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WILLIAMS, EUNICE (also known as Marie, Maria, Marguerite, Margarett, Gannenstenhawi, meaning she brings in the corn, and Ouangote, Aongote, Gonˀaongote, meaning they took her and placed her as a member of the tribe); b. 17 Sept. 1696 in Deerfield, Massachusetts, daughter of John Williams* and Eunice Mather; d. 26 Nov. 1785 at Sault-Saint-Louis (Caughnawaga, Que.).

On 29 Feb. 1703/4 the town of Deerfield was destroyed by the French and their allies, the Iroquois of Sault-Saint-Louis. Approximately 50 townspeople were killed and over 100, including Eunice Williams, taken prisoner in the raid, which was under the command of Jean-Baptiste Hertel* de Rouville. Eunice was taken to Sault-Saint-Louis where she was kept by her Mohawk captor. Her father, who had been freed by Governor Philippe de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil, tried to make contact with her but was told by the Jesuit at the mission of Saint-François-Xavier at Sault-Saint-Louis that the Mohawks “would as soon part with their hearts as the child.” Through Vaudreuil’s intercession Williams secured an interview with his daughter, and the governor personally made several attempts to ransom her from her captors. Johannes Schuyler* of Albany, New York, who was active in negotiations for the freeing of prisoners, wrote on 18 Feb. 1706/7 that “our spies . . . saw Mr. Williams daughter . . . she is in good health, but seemed unwilling to returne, and the Indian not very willing to part with her.” Several more attempts to redeem her were made but all failed. In 1713 Schuyler came to Canada and found that she had been baptized with the name Marguerite, had married an Indian called Arosen (or François-Xavier), and had adopted the Mohawk language and style of life. Schuyler asked her to return to Deerfield to see her father; she replied through an interpreter that she would not go. Her father journeyed to Canada again and on 13 May 1714 they met, for the last time.

In later years Eunice and her husband made several trips to Massachusetts to see her relatives. In August 1740 they met two of Eunice’s brothers, Warham and Stephen, in Albany, and Stephen persuaded them to go to Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where he was a minister. The news of the arrival of Eunice Williams, known as a heroine from her father’s narrative, The redeemed captive returning to Zion . . . , filled Longmeadow with a crowd of curiosity-seekers. Joseph Kellogg* served as interpreter during the visit. The following summer she, her husband, and two of their three children returned to Longmeadow again, and they made another visit in 1761. On this last occasion Stephen Williams tried once more to persuade his sister to settle in New England, but as in the past she refused.

The descendants of Eunice Williams and Arosen retained the Williams name, in accordance with the practice of the Mohawks’ matrilineal society. Thomas Williams [Tehoragwanegen*], a grandson, became a chief at Sault-Saint-Louis; later he journeyed to the western prairies as a voyageur in the fur trade and also distinguished himself as a chief of St Regis. Today the descendants of Arosen and Eunice Williams can be found among the Iroquois of both Caughnawaga and St Regis.

J. A. Frisch

ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-François-Xavier (Sault-Saint-Louis, Caughnawaga). John Williams, The redeemed captive returning to Zion: or, a faithful history of remarkable occurrences in the captivity and deliverance of MrJohn Williams . . . (6th ed., Boston, 1795), 3, 36, 108–9. C. A. Baker, True stories of New England captives carried to Canada during the old French and Indian wars (Cambridge, Mass., 1897), 128–54, 380–94. Coleman, New England captives, I, 45; II, 54–63, 178–79. F. B. Hough, A history of StLawrence and Franklin counties, New York, from the earliest period to the present time (Albany, N.Y., 1853), 200–3. Clifton Johnson, An unredeemed captive; being the story of Eunice Williams . . . (Holyoke, Mass., 1897). H. H. Peckham, Captured by Indians; true tales of pioneer survivors (New Brunswick, N.J., 1954), 32–49. Alexander Medlicott, “Return to this land of light: a plea to an unredeemed captive,” New England Quarterly (Brunswick, Maine), XXXVIII (1965), 202–16.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

J. A. Frisch, “WILLIAMS, EUNICE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 19, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/williams_eunice_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/williams_eunice_4E.html
Author of Article: J. A. Frisch
Title of Article: WILLIAMS, EUNICE
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: September 19, 2014