Close Up – King Philip’s War

Metacomet, or King Philip

This is a story about a close up encounter between my ancestors, Lieutenant Henry Adams and his wife Elizabeth (Paine) Adams with Native Americans during King Philip’s War. Metacomet was a chief of the Wampanoag Indians, and the son of Massasoit who had been very friendly with the New England colonists. However, Metacomet and other Native American tribes resented the fact that they were becoming dependent on the colonists, losing their land, and losing large portions of the population to disease. Spurred on by Metacomet, who the colonists called King Philip, several tribes including the Narragansetts, Wampanoags, and Pocumtucks banded together and tried to drive out the English.

The Native Americans attacked many English towns, including Medfield, the home of my 9th great grandparents, Henry and Elizabeth Adams. Henry was born in Barton St. David in Somerset, England to Henry Adams and Edith Squire. He immigrated to Massachusetts during the Great Migration, and married there Elizabeth Paine, daughter of Moses and Elizabeth Paine of Tenterden, Kent, England.

Henry did well for himself in Massachusetts. He was the principal military commander in Medfield in charge of a trainband, or militia company, served as the town clerk for over ten years, was chosen a town selectman, and was a representative to the General Court in 1659, 1665, 1674, and 1675. He and Elizabeth had eleven children, including my ancestor Moses Adams, who was born in Medfield in 1654.

King Philip’s War broke out in June 1675, and in February 1676, the town of Medfield expected to be attacked by the Native Americans at any time. Reinforcements were sent to Medfield to help protect the town, but during the night of February 20 or the very early morning of February 21, under the cover of darkness, the Indians entered the town. They set fire to many of the houses, barns, and other buildings. Henry Adams heard the attack from inside his house, and when he opened his front door, he was shot in the neck and died. The Indians then burned down both his house and his mill. His wife Elizabeth did not witness his death as at the time she was staying in the upstairs room in the house of the local reverend. A soldier who was also garrisoned in the reverend’s house accidentally fired his musket, which traveled through the ceiling and struck Elizabeth. She died from her wounds the next day.

King Philip’s War essentially ended with the death of Metacomet in 1676, even though sporadic fighting continued until 1678. This war was very bloody, and many tragedies occurred on both sides. This particular tragic, close up encounter in Medfield left eleven siblings without parents and the younger ones without a home.

I do not know if Henry and Elizabeth’s son Moses was living in Medfield when the attack occurred, or how he found out about his parents’ deaths. By 1684 he was living on land that Henry Adams had owned when he lived in Sherborn before moving to Medfield. As far as I know, he never returned to Medfield.

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