August 8, 1997: Morning in Haverhill, a small town in Massachusetts.
How beautifully the wildflowers bloomed in the sunshine that morning.
It was my first visit to Haverhill.
I was visiting there with my parents and my husband.
An event that occurred 310 years ago this month.
While I am photographed in a cheerful riot of flowers, three hundred years earlier it had been an entirely different scene.
So let's begin with the story.
I'll be telling it over the next few days, so the story will unfold in real time.
To document the facts of the story, I'll be using the book pictured above.
(Try not to give into the temptation to skip ahead by Googling the names until the end. Trust me, the names are all easily found there, but the experience of the story will be short changed if you "peek" at the last page now too soon!)
The story concerns a husband and a wife, their children, and their fierce love for one another.
It also concerns faith and courage that inspires me to this day.
Thomas Dustin (or Duston, the name was interchangeable back then) had been born in the New World in 1652. He married essentially the girl next door, Hannah Webster Emerson, who was likewise born in the New World on December 23rd, 1657. She was five year younger than her husband.
They had married in winter, December 3rd, 1677, when they were 25 and 20 years old, respectively.
Thomas had built a house in Haverhill for his bride and they settled in, and had their first daughter, whom they named Hannah after both her mother and grandmother, in late August.
The family grew rapidly; two years later little Hannah had a baby sister named Elizabeth.
A year later, another sister, Mary joined the family.
Son Thomas was born two years later, then Nathaniel, my ancestor, born two years later on May 16th, 1685.
Brother John arrived, then sister Sarah, and Abigail.
More sons, Jonathan, born in 1692, then twins Timothy and Mehitable in 1694. Mehitable lived but a short three months.
As our story opens in March 1697, the family had now also lost son John at age 4, in 1690, and were likely still grieving the loss of daughter Mary, who had died five months earlier at age 15.
Nineteen year old daughter Hannah and seventeen year old daughter Elizabeth are likely engaged, as they both married early the following year.
And wife Hannah, with eight children still in the home, at age 39 is pregnant again, and waiting the birth of her twelfth child. Her youngest child is now five years old.
Domestically the family was at peace. Outside, the times were troubling.
Indians raids, as part of hostilities related to King William's War, were instigated by the French, under Count Frontenac, Governor of Canada, as part of his campaign to hold the New World for his King. The raids had been steadily drawing nearer to Haverhill, and on several occasions neighbors in Haverhill had been taken captive.
Back in August, a neighbor Jonathan Haynes and his four children had been captured while in their fields picking beans. After that, six garrison houses were constructed for use in case of an attack. One such house was built a mile from the Dustin home.
There had also been a young boy captured a year and a half ago, a 12 year old named Samuel Lennardson, from a nearby town.
There was just cause to be troubled. But the demands of everyday life continued. Their growing family needed more space, and Thomas was finishing the building of a three story house for them, using bricks from his own brick yard. They were making plans to move there, perhaps shortly after the expected baby was born.
(To be continued...)