John Lovewell

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John Lovewell (October 14, 1691 – May 9, 1725) was a famous Ranger in the 18th century who fought during Father Rale's War (also known as Lovewell's War). He lived in present-day Nashua, New Hampshire. He fought in Father Rale's War as a militia captain, leading three expeditions against the Abenaki Indians.[1] John Lovewell became the most famous Ranger (i.e., scalp hunter) of the eighteenth century.[2]

Although the outcome was a draw, Lovewell's Fight marked the end of hostilities between the English and the Abenakis of Maine. This conflict was a turning point. So important was it to western Maine, New Hampshire and even Massachusetts colonists that the Fight was celebrated in song and story, and its importance was not eclipsed until the American Revolution. More than one hundred years later Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (poem, "The Battle of Lovells Pond"), Nathaniel Hawthorne (story, "Roger Malvin's Burial") and Henry David Thoreau all wrote about Lovewell's Fight.[3]

1st and 2nd expeditions[edit]

In early September 1724 some Indians came to Dunstable and captured three men.[4] When they did not return from work a party of ten or more men started in pursuit. One man, Joseph Farwell, warned the leader of the possibility of running into an ambush. Despite this the posse rushed ahead with Farwell following behind. They were ambushed and eleven of the men were killed and the others, excepting Farwell who barely escaped, were captured.

Because of these attacks it was thought best to carry on the war more vigorously. Bounties for scalps were again offered by the government and volunteer companies were formed. Favored by a grant from the Assembly, John Lovewell, whose maternal grandparents had been killed and scalped by Indians, raised a company of thirty men and was commissioned a captain. In part because of Farwell's commonsense Lovewell selected him as his second-in-command and he was made Lieutenant. Lovewell and Farwell went on three scalp hunting expeditions from December to May.

Raid at Lake Winnipesaukee[edit]

In the first expedition, Lovewell and his militia company of 40-50 men left Dunstable on their first expedition in December 1724, trekking to the north of Lake Winnipesaukee into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On December 10, 40 miles north of Winnipesaukee, the troop came upon a wigwam, where they killed and scalped an Abenaki man and took an Abenaki boy captive.[5]

Raid on Wakefield[edit]

On January 29, 1725, Lovewell and 87 men made a second expedition to the White Mountains. For more than a month they marched through the winter forest, encountering neither friend nor foe. Some troops were sent back home. The remainder made a wide loop up towards the White Mountains, followed the Bearcamp River into the Ossipee area, then headed back in an easterly direction along the Maine and New Hampshire border.

On February 20 they came across a recently inhabited wigwam and followed tracks for some five miles. On the banks of a pond at the head of the Salmon Falls River in the present town of Wakefield they came upon more wigwams with smoke rising from them. Some time after 2:00 AM Lovewell gave the order to fire. A short time later ten Indians lay dead. The Indians were said to have had numerous extra blankets, snowshoes, moccasins, a few furs and new French muskets which would seem to indicate that they were on their way to attack frontier settlements. Preventing such an attack is probably the true success of this expedition.

Early in March Lovewell's troops arrived in Boston. They paraded their Indian scalps through the streets, Lovewell himself wearing a wig made of Indian scalps. The bounty paid was 1000 pounds (100 per scalp).[6]

3rd Expedition: Lovewell's fight[edit]

The third expedition consisted of only 46 men and left from Dunstable on April 16, 1725. They built a fort at Ossipee and left 10 men, including the doctor and John Goffe, to garrison the fort while the rest left to raid the Abenaki town of Pequawket, now Fryeburg, Maine. On May 9, as the militiamen were being led in prayer by chaplain Jonathan Frye, a lone Abenaki warrior was spotted. Lovewell's men waited until the warrior was close and fired at him, but missed. The Abenaki returned fire, mortally wounding Lovewell. Further fire from the rangers killed the Indian. The militia had left their packs behind so as to be unencumbered by them in battle. Two returning war parties of Abenaki led by Chief Paugus and Nat found them and waited in ambush for the returning militia. Eight men, including Lovewell, were killed in the first volley by the Indian warriors. The battle continued for more than 11 hours until Ensign Wyman killed the Indian war chief Paugus. With the death of Paugus, the rest of the Indians soon vanished into the forest. Only 20 of the militiamen survived the battle; three died on the retreat home. The Abenaki losses except for Paugus are unknown. The Abenaki deserted the town of Pequawket after the battle and fled to Canada.

Aftermath of the fight[edit]

Later that month Colonel Ebeneazer Tyng arrived with a large force of militia to bury the dead and take revenge on the Abenaki who had already fled. Without support from the French the western Abenaki were forced to make peace with Massachusetts and New Hampshire. John Lovewell's widow and children along with the other widows and children of those slain in the battle were given large tracts of land in what is now Pembroke, New Hampshire.


Lovewell Mountain in Washington, New Hampshire, which he climbed to do surveillance, is named for him, as is Lovewell Pond in Fryeburg.

Lovewell was celebrated in song and story. More than one hundred years after his death Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (poem, "The Battle of Lovells Pond"), Nathaniel Hawthorne (story, "Roger Malvin's Burial") and Henry David Thoreau (passage in the book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers) all wrote about Lovewell's Fight.[7]

The town of Lovell, Maine derives its name from John Lovewell.[8]


External links[edit]



  1. ^ The first way of war: American war making on the frontier, 1607-1814 By John Grenier, p. 38
  2. ^ Grenier. 2003. p. 50
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Dunstable" refers here to Dunstable, Massachusetts, which at that time included all of what is called "Nashua, New Hampshire" today. In 1836 the New Hampshire part of the town changed its name to "Nashua" after the river that runs through it to the Merrimack.
  5. ^ Grenier. 2003. p. 50
  6. ^ Grenier. 2003. p. 51
  7. ^
  8. ^ Chadbourne, Ava H. (Apr 20, 1949). "Many Maine towns bear names of military men". Lewiston Evening Journal. pp. A–2. Retrieved 17 October 2015.