THE CHURCH FAMILY-- INCLUDING
AN INDIAN FIGHTER AND A TRAITOR
RICHARD CHURCH (b. 1608) and ELIZABETH WARREN (b. 1608) may have come to America with Governor Winthrop’s fleet in 1630., residing first at Weymouth and subsequently at Plymouth 1631, Eastham 1649, Charlestown by 1653, Hingham 1654. . He volunteered for service in the Pequot War. In 1632 (Oct 4) he married ELIZABETH WARREN, daughter of Mayflower passenger, RICHARD WARREN.1 Nine months later (23 July 1633), Richard Church acquired a servant when the Plymouth court bound William Mendlove to him for a term of seven years in the trade of carpentry . In exchange Richard was to teach him carpentry and was to give him two suits of apparell at the end of the term. The arrangement was made after “"Will. Mendlove, the servant of William Palmer, whipped for attempting uncleanness with the maid servant of the said Palmer, & for running away from his master, being forcibly brought again by Penwatechet, a Manomet Indian." 2
Richard’s son, JOSEPH CHURCH (b. 1638) married MARY TUCKER. Joseph was apparently somewhat handicapped as evidenced by Richard Warren’s will (1668) Richard Church bequeathed to "my beloved wife Elizabeth Church ... the remainder during her natural life" (after debts are paid); after her decease remainder to "be equally divided amongst my children only my son Joseph to have a double portion ... by reason of the lameness of his hand, whereby he is disenabled above the rest of my children" 3. Another of Richard’s sons, Nathaniel Church achieved a more dubious notoriety when he and Elizabeth Soule were fined for committing fornication 4. But Richard’s most famous son was Colonel Benjamin Church, the renowned Indian fighter in King Phillip’s War. 5 Richard’s most infamous descendant was probably Colonel Church’s grandson, Dr. Benjamin Church - accused of treason.
COLONEL BENJAMIN CHURCH
Colonel Benjamin Church has often been viewed by his descendants and by descendants of other early immigrant families as a heroic soldier fighting Indians, especially during King Phillip’s War. Others may well regard Benjamin Church in a much more negative manner as they evaluated his treatment of Native Americans. Extracts from three internet articles, representing different perspectives, are presented here
A DESCENDANT’S PERSPECTIVE OF COLONEL BENJAMIN CHURCH 6:
A generally positive (and well documented) account, “Fleming Family History” by Barb Pretz @aol.commailto:BarbPretz@aol.com, has been posted on Ancestry.com.............. “Church, Benjamin (1639-Jan. 17, 1718), soldier, was born at Plymouth, Mass., the son of Richard and Elizabeth (Warren) Church.. He was brought up to follow his father's trade of carpentry, which, especially in his early years, carried him to many parts of the Plymouth Colony. On Dec. 26, 1671, he married Alice Southworth. By 1674 he had bought land and was engaged in building a house at Sogkonate (Little Compton, R.I.) where he became well acquainted with Indians and was soon 'in great esteem among them.' The outbreak of King Philip's War, in June 1675, found Church living on the frontier, where his first act was to dissuade Awashonks, squaw-sachem of the Sogkonate Indians, from joining the Wampanoags. During the summer, commanding small detachments of Plymouth troops, Church fought numerous skirmished of no great importance aside from their value in teaching methods of Indian warfare. He constantly urged his superior officers to pursue the enemy, instead of building forts, but his suggestions were ignored. In the 'Great Swamp Fight' of Dec. 19, 1675, near South Kingston, R.I., he played a prominent part as Captain of a Plymouth company, and was twice wounded. Had his advice, that the troops be allowed to remain and recuperate in the Narragansett fort, been followed, the English losses from exposure on the return march might have been greatly diminished. During the following spring and summer the troops of the United Colonies undertook the systematic destruction of the Indians' corn, and the capture of warriors, with their women and children. By offering his captives their choice between slavery or fighting against their kinsmen, Church enlisted many Indians in his force and, with their assistance, took additional prisoners, including a squaw and son of Philip. The sachem himself, with his remaining followers, took refuge in a swamp near Mount Hope (Brostol, R.I.). Betrayed by a deserter, he was ambushed by Church on Aug. 12, 1676, and shot in attempting to escape, by Alderman, on of Church's Indians. During the following twelve years Church lived at various places within the Plymouth Colony, where he bought lands and served occasionally as magistrate or selectman. During King William's and Queen Anne's wars he served as major, and later colonel, in five expeditions against the French and Indians in Maine and Nova Scotia, in the last of which, in 1704, he plundered the French town of Les Mines and, in his blustering manner, ordered the governor of Port Royal to discontinue the raids on the English settlements. These expeditions accomplished little, since the enemy avoided decisive engagements, and Church, poorly compensated for his services, retired in disgust in 1704. He seems to have been a man 'of uncommon activity' even in his later years, when he had grown so fat that the aid of a stout sergeant was needed to lift him over fallen trees. On one occasion his impetuosity caused some of his French prisoners to be 'knocked on the head,' an act which he found difficult to explain on his return to Boston. He died Jan. 17, 1718, near Little Compton, R.I., from injuries sustained in a fall from his horse."........... “ in the morning he visited on horseback his only sister, Mrs. Irish, and returning fell from his horse, and being portly and very heavy, he struck the ground with such violence, as to burst a blood vessel, which caused his death in about twelve hours; and he was buried with great pomp and parade.”................"Obituary Notice of Col. Benjamin Church.Little Compton, January 18, [1717-8]”....” Yesterday the 17th Currant, The Honorable Col. Benjamin Church, Esq; Riding out to his Farm, his Horse stumbled and he fell, pitched upon his Head and Shoulders, was immediately taken up and carryed to the next House, but never spoke a word after, but it's thought by the motions and signs he made, that he had his Senses, and Died about six hours after in the 78th year of his Age. He was a true lover of his Country and approved himself so, by venturing his Life so often in it's Defense in the several Wars, & many Services he has done for it, as also in his Stedfast adherence to it's Interest in times of Temptations to the contrary; a Gentleman also that has been a great Friend and Incourager of Virtue and Religion, especially in this corner of the Province, where Providence disposed the bounds of his Habitation”. - Boston News-Letter"
COLONEL BENJAMIN CHURCH’S PERSPECTIVE :7
A review of Benjamin Church’s diary (1716) notes that this writing .....) ” reveals much of the chronicler's personality and outlook:(‘Entertaining Passages Relating to Philip's War Which Began in the Month of June, 1675, as also of Expeditions More lately made Against the Common Enemy, and Indian Rebels, in the Eastern Parts of New-England: with some Account of the Divine Providence Towards Benjamin Church, Esqr’ .8 Over seventy years of age, too feeble to continue service in the militia, Colonel Benjamin Church settled in his Little Compton home and sorted through the ''minutes'' of his military career. With the loving aid of his son Thomas, these scattered and scrawled minutes grew into the hours and days of battles and lulls. .....
When we first consider the effect of King Philip's War on the fledgling society, home and family capture our attention immediately. This war ruptured family and community, sweeping away men, women, and children. Church logically began his story with the establishment of his home in Little Compton....... in so doing, he became the first Englishman to settle in the midst of this Indian settlement. He confessed that his only desire was to keep himself ‘from offending Indian neighbors all around me.’(p. 65)........
Church's account, more than other historical narratives of the period, shows first-hand knowledge of Indians as people. Church lived among them, and in the case of the Sogkonate tribe, trusted and admired them. As Philip attempted to consolidate his forces in the spring of 1675, Church received a commission from the governor to negotiate with Awashonks, the squaw-sachem of the tribe. She told Church that English homes and livestock would be destroyed unless she joined forces with him. Awashonks feared English reprisals if that occurred. Persuaded by Church to side with the English, she begged him to represent her people to the Plymouth government. Despite Church's obvious concern for the welfare of this tribe, he concealed the virtual annihilation of the Pequots by the English, representing the colonists as conciliatory ‘protectors’
As with his own life, Church allowed only a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes life of the Indians. Of the enemy, Church saw: ‘they exercised more than brutish barbarities, beheading, dismembering, and mangling.’ (p. 75) He did not mention that at this time English law required beheading for treason, and that dismemberment and mangling often accompanied that punishment. Church's admiration for Indian combat tactics, however, drew his attention from the atrocities. Captives schooled Church in the ways of the wilderness, revealing a key tactical advantage. He discovered that the Indians scatter in the woods - and the English do not, making them easy targets. (p. 140) Like his Alonquin foe, Church admired the skilled warrior; and so he continually challenged, captured, and won the enemy to his side.
Church's selective (and heightened) memories of these campaigns give us some idea of a soldier's process of recollection. These passages reveal the intimacy of this struggle. On several occasions, Church recorded that he was "impatient" being taken away from the battles and would rather help his friends. In contrast to the blow-by-blow narrative in the Bodge text, Church favored a tale that would demonstrate how well he fought at Pease Field or the Great Swamp. With the exception of rare citations of fellow officers, Church celebrated himself. What emerges then is a portrait of a seasoned militiaman in action. Each episode seems less to canonize and more to illumine Church's expertise. He loved the fight, the friction - and even relished the recall of his own wounds:.....’Mr Church ran right on till he was struck with three bullets, one in his thigh, which was near half of it cut off as it glanced on the joint of the hip bone; another through the gatherings of his breeches and draws, with a small flesh wound; a third pierced his pocket and wounded a pair of mitten that he had borrowed of Captain Prentice, being wrapped up together, had the misfortune of having many holes cut through them with one bullet.’ (p. 99)..........
No single episode is as carefully drawn as the death of Philip. For here Church confronted the cause of the conflict and challenged the worthiest of opponents. Despite his commanding presence, Philip failed to command much attention in these jottings until this final appearance. His family seized, Indian followers deserting - Metacomet stood alone. Militiaman Church heightened his closure by an account of the spiritual resignation of the heathen as early as August 1676: ....
Some of the Indians now said to Captain Church, ‘Sir, you have now made Philip ready to die, for you have made him as poor and miserable as he used to made the English, for now you have killed or taken all his relations.’ (p. 147)
From this point, Philip belongs to the ages; the tale turns into a saga. As the Wampanoag chief was dragged from the swampland that has so often served as sanctuary, he forfeited his humanity, becoming a ‘doleful, great naked, dirty beast.’ (p. 154) Church declared that Philip's body must suffer the same indignities he inflicted upon countless Englishmen. Therefore he bid his Indian executioner to decapitate and quarter the body. For this each man earned four shillings, six pence and the ‘honour of killing Philip.’ (p. 156)
Throughout his account, the Plymouth government ‘nominated, commissioned, and impowered’ Church ‘to discover, pursue, fight, surprize, destroy our Indian Enemies.’ (p. 128) Small wonder that Church expected a hero's stipend as well as greeting when he arrived in Boston at the behest of Governor John Leverett. The ailing governor, after hearing Church's stirring account of the war, pledged £100 advantage from Massachusetts Bay and a proportional share from the other colonies: ‘But he [the governor] died within a fortnight after, and so nothing was done of that matter…’ (p. 173) From the General Court of Plymouth, Captain Benjamin Church ‘received their thanks for his good service.’ (p. 174)..............(Source: Massachusetts Officers and Soldiers in the Seventeenth Century Conflicts. Edited by Carole Doreski Published by The Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts The New England Historic Genealogical Society NewEnglandAncestors.org)
A NATIVE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE OF COLONEL BENJAMIN CHURCH 9:
“Benjamin Church is most famous for his actions during "King Philip's War&. He has been painted as a true Indian Fighting Hero by most and as a cold blooded killer by some. He was a devout man of God and loyal to his King. Like any human being, he had his good days and his bad ones. Many of his tactics appear cruel, especially from the perspective of his enemies. Native Americans generally have a very dim view of him. He did accept that Indians were human beings - as long as they were Christian - and treated his Indian soldiers better than most. He generally recruited Indians to fight against Indians. Most of his actions seem to have come from the belief that war was bad and everything conceivable (and deceivable) should be done to end it quickly. Many Indians surrendered to him during Philip's War under his promise that they would be treated kindly. This was a promise that was not in his power to keep. The Government sold most of Church's Indian captives into slavery to help defray the costs of the war, except the warriors, who were hung. Church did express his distaste for this policy. If he had not been the hero of Philip's War, he might have been hung as a traitor or banished from Plymouth for questioning Government policy.
Major Benjamin Church's orders of Sept. 1689 specified that his soldiers should have "the benefit of the captives, and all lawful plunder, and the reward of eight pounds per head, for every fighting Indian man slain by them, over and above their wages..." They landed at Casco Bay just in time to assist Falmouth defend itself from a attack of several hundred warriors. After which, they scouted throughout the area, found nothing of interest, and returned to Boston. Major Church received a new commission on 2-Sep-1690. Church raised his army of old friends and Indians from his "Phillip's War" days. They sailed to Piscataqua [Portsmouth] where additional men were added. He had between 300 and 350 men which may or may not have included the Indian soldiers who probably numbered about 100. (Indian soldiers were not always counted as men!) His Indian soldiers were mostly from southern New England (Church refers to them as Seconet and Cape Indians). When Church returned home after this expedition he found that a day of humiliation had been ordered "because of the frown of God upon those forces sent under my command, and the ill success we had, for want of good conduct." Apparently some of Church's Plymouth Captains, who had returned ahead of him, spread some rumors. Church was accused of taking cattle and other items from the eastern settlers and shipping it home for personal profit. This appears to be unfounded, for in June of 1691, the gentlemen of Portsmouth requested Major Church's return ASAP to finish the job he started. They surely would not have requested him if he had usurped his powers against them the year before. However, part of this 'disgrace' may have occurred because of the murder of Indian women and children on the Androscoggin. Who was killed and in what number, we will never be certain. But, if he killed women, we expect he killed children. (Children were generally be present whenever women were - but are almost never counted or mentioned in documents.) The killing of any and all Indians were within the limits of his orders. Did he give the order or was it a vote of the officers? His orders specified that he should consult his officers whenever possible and that a majority should rule. Why were they killed? Another question that will never get answered. We suspect the army was concerned about being slowed down........
Major Church returned to the east in 1692, as second in command under Governor Phips, who led the expedition in person. During the 1692 expedition, they put in at Casco, buried the bones of the English dead there, and took the great guns of the fort with them to Pemaquid. Phips and Church split up. Phips' orders to Church allowed him to command without a vote among his officers. This may support the idea that problems on his previous expedition were related to his officers. Church's own men (the English and Indians recruited by him personally) were very loyal to him, but there may have been problems with those recruited by others. Phips' orders also specified that captives were to be taken and their safety insured. This order may have been issued as a result of the 1690 incident on the Androscoggin.
Church returned to the East again in 1696 and 1704, but most of his action was in the Penobscot region and further east On his 1689 expedition, most of the lead shot sent with them was too large for their guns. The lead had to be melted and recast before it could be used. This almost cost them their lives at Falmouth. Church wanted to make sure this never occurred again. Before agreeing to lead the 1704 expedition, he compiled a very detailed list of requirements for fitting out the expedition and recruiting men. This list shows that he was a very capably military leader and was concerned for the safety of his men. Now in his 60's and very overweight, he continued to lead men against the enemy in the east. But, the compassion of earlier years towards captives was diminishing rapidly. News of the raid on Deerfield affected Church - he wrote of it several times. Perhaps he was tired of war, his age was catching up to him, or he personally knew too many that suffered at Deerfield. His tactic with captives at this time was very cruel but very effective. He allowed them to believe that he was giving them to his Indians, who would like to roast them. The Indians would gather nearby and begin to prepare a large fire. Church would than indicate (after the captive had sufficient time to contemplate the situation) that his life might be spared if he cooperated and truthfully told all he knew. It worked well with two young French brothers. We do not know if it always worked or what happened if it didn't.
On this last expedition, when a family would not come out of their wigwam, he writes "I hastily bid them [his soldiers] pull it down, and knock them on the head, never asking whether they were French or Indians; they being all enemies alike to me." Towards the end of this same letter he wrote, "But I ever looked on it, a good providence of Almighty God, that some few of our cruel and bloody enemies were made sensible of their bloody cruelties, perpetrated on my dear and loving friends and countrymen; as they had been guilty of, in a barbarous manner at Deerfield ..." At another time, a French woman ran from her house into the woods. His men wanted to catch her, but Church said no, "he would rather have her run and suffer, that she be made sensible, what hardships our poor people had suffered by them..." In these last incidents, he expected attack from a large body of Indians at any moment. So we learn that under stress he was capable of ordering the murder of noncombatants! Benjamin Church died the 17th of January in 1718, at the age of 78. We leave it to the reader to decide if Benjamin Church was a war hero, a murderer, or a human being with character flaws - like the rest of us!”
DOCTOR BENJAMIN CHURCH - ACCUSED OF TREASON 10
As Director General and Chief Physician of the Hospital of the Army, (1775 - 1775), Dr. Benjamin Church (1734-1776), grandson of Colonel Benjamin Church, was a predecessor of U:.S. Surgeon Generals. In Boston he was known as a talented physician and surgeon but his loyalties were in question. Some considered him to be a patriot but others suspected that he was a secret Tory sympathizer. . In 1774, he accused of leaking information from a meeting of Whig leaders to the Tories. Despite suspicions, he remained in the confidence of the Whigs - for a time. But he was apparently in difficulty throughout his government career....... “His relations with ...... medical officers became so strained that a tempest of complaint poured in upon the army headquarters and Washington was compelled to order an investigation of the service. In defense Church complained of the jealousy of rivals for his position and is said to have asked for permission to leave the army. In the meantime an incident arose which brought him before an army court-martial on Oct. 4, 1775. In July 1775 Church had sent a cipher letter addressed to Major Cane, a British officer in Boston. The letter was intercepted and was sent to Washington in September. It was decoded and found to contain an account of the American forces before Boston, but contained no disclosures of great importance. It contained, however, a declaration of Church's devotion to the Crown and asked for directions for continuing the correspondence. The matter was placed before a court of inquiry made up of general officers, Washington presiding, to Whom Church admitted the authorship of the letter but explained that it was written with the object of impressing the enemy with the strength and position of the colonial forces in order to prevent an attack while the Continental army was still short of ammunition and in hopes of aiding to bring about an end to hostilities. The court considered that Church had carried on a criminal correspondence with the enemy and recommended that the matter be referred to the Continental Congress for its action”......On Oct 17, 1775, Congress passed a resolution confining Dr. Church to jail at Norwich, Connecticut. Because of health reasons he was released from jail in January, 1776 but remained under guard. In May he was allowed to return to Massachusetts under bond.......Shortly thereafter he sailed from Boston, presumably for the West Indies, but the vessel on which he took passage was never heard from again. Thus miserably ended a career that had been brilliantly begun. It is difficult, even impossible, to estimate at this time the degree of his guilt. He was deeply in debt and the position he had won, promising eminence and profit, had proved only a source of trouble and devoid of glory. He was convicted, not of treason, but of communicating with the enemy. It should be remembered that Church's letter was written at a time when independence was in the minds of only a few medical leaders. The colonial conflict was popularly viewed as a struggle of British citizens for British rights. Church was an ambitious man with considerable personal conceit. A friendly viewpoint is that "he visualized himself as the arbitrator who should bring about the restoration of friendly relations between the fatherland and the colonies, little suspecting that its effects would place him in the ranks of those we brand as traitors. Appearances were decidedly against him, and at a time when party zeal and prejudice were keen in search of men suspected of disloyalty. However harmless his letter to his British officer friend may have been, its discovery marked him as a traitor to a cause to which he was ostensibly giving distinguished service. It is said that his family was pensioned by the British government.”
REFERENCES FOR “THE CHURCH FAMILY”
- INCLUDING AN INDIAN FIGHTER AND A TRAITOR
1. The initial biographical information about Richard Church is from The Great Migration . (Anderson, Robert Charles . The Great Migration Begins Immigrants to New England 1620 - 1633, Boston 1995.)
2. Arrangements for William Mendlove being bound to Richard Church (25 Aug 1664) and the earlier punishment of Mendlove for “attempted uncleanness with the maid servant of the said Palmer” are recorded in Plymouth Coll. Court Orders, Vol. IV. p. 92 (Mayflower Descendants IV-152 as cited in Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass , by John A. Church. 1913.)
3. The extract from Richard Church’s will describing Joseph Church’s handicap is included in The Great Migration., (Anderson, Robert Charles . The Great Migration Begins Immigrants to New England 1620 - 1633,) Boston 1995.
4. The record of Richard’s son, Nathaniel Church, and Elizabeth Soule, fined for committing fornication is cited in Plymouth Colony. ( Stratton, Eugene. Plymouth Colony p. 195)
5. Many sources describe Benjamin Church as a renowned Indian fighter, including a historical description of “King Philip’s War - 1675-1677". ( Doreski, Carole [Ed] “King Philip’s War - 1675-1677" in “Massachusetts Officers and Soldiers in the Seventeenth-Century Conflicts “ Published by The Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts The New England Historic Genealogical Society Copyright © 1982
7. Reference to Benjamin Church’s autobiographical material is included in “King Philip’s War.” ( Doreski, Carole (Ed) “King Philip’s War - 1675-1677" in “Massachusetts Officers and Soldiers in the Seventeenth-Century Conflicts ‘ Published by The Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts The New England Historic Genealogical Society Copyright © 1982)
8. A review of Benjamin Church’s diary (1716) is included in The History of King Philip's War, Commonly Called the Great Indian War, of 1675 - and 1676; Also of the French and Indian Wars at the Eastward, in 1689, 1692, 1696, and 1704… (Exeter N. H., 1829).
9. The native American perspective of Benjamin church is from an internet posting titled “December 1997 Benjamin Church - Background & Notes” Source:: http://www.avcnet.org/ne-do-ba/menu_bc.shtml -
00.The biographical material about “Dr. Benjamin Church“Benjamin Church - Accused of Treason” is included in “The Surgeon General and his Predecessors”. Office of Medical History - Office of the Surgeon General. history.amedd.army.mil/tsgs/Church.htm - 12k. Sources: L. C. Duncan, Medical Men in the American Revolution, 1778-1783 (1931); James Thacher, American Medical Biography (1828); T. H. S. Hamersly, Complete Army and Navy Register of the United States, 1776-1887 (1888); Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. IV (1930); J. M. Toner, Medical Men of the Revolution (1876); P M. Ashburn, History of Medical Department of the U S. Army (1929); F. R. Packard, History of Medicine in the United States (1931). [Extracted from "Chiefs of the Medical Department, U.S. Army 1775-1940, Biographical Sketches," Army Medical Bulletin, No. 52, April 1940, pp. 1-4, compiled by James M. Phalen, Colonel, Medical Corps, U.S. Army retired
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