In Which My Family Founds New England #5: King Philip’s War


This is part five of a five-part series. For Part One (Pilgrims) go here; and Part Two (Puritans) go here, for Part Three (Dissenters) go here, and for Part Four (where they all come together), go here. 

I saved this post for today (Memorial Day) because it concerns a war. It would appall the people who lived through it (as it must appall anyone today who learns about it) to know that King Philip’s War would one day be almost completely forgotten, as it has been today. For it is one of America’s most significant wars, for so many reasons:

1. It was, proportionally the costliest and bloodiest war in American history

2. It was one the few wars, perhaps the only one, in which American Indians not only enjoyed significant victories, but came close to defeating the English settlers

3. It set the tone for Indian-White relations for the next two centuries

4. It effectively finished the Native Americans of New England as a power to be reckoned with in the colonies

The circumstances were these:

By 1675, the English had maintained colonies in the New England area for 55 years. There were 80,000 colonists living in 110 towns between New Haven and Maine. By then, the Native Americans living in the area had been reduced to about 10,000 in number (largely due to diseases brought by European sailors prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims). Further, this number was divided amongst several tribes: the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Narragansett, Mohegan, Pequot, and others.

Tension was building. Whereas the Wampanoag chief Massasoit had maintained friendly relations with the Plymouth colonists, his successor and son Metacomet (a.k.a. King Philip) was in a far different position. For starters, the real successor had been Metacom’s older brother Alexander, who was widely suspected of having been poisoned by the English. And unlike the earliest settlers of Plymouth, and those of Rhode Island (who made a point of establishing respectful and equitable relations with the Indians) the large influx of Massachusetts colonists had no qualms about just taking what they wanted. The clock seemed to be ticking. King Philip saw that things were only going to get worse, and this was perhaps his last and only chance to get rid of the European interlopers, who already outnumbered the Indians 8 to 1 (and not all of the tribes were aligned with King Philip).

Nevertheless, in 1675 hostilities broke out. All of the New England colonies were drawn in, as were all of the local Indian tribes (though some were allies of the English). The English had 16,000 men under arms, the Indians more like 2,000. Still the Indians did enormous damage to the colonies, especially during the first year. A large proportion of the fledgling towns were completely wiped out, all of the others were converted into fortresses. And while in the end the tribes were fatally reduced in number, they hit the colonists hard enough that it took them a couple of generations to recover as well.


At any rate, the war affected everyone we have written about thus far, and these are some other of my ancestors and other relations who were touched by the events:


Colonel Benjamin Church — Church was Governor Josiah Winslow’s principal aide and main military leader during King Philip’s War, and also the later Indian battles King William’s War and Queen Anne’s War. He is considered the father of the U.S. army rangers and a pioneer in Indian fighting tactics (which largely emulated those of the native Americans themselves). His influential book on the topic was called  Entertaining Passages relating to Philip’s War. I am distantly related to him through our common ancestor the Pilgrim Richard Warren.

Captain Isaac Johnson was my (8th) great grandfather. He arrived in Massachusetts with his father and family with John Winthrop’s fleet in 1630. He joined the artillery in 1645 and was made a Captain in 1653. He died in the Great Swamp Fight, which was catastrophic for the Narragansetts,  in my hometown in 1675.


Mary Rowlandson — Rowlandson, the wife of Rev. Joseph Rowlandson of Lancaster, Massachusetts was captured by Indians in 1675. Her hair-raising account of the experience was published a few years later as  The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson I am distantly related to her by marriage.

Lt. Henry Adams, my (8th) great grandfather, son of the John Adams ancestor I mentioned in this post, was shot and killed by Indians in Braintree in 1676. His wife Elizabeth Paine, my (8th) great grandmother was killed by the accidental discharge of a soldier’s gun a week later.

Lt. William Bartholomew was my (7th) great grandfather. He was made Lieutenant during the Indian raid on Hadley Massachusetts in 1677. His daughter Abigail and 13 others were kidnapped by Indians and taken to Canada. They were later ransomed and returned.

John Woods, my (9th) great grandfather, a founder of Marlborough, Mass was a Sergeant in the war and took charge of garrisoning houses in his area

John Babcock, brother of my (9th) great grandmother Margaret Leland (and son of Westerly founder James Badcock: see this post) served with the Stonington militia and fought in the Great Swamp Fight

James Hadlock, my (9th) great grandfather served under Capt. Samuel Wadsworth and Capt. John Holbrook in 1676.


James Bell, my (9th) great grandfather, killed with 6 other men while working in a field in Taunton in 1676.

Sampson Mason, my (9th) great grandfather, one of the founders of Swansea and Attleborough was killed by Indians in Rehoboth in 1676 and his home ravaged. Not sure if he was a civilian in the context of this war; he had earlier fought with Cromwell back in England. I am descended from Mason along no less than three separate lines, each from a different one of his children.

Nathaniel Woodcock, son of my (9th) great grandfather John and brother of my (8th) great grandmother Sarah was slain by Indians while working in a cornfield in Attleborough in 1676


At any rate, as I mentioned in the previous post, Woodstock, CT, somewhat in the interior was not founded until 1682. I find the timing interesting. I imagine a lot of new settlement began around this time on what were previously Indian lands.

Though King Philip’s War was pivotal, conflicts with local Native Americans were not over by any means, although it tended now to be on what was now the frontier (Northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine).

In 1689, over a decade after King Philip’s War, my (8th) great grandfather Daniel Bradley was killed by Indians in Haverhill, Massachusetts at the age of 76. There were subsequent attacks on the Bradley family in 1697, 1704, 1706 and 1708. There is an excellent, vivid account of the attacks here, along with a terrific photo of a real garrison house from the time. Essentially, the house is of brick, with fortified doors and windows, like an armory.

On February 22, 1698, my (7th) great grandfather Samuel Ladd, along with his 20 year old son Daniel and two friends left the safety of their village (also Haverhill) to bring in hay. Indians attacked. Samuel was murdered and Daniel was kidnapped and brought back to the Indian compound in what is now New Hampshire. Daniel escaped soon after but what was caught and tied to a tree for two weeks. A gash was cut into his face and filled with gun powder. He finally escaped for good a few years later, recovered his father’s property and was ever after nicknamed the “Marked Man” for the permanent black tattoo given to him by the natives.

4 Responses to “In Which My Family Founds New England #5: King Philip’s War”

  1. Zero Boy Says:

    I read ‘Fflintlock and Tomahawk’, 4 years ago the summer before my mums death. She lived in Portsmouth Rhode Island. When she was dying in Newport I walked across the street from the Hospital to my favorite bookstore. There I found the war diary of Benjamin Church. He was the man whose troops defeated and killed Metacomet. He was respected by the Indians and at first rejected by the colonist authorities. But his tactics worked and was recalled and given what he wanted. He used indians who were allies to defeat the Indians. (Custer would learn this lesson well and use it to success and ultimately failure.) He would pursue vigorously Metacomet without let up with his Indians who were the majority of his troops and offer those who surrendered fair terms if they were not lknown to have been involved with massacring colonists. He could speak their language and was known as fair before and during the war. His indian troops killed Metacomet. I read his book the day after my mums death and while in her house I noticed that The book had been republished in 1975 by the town of little Compton. Church’s grave and home were there. I googled the address only to find that literally across the Taconic River from my mothers apartment was his house and grave! I had been looking at it for 8 years. That night on PBS as we grieved a special came on written, directed and produced by native Americans about………Metacomet and King Philips war! The Mass colony went from 20,000 people to 8,000 after that war when many people ran home to England. Thank you for writing this as it is important for people to realize where we came from and the first, us or them war. May we someday we will make up for our genocide against the natives.

  2. Fritzerier Says:

    My family history is mostly unknown to me regarding my lineage, especially my Wampanoag roots, but I am 1/4th Native American and according to my family I’m related to King Philip. I’ve tried to find out anything about lineage but that’s all I’ve gotten out of my parents and my grandmother before she died (my grandparents had died before I was born). The only other thing I know is that my full-blooded great grandmother was a bootlegger during the Prohibition and bootlegged whiskey in the New Bedford/Acushnet area. Currently I live right in front of the Freetown State Forest with my parents (I’m only 19) and I’ve often heard voices which my aunt attributes to the spirits in that area (personally I owe it to my pre-disposed schizophrenia lol) but I do believe there is something spiritual around me and my family often. I researched what hawks symbolized to Native American peoples and it’s supposedly a spirit guide and a messenger of change or danger. Often when in the car or when my parents or aunt are driving a single hawk will fly overhead and be clearly visible to them, and we’ve often had hawks nest in the trees on our property, not to mention various deer and turkeys coming near our sun room and not even fleeing when we open the door to approach to see them up close, and we’ve always had some sort of good connection to animals regarding my father’s side of the family (I held an untamed skunk in my lap at 5 and even pet it without it spraying me). I’ve met only one other Wampanoag outside of my family who was a medicine man who was a submarine crew member during the Vietnam War who smudged me and blessed me. Only from his words and the words of my family can I say my lineage can be supposedly traced to King Philip, but I can’t find any concrete info. It really bugs me that I can’t confirm whether or not I really am related to King Philip and all of the odd things happening to me and my family are just coincidence or if there is meaning behind it all. Would you perhaps know of any way I could find some sort of way to find evidence that I am related?

    • Man — it’s nice to hear from you, you sound like an amazing individual! Well, I’ve been learning about my own roots through the web site and then googling ancestors I’ve found there. The software is great, it hooks you up to other people’s family trees so you benefit from their research. That way, you can fill in the gaps. ALSO: there are now inexpensive DNA tests you can take. It may be tough to make a connection to a specific person, like King Philip, but I believe that is also possible (though not not necessarily certain) with a Y-DNA test. My family believed we had some Cherokee roots but the DNA didn’t show it, but I am to contest that! And I also have several Powhatans in my family tree. Good luck! And please stay in touch. Your story (and your stories) are facinating

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