Settlement of the central Connecticut River Valley was a long and slow process. For years the Valley was considered the frontier, and there was minimal protection for its settlers. In 1733, The General Court of Massachusetts granted a charter, known as No. 1, for Chesterfield's present area. In 1752, NH issued a charter for the township of Chesterfield, but the town's area still remained unsettled. It wasn't until November 1761 that Moses Smith and William Thomas traveled upriver and established Chesterfield's first Anglo permanent settlement. Why? Six deadly wars!
King Philip's War 1675 – 1676
(Native American vs. Anglo settlers)
(1) The fledgling Massachusetts Bay Colony settlements of Springfield (1636), Northampton (1654), Deerfield (1669), and Northfield (1673), were abandoned or destroyed. The war resulted in heavy causalities on both sides. Resettlement was attempted, but the frontier's pioneers continued to suffer from frequent attacks, putting their lives in great danger. Adding to their peril, in 1677 the French, in a quest to control the area, began the practice of purchasing English captives.
King Williams’s War
1690 – 1697
(2) Perpetual hostilities between England and France spilled over into their colonies. This war was mostly by proxy with the French and English supporting Native American allies. Unfortunately, many infant settlements in the Connecticut River Valley endured deadly attacks, and many pioneers were forced to flee their homes. (Picture is Major Wildron’s Death, metal plate, during the Cocheco Massacre (Dover, NH) on June 27-28, 1689, led by Chief Kancamagus. This was one of the first actions of the war.) It was a revengance attack from actions in King Philip's War.)
Queen Anne’s War
(3) Known in Europe as the War for Spanish Succession, in the colonies it was referred to as the Third Indian War. It was during this conflict that the infamous Deerfield Raid occurred (Feb. 29, 1704). Fifty settlers were killed and 112 marched 300 miles to captivity in French Canada, with many dying along the way. The Deerfield Raid was not an unusual event, just one of the best documented. It was common practice for captives to be marched to Canada. If they survived, they were either assimilated into the Native American society, or forced to convert to Catholicism while “servants” of the Jesuits. If lucky, they were ransomed back to their families. Some had to endure this cruel endurance test more than once in their lifetime.
MonDrummer’s War (Father Raile’s War or Greylock’s War)
1722 – 1725
(4) At the end Queen Anne’s War, the colonial borders of northeastern America were reshaped between France and England. The process however, ignored the Wabanaki Confederacy which held claim to most of the land. The 1713 Treaty of Portsmouth between the Eastern Abenakis and the MA Bay and NH Colonies attempted to rectify this exclusion. However, the Anglo settlers continued to break the treaty resulting in open warfare. To provide security to the "northern" valley, Ft. Drummer, the first permanent settlement in VT, was built in 1724. The Western Abenakis Warrior Chief, Grey Lock, distinguished himself by conducting guerrilla raids into VT and western MA. Even after peace was declared with the other tribes, Grey Lock kept raiding for the next two decades.
NHKing George’s War
1744 – 1749
(5) At about 40 miles north of Ft. Drummer, Plantation No. 4 (Charlestown) was the northernmost settlement in New England's frontier. Settled in 1740, for protection Fort at No. 4 was constructed in 1744. But hostilities forced complete abandonment 1746. In addition, all the settlers fled Upper Ashuelot (Keene), Lower Ashuelot (Swanzey), and Arlington (Winchester). However, in 1747 the militia returned and regained control of the fort from the French and their native allies. The history of Keene notes that during this period, bounties were offered for Native American men, women, and children captives on a graduated scale, with lesser sums offered for just their scalps. This was one of the deadliest conflicts, with approximately 8% of northern New England colonial men killed.
French & Indian War
(6) Weary of the decades of hostilities, during this conflict, NH provided the colonial army with 5,000 men, the most of any colony in proportion to its population. This region of the Connecticut Valley was under relentless attacks with one encounter in Walpole resulting in 400 bullet holes lodged in a settler’s blockhouse during one attack. In Oct. 1759, the St. Francis Indian Village on the St. Lawrence River was destroyed by the NH Roger's Rangers. In Sept. 1760, the British captured Montreal. These actions finally brought peace to the Valley. However, Great Britain's attempt to recoup the cost of these wars from the colonies, eventually lead to the American Revolution.