female Entity of Eunice Williams
Though the remains of Eunice were rescued from the Deerfield River, and buried properly, she is a restless spirit, still upset at her sudden, untimely death in the river, unable to help her husband comfort their 5 surviving children. Eunice perhaps is looking for her other two children, missing with the maid.
She perhaps looks around the graveyard, trying to find the graves of her two youngest children.
People crossing the bridge over Deerfield River, see a woman, almost see-through, standing in the water. When they approach her and ask if she is alright, she disappears.
A fisherman was standing on the bank of the river, when he saw a woman standing on the opposite bank. He looked down and then up again, and she was gone. As he continued to fish, she suddenly appeared right next to him, in a solid, human-like state, before fading away. Perhaps she wanted to ask him if he had seen her children?
Entity of the pregnant maid
On every February 29th, the sound of bereft, mourning cries of this grieving soul can be heard coming from the burial mound, all throughout the cemetery. The good news is that she has found some peace, but still has the need to mourn for her unborn child’s death, and the death of the other two children, the loss of the life she had with her husband, as well as her own violent end every 4 years on the 29th of February.
Probably so, though no hard evidence has been presented. Hopefully, on some February 29th, a paranormal investigator with a psychic can record the maid’s cries, or even talk to her.
While the maid is the only reported haunting at the burial ground, just on February 29th, it seems that Eunice Williams, though properly buried next to her husband, Rev. John Williams, in a beautiful spot in the burial grounds, is still restless, and has bee seen around the river. Apparently, she is still upset about her own brutal death, the loss of her family and perhaps still looking for her two missing children, maybe not knowing that they were killed, and/or doesn’t know where they are buried. Eunice may also be looking in the burial grounds for the remains of her lost children too, though this claim hasn’t been reported.
For years, residents of Deerfield have been witnesses to the mourning cries of the murdered maid, on every leap year, February 29th. The Old Deerfield Burial Grounds is listed on Deerfield’s 2011 “SPRING PARANORMAL TOUR,” as this haunting is common knowledge.
Many visitors and residents have seen the spirit of Eunice Williams in the River, and on the banks; so much so that the people of Deerfield have tried to make Eunice feel better, by naming the covered bridge that runs over the river, The Eunice Williams Memorial Bridge, and have erected a plaque in her honor by the Deerfield River as well.
End of Albany Road in historic Deerfield, Massachusetts.
The Old Deerfield Burial Ground is open during daylight hours.
Go down Old Main Street, to the town common. Albany Road is an offshoot to the left of Old Main Street, running east down the left side of the Town Common. Going East on Albany Road, the visitor will pass Deerfield Academy, and other old homes. At the very end of Albany Road, the burial ground is on the left side of the road.
- HAUNTED MASSACHUSETTS
by Thomas D’Agostino
Schiffer Books, 2007
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr