Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and love that this blog helps with that. I consider much of my research as a work in progress, so please let me know if you have conflicting information. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My male Mayflower ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, and John Howland.
Female Mayflower ancestors: Mary Norris Allerton, Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Mrs. James Chilton, Sarah Eaton, and Joan Hurst Tilley.
Child Mayflower ancestors: Giles Hopkins, (possibly) Constance Hopkins, Mary Allerton, Francis Billington, Love Brewster, Mary Chilton, Samuel Eaton, and Elizabeth Tilley.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mary Smith Freeman 1685-1766 Oyster River/Durham to Harwich and Eastham, MA

When I first starting researching my ancestor Thomas Freeman (born 11 Oct 1676 son of Thomas Freeman and Rebecca Sparrow), I learned that he married a woman named Mary Smith. Initially I wasn’t able to trace her to any of the Smith’s on Cape Cod.  Then another researcher informed me of her identity: She was born 24 May 1685 in Oyster River (now Durham NH), daughter of James Smith and Sarah Davis.

Mary and Thomas were married 17 October 1707 at Eastham. I wondered how Mary came to live in Eastham, as I was used to seeing so many marriages within the same towns. My romanticized version is that Thomas was a mariner who had business at Oyster River where he met Mary, fell in love and brought her home to the Cape to be married.

Mary’s sister Sarah came to Eastham to marry Joshua Harding in 1702. So a more likely scenario is that Mary came to visit, or even live, with Sarah and met Thomas then.

Thomas had married first Bathsheba Mayo, but she died four months after their marriage.

Mary was no stranger to loss either. On 18 July 1694, Mary witnessed the deaths of her mother, Sarah (Davis) Smith, and her brothers, James and Samuel, in an Abenaki attack, referred to as “The Great Massacre at Oyster River.” Reverend John Pike wrote in his diary:  
The Indians fell suddenly & unexpectedly upon Oyster River about break of Day. Took 3 Garrisons (being deserted or not defended) killed & Carried away 94 persons, & burnt 13 houses- this was the f[i]r[st] act of hostility Committed by [them] after ye peace Concluded at Pemmaqd.

One account states that Indian women had asked for shelter at each garrison house, a common practice at peacetime, and during the night they opened the gates to several hundred warriors. The warriors were led by French Soldier Claude-Sebastien de Villieu. They killed and captured some ninety-four to one hundred people, nearly one-third of the population.  Half of the settlement burned to the ground, crops were destroyed and livestock was killed. The townspeople that survived were left with little food or shelter. The Indians then went on to attack Groton, MA.
Davis-Smith Garrison, now Newmarket, NH source: minerdescent.com

Mary’s father James Smith died four years earlier, of a “surfeit” (over-exertion), on 18 July 1690. He was rushing to assist Capt. Floyd in an Indian attack at Wheelwright Pond.

At the age of nine, Mary was now an orphan who had seen unspeakable violence. Her sister Sarah and brother John also survived the attack. I do not know who took them in, but hope to search New Hampshire court records for anything relating to a guardianship. Some accounts say Mary and her sister were carried to Canada as captives by the Indians, but I have not confirmed this.

Some accounts say Mary’s grandmother Jane (Peasley) Davis and her uncles James and Moses and some of their families also died in the massacre.
Road marker in Durham, NH source: mikenh.wordpress.com

The attack took place during King Williams War, when the French had enlisted the Indians to do their fighting for them. The Indians did have reasons of their own to attack the English. The English settlement of what became New Hampshire began in 1638 with a trading post on the Merrimack River at Penacook village. Over the years the English took much of the Indians land as their own and broke treaties, so it was a matter of time before the Indians pushed back.

Life on the Cape must have been very welcome by Mary, as there was no warring with Indians there. Thomas and Mary had four children: Thomas, James, Bathsheba, and Samuel. I descend from their son Thomas who married Dorothy Cole.

Unfortunately after less than 10 years of marriage, Mary suffered another tragedy on 22 March 1716/17 when her husband died. She married second Hezekiah Doane, and I find one child for them, Joseph Doane, born about 1719.  They may have had a second son named Joseph who died young. Hezekiah had eight children by his first wife, so Mary cared for as many as 14 children in her life.

The proof that Mary Smith who married Thomas Freeman/Hezekiah Doane is the daughter of James and Sarah Smith exists in a quitclaim deed. On 27 May 1729 Hezekiah Doane and wife Mary of Provincetown, MA, sold to John Smith of Dover New Hampshire right in the estate of James and Sarah Smith of Dover, father and mother of said Mary Doane. The same day Joshua and Sarah Harding of Eastham, MA, quitclaimed to John Smith right in the estate of Sarah's honored father and mother, James and Sarah Smith of Dover.

Mary’s brother John Smith married Elizabeth Buss and stayed in the Durham area.

Mary died at Eastham on 19 January 1766. She was 85 years of age; a very long life for that era.

I still have a lot of research to do to learn more about the Oyster River massacre and what became of Mary afterward. If anyone has any good resources, I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Hello,
    I'm trying to find out more about my ancestor Jeremiah Kelley born 1766 in Barnstable, Massachusetts, USA and he died in 1854 at sea
    Married to Hannah Gilman Born 1766, and had
    Susannah Kelley in 1818. I'm thinking that he had more then one wife, because I see a lot of marriages that took place with his name, and possibly he had several wives over his life span. I would be thrilled to know who his parents were as well as knowing about his marriages and other children. Thanks for any information you might have about the Kelley family. Thanks Stacy Arnold

  2. Hi Stacy: I'm sorry, but I don't know of your Jeremiah. If you subscribe to the Barnstable email list on rootsweb and post your query, maybe someone there could help. Good luck, Chris

    1. Growing up, I can remember my grand parents telling the story of our great,great, great(i am not sure of the number of greats) SARA SMITH,being attacked by indians and surving scalping but none of her 6 children survived. According to my grandparents she went on to have about 6 more children. We still have a cottage in Eastham

    2. It's nice to hear from you. That is interesting that the story passed down through your family. It came as a complete surprise to me. It sounds like Sara would be Mary's sister Sarah who married Joshua Harding. But she was born in 1679 and would have been 15 when her mother and brothers were killed by Native Americans in 1694, so not yet married. Do you think that is your Sara?

  3. Hi Chris,

    I find this very interesting. Edward Small who was born in what is now Maine married Mary Woodman, daughter of Capt. John Woodman of Oyster River. Two of Edward's brothers migrated to Eastham and Edward follwed with his wife and settled in Chatham about 1693ish. I have to go look at my research for the details.

    Edward was a carpenter and was given the task of supervising/building the frame for the first meeting house in Chathem. They purchased boards milled at his father-in-law's mill at Oyster River. John Woodman also maintained a garrison house and his was one of the few that survived the massacre in 1694. There is a copy of a letter John Woodman sent to Edward and Mary which advises them that it was not yet safe to return to Oyster River, the reply is phrased in such a way as I believe that they may not have been very happy on the Cape.

    I wasn't aware of other links to Oyster River, so perhaps there was enough trade between the Cape and the Piscataqua River plantations to also allow people to move between the settlements?

    Please send me an email and maybe we can work up a NH research plan. I'm descended from Small/Smalley, Cahoon, Nickerson, Freeman, Eldredge/Eldridge, Howes, Kelley, Jones, Smith, Snow, Sparrow, Rogers, Hopkins, Prence, Brewster, Knowles, Hamilton, Bearce .......

    Sandy (sandra.mackay[at]comcast[dot]net

  4. There was a lot of coastal shipping between the Piscataqua region, including Oyster River, and the outer Cape because the Piscataqua area had vast timber resources and the Cape had none - just enough to keep the house warm and the food cooked. The story I heard, from Warren Sears Nickerson, was that Thomas Freeman took both Smith girls back to Eastham after the massacre. Since the parentage of their father James Smith is unknown, it is possible the Smith girls had one or more relatives in Eastham. I know there is no documented Smith relation to the girls on Cape Cod. However, it is possible one or more of the many wives without surnames was sister to their father James Smith. Though many Davis relatives were killed in the massacre, there were many that were not killed and the family was affluent. The Davis relatives would not have allowed the girls to be taken to Eastham unless there was a relative known to be living there - they would have been kept by other Davis relatives in Oyster River. Due to the commerce between Piscataqua and the Cape there was a fair amount of exchange - the Rev Hugh Adams came to Oyster River from Chatham, many local Quakers went back and forth to Nantucket. Sailing around in the little boats of those times was not thought unusual - Piscataqua had a lively trade with Barbadoes and southern Europe throughout the 1600s. I live in Oyster River near the site of the Davis garrison and am a descendant of the Davis and other Oyster River families as well as almost every early family on the outer Cape (250 yrs of intermarriage there). Regards, janet [dot] mackie [at] comcast etc.

  5. I'm wondering if there has been any new research revealing how Mary and Sarah Smith ended up married to Thomas Freeman and Joshua Harding?
    February 2021
    margaretcarsley [at] hotmail[dot]com


I'm now moderating comments on this blog. My apologies for any ensuing delays, but the large number of "spam" comments have made this necessary. ~Chris