Isaac Bradley and Joseph Whittaker
Twelve miles from the sea, on the bank of the Merrimac River, is the
busy town of Haverhill. It was a small settlement in 1690. There was a
cluster of houses and a meeting-house. The country beyond, all the way
to Canada, was a wilderness. The Indians came down the river in their
bark canoes, carrying them past the falls where the city of Lowell now
stands, past Amoskeag Falls, where the Manchester factories to-day are
humming. They caught beaver, bear, and foxes, and sold the furs to the
The Indians were under the influence of the French, and when war broke
out between France and England for the restoration of James II. to the
throne from which he had fled, the settlers of Haverhill, in common with
the people all along the frontier, knew that the Indians, influenced by
the French in Canada, might be upon them at any moment.
EARLY SETTLERS GOING TO MEETING.—Drawn by Howard Pyle.
The settlers had their guns ever at hand. If at work in the field, they
placed them where they could seize them quickly. When they went to bed
at night, they put a stout bar of wood across the door, and examined
the flints and the priming. On Sunday, when they went to meeting, each
man carried his gun, and the minister looked down from the pulpit upon
men who had powder-horns and bullet-pouches slung across their
shoulders, and whose muskets were standing in the corners of their pews.
Some of the settlers kept watch outside while the others were in
meeting. They went on scouts through the dark woods, peering among the
trees to see if the Indians were prowling in the vicinity.
The settlers were obliged to work hard. While the men were at work in
the fields, the women were spinning and weaving. Boys and girls had
little time for play. There was always something for them to do. When a
boy was sixteen years old, he was expected to do the work of a man. They
all learned to shoot, and some of them, when they were only twelve,
could bring down a squirrel from the highest tree every time, or shoot a
deer upon the run.
Two boys—Isaac Bradley, who was fifteen years old, and Joseph
Whittaker, who was eleven—were at work one day in Mr. Bradley's field,
when suddenly a party of Indians sprang out from the woods and seized
them. Isaac was small, but he was bright, cool-headed, and
brave-hearted. Joseph, though four years younger, was as large as Isaac,
but he was not so stout-hearted nor self-reliant as his companion.
The Indians were from Canada. They did not stop to kill any of the
settlers, but hastened away, travelling through the dark woods northward
to the beautiful Lake Winnipiseogee, where they remained through the
winter. The lake swarmed with trout and pickerel, which they could catch
through the ice, and the woods were full of bears and deer.
Isaac made himself at home in the wigwam, and picked up the language of
the Indians in a very short time. The squaws made him do their drudgery;
but the warriors liked him, and the Indian dogs wagged their tails when
he looked at them out of his kindly eyes.
Winter passed and April came.
"We go to Canada now," said one of the Indians.
Isaac had no intention of going to Canada. Day after day he thought over
the matter. He knew that the English settlements were far away to the
south, but there was no path to them. He had no compass. How could he
ever reach them? He would be guided by the sun by day, and the stars by
night. He would make the attempt. He might perish, but death was better
"I am going to try it to-morrow night, but I am afraid you won't wake,"
he said to Joseph, who always slept soundly, and snored in his sleep.
"Oh yes, I will," Joseph replied.
The Indians had killed a moose, and Isaac had managed to hide a large
piece of meat in the bushes near the camp. He filled his pockets with
their corn-bread. Night came. All were asleep except Isaac, who was so
excited by the thought of escaping that his eyes would not close. Every
sense was quickened. He arose softly and touched Joseph, who was sound
asleep. He did not stir, and Isaac shook him harder.
"What do you want?" Joseph asked.
In an instant Isaac was stretched out, snoring; but the Indians did not
wake, and after a little while the boys arose softly, and crept out of
the wigwam, Isaac with an Indian's gun and powder and balls. They made
their way to the meat, took it under their arms, and started upon the
run, guided on their way by the stars. On through the wilderness, amid
the tall trees, over fallen trunks, over stones, through thickets and
tangled brushwood, they travelled till morning, and then crept into a
Great the consternation in the camp of the Indians. Their captives gone!
a gun lost! At daybreak the Indians, with their dogs, were on the trail,
and in swift pursuit.
The boys heard the barking of the dogs, which soon came sniffing around
the log. What shall they do now? Isaac is quick-witted.
"Good fellow, Bose! good fellow! here is some breakfast for you;" and he
tosses the moose meat to them. The dogs know his voice, devour the meat,
and are as happy as dogs can be. The boys are their friends. They cease
barking, and trot around, with no further concern.
The Indians come up on the run. The boys hear their voices, as they
hasten by, followed by their dogs.
ISAAC BRADLEY CARRYING JOSEPH INTO THE SETTLEMENT.
Through the day they lie hidden in the log, and when night comes, strike
out in a different direction from that taken by the Indians. All night
long they travel, nibbling at their hard corn-bread. Morning comes, and
again they conceal themselves. Once more at night they are on the march.
On the third day Isaac shoots a pigeon, but does not dare to kindle a
fire, and they eat it raw. They find a turtle, smash its shell, and eat
the meat. On, day after day, they travel, eating roots, and buds of the
trees just ready to burst into leaf. The sixth day comes, and they
suddenly find themselves close to an Indian camp. They peep through the
underbrush, and see the warriors sitting around their camp fire smoking
their pipes. They steal softly away, and then run as fast as their legs
can carry them. The morning of the eighth day comes. Joseph's strength
is failing; his courage is gone; he cries bitterly. They are in the
wilderness, they know not where, with nothing to eat, their clothes in
rags, their feet bleeding.
"Cheer up, Joseph; here are some ground-nuts. Here, drink some water,"
No brave words, no act of kindness, can quicken the courage of the
fainting boy. What shall Isaac do—stay and die with him, or try to find
his own way out? Sad the parting, the younger lying down to die upon a
mossy bank, the older turning away alone, lost in the wilderness.
With faltering steps, Isaac pushes on, and discerns a house. No one is
there, but he knows there must be white men not far away. With quickened
pulse, he turns back to the dying boy, awakens him from sleep, rubs his
eyes, bathes his temples, cheers him with encouraging words.
"Come, Joseph, we are saved. There is a house close by."
Joseph's eyes brighten. He stands upon his feet, walks a few steps, and
falls. Isaac is stronger than ever. He lifts his fainting comrade, takes
him in his arms, staggers on, reaches the empty and desolate house, and
discovers a beaten path leading southward. He goes on, resting now and
then, but ever speaking words of cheer.
At last they see before them a placid river, and beside it a cluster of
houses. They know that in a few moments they will be once more among
friends, and brave Isaac Bradley is almost overcome with the joy of this
What a sight is that which the soldier on the look-out at the
garrison-house on the bank of the Saco beholds, just as the sun is going
down—two boys, one carrying the other!
Saved. They are kindly cared for by the soldiers, their wounds are
dressed, nourishing food is given them, once more they are clothed in
the garments of civilized beings, and there are moist eyes in the
garrison as they tell their thrilling story. And what rejoicing when at
last they reach their homes!