[DEERFIELD MASSACRE, WILLIAMS FAMILY]. An extensive collection of letters of various members of this family, who played a central role in the Deerfield Massacre, 1704. Together 32 items.
THE WILLIAMS FAMILY OF DEERFIELD: "SEVERAL ENGLISH CAPTIVES AT CANADA THINK THE WAR VERY LONG"
Contents: WILLIAMS, John (1664-1729), Minister at Deerfield, Mass. Nine autograph letters signed (most "John Williams") all to his son, Stephen Williams, all Deerfield, 23 January 1709/10 to 26 February 1724. Together 9 pages, small 4to and 8vo, closely written in Williams' miniscule hand, most with integral address leaf and in fine condition. A fine series of letters to his son, eldest of the five children of the Williams family who were carried into captivity, on a variety of topics: Stephen's education, religious matters, crops, illness, Indian depredations, and other news. A sampling: 23 January 1709/10, to Stephen, "student at Cambr[idge] Coll[ege]": "...learning should be your highest ambition. Endeavour that none may reach you in chara[cter]. Look well to your company...Always attend your exercises. ...Ensign Tracy of Hatf[ield] is dead..." 4 August 1712: Full of news of Indian raids: "...On Tuesday the enemy took a young man captive in skirmish...& as I returned at night a post from Deerf[ield] advised that...the enemy fired upon our Scout...& that two had escaped...We sent out 24 men to the west to get before the enemy & ambush them but without success...Capt, Wright & James Coss were out ahunting...& came accidentally upon a force of Indians & fired each of them at them, think they killed one and wounded another..." 23 November 1713 from Albany (bound to Canada to ransom his daughter, Eunice): "The week before we came thither a trading cannoe of Canada Indians went from Albany....No news here only that several english captives at Canada think the War very long & wonder that no one has arrived (to ransom them) would gladly have come away with Col. Sc[h]uyler..." 3 March 1718/19: Mentioning his daughter, Eunice, still among the Canadian Iroquois tribes: "The Governor says...if the General Assembly meet he will endeavour to obtain some Publick encouragement [for the release of captives in Canada]...Grave fears of war to the eastward, the Indians are very insolent & threatening...last night one of our Macquas [Mohawks] was at my house, says he saw Eunice well not long since." 5 August 1722: "Bernard is Captain of the soldiers...I am full of fears what the commencing a war will be accompanied with..." -- WILLIAMS, Eleazar (a captive, son of John Williams). Two Autograph letters signed to his brother (and fellow captive) Stephen Williams, Mansfield, 16 November 1726 and 17 February 1738. Together two pages, 4to. The illness of a child, recent deaths. -- WILLIAMS, Stephen (a captive, eldest son of John Williams). Autograph letter signed to Revd. Joseph Noyes, Longmeadow, 8 February 1748/49. 1 page, 4to. Possibly a draft, mainly on business. -- WILLIAMS, Warham (a captive, son of John Williams, a captive). Two autograph letters signed to his brother Stephen Williams, 16 April 173-, 4 September 1738. Together 2 pages, 4to. Lamenting the "hooting howling, agonizing" of a religious revival, the other describing the commencement at Yale. -- WILLIAMS, William (1731-1811), Signer (Connecticut). Three items: autograph letter signed, autograph document signed and autograph endorsement signed, 1780-1781. Together 5 pages, folio and oblong 4to. A long letter to "Polly," a document relating to enlistment bounties in the Revolutionary War and a note regarding an estate. --- And 13 additional letters and documents written or signed by Williams family members including: William Williams (2, 1771 and 1772); Eleazar Williams ("The Dauphin"); William Williams of Weston (3 autograph letters signed, 1714, 1725, 1755); William Williams (autograph document signed, 1763, 1772); Stephen West Williams; Otho H. Williams (1749-1794, autograph letter signed, 1801); Ephraim Williams (1714-1755, autograph letter signed, 1752), Israel Williams; Elijah Williams (document signed, 1742, regarding land granted for "the fall fight above Deerfield in 1676").
An unusual collection, formed in the 1930s and 1940s, noteworthy for the letters of John Williams "The Redeemed Captive," who, along with five of his children, was taken captive by a force of French and Indians who attacked Deerfield on 29 February 1704; the 112 captives were taken overland to Canada (92 survived the journey). The Reverend and all but one of his children, a daughter, Eunice, were eventually ransomed. For a recent account of this celebrated family and its trials, see John Demos. The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America, New York: Knopf, 1994. Letters of the Reverend John Williams are very rare: none have appeared at auction since in many years.