Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hannah Dustin ~ A Heroine now suffering from neglect

When we visited the Hannah Dustin Monument on 6 April 2013, the parking lot was full but no one was visiting the monument.  The lot is used as a "Park and Ride".   We were the only people who were visiting the monument during the half hour or so we were there.  The monument is located off of Exit 17 of Route 93 in Boscawen, New Hampshire.  It is a State Park.  You can see a highway marker by the parking area, and the small brown sign pointing to the path to the monument.  It is a short walk downhill to the bridge which takes you to the island where the statue is located. 

Here is the story of Hannah Dustin:  On 15 March 1697 she was taken captive from her bed with her newborn daughter on the raid on Haverhill, Massachusetts.  She witnessed the Indians murder her baby and neighbors.  The captives were taken north up the Merrimack River in canoes, headed to Canada.  Later, while stopped on an island near present day Boscawen, New Hampshire, Hannah Dustin killed and scalped ten of the Indians.  Hannah and two captives paddled in the canoes back to Haverhill.  

Hannah Dustin was the first American woman to be honored with a statue raised with public funds in 1872 on this island in Boscawen. You can see the axe and scalps in her hands on the statue.  A bronze statue was raised in Haverhill in 1879.  The story is controversial because both sides, the Puritans and the Indians, were scalping and murdering.  In the attack on Haverhill, 27 colonists were killed and 13 taken captive for the French.  When Hannah murdered the Indians, it was a family group of four adults and six children.   Cotton Mather wrote about this story in his 1702 book Magnalia Christi Americana, and Hawthorne, Whittier and Thoreau also retold the tale.

Was she a hero or a murderer?

Genealogy:  Hannah (Emerson) Dustin is my first cousin, 10 generations removed.  Although I have many Emerson ancestors, they are unrelated to this famous woman.  I am related to her maternal side, the Websters.  

Generation 1:  Thomas Webster (1570 - 1634) and Margery Unknown (about 1609 - 1687) (also my 10th great grandparents, I descend from their son Thomas Webster)

Generation 2: John Webster (1605- 1646) and Mary Shatswell (1610 - 1694).  Mary is also my 10th great grandmother from her second marriage to my ancestor John Emery.  

Generation 3: Hannah Webster (1635 - 1707) and Michael Emerson (1627 - 1709)  They had thirteen children.

Generation 4: Hannah Emerson, born 23 December 1657 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, died before 6 May 1738 in Haverhill; married on 3 December 1677 to Thomas Dustin, son of Thomas Dustin and Elizabeth Wheeler.  They had thirteen children born in Haverhill. 
  1.  Hannah, born 22 August 1678 m. Daniel Cheney
  2.  Elizabeth, born 7 May 1680, m. Stephen Emerson
  3.  Mary, born 4 November 1681, d. 18 October 1696
  4. Thomas, born 5 January 1683 m. Mary Ingalls
  5. Nathaniel, born 16 May 1685
  6. John, born 2 February 1686
  7. Sarah, born 4 July 1688 m. John Watts
  8. Abigail, born Oct 1690
  9. Jonathan, born 14 Jan 1692
  10.  Timothy, born 14 September 1694 m. Sarah Johnson
  11.  Mehitable, born 14 September 1694
  12.  Martha , born 9 March 1697, d. 15 March 1697 (infant killed in the raid)
  13.  Lydia, born 4 October 1698 

The path is gradual, but remember you will be walking uphill all the way back to your car! At the bottom of the hill look for the railroad bridge.  Cross the bridge and follow the railroad tracks to the statue.  You can see the statue looming to the left of the tracks in the photo below. 

The New Hampshire statue of Hannah Dustin is very large, on a towering pedestal.  Even so, Hannah is missing her nose (vandalism or storm damage?) and there is graffiti on the far side of the statue.  This is not surprising since the location is not visible from the road, and quite remote.  The path is quite rough, and crossing the railroad bridge to the island makes it seem even more remote.  I wouldn't walk here alone.    

Hannah Dustin Memorial State Historic Site:

Hannah Dustin: The Judgement of History by Kathryn Whitford


Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. A collateral relative on my Haycock side married one of her granddaughters. I have been fascinated by her story ever since. Thank you for adding her information to your blog!

  2. Sadly I haven't visited in the last few years. It is on my list for this year. I am a descendant as well from their daughter Hannah. When I was a child we would stop every Sunday at the monument for a picnic at the end of our Sunday Drive. "Looking for a Dirt Road" really meant we went to visit our elderly relatives in Sutton, New London area. We always found a new dirt road each week; had a picnic at the monument ending the day with ice cream in Boscowen. These were some of my favorite memories as a child.

  3. I have been there! It is quite neglected. I was there in the fall and saw some beautiful foliage. Samuel, the boy who escaped with her is my ancestor, and a few years ago I had a roommate who was Hannah's descendant. Interesting story.

  4. I'm a first cousins several times removed to Hannah too, and I'm very proud of her. Considering she was was being force-marched to be sold into slavery to French Canadians, and had seen her captors smash her baby's head against a tree, going Lizzie Borden on them to escape was justifiable. If the roles were reversed, this wouldn't even be a controversy.

  5. Enjoyed studying this, very good stuff.

  6. Thank you for posting this. She is my grandmother 11 times (I think) removed. I hope to be able to see her statues in person one day. I hate to think of this monument being vandalized.

  7. Thanks for an interesting post about Hannah Dustin. I just discovered that she's my 8th great-grandmother.

  8. My wife is related to Hannah on her fathers side Dustins he was bprn in Lynn Mass. One day I whant to take her there.She grew up in Fla and has never been

  9. My wife is related to Hannah Dustin on her fathers side Dustin of Lynn Mass I would like to take here there she has never seen it. She grew up in Fla

  10. My mother told me that Hannah Dustin was a distant relative of ours. I don't know the connection or which of my mothers parents she was related to but I grew up hearing the story of Hannah Dustin We had a Jim Bean commerative bottle with her likeness on it sitting on the mantle when I was growing up.

  11. My mother told me that Hannah Dustin was a distant relative of ours. I don't know the connection or which of my mothers parents she was related to but I grew up hearing the story of Hannah Dustin We had a Jim Bean commerative bottle with her likeness on it sitting on the mantle when I was growing up.

  12. She's my 8x great grandmother. I went to see the garrison in Haverhill, MA and found it fascinating. They made of point of saying Hannah was neither a hero nor a victim. She was a survivor.

  13. Hannah is also my 8X Grandmother. I am looking forward to making the trip to Haverhill, MA.

    Chuck Adams