And Along Came Abraham

The owl hooted three times in the pre-dawn twilight. Keziah knew that was the signal that Abraham was waiting for her. Abraham was at home in the wood having grown up at Brookfield and then moved with his family to Quabbin. He hadn’t given up on their courtship and offered his friendship which she had never had before. The Great Awakening was happening and as they viewed each new sunrise, Abraham convinced her that God was giving them a new day and a new slate to write their lives, on which God’s promises would be renewed each day. It was a lovely new thought for Keziah. Hannah Gibbs, his sister, had helped Keziah secretively remove her belongings in the preceeding days, depositing them in the hollow tree in the forest at the edge of the farm. The couple had tried to make the union official with the ways of the Puritans. Their marriage banns were read in the Hardwick Church on March 10, 1744; Keziah Atwood intention to marry Abraham Gibbs of Quabbin (Greenwich). Their request was forbidden. Keziah’s stepfather Elisha Higgins had written a letter stopping the underage marriage of his stepdaughter.

Keziah was 17, Abraham 24. Elisha had disapproved of Abraham from the minute of meeting him. He had been escorting his sister Hannah through the forests and over the rivers from Quabbin to Hardwick when they took shelter at the Higgins homestead. Abraham stooped to enter the door frame of Keziah’s home. The brother and sister were soaked to the bone and sought relief from the cold rain they’d been caught out in. As Abraham’s eyes adjusted to the light, he’d spotted the young and beautiful Keziah and winked at her. Elisha saw and immediately disapproved. But Abraham was smitten.

Who was this Abraham? His roots were Puritan and English. Matthew Gibbs was born in 1615 at Lendam, Kent, England. He and his parent William (Jane Turney his mother had died) came to Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1650. The next year Matthew married Mary Bradish, daughter of Robert and Mary Bradish, who also came from England to America seeking land. The Gibbs had eleven children, all born in Charlestown, Middlesex County, which was the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Boston was across the river. Children: Mary 1652-1691; Hannah 1654-1695; Thomas 1656-1657; Matthew Jr. 1656-1732; Elizabeth 1658-1672; Thomas 1660-1687; John Apr 10, 1662-1718; Samuel 1665-1718; Joseph 1667; Jonathan 1669; Josiah 1671.

Massasoit was the peaceful Wampanoag Native Chief who helped the first Pilgrims providing corn and helping them build their homes as they came to the American Colonies. As more and more white men came, his son Metacomet, who took the name King Philip, waged war as their hunting lands were encroached upon. Tensions spilled over as 3 of his men were put on trial and executed. Aggressive expansion of colonist territories resulted in the warriors raiding and massacring 1000 during King Philip’s War June 20, 1675- Apr 12, 1678.

The lives of the colonists were threatened. Thriving villages were in ashes; fathers, husbands, brothers were slain or taken captives; farms and homes were laid waste and whole communities lived in block houses while the “reign of terror swept over them”. John Gibbs was 13 years old when his brother Matthew, aged 19 was listed with 75 men with Captain. Davenport with the Narraganset Expedition, December 1675, 5th Co. MA Regiment. On December 19th at the great Fort Fight, Indians shot 3 bullets through the Captain from which he bled to death. Edward Tyng took command. Matthew Gibbs Jr. was with William Gleason and this is the account given. A tedious march on a bitter cold night, in a severe snowstorm, they had marched all night and finally laid down in an open field. At 5 AM on the Lord’s Day they marched again and came upon the enemy. After a three hour fight, they recovered their wounded, 18 men and returned to quarters. There were 210 dead, 8 left dead at the fort and another 12 men died in the swamp. The troops burnt all the wigwarms and all the corn they found in baskets. The men had been promised if they took the fort and drove the enemy out they should have gratuity in land beside their wages. The Indians fled into a cedar swamp on an island and were pursued by companies of MA, Plymouth and Connecticut. The two survived and marched from dawn till noon, then engaged in a life and death struggle from noon until sunset, then plodded steadily back through the deepening snows and over unbroken roads, still fearing ambush. Another 22 died on this march back from their wounds and exposure. Their limbs were frozen and swollen.

Our John Gibbs married Anne Gleason. Thomas Gleason her father, probably born in Sulgrave, Northampton County, England in 1607, died in Cambridge, Mass. in 1686. He married in England to Susanna Page who died in Boston, 1691. His children: Thomas, Joseph, John, Philip, Nathaniel b 1651 died April 21, 1676, was killed that night in the Sudbury Fight with King Phillip’s warriors, where Col. Wadsworth and 50-60 troops were ambushed and slaughtered; Isaac, William, Mary and Anne b Charlestown, MA, 1659. In 1658 Anne’s father Thomas had moved the family here to Charlestown and on Dec 3, 1658 leased from Captain Scarlett, a portion of the Squa Sachem lands on the west side of Mysticke Pond. Soon after the lease was made a question arose about the ownership of the lands. The town of Charlestown sued Thomas Gleason and all his resources were swallowed up in the litigation and the case was unsettled when he died the spring of 1686. The oldest son, Thomas, settled near Sudbury and Framingham, in 1665 and bought 80 acres from the Rice family and Gleason’s Pond and Gleason’s Hill named thereafter. Four generations of Gleason’s lived here. His will was proved Sept 10, 1705 and states: to my son-in-law John Gibbs, who married my daughter Ann Gleason, I give and bequeath five shillings in money and gave to grandson John Gibbs 1 cow and his bringing up if he shall remain with my son John Gleason until 21 years of age. His assets included books, arms, beds with linens, pewter, brass and iron household, tables and chairs, loom, tools, corn, horse, cattle and swine, land and buildings. Thomas Gleason Jr. had children: Sarah born Feb 6, 1665 married Jeremiah Morse. He contested the will and lost; Anne b Apr 27, 1667 married John Gibbs; Thomas 1669; Isaac 1674; Patience 1677; Mary 1680; John 1682. (The John aged 14, raised by his Uncle John Gleason when his mother died ).

John and Anne Gleason Gibbs were married Apr 27, 1688 and children were born at Sudbury/Framingham: Thomas Apr 19, 1689; John Aug 3, 1691;Mercy Aug 3, 1691 (twins). Anne died in 1694 and John remarried Sarah Cutler and had 6 more children.

Thomas Gibbs moved to Brookfield, MA and had 80 acres there August 13, 1714 which he increased to 225 acres. Thomas married Hannah who died Dec 19, 1717 after childbirth when infant daughter, Abigail, also died December 5, 1717. Thomas then married Sarah Woolcott on April 13, 1719 at Brookfield., Massachusetts.

There were 5 generations of Woolcutt’s named John. John I born in England; John II b 1632 at Newbury and married there on Nov 20, 1653 Mary Thurlow 1636-1661 and owned 100 acres in a grant of land. He sold 600 acres on the Merrimack River October 1661 and built the bridge between Newbury and Rowley, and a windmill at Marbelhead in 1679, named as millwright and carpenter. Children born: Sarah 1657-1717; John III 1660-1747; Hannah 1679-1745. Brookfield in 1673 was attacked and of the 17 homesteaders 5 were killed in the ambush and siege of the town. The entire town but 1 house was burned out. Two women who survived each gave birth to twins and walked to Boston. The settlers were gloomy, discouragement felt in the stoutest hearts. The crops were out and when they joined together to convey grain from Deerfield to Hatfield they were ambushed by 500 and all slain. John Woolcott II was in Captain Appleton’s Troopers, who were sent in September 1675, on an expedition to protect the settlements along the Connecticut River, then being menaced by the Indians. John Woolcott marched through Brookfield and he liked what he saw and went back and settled there. His was one of the first homes rebuilt at Woolcott’s Corner. Major Pyschon put Mr. Woolcott in charge of the garrison at Brookfield and he died at Brookfield September 1690.

John III Woolcott b Oct 25, 1660 married Jan 4, 1684 Joanna Emerson 1663- Jul 4, 1751. John was one of the first to resettle Brookfield in 1686. He and his brother Joseph were the first squatters and awaiting land titles. Here he received several grants of land, one for building a grist-mill and a sawmill. Children: Joanna 1686-1751; Ruth 1690-1723; John Woolcott IV 1695-1728; Sarah M 1698-1777; Capt. Nathaniel 1700-1771; Hannah 1704; Lydia 1710-1750; Hannah 1712-1794.

Hostilities again broke out with the French and Indian War. Woolcott Village was unprotected. 40 savages came from the North, lying in ambush, watched and surprised Woolcott, Mason and Lawrence who were out haying in a meadow. On July 31, 1693 eight men, women and children were killed, Joseph Mason and son and wife and 2 small children of Joseph Woolcott carried away. Soldiers tracked and returned Dan Lawrence and wife and infant of Joseph Mason. The people of Brookfield desired a garrison and 6-10 men were sent and billeted in their homes which drew on their scanty supply of provisions. By 1698 John Woolcott’s signature was on a petition of 12 families to ask the court for a preacher, and the township was surveyed and given 8 square miles. In 1702, peace was short lived as England declared War on France. There were ten more years of savage warfare during the Queen Anne’s War 1702-1713. The French of Canada stirred up the Indians there who claimed ownership of the Brookfield old fields and meadows. An alarm of Indians being spotted sent the homesteaders driven from their houses into the fort. They couldn’t go out and plant or manage the fields. In nearby Deerfield 1704 where the snow had drifted the Indians climbed over the drifts into the fort and killed. They took captives and marched 111 away the 300 miles to Canada in the snow. The men were employed in scouting, marching, garrison duty and the outlying fields left unplowed and thus harvests were wanting. On October 13, 1708, John Woolcott’s son, John IV aged about 12 was out riding searching for cows, when the Indians shot his horse out from underneath him and took him prisoner. This was Sarah Woolcott’s brother; he was not returned until 1718. He became a trapper and while trying to avoid the Natives again in March 1728 steered for the far shore on the Connecticut River and was shot and killed. John Woolcott III was in service to raise a force and on the boat to help England attack Canada but the English fleet never arrived! He was given another 22 acres.

I can only imagine the life of Sarah Woolcott my 6th great grandmother, living this frontier life. She married my 6th great grandfather Thomas Gibbs and their first child born at Brookfield Jan 16, 1720 was…. Abraham Gibbs.

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