A strong woman
Every once in a while, I have one of those days that remind me that no matter what I am going through, I come from a long line of very strong women. I have shared the stories of some of these woman throughout my blog. These women would probably never have been given international awards or medals of honor. However, they were each strong and incredible woman in their own right. We often celebrate the heroes in our genealogy research, most of which are men. Today I want to celebrate the woman in my genealogy that struggled, loved, and survived in order to allow me to live the life I do today.
Sarah (Belden) Burt (1682 - 1749): Taken captive by Indians on February 29, 1704. She was 8 months pregnant at the time with her first child. She and her husband Benjamin, not only survived captivity but lived long enough to be rescued. Sarah gave birth to her first child Christopher. On the voyage home to Massachusetts, Sarah gave birth to her second son Seaborn. You can read more about Sarah (Belden) Burt, in the blog post: Benjamin Burt and His Family: Captives of the Deerfield Massacre
Mary Catherine (Clunas) McKenzie (1785 - 1857): Mary Catherine Clunas married Donald McKenzie in 1812 in Scotland, that same year they traveled almost 3,000 miles to Nova Scotia, Canada and then on to Malahide Township, Elgin County, Ontario, Canada to homestead in a new and untamed land. You can read more about Mary Catherine (Clunas) McKenzie in the blog post: Donald McKenzie, Talbot Settler of Elgin County, Ontario, Canada
Elizabeth (Miller) Faught (1845 - 1871): A young mother, suffering from a life-threatening disease. She fought with everything she had to find a cure that would allow her to stay with her husband and newborn daughter. You can read more about Elizabeth (Miller) Faught in the blog post: Elizabeth Miller and the hope of a cure
Sarah Ann (Healy) Hawley (1851 1924): Sarah Ann Healy, my 2nd great grandmother, left her home country of Ireland about the age of 16 to set off on her own to a new home in America. Once she arrived in America, she found her way to a small lumbering town called Alpena. She raised seven children and outlived all but two of them. She then made the long trip from Northern Michigan to Bellflower, California and then back again after her husband's death. You can learn more about her life on her timeline page or from one of the many blog posts I have written about her and her family.
Mary Anna (Faught) McKenzie (1870 - 1929): Mary Anna Faught, my 2nd great grandmother, overcame many struggles in her life, from losing her mother before the age of five, separated from her father and raised by her grandparents. Mary Anna grew up and married Alexander McKenzie. Alexander passed away at the age of 56, leaving Mary Anna with seven children to raise. Learn more about the tough woman by reading the blogs shown on her page.
Lavina (Hawley) Burt (1889 - 1953): Lavina May Hawley, my great grandmother, was the youngest of 10 children and grew up in a family with meager resources, to say the least. She was the mother of six children, four of which passed away before reaching the age of 3. For this alone, I consider her a strong woman. However, one of the things I respect most about her is her willingness to care for a home and raise children on her own in order to allow her husband Ernest Burt to work as a Missionary in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I truly believe that this sacrifice played a large part in myself and my family being a part of this church today.
Vera (Mason) Royer (1903 - 1982): Vera Ellen Mason, my great grandmother, was born around the turn of the century and married at 21. She raised five children through some of the most horrible and wonderful events in history. In her lifetime, she witnessed four wars (WWI, WWII, The Korean War and The Vietnam War), lived through the great depression, saw woman gain the right to vote and the end of racial segregation. Most of her life she survived with a 7th-grade education. Until, at the age of 76, she went back to school to earn her high school diploma. I am proud to call this strong woman my great grandmother. Read more about this in the blog post: It is Never too Late to Learn....
Grace Elizabeth Ann (Brock) Royer (1931 - 2000): Grace Elizabeth Ann Brock, my grandmother, did not have an easy life, and like all of us, did not always make the best choices. However, there are two things about her that stand out, her faith of her will to fight. Her faith was always evident, whether through her years of service as a soldier in the Salvation Army Church or the buttons she wore and the stickers she proudly displayed on her cane. Her will to fight was obvious through her determination to finish high school. Grace started taking night classes around 1972 and continued to do so over the next 20 years until in 1991 she accomplished her goal and graduated, at the age of 60, with her high school diploma from Herbert Henry Dow high school in Midland, Michigan. Read more about this in the blog post: It is Never too Late to Learn....
Edna Jean (Burt) McKenzie (1927 - 2013): Edna Jean Burt was my grandmother. It is hard to summarize her strength because she is one of those people that made such a huge difference in the lives of so many . Born the youngest daughter of a minister, she grew up to raise five wonderful children. Throughout her life, she was the glue that held our family together. It was her quiet but constant strength and faith that my McKenzie family is built upon. She not only cared for her family but all those around her. Her love and courage were contagious and I for one am proud to say that she is my grandmother.
My hope is that someday, my life can also be an inspiration to my daughter and her daughters. Not, because I did miraculous things or the millions that I won't make, but because life itself is tough, and the normal day to day things, like raising children and working to provide for a family, take strength. Although I have highlighted the strength of these nine women in my family history, I am well aware that there are so many more. I will continue to research and discover their lives and share their strength through my blog posts.
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Benjamin Burt is my 7th great grandfather. He and his wife Sarah (Belden) Burt were forced to endure a terrifying and unthinkable ordeal during the winter of 1704. In this blog post, I will share their story. I will admit ahead of time, that a large part of the information in this blog comes either directly or indirectly from the book "Early Days in New England: Life and Times of Henry Burt of Springfield and Some of His Descendants" written by Henry Martyn Burt and Silas Wright Burt. I attempted to re-write this harrowing story in my own words and was just not able to do it justice as my ancestors before me had.
The story begins with Benjamin Burt who was born on November 17, 1680 in Northampton, Massachusetts, the twelfth child of David Burt and Mary Holton.
When Benjamin was a baby, the King Philip's War (1675 - 1678) was fought in southern New England. This was a major effort by the region's Native American tribes to drive out English colonists. Led by King Philip, the rebellion destroyed twelve New England towns within a year and damaged many more. Colonists quickly banded together to mount a defense, but this came at a price, as one tenth of all men available for military service were killed. Benjamin's older brother David Burt, a soldier on duty at Schenectady, New York, was taken prisoner on February 29, 1690 when that town was destroyed by the French and Indians, and was never seen or heard from again. Benjamin was only 10 years old.
In January of 1704, an expedition was formed at Montreal, Canada under the command of Major Hertel de Roubille, for an attack upon Deerfield. The party consisted of 200 Frenchmen and 142 Indians. The invaders made a forced march through the wilderness and suffered terribly from the intense cold. When they reached the vicinity of their destination there was four feet of snow on the ground and the crust on it was sufficiently strong to bear the weight of men, while the drifts made easy inclined paths to the top of the enclosure that encircled the town of Deerfield. The sole sentinel on duty, depending upon the mid-winter conditions as a sufficient defense, had left his post and sought shelter form the icy conditions. Just before daybreak on February 29, 1704, the assault was ordered upon the defenseless town. A general attack was simultaneously made by the invaders scattered throughout the settlement, The unfortunate inhabitants of Deerfield, wakened from their sleep by the frightful war whoops of the savages, were massacred or wounded as they ran frightened from their homes, to which torches were set.
Very few people escaped and made it to the nearby forest, and others that were not slaughtered on sight were gathered in the open space near the little church; among these were Benjamin Burt and his wife Sarah, who had escaped death only to have witnessed the death of their family and friends, and the destruction of their home.
Less than eight years earlier, in a sudden raid upon her father's house, Mrs. Sarah (Belden) Burt had seen her mother, two brothers and infant sister killed by the Indians, and another brother dangerously wounded, Sarah only escaped by hiding in the attic. Her father, a brother and a sister were taken captive to Canada, and would not return for two years.
Benjamin and Sarah, along with the other survivors clung together wearing only their night clothes. they mournfully took count of the slain by their absence. As they mourned over the loss of their loved ones, and saw all their treasures turning to ashes, a dreadful uncertainty obscured their own fate. In their midst their revered pastor, the Rev. John Williams, addressed prayers for divine assistance and support, which were interrupted by the orders to march, as the captives were driven from the village.
Making the journey even more difficult was the lack of sufficient food and provisions, the Indians always depending for subsistence on their attacks upon the wild game that they came upon along their journey. Of course the captives received the minimum share of such poor food. The women and children naturally suffered the most from fatigue and deficient food, and when they lagged or were unable to continue, they were immediately slain by the impatient and ruthless savages.
The wife of Pastor Williams was the first victim, having given out early in the march, and was tomahawked in the presence of her husband and children. The next victim, was, Mrs. Hepzibah Belden, the step-mother of Sarah Burt, then nearly sixty years old, and who met the same fate, that about ten years earlier, had overtaken her three daughters at Hatfield, where they were tomahawked by the Indians. Altogether there were 19 captives slain on this journey, most of them being pregnant women.
Some of these poor creatures, when they felt that their powers of endurance were nearly exhausted, calmly prepared for death by seeking the consolation of prayer with Pastor. Williams, who gives in his journal a pathetic account of the resignation and heroism of these brave souls about to part from their tortured, worn-out bodies.
On this dreadful march none endured more than Mrs. Burt; when she started upon it she was in the eighth month of her first pregnancy, and despite the aid of her husband she could hardly have endured the burdens, rigors, hardships and horrors of the twenty-five day journey, if not for her youth and extraordinary powers of endurance.
"The writer has often in fancy depicted to himself this ancestress, subjected in her early wifehood to that direful ordeal ; the days of unmitigated misery in the deep snows of the bleak and trackless wilderness; the piercing cold ; the sore, aching, frost-bitten limbs ; the ever gnawing hunger; the slaughter of her step-mother and of the many women burdened like herself ; of the long nights haunted by the vague dread of the morrow with all its known and unknowable terrors. Was it with joy or dread that she felt within her the throbs of her unborn child ? " - Henry M. Burt of Springfield
When the party reached Coos in Vermont it was entirely destitute of provisions and two of the captives died here of sheer starvation. The hunters having succeeded in getting some game, the dreary march was resumed, until on March 25 the party reached Chamble, about eighteen miles northeast of Montreal. Here, on April 14, 1704 Sarah Burt delivered her first child, a son named Christopher.
Subsequently the captives were distributed among the Indians and French and put to various services, the larger portion of them being employed in the convent and Jesuit academy near Montreal, Benjamin Burt and his wife Sarah being among these. Strong efforts were made to convert them to the Roman Catholic faith.
Ensign John Sheldon of Deerfield made four expeditions to Canada to redeem his fellow-townsmen, and finally on May 30, 1706, left Quebec with over forty of them, among whom were Benjamin and Sarah Burt with their newborn child Christopher. They went down the St. Lawrence and then by sea to Boston, where they arrived on August 2, 1706. On the voyage Sarah gave birth to her second child, a son who she named Seaborn, for the place of his birth. Mr. Sewall, writing from Boston on August 22, 1706, to Mr. Williams, still in Canada, says: "It was a great blessing to see Mr. Willard baptize Ebenezer Hinsdale and Seaborn Burt, two little Sons born on the passage."
Benjamin Burt and his family returned to Deerfield, heavy by the memory of their own misfortunes and the massacre of so many of their near relatives in the border wars.
On Benjamin Burt's side were :
On Sarah Burt's side were
Together Benjamin and Sarah had eighteen relatives slain, besides many others severely wounded or carried into captivity, between 1690 and 1707.
Upon their return to Deerfield, the rebuilt village presented no familiar aspects, but revived the horrors of its destruction and the subsequent incidents. Benjamin and Sarah considered seeking a safer home, and as Sarah had family who had settled in Stamford, Connecticut, on Long Island Sound, they migrated there, and finally located at Norwalk, about seven miles from Stamford.
In 1708, certain townsmen of Norwalk purchased from the Indians a tract fifteen miles north and settled it as Ridgefield. As every useful, or rather indispensable, craft had to be represented in such isolated settlements, Benjamin Burt became one of the co-equal proprietors as the blacksmith.
Although, I have known of this part of my family's history for a while now, reading and researching it again brought back the significance of this historical event. The strength and perseverance of Benjamin and Sarah Burt is an amazing testament to the colonial spirit of these early New England settlers. To further strengthen the connection I feel to my 7th great grandparents is the realization that if they had not survived this horrific experience and went on to live full lives, I may not be here today. My 6th great grandfather, Benjamin Burt (1707 - 1796) was born only 6 months after his parents were rescued from their captures.
Thank you for following me on my journey!
Genealogist on a Journey
Rebecca J. Walbecq
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My name is Rebecca Walbecq. My maiden name is McKenzie. My Genealogy journey began about 15 years ago after talking to my grandma about her family. The spark was lit and since then genealogy has become my passion!