Colonial

Marlborough’s First Known Burial

The first man known to have been buried in Marlborough was Captain Edward Hutchinson. This seems odd to say, but the first generation of Puritans in Marlborough did not leave any headstones since they believed it vain to do so.  Some were buried with other family in Sudbury, some perhaps on family farms, but there was no recognized burial ground in Marlborough until Hutchinson.  

He was buried in Marlborough despite never living here, after succumbing to wounds that were inflicted in Brookfield.  Hutchinson was a career military man.   His mother was the notorious heretic Ann Hutchinson who was exiled to Rhode Island for preaching error.  He owned a farm in Indian country in Massachusetts and hired Indians to work the farm. He was well liked by them, knew many of the sachems, and was used frequently to communicate and make treaties with different tribes.

Heretic Anne Hutchinson

Prior to his fatal assignment, he had been engaged in making a treaty with the Narragansett tribe of southern Rhode Island. When Ephraim Curtis returned from his second scouting expedition with a mixed report about potential Indian unrest, the Governor and War Council of Boston decided to make use of Hutchinson’s experience. On July 26, 1675, Hutchinson was ordered to Brookfield along with Captain Thomas Wheeler of Concord, Curtis (who was from Sudbury), and an Indian interpreter. He was to take with him a force of about twenty men.

Captain Wheeler had ties to Marlborough. On the first of April, 1665, the town meeting voted to grant Captain Wheeler thirty-five acres of land. This is a quite remarkable grant, since it is tied to the committee that was enjoined to settle the great land controversy in Marlborough, clearly a political deal. There was, however, no evidence that Wheeler ever lived in Marlborough. There remains in Marlborough a place name, Wheeler’s Hill, that may give evidence of his property. Captain Wheeler’s account of the battle in Brookfield is the source of our knowledge of the event.

The troop left from Cambridge on July 28th and reached Brookfield five days later on August 1st. A small party of four including Curtis and an interpreter were sent to make arrangements for a meeting. It was agreed to meet the following day on a plain outside of Brookfield but the Indians never showed up. At this point, the Indian guides were deeply suspicious and feared treachery. But the residents of Brookfield, having had good relations with the local tribe, encouraged Hutchinson to march on to the swamp where the Indians were known to be.

The Indians, who had tracked the party’s movements, ambushed them along a section of pathway that offered little hope for escape. Suffering a number of casualties including eight dead, and with overwhelming numbers against them, the party miraculously escaped to Brookfield, warned and gathered the townspeople to a fortified garrison and held out against the approaching force of Indians. Wheeler, though wounded, was saved by the heroic actions of his son. Hutchinson was very badly wounded. In the escape, two of the Indian guides were responsible for saving the remainder of the troop with their expert knowledge of hidden pathways in the area.

Twice Curtis was sent out with a companion to attempt an escape in the hope of returning to get reinforcements. The numbers of Indians prevented the first try, but they succeeded on the second. They reached Marlborough on August 4th and found that others had succeeded in warning Major Willard who was on the way with forty-six soldiers and five Indians.

On August 5th, the major reached Brookfield and, soon after, the Indian war party withdrew. On August 7th fresh horses arrived from Boston and on August 10th, all of the afflicted troop who could travel made their return. They arrived in Marlborough on August 14th. Captain Hutchinson, weakened by the ordeal and the travel, succumbed to his wounds on August 19th and was buried in what became Spring Hill Cemetery. A memorial rock in the middle of the cemetery marks his plot.

Hutchinson’s Stone, Spring Hill Cemetery

Captain Hutchinson was ancestor to the Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, who was exiled to England as a Tory during the early days of the Revolution. He is also ancestor to three American Presidents – Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H.W Bush and George W. Bush.

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