(HOST) Two hundred and fifty years ago this summer, a small group of settlers were walking the hills of Vermont against their will – all the way from the southeastern corner of the state to the lower reaches of Lake Champlain. Commentator Alan Boye has the story.
(BOYE) I am standing in a small cemetery on a lonely, but pretty stretch of State Highway 142 in Vernon, Vermont. A skinny dark rain slithers out of a battleship-gray sky. Small American flags are stuck in the ground on several gravesites. I walk slowly through the wet grass, searching amid the tombstones. I am looking for the final resting place of Jemima Howe Tute, whose unique tale of captivity and perseverance has brought me here.
The old cemetery sits in a small valley lined with low hills. Across the road from the cemetery are two or three ancient farms, their red barns and brick houses surrounded by long lines of white wooden fences. It was in this valley in 1743 that Jemima’s first husband was killed by Native Americans. Behind me in the hills somewhere, there is a marker that commemorates the spot where he died.
After the death of her first husband, Jemima married Caleb Howe. She lived in this pretty valley and raised her seven children on a small farm. Then tragedy struck again.
Her husband and two of their children were returning home after hoeing corn in a field near the river. The two children sat behind their father on a horse. There was a sudden flash from the woods and a musket ball tore through the flesh of Caleb Howe’s thigh. When he fell to the ground, he was attacked. He was stabbed, scalped and later died from his wounds.
Jemima, two other women and their children were huddled inside one of the buildings. Jemima’s oldest child was 11 and her young- est was only six months old. They were all captured and taken to Canada.
After a year in captivity, Jemima was freed. She spent the next five years searching for her children. One by one, she located them and bartered, argued and negotiated until all of them were recov- ered. Only then did she return to this small Vermont valley. She never left again. She outlived her third husband and each of her children. She died in 1805 at the age of 82.
I hurry through the drizzle until I find her small tombstone not far from the highway. I stoop in the rain to read the fading words etched on her stone: “Having passed through more vicissitudes, and endured more hardships than any of her contemporaries, no savage foe shall annoy her or ever destroy her wide spread fame.”
This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.
Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.