Thursday, March 15, 2007

Chapter 8: "...and then all hell broke loose."

It is a curious thing, how the phrase "out of the ordinary" always meant to me "not part of the ordinary." I've been thinking about times in my life when shattering event encroached on my everyday life.

The retelling of those events, 9/11, deaths, car accidents, always begins with the telling of how ordinary things were moments before the event. "I was just...", like the benign activity should not have warranted the dreadful event that followed.

I've come to a conclusion: Like a child born out his mother's womb, so trauma is born out of the ordinary.

Onesiphorus Marsh's Garrison House
on Pecker Hill
March 15, 1697: The day probably began in what was later remembered as a most ordinary of manners. The family had slept snugly in the small home, likely in a single room with children clustered around the fireplace, slumbering on pallets of goose down quilts. Thomas and Hannah, married nearly twenty years, slept in the bed in which each of their twelve children had been lovingly conceived, and later born.
Six day old baby Martha undoubtedly had awoken Hannah at least once in the night, and had been nursed and tended in the wee hours, held and kissed in the mussy sleepy state that all nursing mothers experience with their newly born children.
I imagine Thomas slept through the feeding, his daily labor creating a state of exhaustion that would not have been easily disturbed.


Perhaps some of the older children stirred. Perhaps five year old Timothy, the next youngest child crept into their bed seeking warmth and reassurance of his mother's love.
Hannah must have recalled him as an infant, and wondered at how simple it was to care for Martha, a single baby, after the hectic needs that her last born twins had required. Nursing twins Timothy and Mehitable with her other son Jonathan only two, well, those were busy months, until Mehitable died at three months of age, on a cold December day.


They always named their children at birth. Many families didn't, calling the newborn "it" until it was clear that the babe would survive its infancy.

She and Thomas named their children as soon as they were born, honoring family members and enjoying the bond between their children and their aunts and uncles, or searching the scriptures for biblical names, to inspire Godly character.
Likely Martha's wails awoke the family again at dawn. While the babe nursed, the family roused, the fire was stirred and a simple meal was cooked by the older girls. They would soon be wives as well, and knew what was need to know to prepare a meal for a hungry family.
But before the family would have eaten, Thomas would have lead his wife and children through a brief study of the Bible, a "devotion" and a prayer.
"The Puritans viewed the male head of the household as the one Biblically responsible for commanding and instructing the family in the way of the Lord. Historians of New England agree on the prevalence of this pattern in the 17th century.
According to the standard work on this subject: "Every morning immediately upon rising and every evening before retiring a good Puritan father led his household in prayer, in scriptural reading, and in singing of psalms"

New England Puritans, like their counterparts in England and Scotland, did not view family worship as a rival to congregational worship, but rather as its complement: "Domestic instruction and worship was considered indispensable to the success of the weekly services in the church, for religion was too important a matter to be left to weekly lessons"
Historians also have observed that the Puritan family was expected not only to be a little church but a little school, and a little commonwealth. One of the leading new historians of the period affirms that "The family was regarded as a religious society with the obligations of group Scripture reading, prayer, and catechizing... Within the family the husband was without question the master. He was prince and teacher, pastor and judge in his household" (Francis J. Bremer, The Puritan Experiment, p. 177). "
A sample of a morning prayer, from a collection of prayers used as by the Puritans as a model, was as follows:
Almighty God, as I cross the threshold of this day I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, friends, to Thy care. Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me. Incline my heart to thy ways. Mould me wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay. May my lips be a well-tuned harp to sound Thy praise.
Let those around see me living by Thy Spirit, trampling the world underfoot, unconformed to lying vanities, transformed by a renewed mind, clad in the entire armour of God, shining as a never-dimmed light, showing holiness in all my doings. Let no evil this day soil my thoughts, words, hands. May I travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain.
In needful transactions let my affection be in heaven, and my love soar upwards in flames of fire, my gaze fixed on unseen things, my eyes open to the emptiness, fragility, mockery of earth and its vanities. May I view all things in the mirror of eternity, waiting for the coming of my Lord, listening for the last trumpet call, hastening unto the new heaven and earth.
Order this day all my communications according to Thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good. Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable. May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day."
"The potter molding clay." How real that phrase must have sounded to the family gathered for prayer. How impossible the final phrase must have sounded. Surely this phrase was almost unthinkable.


The meal would have been brief, there was work to be done. Mary Neff arrived, her services as a nurse continued to be offered to support Hannah as she recovered her strength from childbearing.


Thomas rode out to work near his new house, his gun near at hand if it be needed. Looking up from his labor, he saw movement in the woods, one, two quick flashes. He stopped, reached for his gun, and looked again.


An entire band of Indians were stealthily emerging from the woods.

Quickly Thomas mounted his horse, and galloped back to his house, shouting for his children to run to the garrison house while he dashed inside hoping to save his wife and baby.

The children obeyed instantly. They ran into the woods, heading towards Pecker's Hill, and the safety of the Marsh Garrison house.

Inside the home Hannah was in bed, still in her nightdress, Mary Neff by her side.
There was little time talk, the Indians were now rushing towards the house.

In a conversation that was never recorded, a decision was made: Thomas would go and protect the fleeing children, leaving Hannah, Mary and the child to their fate.

The town had been raided before, as had many of the villages in the colony. Frequently the men were killed while children and younger women were taken captive, to be later sold as slaves by the Indians, in order to raise money for French/Indian war chest.

Perhaps it was hoped that an older woman, newly delivered of a child, the babe in arms, would stir sympathy from the savages, and be left unmolested. Hannah surely faced a horror beyond imagination as she saw her husband gallop away, and their house was invaded by the marauding Indians.
Tomorrow: Chapter 9: "Impossible to choose: Thomas and his children"

2 comments:

Lovella said...

How horrific. You tell something so horrible and blood chilling so beautifully.
How many chapters are there? Will I know tomorrow a happy ending? I'm not feeling too good about it. I need to reread later today, from the beginning since I'm getting lost as to how Hannah was related to you. Saint Patricks day is coming, that would be a happy post . . . right?

Yellow Mama said...

Will look forward to tomorrow!