King Phillip's War: Quaboag Plantation


During their stay in Quaboag several events transpired in the Hovey family. On November 2, 1670, James married Priscilla Warner and established a homestead soon after, and Abigail, daughter of Deacon Daniel, married John Ayers Jr. on August 28, 1672, and settled at Quaboag. She died prior to August of 1675. James was active in the community and was one of the signatories of the Petition of Incorporation dated October 10, 1673, that it might receive the name of "Brookfield". The request was granted and Quabog became a town, it's name being changed to Brookfield. James and Priscilla had three children born at Quaboag:

  1. Priscilla, born in 1671; married Samuel Smith on 23 Nov 1699 in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died on 9 August 1720

  2. Daniel, born in 1672; married Mercy [surname unknown] in 1697; died 7 March 1742, and

  3. James, born in 1674; married Deborah Barlow in 1694; died 13 Jul 1765 in Mansfield, Windham, Connecticut; all of whom were orphaned when their father was killed by the Indians on August 2, 1675.

Quaboag was far removed from the other settlements, being planted among the Indian villages. Prior to 1675 the settlers were confident of its security because of its decades of peaceful coexistence with its native neighbors. Although breakdown in Indian relations were taking place in other parts of Southern New England, the settlement at Quaboag seemed not to have been aware of it. They placed much reliance on their previous good relationships with the local Quaboag Indians, reassuring themselves that they were secure from aggression. Little did they realize that Muttaump, cosigner of the deed of purchase at Quaboag and pretended friend of the settlers, had achieved a position of eminence in the war cabinet of the Nipmucs. He was the leader of the forces responsible for the destruction of Quaboag Plantation.

Philip was a sachem, or chief, of the Wampanoag tribe of Native North Americans and the second son of the Wampanoag chief Massasoit, who for nearly 40 years had been the first and staunchest ally of the Pilgrim settlers of Plymouth, in what is now Massachusetts. Originally named Metacomet, he was called Philip by the English settlers. In 1662 Philip succeeded his brother and formally renewed the treaties of his father, which he honored for some years. The colonists, however, made continual encroachments on native lands. In retaliation Philip formed a confederation of tribes and in 1675 led an uprising now known as King Philip's War. They burned towns and killed many of the inhabitants. In return the colonists captured Native American women and children, destroyed crops, and promised impunity to Native American deserters. In December 1675 the colonists won a major victory. During the spring of 1676 the Native Americans held out, but their numbers steadily diminished, and in August, Philip was killed. The war then ended, and resistance to further colonial settlements in southern New England ceased.1

1"Philip (Native American chief)," Microsoft Encarta, 97 Encyclopedia

The reason for the assault on Quaboag is directly linked to King Phillip's war, and it was natural that Brookfield (as Quaboag had been renamed) should be selected by the natives for an early assault, since it was the most isolated of all English settlements in the Colony. The attack on Swansey on June 24th, 1675, signaled the beginning of the war. To determine the temper of the surrounding tribes within their jurisdiction, several emissaries had been sent to meet with the Nipmucs and the Quaboags. Captain Edward Hutchinson was assigned an escort consisting of Captain Thomas Wheeler and his mounted troop of about 20 men; Ephraim Curtis, a noted scout; and 3 friendly Indians to serve as interpreters. The party set out at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 1st, 1675. This escort was accompanied by the 3 non-commissioned officers in command of the small detachment at Brookfield, 1st Sgt. John Ayers Sr., 2nd Sgt. William Pritchard, and Corp. Richard Coy. In spite of the warnings by the Indian Scouts, the troop moved along the Bay Path, toward the rendezvous at Mensmeset.

As the small procession approached the swamp it became necessary to travel single file, there being a very rocky hill on the right hand, and a thick swamp on the left, filled with Indians who lay in wait to ambush the unsuspecting troop. When the men advanced about 60-70 rods the Indians attacked. With no alternative but to retreat, the men fled. Capt. Wheeler was wounded and his horse was shot out from under him. His son, Thomas, dropped back to help him and was wounded. Eight of the men were slain:

  1. Zachariah Phillips of Boston,
  2. Timothy Farlow of Billericay,
  3. Edward Coleburn of Chelmsford,
  4. Samuel Smedley of Concord,
  5. Sydrach Hopgood of Sudbury,
  6. Sgt. John Ayers,
  7. Sgt. William Prichard, and
  8. Corp. Richard Coy of Brookfield. Five horses were killed, and five men were wounded.

The return to Brookfield of the survivors startled the inhabitants into the realization that their Indian "friends" must now be considered dangerous and determined enemies. The town's people quickly gathered into Ayers' Tavern, the only place large enough to house them all. Apparently, James Hovey either delayed too long or received the warning too late, for he was killed in or near his home before the attack began on Ayers Tavern.

Capt. Wheeler, who was seriously wounded, turned command over to three of his enlisted men. As the colonists had not expected the attack, they had no time to bring provisions or clothing with them, and were not prepared for a prolonged siege.

After all was secured within the tavern, the next most urgent matter was to send a messenger for help. Ephraim Curtis and Henry Young were dispatched to the Governor's Council in Boston, but got no further than the eastern end of town when they were forced to turn back by the hordes of Indians who were looting the deserted houses. Samuel Prichard was caught outside while attempting to secure supplies from his father's house across the street. He was decapitated and his head "was kicked about like a football" and then set on a pole in front of the Prichard home. During this siege Henry Young was wounded while in the garret of the tavern, and died of his wounds about two days later. The assault continued until 3:00 a.m. when an attempt was made by the Indians to set one corner of the place on fire. Two of the town's men were wounded as they extinguished the blaze, and several Indians were killed.

After another unsuccessful attempt, Ephraim Curtis was able to get by the Indians and fled to Marlborough where a message was sent to Major Simon Willard, who hastened toward Brookfield.

Meanwhile, back at the settlement, on Tuesday, August 3rd, the Indian attack continued throughout the day and night. Several more attempts were made to set the tavern ablaze, which failed, due to the quick actions taken by the men within the building. Thomas Wilson was wounded in the neck and jaw while trying to obtain water from the well in the tavern yard. His wounds were not serious. A stone marker now commemorates the site of this well, which still contains water.

Wednesday, August 4th, dawned at Brookfield with the Indians still in command of the situation. They now fortified themselves in Ayers' barn, and were continuing their attempts to drive the inhabitants from the tavern. About one hour after nightfall, Major Willard and Capt. Parker, along with 46 troops and 5 Indians arrived and headed directly for the fortified house. In the resulting skirmish two men were wounded and one horse was killed. The addition of Willard's troop brought the total number of occupants in Ayers' tavern to 162! (The number of Indians involved has been estimated at between 300 to 500.)

The arrival of Major Willard was the turning point of the battle, and the Indians withdrew in the early hours of the following morning. They set fire to the remaining unoccupied barn and dwelling at the east end of town, the house and barn of William Prichard, the meeting house and the Ayers' barn. They also presumably burned the mill which was some distance from the village. At dawn on August 5th, the Indians left, taking their dead and wounded with them. The statistics of the siege shows these startling facts:

  • Eight men were killed outright at the ambush, five soldiers in Capt. Wheeler's Troop and three inhabitants, Ayers, Prichard and Coy; and Capt. Hutchinson who died later of wounds received during the initial skirmish.

  • Three were killed during the siege at Quaboag: Samuel Prichard, *James Hovey and Henry Young.

  • Total killed...twelve. There were five wounded during the ambush and five during the wounded was ten. Approximately eighty Indians were killed, and Muttaump, their leader, was executed at Boston the following year, on September 26, 1676.

The inhabitants of Brookfield scattered to many parts of the Colony following the conflict. Suzannah Ayers, widow of John Ayers, returned with her large family to Ipswich, as did Thomas Wilson. Priscilla Hovey, widow of James, with her children Priscilla and James, also returned to that town. Her other son, Daniel, was taken into the household of her Father-in-law, Deacon Daniel in Hadley, where young Daniel was raised and educated. Widow Martha Coy and family went to Boston to live. Thomas Kent returned to Gloucester, James Travis returned to Brookfield as part of the new garrison. The Prichards, Judah Trumble and Samuel Kent purchased property in Suffield. Thomas Parsons moved to Windsor, where he died in 1680. John Warner, the elder, took his family to Hadley where his sons John and Thomas were already living.

After the departure of Major Willard and the few remaining inhabitants who accompanied him back to the Bay settlements, the charred remains of the Quaboag Plantation were to serve only as an assembly point for military expeditions and as a garrison outpost. And so matters were to remain until the advent of Sir Andros' Government in 1686, when Brookfield was again to rise during a period of turmoil, assemble a collection of controversial characters and begin a new settlement in the ashes of the old.


For additional reading about King Phillip's War or Quaboag History visit:

A History of Quaboag Plantation
Nipmuc History
Wampanoag History
Soldiers in King Phillip's War
Captain Thomas Wheeler: King Philip's War


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Web Author: Dianne Elizabeth, 1999
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Web Site: Dianne Elizabeth's Family History, Created July 17th, 1999
Page Title: King Phillip's War
Page Created: April 8th, 2000
Revised: December 20th, 2012