It has been years since I used ancestry.com for my own personal genealogical research, although it has been tremendously helpful with various book projects in recent years. But this week, one of its features, family tree “hints,” corrected a mistake I made years ago and led to the discovery of the only known public monument devoted to the wartime heroism of one of my ancestors. (I had guessed the wrong parents for my ggg grandfather Michael Handy, who figures in the story.) Surprisingly, the hero was a heroine, Hannah Hunter Handy, mentioned in the 1934 WPA guide to Vermont. Wikipedia describes the 1780 Royalton Raid that led to her acts of courage. Findagrave.com has the above photograph of the monument, shared by Nancy Robison, and gives a summary of the events it commemorates, taken from the History of Royalton by Evelyn Wood:
In the morning of October 16 in 1780, a band of 300 Indians led by British troops raided farms near South Royalton, Vermont, stealing men and boys to sell for the bounty offered by the British. The Hendee family had been warned, and the husband set off to warn others downstream. Hannah picked up her young daughter (Lucretia) and ran to the woods with her 7 year old son Michael. The Indians caught them and took Michael. When she demanded to know what they would do with the boy, one of the Indians who spoke English replied, “make a soldier of him.” As they dragged away her sobbing little boy, Hannah carried her screaming daughter toward the road and headed toward Lebanon, sixteen miles away. She had not gone far when she was filled with a surge of uncommon resolve, a fierce determination. She returned upriver and found the British and the Indians gathering their captives….
Oblivious of the danger, she demanded her little boy. Capt. 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 commit, and all the innocent blood they shall 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 young son was brought in she took him by hand and refused to let go. An Indian threatened her with cutlass and jerked her son away. She defiantly took him back and said that she would never give up, they would not have her little boy.
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…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.
It is both sobering and inspiring to realize that I would not likely exist without the tremendous courage and motherly love shown by this woman. Young Michael would not likely have survived the trip to Canada, and even if he had it is unlikely that he would have returned home, married, moved to New York state, and had children who ended up as pioneers in northwestern Ohio where my great grandmother was born.