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The time my 8th great-grandfather was kidnapped by Indians

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

My father is good at making up tales about his Leonard ancestors. "There was grandpa George Washington Leonard and then there was grandpa Abraham Lincoln Leonard", he's been telling us for years. The truth, however, was that nothing about his Leonard heritage had been passed down to us. His father was born in central New York and his grandfather had lived somewhere in the same area, and that was the extent of our knowledge of our Leonard history.

While I haven't found any connection to Washington or Lincoln, he wasn't too far off! His roots run deep in America, back to colonial times. I can't wait to share with him the details about the time his 7th great-grandfather, Samuel Leonard was kidnapped by Indians!

King Philip's war ended in April of 1678, but being warned by friendly Indians of retaliation by vengeful remnants of Philip's tribe, settlement at Worcester, Massachusetts, was delayed until 1683. Among the brave men who dared settle the new frontier were Isaac, Jacob, and Samuel Leonard, all brothers. Their nephew Moses Leonard, son of their brother, John Leonard, also settled there. The spelling of the Leonard name varies in records. Lennardson, Learned, Lerned, Lenerson, Lenorson, Lernett, Larned, and Lenord are common alternate spellings or misspellings in written records. The four Leonard men selected their homes on 40-acre lots near Lake Quinsagamond. The lands that once belonged to Samuel and Isaac Leonard now belongs to the City of Worcester.

Samuel Leonard was living on his 40-acre lot in August of 1692, when he signed a petition to the governor as "Samuel Lenorson, Constable", an office for which he was chosen. He was born in 1643 and married first to Abigail Wood, daughter of John Wood, of Plymouth. The family went to Bridgewater in about 1690 "and built his house on this high ground, overlooking the lake."

The road shown here on this interactive Google map runs along the banks of Lake Quinsagamond in Worcester:

In the fall of 1695, while the men of the colony were busy harvesting crops, a band of Indians coming through saw Samuel's 14-year old son, Samuel Jr., playing outdoors and one by the name of Bampico abducted the youth. With Samuel in tow, the tribe (possibly the Nipnet tribe) then attacked the settlers at Haverhill, Massachusetts, killing 27 men, women and children, burning six houses, carrying 13 captives away, and looting all they could carry. Among these captives were Mrs. Hannah Dustin (or Duston) and her newborn child and Mrs. Mary Neff. The infant, however, was brutally murdered soon after.

The captives were forced to march with the Indians, northward. Finally, they stopped and camped at the mouth of the Contocook River, in Boscawen (near Concord), New Hampshire, about 80 miles north of Worcester. It was there that Samuel coerced his new master, Bampico, to share his technique of murdering Englishmen, which he proudly shared. Early the next morning, while the Indians slept, Samuel and the two women used the advice to scalp ten of their twelve captors, including Bampico, and fled the scene. A squaw woman and young boy escaped to the woods.

Like Samuel's 2nd great-grandfather, James Chilton, a boat carried them to freedom. Instead of the Mayflower, their boat was a rowboat or canoe, which they took turns rowing down the Merrimack River to safety. Samuel Leonard and Mrs. Neff were both awarded 12 pounds and 10 shillings as a reward, and Mrs. Dustin was awarded 25 pounds, "for their service in slaying divers of those barbarous savages" on June 16, 1697.

Cotton Mather interviewed Hannah and recorded the events in Magnalia Christi Americana: The Ecclesiastical History of New England, in 1702, and in other works. (Article XXV "A Notable Exploit: Dux Faemina Facti", beginning on page 634). (Click here to read his account).

A memorial stands at the location to this day at the location now called the "Hannah Duston Memorial State Historic Site".

The inscription on the front of the statue's pedestal reads as follows:

HEROUM GESTA (Heroic Events)

FIDES JUSTITIA (Faith Justice)




MARCH 30 1697


After believing he had lost his son, Samuel Sr., a.k.a. "Goodman Lenordson", was convinced Worcester was not safe for his remaining family. For this reason, he moved his family about 58 miles south of Worcester, to Preston, New London County, Connecticut. This proved to be a wise move, considering Worcester didn't achieve peace until much later, in 1725.

After having been gone for two years, young Samuel Jr. joined his parents in Preston and there he grew to adulthood. He married a woman by the name of Lydia, with whom he had at least three sons and two daughters. They lived in Griswold (northern Preston). He died on May 11, 1718.

The story can be found in several historic works, including Proceedings of the Worcester Society of Antiquity, published in 1877, on pages 291-302, shown here:


  1. Wikipedia: Hannah Duston [Link]

  2. Proceedings of the Worcester Society of Antiquity, 1877, p. 291-302 [Link]

  3. Magnolia Christi Americana, by Cotton Mather, 1707. [Link]


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