The Preble Massacre

MassacreThere is no doubt that life on the frontier was difficult.  The ability to survive the harsh conditions meant the difference between life and death, and this was not the Western American Frontier but the frontier of Maine in the 1700’s.  Ebenezer Preble, his wife Mary Harnden and their six children were living in Kennebec Valley not from the town of Woolwich when on June 9, 1758 they were attacked by a band of four Indians from Canada.  Ebenezer Preble is my seventh Great Grandfather.

Ebenezer was a man of thirty-four and was happy living on his farm with his wife and children.  He had a humble dwelling and some acreage of land cultivated with corn and other crops when shots rang out and he fell mortally wounded in the fields near his home.  Upon hearing the shots his wife Mary, daughter of Captain Samuel Harnden, bolted the door and was placing the mattress of her bed against the door when a musket ball came through a crevice in the door and killed her instantly within the view of her screaming children.

The Indians entered the house and took what they could including all six of the children; Rebecca, Samuel, Mehetable, Ebenezer Jr., Mary, and William an infant of three months. A house maid Sarah Fling was also taken captive by this band of Indians.  As they moved away from the home, and with no way to feed and nourish the infant to stop it from crying, the infant was viciously brained against the nearest tree and left for dead, according to family tradition.

Writing of these events for the Maine Historical Society in 1904 the Rev. Henry O Thayer wrote;

“On the way the captors hailed another party and held aloft on a pole the bunch or scalps, exulting in the trophies of a successful raid: the bereaved girls held long in memory the excruciating view of the long, black hair of their mother, waving as a token of orphanage cruelly thrust upon them in a moment and their wretched and then hopeless fate as they were driven into the land of the enemy and the stranger.”

The bodies of Ebenezer and Mary were removed from the property and taken up river to the home of Captain Harnden where they were buried.  They would be the last victims of the last raid on the Kennebec Valley.  Captain Harnden would blame himself for not being able to help his daughter and her family and would petition the Great and General Court of Massachusetts for permission to enter Canada in an attempt to retrieve his grandchildren.  On June 20, 1761 a sum of money and permission was granted and Captain Harnden traveled north towards Montreal.

Of the five remaining children four were recovered and returned to their home.  Samuel would inherit the farm and lived there until his death in 1806.  His brother Ebenezer Jr. would live not far from his brother and died in 1790.  Rebecca would marry Thomas Motherwell and died in 1829.  Living with her was her sister Mary until she moved in with the family of Captain Lincoln Webb in West Woolwich.  Mehetable had gone to France with a family and when she was found she did not wish to return as she had become attached to the family.  Sarah Fling was located but the weather was too difficult for Captain Harnden to attempt a rescue so she was left behind.

In 1905 the descendants of Ebenezer and Mary Preble erected a monument at the location of the burial of Ebenezer and Mary, the stone also lists the names of all of those involved.  Also buried at the site is Captain Samuel Harnden.

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