Susanna’s Story


Learning that one is descended from a colonial child who was captured by Indians is intriguing to say the least. Add to that the fact that she witnessed the massacre of her family in the process, and the drama deepens. The story of Susanna Hutchinson is replete with drama, speculation, and fodder for the imagination. 


Not surprisingly, since she lived so early in the history of the American colonies, the number of accurate facts about her is not abundant. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some solid information with which to begin.


Susanna was born in Alford, Lincolnshire, England, in November 1633, the fourteenth child of William and Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson. She was not their first daughter to be named Susanna. William’s mother’s name was Susanna, and Anne and William gave the name to their first daughter, born in 1614. In 1630 that Susanna and a sister Elizabeth, age 10, died a few weeks apart during a plague, or epidemic. Our Susanna was the next baby girl born to them after that, and they followed the common practice in those times of naming her in honor the sister who had died (they did the same with a son named William who died young).


To the Colonies

When the second Susanna was just a baby, the Hutchinson family made the long-contemplated decision to uproot their lives and cross the ocean to New England and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. When she was just four years old, the colony leaders put Susanna’s mother on trial as a heretic, and the following spring the family was banished from Massachusetts. They moved to Rhode Island where Roger Williams had established another colony following his own banishment. By then, several of the older children were married and living on their own.


Massacre and Capture

In 1642, William died. Anne decided to move even further from the reaches of those in Massachusetts who did not approve of her. The historical records are not clear about whether they went directly to Pelham Bay, near the modern Bronx, or settled briefly on Long Island first. Whichever, in August or September of the following year, the family was caught in the backlash of a war between the Dutch and the Native American peoples of the area[1]. During the war the Dutch had slaughter several hundred Indians, and for some time the Indians sought to avenge themselves by killing as many colonists as possible. That the Hutchinson family was English, not Dutch, meant nothing to them. All reports agree that every family member except Susanna was killed.[2] Instead, they carried her away as a captive. She was a couple months short of her tenth birthday.

After learning about Susanna and our connections to her, I checked the Dallas Library system for books there might be about her. I was delighted to find one. True, the book (Trouble’s Daughter) was billed as a “fictionalized children’s book,” though it turned out to be much more for teens, not for little ones. Though the main body of the story was indeed fiction, author Katherine Kirkpatrick did a lot of research for it and presents a fair bibliography, which lent considerably credibility. Better yet, at the end of the story she included several pages of “Historical Notes” in which she related specifically what was history. That couldn't have been better.

She reports that they don't know exactly which group of Indians took her nor where they held her, so the body of the book, which is about her life with the Indians, is all fiction, but that is okay as long as we know it is. Kirkpatrick presents a realistic portrait of the phases a young captive would likely have passed through, from initial anger and rejection of those who had killed her family to eventual fondness for them and even a reluctance to leave them in the end. Kirkpatrick chose to portray Susanna as having inherited her mother’s propensity for visions, but no historical evidence corroborates that.



According to Kirkpatrick, sources differ on whether Susanna was held captive two years, three years, or four years. The ones I’ve seen mention four. That would have made her about fourteen when the Indians accepted a negotiation from the Dutch for her return to her family. At least one brother and two sisters awaited her, with a second brother perhaps in England. They were already adults and not with the family at the time of the massacre.[3] Apparently, Susanna assimilated well back into white society. At age 18 she married John Cole, son of a Boston innkeeper, and went on to have eleven children.


Kirkpatrick’s book confirms some of the things I had learned from other sources, and it provides the names of John and Susanna’s children, saying that "about half of them" lived to adulthood. Several of her children were given names of her siblings who died in the massacre.[4] Kirkpatrick gives no dates with them, and she lists the "Susanna," mother of the Susanna who married our Jeffrey3, as the last born. However, from other sources we have a date for her birth (1653), two years after the marriage of her parents, so she probably was the firstborn.


We know almost nothing about our Susanna after the marriage, which all records agree took place in Boston, December 30, 1651. One source said after that she “disappeared into posterity,” though there is scattered agreement that she died sometime after John did in 1707 and before 1713. Either way, she apparently lived to a ripe old age for that day and time, perhaps as much as 80, and outlived her remaining siblings by a good many years.


Other Descendants

One of the last things Kirkpatrick included was a list of well-known people who also descended from Anne Hutchinson through one or other of her surviving children[5] (i.e., all from Anne, but not all from Susanna). They include Oliver Wendell Holmes, Alfred and Henry DuPont, Averill Harriman (a political leader in the 50s), Benny Goodman (orchestra leader), U.S. Presidents James Garfield, FDR--and George Bush! So we can say that we share a common ancestor with both the Bush Presidents, 375 years back :-O! Yea, sure!


What if…?

Laurie Gross Newman made a startling comment on Susanna Hutchinson ... “If the Indians had killed her instead of taking her captive, then none of us would be here....?” That's too staggering to think about since we're talking about all the generations through 350 years of history! I suppose we could apply the corollary to her sisters Anne, Katherine, and Mary who did die in the massacre. How many people would have descended from them by now if they had lived[6]??


[1] …in some records referred to as Mohegans, in others as Lenape, a tribal group which was eventually known as the Delaware. Other records claim the identity of the group who killed them is not really known.

[2] At this date, I have not learned whether there is a burial site for the family in the Pelham Bay Park area. It is possible the exact site has been lost and covered over by the modern city.

[3] There is a discrepancy as to the fate of two of her brothers. Some sources list Samuel (about 19 at the time) as having died in the massacre. That would mean that Zuriel, the youngest and born after the family’s arrival in New England, may have already died of other causes. If that is not true and Zuriel died with the family, then the fate of Samuel is not known. At least I haven’t seen any genealogical records for his life beyond the time of the massacre.

[4] Susanna, Samuel, Mary, John, Anne, another John, Hannah, William, Francis, Elizabeth, and Eliasha.

[5] In addition to Susanna, Edward (1613-1675), Faith (1617-1651 ), Bridget (named after Anne’s mother; 1618-1698). Son Richard (1615-1670) is recorded as dying in London, so he survived the massacre, but I haven’t seen any records of his having children.

[6] Kirkpatrick portrays sister Anne, who was married to Rev. William Collins, as being pregnant at the time of the massacre. I’m not clear whether this is fact or conjecture on her part.