Daniel Gunn Sr
Except for Daniel, all of the children of John and Mary remain in Westfield. Thomas, the oldest son, marries Hannah Randall and they have three sons: Gideon (who dies at 1 ½ years of age), Moses, and Reuben. The second son, Captain John Gunn, appears to have been quite a personage. He marries Elizabeth Moseley in December 1709 and they may have had a son, Reuben, though the Westfield vital records say they had no children. According to Westfield baptismal records, Capt. John held slaves. On May 26, 1728 Coffee Primey is baptized. This is “a child of negro servants of Ensign John Gunn.” There are two other similar entries: Geney, described simply as “negro” on March 25, 1733, and Prince, a “servant of Capt. Jno Gunn,” on November 23, 1735. 1 Capt. John Gunn’s gravestone in the Mechanic Street Cemetery (Westfield) reads
Here lies Interr’d
The Body of Capt
John Gun who
departed this life
April the 26, 1748
in the 66th year
of his age.2
John and Mary’s daughter Mary will have seven children by Samuel Root, a cousin of Captain John Ashley who will play a leading role in the political and military events that will unfold in the mid and later 1700s. The complex intertwining of family lines that characterizes the relationships of the first generations of New England inhabitants must have created a special sense of cohesion and loyalty among extended family groups. One of Samuel Root’s nieces, for example, will marry Aaron, the fourth son of John and Mary and the brother of Samuel Root’s wife.
John and Mary’s third son, Daniel, marries Hester Griswold on the 14th of October, 1712. Hester is the daughter of Thomas Griswold and Hester Drake, two of the founding families of Windsor. Edward Griswold in his work “The Griswold Family” says that the [Gunn] family was substantial. John Sr., father of Daniel, and Capt. John, Daniel’s brother, were especially well-considered, serving in many offices of trust. Daniel, however, is not mentioned in any important records and disappears from the records after the birth of his last child in 1730, evidently having moved away from Westfield. In the will of his brother John, dated January 19, 1747, Daniel is named as legatee of a Great Bible. That is the last we hear of him. The death or burial place of Daniel and Hester are unknown.3 Daniel and Hester have five children: Hester, Azubah, Mary, Alexander and Daniel Jr.
Daniel Gunn b. 21 Mar 1687 Westfield; d. after 1771 Sheffield, Massachusetts
Hester Griswold b. 1 Jan 1689 Windsor; d. 1761 Sheffield, Massachusetts
Married: 15 Oct 1712 Windsor, Hartford, Connecticut
Hester Gunn b. 7 Dec 1713 Westfield, Massachusetts
Azubah Gunn b. 23 Mar 1716 Westfield; d. Sheffield, Massachusetts
Mary Gunn b. 10 Jan 1719 Westfield, Massachusetts; d. after 1764
Alexander Gunn b. 1 Apr 1726 Westfield; d. after 1800 Sheffield, Massachusetts
Daniel Gunn b. 2 Aug 1730 Westfield; d. 17 Feb 1764 Sheffield, Massachusetts
Aaron, the fourth son of John and Mary, will marry Esther Dewey. She is a niece of Samuel Root and a second cousin of Captain John Ashley who will be a member of the original settling committee for Sheffield and the father of Colonel John Ashley, under whom several members of the Gunn family will serve during the Revolution. It is, in fact, Captain John Ashley who performs the marriage ceremony for Aaron and Esther in Westfield on the 4th of February, 1719. Aaron and Esther have five children: Aaron, Ann, John, Stephen, and Rhoda.
We know little about Aaron and Esther’s children. Stephen will become a Captain in the militia, will marry Eleanor Ingersoll in Great Barrington in 1751 and have six children, and the family will settle in Sheffield. Daughter Ann dies young, at the age of 13 in the winter of 1735. Her gravestone in Westfield’s Mechanic Street Cemetery reads
Here lieth ye
Body of Ann Gunn
Ye daughter of
Aaron Gunn who
Ye 2d 1734-5 in
Ye 13th year of her
In 1733 the town of Sheffield, directly west in the Housatonic River valley, was incorporated and two years later a road was laid out linking the two towns. This will be a critical event for the grandchildren of John and Mary, some of whom will pick up and move to this new settlement. Perhaps this migration, again, was precipitated by the perception of overcrowding. By mid-century Westfield would have over 150 families, a population of about 1100. To put this in perspective, in 1750 the entire state of Massachusetts had 188,000 inhabitants, an increase of over 1100% in just a century.4
Frontier hostilities again broke out in the 1740s during King George’s War, and in 1745 the Massachusetts colonials enthusiastically mounted a four-thousand-man attack on the French stronghold of Louisburg on Cape Breton Island, which guarded the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After a fifty-day cannonade that dropped nine thousand cannonballs on the fort, the French surrendered.
The French and Indian War – 1754
The French and Indian War erupts as a result of disputes over land in the Ohio River Valley. In May, George Washington leads a small group of American colonists to victory over the French, then builds Fort Necessity in the Ohio territory. In July, after being attacked by numerically superior French forces, Washington surrenders the fort and retreats.
What in Europe was called the Seven Years War was fought largely in North America specifically to determine the dominance there of England or France. Westfield supplied soldiers for the English during this war, and on the 8th of September 1755, three Westfield men, Capt. Jonathan Ingersol, Major Noah Ashley, and Richard Campbell of the Crown Point expedition were killed at the battle or massacre at Lake George, New York.
Some Westfield men may have been members of Roger’s Rangers, made up of colonial troops raised in 1755 to support the British army. Their headquarters was at Fort William Henry on Lake George, and Roger’s Rangers did, indeed, make a reconnaissance patrol to the French Fort at Crown Point. In 1755 Major Robert Rogers and a few men departed by night, paddled up the lake to a convenient place, hid the canoe, and pushed on overland through the forest, penetrating the sentry lines of the enemy. At Crown Point his men, under cover of night, concealed themselves in the willows only three hundred yards from the French fort. They were soon discovered and managed to escape.
The battle in which the Westfield men died happened this way. The British General Braddock had chosen William Johnson to lead an expedition against the French at Crown Point. He was one of the most important men in the colonies because of his close relationship with the Mohawks of the Five Nations. Johnson raised an army of about three thousand volunteers from New York and New England, plus about five hundred Mohawks. Except for a few experienced officers, his army was made up of farmers and craftsmen who had never been in combat.
Johnson gathered his army at Albany, New York, and then moved up the Hudson River, both in boats and along the shore, to the point about 50 miles north of Albany, where he began construction of Fort Edward. He left five hundred men to staff the fort and moved the rest of his 1500 man army to a campsite near the southern shore of Lake George. At the same time a large French force was crossing Lake Champlain for Crown Point. Baron Ludwig August Dieskau, a German in French service was the commander. Dieskau’s army of 3200 men, consisted of French regulars, Caughnawaga and Abenaki.
Johnson was moving northward in stages, guarding well his lines of supply and retreat. Soon, Johnson’s Mohawk scouts discovered enemy tracks in the woods around Fort Edward. Thinking the enemy force small he ordered Colonel Ephraim Williams to lead a detachment, locate the French camp, and destroy it. Old Hendrick, the Mohawk Chief, attempted to dissuade Johnson because his warriors said there were many more in the enemy force than Johnson realized. But Johnson persisted, and Old Hendrick finally agreed. So it was that at dawn on September 8, 1755, the detachment left camp. Within an hour a scout had informed Dieskau of the advance, and with this news he set an ambush on the road north of Fort Edward, and waited.
Near mid morning, Colonel Williams and Old Hendricks, leading the column, rounded a bend in the road. Suddenly, a volley of musket balls tore into the column from both sides of the road. Many were killed, including Williams and Old Hendrick. The rest soon fell back in panic and retreated toward the main encampment. Fortunately, Dieskau was unable to follow up on the ambush, due to fighting among his Indian allies, almost an hour was lost before his army could move on the English.
The French and Indians attacked from the woods on either side of the English camp. French regulars were in front, facing the barricade in three long lines, one behind the other. They began to fire by the column, the first line firing and then kneeling to reload so the second line could fire, then the second line kneeling to allow the third to fire. In this way, they could keep up a continuous fire. But this was a standard European formation which was not well suited to the circumstances of the New World, and the Americans were good with their muskets, as the British infantry would learn twenty years later.
Dieskau was shot in the knee and fell, and before he could rise he was hit twice again. With Dieskau down, and the Indians out of the fight, the French regulars began to falter. Johnson’s officers took advantage of this with a charge. The colonials leaped the barricade and ran forward. Now the fighting was hand to hand, men went at each other with tomahawks, knives, and bayonets. The French regulars soon broke and ran.
Two years later in the first week of July 1757, French troops from St. Jean departed for an assault on Fort William Henry, which Johnson had just recently built. In addition to the regulars, the army consisted of nearly one thousand men of La Marine, a three hundred man unit known as Villiers’ Volunteers, twenty-five hundred Canadians and eighteen hundred Indians. Also there were two companies of artillery, one company of workmen, and the artillery train. The body of Indians were made up of warriors from some of the western nations of Ottawa, Menomonee, Sauk (Winnabagos and Wichitas ), Potawatomies and Fox. This army was under the command of the Marquis de Montcalm.
Colonel Parker, of The Jersey Blues, left Fort William Henry July 23rd with a force made up of 350 men, 5 captains, 4 lieutenants, and an ensign in 22 barges, two of which were under sail. He was to meet and block the French assault. But the venture was a disaster and nearly everyone was either captured or killed.
By the morning of August 4th, French forces numbering 2500 surrounded Fort William Henry. The main thrust of the siege was directed on the north side of the fort, with two artillery batteries. In response, the English worked on building a second defense inside the first, getting water in and removing the shingle roofs from their barracks and storehouses, and throwing combustible items into the lake. By August 9th the French trench works had progressed to such a point as to make defense of Fort William Henry no longer viable, so the garrison surrendered.
However, the night of the surrender, the Native warriors butchered the sick and wounded in the hospital tents. By morning the English were fearful of being massacred and were in a rush to leave, even before the French escort was ready. The troops marched out of the works on the morning of the 10th, and were immediately attacked by a large party of Natives. Unarmed men, women and children were murdered in cold blood. Though the French officers endeavored in vain to stop the terrible attack, they only managed to regain about 400 of the English and the massacre continued until the English had proceeded half way to Fort Edward where they were met by an escort of 500 men sent out for their protection.
In July 1758 another devastating defeat occurred for English forces at Lake George, New York, as nearly two thousand men are lost during a frontal attack against well entrenched French forces at Fort Ticonderoga. French losses are 377. But in November the French abandon Fort Duquesne in the Ohio territory and English settlers rush in to establish homes.
Were any of the grandsons of Thomas involved directly in these terrible events? We may never know the answer, but clearly these were precarious and dangerous times, especially for those living on the exposed frontier facing desperate and brutal enemies. Though loyal to the English during the French and Indian War, as time went by the general sentiment of these New England colonials was turning against the English.
In 1763 the French and Indian War ends with the Treaty of Paris. Under the treaty, France gives England all French territory east of the Mississippi River, except New Orleans. The Spanish give up east and west Florida to the English in return for Cuba. In 1760 the population of colonists in America reaches 1,500,000. Population pressure and the opening of territory west of the Hudson River all the way to the Mississippi will have an enormous impact on the pattern of settlement during the next 100 years.
Continue to “Westward to the Housatonic River Valley“.
- From Westfield Genealogical Records Series, Baptisms, 1679-1836, Vol. 2, Part 1. ↩
- Westfield Genealogical Records Series, Vol 7: A List of Gravestone in the Mechanic Street Cemetery Westfield Ma, 1939. Westfield Athenaeum, Westfield, MA, 1939. ↩
- Griswold, 72. ↩
- See “Estimated Population of American Colonies” at http://merrill.olm.net/mdocs/pop/colonies/colonies.htm. ↩