High above, the sun’s rays bombarded the earth with malevolent force. I tried with determination to ignore the heat and concentrate on catching a trout or two, but the beads of sweat streaming down my face served as a grim reminder that today would have been better spent in the confines of our air-conditioned home.
Evidently, the trout had the same idea, as they were unwilling to move from the river’s depths to chase our offerings. Oh, how clear and cool the water looked, but I realized the consequences outweighed the benefits of staying put. Instead I opted to escape the blistering heat under the sheltering limbs and leaves of the woods directly behind us.
Frustrated and beginning to sunburn from the searing heat, I seized a polystyrene cup someone had carelessly discarded on the river bank and walked into the soothing embrace of the wood. After a moment’s appreciation for the shade, I went to the task of turning over laid down timber, hoping to find earthworms for bait. My efforts were rewarded rather quickly, but at the last log I was to raid, a flash of color the size of an adult crossed my view.
I stood up quickly, dropping my container, and scanned the woods in all directions. My heart felt as if it would leap out of my chest. I focused upon the direction in which I thought the the blur had moved, and a short distance away, amongst the trees protruding from the soft soil, stood a stone marker. My eyes flickered in each direction to reassure myself that I was alone, and then, with cautious steps, I proceeded forward.
As I closed the distance, I thought the stone’s shape was indicative of a grave marker. That was, until I reached the front of the stone, and read the epitaph deeply engraved into it: “At this very spot in the year 1704, the cruel and blood thirsty savage who took her slew her with his hatchet at one stroke. Rev . John Williams ‘The Redeemed Captive.'”
I repeatedly read the words on the stone, trying to think where I had seen them before, until I realized that a marker we had passed at the road side, on our way to the river, also contained those words. Though I had no idea who this woman was at the age of 12, I came to the realization that where I was standing marked the actual location of her brutal demise. For a moment, a sense of sorrow crept into me. And as I walked out of the woods and told my father what I had found, he then told me the story of how this woman came to die there, so far from her home.
In the early morning hours of February 29, 1704 the settlement of Deerfield, MA, was taken by a surprise raid. The raiding force consisted of two hundred and ninety-seven men. The majority were Native Americans and the rest French militants. In short order they took the town, killing fifty-six men, women and children and capturing one hundred and nine hostages to be ransomed or sold as slaves. During the three hundred mile long trek that took a month’s time, twenty-one Deerfield residents lost their lives.
The stone marker I happened across that sweltering summer day is for one of those lost souls – Mrs. Eunice Williams. While marching on the second day, Eunice, exhausted from child birth only a couple of weeks earlier, fell and was unable to get up. She was then killed by a Native American raider in front of her husband, Rev. John Williams. Rev. Williams never forgot the exact spot where his wife had been taken from him. He was released from captivity over a year later and upon his return, ordered a stone placed in that very spot.
The area where this marker sits, along the banks of the Green River in Greenfield, is not only of interest because of the historical events that took place there, but also because of what occurs there now. Locals reports have it that a woman – presumed to be Eunice Williams – appears without warning standing upon a small dam just upstream from the covered bridge. Others claim she is seen, face buried in her hands, weeping, and at other times standing affixed looking off into the woods across the small river. Those who have witnessed this woman say that she vanishes suddenly without warning.
But the dam is not the only place where this feminine ghost chooses to make an unexpected visit. Hikers and fishermen have described a startling glimpse of this woman while walking across the covered bridge. According to some accounts, witnesses were shocked to observe a woman, achromatic in appearance, walk toward them and then dematerialize before their eyes.
Could this apparition be that of Eunice Williams trapped between two worlds? Or is this just another urban myth fabricated by a creative mind? At this time the answer is unknown. But if you care to visit here again in the near future, there just may be a more definitive conclusion.