Thomas’s daughters married in Windsor and remained there or nearby. The oldest of the three children, Deborah, married Timothy Thrall on the 10th of November, 1659, and they had eleven children, two of whom died in infancy. Upon his departure to Westfield, Thomas deeded property, including his home lot, to Timothy and Deborah. In later Windsor records their home is referred to as the Thrall mansion house, so it may have been a substantial structure. Timothy was the only son of William Thrall, one of the founders of Windsor and a participant in the Pequot War. He died in June, 1697, and is said to have left “a good estate.” Deborah died two years earlier, in January of 1695. She was only 53 years old.
Though she lived much longer, Mehitable was not so lucky in her marriage on 22 October 1663 to David Ensign of Hartford. Despite the fact that they had five children together and that as the only son of James Ensign her husband probably inherited a large estate, Mehitable will divorce David for sedition and adultery after nearly 20 years of marriage (in October 1682): “David Ensigne is complained of in court–first for bringing and spreading false reports concerning the death of the King, the flight of the Duke of York, and the Duke of Monmouth being made Protector. This prisoner returns and said he heard so at New York. Second, for contempt of authority and that after so much means used that he hath continually and unlawfully accompanied the wife of Thomas Long to the great dishonor of God, scandal of religion, and breach of the laws of the colony whereby he hath forfeited his bond made to Hartford County Sept. 18, 1679. Third that he hath committed adultery with Thomas Long’s wife, or at least is suspiciously guilty thereof.” 1 Three years after the divorce, in 1685, Mehitable married Isaac Sheldon of Northampton, a recent widower with two very young children. Now in her 40s, Mehitable has two more sons. She will be 75 years old when she dies in Northampton in April, 1720.
Mary Williams, daughter of John Williams and Mary Burley of Windsor, married John Gunn in Westfield on 22 January 1679. John’s mother had died on the 28th of November, only two months before his marriage, and his father, Thomas, would not long survive his wife. He died in Westfield on the 26th of February, 1681. They both were buried in the Old Burial Ground off Mechanic Street.
John and Mary have six children: Thomas, John, Mary, Daniel, Mercy, and Aaron. They all marry and have children of their own, and all but one remain in Westfield or nearby Springfield. Daniel, the 3rd son, disappears from the Westfield scene after 1730. Perhaps he feels there isn’t enough good land left for him to acquire, or perhaps he’s caught up in the excitement of settling new land. Whatever the reason, the evidence shows that he moved his family west to the new frontier in the Housatonic River valley that runs down the east side of the Berkshire Mountains.
John Gunn b. 8 Jul 1647 Windsor, Connecticut; d. 17 Sep 1726 Westfield, Massachusetts
Mary Williams b. 5 Jan 1653 Windsor, Ct; d. 20 Nov 1711 Westfield, Massachusetts
Married: 22 Jan 1676 Westfield, Hampden, Massachusetts
Thomas Gunn b. 14 Dec 1680 Westfield; d. 8 Mar 1744 Westfield, Massachusetts
John Gunn b. 5 May 1682 Westfield; d. 26 Apr 1749 Westfield, Massachusetts
Mary Gunn b. 9 Jan 1685 Westfield; d. 29 Jan 1746 Westfield, Massachusetts
Daniel Gunn b. 21 Mar 1687 Westfield; d. After 1748 Sheffield, Massachusetts
Mercy Gunn b. 15 Mar 1691 Westfield; d. 27 Dec 1758 Springfield, Massachusetts
Aaron Gunn b. 29 Aug 1694 Westfield; d. after Sep 1743 Westfield, Massachusetts
John and Mary must have been substantial landowners, especially after the demise of Thomas, and also important, founding members of the Westfield community. The town was growing fast and, despite a great flood in 1692, roads were made and extended, the course of the river was changed, mills were built, and rudimentary industries were established based on smelting iron ore and producing rosin, turpentine, tar, and bricks. An 18 square foot school was built near the meeting house. But there were still dangers to be dealt with.
First came King Philip’s War in 1675-76. Then New Englanders participated in King William’s War (1689-1697), the first of what came to be known in America as the French and Indian Wars, a series of colonial wars between Great Britain and France that lasted three-quarters of a century. Hostilities in King William’s War began in 1690, when in the course of a few months Schenectady, a frontier town on the Mohawk River west of the Hudson, was burned by the French and Indians, and colonial English forces launched attacks on Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal), Nova Scotia, and on Quebec. Despite further raids by the French and Indians, the war ended in a stalemate. People died but nothing was gained. The Treaty of Ryswick simply restored all colonial possessions to their prewar status. Then came the War of the Spanish Succession (1703-1713) between England and France, which had repercussions in America and was known there as Queen Ann’s War. Both the English and the French colonial governments recruited Native Americans to join them in attacking enemy settlements along the frontier.
The most serious attack was on the town of Deerfield, just 37 miles north of Westfield, up the Connecticut River. The town had been attacked and destroyed before, during King Philip’s War in 1675. It had been rebuilt, and at this time the town’s population was about 260. In May of 1703 word had come that French soldiers and allied Natives from Canada were heading for Deerfield and the upper Connecticut River valley. Then in October a small force of Native warriors captured two Deerfield men. The town strengthened its fortifications and the Massachusetts General Court sent soldiers to help protect the settlers. As of December, though, all was quiet and everyone thought the danger had passed for the winter. Still, twenty soldiers were left in the town and everyone spent the nights inside the palisade. But two hours before dawn on February 29, 1704, while most of the inhabitants were asleep, a group of approximately 40 French soldiers and 200 Native warriors attacked and burned the town, killing 48 people and taking captive 112 English men, women and children. Twenty-one of these captives were later killed. 2
Because of such events, in 1704, in 1712, and again in 1747 a number of houses in the town of Westfield were fortified and were required to have garrisons and to be free refuges in the case of attack: Mr. Taylor’s house on Main street; Stephen Kellogg’s on East Silver street; Consider Mosely’s on Little River road; John Sackett’s; John Noble’s; and Thomas Root’s. These houses were again fortified in 1712. A new meeting house was built in 1721, and in the spring of 1722 there was a smallpox epidemic.
John is referred to in the records as Quartermaster John Gunn, and so must have been the chief provisioner for the local militia. We also know he continued to hold title to land in Windsor, probably land inherited from his father, at a place called Mr. Hill’s Neck near Paquannock, “both of meadow and upland.” He gives or sells this land to George Phelps in 1687.3 John survives Mary by eleven years, dying at the age of 79 in Springfield in September of 1726. He is buried in Longmeadow Cemetery in Springfield.
Continue to “Westfield: Four Generations in the 1700s“.