Considered to be one of the worst massacres of colonial times, The Candlemas Massacre, also known as the Raid on York, took place on 24 January 1692 during King William’s War. 325 years ago, in the early morning hours, 200-300 Abenaki Indians led by Chief Madockawando and the Catholic missionary Father Louis-Pierre Thury, raided and burned the settlement of York, Maine. By most accounts the majority of the houses were burned to the ground, leaving only four garrisons standing. Fifty to eighty residents were murdered and approximately another hundred were forced to march to Canada, on foot, a trek of over 300 miles. Many died along the way.
A number of my ancestors and relatives were among the dead or captured. My 9x great grandfather, Nathaniel Preble and 9x great grand uncle, John Preble were listed among the dead.
Taken captive were Mrs. Priscilla Preble (wife of Nathaniel), my 9x great grandmother, Obadiah and Benjamin Preble, both 8x great grand uncles, Mrs. Mary (Rishworth)(Sayward) Plaisted, my 9x great grandmother and two 8x great grand aunts, Mary and Esther Sayward.
Mrs. Priscilla Preble, now a widow, was redeemed from Canada in 1695, when she returned to York and married Joseph Carroll. No further record of her sons Obadiah and Benjamin have been found.
Warning: Graphic content ahead
Cotton Mather in his Magnalia Christi Americana or the Ecclesiastical History of New England, Volume II Book VII, “Decennium Lucuossum, or a History of Remarkable Occurances, in the War which New-England had with Indian Salvages [sic], from the year 1688 to the year 1698” wrote about the massacre:
“Mary Plaisted, the wife of Mr. James Plaisted, was made a captive by the Indians about three weeks after her delivery of a male child. They then took her, with her infant, off her bed, and forced her to travel in this her weakness the best part of a day, without any respect of pity. At night the cold ground in the open air was her lodging; and for many a day she had no nourishment, but a little water with a little bears-flesh; which rendred her so feeble, that she with her infant were not far from totally starved. Upon her cries to God, there was at length some supply sent in by her master’s taking a Moose, the broth whereof recovered her. But she must now travel many days thro’ woods, and swamps, and rocks, and over mountains, and frost and snow, until she could stir no farther. Sitting down to rest, she was not able to rise, until her diabolical master helped her up; which when he did, he took her child from her, and carried it unto a river, where, stripping it of the few rags it had, he took it by the heels, and against a tree dashed out his brains, and then flung it into the river. So he returned unto the miserable mother, telling her, “she was now eased of her burden, and must walk faster than she did before.”
Mary was taken to Montréal where she was baptized in the Catholic church. Her signature appears in the Baptismal Register. She was ransomed by Matthew Cary and returned home more than 3 years later in October 1695. Her daughters, Mary and Esther, did not return from Canada. Mary was placed in a Catholic Nunnery and resided at the Congregation Notre Dame and was known as “Sister des Anges.” She died in 1717 and was buried in Montreal. Esther remained in Canada, was naturalized in 1710 and in 1712 married Sieur Pierre de Lestage.