The picturesque site of the now large village of Haverhill, on the Merrimac River, was occupied a century and a half ago by some thirty dwellings, scattered at unequal distances along the two principal roads, one of which, running parallel with the river, intersected the other, which ascended the hill northwardly and lost itself in the dark woods. The log huts of the first settlers had at that time given place to comparatively spacious and commodious habitations, framed and covered with sawed boards, and cloven clapboards, or shingles. They were, many of them, two stories in front, with the roof sloping off behind to a single one; the windows few and small, and frequently so fitted as to be opened with difficulty, and affording but a scanty supply of light and air. Two or three of the best constructed were occupied as garrisons, where, in addition to the family, small companies of soldiers were quartered. On the high grounds rising from the river stood the mansions of the well-defined aristocracy of the little settlement,–larger and more imposing, with projecting upper stories and carved cornices. On the front of one of these, over the elaborately wrought entablature of the doorway, might be seen the armorial bearings of the honored family of Saltonstall. Its hospitable door was now closed; no guests filled its spacious hall or partook of the rich delicacies of its ample larder. Death had been there; its venerable and respected occupant had just been borne by his peers in rank and station to the neighboring graveyard. Learned, affable, intrepid, a sturdy asserter of the rights and liberties of the Province, and so far in advance of his time as to refuse to yield to the terrible witchcraft delusion, vacating his seat on the bench and openly expressing his disapprobation of the violent and sanguinary proceedings of the court, wise in council and prompt in action,–not his own townsmen alone, but the people of the entire Province, had reason to mourn the loss of Nathaniel Saltonstall.
Four years before the events of which we are about to speak, the Indian allies of the French in Canada suddenly made their appearance in the westerly part of the settlement. At the close of a midwinter day six savages rushed into the open gate of a garrison-house owned by one Bradley, who appears to have been absent at the time. A sentinel, stationed in the house, discharged his musket, killing the foremost Indian, and was himself instantly shot down. The mistress of the house, a spirited young woman, was making soap in a large kettle over the fire. –She seized her ladle and dashed the boiling liquid in the faces of the assailants, scalding one of them severely, and was only captured after such a resistance as can scarcely be conceived of by the delicately framed and tenderly nurtured occupants of the places of our great- grandmothers. After plundering the house, the Indians started on their long winter march for Canada. Tradition says that some thirteen persons, probably women and children, were killed outright at the garrison. Goodwife Bradley and four others were spared as prisoners. The ground was covered with deep snow, and the captives were compelled to carry heavy burdens of their plundered household-stuffs; while for many days in succession they had no other sustenance than bits of hide, ground-nuts, the bark of trees, and the roots of wild onions, and lilies. In this situation, in the cold, wintry forest, and unattended, the unhappy young woman gave birth to a child. Its cries irritated the savages, who cruelly treated it and threatened its life. To the entreaties of the mother they replied, that they would spare it on the condition that it should be baptized after their fashion. She gave the little innocent into their hands, when with mock solemnity they made the sign of the cross upon its forehead, by gashing it with their knives, and afterwards barbarously put it to death before the eyes of its mother, seeming to regard the whole matter as an excellent piece of sport. Nothing so strongly excited the risibilities of these grim barbarians as the tears and cries of their victims, extorted by physical or mental agony. Capricious alike in their cruelties and their kindnesses, they treated some of their captives with forbearance and consideration and tormented others apparently without cause. One man, on his way to Canada, was killed because they did not like his looks, “he was so sour;” another, because he was “old and good for nothing.” One of their own number, who was suffering greatly from the effects of the scalding soap, was derided and mocked as a “fool who had let a squaw whip him;” while on the other hand the energy and spirit manifested by Goodwife Bradley in her defence was a constant theme of admiration, and gained her so much respect among her captors as to protect her from personal injury or insult. On her arrival in Canada she was sold to a French farmer, by whom she was kindly treated.