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Paddling the Merrimack in 1697


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Jay Atkinson's Massacre on the Merrimack is a must read for history buffs and those that love a great adventure tale. This took place in 1697 when English settlers were constantly under the threat of Indian attacks from the Abenaki tribes that lived in what was then the Massachusetts Bay colony. What this has to do with boats and water is the chronicle of several settlers desperate escape from their captors somewhere above what is now Concord, NH and in a stolen birch bark canoe paddled back to their homestead in Haverhill, Ma. In the dead of winter, paddling frequently at night on the treacherous cold waters of the Merrimack. An incredible story of hardship and survival. Of the three who escaped their Abenaki captors two had never paddled a canoe before. After paddling almost the entire length of the Merrimack which is 117 mi in length, they were forced to learn. 

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No doubt, Hannah Duston, part of the group attacked and kidnapped by French-supported Abenaki, had to endure the worst case scenario, seeing her baby murdered in front of her eyes. I can only assume that she had completely lost her mind over this when she murdered 6 sleeping Abenaki children in cold blood before she took off down the Merrimack, getting "even". If not, I am not sure I could be a fan of hers, superhuman feat of survival against all odds be damned. But then again, I don't know what I would do in the same shoes...

BTW, there's a nursing home in Haverhill named after her.

Edited by Inverseyourself
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Andy a careful reading mentions the "children" as being teenagers. Half the captives and captors separated from Hannah's group and moved further away on Sugar Ball Island which was no more than two acres in area. Had any in Hannah's group been left alive they surely would tell the other Abenaki captors and a search party would be sent out to recapture them. This had to be uppermost in Hannah's mind as opposed to the motive of revenge. What I found so puzzling was that after one of the severely injured Squaws did  join the other captors and inform them of the escape and murders they elected to do nothing. Even years later with Dustin back in Haverhill and Indian attacks continuing on the English settlers, the Dustin residence was unharrassed. Perhaps the tribes value of strength and endurance trumping all other personal values had immunized Hannah Dustin in their eyes?

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