by Diane Hitchcock-Owens
Ruth Catlinsıs family were among the early settlers on the "western frontier" which is presently the western part of the state of Massachusetts. Her father, John Catlin had sold his property in Newark, New Jersey, about 1683 and moved to Hartford, Connecticut, before moving on to Deerfield, Massachusetts where he became one of the prominent settlers taking an active part in the town's affairs.
"Young Ruth Catlin awoke terrified from sleep to the sound of many muffled footsteps marching around the stockade. Waking her parents, but hearing nothing themselves, she was reassured that it was but a bad dream. Not until the next morning did they discover to their amazement that the same dream was shared by a dozen fellow townsmen, some of the leading citizens among them! A party was sent out to reconnoiter, but found no sign in the snow. But, so impressed were they by the similarity of dreams, that the minister called a special meeting "to discuss what this omen portended." (M. P. Wells-Smith, "The Boy Captive of Old Deerfield", 1904.)
Shortly thereafter the fort at Deerfield did suffer an Indian attack.
Deerfield and surrounding towns were vulnerable to Indian attacks, instigated by the French. In the early morning hours on February 29, 1704, the inhabitants of Deerfield were awakened to a surprise attack. Fifty-six men, women, and children were killed. 109 others were captured Among those captured was eight year old Ruth Catlin along with her brother John and two sisters. Their father and two brothers were killed. Their two sisters died on the march to Canada.
Although she was reported to be a delicate girl she must have had a strong spirit with a keen sense of survival. According to tradition when she got tired of carrying a load she would throw it back as far as possible. Her brother feared the Indians might kill her but they laughed and went back for it. They acted as though she were a great lady and apparently gave her food. which she guarded.. When the others were hungry she had plenty which she shared with her brother. Her brother was returned to his community in 1706. Ruth was returned the following year to find her mother had died shortly after the attack from grief. Nothing else has been found on Ruth Catlin.
In the massacre that fateful day in 1704 about 48 English were killed, 140 escaped, many of them barefoot, and 109 were captured. Of this last number approximately 21 were killed or died en route to Canada. Sixty-one were ransomed and eventually returned home, and 27 chose to stay.
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