Local Action in King Philip's War (1675-76) - Part 2
1667 map of Marlborough Plantation
How the war played out locally- Marlborough Plantation in Massachusetts was settled about 1656 by neighboring Sudbury residents needing more land for their families. By the start of the war in 1675, Marlboro Plantation had a population of roughly 225 white people, comprising about thirty homes. The only inhabitant in the part of Marlborough that is modern Northborough was John Brigham. Considered the first settler, he was gifted large tract of land in 1672, extending westward from the present center of Northborough to Ball Hill, in repayment for surveying services rendered to Marlborough. He had a sawmill on “Howard’s Brook” and his house stood on Church street, near the meetinghouse common.
Burning of a colonial village
The “Praying Indian” village at Marlborough had about forty men, besides women and children. During the hostile times surrounding King Philip’s war, under the direction of the English, the Indians had built a fort for themselves. They were furnished with ammunition and some with arms by the government, as well as arms of their own. While relations between the Marlborough natives and colonists were mostly civil, there had been conflict dating back to the 1660’s, when the town’s first meetinghouse was erected on an old Indian planting field and blocked access from the Indian village to the town’s main road. After the deadly attack on Lancaster, the Marlborough Indians’ loyalty to the colonists fell under suspicion and their fort was attacked and plundered by colonial soldiers. Fifteen of the Indians were arrested and sent to Boston, tied neck to neck like galley slaves. After a long trial and imprisonment in Boston, eleven of the fifteen were fully acquitted. Few returned to the area and their persecution was the likely cause of the abandonment of the Indian settlement at Marlborough.
1676 garrisson assignments
Being a frontier town, Marlborough was exposed to attacks from all directions. But as it was located on the road to Connecticut, Marlborough was also considered to be a point of military advantage. The garrison at Marlborough had become a rendezvous for the troops going to and coming from the western towns and while it was occupied by soldiers, the people felt some degree of security in their homes. After the hostile Indian raids on Lancaster and Deerfield, the people of Marlborough felt vulnerable and designated specific homes where assigned families and soldiers could gather in case of an attack. As anticipated, the settlement was attacked twice in 1676 and partially destroyed when many of the town’s remaining structures were burned. Tradition holds that several days after he had evacuated, John Brigham’s home was also burned to the ground by Indians. In fear, the people of Marlborough, including John Brigham, fled to Watertown. Marlborough was not completely abandoned as it continued to be maintained by the military as a supply depot.
Although the town suffered a major loss of property during the war, there was no significant loss of colonists’ lives. Many settlers returned after the war, desiring to divide the "Indian Plantation" for deeds among the Marlborough proprietors. While John Brigham did not return at the conclusion of the war, eventually settling in Sudbury, he did retain his role as proprietor and remained active in the town as it regrouped and rebuilt.
John Brigham's Mill (Forbes, circa 1900)
SOURCES: Allen, Rev. Joseph. History of Northborough, Mass., in Various Publications and Discourses. Worcester: 1880.
Bigelow, Ella A. Historical Reminiscences of the Early Times in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and Prominent Events from 1860 to 1910: Including Brief Allusions to Many Individuals, and an Account of the Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town. Marlborough, Mass.: Times Publishing Company, 1910.
Bodge, George Madison. Soldiers in King Philip's War; Being a Critical Account of That War, With a Concise History of the Indian Wars of New England from 1620-1677, Official Lists of the Soldiers of Massachusetts Colony Serving in Philip's War, and Sketches of the Principal Officers, Copies of Ancient Documents and Records Relating to the War, Also Lists of the Narragansett Grantees of the United Colonies, Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut. Leominster, Mass.: Printed for the Author, 1896.
Brigham, Willard Irving Tyler. The History of the Brigham Family: a Record of Several Thousand Descendants of Thomas Brigham the Emigrant, 1603-1653. New York: Grafton Press, 1907-1927.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Worcester County. Deed Records, 1877. Worcester County Registry of Deeds, Worcester.
Hudson, Charles. History of the Town of Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts: From its First Settlement in 1657 to 1861: With a Brief Sketch of the Town of Northborough, a Genealogy of the Families in Marlborough to 1800, and an Account of the Celebration of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town. Boston: T.R. Marvin & Son, 1862.
Kent, Josiah Coleman. Northborough History. Newton, Massachusetts: Garden City Press, 1921.
Schultz, Eric B. and Tougias, Michael J. King Philip's War: The History and Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict. Woodstock, Vermont: The Countryman Press, 1999.