AN INCIDENT OF MILL RIVER (NOW SOUTHPORT)
IN "YE OLDEN TIME."
BY P.D. RIDGE
A pursuit was once resolved upon.
Hastily filling up their largest canoe with supplies, and accompanied
by two faithful Indian allies, Wampeag and Catoonah, all were well armed, they started for the
islands (now Norwalk Islands) a short distance from the mouth of the river,
thinking that if their fears were true, and Esther had been abducted by that
tribe, they had probably stopped their over night,
and might not yet have left. Love, filial affection, and revenge nerved
the ears, and they were not long in reaching the islands. As they had
surmised, the Indians had stopped there; but they were now gone. The
embers from a recent fire were still warm; the print of the same moccasins was
visible; the prow of the same canoe had left its mark in the sand.
Burning with impatience and rage, and resolved to lose their lives if
need be, in the attempt to save her, they started at once for Long Island,
feeling sure from so many indications, that their foes were Nehantics, living near what is now known as Eaton's Neck. But to return to Esther, whom we left
gathering flowers, little dreaming of danger. She had wandered from the
path in quest of some rare colors with which to deck the brow of her lover,
and having sufficient for her purpose, seated herself near a thick copse and
finished her wreath. As she was looking with admiration upon her work,
her cheeks flushed with the thought of how pleased Josiah would be, she was
suddenly seized by four dusky Pequots. Before
she had time to make any outcry, she was gagged, tied, and hurried into the
woods. Making a wide detour through the woods, which were then
continuous from Pequot Swamp to the Sasco, the
Indians dragged the almost insensible Esther to a bend in the Sasco, (where now stands the dwelling of Capt. Thorp,)
and there meeting two comrades in waiting with a canoe, hastily embarked and
glided down the river to a dense clump of woods near
its mouth, where they waited until under cover of the darkness,
they could proceed in safety. As soon as it was fairly dark they
left the river, and hugging along the land, stopped at the place where
Esther, a few hours before, had so happily tripped ashore. Here they
purposely dropped the wreath, and the arrow which had formerly belonged to
the Nehantic, and leaving plenty of traces in the
sand, they started for the islands. Staying there until near midnight,
and leaving fuel enogh on the fire to last till
morning, they then doubled their track, and returning to Sasco River, were long before daylight,
snugly ensconced in their Pequot lair; succeeding well, as we have seen, in
throwing his party off trail.
ï¿½So intent were the pursuers
on the object they had in view, so earnest in their purpose to rescue Esther,
that they had hardly noticed the heavy swell of the sea noticed the heavy
swell of the sea from a violent northeaster, which then, as now, was common
to September. The wind blew almost a gale, and was increasing every
moment. They had proceeded about half the distance from Long Island, when Enoch, who seemed to have a
presentiment of his fate, exclaimed to his companions, "we shall never
reach the shore! O, my poor Esther, I shall never see you again!"
Their frail bark soon after began to take in water. Still by
bailing and using the utmost skills to keep her trimmed, they succeeded in
getting within a mile of the shore, near the reef, when they were capsized.
Enoch, with one look of despair, sank, and was not seen after. Josiah
and the two Indians clung to the boat, and nearly exhausted, drifted ashore.
The Nehantics, though not
friendly to the tribe on this side, yet had enough of human kindness in their
hearts to befriend a shipwrecked company. Josiah and his companions
were tenderly cared for, and they learned from the Nehantics,
without exciting their suspicions, that none of their tribe had made any
voyages to the north shore within several days. Grief, the double
bereavement, the loss of his beloved and of him who was a
father, had well-nigh unmanned Josiah, and with a heavy
heart he made preparations for returning. The next
morning, the storm having subsided, they started. On their way they
stopped again at the islands to see if they could discover any more traces of
Esther and her captors. That her abductors had been their
was plain; but the Nehantics were not the
guilty party. Who could it have been? They again examined the
beach. The footprints of Esther were plainly visible, for the Pequots had unbound her after reaching the islands.
On looking further, where there was a spot of smooth clean sand, the
tracks appeared to have a method--a design about them, and examing them closely, they could plainly make out the
word "Pequot" imprinted by her feet in the sand. this gave them a clue, and yet a faint one. Of the
history of the battles they were familiar, knowing that the Pequots were all killed or taken away prisioners,
except the few that joined the Mohegans. Had
some of that few returned, and with their whites captive gone back to the Mohegans?
Oh, with what a feeling of lonliness
and almost utter despair Josiah gazed upon that word in the sand. He
could imagine how she, intently watching her masters lest they should
discover her intentions, had endeavored to guide her friends in their
pursuit. those dear footprints seemed to him
the last of Esther. Hope of seeing her again had nearly fled.
Sadly they turned the prow of their boat homeward. No
Esther-no Enoch. How could Josiah break the tidings to the motherï¿½the
wife. Had they come back--this party of rescuers--bringing the darling
object of their search, with what alacrity their little craft would have sped
over the intervening water. But now, instead
of one to them as dead, another, Enoch, the head--the chief of the little
family, was gone. How languidly the canoe crept towards the landing.
How they dreaded to meet the anxious bereaved one.
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