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  1780 A.D.:  Hannah Handy Risks It All

  I wish to thank the people of Royalton, Vermont and especially Mr. John Dumville, Historic Sites Operation Chief for the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, for sending a good amount of competently preserved detail concerning this event, a raid by Native American Indians from Canada under British instigation,  which took place in their town in 1780 A.D.  The portion of the event I wanted to feature concerns a woman named Hannah Handy (or some have spelled her name Hendee, though land records reportedly show 'Handy'.)   During the raid Mrs. Handy's young son Michael was captured.  But she proved herself a woman of quite notable courage and determination by the way she remedied that.  

  There is a city park monument which relates to this event in the town of Royalton, and it is worth a visit, I understand.  From the appearance of the town scenery it might make a nice day trip for readers living near or passing through that area. 

  Mrs. Handy's actions aren't singular among womankind by any means, but they were certainly noteworthy.  Not only did Mrs. Hendee, brave though probably terrified, wade across a dangerous portion of the White River to an island where the captives were being temporarily kept to demand her child back, but she also was just as adamant that the youngest boys from her neighbor's families be returned as well.  She couldn't save all the male captives (the British only paid bounties for the males as I understand it) but she shamed them into returning the ones that were probably too young to survive the trip north to be sold to the British for the bounty price.  

  I believe her actions constitute a useful example both of the love for one's neighbor exceeding a person's regard for their own life, but also yet another example of what courageous acts history has shown seemingly ordinary wives and mothers to be fully capable of when the situation requires it.  Hannah Handy did not die, but she probably should have.  And it was not a quick and unthinking act of bravery.  It was a sustained effort lasting quite a few hours altogether - including the time she spent, cold and wet in October, gaurding the saved children after obtaining them - in order to accomplish what she apparently felt in her heart that God would expect.   

  God granted her extraordinary courage.  She used it admirably and to great and important effect.  Who knows how many people are now descended from the children she saved?  I hope you'll enjoy the account of it that has been graciously provided by Royalton's experts on the matter.  And to begin, here is a present day picture of Royalton, which is near the White River.  In front of the tall steepled white church in the center is a park where the Mrs. Handy (Hendee) Memorial monument is. 

Handy Monument 

  Royalton is also the birth place of Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of the Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.  I found that out accidentally when researching this account!   

Royalton, Vermont

  The White River near South Royalton Vermont.  The river looks pretty tame at this time of year. I don't know how close this is to the scene of the actual hostage staging. 

The White River near South Royalton, Vermont

  

Hannah Hendee

On 16 October 1780, about the time that Peter was routing the British at the Burkeville tavern, Robert Havens was awakened by the barking of a neighbor's dog; something was after the sheep. Partially clothed, he left his house near the White River in South Royalton, Vermont, and ascended the hill. He found the sheep safe. He stood pensively looking back as the first light of dawn touched his frontier home. Something was wrong!

As he turned to retrace his steps, he saw a large company of Indians move from the forest and push in the front door of his home. Two teenage boys who had been aroused to help with the sheep were getting dressed. One was his son Daniel Havens. The other, Thomas Pimber, was courting a neighbor girl and had stayed overnight with the Havens family.

The boys burst through the back door and ran for their lives. Daniel stumbled as he reached the stream, rolled down the bank under a log, and was not discovered. Thomas Pimber was not so fortunate. In a few minutes the Indians were roaring with delight. His scalp had a double cowlick. Cut in two, it would fetch a double bounty from the British.

The Indians-three hundred of them from Canada-and a few Tories were commanded by a British captain named Horton. The British had offered the Indians eight dollars each for live captive men, something less for boys, and a lesser amount for scalps. The British had placed no bounty on women and girls, who were therefore immune to captivity and subject to something less than death.

During that long-forgotten burning of South Royalton, Vermont, the Indians moved downriver capturing the men and boys, killing those who resisted. They killed all the livestock and burned the houses and barns holding the harvest upon which the colonists depended for survival during the long New England winter.

Some distance downstream, the Hendee family had been warned. The husband set out on foot to warn others further downstream. Hannah Hendee grabbed her seven-year-old son, Michael, and a younger daughter and ran for the woods. Just when she thought she had reached safety a band of Indians stepped from the shadows and wrested her boy from her. One of them spoke English. She demanded to know what they were going to do to her boy. The Indian replied, "Make a soldier of him."

As the Indians dragged her sobbing boy away, she made her way toward the road along the river carrying her little girl, who screamed in panic for her mother to keep the Indians away.

Near the river she met Captain Horton and asked what they intended to do with the little boys. She was told that they would be marched to Canada with the men. She said the youngsters could not endure such a march, and was told, "In that case, they will be killed."

She headed down the road toward Lebanon, sixteen miles away, carrying her little girl. She had not gone far when she was filled with a surge of uncommon resolve, a fierce determination. They should not keep her little boy!

She returned upriver and found the British and the Indians gathering their captives on the opposite bank. She started across and would have drowned had not an old Indian helped her to shore.

Oblivious of the danger, she demanded her little boy. Captain Horton said he could not control the Indians; it was none of his concern what they did. She threatened him: "You are their commander, and they must and will obey you. The curse will fall upon you for whatever crime they may commit, and all the innocent blood they shall here shed will be found in your skirts when the secrets of men's hearts are made known, and it will cry for vengeance upon your head!"

When her little son was brought in she took him by the hand and refused to let go. An Indian threatened her with a cutlass and jerked her son away. She defiantly took him back and said that she would follow them every step of the way to Canada, she would never give up, they would not have her little boy!

Finally, intimidated by her determination, Captain Horton told her to take her son and leave. He could face an army of men, but not a mother driven by the strongest of emotions. She had gone but a few rods when she was made to return. Captain Horton said she must wait in camp until all the captives were assembled and the march north began.

During the day other little boys were brought into camp. Desperately they clung to Mrs. Hendee. With uncommon courage she interceded for them as vigorously as she had for her own.

Finally, when the captives were assembled for the long march to Canada, Mrs. Hendee somehow crossed the river with her daughter and nine small boys: her son, Michael, Roswell Parkurst, Andrew and Sheldon Durkey, Joseph Rix, Rufus Fish and his brother, Nathaniel Evans, and Daniel Downer. Two of them she carried across. The others waded through the water with their arms around each other's necks, clinging to her skirts. As the cold October night closed in, Mrs. Hendee huddled in the woods with the soaking-wet little brood she had rescued from certain death.

One of the boys, Daniel Downer, "received such an affright from the horrid crew, that he was ever afterwards unable to take care of himself, wholly unfit for business and lived for many years, wandering from place to place, a solemn, tho' silent witness of the distress and horror of that dreadful scene." (Evelyn Wood Love-joy, History of Royalton, Vermont [Burlington, Vermont: Free Press Printing Co., 1911].)

They talk about a woman's sphere,
As though it has a limit;
There's not a place in earth or heaven,
There's not a task to mankind given,
There's not a blessing nor a woe,
There's not a whispered yes or no,
There's not a life, or death, or birth,
That has a feather's weight of worth . . .
Without a woman in it.
-Author unknown 

  Well, that's the account.  Praise to God for His show of mercy for these small chilldren, by placing such courage in the heart of this worthy woman, Hannah Handy.  It really would be interesting to know which people have descended from the children that Hannah waded across the river with, wouldn't it?  There was a little more information about her in some of the accounts.  She ended up remarrying sometime in her life.  Her husband probably died.  And one source said that it was believed that she went to live in the west as an old woman.  I could see her being an old woman with enough courage to go be a western pioneer!  She spoke out fearlessly to power, reminding the British officer that God would judge him too.  The officer was not without some decency, and the Native American warrior were also not without some restraint, and God also would certainly have been in the situation, bringing thoughts of mercy to the minds of the invaders.  But the combined result was that the woman's courage paid off preciously, and all those little lives were spared through her brave and risky protests.  Well done, Hannah Handy!  Well done.  You took faith in an all powerful God, and that faith was rewarded! 

 

Hello,

    I personally believe that realizing how many great deeds of God have actually occurred through out history will lead some people to be saved giving their life to Christ.  If you agree, then please, take the time to be a 'missionary', to love your neighbor enough to care about their soul.  Please mention and recommend visiting the Deeds of God website on any social media sites that you belong to.  Tell a favorite account to your friends or family, and tell them where you read it.  To know God is to stand in awe of Him, but too few people know Him today.  Accounts like these are yet another way to come to know Jesus and the Holy Father, and the Spirit of Truth that helps us understand.  Thank you.  Dan Curry

 

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