This is the story of William Prichard, John Ayres, John Warner and Daniel Hovey and their families, who left Ipswich to establish the doomed plantation at Brookfield, Massachusetts.

In May 1660, a group of colonists moved from Ipswich to the Indian town Quaboag in Western Massachusetts, which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks known as “King Phillips War” resulted in the destruction of Brookfield and the deaths of a dozen settlers on August 2, 1675. English soldiers accompanied by Mohegan allies were eventually able to break the siege at Brookfield, with casualties on both sides. Hatfield, Deerfield and Northfield were attacked in September, and Springfield was burned on October 5th.



The protagonist of the Indian attacks was Metacomet (aka Metacom) leader of the Pokanoket tribe, known by the English as King Phillip.  Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich led a two-hour attack against Metacom’s fighters in Springfield which resulted in the first setback by the Indians. Appleton is credited also with capturing the Narraganset fort during the Great Swamp Fight in 1675. After returning to public life in Ipswich, he was imprisoned in Boston for his role in defying taxes imposed by the crown-appointed Governor Andros.

William Prichard arrived in the colony in 1630 and settled in Ipswich in 1649.  In the summer of 1660. By 1675 he was a selectman of Brookfield and serving as Sergeant in the military. On August 2, 1675,  Sergeant Prichard, Corporal Coy, and Sergeant Ayres, were slain in an ambush at Braintree.  William Pritchard’s son was outside the garrison at Brookfield when the attack began and was slain by the Indians. They cut off his head, tossed it about like a ball in sight of the settlers, and then set on a pole against his dead father’s house.

John Ayres Sr. was a prominent Ipswich resident who promoted the settlement in Quaboag. He also was killed in the ambush by the Indians in New Braintree the same day as the Brookfield massacre. His wife Susannah Ayres survived the attack at Brookfield and  moved back to Ipswich with her six sons and one daughter.

Metacomet, known by the settlers as “King Phillip.”

Daniel Hovey and his wife Abigail joined the new town in 1668 accompanied by their five younger children, Thomas aged 20, James 18, Joseph 15, Abigail 13, and Nathaniel 11. Their older children, Daniel Jr. and John remained in Ipswich. Daniel Hovey moved again to Hadley and returned to Ipswich after the massacre.

In the early moments of that siege, Daniel’s son James was overtaken and killed by the Indians somewhere near his house. His wife Priscilla and their children took refuge in a tavern surrounded by hundreds of hostile Nipmucs, who tried unsuccessfully to  burn it. After three days Major Simon Willard arrived with 46 troops, and they chased off the attackers.  James Hovey was buried with the eleven other victims, and the traumatized survivors returned to Ipswich or dispersed to other better-protected communities along the Massachusetts frontier.

After the attack on Brookfield, Priscilla took her three children to join James’ brother Daniel Hovey in Hadley. She left her eldest son also named Daniel in Hadley to be raised and educated by James’ other brother Thomas. The widow returned to Ipswich with her daughter Priscilla and the infant, James Jr. She filed an inventory of the estate in March 16,  1676 and received a small stipend as a war widow from the General Court of Ipswich. James’ death was officially listed as a military casualty. (Source: The Hovey Book, page 30.)

Metacomet's forces attacked the settlement at Brookfield and set it on fire.
Metacomet’s forces attacked the settlement at Brookfield and set it on fire.

John Warner and his father William Warner were among the first settlers in the Ipswich Colony, arriving in 1635. The father died in Ipswich in 1648.  John Warner married Priscilla, daughter of Mark Symonds of Ipswich where they continued to live  for about twenty years. In 1670, he sold to John Woodam his property in Ipswich, consisting of his dwelling house, barn, orchard, and 7 acres of upland “which formerly was part of my father Warner’s meadow in Ipswich.” and he and Priscilla moved to Brookfield. He was one of three men there who arranged the transfer of land with the Indians, built the first house in the new town and is referred to as the “Father of Brookfield”. John and Priscilla survived the attack and retreated with their younger children to Hadley, Massachusetts to join their oldest son Mark Warner. Priscilla died in 1688 and John died in 1692.

Further reading:

2 thoughts on “The Brookfield Massacre, August 2, 1675

  1. Jacob Choate was born 11 Oct 1746 in Chebacco, Ipswich, Massachusetts, and died Oct 1828 in Glanford, Canada. He married Hannah Burnham 3 Nov 1768 in Massachusetts, daughter of Lt. Burnham and his wife Hannah

    When Jacob Choate was five years old, he performed a feat of horsemanship by riding horseback from “The Island” to the head of the creek and back again alone, at least a mile and a half, the road always being partly under water. If this suggests that he rode from the historic house on Choate Island (then called Hog Island) to Fox Creek and back, I don’t know how he crossed the Castle Neck River.
    When Jacon Choate was twenty-one was known as Captain Choate. His wife Hannah was born in Chebacco in. 1745. About the time of his marriage, he took charge of a vessel, and soon became its owner. He was for a few years, very successful in the East Indian trade; and one fine Sunday morning, in full view of his father’s house, where were his wife and two small children waiting his return from a sea voyage, his ship, with a large cargo of rum, sugar, molasses, and rice, all his own, was becalmed and went to the bottom, he and his crew barely escaping in their small boat. The vessel was old and unsafe, and he had intended this as his last voyage, having planned to convert his cargo and ship into land and become a farmer; but on arrival home, he found himself even with the world and ready to begin again.
    Jacob Choate lived in Chebacco, Ipswich, Massachusetts until about 1772; his first two children being born there. He made some investment in land at Boscawen, N.H., after engaging in the tanning and shoemaking trades. In 1785, he removed to Enfield, N.H., where the remaining children were born. He was a Private in the New Hampshire Line during the Revolutionary War.
    In 1796, Jacob’s son, Thomas had become dissatisfied with the laws of the country in which he lived, his father, by some trickery, having been robbed of all he owned, concluded to go to Canada. He found the laws of Canada much more to his liking, and determined to make that country his home. Going westward some fifty miles from Niagara, he selected a location for his settlement. This place afterwards became Glanford, in the County of Wentworth. In 1797 he cleared a few acres of land and planted it with corn and potatoes. His nearest neighbor to the north was four miles away, and to the south, twelve miles distant. After hoeing his ground, and seeing his corn and potatoes in a fine growing condition, he returned on foot to Enfield, N.H., to arrange some business for his father, and then walked back to Canada in time to harvest his crops, which were quite good. He then returned again to New Hampshire.
    Early in the spring of 1798, Thomas and his three brothers, Jacob, James and Nathan, with two cousins of the name Burnham, started for Canada, taking with them a yoke of oxen, which were driven singly because the Indian foot-path was narrow. These oxen were loaded on their backs with tools and provisions for the journey. On reaching the Mohawk River they undertook to replenish their stock of food for the rest of the way. On arriving at the location they at once went to work to carve out homes for themselves. Taking advantage of the free grant of one hundred acres of land secured to each actual settler.
    Jacob, James and Nathan, did not remain long near where Thomas had settled. Jacob, settled near where the town of Port Hope now is, on the north shore of Lake Ontario. James and Nathan went to the westward some sixty miles, near where the city of London, now stands. In 1800, Jacob Choate, the father of this family, went to Canada; living for a time with his son Jacob; later residing with son, Thomas and dying there in 1828. Thomas became an officer in the Canadian Army in the War of 1812, and in the course of his life; accumulated a substantial amount of property.–Joan–Livingston/GENE1-0005.html

  2. Any stories on the Choates , Burnams, Proctors and others that left Ipswitch and travelled north to Canada late 1700’s for free land being offered by the British Government. My ancestors are related to theses families. Many settled in Glanford area near Hamilton Ontario.

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