Previously, we recounted that Daniel Gookin, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, had recruited six Praying Indians then held at Deer Island, to accompany the army as guides as the army traveled in the wilderness to find enemy Indians. Two of these men had been spies in the previous months and had lived with the enemy and reported on their plans. While he was with the enemy, Job Kattenanit had arranged for his family and close associates, who had been captured from the Praying Indian settlement at Hassanamesit (Grafton) to escape and meet up with him.
When the army and the guides met up at Marlborough prior to their departure for the wilderness, Job saw his chance to find his friends and family. He begged Major General Denison to allow him time to seek them out and was granted his wish. As Gookin recounted, Captain Samuel Moseley, the villain of a previous incident at Marlborough and a notorious Indian hater, “made a great stir at the (army) headquarters at William Ward’s.” Fearing mutiny, Major General Denison sent some men, led by Captain Wadsworth of the Marlborough Garrison, to find and return Job.
Job could not find his family but saw evidence of their escape. He then returned to the army. In the meantime, Captain Benjamin Gibbs, then on a scouting mission near the Indian village of Quabage (Brookfield), found the small group of escapees. They arrived in Marlborough on their way to Boston after the army had departed for the wilderness.
Among the escapees were Tuckapawillin, the Indian minister of Hassanamessit; his father Naoas, the chief sachem; the minister’s wife and their twelve year old son; a widow who was caretaker to Job Katenanit’s three children; the widow’s daughter; and another woman with her two children; twelve escapees in all. These people were loyal Praying Indians who risked their lives to escape. They were particularly dangerous to the enemy because the Praying Indian plantation at Hassanamessit was very active in trying to convert the Nipmucs to Christianity and in the years before the war had succeeded in establishing seven new Praying Indian towns in Nipmuc country.
The plan was to stay at Marlborough for a few days to allow the escapees’ time to heal and reenergize after their ordeal in the wilderness. But some of the Marlborough townspeople had other ideas. When the town heard that there was a significant group of Indians who had been with the enemy, rumors quickly spread. Remember that Marlborough was surrounded by Indian atrocities including two assaults on Lancaster (including an assault on the minister’s family which included Marlborough relatives), and several other attacks. The townspeople were in no mood to be welcoming to those rumored to be friends of the enemy.
During the night, a number of townspeople, especially women, came to the Indians’ quarters. Gookin said that “some of (the townspeople) did so abuse, threaten, and taunt at these poor Christians, that they being put into great fears, that in the night the minister’s wife, and his eldest son, … (the) widow … with her daughter, being four of them in all, escaped away into the woods.”
In their ensuing flight, the twelve-year-old son of the minister died of malnutrition. The others were eventually recovered and returned to Deer Island with the other escapees. After the war, Job Kattenanit married the widow who had taken care of his children. As we shall see, the ‘widow of Tupkoowinnin’ was included as a seller on one copy of a deed selling Indian land to Thomas Martin after the war. Since the widow never lived in Marlborough, it can only be surmised that this was an attempt by Daniel Gookin and Rev Eliot (who oversaw all Indian land sales) to somehow compensate the widow for the loss of her son.
It is amazing to believe that the Praying Indians, despite the deprivations at Deer Island, their terrible mistreatment at the hands of some of the English, and the disrespect they were shown in the first year of the war, could find it in themselves to be loyal to their fellow Christians among the English. As we shall see, the Praying Indians would hold the key to the defeat of the warring Indians in the months to follow.