Sept 29, 2013 marked the 322nd anniversary of the Brackett & Rand Massacre in Rye, NH. The burial ground is marked by this plaque and the land near the area is open to the public for hiking and implied to be haunted by several online sources. Being a descendant of the Rand family & living fairly close, I decided to explore for a few reasons, but before I go into that I'd like to give a little background information on the Rands and their fateful day all those years ago.
Francis Rand arrived in Strawbery Banke, NH (now Portsmouth) somewhere between 1631-1640. Many speculate he arrived with Mason's Men in 1631 which could very well be true, but I have yet to find evidence of it. What I do know is the earliest record I have found for him is in 1640 where he is accused of trespassing in the earliest settlement records. It's most commonly suspected he was born about 1616 in England, however, I tend to think he was a bit older than that. I tend to believe, if he did come with Mason's men, he could not be born in 1616 because he would be a mere 15 yrs old. Perhaps 1611 is a more accurate approximation of birth.
During King William's War (1689-1698), on Tuesday September 29th of 1691 at about noon there was an attack by Indians on the shores of Sandy Beach (now Rye, NH). Twenty or twenty-one persons were killed or captured that fateful morning and although a complete list of those whose lives were ended or forever changed does not exist, we know the Francis Rand and Anthony Brackett Families were most affected. The Rands and Bracketts were neighbors on what is now known as Brackett's Lane.
Some of those killed included Francis Rand Sr., his wife Christian, as well as Anthony Bracket and his wife. Other reports of those killed & captured vary according to secondary sources. Two grandchildren of Old Goodman Bracket, "sons of John", are said to have been taken captive, but in another source it states it was a boy and a girl who later married a Frenchman in Canada and returned to claim her right to the land. Perhaps the truth is a combination of both.
Still another source states 10 bodies were found, and it was presumed 3 of those were burned in houses, the captured tracks of two women & a child were seen, and seven others were missing. Of those killed, two are said to be very aged men, and the rest were women & children. Some children are said to be heinously killed against a rock which stood in the road near Samuel M. Rand's, a later descendant, living in the mid 1800's (Billey, Samuel, Thomas, Francis). Tradition states the blood was visible for generations, but the rock no longer stands as a road was built there.
It seems to be agreed on that Thomas Rand, and possibly another son of Francis as well, were fishing when the attack happened. Upon returning Thomas went to Brackett's and fired at the Indians scaring them away. Mrs Christian Rand who was nearly blind is said to have sensed the Indians were lurking and begged her husband not to go to work that day. Her fears were dismissed and off he went. Both were killed. She at home, and he at the mill.
Various sources which describe the event include:
The History of the Town of Rye by Rev. J.K. Aldrich
Brackett Genealogy published by H. I. Brackett in 1907
Old Kittery and Her Families by Everett Schermerhorn Stackpole
History of Rockingham County, New Hampshire by Charles A. Hazlett
History of the town of Hampton, NH Vol 1 by Joseph Dow
I love to visit places where my ancestors have lived. There is something about walking the same paths and standing in the same places they did that brings a connection to me I can't quite explain. Since this land was said to contain hiking paths it brought with it extra appeal. I was hoping to find at least one marker I could recognize from the Rand deeds I have studied over the years, but I must say the visit in that aspect was quite disappointing. The access to the land is limited, most of it marsh, and no map of it exists according to several associations in Rye. The hiking paths are unmarked, and I was I able to find any clear indication of what was open to the public & what was not aside from the burial ground.
As I eluded to previously, it has been said for centuries the land contains tales of spirits and an air of uneasiness about it. As a descendant of the Rands through at least two lines both deriving from my 4x great grandmother Mary Ann Rand b: a1816, and also as someone who is conflicted with the fact that the founding of this country was based heavily on the theft of land and destruction of Native cultures, I thought perhaps a dual cultural blessing would be in order when I visited.
Not wanting to upset either side I knew I needed to consult someone more adept to the Native culture than I was. I contacted Jim Beard of the Northeast American Cultural Resource and inquired about an appropriate peace and/or forgiveness offering. Upon his consulting with an Elder within the group it was advised when I go to this place I should offer this: "To the Native people: Offer a prayer with tobacco for continued life and connection with all that is. This was a time of great misunderstanding on both sides. For you and all the children of your ancestors offer the same prayer in the way that they understand Spirit. Ask only that what has come to pass be laid to rest so that all life can go forth in a good way. Spirit knows your pain and will release the burden." I was then advised to make a tobacco tie made from a red cotton square of cloth with a pinch of tobacco wrapped and tied with a thread. Take the tie to the marsh, hold the tie in your left hand as you say the prayer and then tie it to the oldest tree you can find. "Spirit will show you that the prayers have been acknowledged so be aware."
While I meant to get there much earlier in the summer the timing & weather never quite worked out until all of a sudden it seemed, the anniversary was upon me. It amazes me sometimes how things seem to pan out. I set out with my friend & daughter that morning armed with the tie, camera, digital recorder and no real time frame in mind arriving within the noon hour on Sept 29, 2013. We paid our respects at the burial site and moved on in the hopes of exploring the land. Much to my disappointment the land was difficult to "hike", and we soon returned closer to the burial site where we had seen a quite large tree in surrounding area. We offered our gift & prayer to the Native people and proceeded to tie it to the tree. As we were doing so, knocks were heard near by on a hollow tree which I immediately assumed were a woodpecker. However, a few minutes later they were heard again & sounded much less like a woodpecker and much more like an unexplained acknowledgement of our gift. After offering the prayer and gift to the Natives, I offered my Christian prayer to my ancestors asking Jesus to bring peace & comfort to the land and requested that he open the gates allowing any spirits who wished to, to journey on into eternal life with him.
Now, do I know any of this had any impact at all? Or that the knocks on the trees were the Natives acknowledging our gift? No, I have no idea. But I have a spiritual faith that maybe it could help, and trying in this life is all I can do. So I did.
Amylynne (Baker) Murphy
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