Benjamin Wait & The Guardians

© 1997, Sam Behling

Benjamin was born about 1645 and was a petitioner of Hadley, Massachusetts April 25, 1665. He was recorded living at Hatfield, Hampshire County in 1668. In the division of his father's estate he received the lands at Misquamicut (Westerly), which he disposed of, and then removed to the CT Valley, where he was one of the guides of Capt. William Turner and his men in the "Falls Fight" in May 1676. On 3 Feb 1703/4 William Rooker assigned to Thomas Wait of Seaconnet (Little Compton) and Benjamin Wait of Hadley 40 acres in Brookfield, MA.

Ben could not get away from the ministrel in him that in generations past had earned his family the name "Wait". Waits, professional musicians and rhymsters in Old England, led processions and at smaller entertainments versified rhymes of their own making, sometimes for a half-hour without pause. Will Markham had not stayed within speaking distance of Ben in the five years since Ben had composed verses making light of Liza Hawkes, Will's heedless young sister. Liza, a young widow lacked judgment of any kind. When her frivolous ways escaped chastisement that had been dealt a bound girl, Ben took matters into his own hands. He had been keeping bad company at the time, but no one doubted the idea was his own. He not only put a telling rhyme about Liza on paper, he sailed the offending missive into her dooryard. Will Markham took Ben and his rhymes to law. The court ordered five stripes well-laid upon his naked body and & four pounds cost of court. Only Ben's much-needed skill as a carpenter had saved him from being drummed out of town along with riffraff involved in the matter.

But Ben soon settled down. Ben, a carpenter trained by a master in Dedham, had come to town recommended by Squire Leverett. Built like a young bull, with all the strength and agility needed to handle the demands of his trade, his craftmanship had won the admiration of the valley men and his gifts for song and mirth had turned every girl's head. In record time, he won the consent of John Cowles, one of Hatfield's chief engagers, to wed his youngest daughter, Esther. While Ben fulfilled his contracts and started to build a cottage for Esther, her father sent her to Hartford to help her eldest sister, Sarah Goodwin, with a new baby. In only a matter of weeks, word reached Hadley that Esther's bans were being read in Hartford for her marriage to Thomas Bull. Ben and John Cowles swept down the river to protest. John stated that, though no bans had been published in Hadley, he had given his promise that Esther would wed Ben; he would not dishonor his word. Ben protested that Tom's wealth and the excitement of living in a large town and helped turn Esther's head; he was sure he could change her mind. But Esther would not be moved. Ben took his case to court. The Hartford magistrates, sympathetic to his causes, suspended Esther's bans for a month. They directed Ben to win back her favor. His efforts came to naught. John Cowles forbade Esther ever to return to his hearth again for any reason.

Ben took his jilting hard. For a time, when he played his cornet in the quiet of evening, so much torment poured out in his music that he brought tears even to the eyes of flinty old Magistrate Clarke. For a season, nothing seemed to go well with Ben. When his music began to entrall Hannah Lewis, Small Pockets' visiting granddaughter, her grandfather unceremoniously gave Ben short shrift. Small Pockets claimed that Hannah was too young to be courted. At last he married Martha Leonard, daughter of John, on June 8, 1670 in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

A year after King Philip's War, Indians attacked once more. At Ben Wait's they left everything in flames and carred away Martha and her three little girls, two, four and six. Martha, too, was pregnant. Stephen Jennings' family was also abducted. He and Ben Wait set off to find the missing families. With no confidence in their safety along the Mohawks' Trail, they went to Westfield and headed westward for the Housatonnock River; they reached Albany by way of Kinderhook, on the Hudson. Authorities at Albany gave the distraught men no satisfaction. They treated them ill and hindered their progress.

Resentful and more determined, Ben and Stephen pressed northward on their own. In small villages beyond Albany, they learned the captives had been marched along that way. A day's journey above Albany, the New York constabulary overtook the Hatfield men. They dragged them back to Albany for questioning. They were ordered to seek permission for their mission from the Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, at Manhattan. November was half spent before the men returned to Albany. Again, they received no civility from authorities at Albany, but a Mohawk with whom Ben had dealt during his early troubled years in Hadley befriended him. The Mohawk conducted Ben and Stephen to Lac de Saint Sacrement which the British would later rename for King George. There he provided them with a canoe and a rough map of his own drafting.

They arrived in Canada in January in the dead of winter. The French government put no obstacles in the way of the grateful men. They moved from village to village and found and ransomed those they sought who had survived. They found Hannah Jennings first. Within a week, Ben found Martha and their three small daughters; a few days later, their fourth daughter was born. They named her Canada. As soon as Martha could travel, the party proceeded to civilization in Quebec. Accompanied by a guard of eleven soldiers provided by the French government, early in May the Hatfield company turned homeward.

Three weeks later Ben wrote from Albany: "To my loving friends and kindred at Hatfield. These few lines are to let you understand that we are arrived in Albany now with the captives and we now stand in need of Assistance, for my charges is very great and heavy; and therefore any that have any love to our condition, let it move them to come and help us in this strait. Three of the captives were murdered - Old Goodman Plympton, Samuel Foote's daughter, Mary, and Samuel Russell. All the rest are alive and well and now in Albany, namely Obediah Dickinson and his child, Samuel Kellogg, my wife and four children, and Quentin Stockwell. I pray you hasten the matter for it requireth great haste. Stay not for the Sabbath nor the shoeing of horses. We shall endeavor to meet you at Kinderhook; it may be Housatonock. We must come very softely becaue of our wives and children. I pray you, hasten, stay not night nor day, for the matter requireth haste. Bring provisions with you for us. Your loving kindsman, Benjamin Wait. At Albany, written from mine own hand. As I have been affected to your all that were fatherless, be affected to me now, and hasten the matter and stay now, and ease me of my charges. You shall not need to be afraid of any enemies."

Ben was also part of a highly secretive (and treasonous) group of colonists who became known as the Guardians of the New World in a well-researched book by Doris H. Wackerbarth. The Angel of Hadley has been one of our nation's best-kept secrets.

The GuardiansBecause history records no battle with the Indians at Hadley, MA on September 1, 1675, careless antiquarians relegated the Angel to myth. One such historian, George Sheldon, disclaims the Angel of Hadley in the foreward section of second edition of Judd's History of Hadley that he edited. However, Lemuel A. Wells in The History of the Regicides in New England refers to earlier scholarship of Dr. Franklin B. Dexter who took exception of Sheldon's rewriting of history. Wackerbarth's research for Guardians supports Dr. Dexter.

The Angel was Major General William Goffe, a ranking Parliament man who had risked everything in opposition to the Divine Right of Kings of King Charles I. He and his father-in-law, Major General Edward Whalley were two of the Judges responsible for ordering the beheading of King Charles. When King Charles II resumed the English throne and ordered the apprenhension and execution of the judges who had condemned his father, Goffe and Whalley fled to the New World where they were successfully sheltered for eleven years by Ben Wait and his fellow Guardians.

The end of Benjamin's life came when he was slain by Indians at the taking of Deerfield, MA on February 29 1704. He left behind his widow, Martha and eight children.

Guardians of the New World

  • Barnard, Francis - Maltster and head of an independent-minded family
  • Bodwell, Herny - Militiaman from Medfield
  • Bull, Thomas - A leading citizen of Hartford
  • Crawford, Mungo - A Medfield militia man
  • Crow, John - Friend of the Judges
  • Dickinson, Nathaniel - Father of nine sons
  • Goffe, William - Major general in Parliament's Army and Judge of King Charles I, son-in-law of Edward Whalley
  • Goodman, Richard - A would-be dictator
  • Goodwin, William - Gentleman of large estate, the town's leading citizen
  • Grannis, Ed - Shoemaker and noncomformist
  • Hawley, Joseph - Northampton's schoolmaster
  • Kellogg, Joseph - Selectman, weaver and ferrmany
  • Mosley, Samuel - Captain of Mosely's Volunteers, riffraff militiamen
  • Newell, Samuel - Chaplain of the Eastern militiamen
  • Plympton, Jonathan - Militiaman and son of a Deerfield settler
  • Pynchon, John - Of Springfield, the valley's leading colonist
  • Russell, Philip - Half-brother of Pastor Russell
  • Sarah - A Nonotuck squaw in the Tilton household
  • Savage, Thomas - In charge of Eastern militia
  • Talcott, John - Connecticut militia officer
  • Tilton, Peter, Sr. - Representative to the Massachusetts General Court
  • Treat, Robert - Connecticut militia officer
  • Wait, Benjamin - Master carpenter and musician
  • Wappawy - A half-Pocumtuck, half-Nonotuck unfriendly to the settlers
  • Warrwarranskshan - A Nonotuck sachem friendly to the settlers
  • Wells, Jonathan - Survivor of the Battle of Turner's Falls
  • Westcarr, John - Physician, trader and subervise influence
  • Westcarr, Hannah - His wife, daughter of Francis Barnard
  • Whalley, Edward - Major general in Parliament's Army, Judge of Charles I and father-in-law of William Goffe
  • Wilton, David - Northampton's trader and leading citizen


  • The Guardians of the New World; Doris H. Wackerbarth; pub. by The Country Squire, 1980.

  • Family Records of the Descendants of Thomas Wait of Portsmouth, Rhode Island; John Cassan Wait; 1904

  • NEHGR Register, Oct. 1919, p. 291. Thomas Waite of Portsmouth, RI and Some of His Descendants; G. Andrews Moriarty, Jr.

  • History of Washington Co., NY, by Hill, 1954-1956, Vol. 3.

  • Brief History of the Indian Wars; Increase Mather

  • The Journal of Governor John Leverett

  • Judd Manuscript; Sylvester Judd; 1816

  • History of Hadley; Sylvester Judd; 1905

  • The History of the Regicides in New England; Lemuel A. Wells; reprinted by Benjamin Blum, Inc., 1971

  • History of Northampton (2 volumes); James Russell Trumball

  • The Long Parliament; Mary Frear Keeler

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Also see Hiding the Regicides

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