A Bridge and a Grieving Ghost

Continuing my theme this week of the local history of my hometown of Greenfield, Massachusetts, I offer a ghost story.

In my last post, I wrote of a local poet who inspired a tower to be built on a hill overlooking the town. This time, the story involves a bridge and the ghost who is purported to haunt it.

On February 29, 1704, 300 warriors from the French Army and their allies from the Abenaki and Mohawk tribes attacked the sleepy village of Deerfield and slaughtered 56 residents. One hundred and twelve people were captured and forced to make the journey north to Canada in the freezing winter cold.

Among those captured were the reverend John Williams, five of his seven children (the two youngest having been killed in the attack), and his wife, Eunice. Eunice had just given birth days earlier to the infant child that had been killed, and was in no shape to make the arduous trek north. While crossing the Green River, she collapsed; the warriors were instructed to strike down those who could not keep up, and she was killed by a tomahawk not far from her horrified family.

Eventually, John and 4 of the 5 children reunited and returned to the area, but the youngest girl, Eunice (named after her mother) chose to stay with the natives. This child-renamed Marguerite Kanenstenhawi, married a native man and spent the rest of her life with the tribe. She was converted to Catholicism and abandoned her English language. Even after repeated attempts by her father and brothers to convince her to come back home, she refused.

The Eunice Williams Covered bridge spans the Green River in Greenfield, not far from where she was killed. Some say she haunts the bridge as a result of her violent death. Others say she is haunted by the fate of her daughter, her namesake, who abandoned her family and Puritan faith for the natives that so savagely attacked her family and town.

eunice williams bridge
This is a beautiful photo of the bridge in autumn. It was destroyed by the flooding of Hurricane Irene in 2011, and has since been rebuilt. Photo by John Burk.

Some claim to have seen Eunice near the waters under the bridge, or floating around the dam nearby. Legend holds that if you drive onto the bridge on a clear, moonless night and honk your horn once, she’ll appear to you. I’ve never done this. I don’t think I want to. I’ve happily walked or biked over the bridge during daylight hours, but I’m not too keen on calling up the ghost of the murdered Eunice. What can I say? I’m a coward.

I remember when I was a kid I read “The Boy Captive of Old Deerfield,” by Mary P. Wells Smith, written in 1904. It tells the story of the Deerfield Massacre and the trek to Canada from Stephen Williams’ point of view, Eunice’s ten year old son. I enjoyed the book, but hadn’t remembered the bit about his sister who stayed on with the natives. I find that story even more fascinating, in a Dances With Wolves kind of way.

At any rate, if you’re passing through Greenfield’s back roads and come to Eunice Williams Covered Bridge (near what we call “The Pumping Station”), stop and enjoy the lovely view of the river; but imagine, if you will, its bloody history and the human tragedy that took place there. If you dare, come back on a moonless night and summon the grieving ghost of Eunice Williams.

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2 thoughts on “A Bridge and a Grieving Ghost

  1. Dun, dun, dun . . .

    Thanks for telling this story. Poor (elder) Eunice: children killed before her eyes, days post partum, killed by tomahawk in front of the surviving family members. (And we thought our motherhood was tough . . . )

    Liked by 1 person

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