Mehitable Goodwin and Resilience
What is truly remarkable about the people of the early Piscataqua was their stubborn persistence in the face of extreme hardship. In part their resilience is a tribute to the power of place and the deep connections between individuals and families. But it also suggests the desperation of people who had lost homes and family members and were left with no choice but to remain and persevere.
Many of the captives of the Salmon Falls Raid had already suffered losses in King Philip’s War or the 1689 raid on nearby Cocheco (now Dover) that signaled the beginning of King William’s War. Attacks would follow in York, Wells, and Oyster River (Durham) as the Wabanaki fought to maintain their homeland.
The Great Bay and the Piscataqua River served as a natural defense against Native attack, although the waterways did not prevent lethal raids like the one at Sandy Beach (now Rye) in 1691. By the early 1700s, coastal villages north of Wells were largely abandoned and Berwick became an outpost on the front line of a global war.
Mehitable Plaisted Goodwin and her husband Thomas were taken captive in the Salmon Falls Raid of 1690, along with her brother, James Plaisted and his family. She was born and raised near the Salmon Falls sawmill that her father, Captain Roger Plaisted, owned with other partners. Mehitable’s father and two of her brothers were killed in an ambush in 1675, when they led a group to bury their neighbors slain the previous day.
Goodwin and her fellow captives were marched north at an exhausting pace to keep ahead of pursuing English militia. Those who could not keep up were quickly dispatched, including her infant son. Arriving in Montreal, the captives were assigned work as servants in French households until they were redeemed.
After three years of captivity, Goodwin was baptized as a Catholic. Then finally, five years after her capture, she returned home to Berwick. She was reunited with her husband Thomas and rejoined the Congregational Church. They would raise five children in their home at Old Fields, near their cousins, the Spencers. She is buried in the ancient cemetery at Old Fields.
(From the Old Berwick Historical Society exhibit, 2017-2018, Forgotten Frontier: Untold Stories of the Piscataqua by Emerson Baker, Project Scholar, and Nina Maurer, Curator.)