If you’ve ever passed by Haverhill’s Grand Army Park, you’ve probably seen a large bronze statue of a woman. Oh no, you would have remembered her – she’s visibly angry/irritated, and wielding a tomahawk. Yes, that statue.
This landmark (erected in 1879) commemorates one Hannah Duston, a Haverhill woman who was kidnapped by Native Americans in the late 17th century. Hannah’s husband and children managed to evade the tribe, but she and her newborn baby were captured. Hannah and her baby, along with 13 other prisoners, were forced up the Merrimack River, well up into New Hampshire. According to folklore, the tribe killed Hannah’s baby, prompting a daring, yet gruesome, act of bravery. One night, Hannah, aided by 2 other captives, seized her opportunity to escape by taking a tomahawk and scalping her captors. She returned to Haverhill where she was declared a heroine. Cotton Mather sang her praises and Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry David Thoreau later retold her story, solidifying Duston’s place in history.
According to some sources, Hannah Duston was the first woman in the United States to receive a statue. While there is some controversy and doubt related to her story, Hannah Duston is certainly one of the North of Boston’s most interesting and unforgettable historical figures.
On a side note, we can’t help but wonder – what is it with historical Massachusetts women and axes?