White Wing’s Adventure

After the Native American group, Elliot’s Praying Indians, left Magunco Hill (now High Street) the land was open to settlers. One of the first families to take up residence was David Woodwell of Beverly. He married a local girl named Mary Carly and they raised their family (3 boys and a girl) on the hill. The daughter, also named Mary, was born on April 30, 1730. She was a beautiful little girl who was loved by everyone and was given the nickname, Rosebud. We are about to follow her through an amazing adventure.

The family enjoyed their life in the wilderness of Magunco Hill, but that would soon change when opportunity knocked. Colonel John Jones, inherited most of the the Crown land grant from Ashland’s 1st settler, Savil Simpson (Hmm, maybe the topic of the next edition!). Jones had more land further north on the Contoocook River in New Hampshire but he needed settlers. Jones made David Woodwell a very good offer; good land at a cheap price! How do you say no!?

The family did not want to leave their beloved home and neighbors on Magunco Hill. Reluctantly, they moved to the new settlement on Putney’s Hill in NH. The town would later be named, Hopkinton, NH. (Better than the original name, No.5.) During their trip north the family met Pennos, a Penobscot Indian, who would become a good family friend. It was Pennos who re-nicknamed Rosebud, White Wing.

Frontier life was hard and dangerous. One day when White Wing went to draw water at a nearby Spring she found herself face-to-face with a large black bear! The bear was about to attack her when a shot rang out killing the bear. Pennos had killed the bear! Talk about right place at the right time! White Wing, still frightened and in shock, ran home to tell her mother. Pennos arrived after with the bear for White Wing. I will spare you the details of the chopping/skinning and jump right into the meat of why Pennos was at the house (see what I did there?!).  Pennos had news for Mary, the mother. War had broken out in Europe between the French and the English (The Seven Years’ War). The Native American tribes to the North were siding with the French in Canada. Pennos urged the family to be very careful!

Following Pennos’ warning, the family began to sleep at the garrison. On the morning of April 22st, 1746, a fellow settler named Samuel Burbank went to tend to his cattle before the others were awake… He left the door UNLATCHED! Six armed Native Americans who were waiting nearby to ambush walked in and captured eight out of the ten settlers in the garrison. White Wing, her parents, two of her brothers, plus Samuel Burbank and his two sons, were captured. Mrs. Burbank hid in the cellar and the soldier ran away… Obviously, he wasn’t a very good soldier…  

During the ambush, White Wing was nearly shot. Pennos, a Chief of the tribe, stepped between her and the musket, stopped the altercation before anyone was hurt, and took her as his captive. Knowing that she would not be safe with him for long, he sold her to a powerful old Squaw named Pokomo in St. Francis Canada. White Wing was a good worker and Pokomo was fond of her!

When the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed in 1748, the captured were freed and Woodwell went to get his daughter back! Pokomo would only sell her for White Wing’s weight in silver. Unable to raise the funds, Woodwell met Dr. Guy who had a relationship with the tribe that White Wing was with; maybe this connection could bring the price down. Dr. Guy, must have been a hustler on the side because he pulled a fast one on the old squaw! He told White Wing to pretend to be sick and gave her medicine to help their cause. As planned, the tribe called the doctor to help the sick girl. Sadly, there was nothing that could be done. (shocking!) Predicting the child’s immediate death he offered to take her off the Squaw’s hands for cheap. Pokomo agreed to the deal!

Father and daughter returned to Ashland. On February 6, 1755, White Wing married Jesse Corbett of Uxbridge, MA. They had 2 sons. The family moved back to Hopkinton, NH (Seriously!?). I Would say, “surprisingly”, but I think we know where this story is going… In 1759, Jesse was swept away by a current in the Warner River. White Wing remarried in 1761, to Jeremiah Fowler and had 5 more children. After Jeremiah’s death in 1802, White Wing moved to Canterbury, NH where her first born and grandson had made a name for themselves in the Shaker Society.  She died 6 months short of her 100th birthday on October 3rd,1829. What a life she had.

Jennifer Lecesse

February 2018

Sources: Granite State Monthly Vol. 4, Mary Woodwell by Ed-Gov. Walter Harriman. Pg. 233- 239. October 1880.

Ashland Directions, White Wing by Kay Powers, December, 1986.