Jonathan Wells, “Boy Hero”

Sarah Strong (1656–1733), daugh­ter of Elder John Strong (abt. 1610–1699) and Abi­gail Ford (1619–1688), mar­ried a sec­ond time after her hus­band Joseph Barnard (1650–1695) was killed by Indi­ans. She mar­ried Cap­tain Jonathan Wells/Welles who, at age 16, had become known as the “boy hero” at the fight of Turner’s Falls.

Wikipedia gives a brief account of the sit­u­a­tion:

Turner Monument

Bat­tle of Turn­ers Falls

The Bat­tle of Turner’s Falls, also known as the Peskeomp­s­cut mas­sacre, was fought on May 19, 1676, dur­ing King Philip’s War, in present-day Gill, Mass­a­chu­setts, near a falls on the Con­necti­cut River. The site is across the river from the vil­lage of Turn­ers Falls. A band of Eng­lish colonists under the com­mand of Cap­tain William Turner fell upon the poorly guarded Indian vil­lage of Peskeomp­s­cut near the falls at dawn, slaugh­ter­ing many of its inhab­i­tants. Many of the war­riors in the camp escaped, and they regrouped with those from other nearby camps to dis­pute the Eng­lish retreat, dur­ing which Turner was killed.


After the mas­sacre of 100–200 Algo­nquian Indi­ans, mainly women, chil­dren, and the elderly, the war­riors regrouped and attacked the Eng­lish retreat. This is where we join Jonathan Wells. The fol­low­ing came from the older Strong Fam­ily Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica web site, and appears to be from Vol­ume 8 of the Mary and John Clearinghouse.

At age, 16, Jonathan became known as the “Boy Hero” of the Fight at Turner’s falls, on 19 May 1676. After the mas­sacre of a group of Indi­ans at Turner’s falls, the mili­tia was attacked by hun­dreds of Indi­ans, who rushed in at the news of the fight. Jonathan was in the rear guard, with 20 men cov­er­ing Capt. William Turner’s retreat. He wrote about his expe­ri­ences after the battle.

As the rear guard pro­tected Turner’s forces, three Indi­ans shot at Jonathan at close range. One bul­let brushed his hair, one hit his horse and another struck him in the thigh. In dan­ger of falling off his horse, the grabbed the horse’s mane and recov­ered him­self. Believ­ing him to be badly wounded, some of the Indi­ans charged him, but he kept them back with a cou­ple of shots. He picked up Stephen Beld­ing, a 16 year old com­pan­ion, and they escaped on Jonathan’s horse. When he reached Capt. Turner, he urged the com­man­der to either turn back or at least wait until the rear guard caught up. But Capt. Turner replied, “Bet­ter to save some, than to lose all”, at which time the main force broke up and went dif­fer­ent directions.

Jonathan fell back to the rear again with some men. They ran into some Indi­ans and most of the men with him were killed. The remain­ing force split again. Ten men stayed with Jonathan, but as his horse began strug­gling with his wound, and with Jonathan weak from the loss of blood, he was left behind, with another wounded man, John Jones. Jonathan had a gun and Jones had a sword. Nei­ther knew the woods, nor could they find a trail. They decided to split up to find a trail, and since Jones’ wound appeared to be fatal, Jonathan was glad to leave him, so he would not be slowed down. At one point, with Indi­ans on his trail, he nearly fainted, but he ate a nut­meg his grand­mother had given him, and he revived. He reached Green River and started up a moun­tain, but he fainted and fell off his horse.

When he came to, he found the bri­dle reins in his hands and his horse stand­ing beside him. He tied his horse and laid down again. After a while he grew so weak he could not get back on his horse. He thought he was going to die there, so, pity­ing his horse he released him, never think­ing about keep­ing some pro­vi­sions in the sad­dle bags.

At noon he was both­ered by flies, so using his flint­lock he started a fire and set the woods on fire. The fire soon spread so fast his hands and hair were burned. Then, real­iz­ing the fire would attract the Indi­ans, he resigned him­self to the fact they would find him and he would be killed. He flung his pow­der horn in one direc­tion and his bul­let pouch in another so they would not find them. He kept a lit­tle pow­der so he might have one shot before he was killed. He stopped the bleed­ing of his wound, crawled to a dif­fer­ent spot to rest, away from the fire and fell asleep.

When he awoke, he found he had new strength, and he could walk using his gun as a staff. After a few miles, he reached a river. He laid down and fell asleep again. When he awoke he saw an Indian approach­ing him in a canoe. He was greatly fright­ened because his gun was full of sand and he was in no con­di­tion to fight. But he aimed his gun at the Indian and the fright­ened foe jumped out of his canoe and fled. The Indian, upon reach­ing his peo­ple told them the Eng­lish army was com­ing because he had seen one of their scouts.

Jonathan, expect­ing the Indi­ans to return, hid among some fallen trees in a swamp. Finally, he reached Hat­field, and safety. It took him four years for his wounds to heal, one and one half years he laid in one spot on a bed, with­out being turned once and the skin came off his back from lay­ing in one position.

Jonathan Wells was the mil­i­tary com­man­der of Deer­field, when it was attacked in 1704 and he sur­vived because his house was for­ti­fied and not attacked. The next day he led a force that drove the French & Indi­ans out of town, but he did not order a pur­suit, in the three foot snows, pos­si­bly remem­ber­ing his expe­ri­ence at Turner’s Falls and not want­ing to be drawn into an ambush. (Vol­ume 8 Mary and John Clearinghouse.)

The Con­necti­cut River Home­page of the Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts Amherst has a good writeup of sev­eral inci­dents along New England’s largest river. The Turn­ers Falls Mas­sacre page has beau­ti­ful pho­tographs of the loca­tion with the narrative.

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