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NIMS, GODFREY

Three of his children had smothered to death in the cellar of his home while it burned over their heads, and his son Henry had been slain. His daughter Rebecca Mattoon and her newborn son had been slain. His wife, his son Ebenezer, his infant daughter Abigail, his step-daughter Elizabeth Hull, his son-in-law Philip Mattoon, and his mother-in-law Elizabeth Smead--along with many of other more distant relatives, friends and neighbors--had all been taken away as captives.

Was there, finally, nobody left for Godfrey? Was he all alone? Son John and step-son Zebediah Williams had been captured and carried to Canada a few months ago. His very first child had died shortly after birth; another step-son had died in the first Nims house fire in 1694.

As he reeled from these personal consequences of the attack on Deerfield, he thought he had lost his entire family, save one; his daughter Thankful, her husband Benjamin Munn, and their baby had survived along with Godfrey; they had been living in a shelter that was partially underground and had been covered with snow at the time of the attack. Undetected, they were unharmed that night in 1704. But Godfrey Nims did not survive the massacre, really. He died shortly after (his will was proved only a few weeks later.)

Wife Mehitable Smead Nims, her mother, and Godfrey's son-in-law died on the march. Ebenezer Nims eventually returned to Deerfield. The baby Abigail's fate is unknown. John Nims, who had been captured the previous fall came back to Deerfield too, and married his step-sister Elizabeth Hull.

John Nims, His Capture and Escape

On October 8, 1703, according to the Rev. John Williams ("The Redeemed Captive"), Zebediah Williams and John Nims went into the meadow in the evening to tend livestock and were ambushed by Indians in the ditch beyond Frary's bridge. The Indians fired at them, missed, and took Zebediah right away. Nims ran away to a nearby pond but returned, afraid of getting shot. The Indians wounded the cattle, and marched their captives to Canada. Zebediah died there in 1706. John Nims escaped in 1705, with Joseph Petty, Thomas Baker, and Martin Kellog, all three of whom were among the Feb. 29th captives.  The four men walked to New England, via territory that is now Canada, Vermont, and New Hampshire. A letter written by Joseph Petty detailing their experiences survived and was reproduced in The Nims Family Association Book. George Sheldon wrote in his History of Deerfield that they had no weapons, and only meager provisions, but they made it home, more dead than alive from hunger and fatigue. Sheldon says "they were discovered in wisdom in an imbecile condition, and seemed guided more by instinct than by reason...Their appearance when brought in was such as to melt the stoutest heart...Broth, in small quantities, was given at first, and by slow degrees more substantial food, until they were filled. It was a long time before their cravings were satisfied."

Sheldon and the Nims Family Book (more information) also relate the following anecdote, told to Mr. Sheldon by his grandmother:

One day when the fugitives seemed at the last extremity, they discovered and killed a great white owl. This was instantly torn in pieces, which were laid in four piles, and fairly divided, one turning his back, and responding to the query, "Who shall have this?" Each took his share, and hardly waiting to pull off the feathers, tore through the tough fragments with their teeth, like so many ravenous beasts. Grandmother said John Nims always insisted that a wing which fell to him was the sweetest morsel he ever tasted."

Family information

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