They weren’t always ‘innocent’ victims

Among the stories I deleted from the draft of Quaking Dover was one dealing with the fate of a grandson of Dover founder Edward Hilton.

While both of the immigrant Hilton brothers eventually left Dover, Edward’s family married prominently.

I still feel that the story illuminates the tensions of living on the frontier of early New Hampshire, as you’ll see. It just didn’t fit into the emerging thrust of my book.

Take a look:

In the summer of 1706, Winthrop Hilton led a work crew of 17 men into the forest of Epping, which was then still part of Exeter. Across New England, all white pines of two-foot circumference or more were reserved for the Royal Navy to use as masts, and the provincial surveyor recorded and marked these as the King’s pine. Hilton’s task was called limbing, in this instance the removal the limbs and bark from mast trees felled the previous winter.

“Their only tool was an ax,” Joy True, curator of the Epping Historical Society, explains. If the bark was not peeled off these tall, straight, majestic trees, they would become damaged by worms.

Hilton was also the highest-ranking military officer in New Hampshire, a position he filled after the death of Major Waldron in 1689. The family homestead in Newfields, also then part of Exeter, was a fortified, manned garrison.

“In 1706 the natives kept careful watch,” True writes. “They attacked and killed any man that left the shelter of the garrison. By the summer of 1710, the ravages of the war had greatly exhausted the people of the upper New England villages. Many of the men that were fit for military service were away at Port Royal in Nova Scotia defending settlers from Indian attacks. In the meantime, small bands of Indians in this area were making forays into the white settlements with increased daring.”

Colonel Hilton made for an exceptional target. As a leading figure in the expeditions to the eastern frontier, he had taken in the raid against the Indian settlement at Norridgewock, Maine. “As a result, he became the object of bitter grudges by the enemy,” True observes. “He was above average size, of muscular physique, and of resolute character. He was one of the best, a leader in his community; and he was respected by friends and neighbors. But Hilton had a darker side; he thought nothing of killing the enemy, man, woman or child. On Indian raids, he often spared the women and children, taking them into captivity. Hilton and his band of men, traveled far and near, pursuing the enemy. Is it any wonder, the Indians hated him, and plotted their revenge?”

He thought he had enough men to avert trouble, but it was, as True notes, “a wet and stormy day, and all their powder was wet, so of little use to them in an emergency. The attack was so sudden; they never had a chance to respond.

“Colonel Hilton had determined many years before that he would not be captured by the Indians. He would fight to the death rather than being captured. The enemy was aware of this, and after all their planning, they knew they could steal closer to Colonel Hilton and give him little opportunity to defend himself. Then they struck, their first target was Hilton, and then two other men were quickly killed, and two men were captured. The rest of the men fled for Exeter, and safety.”

One of the captives “was probably Dudley Hilton, brother of Winthrop. His body was not recovered at the massacre, and he was never heard from again.”


Let me now ask:

Does any of this fit into what you had envisioned as early New England?


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