Tag Archives: Howe family

Killed in Indian Wars: Sarah Howe Joslin

In 1692, Elizabeth Howe Keyes, grand daughter of the pioneering John Howe, and daughter of his son John Jr., decided to leave her home in Marlborough and visit her sister Sarah Howe Joslin, who lived in Lancaster, Massachusetts with her husband and children.

As the sisters visited, Sarah’s four children playing around the cabin, the family story says that Elizabeth was singing. Sarah’s husband would have been working in the fields. The women were interrupted, apparently without warning, by a war party of Indians.  Imagine the chaos and terror as the warriors killed Sarah and three of her children on the spot. Then they disappeared back into the woods, taking one of the children and Elizabeth Howe Keyes with them.

The child was killed soon after, but as the story goes, the Indians were charmed by Elizabeth’s singing, and they kept her with them as they fled to Canada.  She was held captive for three years, but finally released.  Her husband had become a recluse when Elizabeth was captured, and swore never to marry.  When she returned to him, the family moved to a new town, but he said that she never fully recovered from the trauma. So she was a different kind of victim of the Indian Wars.

The struggles between early settlers in the United States and the indigenous people is difficult to discuss calmly, even today. An estimate in 1894 by the census bureau estimated that 19,000 “white” people died and 30,000 Indians in the various Indian Wars.  Of course even before the most deadly battles, Indians had died in another war–attacked by viruses they were unable to fight off. Some think at least 80% died of smallpox caught from the newcomers to the continent.  So they were greatly reduced in numbers by the time the European population increase incited conflict over land.

I have great sympathy with the indigenous people. However, I also sympathize with the Puritan settlers. To understand historic events, it is essential to look at events of the past through the lens of their own time–not imposing our own different points of view. Our culture and mores are as different from the Puritans of New England as the Puritans were from the people they called savages. And I dare say that people of Native American heritage today are also far removed from the worldview of their ancestors, even though they may be working to keep their culture and religion alive.

Indian Wars Monument

Marker in honor of settlers and veterans of Indian Wars, Sudbury Cemetery

Indian Wars Monument

Inscription on Indian Wars Monument in Sudbury, MA

Glance through diaries and histories written in the 18th and 19th centuries, and you get a one-sided view–all anti-Indian. Look at the lives of the settlers and you may begin to realize why they held the views they did.

When you visit the graveyards of Puritan New England you will see many people who died at the hands of Indians. Some of those were militia members who set out to chase the native tribes from the lands wanted by the settlers.  But many were women and children, like Sarah Howe Joslin and her children, victims of terror raids staged by hostile bands who believed they could frighten the interlopers into returning to Europe.

The Howe family suffered an extraordinary number of losses, both in lives and property, in battles and in surprise raids on families.

The following is not an exhaustive list of Howe family members affected, and other ancestors in other lines also died or lost property.

In addition to the 1692 death of Sarah Howe Joslin and capture of Elizabeth:

April 20, 1676 saw the most vicious fight of the King Phillip War–an attack on Sudbury by 1000 Indian fighters and a day-long battle leaving hundreds dead and houses and barns burned to the ground.

  • John Howe, Jr., a member of the militia, killed at thirty-six years old and his house destroyed in the battle of Sudbury.
  • Samuel Howe, a member of the militia, his house and other property burned in the battle of Sudbury.
  • The people of Sudbury were so destitute that they wrote to the Irish Charities for donations to help people who had lost their homes and livelihoods.

Nehemiah Howe, a son of Samuel Howe, was captured by Indians in 1747 and held in Canada, where he wrote a journal before he died in captivity in Canada*–never returning home.

[UPDATE May 2018] Nehemiah’s son Caleb How married a widow, Jemima Phips.  In a 1755 raid by Indians, Jemima How was captured and in June of that year scalped and killed.

Israel Howe, a member of the militia, killed in a raid on the town of Rutland at thirty-six years old in 1748. Israel Howe was my 5th great-grandfather and the son of Samuel Howe.

Other relatives in Rutland, MA, some other Howes, some Stones, some Hubbards, were also in harms way during the Indian Wars and a memorial in the old Cemetery in Rutland commemorates them.

Indian Wars

Memorial to first settlers and veterans of the French-Indian and Revolutionary Wars, Rutland MA Old Cemetery.

How I am Related

  • My maternal grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson), was the daughter of
  • Hattie Morgan (Stout), the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett (Morgan),the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Stone (Bassett) the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Howe (Stone), the daughter of
  • Israel Howe, the son of
  • David How, the son of
  • Samuel How, and John Jr. (My 7th Great Grand Uncle), the son of
  • John How
  • Sarah How (Joslin) and Elizabeth How (Keyes), daughters of John Howe, Jr. (My first cousins, 8 x removed.)

Notes on Research

As Ancient Is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn, by Curtis F. Garfield and Alison R. Ridley(1988)
A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn by Brian E. Plumb (2011)
Howe Genealogies by Daniel Wait Howe (1929), Massachusetts Historical and Genealogical Society. This is said to be the best of the several genealogies of the family. Although I do not have a copy of the entire book, portions of it are available on the Internet.
Middlesex County records found on Ancestry.com. Birth, death and marriage.
Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County Massachusetts Vol. 1, ed by Ellery Bicknell Crane (1907) Available as a Google Books e-book.

*A Narrative of the Captivity of Nehemiah How. Republished in 1904 and available on Archive.or

FindaGrave.com and personal visits to cemeteries of Sudbury and Rutland.


A Flip: Hot Buttered Rum at a Colonial Tavern

Christmas in August

Hot Butter Rum

Holiday Hot Buttered Rum. Photo from Flickr with Creative Commons License.

I was amazed to learn that I had unwittingly served one of my inn-keeping ancestor’s favorite tavern drinks, Flip,.  Was I channeling the Howes when I cooked up a batch of hot buttered rum at holiday parties?

Before I share my crock pot recipe for hot buttered rum, which was called Flip in the taverns of my ancestors, let’s take a look at the place of taverns (called “ordinaries” in the early years) in 17th and 18th century America. It turns out they served up politics as well as tankards of ale and rum!

Citizens had very contradictory thoughts about taverns from the time of the Pilgrims right up into the end of the 18th century.  The Puritans preached abstinence and sobriety, but did not trust water to drink, so they consumed large amounts of ale.

The concern with the evils of drink led to many laws and regulations governing taverns, in an attempt to protect citizens from drunkenness.

And yet, they were so important to life in the colonies that towns could be fined for not providing a tavern.  Locating taverns in convenient places and making them accessible to all citizens dominated the agenda at many a governmental meeting. Militia drilling grounds generally were set aside near a tavern, and drinks after military drills were part of life. Since many meeting houses were not heated, court and legislative sessions would retreat to warm taverns in the winter.

Who went to taverns? Not everyone by a long shot.  For one thing, women were not expected to spend time in taverns. For another, regulations of who was allowed were strict.   Here’s an example from the license of Thomas How, a member of the family from Marlborough who owned the Black Horse tavern.

“[The proprietor] shall not suffer or have any playing at cards, dice, tally, bowls, nine pins, billiards or other unlawful games in his said house or yard, or gardens, not shall suffer to remain in his house any person or persons, not being his own family, on Saturday night after dark, or on the Sabbath days, or during the time of God’s Public Worship…nor shall sell any wine to Indians, or negroes, nor suffer any children or servant or other person to remain in his house, tippling or drinking after nine o’clock in the night…nor willingly or knowingly harbor in his house, barn, stable, or elsewhere any rogues, vagabonds, thieves, sturdy beggars, masterless men or women or other notorious offenders whatsover…”

Well that doesn’t exactly sound like the tavern was a fun place to hang out, does it?

Town selectmen were responsible for regulating the taverns, and when the restrictions began to chafe, tavern owners ran for office. Eventually, 20%  and more of the colonies’ representatives to legislative bodies were chosen from owners of taverns.

Their place of business made a perfect political base. Everyone knew them and they were in rumor central as people passed through with news of the day, so they were very well informed of events and could easily see how the winds of public opinion were blowing. And of course their self interest was served by being a selectman, responsible for regulating themselves.

Some tavern owners supplemented their election chances by buying free drinks for patrons. Others were content with the common practice of running a tab for townspeople. In either case, many voters would be indebted to them.

The Howe family of tavern keepers took full advantage of their position in the center of community affairs to get elected as selectmen and other leadership roles.

  • Pioneer John How, one of the chosen leaders and first settler of Marlborough in 1640, started the Black Horse tavern in 1661and his name continues to turn up in important town decisions.
  • John’s son Samuel, the first in the long line of Sudbury tavern keepers, had his finger in many civic pies.  He worked as a carpenter and glazier, winning contracts from the town and giving his services to those who needed them.  In 1691 he was first elected as selectman, and in 1692 was chosen by his fellow politicians to open a needed tavern in Sudbury. He went on to hold many elected offices.
  • Samuel’s son David built  the building that would eventually  house the Red Horse Tavern that is now known as Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. The building was built by 1707 and in 1716, he opened the tavern. Like his father and grandfather, he served the community in several capacities and in 1740 was elected selectman. In addition to the tavern, he was a farmer and ran a lumber mill.
  • David’s son Ezekiel, perhaps the most activist of the line, took over the family tavern business in 1745, and continued the tradition of community service. I have written about his leadership in the Revolution and in the government of Sudbury.

And while they were ladling out everything from cider to imported French wine, the favorite of the customers was rum and spice hot drink they called Flip.

When I made hot buttered rum for guests at my Christmas or New Year’s parties, the crock pot did the real work.  While I was fixing trays of snacks or frosting cookies, the slow cooker simmered away and filled the house with a buttery, cinnamon-y aroma.

Pewter tankard for hot buttered rum

Pewter Tankard from mid 18th century. From Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery used with Creative Commons License.

If my father (Paul Kaser) were around, he would remind me that the REAL way to make hot buttered rum for your guests gathered around the fireplace, was one mug at a time. Put the rum and cider in a mug, add a pat of butter and spices and a spoonful of sugar. Then heat a poker in the roaring fire and when it gets red hot, plunge it into the mug to heat the drink. Insert a cinnamon stick to stir the drink. (This would probably work much better with the colonial pewter mug than with a delicate glass mug.)



Hot Buttered Rum or Flip

Serves 15-20
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 3 hours
Total time 3 hours, 5 minutes
Meal type Beverage
Misc Serve Hot


  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • dash salt
  • cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 quarts hot water or apple juice or cider
  • 2 cups rum


1. Mix all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low from 3-10 hours.
2. Ladle into mugs and add a stick of cinnamon to each.


Although these instructions are for cooking in a crock pot/slow cooker, it can be cooked on low heat on the stove top as well.

 Research Notes

As Ancient is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn by Curtis F. Garfield and Alison R. Ridley (1988)

Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts by David W. Conroy (1995)