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Sarah Allen and The Battle of Deerfield

by Eric Lalonde (ericllnd@sympatico.ca)

This is the story of the battle of Deerfield which is one of the major events in the history of the Lalondes. Sarah Allen, who was to marry Guillaume Lalonde, was a little girl of 12 years old at the time of the battle. She was captured and marched to Canada with the other captives.

The Story of Sarah Allen

Map of the route of the captives' march

Sarah was taken to Kahanawake and kept there for a while before being sold to Jean Quenet a Montreal merchant. One of Jean Quenet's properties was at Baie D'Urfé and that is where Sarah worked as a domestic. On the 30th of May 1705 Sarah was baptised with the name Marie- Madeleine Hélène Sire at Saint-Anne-du-Bout-de-l'Ile before her godfather Pierre Lamoureux and her godmother Etiennette Hurtubise the wife of Jean Quenet. All residents of New France were baptized catholics and carried French names no matter what their origin. She married Guillaume Lalonde the son of Jean De Lalonde on April 10, 1710. In May of that year she was granted citizenship in New France. She had 13 children with Guillaume, 9 boys and 4 girls. 8 of the boys married and helped spread the Lalonde name. She died in 1764 at the age of 82.

The Allen family have roots that go quite far back into New England History. Sarah was a third generation New Englander. Her Grandfather Edward Allen Sr. emigrated to Ipswich, New England from Scotland in 1636. While the father of Edward's wife Sarah , Richard Kimball (Sarah Allen's great-grandfather) came to New England in 1634 only 15 years after Plymouth Rock. On April 10, 1634, at Ipswich in the county of Suffolk, England, Richard Kimball embarked for the voyage to New England. He boarded the ship "Elizabeth", William Andrews, master. That means that when Sarah Allen was captured her family had been in New England for 70 years.

Most of the accounts about the New England captives have come from New England sources as not very much has been written about these people in Quebec. There have been two studies in French in recent times. The Société Généalogique Canadienne- Français, has done some studies recently and published a book on the subject by Marcel Fournier. In fact Fournier has identified 455 captives from New England who settled in New France from 1675 to 1760. He estimates that to be only one third of those who passed through New France but only stayed for a few years. When you consider these numbers against the population of the time, New France went from 3,300 in 1666 to 60,000 in 1760, it is quite significant. In fact this becomes the third main source of immigration to New France after 1665. The first, the 400 of the Carignan-Salières regiment (Jean De Lalonde), the second the 400 filles du roi (Marie Barbant) and the third the captives from New England (Sarah Allen). The rest of the population growth came from the large families.

And now we come to the fateful day that Sarah was captured and her life changed forever. From an English speaking puritan of New England she was transformed into a French speaking catholic mother of 13 in New France. We can only wonder how that transformation took place and what kind of person she was. We do know that she was educated in that she could read and write. On her marriage certificate she signed her name while Guillaume could not. In fact none of the early Lalondes could write and this was very common in New France. In 1700, New France had a population of about 15,000 as compared to the 100,000 in New England. It is no wonder that Governor Vaudreuil, mindful of the population difference, was quite concerned about the British and took every opportunity to keep them off guard and keep the Indians as allies.

The following is an account of the attack from New England Outpost: War and Society in Colonial Deerfield, Richard I. Melvoin (1989):

By 1704 the town has grown to 260 people. The size of the town suggests stability. Yet like its predecessors Deerfield lies alone and exposed on the frontier. There are still no English settlements west of Deerfield for fifty miles, until one reaches the Hudson River and New York. Nor are there English towns north of Deerfield at all. To the east, too, lie forty miles of wilderness.

The late summer of 1703 has been a time of great anxiety. Activities of late spring have once again brought forth these fears. In May, early in the conflict known as Queen Anne's War, New York governor Lord Cornbury sent word that French soldiers and allied Indians from Canada were heading for Deerfield and the Connecticut valley. As of September a stressful summer has passed peacefully. Then in October, a small Indian force strikes, capturing two Deerfield men. Tensions heighten; the town strengthens its fortifications; the Massachusetts General Court sends soldiers to help protect the town. As of December, though, all is quiet. The cold and snow of winter now promise further respite, for in 1704 wars are not fought in the depths of winter.

But now the quiet of the winter is about to be shattered. Two hours before dawn on the fateful leap- year morning of February 29, 1704, Deerfield's inhabitants lie asleep inside the town's palisade. Because the Indian threat remains, all the town's residents, including the twenty Massachusetts soldiers just arrived from Boston, sleep in the dozen houses inside the fort. The other thirty or so houses outside the palisade lie empty. A watchman is assigned to patrol the town through the night. In the pre-dawn hours, however, he proves unfaithful to his duty. That breach of faith soon proves fatal.

Two miles north of town, just across the Deerfield River, lies a military force of two hundred to three hundred French and Indians. These men have traveled close to three hundred miles to reach this spot. Now they are ready to attack. Silently they cross the river and traverse two miles of open farmland toward the sleeping town. They are able to move quietly, for deep snow dampens all sound. Winter aids them in another way as well. Heavy drifts have piled snow against the walls of the fort, drifts so high that the attackers can easily scale the walls. Without a night watch to contend with, the warriors quickly move inside. The signal comes -- a cry rings out -- and the attack begins.

Although the townspeople fight back bravely, the French and Indian force is too strong and their advantage too great. Even the reinforcements who charge up from Hadley and Hatfield cannot turn the tide. At battle's end, the survivors grimly assess the town's losses. Fifty-six English men, women, and children lie dead; another 109 have been captured. In all, three-fifths of the town's people are gone. Almost half the houses have been burned. Deerfield is not abandoned because the region's military commander will not allow it. As it is, the town barely clings to life. Edward Allen, Sarah's father is named city clerk to replace the previous clerk, Thomas French, who was killed in the battle. It is years before survival is assured.

And so the captives make the long trek to Canada through the winter snow (see map). Sarah arrives at Fort Chambly at the beginning of April 1704. The next official record we have is her baptism on May 30, 1705 at Ste-Anne de Bout de L'Ile. At that time she is a domestic in the home of Jean Quenet at Baie D'Urfé. Five years later she marries Guillaume Lalonde and this Lalonde Family has 13 children, 9 boys and 4 girls.

Bibliography:

Rev. John Williams, The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion: or a Faithful History of Remarkable Occurrences in the Captivity and Deliverance of Mr. John Williams, first edition Boston, 1707, many more since then.

George Sheldon, A History of Deerfield Massachusetts: The Times when and the People by whom it was Settled, Unsettled, and Resettled, with a Special Study of the Indian Wars in the Connecticut Valley. With Genealogies, two volumes, Deerfield, MA 1895

C. Alice Baker, True Stories of New England Captives Carried to Canada during the Old French and Indian Wars, Cambridge, 1897, currently available from Heritage Books

Emma Lewis Coleman, New England Captives Carried to Canada between 1677 and 1760 during the French and Indian Wars, Portland, ME, 1925, (currently available from Heritage Books)

Richard L. Melvoin, New England Outpost: War and Society in Colonial Deerfield, Norton & Co., NY 1989

Marcel Fournier: De la Nouvelle-Angleterre à la Nouvelle-France, Société Généalogique Canadienne-Français, 1992.

© 2002 Chris Lalonde & Eric Lalonde                                        Updated: June 22, 2003