Thomas and Hannah 1662 - 1738

The work of a curious fellow
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Thomas Dustin was nearly ten years old when his father died in February 1662. In 1663 His mother Elizabeth remarried to Matthias Button and move to Haverhill, Massachusetts. In 1667, Thomas began learning the carpenter trade as apprentice to a Mr. Wilson of Haverhill. Following the death of his stepfather in 1672, Thomas was given 30 acres from the Button estate by his mother. So at the age of 20 Thomas struck out on his own as a farmer, brick-maker, carpenter and mason, participating in the small building boom taking place at that time in eastern Massachusetts.

Living near Haverhill in those days was a man named Michael Emerson. He was a difficult man who angered nearly everyone with whom he came into contact. In fact the following was extracted from the records of the town.
"This year 1666 Michael Emerson moved into town and settled near the White house on Mill Street. The grantees offered that if he would ‘go back to the woods’ they would give him a tract of land. He accepted the offer and settled not far from the corner of Primrose and Winter streets".

In June of 1674 Thomas Dustin was working up a batch of bricks when he saw a young woman coming down the path that led past the kiln site. She was staggering as though drunk and collapsed in a heap just before she would have reached the kiln. Thomas rushed over to her and noticed the blood spotting the back of her shirt and bruise on her face. When he tried to help her up she screamed with pain and fainted.

As gently as possible he carried her to his mother’s house since he had no idea how to care for her. Elizabeth recognized Hannah, the sixteen year old eldest daughter of Michael Emerson. She examined the girl and found she had been lashed across the back with a flay and apparently kicked in the ribs, probably breaking one or more of them.

“This should be reported to the constable”, Elizabeth said. “But the constable is Michael Emerson and I am afraid he is capable of beating a child this badly.”

Hannah regained consciousness and began to moan softly as Elizabeth applied dilute honey to the cuts on her back.

“It hurts to breathe”, Hannah whispered. “Father will kill me because I slipped away.”

“He will not kill you,” Thomas said. “I will speak with him.”

Thomas at age 24 was a powerful man of over six feet and 200 pounds; most unusual for the late seventeenth century.

“Thomas do be careful of interfering in a family matter”, Elizabeth said. “The law is apt to be on Mr. Emerson’s side.”

“Law or not, I intend to teach the old villain a lesson, hopefully without violence.”

Thomas went to the home of Pastor John Ward and was welcomed into the parlor.

“Well Thomas, are you seeking spiritual counsel?”

“In a manner of speaking John. I propose to tell a monstrous lie to a man most deserving of hearing it.” Thomas told Pastor Ward about Hannah Emerson’s situation.

“I believe the girl to be an obedient and innocent child but is not our job to decide what a person deserves, Thomas. God will attend to that. Still, it is my duty to encourage Christian behavior. I believe God will forgive you if your carry out your plan. In fact I will go with you to lend weight to your story.” So Thomas and Pastor Ward visited Michael Emerson.

“Mr. Emerson”, said Thomas. “I regret to inform you that your daughter Hannah was found dead on the path near my kiln this morning. Pastor Ward has come to comfort you in your loss.”

“My God, the child died?” Michael Emerson sat quickly on the chopping block and covered his face with his hands. “I didn’t mean for that. I was angry. Oh Lord what am I to do?”

“What would you do to have her back Michael?” asked Pastor Ward.


“It is true that the girl is dead to you at the moment but she is alive to the rest of the world, as well as to God” Pastor Ward said. “If you would have her back, there are three conditions you must meet. You must go to the magistrate, confess your crime and take whatever punishment is handed down. You must bow before God and confess your sin and beg God’s forgiveness. You must then go to your daughter and beg her forgiveness, promising to never again raise your hand against her.”

“And hear this Mr. Emerson”, Thomas added. “The magistrate will see that you pay your civil penalty, God will see that you pay your heavenly penance, but if you ever break your promise to your daughter you will have to deal with me.”

So Michael Emerson paid a five shilling fine, began what would become a lifelong habit of attendance at church and was reconciled with Hannah. He was forgiven also by the community and became the inspector of leather for Haverhill, a position he held for many years. Hannah was justifiably impressed with Thomas and made sure that he did not forget her. On March 6, 1677, at the home of George Walton, an old friend of the Dustin family in Portsmouth, NH, Thomas and Hannah were married.

In July of 1682 Thomas and Hannah with their two young children came to visit the Waltons at the inn they owned on Great Island in Portsmouth Harbor. The Dustin’s were there in response to George Walton’s request for help in solving the mystery of the “Lithobolia” or stone throwing devil, that was plaguing the Waltons at that time.

George Walton was convinced the phenomena of stones flying at him and his house was the result of a curse placed on him by his neighbor in a dispute over a bit of land. Thomas Dustin believed that it was the work of townspeople who resented Walton’s support of John Mason’s claim to all the land in New Hampshire, based on a 1623 grant from King Charles I. Mason had a plan to sell people property they thought they already owned or, just as bad, collect taxes from them.

Some sixteen years after the Lithobolia scare, one of the witnesses wrote about it in great detail. The full title of the work by Richard Chamberlain is:
Lithobolia: or, the Stone-Throwing Devil. Being an Exact and True Account (by way of Journal) of the various Actions of Infernal Spirits, or (Devils Incarnate) Witches, or both; and the great Disturbance and Amazement they gave to George Waltons Family, at a place call’d Great Island in the Province of New-Hantshire in New-England, chiefly in Throwing about (by an Invisible hand) Stone, Bricks, and Brick-bats of all Sizes, with several other things, as Hammers, Mauls, Iron-Crows, Spits, and other Domestick Utensils, as came into their Hellish Minds, and this for the space of a Quarter of a Year.

The following extracts from Chamberlain’s pamphlet were reproduced by Cotton Mather in his writing on the subject.

I have a wonder to relate;
for such (I take it) is to be termed whatsoever is Preternatural, and not assignable to, or the effect of Natural causes. It is a Lithobolia, or stone throwing, which happened by Witchcraft, (as was supposed,) and maliciously perpetrated by an elderly woman, a neighbor suspected, and (I think) formerly detected for such kind of diabolical tricks and practices; and the wicked instigation did arise Upon the account of some small quantity of land in her field, which she pretended was unjustly taken into the land of the person where the scene of this matter lay, and was her right; she having been often very clamorous about that affair, and heard to say with much bitterness, that her neighbor (innuendo the aforementioned person, his name George Walton) should never quietly enjoy that piece of ground. Which, as it has confirmed myself and others in the opinion that there are such things as Witches, and the effects of Witchcraft, or at least of the mischievous actions of evil spirits.

" Sometime also being in America, (in His then Majesty's service,) I was lodged in the said George Walton's house, a Planter there, and on a Sunday night, about ten o'clock, many stones were heard by myself and the rest of the family, to be thrown and (with noise) hit against the top and all sides of the house, after he said Walton had been at his fence-gate, which was between him and his neighbor one John Amazeen an Italian, to view it; for it was again (as formerly) wrung off the hinges, and cast upon the ground; and in his being there, and return home with several persons of (and frequenting) his family and house, about a slight shot distance from the gate, they were all assaulted with a peal of stones, (taken we conceive, from the rocks hard by the House,) and this by unseen hands or agents. For by this time I was come down to them, having risen out of my bed at this strange alarm of all that were in the house, and do know that they all looked out as narrowly as I did, or any person could, (it being a bright moon-lightnight) but could make no discovery. There upon, and because there came many stones, and those pretty great ones, some as big as my fist, into the entry or porch of the House, we withdrew into the next room to the Porch, no person having received any hurt, (Praised be Almighty Providence, for certainly the infernal agent, constant enemy to mankind, had he not been over-ruled, intended no less than death or maim) save only that two youths were hit, one on the leg the other on the thigh, notwithstanding the stones 'came so thick and so forcibly against the sides of so narrow a room.

Whilst we stood amazed at this accident, one of the maidens imagined she saw them come from the Hall next to that we were in, where searching, (and in the cellar down out of the Hall, and finding nobody, another and myself observed two little stones in a short space successively to fall on the floor, coming as from the Ceiling close by us, and we concluded it must necessarily be done by means extraordinary and preternatural. Coming again into the room where we first were, (next the Porch) we had many of these lapidary salutations! but unfriendly ones; for shutting the door, it was no small surprise to me to have a good big stone come with force and noise (just by my head against the door on the inside; and then shutting the other door, next the Hall, to have the like accident; so going out again, to have another very near my body clattering against the board wall of the House; but it was a much greater, to be so near the danger of having my head broke with a mall, or great hammer brushing along the top of roof of the room from the other end, as I was walking in it, and lighting down by me; but it fell so, that my landlord had the greatest damage, his windows (especially those of the first mentioned room) being with many stones miserably and strangely battered, most of the stones giving the blow on the inside, and forcing the bars, lead and hasps of the casements outward, and yet falling back (sometimes a yard or two into the room; only one little stone we took out of the glass of the window, there it lodged itself in the breaking it, in a hole exactly fit for the stone, The pewter and brass were frequently pelted, and sometimes thrown down upon the ground: for the evil spirit seemed then to effect variety of mischief, and diverted himself at this end after he had done so much execution at the other. So were two candlesticks, after many hittings, at last struck off the table where they stood, and likewise a large pewter pot, with the force of these stones. Some of them were taken up hot, (and it seems) coming out of the fire; and some (which is not unremarkable) having been laid by me upon the table along by couples, and numbered, were found missing; that is, two of them, and we returned immediately to the table, having turned our backs only to visit and view some new stone-charge or window breach, and this experiment was four or five times repeated, and I still found one or two missing of the number, which we all marked, when I did but' just remove the light from off the table, and step to the door and back again.

"After this had continued in all parts and sides of the first room (and down the chimney) for above four hours, I weary of the noise, and sleepy, went to bed.

"In the morning (Monday morning) I was informed by several of the domestics of more of the same kind of trouble; among which the most signal was, the vanishing of the spit which stood in the chimney corner, and the sudden coming of it again down the chimney, sticking it in a log that lay in the fire place or hearth and then, being by one of the family set by on the other side of the chimney, presently cast out of the window into the back-side. Also a pressing iron lying on the ledge of the chimney back, was conveyed invisibly into the yard. I should think it (too) not unworthy the relation, that, discoursing them with some of the families and others, about what had past, I said, I thought it necessary to take and keep the great stone, as a proof and evidence, for they had taken it down from my chambers; so I carried it up and laid it on my table in my chamber, and locked my door, and going out upon occasions, and soon returning, I was told by my landlady that it was, a little while after my going forth, removed again, with a noise which they all below heard, and was thrown into the ante-chamber, and there I found it lying in the middle of it; there upon I the second time carried it up, and laid it on the table, and had it in my custody for a long time to show, for the satisfaction of the curious.

"August 1. On Wednesday the window in my ante-chamber was broken again, and many stones were plaid about, abroad and in the house, in the daytime, and at night. The same day in the morning they tried this experiment; they did set on the fire a pot with animal fluid and crooked pins in it, with design to have it boil, and by that means to give punishment to the witch or wizard, (that might be the wicked procurer or contriver of this stone affliction) and take off their own; as they had been advised. This was the effect of it: is the liquor began to grow hot, a stone came and broke the top or mouth of it, and threw it down, and spilt what was in it; which being made good again, another stone, as the pot grew hot again, broke the handle off; and being recruited and filled a third time, was then with a third stone quite broke to pieces and split, and so the operation became frustrate and fruitless.

"Friday after, I was present, being newly come in with Mr. Walton from his middle field (as he called it) There his servants had been mowing and had six or seven of his old troublesome companions and I had one falling down by me there, and another thin flat stone hit me on the thigh with the flat side of it, so as to make me just feel, and smart a little. In the same day's evening as I was walking out in the lane by the field aforementioned, a great stone made a rustling noise in the stone fence between the field and the lane, which seemed to me (as it caused me to cast my eye that way by the noise) to come out of the fence, as it were pulled out from among the stones loose, but orderly laid close together, as the manner of such fences in that country is, and so fell down upon the ground.

"Some persons of note being then in the field (whose names are here under written) to visit Mr. Walton there, are substantial witnesses of the same stonery, both in the field, and afterwards in the house that night, viz: one Mr. Huzzy, son of a Counselor there. He took up one that having first alighted on the ground with rebound from thence hit him upon the heel; and he keep it to show. And Captain Barefoot, mentioned above, has that which (among other stones) flew into the Hall a little before supper; which myself also saw first came in at the upper part of the door into the middle of the room; and then (though' a good flat stone, yet,) was seen to roll over and over, as if trundled, under a bed in the same room. In short these persons being wondrously affected with the strangeness of there passages, offered themselves (desiring me to take them) as testimonies; I did so, and made a memorandum by way of record thereof, to this effect, viz:

"These persons underwritten do hereby attest the truth of their being eye witnesses of at least half a score stones that evening thrown invisibly into the field, and into the entry of the house, hall, and one of the chambers of George Walton's, viz:

Samuel Jennings, Esq. Governor of West Jersey.
Walter Clark, Esq. Deputy Governor of Road Island.
Mr. Arthur Cook
Mr. Matt Borden of Road Island
Mr. Oliver Hooton of Barbados, Merchant
Mr. T. Maul of Salem in New England, Merchant
Capt. Walter Barefoot
Mr. John Huzzey
And the wife of the said Mr. Huzzey"

We do not know what if any of these bewildering events were witnessed by Thomas and Hannah, but they returned to Haverhill in about a week and Thomas was uncharacteristically silent on the subject.

Thomas and Hannah had 11 children including a set of twins by the end of 1694.
Hannah Dustin 8/22/1678, Haverhill, MA
Elizabeth Dustin, 5/7/1680, MA
Thomas Dustin 1/5/1683, Haverhill, MA
Nathaniel Dustin 5/16/1685, Haverhill, MA
John Dustin 2/3/1686, Haverhill, MA
Sarah Dustin 7/4/1688, Haverhill, MA
Abigail Dustin 10/--/1690, Haverhill, MA
Mary Dustin 11/4/1691, Haverhill, MA
Jonathan Dustin, 1/15/1692, Haverhill, MA
Timothy Dustin 9/14/1694, Haverhill, MA
Mehitable Dustin 9/14/1694, Haverhill, MA

On March 9, 1697 the twelfth child, Martha was born to Thomas and Hannah. On March 15, natives attacked the outskirts of Haverhill where Thomas was building a new house for the family. Seeing that the attackers were approaching the house where Hannah was laying in with the new baby, Thomas rushed to her rescue but she made him see to the other children instead.

His first instinct was take one of the children and flee on horseback but he could not choose who to take so Thomas fought a rear guard action while the eldest child Hannah, who was seventeen, hurried the children along, the older ones carrying the younger.

The natives pursued the fleeing family, shooting as they came, so Thomas stopped and returned the fire. Not expecting such a vigorous defense, the natives abandoned the pursuit and Thomas with his children made their way to a nearby garrison and were saved.

Hannah, her friend Mary Neff and the baby Martha were taken prisoner. Their captors to speed their escape dashed out the baby's brains against a tree and forced the women to travel about 100 miles in ten days to an island in the Merrimac river where Hannah, Mary Neff and a captive fourteen year-old boy named Samuel Lennardson were held by two native men, three women and seven children.

Samuel had been a captive for over a year and had learned the habits of his captors. One of the warriors even instructed Samuel in the use of a tomahawk. After some days on the island when the natives were all sleeping, Hannah and Samuel killed the two men and all but one of the women and one of the children. The two women and Samuel took a canoe and pushed away from the shore. Then Hannah, realizing they had no evidence to back up their story, returned to the island and retrieved the tomahawks they used to kill their captors, a gun and the scalps of the natives.

In early April the captives returned to civilization. In due course the legislature granted Thomas a 25-pound bounty on behalf of his wife Hannah for the natives killed. Mary and Samuel received 12 pounds 10 shillings each. Thomas completed the house that was declared a garrison and fortified by the government. It is still standing in Haverhill.

Dustin House

Thomas Dustin House in Haverhill

Thomas and Hannah both lived on in Haverhill to ripe old ages, Thomas dying in 1732 and Hannah in 1738, leaving behind a remarkable proliferation of Dustin kin.

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