Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

June 8

Hannah Duston:
Joan of Arc or Lizzy Borden?

Today is the anniversary of Hannah Duston's husband being awarded 25 pounds for Hannah's wiping out and escaping from a band of Indians who had captured her and killed her daughter. After a month of captivity, from March 16 to April 29, 1697, Hannah allegedly killed and scalped (she brought back the scalps as proof) all ten of her captors then canoed the 100 miles back home, which was Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Questions remain, at least here on Goatview Farm.

How did one grieving, tired, frightened, and undernourished woman manage to kill and scalp ten Indians? What happened to the other 12 captives taken at the time with Hannah?

While I wait for the books to arrive, I will hazard a guess*:

Poisoning. April is mushroom time.

In the Goatview Guess, Hannah, half-crazed by what she has endured and bent on revenge and escape at any cost, sees amanitas when she is out gathering greens for supper. Having had previous escape attempts fail with harsh consequences, the captives have learned their lesson and can now be trusted with tasks that take them out of sight of camp. Hannah picks enough mushrooms for what she has just thought of doing but doesn't tell the other captives since they have shown a regretable lack of spunk when she has suggested other escape plans. In fact, when threatened, the others had even gone so far as to tattle.

That night while cooking, Hannah adds the crushed mushrooms to the greens.

From Cornell University:

Amatoxins - The symptoms of amatoxin poisoning in humans are a ghoulish series of four phases, beginning with the not-too-alarming latency phase of 6-12 hours. This is followed by the gastrointestinal phase, where the human gets its first inkling that something is not quite right. The gastrointestinal phase consists of diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting and, not surprisingly, abdominal pains. The third phase begins with the patient feeling deceptively better off (another latency period) until the fourth and final phase hits. The final phase consists of the final degradation of the liver and kidney until, between the fourth and eighth day after ingestion, the patient lapses into hepatic coma combined with renal failure, ending in death. All this from a dose of 0.1 mg/kg body weight or even lower. That's not much mushroom to kill a person!

At first, Hannah thought she hadn't put enough mushrooms in the pot since nothing happened, and then she thought it again as her victims appeared to rally from the very real symptoms she had feigned in covering her act. She was about to give it another try with an increased dose when all hell broke lose.

With no one well enough to object, Hannah packed a canoe and headed for home, but an hour out she pulled to shore and tied the boat. What was going to happen when she DID get home? How was she going to tell them she escaped? There were going to be questions and if she said that she left the others alive, there would be a rescue party. And MORE questions.

It took three hours to walk the river back to the scene of the crime, where all were either dead or dying. Taking a knife from one of her late captors, she proceeded to collect the gruesome souvenirs that she trusted would make the story she was going to tell more believeable (and far less likely to be investigated).

As she made the long walk back to the canoe with the scalps, Hannah began to formulate the tale she would tell a thousand times before her death. It never occurred to her to tell the truth...they just wouldn't understand.

*POSTSCRIPT: It turns out that Hannah did not escape alone, nor did she singlehandedly kill the 10 Indians. Since there were witnesses, I have to relinquish my version of the events even though I like my story better.


Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Maximus of Aix, Saint Medard, Saint Clodulf or Cloud, and Saint William of York.

James Darren celebrates his birthday today (1936, Philadelphia).

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Marilyn Jones 2001-2008