|Father||John Sackett (1632-1719)|
|Mother||Abigail Hannum (1640-1690)|
Was Elizabeth kidnapped by the Indians?
Despite the record of her death in Westfield in 1682, it has been conjectured that Elizabeth was the Sackett daughter taken by the Indians in a raid on the family farm in Westfield in 1682, then brought up by the Indians in the north-west part of New York State, marrying into the tribe and bearing a son, later identified as Chief Sackett.
Like all good stories, this has elements of fact, but there is an appearance of later historians embellishing the work of their predecessors, and there are some inconsistencies.
The earliest mention found so far of the abduction is that of Rev Emerson Davis in his Historical Sketch of Westfield, written in 1826. He recorded that the girl taken by the Indians was a daughter of the second wife of a Mr Sackett. She was taken to the north-west part of New York, married an Indian, and lived among them for the rest of her life. He stated that he did not know the name of the girl; he gave no date; he did not identify the father beyond Mr Sackett; and although he stated that the girl's descendants had visited Westfield years later, he did not mention a son who would be Chief Sackett.
A couple of years earlier, in 1824, E Hoyt's History of the Indian Wars had been published. Hoyt describes an incident in 1748 during King George's War when, some 12 miles from Fort Dummer, Vermont, at the location of the present Marlboro, an English force of 40 men was attacked by "a large body of Indians, under a resolute chief, by the name of Sackett". In a footnote, Hoyt recorded that "this chief is said to have been a half blooded Indian, a descendant of a captive, taken at Westfield, Massachusetts." Chief Sackett, who could speak English, apparently knew the English commander, Hobbs, and repeatedly called upon him to surrender. Eventually the Indians, despite outnumbering the English, were beaten off and Chief Sackett ordered a retreat, carrying off his dead and wounded.
The account of the "Hobbs Fight" was repeated by Josiah Holland in his History of Western Massachusetts, published in 1855. Holland's account, although written in his own words, was in all essential details the same as that of Hoyt's.
John Lockwood, in his Westfield and Its Historic Influences, written in 1922, quotes in detail Hoyt's account of the Indian attack led by Chief Sackett, and links this with Rev Davis's account of the Westfield abduction, quoting Davis's text in full. He did not, however, suggest the identity of the kidnapped girl.
In a more recent work, Western Massachusetts history: the Westfield area, published in 1970, the author, Stephen Pitoniak, concludes that the record of Elizabeth Sackett's death in Westfield in 1682 was in error, and that it was she who had been taken by the Indians. The author refers to "long research" proving the death record to be false, but offers no evidence. He further misquotes Rev Davis as saying that the girl captured by the Indians was a daughter of John Sackett. Davis had said Mr Sackett, not John Sackett. There is some evidence that Rev Davis did not believe that Elizabeth Sackett was the girl captured by the Indians in that Davis himself submitted "A Record of Marriages, Births and Deaths in Westfield, Mass., prior to the Year 1700" for publication in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register in 1852. The record includes that of the death of John Sacket's daughter Elizabeth on 15 June 1682. In compiling his list for publication, he would surely have been alert to his own earlier acount of the Sackett abduction.
Strothman's historical novel
More recently again (2012), author Stuart Strothman has used the above background as a basis for his historical novel, simply called "Sackett", with Chief Sackett as the central character. In an afterword to his novel, the author is careful to separate fact from fiction and, in a pithy comment on Pitoniak's history, writes,"If only we could get a solid handle on the 'long research!' " Stuart Strothman spoke about his book at the Sackett Family Association reunion held in Westfield in 2012.
It is noted that Rev Davis stated specifically that the abducted girl was a daughter of the second wife of a Mr Sackett. As far as is known, Abigail Hannum, Elizabeth's mother, was John Sackett's first wife. Of the histories of Westfield so far researched, no record of an Indian raid on Westfield in 1682 has been found.
While there is not sufficient evidence to identify Chief Sackett as a son of Elizabeth Sackett, it would appear that he did exist. If, as told in the legend, he was the son of a captive Sackett, another candidate who would be his mother has not been found. Of Elizabeth's sisters, Mary had died an infant in Springfield in 1667, and Abigail, Hannah, a second Mary, and a second Abigail all lived to adulthood and married. There were no other Sackett daughters in Westfield at the relevant time. Chief Sackett's parentage remains a mystery. It would seem possible that he had an Indian name that sounded like Sackett. Indeed, Stuart Strothman uses the Abenaki name "Saksis" as well as "Sackett" in his novel.
Davis, Historical Sketch of Westfield, 1826
A daughter of the second wife of a Mr. Sackett (her name I do not know) was taken captive by the Indians and carried to the Northwest part of New York, married an Indian, and remained among them as long as she lived. Her descendants have been here to see their mother's friends several times since the French war. Previous to that they used some exertions to make others of the Sackett family captives but did not succeed.
—Emerson Davis, A.M., Preceptor of Westfield Academy, A Historical Sketch of Westfield, printed and published at Westfield by Joseph Root, 1826, p 10.
Hoyt, A History of the Indian Wars, 1824
In the various attacks upon small parties, by surprise, the enemy had generally been successful; but scouting parties under brave and cautious officers sometimes turned the scales against them. A gallant case of this kind occurred about the time colonel Williams took the command. Captain Humphrey Hobbs, with forty men, was ordered from Charlestown, through the woods to fort Shirley, in Heath, one of the posts on the Massachusetts line. The march was made without interruption, until Hobbs arrived at what is now Marlborough, in Vermont, about twelve miles northwest of fort Dummer, where he halted on the twenty sixth of June, to give his men an opportunity to refresh themselves. A large body of Indians under a resolute chief, by the name of Sackett,* discovered Hobbs' trail, and made a rapid march to cut him off. Without being apprized of the pursuit of the enemy, Hobbs had circumspectly posted a guard on his trail, and his men were regaling themselves at their packs, on a low piece of ground, covered with alders, intermixed with large trees, and watered by a rivulet. The enemy soon came up, and drove in the guard, which first apprized Hobbs of their proximity. Without the least knowledge of their strength, he instantly formed for action; each man selecting his tree for a cover. Confident of victory from their superiority of numbers, the enemy rushed up, and received Hobbs’ well directed fire, which cut down a number, and checked their impetuosity. Covering themselves also, with trees and brush, the action became warm, and a severe conflict ensued between sharp shooters. The two commanders had been known to each other, in time of peace, and both bore the character of intrepidity. Sackett who could speak English, in a stentorian voice, frequently called upon Hobbs to surrender, and threatened, in case of refusal, to rush in and sacrifice his men with the tomahawk. Hobbs, in a voice which shook the forest, as often returned a defiance, and urged his enemy to put his threats in execution. The action continued with undaunted resolution and not unfrequently, the enemy approached Hobbs’ line; but were driven back to their first position, by the fatal fire of his sharp sighted marksmen; and thus about four hours elapsed, without either side giving up an inch of their original ground. At length, finding Hobbs determined on either death or victory, and that his own men had suffered severely, Sackett ordered a retreat, carrying off his dead and wounded, and leaving his antagonist to continue his march without further molestation.
[Hoyt's footnote] * This chief is said to have been a half blooded Indian, a descendant of a captive, taken at Westfield, Massachusetts.
—E. Hoyt, Esq., Antiquarian Researches: comprising A History of the Indian Wars in the country bordering Connecticut River and parts adjacent..., Ansel Phelps, Greenfield, Mass., Dec 1824, pp 249–250.
Holland, History of Western Massachusetts, 1855
About this time  a skirmish took place in Marlborough, Vt., which has so many assoociations with persons and localities coming within the range of this history, as to claim a notice. A detachment of 42 soldiiers, under Captain Humphrey Hobbs of Springfield and Lieut. Alexander of Northfield, left the fort at Charlestown for Fort Shirley in Heath. Hobbs had halted in a low piece of ground, to allow his men opportunity to eat, leaving in the rear a small guard. Previously, one Sackett, a half-blooded Indian chief, supposed to be the descendant of a captive taken at Westfield, had discovered the passage of the party, and, with about 300 Indians, followed the trail, and coming upon the guard, drove them in. Hobbs did not know the strength of the enemy, but instantly commanded every man to take his tree, and fight. Confident in the power of his numbers, Sackett rushed in, and his men received a murderous fire, which killed a number, and immediately put the remainder upon their caution and their best behavior; and there the two parties fought for four hours. Hobbs and Sackett were old acquaintances, and the latter frequently called upon the former to surrender, and threatened in case of a refusal, to close in and finish the work with the tomahawk. Hobbs always returned a defiant answer, and bade him put his threats into execution. The determination of Hobbs was too much, and Sackett retreated, taking with him his dead and wounded—a large number. His force was at least six times that of Hobbs, while the latter lost but three men, and only three more were wounded.
—Josiah Gilbert Holland, History of Western Massachusetts: The Counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire, Samuel Bowles & Co., Springfield, 1855, pp 178–179.
Lockwood, Westfield and Its Historic Influences, 1922
King George's War
In June, 1748, Captain Humphry of Springfield was ordered to go from Charlestown, through the woods, to Fort Shirley, with a force of forty men. When they reached the present location of Marlborough in Vermont, about twelve miles northwest of Fort Dummer, he halted to rest his men. They were refreshing themselves on a piece of ground on which grew alders and many large trees, through which a rivulet flowed, when the guard posted by Hobbs on the trail was driven in by a large body of Indians, commanded by a chief named Sackett, a half-breed descendant of a captive taken at Westfield in an earlier war. Though startled by the sudden onslaught, and totally ignorant of the strength of his opponents, Hobbs and his company immediately prepared for action, each man selecting a tree for cover. The English had learned much about frontier warfare since the days of Bloody Brook in Philip’s War. Hoyt’s account says:
[Lockwood quotes the above extract from Hoyt's history]
The size of Sackett’s force is estimated by Hoyt at fully four times that of the English. Later in the same summer a part of the same band killed and wounded several settlers in the region of Fort Dummer and Northfield. This half-breed chief was probably familiar with the region about Westfield. Doctor Davis, in his historical sketch of Westfield, the only copy of which known to be extant is carefully preserved in the Westfield Atheneum, says, referring to an earlier period, “A daughter of the second wife of a Mr. Sackett (her name I do not know) was taken captive by the Indians and carried captive to the northwest part of New York, married an Indian and remained among them as long as she lived. Her descendants have been here to see their mother’s friends several times since the French war. Previous to that they used some exertions to make others of the Sackett family captives but did not succeed.
—John Lockwood, Westfield and Its Historic Influences 1669-1919, volume 1, published by the author, 1922, p 367.
Pitoniak, Western Massachusetts history: the Westfield area, 1970
The records show that Elizabeth Sackett died on June 15, 1682, but long research proves this was false. Elizabeth was actually captured by Indians during a raid, other members of the family managing to get safely into the log house. Rev. E. Davis, in a history of this area, mentions the fact that the Indians captured a daughter of John Sackett and took her to northern New York. Here she was raised as an Indian. Later, around 1710, Elizabeth visited Westfield with her Indian husband and son and daughter. As they were not used to living in a log house, they built a teepee where they lived while in Westfield. They eventually left and Elizabeth never returned, but her son grew up to be an Indian Chief and took his mother's name of Sackett. In later years Chief Sackett was well known around the area for his raids and he is mentioned by J.G. Holland in his History of Western Massachusetts as having attacked a detachment of soldiers near Heath, Massachuetts in 1748.
—Stephen J Pitoniak, Western Massachusetts history: the Westfield area, unknown publisher, 1970, p 3.
Notes & Citations
- Charles Weygant, The Sacketts of America, "15. Elizabeth Sacket. b. May 27, 1677; d. June 16, 1682."
- The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (Boston: NEHGS), vol 6, July 1852, "Marriages, Births and Deaths in Westfield", p 266, "John Sacket, wife Abigail; chn. Mary, b. June 8, 1672; Samuel, b. Oct. 18, 1674; Elizabeth, b. Aug. 28, 1677, d. June 15, 1682. Abigail, his wife, d. Oct. 9, 1690. He married Sarah Steward, 1691. John Sacket, d. Ap. 8, 1719."
- Birth & Death Records (NEHGS), Westfield, Massachusetts, "Sacket, Elizabeth, d. John, b. Aug. 28, 1677."
- James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1860-62).
- Birth & Death Records (NEHGS), Westfield, Massachusetts, "Sacket, Elizabeth, d. John, d. June 15, 1682."
|See also||Sackett by Stuart Strothman|
|Sackett line||2nd great-granddaughter of Thomas Sackett the elder of St Peter in Thanet|
|Charts||Line 3a (American)|
|Last Edited||1 Apr 2021|