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28 August
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HistoryPodcast 75 – Hannah Duston

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A request from listener Kyle from South Carolina!

Hannah Duston was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. She was born in circa 1657. She was the daughter of Michael Emerson and Hannah Webster. Michael was a shoemaker who immigrated from England. Nothing is known about Hannah Duston before her marriage to Thomas Duston. Duston (SPELL OUT) is also written, Dustin with an I, Dusten with and E and Durstan. Thomas and Hannah married in December of 1677. Thomas was originally from Dover, New Hampshire. He was a bricklayer and farmer by trade. Thomas was a well respected citizin of Haverhill and eventually was elected a constable. They lived in a cottage two miles from Haverhill. The couple had 13 children……

HP75 – Hannah Dustin.mp3 8:57 – 8.29MB

Sources:
Robert D. Arner. “The Story Of Hannah Duston: Cotton Mather To Thoreau,” American Transcendental Quarterly, 18 (1973). 19-23.

Samuel Willard Crompton. “100 Colonia Leaders Who Shaped North America,” p.69

Tory Horwitz. “The Devil May Care: Fifty Intrepit Americans and their Quest for the Unknown,” p.25-28.

The Story of Hannah Duston. http://www.usm.maine.edu/~jdustin/hannah/hannah-story.html

Hannah Duston. Britannica Biography Collection via EBSCOhost

ANN-MARIE WEIS. “THE MURDEROUS MOTHER AND THE SOLICITOUS FATHER: VIOLENCE, JACKSONIAN FAMILY VALUES, AND HANNAH DUSTON’S CAPTIVITY” American Studies International.

Welcome to HistoryPodcast 75! I’m Jason Watts your host and Kyle from South Carolina called in the the History Hotline with this request.

Okay Kyle here you go…

Hannah Duston was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. She was born in circa 1657. She was the daughter of Michael Emerson and Hannah Webster. Michael was a shoemaker who immigrated from England. Nothing is known about Hannah Duston before her marriage to Thomas Duston. Duston (SPELL OUT) is also written, Dustin with an I, Dusten with and E and Durstan. Thomas and Hannah married in December of 1677. Thomas was originally from Dover, New Hampshire. He was a bricklayer and farmer by trade. Thomas was a well respected citizin of Haverhill and eventually was elected a constable. They lived in a cottage two miles from Haverhill. The couple had 13 children. The twelve born March 1697.

Thomas had recently been appointed Captain of a local garrison on the fears that an Indian attack was eminent. A group of Abenaki raiders (Canadian Indians) attacked the frontier town of Haverhill, Massachusetts on March 15, 1697. Thomas saw the Indians approaching his home from the fields he was working in. He raced to his home, but was only able to escape with seven of his children. He was unable to save his wife, 1 week old newborn and Mary Neff, their nurse who came to live with them while Hannah recouped from her pregnancy. Thomas led the seven children to a garrison a few miles away. In the brief conflict the Indians killed many, burned some of the residences, and captured a dozen whites. Included in the group of captives was Hannah Duston, her newborn, Mary Neff.

The Indians stopped long enough to swing the newborn’s head against an apple tree on their way out of the flaming settlement. Hannah was forced to watch as they killer her child. Days later the Indian group split they would re-join at a village near Penacook River in Maine. Once they arrived at there the women were told that they would be stripped, whipped, and forced to run the gauntlet. An Indian family of twelve, who were Roman Catholic converts were assigned to watch Hannah, Mary and Samuel Lennardson, a boy of 15 captured 8 months earlier in Worcester. The Indian family consisted of two warriors, three women, and seven children.

Lennardson had convinced one of his captors to explain how to kill and scalp. He then shared this information with Duston. She decided to use this new information on March 30, 1697. Accounts differ on whether the captives attacked their sleeping foes on the early morning on the 30th or the late evening of the 30th. While still several days distance from the rendezvous, Hannah gathered other captives and together they used Tomahawks to kill their sleeping guards. Lennardson killed one Indian and Duston nine. Only one Indian woman and one Indian boy escaped. They then scalped the slain Indians and followed the Merrimac River by canoe and foot back to Haverhill. A few days later they travelled to Boston and met with the Massachusetts General Court. Mr. Duston asked that they court give his family a reward as reimbursement for his loss. The General Court, in keeping with it policy for providing bounty for Indian scalp awarded 25 pounds to Duston and gave Lennardson and Neff, 12 pounds, 10 schillings each for their bravery. The deeds of Hannah were widely publicized. Francis Nicholson the Governor of Maryland send Hannah a gift. In later years Mrs. Duston requested more compensation for her services as Indian murder and received it.

While in Boston Hannah also shard her story with Samuel Sewall and Cotton Mather, who wrote about it in his Magnalia Christi Americana. This is where the story is first printed. Mather touted Mrs, Duston’s harrowing escape as a wonder of Christian religion and painted her as a Puritan saint.

In his book Mather failed to mention the moral objections of Duston murdering and scalping the sleeping Indians. Instead his account of Duston raises her on high as a unquestionable model for all Puritans.

Many artists preferred to paint images of Mr. Duston saving his seven children than one of Hannah hacking at sleeping Indians. However, there is an image up at the website of Hannah doing just that.

Many writings about Hannah’s ordeal handle the issue of her killing the Indians guards differently. Some state they she killed them in revenge of her newborns slaughter. One could argue that she could have just crept into the night to escape. Maybe she was afraid that they would come after her or hear her leaving.

Interestingly enough Hannah never became a part of American folklore as did John Smith and Pocahontas. Hannah does not reflect the American character. With the decrease in Puritanism, she lost her significance as a hero/saint and became only a slayer of Indians. Also, her story was limited to the shores of the Merrimac, which cannot support a national legend.

Hannah returned to Haverhill to live out her years. She had one more child in 1698. Her husband Thomas died in 1732. Hannah moved in with her son Johnathan and died circa 1736.

Other interesting notes on the Duston family….

In 1676, Hannah’s father was fined for “cruel and excessive beating . . . and kicking ” of Hannah’s younger sister Elizabeth Emerson, who was eleven years old at the time. Seventeen years later, Elizabeth herself entered the court, accused of killing her newborn twins. She had given birth to illegitimate children at home, without her parents’ knowledge, hidden their bodies in a chest by her bed and later buried them in the garden. She claimed not to have hurt the infants, and it is possible that they were stillborn (one of them had its umbilical cord twisted about its neck). But the colonial laws had been revised in 1692 to make “concealing of the death of a bastard child ” a capital crime. Elizabeth was tried by a jury and hanged on June 8, 1693. In a striking coincidence, one of the women who examined Elizabeth at the discovery of the dead babies was Mary Neff, the widow who four years later assisted Hannah in killing six Native American children.

Sources:

Robert D. Arner. “The Story Of Hannah Duston: Cotton Mather To Thoreau,” American Transcendental Quarterly, 18 (1973). 19-23.

Samuel Willard Crompton. “100 Colonia Leaders Who Shaped North America,” p.69

Tory Horwitz. “The Devil May Care: Fifty Intrepit Americans and their Quest for the Unknown,” p.25-28.

The Story of Hannah Duston. http://www.usm.maine.edu/~jdustin/hannah/hannah-story.html

Hannah Duston. Britannica Biography Collection via EBSCOhost

ANN-MARIE WEIS. “THE MURDEROUS MOTHER AND THE SOLICITOUS FATHER: VIOLENCE, JACKSONIAN FAMILY VALUES, AND HANNAH DUSTON’S CAPTIVITY” American Studies International.

Todays frapper mappers are:

  1. Andrew Turner from Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  2. Laura Ketterman from Port Hueneme, California
  3. Lauren from Central Coast, New South Wales, Australia
  4. G Gordon Worley III, from Winter Park, Florida
  5. Claudio from Zurich, Switzerland

Thanks for making your mark on the frapper map. If you would like to hear your name on history podcast please visit the new website at historyonair.com. The wiredness in Internet Explorer has been corrected. Many thanks to Christian for pointing this out to a firefox user.

I will be on vacation next week and unable to podcast. However, I am assigning homework, kinda…

It is time for another contest! This time please call the history hotline and give me the best intro you can. Be creative. But please include your name and where you live! On the last episode of September I will announce the winner. That means all entries must be received by September 25! The prize will be a copy of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq by George Packer. You can call in your entry to 206-339-7278, thats 206-339-7278.

Some plugs for the Assassins’ Gate….

The New York Observer says…”sobering…A pocket history of Iraq and the United States tangled history….its indispensable…The Assassins’ Gate is a book every American needs to read.

Remember stop by the site at historyonair.com email me at history@gmail.com and call me at 206-339-7278.

Thank you and see you in a couple weeks.

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