Imagine a wet, drizzly day. It’s September 24th so it’s probably a bit chilly, too. You’re 21. Just another normal day. You set out with a friend to go to work in a nearby forest with a gun, ammunition and some lunch because you expect to be gone most of the day. You cross the river, meet up with other men, find your work area and a hollowed-out log where you’ll keep your stuff dry while you work.
A year later the stuff is still in the log, safely hidden. The only evidence that could prove it was you who was there is concealed as worried friends and townspeople start the search for you and your friend.
It’s 1724. There are always concerns about Indians and being captured and scalped. Those were the days. Turns out Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard, and the rest of the work party were missed after a while when they didn’t come home for supper. I’ve had those awful feelings when my children don’t show up when they’re scheduled, or aren’t where they said they’d be. Times may have changed, but I’m learning that danger just changes faces.
|Merrimack River, New Hampshire
It took a while, but by following clues along the shores of the Merrimack river the search party found the group being held captive by a group of Mohawk Indians from Canada. They had a skirmish when confronted, rescuing all but Nathan and Thomas who were carried up into Canada where they’d spend a year until they found a way (I can’t imagine what that was) to pay their ransom.
The guns and provisions that were secreted away were found exactly where they’d left them in the log in the woods. Nathan’s musket can be seen in a museum in Nashua.
Can you imagine telling your children that story?
Well I’m sure Nathan did. Along comes his son, John Cross in 1735.
We’re still in Hudson, New Hampshire, but the country is slowly waking up and changing. By 1777 John is married with 7 children, ages 1 to 18. His wife Elizabeth is 42. Grandpa Nathan has been dead for 11 years. But I’m sure John kept his dad’s memory and story alive for the 4 children who never met him.
I can hear Grandpa Nathan saying, “Sure! Who wants to sit on my lap?” when begged for the umpteenth time to tell his story of the famous kidnapping by the Indians. Was that the only story he had? I have to wonder.
John and Elizabeth may have watched as those little faces regarded their grandfather with awe and admiration. But there would be a new story to tell within a few years. This one from John himself.
The Revolutionary War would borrow their dad for a while with no promises to send him home alive. How would that feel saying goodbye to your dad as he got the call to march to Fort Ticonderoga in New York state, over 160 miles away? Maybe he was already with his company of about 30 men and had said goodbye days or weeks earlier. I don’t know.
|Fort Ticonderoga, New York
All I know is that on July 5th, 1777 they started marching. They had a mission. Help save the fort. They were about 70 miles into the trek when they got word that the fort had been taken, lost to the British in what is now known as the “Saratoga Campaign”. Did they turn around and go home? What was the mood of the company?
All I could think of was John on the one hand sighing with relief that he’d see his family soon, and on the other kicking himself for losing an exciting story to circumstances that he could have told alongside his dad’s.
There is a lot of history about this little family and about our country that is calling to me now. What fun! I can picture the country and my husband’s 4th and 5th great grandfathers’ lives during that time more vividly now.
But the story for me was really about a father and a son and their adventures; the ones they’d tell their children and grandchildren. You know those stories that always try to outdo each other? The “Well-I-walked-10 miles-to-school-in-the-dead-of-winter!-What-are-you-complaining-about?” ones. Did father and son laugh about their adventures? Would the stories get grander over time? Would they embellish them with bears in the woods and suffering of thirst and fatigue as they walked and feared for their lives?
I would have loved to have been there listening!