Thursday, May 14, 2009

King Killers

The mystery of The Angel of Hadley.

Photo of Hadley at dawn by Cris Martin

Many times as I've gone down Rte. 9 I have noticed a battered old sign standing alongside the road. I could never quite make out what was written on it, and I always intended to stop some day and see what the heck the sign said. I finally actually did so and here is a picture I took of it:

When that sign went up Route 9 probably more resembled a country lane than the busy highway it is today. How many in Hadley are still alive who can remember that tri-centennial?

I was puzzled and intrigued by the sign's mention of "regicides." Frankly, I wasn't sure what the term meant, but on looking it up discovered that it means the killing of a king. The murdered king in this case was England's Charles the First, and when his son Charles the Second was restored to power, the jurors who put his father to death had to flee Britain for their lives. Two of them ended up in America and came to Hadley, where they were hidden for the rest of their lives by the Reverend John Russell.

In my research I discovered that colorful legends have sprung up over the years about the king killers. The most famous, and one that I recall hearing in school as a child in Springfield, was of "The Angel of Hadley." This was supposedly a mysterious man with a long white beard who suddenly appeared as Hadley was about to be attacked by Indians. The mysterious old man led the settlers to victory, only to vanish just as suddenly as he appeared. Legend has it that the elderly hero was actually one of the regicides, coming out of seclusion just long enough to save the town before retreating back into hiding. A great story, but is it true?

Local historian Libby Klekowski has this to say about the legend:

There were rumors of war up and down the Connecticut River. King Philip and his warriors were attacking the colonial outposts of Deerfield and Northfield. The inhabitants of Hadley (approximately 50 families) were observing a Fast Day service when the attack came. The villagers were unprepared. Even though they rushed out of the Meeting House, guns ready to fire, they were totally unorganized and ineffectual. Suddenly there appeared among them an elderly man, a man whom no one recognized. Who was he? Where did he come from? This stranger took command, arrayed the townspeople in a military manner, and helped them repel the warriors. As suddenly as he had appeared, he disappeared. The villagers could not explain what had happened so proclaimed their savior an angel sent by God.

What the good people of Hadley did not know was that their minister, John Russell, had been secretly housing two men, General Edward Whalley and General William Goffe, for eleven years - since 1664. These two men were on-the-run, dodging the King of England's agents, hiding out in the wilds of the recently settled colonies of New England.

What had these two respectable men done in England to gain the enmity of their king? The answer to this question is not hard to find. How would you feel toward someone who signed your father's death warrant? Generals Whalley and Goffe were 2 of the 76 judges of the High Court of Justice who ruled that Charles I of England was to be executed for the crime of treason and were 2 of the 59 men who actually signed his death warrant in 1649. In 1660, Charles II, son of the beheaded king, was restored to power. Immediately the hunt was on to find the judges, known as the regicides and to bring them to justice in England. Charles II was willing to pardon those who had fought against his father in England's Civil War (1642-1649). But there was to be no pardon for the Regicides!

Whalley and Goffe sailed from England as soon as possible. They arrived in Boston in July, 1660, and they lived there openly under assumed names. In August of that same year, Charles II issued a royal writ for their arrest and execution, the man-of-war bearing these warrants set sail for Boston. Friends of the two regicides found out and secretly chartered a fast sloop by which to send a warning. The sloop over took the King's man-of-war just off Cape Ann, pressed on to Boston Harbor where it arrived too late to reach the city that night. The ship's captain, taking his mission very seriously, manned his small boat with his strongest men and rowed to shore. Governor Endicott was having a party for the two regicides that very evening at the State House. The captain, still dressed in his seaman's clothes, refused to be turned away from the door, arguing his case at length. Governor Endicott overheard the discussion and listened to the captain's message. Realizing that Goffe and Whalley were facing apprehension, the governor ended the reception and sent the two men out of Boston that very night.

From 1661-1664, the two fugitives were housed in and around New Haven and Milford, Connecticut. When the King's men started looking for them in Connecticut, Whalley and Goffe decided to hide out at the back of beyond, in the small settlement of Hadley. Reverend John Russell hid them in his house in the center of the village until Whalley's death in ca. 1674 and Goffe's death some time around 1680. Although a few trusted people knew the two men were secretly hidden in Hadley, everyone involved kept the secret because if the truth were revealed, John Russell as well as the two fugitives would face death.

Site of the angel's appearance as it looks today.

What in this story is fact and what is myth?

The regicide judges existed and were hidden in Hadley during the time stated here.

John Russell secreted the men in his house and never revealed their presence.

Few people knew the truth, but those that did carried letters to and from the men and their families in England.

Whalley, it is almost certain, died in Hadley and was secretly buried there in 1674.

Goffe's burial place is uncertain, but a good case can be made for Hadley as the site.


According to historical records, Hadley was not attacked by King Philip's warriors on September 1, 1675.

There is no basis to the story of General Goffe's sudden appearance to lead the villagers to victory that day or any day.

The myth seems to have been started in the following century in History of the Three Judges, written by Ezra Stiles, President of Yale College, and published in 1794. President Stiles based his statements on an anecdote printed in a footnote in a published work by Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts and published in 1764.

So, even though General Goffe did not save Hadley in 1675 and therefore was not the Angel of Hadley perhaps both Generals Whalley and Goffe would have thought Reverend John Russell was their special savior and, therefore, could be called the Angel of Hadley.

Darn, so the legend is almost certainly not true, although because it contains no supernatural elements, it can never be completely dismissed as false. The legend has inspired a number of creative people, such as painter Frederick Chapman and author Nathanial Hawthorne. Certainly what is known to be true is quite remarkable - that two men who helped to kill the King of England found safe refuge in our region, showing that our Valley's well-known anti-establishment tendencies date back more than three centuries.

The Man Who Loved Equality

"Equality, I spoke the word as if a wedding vow."
-Bob Dylan

Afterwards it was never clear to anyone precisely how he had fallen so far out of touch with reality. With the advantage of hindsight, there were those who pointed to an early incident or a specific detail, which initially suggested that something was amiss.

There were those who had noticed a certain spaciness about him. At times they had caught him staring into space at what seemed to be nothing. Some had spoken to him without receiving a response, under circumstances when neither not hearing nor a distraction could have been the reason. Later some claimed that he had always been odd, so that nothing about his fate had surprised them. In time most people held this view, which they expressed with an indifferent shrug, as if it that had always been their opinion.

In fact they understood nothing. The point at which he really began to lose it for good was when he unconciously chose not to make any value judgments. There was no special significance to that moment. It couldn't really even be called a decision. It had come on gradually, a certain lack of focus, a strange yet somehow welcome inability to determine degrees of quality.

It was as if anything could attract and hold his attention, but not in any compelling way. The world was there to be noticed, but only with everything to be noticed equally. This pleased him because he had always favored equality in all things. Sharp differences of any kind dismayed him. Differences demanded judgments, and he hated to judge. That was the way he had felt as far back as he cared to remember. He secretly wished for everything to be the same, but had never explicitly said that, to himself or to anyone else. It was just as well, no one would have known what he was talking about and in any case he couldn't have put it into words. All he knew was that he felt it, and he had always had faith, if in nothing else, in the supremacy of feelings; so because he felt it, he believed it, and that was that.

Then one day, unexpectedly, seemingly miraculously and to his great delight, the world began to conform to his feelings. It began slowly at first, and that was the phase when people began to take note of what they called his spaciness. Soon it became hard to differentiate between what was important, like the presence of others who were trying to communicate with him, and a fly on the wall or a sunbeam through the window or a crumb on the table or even just the air moving in the room.

This unfocused, undifferentiated, all inclusive awareness, divorced from all attempts to assign it any values, eventually reached a point where existence had become a perfect fog of grayness. No longer was anything considered attractive or repellent, interesting or boring. In the past, the present or the future, there was no distinction between the I and the you, the me and the mine, the bright and the dark, the good and the bad or the start and the end.

And in that perfect moment, the man who loved equality saw death.

Stuck Up

Someone went all over UMass putting up Insane Clown Posse stickers.

Today's Video

That's me inside your head.


Ben said...

I was intigued with your post about the regicides in Hadley. One reason I was so interested was because one of the regicides was a certain General Whalley.

My town of Southwick has a whole slew of Whalleys. Back in the 60's and 70's, there was a Whalley family here with five sons. Obviously, all five of them carried on the Whalley name, so when I grew up here in Southwick, there was an entire Whalley clan. "Whalley" was one of the most common names in town. I had a Mr. Whalley as a soccer coach, and I knew some Whalleys through Boy Scouts, and one of the main businesses in town was Whalley Computer.

A few years back, the Whalleys started buying up a lot of businesses in town, including the Southwick Inn, the local watering hole in the center of town. It used to be a real dive, but they invested a lot of money in it, and now it attracts a good crowd of people. It's not the depressing hole in the wall it used to be.

One night I was at the Southwick Inn, and I ran into two of the Whalley brothers I had known. Their female cousin, (also a Whalley) is the bartender, and she is always there.

So I asked my friend Dave Whalley if he was related to the General Whalley who was holed up in the Hadley church, and he knew the whole story. He seemed pleased that I had heard of his ancestors. Some of the people around the bar said that they had heard the old regicide story before, and they thought it was dumb. The bartender girl said that she had never heard the story before in her whole life, despite the fact that she is a Whalley by birth.


Larry said...

Tom, hadn't you previously run a version of this Angel Of Hadley story within just the past few months? It sure seems familiar and I don't think I'm having a deja vu experience. Good piece, regardless.

Tommy said...

That article was written years ago on the old Geocities site, which is going out of business. Therefore everything over there has to be brought over here.

It's not exactly the same, I added new pictures and details, but a lot of old stuff is going to show up here that is worth saving before Geocities vaporizes.

Anonymous said...

Ben, I didn't know you were from the Wick. This was an excellent read. I've been driving by that sign since going with Mom to pick up Dad at UMass in 1959. Never had a clue what it said, no even Gerry Devine even mentioned these facts.