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-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, we found an informative sign, listing all who were buried here.
Owned and maintained by the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts, the grounds are 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 over more than two hundred years, 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. Walking around, you will see graves of those who succumbed from causes that have longed plagued human beings, 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 violently at the hands of others.
The visitor also finds the communal grave marked with a large stone and plaque honoring the victims of the 1704 massacre.
In the late 1600s, Deerfield Village was founded on the former site of an English settlement, Pocumtuck, that was destroyed in 1675 by French and Indian forces in what was known as King Phillip’s War. While the site was ideal for a farming town, it was on the edge of British settlements, and the frontier, about fifty miles from nearest help.
Knowing full well the risks of living here, Deerfield Village British settlers created a close-knit farming community, hoping to stand up together against any trouble from England’s political enemies. But trouble was brewing, brought on by a long-standing power struggle between the British and the French. There were four 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 on a cold day, February 29th, 1704, just two years after the start 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 angry 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 by the French to treat enemy captives in their customarily brutal way: Death by scalping and tomahawk, and taking captives for ransom money. Indians looked at colonists as pests who usurped their lands, and had no qualms inflicting 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 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, that brought a horrible, savage death to fifty-six men, women and children.
The surviving two-hundred and forty-two villagers were taken captive. One-hundred and ten of these villagers were left in Deerfield, with a garrison of ten French soldiers, while one-hundred and twelve others were forced to endure a three hundred 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 were killed or died along the way to Canada: Three babies (out of the four infants), four children (out of thirty-five youngsters), four men (out of twenty-six gentlemen) and ten women (out of twenty-six ladies). The only age group that suffered no deaths on this march, were the twenty-one teen prisoners.
The bloody remains of fifty-six massacred men, women and children were put into a mass grave by the surviving townspeople who were 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, ninety of the survivors, minus several young girls who had 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 ninety surviving captives who returned. He wrote a book,“The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” that helped him heal and let go of his sorrow and anger. It was 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.
Plenty of terrible 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. She 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. Reverend John Williams married his wife’s cousin, and had five more children. Other former captives could tell similar stories.
Their grueling experience bonded the survivors into a strong unit.They taught their children and influenced future generations, promoting the faith and perseverance needed to survive other trials and tribulations. Descendents faced and tackled such issues as being on guard for other Indian attacks, locust attacks, floods, fires, disease outbreaks and hard economic realities. It was the classic case of making lemonade out of lemons.
Even today, this faith and perseverance is evident. When The Deerfield Inn suffered a damaging flood because of Hurricane Irene, residents resolved to rebuild and make the inn even better, with support from the Deerfield Town Association.
It is not surprising then that Deerfield has been able to preserve and restore all of the structures in its 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. Residents have found ways to carry on life in the small village of Deerfield.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
People who die a violent, painful deaths at the hands of others, or who suffer loss and dying before they are ready, are sometimes restless spirits, trying to make things different. They mourn and are filled with “IF ONLY” regret, or seek justice in this world.
Brumder Mansion, WI (Three spirits who had violent ends in the basement speakeasy, still are working on their restlessness because of the way they were killed. A young prostitute was violently murdered because she told the police about the speakeasy. An Italian gambler was beaten up and shot for trying to cheat in a card game, and Joe the enforcer was shot by Chicago mob soldiers who came to close down the speakeasy. Joe knew too much).
Stones Public House, MA (The spirit of a gambler who was killed for cheating and then buried in a secret place, is still angry about his murder and wants those responsible to be brought to justice).
Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA (When the building was still standing, the spirit of a woman who died in a fire on the property was still grieving about her own death and the death of her child).
Deerfield Old Burial Grounds, MA (In the Williams home, there was an underground tunnel leading to the Deerfield River. When the French soldiers and 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 were slain 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 scalped alive. 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.
Infirmary for Women, KY (In this hospital for the poor, women sometimes died in childbirth, but their babies were saved. The spirits of some of these women couldn’t rest until they could find out if their babies were okay).
Carleton House Huachuca, AZ (The spirit of a teenage girl is the volunteer nanny, while she looks for her baby who died with her in childbirth).
Maysville Hospital, KY (The spirit of a young mother who died along with her child during childbirth, still mourns what could have been: a life together).
Deerfield Old Burial Grounds, MA (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 their march to Canada. When she stumbled in the Deerfield River, an Indian killed her quickly with his tomahawk. She had wanted to be with her husband, and comfort their five children, who were also 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 in the Old Deerfield Burial Ground with issues in this world. However, as just about all the historic homes in Deerfield are listed on their Deerfield’s 2011 ‘SPRING PARANORMAL TOUR,” perhaps some of the spirits of the murdered villagers have decided to stay in their homes or other buildings in historic Deerfield instead, living out their afterlife existence in a favorite place.
The Spirit of Eunice Williams
Though the remains of Eunice were rescued from the Deerfield River, and buried properly, she is a restless spirit, regretting how she died.
She is still upset at her sudden, untimely death in the river, and regrets stumbling which caused her murder.
Because she stumbled, she was unable to help her husband comfort their five surviving children.
What happened? Where are they?
Perhaps, Eunice is looking for her other little ones, missing with the maid.
She looks around the graveyard, trying to find the graves of her two youngest children.
Her Personal Appearances
People crossing the bridge over Deerfield River, have seen a woman, almost transparent, standing in the water.
When they approach her and ask if she is alright, she disappears.
She may be trying to change the outcome of her death by not stumbling, with no success.
Her Personal Appeal
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.
The Spirit of the Pregnant Maid
This spirit doesn’t make personal appearances, but her heart-breaking sobs have been heard by many.
Every four years 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 she still needs to mourn for her unborn child’s death, the death of the other two children, and the loss of the life she had with her husband, as well as her own violent end.
Many personal experiences with these two restless spirits have been reported. So many residents have seen the apparition of Eunice in the river, that they have tried to make her feel better by naming the covered bridge that runs over the river, The Eunice Williams Memorial Bridge. They have erected a plaque in her honor by the Deerfield River as well.
I couldn’t find any hard evidence of these hauntings online.
Yes indeed! Both spirits are well-known to the people who live here. The spirit of Eunice needs the help of a medium to cross over to be with her family on the other side. She has suffered enough and needs to find peace.
The spirit of the maid has found some peace, but can’t quite let go of her sorrow for the dead children and the senseless taking of her own life in such a cruel way.
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