Hannah Duston by Junius Brutus Stearns
December 23, 1657
|Died||March 6, 1737 or 1738|
|Known for||Escaping from captivity|
|Spouse(s)||Thomas Duston, Jr. (1652 - c. 1724)|
|Parent(s)||Michael Emerson, Hannah Webster Emerson|
Hannah Duston (Dustin, Dustan, and Durstan) (born Hannah Emerson, December 23, 1657 – March 6, 1737 or 1738) was a colonial Massachusetts Puritan mother of nine[Note 1] who was taken captive by Abenaki people from Québec during King William's War, with her newborn daughter, during the Raid on Haverhill in 1697, in which 27 colonists were killed. While detained on an island in the Merrimack River in present-day Boscawen, New Hampshire, she killed and scalped ten of the Native American family members holding them hostage, with the assistance of two other captives. She claimed the Abenaki had killed her baby during the journey to the island.
Duston's captivity narrative became famous more than 100 years after she died. Duston is believed to be the first American woman honored with a statue. During the 19th century, she was referred to as "a folk hero" and the "mother of the American tradition of scalp-hunting." Some scholars assert Duston's story only became legend in the 19th century because the United States used her story to defend its violence against Native Americans as innocent, defensive, and virtuous.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Legacy
- 2.1 Written accounts
- 2.2 Memorials
- 2.3 Duston hatchet
- 2.4 Commemorative structures
- 3 Controversy
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 External links
Hannah Emerson was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts to Michael Emerson and Hannah Webster Emerson; she was the oldest of 15 children. At age 20, she married Thomas Duston Jr., a farmer and brick-maker. The Emerson family had previously been the subject of attention when Elizabeth Emerson, Hannah's younger sister, was hanged for infanticide. One of Hannah's cousins, Martha Toothaker Emerson, and her father, Roger Toothaker, were accused of practicing witchcraft and tried at the Salem witch trials (1692–93).
During King William's War, Hannah, her husband Thomas, and their eight children were residents of Haverhill, Massachusetts. On 15 March 1697, when she was 40 years old, the town was raided by a group of about 30 Abenaki from Quebec. In the attack, 27 colonists were killed (most of them children), and 13 were taken captive, to be either adopted or held as hostages for the French. When their farm was attacked, Thomas fled with their eight children. The Indians captured Hannah and her nurse, Mary Neff (nee Corliss), set fire to Hannah's home, and forced the two women to march into the wilderness, Hannah carrying her newborn daughter, Martha. According to the account Hannah gave to Cotton Mather, along the way her captors killed six-day-old Martha by smashing her head against a tree:
About 19 or 20 Indians now led these away, with about half a score of other English captives, but ere they had gone many steps, they dash'd out the brains of the infant against a tree, and several of the other captives, as they began to tire in the sad journey, were soon sent unto their long home.
Hannah and Mary were assigned to a family group of 12 persons and taken north, "unto a rendezvous...somewhere beyond Penacook, New Hampshire; and they still told these poor women that when they came to this town, they must be stript, and scourg'd, and run the gauntlet through the whole army of Indians." The group included Samuel Lennardson (also spelled Leonardson, Lenorson or Lennarson), a 14-year-old captured in Worcester, Massachusetts the year before.
...furnishing themselves with hatchets for the purpose, they struck home such blows upon the heads of their sleeping oppressors, that ere they could any of them struggle...they fell down dead.
Hannah used a hatchet to kill one of the two grown men (Lennardson killed the second), two adult women, and six children. According to Cotton Mather's account, Hannah and her partners let one of the children sleep, "intending to bring him away with them," but the boy awoke and escaped. One severely wounded Abenaki woman also managed to escape the attack.[Note 2]
The former captives immediately left in a canoe, but not before scalping the dead as proof of the incident and to collect a bounty. They went downriver, traveling only during the night, and after several days reached Haverhill.
A few days later, Thomas Duston brought Hannah, Samuel and Mary to Boston, bringing the scalps, the hatchet and a flintlock musket they had taken from the Indians. Although New Hampshire had become a colony in its own right in 1680, the Merrimack River and its adjacent territories were considered part of Massachusetts, therefore Hannah and the other former captives applied to the Massachusetts Government for the scalp bounty. The state of Massachusetts had posted a bounty of 50 pounds per scalp in September 1694, which was reduced to 25 pounds in June 1695, and then entirely repealed in December 1696. Wives had no legal status in those days, so her husband petitioned the Legislature on behalf of Hannah Duston, requesting that the bounties for the scalps be paid, even though the law providing for them had been repealed:
The Humble Petition of Thomas Durstan of Haverhill Sheweth That the wife of ye petitioner (with one Mary Neff) hath in her Late captivity among the Barbarous Indians, been disposed & assisted by heaven to do an extraordinary action, in the just slaughter of so many of the Barbarians, as would by the law of the Province which [only] a few months ago, have entitled the actors unto considerable recompense from the Publick. That tho the [want] of that good Law [warrants] no claims to any such consideration from the publick, yet your petitioner humbly [asserts] that the merit of the action still remains the same; & it seems a matter of universal desire thro the whole Province that it should not pass unrecompensed... Your Petitioner, Thomas Durstun
On June 16, 1697 the Massachusetts General Court voted to give them a reward for killing their captors; Hannah Duston received 25 pounds, and Neff and Lennardson split another 25 pounds:
Vote for allowing fifty pounds to Thomas Dustun in behalf of his wife Hannah, and to Mary Neff, and Samuel Leonardson, captives escaped from the Indians, for their service in slaying their captors. Voted, in concurrence with the representatives, that there be allowed and ordered, out of the public treasury, unto Thomas Dunston of Haverhill, on behalf of Hannah his wife, the sum of twenty-five pounds; to Mary Neffe, the sum of twelve pounds ten shillings; and to Samuel Leonardson, the sum of twelve pounds ten shillings...as a reward for their service.
Following her return, Hannah gave birth to a daughter, Lydia, in October, 1698. Her neighbor Hannah Heath Bradley, who had also been abducted in the 1697 raid (and two of her children killed), was held for nearly two years before she was ransomed, returning to Haverhill in 1699. During Queen Anne's War Indians raided Haverhill again in 1704 and 1707. In yet another raid on Haverhill (1708), Algonquin and Abenaki Indians led by the French officer Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville killed sixteen, including the town's minister.
Hannah Duston is believed to have died in Haverhill in 1737 or 1738.
The event became well known, due in part to Cotton Mather's account in Magnalia Christi Americana: The Ecclesiastical History of New England (1702). Mather interviewed Hannah after her return to Haverhill, and on May 6, 1697, he preached a sermon celebrating her return from captivity, with Hannah herself in the audience. He later published the story three times in five years: in Humiliations follow’d with Deliverances (1697), Decennium Luctuosum (1699), and in Magnalia Christi Americana (1702). Mather titled the story "A Notable Exploit: Dux Faemina Facti," and compared Hannah Duston's escape to the captivity narratives of Hannah Swarton (captured in 1690) and Mary Rowlandson (captured in 1675).
Hannah's story also appears in the diary of Samuel Sewall, who had heard the story directly from her on May 12, 1697, less than two weeks after her escape. Sewall's account adds the detail that the night before their escape, a friendly Indian showed Samuel Lennardson how to take a scalp:
April 29...is signalized by the achievement of Hannah Dustun, Mary Neff, and Samuel Lennerson, who killed two men, their masters, and two women and six others, and have brought in ten scalps...May 12:...Hannah Dustan came to see us; . . . She said her master, whom she kill'd did formerly live with Mr. Roulandson at Lancaster...The single man shewed the night before, to Saml Lenarson, how he used to knock Englishmen on the head and take off their Scalps; little thinking that the Captives would make some of their first experiment upon himself. Sam. Lenarson kill'd him.
At the latter end of this month two women and a young lad that had been taken captive from Haverhill in March before, watching their opportunity when the Indians were asleep, killed ten of them, scalped them all and came home to Boston. [They] brought a gun with them and some other things. The chief of these Indians took one of the women captive when she had lain in childbed but a few days, and knocked her child in [the] head before her eyes, which woman killed and scalped that very Indian.
Another reference to Hannah Duston is found in the journal of John Pike (son of New Jersey judge John Pike), in the following entry:
March 15: The Indians fell upon some part of Haverhill about seven this morning, killed and carried away thirty-nine or forty persons; two of these Captive women, viz. Dunstan and Neff with another young man, slew ten of the Indians and returned home with ye scalps.
Although Hannah herself never provided a written account of her captivity and escape (there is no evidence that she was literate), in 1909 a letter was discovered in a vault of the Center Congregational Church of Haverhill. The letter is dated May 17, 1724 and is from "Hannah Dustan" to the Elders of the Church, declaring her desire to be admitted as a full member of the church so that she might take communion with the other congregants, and offering a confession. It seems likely to have been composed from dictation by her minister. In reference to her captivity, the letter states simply:
I am Thankful for my Captivity, twas the Comfortablest time that ever I had; In my Affliction God made his Word Comfortable to me.
After Cotton Mather's death, Hannah Duston's story was largely forgotten until it was included in Travels in New England and New York by Timothy Dwight IV, published in 1821. After this, Duston became more famous in the 19th century as her story was retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Henry David Thoreau. From the 1820s until the 1870s, Duston's story was included in nearly all books about American history, as well as many biographies, children's books, and magazine articles. The story was popular among white Americans when the country was engaged in the westward expansion, which increased conflict with the Native American groups living in places where settlers wanted to live. In the 1830s and later, the story was partially sanitized by not mentioning the six children that Duston killed.
Later versions of the story added numerous details (including dialogue and the names of the Indians) not found in any primary source. Haverhill tradition, recorded in Mirick's History of Haverhill (1832), adds the details that Hannah was wearing only one shoe when she was captured, that her daughter was thrown against an apple tree from which local people remembered eating fruit, and that the captives had already started down the river when Hannah insisted that they return to take the Indian scalps.
There are six memorials to Hannah Duston.
Aborted first memorial (erected 1861-1865)
The campaign to build the first monument in Haverhill, Massachusetts, began in 1852, at a time when building public monuments was still a somewhat rare occurrence. The monument chosen was a simple marble column that would cost about $1,350, and by 1861 the necessary funds had been raised. The monument was erected in June 1861, at the site of Duston's capture, but it was never fully paid for. After successfully suing the association, the builders removed the monument in August 1865, erased the inscription, engraved a new one, and resold it to the town of Barre, Massachusetts, where it stands to this day as a memorial to that town's Civil War soldiers.
First successful memorial (erected 1874)
Now known as Hannah Duston Memorial State Historic Site, the first Duston memorial actually executed was sculpted by William Andrews, a marble worker from Lowell, Massachusetts. It was erected in 1874 on the island in Boscawen, New Hampshire, where Duston killed her captors. Huge crowds overwhelmed the island on the day of its dedication, with speeches presented all day long. It was the first publicly funded statue in New Hampshire.
Second memorial (erected 1879)
In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston grasping a tomahawk was created by Calvin H. Weeks (1834–1907) in Haverhill town square (now Grand Army Park), where it still stands. The monument stands on the site of the Haverhill Center Congregational Church, of which Hannah Duston became a member in 1724.
In 1902 a fourth memorial was placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in Nashua, New Hampshire, at the site of John Lovewell's home (part of Dunstable, New Hampshire in Lovewell's time), where Hannah, Mary, and Samuel spent the night on their way home from captivity.
Fifth memorial (inscribed in 1908)
The fifth memorial was created in 1908, when an inscription was placed on a boulder in memorial to both Hannah and Martha. The boulder was placed on the site of Hannah's son Jonathan's home in Haverhill, where Hannah lived her final years. Hannah Duston died at this location circa 1737 or 1738. Haverhill public library records say it took 30 horses with 14 drivers to haul the 30-ton boulder to its present location.
Leonardson Memorial (1910)
The Worcester Society of Antiquity sponsored the bronze "Lenorson" tablet (using the spelling they considered correct) and dedicated it on October 22, 1910. The Worcester Sunday Telegram reported it was hung on the 42-foot (13 m) Davis Tower in Lake Park, at the site of the Lenorson boyhood home. It was reported stolen in 1969 and has not been recovered.
The original small axe or hatchet held by Hannah Duston can be found today in the Haverhill Historical Society. The Duston hatchet is not a tomahawk; it is usually called a Biscayan or biscayenne, a common trade item of the late 17th-century New England frontier.
Other commemorations, all in the city of Haverhill, include:
- Dustin House, built by Hannah's husband Thomas Duston after the Indians burned his first home, and which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places
- The former Hannah Dustin Elementary School, which closed in the 1980s
- Hannah Duston Healthcare Center
Today, Hannah Duston's actions in freeing herself from captivity are controversial. Some Americans celebrate her as a hero, while others are more tempered in their commemoration of her, given the killing of her captors. Some commentators have said her legend is racist and glorifies violence.
- Hannah Duston gave birth to 13 children, of whom three died in infancy and one was murdered.
- In 1739, Hannah's neighbor Hannah Heath Bradley, who was also captured by the Indians during the March 15th raid, but who was taken to another Abenaki village, testified that "the next night...there came to us one squaw who said that Hannah Dustan and the aforesaid Mary Neff assisted in killing the Indians of her wigwam, except herself and a boy, herself escaping very narrowly. Shewing to myself and others seven wounds as she said with a hatchet on her head which wounds were given her when the rest were killed."
- Derounian-Stodola, Kathryn Zabelle (1998). Women's Indian Captivity Narratives. New York: Penguin Classics. p. 55. ISBN 0-14-043671-5.
- Hannah Webster (Emerson) Duston (1657 - 1738)
- Tauber, Alfred I. (2001). Henry David Thoreau and the Moral Agency of Knowing. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. p. 241. ISBN 0-520-22527-9.
- Robertson, Patrick (2011). Robertson's Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the First Time (1st U.S. ed.). ISBN 1-60819-738-7.
- Elshtain, Jean Bethke (1987). Women and War. New York: Basic Books. p. 175. ISBN 0-465-09216-0.
- Danilov, Victor J. (2005). Women and Museums: A Comprehensive Guide. Lanham, MD; Toronto: AltaMira. p. 63. ISBN 0-7591-0855-2.
- Widmer, Mary Lou (1996). Margaret, Friend of Orphans. Gretna, La.: Pelican Pub. Co. p. 123. ISBN 1-56554-211-8.
- Faludi, Susan (2013). The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 313. ISBN 1-4299-2212-5.
- Grenier, John (2005). The First Way of War. University of Cambridge Press. pp. 40–41.
- Cutter, Barbara (2008). "The Female Indian Killer Memorialized: Hannah Duston and the Nineteenth–Century Feminization of American Violence" (PDF). Journal of Women's History. 20 (2): 10–33. doi:10.1353/jowh.0.0007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
- Purvis, Thomas L. (1999). Colonial America to 1763. Infobase Publishing. p. 231. ISBN 978-1-4381-0799-8.
- Hurd, Duane Hamilton (1888). History of Essex County, Massachusetts: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men (Vol. 2). J. W. Lewis & Company. p. 1953.
- Kearney, Peg Goggin. "The Life and Death of Elizabeth Emerson". University of Southern Maine. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2014-01-22.
- Dustin Griffin (2014). "Cotton Mather and the Emerson Family," Massachusetts Historical Review, 16, 1-48. doi:10.5224/masshistrevi.16.1.0001
- Cutter, Barbara (9 April 2018). "The Gruesome Story of Hannah Duston, Whose Slaying of Indians Made Her an American Folk "Hero"". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- John Greenleaf Whittier, Benjamin L Mirick, 1832, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1807-1892, A. W. Thayer, Haverhill, MA. Collection: UMass Amherst Libraries.
- Peckham, Howard (1964). The Colonial Wars. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-226-65314-5.
- Mather, Cotton (1702). Magnalia Christi Americana: Or the Ecclesiastical History of New England from 1620 - 1698.
- Emma Lewis Coleman, New England Captives Carried to Canada Between 1677 and 1760 During the French and Indian Wars, Volume 1, 1926. Reprinted by Heritage Books, 2008.
- Known today as Sugar Ball Island and located at
- Jay Atkinson, "Retracing a Mother’s Path of Escape Along a Wintry Merrimack," New York Times, Nov. 12, 2015.
- Leon W. Anderson, "Hannah Duston: Heroine of 1697 Massacre of Indian Captors on River Islet at Boscawen, New Hampshire." Pamphlet prepared for the New Hampshire State Government, 1973. Reprinted 2007.
- Eleanor Bradley Peters, Bradley of Essex County, early records, from 1643 to 1746: with a few lines to the present day, Heritage Books, 1915.
- Allitt, Patrick (December 9, 2007). "City on a Hill". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
- Hannah Duston's Captured Dutch Trade Flintlock Musket
- Robert Boodey Caverly, Heroism of Hannah Duston: Together with the Indian Wars of New England, Russell, 1875; pp. 38-39.
- The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay: To which are Prefixed the Charters of the Province. Massachusetts Wright & Potter, printers to the state, 1892; pp. 153-54.
- Jay Atkinson, Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. ISBN 1493018175
- George Wingate Chase, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, from its first settlement, in 1640, to the year 1860, Published by the author, Haverhill, MA; Collection at UMass Amherst Libraries.
- Teresa A. Toulouse, "Hannah Duston’s Bodies: Domestic Violence and Colonial Male Identity in Cotton Mather’s Decennium Luctuosum." In: Janet Moore Lindman and Michele Lise Tarter (ed.): A Centre of Wonders: The Body in Early America. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY 2001; pp. 193–209.
- APPENDIX. A Narrative of Hannah Swarton
- Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1674-1729. in two volumes, edited by M. Halsey Thomas. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1973.
- Hawthorne in Salem: The Hannah Dustin Story
- Anne Andrus Grady ,"Research Notes: Extract and Comment on the Diary of John Marshall, bricklayer, of Braintree, Massachusetts 1697––1711," in Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 90-93.
- Samuel A. Green, Extracts from John Marshall's Diary, January, 1689 - December, 1711. Cambridge: John Wilson & Sons, 1900.
- "Journal of the Revd. John Pike," Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, vol. 14, p. 76, 1875. Quoted in Peters, 1915.
- Hannah Dustin’s Letter to the Elders of the Second Church in Haverhill, 1724, Haverhill Historical Society.
- Dwight, Timothy, Travels in New-England and New York, 1821. New Haven: S. Converse.
- "The Thomas and Hannah Dustin Story ," From “Letter XXXIX” in Timothy Dwight’s Travels in New England and New York, 1821-22.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Duston Family," published in The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge (1836).
- John Greenleaf Whittier, "A Mother’s Revenge," in Legends of New England (1831).
- Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and the Merrimack (1849).
- Robert D. Arner. "The Story Of Hannah Duston: Cotton Mather To Thoreau," American Transcendental Quarterly, 18 (1973). 19-23.
- Peter Parley, Peter Parley's Method of Telling about the History of the World to Children, F.J. Huntington, 1836; p. 39.
- An example is found in Robert Boodey Caverly, Heroism of Hannah Duston: Together with the Indian Wars of New England, Russell, 1875.
- Whitford, Kathryn. "Hannah Dustin: The Judgement of History." Essex Institute Historical Collections. Vol. CVIII, No. 4 (October 1972), 304-325.
- Historical Markers - DAR Matthew Thornton Chapter
- Then & Now: Davis Tower/Lake Park, Coburn Avenue in Worcester
- The Savage and Modern Self: North American Indians in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture, University of Toronto Press, 2018, p. 85. ISBN 1487517955
- Hannah Dustin's Hatchet
- Biscayne Trade Axes
- Development of the American Axe - Part 1: The Biscayne Axe Brant & Cochran, Jun 13, 2017.
- Associated Press (November 29, 1997). "Town near Boston hatches plan to name school for 'hatchet lady'". Deseret News. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- "Hannah Duston Healthcare Center". Whittier Health Network. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- Beasley, Erin; Lessing, Uri, Lesson Plan: Western Expansion and the Depiction of Native Americans (PDF), Colby College Museum of Art, retrieved 2012-01-28
- Associated Press (1997-11-29). "'Hatchet lady' stirs controversy for school name". Lawrence Journal-World. Lawrence, KS. p. 3.
- Perriello, Brad (2006-08-27). "Proposed Hannah Duston Day appalls American Indian leaders". The Eagle-Tribune. Haverhill, MA. Archived from the original on 2013-01-22. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
- Regan, Shawn (2006-10-08). "Hannah Dustin's descendent calls her a heroine; Others say she is a villain". The Eagle-Tribune. Haverhill, MA: Eagletribune.com. Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
- "Of Time and the Merrimack River". New Hampshire Magazine. Archived from the original on 2012-03-17. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
- Margaret Bruchac (2006-08-28). "Reconsidering Hanna Duston and the Abenaki" (PDF). The Eagle-Tribune. Haverhill, MA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-25.
- Associated Press (2008-07-29). "Hannah Duston bobblehead sparks controversy » New Hampshire » EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA". Eagletribune.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
- Caverly, Robert Boodey (1990). Heroism of Hannah Duston: Together with the Indian Wars of New England. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books. ISBN 978-1-55613-301-5.
- Mather, Cotton (1702). Magnalia Christi Americana: Or the Ecclesiastical History of New England from 1620 - 1698.
- Namias, June (1993). White Captives: Gender and Ethnicity on the American Frontier. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2079-2.
- American Captivity Narratives: Selected Narratives with Introduction. New Riverside editions. Gordon M. Sayre (ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2000. ISBN 0-395-98073-9.
- Weis, Ann-Marie (1998). "The Murderous Mother and the Solicitous Father: Violence, Jacksonian Family Values, and Hannah Duston's Captivity". American Studies International: 46–65. JSTOR 10.2307/41279557.
- Humphreys, Sara (2011). "The Mass Marketing of the Colonial Captive Hannah Duston". Canadian Review of American Studies. 41 (2): 149–178. doi:10.1353/crv.2011.0014. ISSN 1710-114X. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
- Original Documents Related to "The Duston Family"
- HawthorneInSalem gives Nathaniel Hawthorne's version
- Hannah Duston at Find a Grave
- Smithsonian Institution - Hannah Dustin Statues
- Gene Fontaine (Contributor) (2013-01-16). Savage: The Hannah Dustin Massacre (YouTube video). Haverhill, MA., A documentary on Hannah Dustin by a Haverhill, MA filmmaker