Hannah Webster Dustin (Emerson) (1657 - 1737) MP

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Hannah Dustin, Indian Fighter's Geni Profile

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Nicknames: "Duston", "Dustan", "Dunstan", "Durstan", "indian fighter"
Birthplace: Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts
Death: Died in Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts
Managed by: Judyth Christensen Perry
Last Updated:

About Hannah Webster Dustin (Emerson)

Hannah Webster (Emerson) Dustin (1657 - 1736) - Hannah Dustin was a 40-year-old colonial Massachusetts Puritan mother of eight during King William's War who was taken captive with her newborn daughter during an Indian raid on Haverhill. On 15 March 1697, Hannah witnessed the brutal killing of her baby and several of her neighbors. While held captive on an island in the Merrimack River in present-day Boscawen, New Hampshire, she and two other captives scalped ten members of the Indian family who were holding them hostage.

Hannah Emerson, the eldest of fifteen children of Michael and Hannah Webster, was born 23 December 1657. She died 6 March 1736. She married Thomas Dustin (1652 - 1732) on 3 December 1677; they had thirteen children.

Marriage and Children

  1. Hannah Webster Emerson married Thomas Dustin (1652 - 17 November 1732) on 3 December 1677.
    1. Hannah Dustin (born 22 August 1678) - eighteen years old at the time of the attack
    2. Elizabeth Dustin (born 7 May 1680)
    3. Mary Dustin, d.s.p. (4 November 1681 - 18 October 1696)
    4. Thomas Dustin (born 5 January 1683)
    5. Nathaniel Dustin (born 16 May 1685)
    6. John Dustin, d.s.p. (2 February 1686 - 28 January 1690)
    7. Sarah Dustin (born 4 July 1688)
    8. Abigail Dustin (born October 1690)
    9. Jonathan Dustin (born 15 January 1691o.s.)
    10. Timothy Dustin, twin (born 14 September 1694)
    11. Mehitable Dustin, twin (14 September 1694 - 16 December 1694)
    12. Martha Dustin, d.s.p. (9 March 1697 - 15 March 1697), killed by Indians
    13. Lydia Dustin (born 4 October 1698)

Biographical Sketch

In 1697, Thomas and Hannah Dustin were living in a house on the west side of the Sawmill River in the town of Haverhill. This house was located near the great Dustin Boulder and on the opposite side of Monument Street. They had been married for twenty years, were financially stable, and eight of their twelve children were living. Thomas, who was a bricklayer and farmer, and who even wrote his own almanacs, was beginning to have time to devote to town affairs, and had just completed a term as constable for the "west end" of the town of Haverhill. He was building, with bricks from his own brickyard, a new house about a half mile to the northwest of their current home.

On 9 March 1697, Hannah Dustin had their twelfth child, Martha. A neighbor, Mary Neff, was staying with them to help care for mother and child. There had been no local trouble with the Indians since thekidnapped Jonathan Haynes and his four children while picking peas in a field at Bradley's Mills, near Haverhill, the previous summer. However, the Colonial Governor of Canada was using every means at his disposal to incite the Indians against the English as part of his campaign to win the New World for the French King. The French Governor had set a bounty on English scalps and prisoners. Just six days after Martha's birth, on 15 March, Indians attacked the Dustin home.

Raid on Haverhill

Thomas had risen early and was attending to the morning chores, when he suddenly spied the approaching Indians. Seizing his gun, he mounted his horse and raced for the house, shouting a warning which started the children towards the garrison, while he dashed into the house hoping to save his wife and the baby. Quickly seeing that he was too late, he rode after the children. A few of the Indians pursued the little band of fugitives, firing at them from behind trees and boulders. Thomas, dismounting and guarding the rear, threatened to shoot whenever one of them exposed himself. Had he discharged his gun they would have closed in at once, for reloading took considerable time. He was successful in his attempt, and all reached the garrison safely.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Neff was trying to escape with the baby, but was easily captured. Invading the house, the savages forced Hannah to rise and dress herself while they stole all they could carry away. She hadn't yet managed to put on her second shoe when they set fire to the house and she was dragged outside. A few of the Indians then dragged Hannah and Mrs. Neff, who carried the baby, towards the woods, while the rest of the band attacked other houses in the village, killing twenty-seven and capturing thirteen of the inhabitants.

Finding that carrying the baby was making it hard for Mrs. Neff to keep up, one of the Indians seized it from her, and before its mother’s horrified eyes dashed out its brains against an apple tree. The Indians forced the two women to their utmost pace, and at last reached the woods and joined the squaws and children who had been left behind the night before. Here they were soon after joined by the rest of the Indians with their plunder and other captives.

A Terrible Journey

Fearing a prompt pursuit, the Indians immediately set out for Canada with their booty. Some of the weaker captives were killed and scalped, but in spite of her condition, poorly clad and only partly shod, Hannah managed to keep up. By her own account she marched “about a dozen miles” that day, truly a remarkable feat. During the next few days they traveled about a hundred miles through the unbroken wilderness, over rough trails, in places still covered with the winter’s snow, sometimes deep with mud, and across icy brooks, while rocks tore their feet and they suffered terribly from the cold.

Near the junction of the Contoocook and Merrimack rivers, twelve of the Indians took Hannah, Mrs. Neff and a boy of fourteen years, Samuel Lennardson (who had been taken prisoner near Worcester about eighteen months before), and left the main party. They proceeded toward what is now Dustin Island, near the present town of Penacook, New Hampshire. This island was the home of the Indian who claimed the women as his captives, and here they planned to rest for a while before continuing on the long journey to Canada.

This Indian family had been converted to Christianity by French priests, and was accustomed to have prayers three times a day, and would not let their children eat or sleep without first saying their prayers. Hannah’s captor, who had lived in the family of Rev. Mr. Rowlandson of Lancaster some years before told her that “when he prayed the English way he thought that it was good, but now he found the French way better.” He would sometimes say to them when he saw them dejected, “What need you trouble yourself? If your God will have you delivered, you shall be so!”

Meanwhile At Haverhill

Meanwhile, the fear induced by the raid caused the Haverhill community to immediately establish several new garrison houses. One of these was the brick house which Thomas was building for his family at the time of the massacre. This was ordered completed, and though the clay pits were not far from the house, a guard of soldiers was placed over those who brought clay to the house. The order establishing Thomas Dustin’s house as a garrison was dated 5 April 1697. He was appointed master of the garrison and assigned Josiah Heath Sr, Josiah Heath Jr, Joseph Bradley, John Heath, Joseph Kingsbury, and Thomas Kingsbury as guards.

During the long journey the Indians had entertained the captives on the march, with stories of how they would be treated after arriving in Canada, stripped and made to “run the gauntlet”; jeered at and beaten and made targets for the young Indians’ tomahawks; how many of the English prisoners had fainted under these tortures; and how they were often sold as slaves to the French. These stories, added to her desire to revenge the killing of her baby and the cruel treatment of their captors while on the march, fueled Hannah's desire to escape. When she learned where they were going, a plan took definite shape in her mind, and was secretly communicated to Mrs. Neff and Samuel Lennardson.

Samuel casually asked his captor, Bampico, how he had killed the English. “Strike ‘em dere,” said Bampico, touching his temple, and then proceeded to show the boy how to take a scalp. Samuel shared this information with the women, and they quickly agreed on the details of the plan. They arrived at the island some time before 30 March 1697.

If your God will have you delivered, you shall be so!

After reaching the island, the Indians relaxed. The river was in flood. Samuel was considered one of the family, and the two women were considered too worn out to attempt escape, so no watch was set that night and the Indians slept soundly. Hannah decided that the time had come.

Shortly after midnight she woke Mrs. Neff and Samuel. Each, armed with a tomahawk, crept silently to a position near the heads of the sleeping Indians. At a signal from Hannah the tomahawks fell, and ten of the twelve Indians were killed outright, only two escaping into the woods. According to a deposition of Hannah Bradley in 1739, “there came to us one Squaw who said that Hannah Dustan and the aforesaid Mary Neff assisted in killing the Indians of her wigwam except herself and a boy, herself escaping very narrowly, shewing to myself & others seven wounds as she said with a Hatched on her head which wounds were given her when the rest were killed.”

Hastily piling food and weapons into a canoe, including the gun of Hannah’s late captor and the tomahawk with which she had killed him, they scuttled the rest of the canoes and set out down the Merrimack River. Suddenly realizing that without proof their story would seem incredible, Hannah ordered a return to the island, where they scalped their victims, wrapping the trophies in cloth which had been cut from Hannah’s loom at the time of the capture, and again set out down the river, each taking a turn at guiding the frail craft while the others slept.

Home Again

Traveling by night and hiding by day, they finally reached the home of John Lovewell in old Dunstable, now a part of Nashua, New Hampshire, where they spent the night. The following morning the journey was resumed and they at last beached their canoe at Bradley’s Cove, where Creek Brook flows into the Merrimack. Continuing their journey on foot, they finally reached Haverhill in safety.

Thomas took his wife and the others to the new house which he had been building at the time of the massacre, and which was now completed. Here for some days they rested.

Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1697

"April 29: Is signalized by the achievement of Hannah Dustun, Mary Neff, and Samuel Lennerson, who killed two men, their masters, and two women and six others, and have brought in ten scalps..."

"May 12:Hannah Dustan came to see us... She said her master, whom she kill'd did formerly live with Mr. Roulandson at Lancaster: He told her, that when he pray'd the English way, he thought that was good: but now he found the French way was better. The single man shewed the night before, to Saml Lenarson, how he used to knock Englishmen on the head and take off their Scalps; little thinking that the Captives would make some of their first experiment upon himself. Sam. Lenarson kill'd him.

Diary of John Marshall, April 1697

"At the latter end of this month two women and a young lad that had been taken captive from Haverhill in March before, watching their opportunity when the Indians were asleep, killed ten of them, scalped them all and came home to Boston. [They] brought a gun with them and some other things. The chief of these Indians took one of the women captive when she had lain in childbed but a few days, and knocked her child in [the] head before her eyes, which woman killed and scalped that very Indian. This was done just about the time the council of this province had concluded on a day of fasting and prayer through the province."

The Merit of the Action Remains

This remarkable exploit of Hannah Dustin, Mary Neff, and Samuel Lennardson was received with amazement throughout the colonies, and Governor Nicholson of Maryland sent her a suitably inscribed silver tankard.

In 1694 a bounty of £50 had been placed on Indian scalps, reduced to £25 in 1695, and revoked completely on 16 December 1696. Thomas Dustin decided that the bounty should be claimed, so he took the two women and the boy to Boston, where they arrived with the trophies on 21 April 1697. He filed a petition to the Governor and Council, which was read on 8 June 1697 in the House, setting forth his belief that the act of the two women and the boy had been of great value in destroying enemies of the colony, and claiming the reward. His petition stated that “ the merit of the Action remains the same” and claimed that “your Petitioner having Lost his Estate in the Calamity wherein his wife was carried into her captivity rendrs him the fitter object for what consideracon the publick Bounty shall judge proper for what hath been herein done”.

On 16 June 1697 the General Court voted payment of a bounty of £25 “unto Thomas Dunston of Haverhill, on behalf of Hannah his wife”, and £12, 10s each to Mary Neff and Samuel.

After the return from Boston, Thomas remembered that while constable the preceding year he had advanced the sum of £10, 14s 8p to Colonel Nathaniel Saltonstall for money due several men as soldiers for service in 1695. He had received an order from the Province Treasurer as security, which order was destroyed in the fire. As his request, Colonel Saltonstall wrote to the Province Treasurer on 31 May 1697, acknowledging receipt of the money in return for the order which was burned in Thomas's house the preceding March, and the order for payment of this sum to Thomas Dustin was approved by the Council on 4 June 1697.

I Desire To Be Thankful

Letter from Hannah Dustin to the elders of the church, applying for admission to the membership of the church:

"I Desire to be Thankful that I was born in a Land of Light & Baptized when I was Young : and had a Good Education by My Father, Tho I took but little Notice of it in the time of it :--I am Thankful for my Captivity, twas the Comfortablest time that ever I had; In my Affliction God made his Word Comfortable to me. I remembred 43d ps. ult and those words came to my mind--ps. 118.17. ... I ave had a great Desire to come to the Ordinance of the Lords Supper a Great while but Unworthiness has kept me aback; reading a Book concerning Suffering Did much awaken me. In the 55th of Isa. Beg. We are invited to come:-- Hearing Mr. Moody preach out of ye 3rd of Mal. 3 last verses it put me upon Consideration. Ye 11th of Matthew has been Encouraging to me-- I have been resolving to offer me Self from time to time ever since the Settlement of the present Ministry: I was awakened by first Sacram'l Sermon (Luke 14.17) But Delays and fears prevailed upon me:-- But I desire to Delay no longer, being Sensible it is My Duty--. I desire the Church to receive me tho' it be at the Eleventh hour; & pray for me--that I may hon'r God and obtain the Salvation of my Soul." "Hannah Duston wife of Thomas A. '67"

Hannah Dustin survived her husband some years, and after his death went to reside with her son, Jonathan, who lived on the southwest part of the original Thomas Dustin farm. She died 6 March 1736, and her will was proven in Ipswich on 10 March 1736; and recorded in Salem Registry of Essex Probate. Her eldest daughter, Hannah Dustin Cheney, served as her executor.

Killed in the Raid on Haverhill

Twenty-seven persons were slaughtered (fifteen of them children), and thirteen captured. Hannah Dustin’s nurse Mary Neff, was carried away and helped in the escape by hatcheting her captors. Another captive who later wrote about the adventure and was kidnapped a second time ten years later was Hannah Heath Bradley. The following is a list of those killed:

  • Daniel Bradley
  • Hannah Bradley, wife of Daniel
  • Mary Bradley, daughter of Daniel and Hannah
  • Hannah Bradley, daughter of Daniel and Hannah
  • Joseph Bradley, son of Joseph Bradley (brother of Daniel Bradley)
  • Martha Bradley, daughter of Joseph Bradley (brother of Daniel Bradley)
  • Sarah Bradley, daughter of Joseph Bradley (brother of Daniel Bradley)
  • Martha Dow, daughter of Stephen Dow
  • Martha Dustin, infant daughter of Thomas and Hannah
  • Sarah Eastman, daughter of Deborah Corliss
  • Thomas Kingsbury (son of Deborah Corliss)
  • Mehitable Kingsbury (son of Deborah Corliss)
  • Thomas Eaton
  • Thomas Emerson
  • Elizabeth Emerson, wife of Thomas
  • Timothy Emerson, son of Thomas and Elizabeth
  • Sarah Emerson, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth
  • John Keezar
  • John Keezar's father
  • John Keezar's son, George Keezar
  • John Kimball
  • John Kimball's mother, Hannah
  • Thomas Wood
  • Susannah Wood, daughter of Thomas Wood
  • John Woodman
  • Susannah Woodman, daughter of John Woodman
  • Zechariah White

Dustin Monument

The Duston Monument Association, which originated in the West Parish, was organized in early October 1855, for the purpose of purchasing, enclosing, and improving the site of the house from which Hannah Dustin was taken by the Indians in 1697, and erecting thereon a monument in her memory. The site was purchased on 15 October 1855. In January 1856 a benefit was held in the Town Hall, which was realized the handsome sum of $523.39 for the Association. Among the articles on exhibition at the levee, were the gun which Hannah Dustin took from the Indians at the time of her escape; the scalping knife said to have been used on the occasion; the tankard presented to Hannah Dustin and Mrs. Neffe by Governor Nicholson of Maryland; a pair of tongs and a platter that belonged to Hannah Dustin; and the pocketbook of Thomas Dustin.

The Association was incorporated in March 1856 by a special act of Legislature. On 1 June 1861, a marble monument, five feet square and twenty-four feet high, was erected by the Association, at an expense of about $1200. The tablets contain the following inscriptions:

"Hannah, dau of Michael and Hannah Emerson, wife of Thomas Dustin, born in the town Dec 23, 1657. Captured by the Indians March 15, 1697, (at which time her babe, then but six days old, was barborously murdered, by having its brains dashed out against a tree) and taken to an island in the Merrimack, at Pennacock, now Concord, N.H. On the night of April 29, 1697, assisted by Mary Neff, and Samuel Lennardson, she killed ten of the twelve savages in the wigwam, and taking their scalps and her captor's gun, all trophies of her remarkable exploit, she embarked on the waters of the Merrimack, and after much suffering arrived at her home in safety."

"Thomas Dustin on the memorable 16th of March, 1697, when his house was attacked and burned , and his wife captured, by the savages, heroically defended his seven children and successfully covered their retreat to a garrison."

In Pop Culture

While in Boston, Hannah told her story to Reverend Cotton Mather, who perceived it as a miracle and included an extraordinary version of it in his “Magnalia Christi Americana”.

Hannah's story was retold in a chapter entitled "Mother's Revenge" in Legends of New England by John Greenleaf Whittier. This was the poet's first book, published in 1831.

Dustin's captivity became famous more than a hundred years after she died. She became the first woman honored in the United States with a statue. During the nineteenth century, she was referred to as "a folk hero" and the "mother of the American tradition of scalp hunting". Some scholars assert that her story only became legend because it could be used to define violence against native Americans as defensive and virtuous.

An interesting, albeit glamorized and fictionalized, version of Dustin's story was featured in "Fabulous Females including Hannah Dustin, Amelia Earhart and Rosie the Riveter", Wonder Woman Comic Issue 89, 1957.

Dustin House

The Dustin House or Dustin Garrison House is a historic First Period house at 665 Hilldale Avenue in Haverhill, Massachusetts. It was under construction by farmer and brick-maker Thomas Dustin at the time of the 1697 attack on Haverhill during King William's War. It was during this raid that his wife, Hannah Dustin, in bed at their existing home a half mile away, was captured by Native Americans. The house is one of a very small number of brick houses to survive from that time.


  • Wiki Profile
  • Britannica Profile
  • http://minerdescent.com/page/7/
  • Hawthorne in Salem
  • H. D. Kilgore. "The Story of Hannah Duston", Duston-Dustin Family Association: June 1940.
  • Rev. Charles Henry Pope. "The Cheney Genealogy". 1897.
  • Essex Reg. Book 420, page 287
  • George Wingate Chase. "The History of Haverhill, Ma. From Its First Settlement, in 1640, to the Year 1860". pp. 308-309.
  • Mass. Archives Vol 70, p. 350
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Hannah Dustin, Indian Fighter's Timeline

December 23, 1657
Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts
December 3, 1677
Age 19
Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts
August 22, 1678
Age 20
May 7, 1680
Age 22
Haverhill, MA, USA
November 14, 1681
Age 23
Haverhill, MA, USA
January 5, 1683
Age 25
Haverhill, MA, USA
May 16, 1685
Age 27
Haverhill, Essex, Massachusetts
February 2, 1686
Age 28
Haverhill, Essex, Ma
July 4, 1688
Age 30
Haverhill, Essex, Massachusetts
October 16, 1690
Age 32
Haverhill, Essex, Massachusetts