Life on the frontier for the Williams family

Updated: Feb 3, 2019


Rev. John Williams of Roxbury lived from 1664 to 1729. He graduated from Harvard in 1683 at the age of 19 years old and became the first minister of the church of Deerfield, Massachusetts, in 1686 and soon after was married. Deerfield was a frontier town that experienced much conflict with the Native American Indians of the region.


On January 29, 1703, Deerfield was attacked by an army of 200 Frenchmen and 140 Indians. Reverend Williams and his wife, witnessed the murder of their two youngest sons and the remaining children were taken prisoner along with them. They were forced to march to Canada and along the way, Mrs. Williams was tomahawked because she lacked the strength to keep pace with the others. A party of men from Deerfield later recovered her remains and brought her to the burial grounds of her home in Deerfield. The inscription on her gravestone read as follows:


"Here lyeth the body of Mrs. Eunice Williams, the virtuous and desirable consort of the Reverend John Williams and daughter of Reverend Eleazer and Mrs. Esther Mather of Northampton. She was born August 2, 1664, and fell by the rage of the barbarous enemy, March 1, 1703-4.".


Rev. Williams survived the journey to Canada and remained a prisoner for 21 months. He was freed from Quebec on October 25, 1706, and he and 57 other ransomed prisoners, including two of his children, arrived at Boston on November 21st. He remarried to Abigail Allen.


His children with Esther Mather, his first wife:

  • Eliakim Williams, died young.

  • Rev. Eleazer Williams, married Mary Hobart and had children.

  • Samuel Williams, was taken captive and freed with his father. He then died at the age of 24 in Deefield, unmarried.

  • Esther Williams, was taken captive and freed with her father. She returned and married Rev. John Meachum but had no male issue that survived infancy.

  • Rev. Stephen Williams, born May 14, 1693, died June 10, 1782. He was taken captive with his father and was freed in 1705. He graduated from Harvard in 1713 and then proceeded to preach at Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

  • Eunice Williams, was taken captive with her father at the age of 8, but was left with the Indians "and no money could procure her redemption". She became Indian in her habits, even forgetting the English language and marrying an Indian man by the name of De Rogers, with who she had three children. Over fifty years later, she returned to Deerfield in her Indian dress and relatives persuaded her to remain with them, but she preferred the Indian way of life and declined their requests.

  • Rev. Warham Williams, was taken prisoner with his father at the age of 4 and was held captive for three years. Afterwards, he graduated from Harvard in 1719 and was a minister at Watertown (now Waltham) until 1751. He married Abigail Leonard of Norton and had children.

  • John Williams, born January 15, 1703, was slain by Indians at the taking of Deerfield on January 29, 1703.

  • Eliakim Williams, died young.

With his second wife, Abigail Allen, he had the following children:

  • John Williams, died young.

  • Eliakim Williams

  • Elijah Williams

  • Abigail William, married Colonel Hinsdale first, and Colonel Benjamin Silliman second. No children.

  • Sarah Williams, died at age 18.

Pages 113-117 of Genealogical and Family History of Western New York, Volume 1, contains an extensive genealogy of this family.


Note: This family does not appear to be related to the Family of John Williams of Newbury and Haverhill, Mass., ancestors of Delaphina (Decker) Dickinson.


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