This is the story of William Prichard, John Ayres, John Warner and Daniel Hovey and their families, who left Ipswich to establish the doomed plantation at Brookfield, Massachusetts.
In May 1660, a group of colonists moved from Ipswich to the Indian town Quaboag in Western Massachusetts, which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks known as “King Phillips War” resulted in the destruction of Brookfield and the deaths of a dozen settlers on August 2, 1675. English soldiers accompanied by Mohegan allies were eventually able to break the siege at Brookfield, with casualties on both sides. Hatfield, Deerfield and Northfield were attacked in September, and Springfield was burned on October 5th.
The protagonist of the Indian attacks was Metacomet (aka Metacom) leader of the Pokanoket tribe, known by the English as King Phillip. Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich led a two-hour attack against Metacom’s fighters in Springfield which resulted in the first setback by the Indians. Appleton is credited also with capturing the Narraganset fort during the Great Swamp Fight in 1675. After returning to public life in Ipswich, he was imprisoned in Boston for his role in defying taxes imposed by the crown-appointed Governor Andros.
William Prichard arrived in the colony in 1630 and settled in Ipswich in 1649. In the summer of 1660. By 1675 he was a selectman of Brookfield and serving as Sergeant in the military. On August 2, 1675, Sergeant Prichard, Corporal Coy, and Sergeant Ayres, were slain in an ambush at Braintree. William Pritchard’s son was outside the garrison at Brookfield when the attack began and was slain by the Indians. They cut off his head, tossed it about like a ball in sight of the settlers, and then set on a pole against his dead father’s house.
John Ayres Sr. was a prominent Ipswich resident who promoted the settlement in Quaboag. He also was killed in the ambush by the Indians in New Braintree the same day as the Brookfield massacre. His wife Susannah Ayres survived the attack at Brookfield and moved back to Ipswich with her six sons and one daughter.
Daniel Hovey and his wife Abigail joined the new town in 1668 accompanied by their five younger children, Thomas aged 20, James 18, Joseph 15, Abigail 13, and Nathaniel 11. Their older children, Daniel Jr. and John remained in Ipswich. Daniel Hovey moved again to Hadley and returned to Ipswich after the massacre.
In the early moments of that siege, Daniel’s son James was overtaken and killed by the Indians somewhere near his house. His wife Priscilla and their children took refuge in a tavern surrounded by hundreds of hostile Nipmucs, who tried unsuccessfully to burn it. After three days Major Simon Willard arrived with 46 troops, and they chased off the attackers. James Hovey was buried with the eleven other victims, and the traumatized survivors returned to Ipswich or dispersed to other better-protected communities along the Massachusetts frontier.
After the attack on Brookfield, Priscilla took her three children to join James’ brother Daniel Hovey in Hadley. She left her eldest son also named Daniel in Hadley to be raised and educated by James’ other brother Thomas. The widow returned to Ipswich with her daughter Priscilla and the infant, James Jr. She filed an inventory of the estate in March 16, 1676 and received a small stipend as a war widow from the General Court of Ipswich. James’ death was officially listed as a military casualty. (Source: The Hovey Book, page 30.)
John Warner and his father William Warner were among the first settlers in the Ipswich Colony, arriving in 1635. The father died in Ipswich in 1648. John Warner married Priscilla, daughter of Mark Symonds of Ipswich where they continued to live for about twenty years. In 1670, he sold to John Woodam his property in Ipswich, consisting of his dwelling house, barn, orchard, and 7 acres of upland “which formerly was part of my father Warner’s meadow in Ipswich.” and he and Priscilla moved to Brookfield. He was one of three men there who arranged the transfer of land with the Indians, built the first house in the new town and is referred to as the “Father of Brookfield”. John and Priscilla survived the attack and retreated with their younger children to Hadley, Massachusetts to join their oldest son Mark Warner. Priscilla died in 1688 and John died in 1692.