Ed Gregory: Turner’s Falls Massacre Was Revenge



Read Ed Gregory’s full column in the Greenfield Recorder.

As of late there’s been quite a stir about the Turners Falls High School “mascot.”

Recent Recorder letters have alluded to the Capt. Turner raid on the Indian gathering at Riverside (not the Turners Falls side of the Connecticut River), mentioning that Turner indiscriminately killed the Indians that were there at the time of the foray.

As a historical fact, Turner and his men did kill a sizeable number of the Indians encamped there. For those folks who believe Turner had nothing better to do than kill Indians, let’s briefly examine why this took place.

Before King Philip’s War, concerted Indian attacks were waged upon the English settlers in Massachusetts and elsewhere. The Indians, stole crops and cattle, burned buildings and, in some instances, kidnapped and killed settlers. These attacks went on for a number of years. There came a point in time when the settlers had to make an attempt to put these assaults to rest.

A contingent of settlers approached the then-governing body of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to plead their case.

Hearing and understanding the concerns of the settlers, the officials were aware of a person that was jailed in Boston for being a religious dissident. This person they knew had a military background, and as an enticement for him to form a group of a few military men and settlers, commuted his sentence and allowed him to formulate plans for the encounter at Riverside. This person was Capt. William Turner.

The raid took place in the dark hours of the morning of May 19, 1676. Turner had little knowledge of the size of, or the number of, Indians gathered there. It turns out that most of the Indian braves were away hunting, and the gathering was made up of mostly women and children.

The rest should be familiar to those so interested in the Turner incident.

Now here’s the rub. Indians are not as innocent as some would believe. Native American advocates never mention the aggressiveness and vicious intent of the various Indian tribes in and about the New England area at that time. In some instances, that aggression was duly wrought.

Turner’s raid was sanctioned by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I say again: sanctioned by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. With its blessing, the encounter at Riverside now resides in the annals of New England and Indian history.

Concerning this truncated historical account, and the knowledge that the Massachusetts Bay Colony officials endorsed Turner’s actions, some of those who wish to change the Turners Falls High School “mascot” (name and logo) are now advocating changing the name of the village of Turners Falls to whatever.

They may also want to consider changing the name of Massachusetts. After all, the Massachusetts Bay Colony officials would be the leading contributer to the entire Riverside episode. I would think that this would be far more offensive than an “Indian” moniker or head-dressed brave … the rather mundane but proud T.F.H.S. “mascot.”

I would encourage those so inclined to sympathize with the Indian culture and tradition to expand their historical understanding in regard to this: the Falls Fight of King Philip’s War (also known as Metacom’s Rebellion). One will also learn that the Falls Fight would be the leading contributor to ending the 1675 to 1676 King Philip’s War.

Numerous historical accounts of King Philip’s War and the Falls Fight are available via the internet and local libraries.

Learn the rest of the story before making judgment.

Ed Gregory is a historian of the town of Montague and village of Turners Falls. Born and raised in Turners Falls, he resides in Greenfield.


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