Neff Notes Page 2
Notes for Mary (Corliss) Neff
following information was found in "The Descendants of William Neff Who
Married Mary Corliss January 23, 1665 Haverhill, Massachusetts"
Compiled by Dorothy Neff Curry
By order of the County Court Sitting in Boston
4th february 1665. Edw: Rawson Secrety"
ON THE BACK IS WRITTEN:
"This warent was served upon each perticular person Acording to the tennor
of it arest sara butten and ( ) liues not in Haverhill
by me George Browne Constable of Haverhill."
I have no evidence that these people ever testified in a witch trial of John
Godfrey, but the summons must have caused considerable excitement in town.
1697, the year of the Haverhill massacre, we find Mrs. Mary Neff all alone
except for her son Joseph. Mrs. Neff's husband "went after ye Army and died
in Feb. 1688/89, at Pemaquid, Me.", perhaps killed by an Indian arrow. Her
oldest son, William, had also been killedby Indians in 1691. Her three younger
sons, who were all in their twenties by 1697, had left Haverhill for life
adventures elsewhere. About 1690/91, Matthias and Mary (Neff) Button Jr. had
migrated to Plainfield, CT so that Mrs. Neff's only daughter was too far away to
see any more. It is easy to imagine that Hannah Duston and her babies, who lived
nearby, filled an empty corner in Mary's heart.
An early writer has pictured Mrs. Mary Neff as "having a very cheerful
disposition and as being always ready to help others." Thus we find her, on
that fatefull March 15, 1697, at the Duston home taking care of Hannah Duston
and her 6-day old baby, Martha. The Rev. Cotton Mather in his MAGNALIA, gives
one of the most complete and reliable accounts of this entire affair. In it he
refers to Mary Neff as Hannah's nurse and she was certainly acting in that
capacity at the moment. But the relationship between Mary Neff and Hannah Duston
was a lot more than that: they were neighbors and friends and Mary's daughter
and Hannah were sisters-in-law.
On the morning of March 15th, Thomas Duston had taken the older children with
him when he went to work in a nearby field. He had taken his gun with him, not
that he was expecting Indian trouble because there had been no incidents since
the previous August, when two neighbors had been killed and their sons carried
into captivity. But for years, the men of Haverhill had always kept a gun with
them wherever they went as they never knew when the Indians might attack.
The English had tried to maintain friendly relations with the Indains but the
French in Canada never ceased their efforts to win the New World from the
English and did all they could to incite the Indians against the English. They
even offerend the Indians bounties for English scalps and for live English
captives who were then sold into slavery to the French in Canada. The result was
that every time roving bands of Indians came near an English town they were
looking for scalps and captives. Just such a band was in forest near Haverhill
on the night of March 14th. The first warning came when Thomas Duston suddenly
saw a number of Indains approaching the field where he was at work. Telling his
children to hurry to the nearest garrison house, he grabbed his gun and jumped
on his horse to ride home and try to save his wife and baby. But the Indians
were so close he saw he could do nothing for her and returned to join his
children. By meanss of walking behind the children while pointing his gun at the
Indians, he managed to get them to the garrison house, probably that of
Onesiphorus Marsh. No one will ever know why the Indians did not shoot them all.
At the Duston house, all was pandemonium and terror. Mrs. Neff picked up the
baby and tried to run with her to safety. However, she was 50 years old and
could not out-run the Indian warrior who soon caught her and brought her back.
Meanwhile, Hannah was ordered out of bed and told to dress herself, while the
Indians ransacked her house and grabbed up everything they could carry off. Then
they dragged her out , minus one shoe (so it is said), and set fire to the
house. A few of the Indians hustled Hannah and Mary with the baby toward the
woods. Stories vary as to the cause, but suddenly an Indian snatched little
Martha out of Mary Neff's arms and swung it against an apple tree, dashing out
its brains. One can imagine the feelings which filled Hannah Duston's heart at
this point. The Indians rushed the two women along until they reached the spot
in the woods where the squaws and children had been left. Here they were joined
by other warriors who had killed twenty-seven and captured thirteen inhabitants
The group which claimed Mary and Hannah consisted of 12 men, women, and
children. One of the Indian men had lived n the family of Rev. Mr. Rowlandson of
Lancaster, some years before; he had learned to speak English and had been
taught to pray. Later he had been converted by French priests and, strangely
enough, would not let the children eat or sleep without saying their prayers.
But the Indians tried to prevent Mary and Hannah from praying! With this Indian
family was a 14 year old boy, named Samuel Lennardson, who had been captured at
Worcester about a year and a half before.
For more on the Neff or Corliss Family Genealogy see...
Other Neff Notes Pages
- Page 1 William Neff
- Page 2 Mary (Corliss)
- Page 3 Story of Mary Neff
as told by Cotton Mather)
- Page 4 Misc. Notes on
Flint & Neff Families