August 1, 2010

Family Memoirs

Confederation Bridge traveling north to New Brunswick

When we went to visit our friends in Prince Edward Island last week instead of taking the ferry back to Nova Scotia to go to the airport in Halifax, we drove back over the Confederation Bridge which crosses the Northumberland Strait to connect PEI to New Brunswick. The bridge is 8 miles long, the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water (although being mid-summer it wasn’t icy), and endures as one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century.

Watch out for mooses crossing the road!

My mother has always told me that some of our ancestors came from New Brunswick. In fact, they reputedly left American soil during the Revolution because they wanted to remain Loyalists. The truth of the matter is that many of them landed in New Brunswick to start with. When we started driving it began to rain pretty good, and once we crossed into New Brunswick it was pouring down steadily making the dark gloomy piney forests bordering the road look primitive, vaporish and threatening, so the opposite of tidy manicured Prince Edward Island. Here and there on the highway signs warning of wildlife crossings featured the black silhouette of a moose. I wondered what life was like back in the 1700’s when my forebears lived in that God forsaken place. And then, I thought maybe it would have been the same in Maine where other family settled back then. Rushing into my mind came the silly little tune that I learned long ago when I was 12 and taking piano lessons. It goes like this: “Hear the Indians in the forest, creeping, creeping. They will not disturb you if you are sleeping, sleeping.” The thought of the woods being full of Indians sort of made my scalp prickle, and it didn't sound like a very comforting lullaby.

Historic American Buildings Survey Print of Old Photo Showing Remains of Junkins Garrison (Built about 1700 in Maine.) The Tozier Garrison may have been something like this.

As we drove along I googled “Richard Tozier” on my Blackberry whose name I knew as one of my ancestors. He lived in Salmon Falls, Maine and was murdered by the Indians there in 1675 during the French and Indian wars. My mother has a copy of a pencil drawing of Tozier Garrison, a blockhouse that he constructed after one Indian attack. It was in country just such as this that he lived and died. His story has always captured my imagination, and the account goes like this:

“September 24th, 1675, the Indians first attacked the settlements near Saco, and then proceeded towards the Piscataqua River, intending to make an assault upon any defenseless place. The first place to be assailed was the dwelling house of Mr. Richard Tozier. It was situated one hundred and fifty rods above the mills and garrison at Salmon Falls. Tozier and sixteen men in the neighborhood had gone with Wincoln, captain of the town company, to defend or relieve the distressed inhabitants of Saco, and left his household unguarded, consisting of fifteen persons, all women and children. The attack was led on by Andrew, of Saco, and Hopehood, of Kennebec, two of the bravest warriors in their tribes. A girl of eighteen discovered their approach, shut and stood against the door until the others escaped to the next house, which was better secured. The Indians chopped the door to pieces, knocked her down, leaving her for dead and pursued the rest. Two children who could not get over the fence were captured. The unknown heroine recovered.

In October the garrison was attacked again. A letter addressed to two gentlemen at Dover communicates the distress of that place. 'To Richard Waldron and Lieutenant Coffin: These are to inform you that the Indians are just now engaging us with at least one hundred men and have already slain four of our men, Richard Tozier, James Berry, Isaac Bottes and Tozier's son, and burned Benoni Hodsdon's house. Sirs, if ever you have any love for us, show yourselves with men to help us, or else we are in great danger of being slain, unless our God wonderfully appears for our deliverance. They that cannot fight let them pray.'

Richard's son Richard, Jr., was captured, but returned after some Months Restraint.' Lieutenant Roger Plaisted, one of the signers of the above letter, was killed in the attempt to rescue his friend's body. Richard Tozier, Jr. returning from captivity, inherited the house and lands of his father where he lived many years with his wife, Elizabeth. Tradition gives two Canadian captivities to Richard and three to Elizabeth his wife.

It is said that the Indians came once while she was boiling (lye) soap and she, throwing it upon them, caused their retreat. Again, dressed in man's clothes with gun in hand she acted as sentry while the men were in the fields. Of her last capture the Genealogy says that when Richard saw the Indians coming he told his wife she must do the best she could; he preferred death to another captivity. If she were taken he would redeem her if he lived. So covering himself with a feather bed he ran out of the back door to the frozen river. The ice was thin and he broke through. The Indians seeing the hole and the bed believed him drowned and did not follow. They pillaged and burned the house, carrying off Elizabeth and all its inmates. Meantime Tozier was watching from the river's bank."

Hear the Indians in the forest, creeping, creeping . . .

No comments: